The Classic - Cycle Oregon

Introducing the ‘Hydrofiets’

Posted by on September 28th, 2012 at 10:33 am

The Hydrofiets-7

The Hydrofiets is an artistic and functional cargo bike.
(Photos © J. Maus/BikePortland)

Say hello to the “Hydrofiets,” the latest creation from Portland-based builder Tom LaBonty. The bike was commissioned by Woodlawn neighborhood resident Ethan Jewett for use by his company Stickeen Brand Services.

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Ethan Jewett was art director on the project.

The idea behind the bike is simple: To provide clean filtered tap water at events. Currently Jewett is putting the bike to use for one of his clients, Klean Kanteen. The bike fits with their mission to discourage the purchase of single-use water bottles.

The bike is outfitted with high-quality plumbing components and hoses that attach directly to any water spigot. From there, the water runs through two filtering tanks and up and out of four nozzles on the large, wooden countertop. To keep customers cool, the Hydrofiets has a large umbrella that cranks up from a sturdy stand just in front of the handlebars. The bike features tons of classy and custom touches throughout. From the wave-pattern and wood on the countertop and main triangle, to the custom chain-steering system LaBonty created just for this bike.

Get a closer look in the photos below…

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In classic LaBonty style, he used one of Jewett’s old MTB frames to create the main chassis. Jewett says LaBonty executed his ideas perfectly. “When I met with Tom, I told him the vision and aesthetic we were going for… an art bike, like something that would belong on New Belgium’s Tour de Fat.”

LaBonty has gained a national following since his “hillbilly” cargo bikes first hit the Internet just over three years ago. This is LaBonty’s 59th bike. Next month, LaBonty will fly to Dallas, Texas, to give a Cargo Bike Build Workshop as part of the month long Cyclesomatic 2012 event.

The Hydrofiets is just the latest in a long line of locally made cargo bikes that blend form, function and everyday use into an effective business marketing tool. With beer, coffee, and now water, we’ve got all three essential liquids covered.

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(Nice work Ethan and Tom! It’s beautiful!)

— Jewett says he’ll be looking to set up the Hydrofiets at big street parties along the Sunday Parkways route this weekend. If you miss it out there, it will be stored at Velo Cult Bike Shop on NE 42nd in Hollywood.

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  • whyat September 28, 2012 at 10:46 am

    Such a piece of art. Frickin’ awesome.

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  • Ethan September 28, 2012 at 10:46 am

    If anyone out there is having a big streetside party on the East Portland Sunday Parkways route, I’ll do my best to have it there (just needs a spigot). We’re planning to accept Sky Boyer’s generous offer and store/display her at VeloCult starting next week. Come by and check it out.

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  • John Lascurettes September 28, 2012 at 10:53 am

    Both brilliant and beautiful. I love it.

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  • A.K. September 28, 2012 at 10:57 am

    Very cool! A nice change of pace from the usual beer hauler.

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  • pabstslut September 28, 2012 at 11:09 am

    Nice! Tom has really raised his game from his earlier models in terms of details and finish work.

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  • Schrauf September 28, 2012 at 11:11 am

    Is the idea with the heavy-duty filters that the water source will often be delivered via a garden hose not normally approved for consumption? Or is this just a concept design, since our tap water is pretty damn safe, or maybe it is intended for post-disaster use?

    Cool, regardless.

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    • Spiffy September 28, 2012 at 1:30 pm

      there’s going to be a lot of anti-fluoride people that won’t want to drink the unfiltered tap water…

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      • resopmok September 29, 2012 at 1:11 pm

        afaik portland water is non-fluorinated, for now.

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    • Nate September 28, 2012 at 3:47 pm

      Carbon filtration removes clorine and cloramines commonly added to municipal water, as well as addressing taste and odor issues. supply water must be potable drinking water, food grade hose is used. Unfortunately Carbon filters do not remove Flouride :(.

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      • Nate September 28, 2012 at 4:07 pm

        Chlorine, chloramine, Fluoride. Since I never drink em I forgot how to spell em.

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        • C3 September 30, 2012 at 6:30 pm

          If you drink Portland tap water, you’re drinking Chlorine (& maybe chloramine). If one (or two chemicals is enough for y’all) – Vote NO on Fluoridated water in Portland – please.
          ~ Beautiful bike! Can someone make one that carries kombucha?

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      • Kurt Kemmerer September 29, 2012 at 3:02 pm

        In Portland water?

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  • Ethan September 28, 2012 at 11:16 am

    Good question Schrauf. Food grade hoses are very common and are used by Food Carts all over town (RV technology).

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  • Ben September 28, 2012 at 11:39 am

    Overall a really cool concept, and good ascetics, but I think the welds and chain steering system look terrible.

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  • Jonathan Braddick September 28, 2012 at 12:19 pm

    Thanks for the mention, it really means a lot coming from Dallas, TX and the Oak Cliff neighborhood. We can’t wait to have Tom here and let everyone know how talented he is. Also, thanks to Joe Biel for doing the documentary and Dinner and Bikes that helped me learn all about the Portland bicycle scene.

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  • Bill Stites September 28, 2012 at 12:36 pm

    Beautiful bike Tom! and Ethan! Whatever the cost was, I almost guarantee it was underpriced – there is a ton of work in there.

    It will be interesting to see how that cable/chain steering works out. I’ve tried it before, and it didn’t work very well – just too much stretchiness. After being disappointed with the heaviest brake cables I could find, I DOUBLED them up – whole ‘nother pair of cables operating independently from the first pair. I felt good about the redundency of this system for safety, but was shocked that it still felt really noodly.
    It may be worth looking into using chain the whole way, but not sure there is a clear path for this.

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    • dmc September 28, 2012 at 1:16 pm

      Interesting Bill. I am curious how this system handles.

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    • Sunny September 28, 2012 at 2:46 pm

      Safety wise, if the cables do fail, the rider won’t be flung forward and over the handlebars like a regular bike.

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      • b September 28, 2012 at 9:41 pm

        they would be steered off the road instead.

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    • basketloverd October 3, 2012 at 9:05 am

      Braided cables have far less stretch.

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  • Spiffy September 28, 2012 at 1:37 pm

    very classy looking… I love the use of a Schwinn style cruiser frame where the lines continue into the front and blend in…

    I also like the use of the mesh… and the wood with the green, and the chrome…

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  • Linda Ginenthal September 28, 2012 at 3:38 pm

    How much water does it hold?

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  • Ethan September 28, 2012 at 3:55 pm

    Linda, It carries a filtration system, not tankage. It hooks up to a hose bib or (eventually) a fire hydrant.

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  • Tom September 28, 2012 at 4:53 pm

    I’m getting a bunch of credit for this build, but I have to point out that as my most challenging build, I had a lot of help. For the first time I brought on a full time partner, Seth Burke, who shared the design work and did all the woodwork (using reclaimed fencing & window blinds). Also, all the badges & metal cut outs were designed and provided by Ethan and his crew.

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  • Ethan Jewett September 28, 2012 at 9:23 pm

    A very good point Tom. I need to credit Chris Leiter on our team for his amazing graphic work, and US Pure Water in Marin for the filtration system. All that said, Tom was the one responsible for taking words and sketches and translating a concept into reality.

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  • seth burke September 28, 2012 at 9:40 pm

    thanks to tom for letting me play bike builder with him.
    this hydrofiets project was a blast to work on. from the onset i knew this was going to be toms most artistic build to date. finding just the right bends to accent the feeling of water flowing through the bike was a fun challenge. and to do so without cluttering the frame with extra metal or steering rods led us to think far outside the box, as such the cable steering was run up and over the filters under the recycled wood decking to help provide clean lines and a pleasing visual image of an artistic yet functioning bike. and more a bike with a health conscious intent.
    we knew from the get go that this machine was never intended for racing nor long distance rides, rather the customers stated intent that this bike stay in the pdx area and be used to filter water for folks at local public events where bottled water just leads to waste. and most people would love to fill the bike bottle they already have on their bike rather than shell out money on a disposable piece of plastic, right.
    while the welds are not NAHBBS quality and his style may be a bit hillbilly, i found working with tom to be a great opportunity to explore how fun bike designing and building can be. after all,
    bike riding should put a smile on your face.

    if you are not familiar with tom and his whimsical fun recycled cargo bikes, do your self a favor and look at where he is going with safe, practical, affordable, completely original and recycled bikes. you may just get one for yourself…

    thanks. seth burke. design partner on the hydofiets project.
    tom, i look forward to more projects down the bike path….

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  • Spiffy September 29, 2012 at 8:46 am

    all it needs is a trailer to carry a pressurized water supply…

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  • Sunny September 29, 2012 at 12:33 pm

    The bottle return for plastic water bottles is 5 cents in Oregon.

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  • resopmok September 29, 2012 at 1:13 pm

    a co2 tank to make some soda water would be a really nice addition to the design, if possible. probably a bit too much extra weight after all that water eh?

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    • Kurt Kemmerer September 29, 2012 at 3:04 pm

      It appears that the bike doesn’t really carry water, or much water. But if one got rid of the filter system, which seems to be no problem around here, adding some co2 seems plausible.

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  • Kurt Kemmerer September 29, 2012 at 2:59 pm

    Awesome bicycle, and awesome purpose. Although, in Portland, why does the tap water need to be filtered?

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  • IanC September 29, 2012 at 6:21 pm

    That is a work of art. Amazing job, builders. Thank you to the purchaser for commissioning such a stylish, unique piece.

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  • drew September 30, 2012 at 8:25 am

    Thats a beautiful rolling artwork, I imagine it took a long time to bring it from idea to reality. Portland has some great tap water coming from the bull run watershed, but I would be interested in trying it filtered to see if any difference.
    I have used cable steering (single brake cable with pulleys from Frances cycles) on my cargo bike for 2 years, and found that it works great up to 100lbs of cargo. More weight than that I find causes friction to build in the cable housing… the steering develops play, and is harder to turn. Minimizing housing runs helps a lot. Cable steering is a great solution for baks that don’t carry people (adults) or really heavy loads. For me its been trouble free for about 8K miles so far; I cleaned and lubed the cables a few times, but they didn’t even seem to need that maintenance.

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  • Alan 1.0 September 30, 2012 at 6:12 pm

    I found it across from Glenwood Park, almost at the end of my ride (I shudda gone clockwise ;). Delicious water, great pressure and really nice spigots made it easy to fill just about any shape container. I looked around for Ethan but didn’t see him, it was just locked there attracting loads of curious attention. I explained the potable water hose and filters to a couple and they instantly got the “no throw away plastic” part. Thanks for the drink! Beautiful sculpture/machine!

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  • EthanPDX October 1, 2012 at 7:31 am

    I took the family out for a loop (they were getting restless). Sorry I missed you Alan.

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    • Alan 1.0 October 1, 2012 at 10:43 am

      I’m glad you got to go ride with your family! What a really nice day!

      The Hydrofiet did great as “installation art” all by itself, garnering loads of curious looks. The location was excellent. People tended to look but not touch, though, when it was all alone. Once I filled my bottles, several other people followed my lead. Maybe a sign on the bartop, “Free Water, help yourself,” would loosen them up. Anyway, total success for a wonderful idea!

      BTW, just curious whether you pedaled it down and back? (I admit I drove to the ride.)

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  • DK October 1, 2012 at 8:45 am

    Love it!
    No electric assist? …Downhill bike! 😉

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  • EthanPDX October 2, 2012 at 7:32 am

    I had to get two cargo bikes on course so I did borrow a van to get it there. With the new cranks it actually get around fine. I agree it needs clear signage. Klean Kanteen has some sweet “Free Water” flags, which would do the trick.

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    • Alan 1.0 October 2, 2012 at 12:11 pm

      I noticed the cranks…sweet!

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  • RyNO Dan October 2, 2012 at 10:44 am

    Refuse Single-Use. That’s awesome. “Avoid single-use items” is too wordy and awkward. I’m glad there’s someone else out there !

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