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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
I don't usually see second hand stories in this forum, but the story seems quite interesting. Seems the fellow is a dedicated bike commutor.

DREW PERINE/The News Tribune​
Jack Falk’s folk-art bikes weigh about 400 pounds each, and this one has a working TV and 11 clocks set to different time zones. “It took months to make,” says the Tacoma resident.
A story about him and his bikes was in yesterday's local fish wrapper (News Tribune)

DREW PERINE/The News Tribune​
Coming up with “something really different” led Falk to decorate using license plates that mark his travels.
The Bike Man has claim to folk art fame
<!-- end HEADLINE --> <!-- SUB HEADLINE --> In Jack Falk, Tacoma has a claim to folk art fame: a man who has spent his life decorating bicycles (and riding them, too).
<!-- end SUB HEADLINE --> <!-- BYLINE --> ROSEMARY PONNEKANTI; [email protected]
Published: June 16th, 2008 03:00 AM | Updated: June 16th, 2008 06:25 AM
<!-- end BYLINE --><!-- Dateline --><!-- End Dateline --> If you’ve ever seen Jack Falk on his bike, you’d remember it. He’s the guy riding down Pacific Avenue, or out in Puyallup, on what looks more like an outlandish Christmas window display than a bicycle. Flags, clocks, light-up candles – you name it, Falk’s got it on his two art-bikes. They’re a legacy of his travels, his interests, his fascination with decoration. But Falk is more than his bikes. A longtime community volunteer and lifelong roamer, Falk is respected and liked as well as gaped at – a Tacoma personality. “People like to see something different,” says Falk. “You don’t see stuff like this (any other) place.”
And after a lifetime of traveling, Falk ought to know. Now 61, Falk was born in Michigan, but after his parents died he was raised by an aunt in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., and an uncle near Hamburg, Germany. He had small bikes when he was little, he remembers, but it was after his aunt died when he was around 15 that he made his first decorated bike.
Never having gone to school (thanks to working his uncle’s farm instead), that was also about the time Falk started hopping freight trains from state to state, spending his life roaming. He’s been to Alaska, to Canada, even to Japan for three weeks as a stowaway on a freighter. And everywhere he’s gone, he’s made and ridden art bikes.
“I started on a small one in Fort Lauderdale,” says Falk, “and rode it to Cape Canaveral, Jacksonville, Georgia. I had a trail bike in California, with a bike cart attached behind it. The police came and said I couldn’t ride it, it was too long.”
In 1987, Falk wound up in Tacoma and has stayed here since. Since he arrived, he’s been living at the Tacoma Rescue Mission and was the first tenant in their Jefferson Square single-occupancy housing facility when it opened 10 years ago. He also volunteered there, running the clothing room, but in 2000 the Washington State History Museum was looking for a volunteer to help their grounds staff, and the mission recommended Falk. He’s been there ever since, from 6 a.m. to noon every day...........

Jack Falk’s elaborately adorned bike draws attention wherever he takes it, including the Washington State History Museum in Tacoma, where he’s been honored as a dedicated volunteer.
Which leaves the rest of his day for adding to and maintaining his two bikes. It’s hard to find a term to describe Falk’s bikes, but in a sense they’re true folk-art vehicles. Festooned with Christmas garlands, they also carry a host of other found objects not normally associated with bicycles.
On one bike, a broom handle extends from the saddle, bound with bungee cord and strung with two patriotic flags. Other poles and milk crates support six more flags at the front, multiple flashlights, strings of Christmas lights and six big, yellow candles. These and the working TV over the handlebars are powered by a car battery via a six-high stack of power boards. (The bike has a connection for Falk to recharge it at night.)
There’s a radio scanner, which Falk uses to listen in to police and transit communications, and 11 battery-powered clocks, all set to different time zones around the country. A barrage of car license plates stand as souvenirs from each place Falk’s been: Idaho, Kansas, Oregon, Texas, Nevada, Delaware, Florida, Nebraska, Georgia, Alabama, California, New Brunswick, Hawaii, New York and, of course, Washington.
There are three fluffy bath mats stacked on the saddle, and Falk’s yellow helmet. It’s an impressive tribute to both artistic impulse and sheer structural creativity.
“It took months to make,” says Falk, adding that there’s also a lot of maintenance replacing bulbs, adjusting the balance. “Sometimes I stay up all night.”
And then there’s the riding factor: These bikes weigh around 400 pounds, says Falk, and it’s tricky to maneuver them down Tacoma’s hills, and through the snow. Yet ride them he does – Falk’s a regular in the Daffodil Parade and makes forays to Puyallup, Sumner, Eatonville, even Olympia, riding on the freeways and backroads.
So why make bikes like this?
“I thought I could come up with something really different,” Falk explains with a shy smile.
Different is probably the best word for Jack Falk himself. With a weather-beaten face and strong muscles from years of gardening work, Falk cuts an unusual figure. He’s almost always in shorts and a sweater, no matter what the weather, say museum staff. He rides his bikes in all weathers, too.
Back at Jefferson Square, his small apartment is chock-full of both bikes, two model train sets and rack upon rack of frilly can-can petticoats – “for decoration,” Jack explains, saying he buys them on occasional trips to the Pike Place Market in Seattle.
“I’d say Jack is idiosyncratic,” says museum director David Nicandri, who has known him since he began work there. “He’s not eccentric, exactly – he’s very regular and very proud of his work. He’s dedicated, thoughtful. He’s unique.”
“Jack’s his own person,” says Elizabeth Jensen, director of tenant housing at Jefferson Square. “Whatever feels comfortable to him is what he does. I would think he’s a little challenged. But he’s never been any trouble; he hasn’t got that in him.”
And one look at the museum’s immaculately kept grounds, and you realize why Nicandri sees him as “virtually a staff member, one of our most valuable volunteers.” He’s never called in sick, according to Mark Sylvester, head of the museum’s support services, and he’s won the Tacoma Rescue Mission’s Volunteer of the Year Award and was recognized by the City of Destiny Volunteer Awards.
After a life of wandering, Falk now says he’s in Tacoma to stay. Which is probably a good thing for Tacoma: Quite apart from being our very own mobile folk-art sculpture, Falk is one of a kind.
As he says: “People don’t see stuff like that here. Nobody can ride a bike like this.”
Rosemary Ponnekanti: 253-597-8568
WHERE'S JACKSo, where do you catch a glimpse of Jack Falk and his bikes? First place to try, say staff members at the Washington State History Museum, is around the Pacific Avenue entrance in the early afternoons, when he finishes work and rides back home up the University of Washington staircase.
On weekends, he’s sometimes riding around Ruston Way or downtown – watch out for the lit-up Christmas decorations at night. Falk says he’ll be around the waterfront during the Tall Ships Tacoma festival in July, and he usually makes an appearance at other major festivals like the Daffodil Parade in April and Showcase Tacoma in August.

Yo no fui.
8,486 Posts
And people think tend to think bike commuters are weird?

9,193 Posts
Leg warmers should have been dayglow green!

Talking about a lack of forward visibility. I'd be afraid of hitting a curb or parked car or something. 400lbs of bike landing on me would be the suxxor.

No Crybabies
11,692 Posts

That's just stupid.

Just because you can, does not mean you should.

If I showed up to work with that, I would be subjected to a "fitness for duty evaluation."

Resident Curmudgeon
13,390 Posts
Beware! It's a sleeper. All that stuff is made from CF, then painted to disguise it. The whole bike weighs just 18.7 lbs.

638 Posts
Speaking of weight making a difference I know a couple of people that only fill their gas tanks half way each time. They figured that with a 30 gallon tank of an SUV the extra 15 gallons of gas weighed enough to drop fuel economy. From what ive read gas weight about a hair over 6lbs per gallon on average.
Keeping on the subject of this thread I used to ride a bike that was about 22lbs and this year I bought a new one thats currently under 18lbs.... its a very noticable difference and on the climbs is where i really notice it. However investing in aero wheels seemed to make just as much of a difference. Between my new wheels and the minimal rolling resistance of the michelin pro3's its like a get a "free" couple of mph when I ride. I cant tell you how many people use their stock tires for way too long... my friend was on stock garbage bontragers for quite a while and was really content with them... he finally bought some good tires and now wont shut up about how he shouldve done it right away. seriously though... $100 for a set of tires is alot but when youre talking about pro caliber equipment its nothing.
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