Tall in the saddle: Cyclist takes the high road with special bike

Posted at 8:00 AM, Jan 25, 2015
and last updated 2015-01-26 13:49:38-05

Nate Clukey’s bicycle is as high as a stepladder.

The chain stretches 6 feet, 5 inches, and when Clukey sits in the saddle, he’s 9 feet, 6 inches off the ground.

A builder and organic gardener by trade, Clukey currently is in Knoxville visiting his 22-year-old son, Olias. Clukey built his “tall bike,” as such bicycles are known, in two weeks, but it took him eight months to collect the parts.

The frame is constructed of chrome-moly tubing, and it’s designed to hold a sophisticated sound system with the subwoofer mounted between the two wheels.

Clukey built his bike while living in Los Angeles, Calif., where he was part of a community of cyclists who advocated for bicyclists’ rights. His tall bike isn’t a novelty; it’s his main mode of transportation.

So far, he has pedalled it approximately 5,000 miles.

But even by tall bike standards, Clukey’s bike casts a long shadow.

“Having a bike that’s excessively tall makes an impression,” Clukey said. “People get the sense I’m doing it purely for fun, not because I can’t afford a car.”

Clukey believes his bike’s tall profile makes it safer in traffic than conventional bikes. The bike is an attention-grabber.

When he lived in West Los Angeles, Clukey pedaled 15 miles back and forth to work, and it was show time as soon as he hit the streets.

“People wave, and you have to smile and wave back or they think you’re rude,” he said. “When I’m in a bad mood, 30 seconds on this bike, and I’m happy.”

Clukey can do endos and wheelies on his bike — he says he designed the bike that way. He also wanted a tall bike that he could “free mount” with a run and jump-start.

At stop signs and traffic lights he has no trouble balancing in one spot, and to dismount, he simply comes to a stop, steps down to a foot peg, and drops to the ground.

Clukey said he practiced mounting his tall bike 21 times before he got it right.

“I never hurt myself while I was sober,” he said. “My bike is taller than most tall bikes. Only three people have ridden it other than myself, and they were all 5-foot-2-inch female gymnasts.”