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"I've just seen your excellent Steampunk Motorbike Mod, and I was wondering if you could answer a few questions on the topic for"

Q1: We imagine a lot of people see your bike and say, "WTF!?" So, our first question is, WTF?! More specifically, we're wondering what your inspiration was / is?

The Whirlygig boiled out of a head-on collision from three conceptual directions:

1) I've always wanted to build an electric vehicle, and a minibike is a very practical learning platform; its less expensive for all the components, it doesn't eat up your whole workspace, and its easy to reach into, get underneath or turn upside down without heavy equipment. Plus its just cute. Chicks dig it. Guys too.
2) Years of building large-scale Art Cars for the Burning Man festival taught me that I didn't want to be trapped in a box; no windshield, no doors, just full access for people to be able to engage and interact, yet still capable of toting a couple of passengers across the desert for adventures and necessities. Parking, transporting and storage and greatly simplified as well.
3) Falling in love with Steampunk. The monochrome Mad Max is soo 1990's, the Pirate theme is worn out (but we still love stripes!), and although the Nouveau Circus movement is whimsical, it doesn't have the practical gear-headedness of the Steampunk aesthetic. So you get the romantic warmth of copper, brass and old wood, but the practicality of contemporary technical application... and heavy dose of whimsy & fictionality.

Q2: How do you go about creating such a master piece? What were the instruments you used, what's under the hood and is it road legal?

In December 2006 I started by disaster testing - strapping whatever components I could find at my workshop with the help of Phil "Peef" Sadow and then crashing into things. Here's a video timelapse where we built the prototype bike in one day at XIAN Productions:

The frame was donated to me by Lyell Cash, a fantastic catering chef I work with, which was buried in his garage for 40 years. Here's what the original must have looked like: [] I then transported it down to Lightning in a Bottle, a music and performance festival in Santa Barbara, and soon realized that it was underpowered and too small. It sat on the back burner for a year, until August 2007 when I spent a intense three weeks fixated on the realization of the vision.
I began with inspirational research on the interweb -,, and numerous steam engine enthusiast's sites.
I'm lucky because there is a group of artists in Oakland called KSW - [] - that strives to collaborate and provide steam-power to kinetic sculpture. Sean Orlando and the Steampunk Treehouse crew [] upped the ante of aesthetics for me. I helped design and weld some of the branches for the treehouse while working on the bike, and the level of craftsmanship and creativity inspired me to take my art to the next level. And the more I worked on it, the better it got, and soon I realized that it deserved more and more of my energy to complete. For the week before Burning Man 2007 I was alternating working all-nighters and getting 4 hours sleep every other day.
Under the "hood": The "pancake style" electric motor is a 15hp Etek, what conventional technologists would describe as a wave wound axial air gap brushed DC motor, and uses one-tenth the steel and one-half the copper as a conventional DC motor and is only half the size. This motor has been a standard in electric motorcycle racing and in certain configurations can reach speeds in excess of 60mph! Two 12Volt deep-cycle marine batteries wired in series provide the 24Volt power, which is managed by an ALLTRAX AXE 500amp controller, some 24V solenoids and a gaggle of knobs and switches that have to be triggered in the right sequence to prevent unwanted borrowing.
The Tote Goat was a street-legal motorbike, and once I mount the license plate and deal with brake lights I should have no problem satisfying the DMV. As long as they don't actually look at it. For now I ride it in a shroud of steam and jedi-mind tricks, and plan to show it off at the upcoming Maker's Fair in California.

Q3. The steam output is seriously awesome; have you ever used it to steam cleanse your face for that flawless complexion you have? Alternatively, are you a super hero that uses the steam output to scold villains with? Basically, is there any reason beyond great effect for the steam output, and how did you manage to get it working?

Funny you should say that, for in the desert I discovered that having a warm blast of moisture was a real pleasure for the ladies. I don't think I qualify as a super-hero and jumping the Ramp of Death at Camp Carp's Black Sabbath Pancake Breakfast, and smashing into neon glow-stick wearing bicyclists firmly defines me as a Burning Man Anti-Hero.
The steam boiler evolved as form before function, as I originally planned the bike to just look like a steam-machine, and size and placement dictated a small boiler. However I acquired a small pneumatic grease pump, which could theoretically oscillate on steam, but aesthetics, time, and minimal steam power complicated its integration. I decided to build the steam-boiler nevertheless, starting with a fire extinguisher tank [] that I cut a hole in the bottom, welded a through tube into it and with the help of Orion Fredericks [] we were able to TIG weld a hermetically sealed chamber with ports for drainage, output and a 100psi safety valve []
The heat to produce the steam comes from a hardware store bought propane torch, which has the added benefit of providing a jet of blue flame out the back of the bike. An unexpected boon was the resonant frequencies produced by the movement of hot air through the tube - giving the otherwise silent electric bike a mighty jet-powered sound. I also plumbed in a tiny "dead man's" steam whistle controlled by a small solenoid valve right off the boiler. []

Q4. What are the controls that are mounted on? How does each function operate?

That information is classified.

Q5. We appreciate your fantastic artistic talent, and in your opinon, if Gizmodo was the name of a Steampunk device, what device would it be?

The Steampunk Gizmodo is essentially a pocket-watch sized miniature, quantum steam boiler that capitalizes on the resonant frequencies of the H2O molecule. Recently declassified research has revealed that the two single-proton Hydrogen atoms branching off of the 8-proton, 8-neutron nucleus of Oxygen create an atomic-sized tuning fork, but operating with quantum mechanical, non-linear switching dynamics. In practice, the free electrons are hyper-accelerated and amplified, using ambient sound waves as input, and producing either hyper-accelerated miniature steam pressure, or hyper-acclerated electron displacement, in the form of DC current. This revolutionary energy accelerator/generator makes the previously remarkable transition from vacuum tubes to transistors look like the difference between a spark and sparkler. The Quantum Integrated Steam Modulator, QISMODU, as originally dubbed, is often pronounced and written GIZMODO in common vernacular.

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