WHEELS & THINGS opens up cycling options
WRITTEN and photographed by Kate Perkins
Randy and Steph Noordmans, along with their son Andrew, take the Teamcycle on a demo ride. Randy builds custom bikes and has built several models of the Teamcycle,
a two-person, three-wheeled bike. (Photo by Kate Perkins)
WE’VE ALL BEEN OUT ON THE TRAIL, RIDING BIKES WITH FRIENDS AND FAMILY, TRYING TO HOLD A CONVERSATION. And, almost undoubtedly, we’ve shouted “What?!” back and forth to each other as we struggled to hear what others were saying.
Randy Noordmans credits his wife, Steph, with motivating him to create an inventive new bicycle. She wanted to go on a bike ride and be able to hold a conversation. Randy and Steph live with their three children in Pine River, just a short distance from the Paul Bunyan Trail. Randy, a mechanic and all-around builder and fixer, began a bike-building journey that has led him to start his own business: Wheels & Things LLC. It was Steph’s idea that motivated Randy to eventually create the Teamcycle, an expandable recumbent tricycle that seats two people side by side. In addition to the Teamcycle, Randy has built several models of recumbent bikes for riders of all abilities.
Wheels & Things’ bikes have included one-person tricycles, four-wheeled two-man bikes and the company’s main bike model, the Teamcycle, which can be expanded to seat four or more people.
Teamcycles are built with a hitch on the back, and multiple Teamcycles can be hooked together. The front wheel is easily removed, and the front of the second Teamcycle hooks to the hitch on the back of the first. One of Randy’s current projects is to connect six Teamcycles together to make a 12-person bicycle. He hopes to bring it to as many local parades as possible. Even with multiple Teamcycles hooked together, the bike remains comfortable for riders, efficient for everyone pedaling, and easy to control. Each Teamcycle is controlled with a handlebar between the two riders that’s also equipped with a brake. When hooked together, only the leader steers but each trailer has its own functioning brake.
Though most of Noordman’s Teamcycles are now built with three wheels rather than four, all models are now expandable, allowing riders to connect two or more Teamcycles together to create a Teamcycle train. All Teamcycles also come standard with anchors for canopies. (Photo courtesy of Randy Noordmans)
Randy’s first build of what became the Teamcycle was a four-wheeled bike that seated two. While the bike was a success, Randy’s found that a three-wheeled bike is more stable on uneven surfaces, so the models he’s built moving forward have been mostly three-wheeled. He also enjoys and has stuck with the recumbent seating arrangement.
“These are more leisurely, more relaxed,” Randy said, adding that he’s done 20 miles on the bike in a day, no problem. Steph added that on the Teamcycles, “There’s no danger of tipping over or falling off.” That makes the bikes great for people with disabilities or those prone to balance issues, such as the elderly. One of the first two-person recumbent bikes that Randy built was sold to the Pine River Group Home for its residents. Randy also has built custom bikes to suit customers’ needs.
One such bike was for a girl with epilepsy. Randy created a one-person, three-wheeled recumbent trike with a handle that came out the back. The handle was equipped with a brake so that the bike could be stopped by a friend or family member in the event of an emergency, in case the girl was unable to stop the bike herself. The bike was also outfitted with pedal straps and a seatbelt.
Randy Noordmans, owner and creator of Wheels & Things LLC, stands next to the frame jig he uses to build Teamcycles, a three-wheeled, expandable, two-person bike. (Photo by Kate Perkins)
As he’s perfected his designs, Randy has built frame jigs that allow him to more quickly build the models that have been most successful. The bikes are built with a combination of recycled bike parts and metal conduit that Randy cuts and bends to his needs. While the jigs make producing the bikes easier, the process is still a labor of love. Randy powder coats each of the bikes to give them a glossy, professional finish. The process involves spraying on the powder and baking it to set the coat just eight inches of frame at a time. While it’s labor intensive, the finished look gleams.
Details like the powder coating make Randy’s bikes all the more special. For example, Randy and Steph together developed a seat that is comfortable and adjustable. The seats can be adjusted forward and back to suit the rider’s height, and the webbing that creates the seat support can be tightened if it loosens over time. Trial and error has allowed Randy to equip the bikes he builds with the best brakes, independent drive trains mean that one person can relax while the other pedals, and anchors for an optional sun and rain canopy are now standard on all Teamcycles.
With a focus on professionalism and rider comfort, Randy is creating unique bikes that are fun and easy to ride—and even allow for conversation on the trail. Wheels & Things bikes can be found all summer long for rent at Lifehouse Coffee in Pine River, which is located just a couple blocks from the Paul Bunyan Trail. More information about Wheels & Things bikes can be found on the company’s website, www.wheelsandthingsllc.bike.