martes, 9 de diciembre de 2014

Riding Tall in Bogotá

Udaya, right, with his tall bike on La Plaza del Periodista, in La Candelaria. 
Pedaling the tall bike. 
When it comes to cycling, Udaya Raja and his buddies think big - really big. So big, in fact, that they build some of the tallest bikes in the world.

Udaya is in Bogotá this week on his hand-made bike, whose seat rises 5 1/2 feet high, to tour across parts of Colombia, observing how the people react.

"People are ecstatic, confused and surprised, especially motorists," Udaya said of common reactions. "They're just generally happy that someone's made something so interesting."

Tania, a guide with Bogotá Bike Tours, pedals the tall bike. 
A difficult dismount. 
Udaya, 32, built the bike himself back in Los Angeles, California under the guidance of his friend Adrian Machado, out of a steel Trek bicycle frame. It took a month of work and cost close to $700.00, altho that was in part because of some special parts, such as a classic leather Brooks seat. The bike weighs about 40 pounds, and when touring Udaya carries another 70 pounds of baggage.

Back home, Udaya hangs out with a group of 'freak' bike users, some of whose cycles dwarf his own. His friend Richie Trimble's bike's seat sits almost 20 feet high, making it perhaps the Earth's tallest bicycle. See it here.

Udaya came to Colombia, despite its sketchy reputation, because he'd already traveled thru Central America down to Panama. His may be the most exotic tall bike tour, at least for a Southern Californian. He bought a one-way ticket to Bogotá, so his stay is open-ended.

"I'm gonna take it day by day, until I run out of zest for traveling," he says.

Udaya's friend Bobby Gadda rode his own tall bike from Vancouver, Canada, to Los Angeles, and talks about the wonders of tall bike touring here.

Udaya, who back home worked as a cameraman and then for the Hulu movie streaming company, cycled in Bogotá's Ciclovia this Sunday. In fact, his friend Gadda brought Ciclovia to Los Angeles, where it's called CicLAvia and happens a few Sundays each year.

In the Colombian countryside Udaya expects to ride six to seven hours per day, covering about 50 kilometers.

"This thing is geared really low," he says. "But sometimes I have to get off and push it, and then it's gonna be really slow."

That could happen a lot with Colombia's big climbs and high altitudes.

On the other hand, Udaya doesn't plan to push his luck.

"If things really get too unsafe, I'll just put the bike on a truck and start again where it is safe," he says. "People see me on this bike and think I'm out to do something crazy, but really I'm not."

Yours truly on the tall bike, accompanied by Jesus, a local character. Riding the tall bike is easier than it looks - once you get started.

Blog by Mike Ceaser, of Bogotá Bike Tours

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