The birth of a Solidarity Bike

I was in the WI state capitol during the occupation - the emotion was incredible, the noise was slightly less than deafening.  It was as if everyone in the rotunda was a single organism, the beating heart of the state, pulsing and pumping.  If you weren't there, it's tough to understand the true scope of it.  Everyone who witnessed it in person came away changed, motivated, revitalized.

 
One moment that will stay with me my entire life is a chant that was going on in the rotunda - a rather monotone, 4-beat "we are Wisconsin --- we are Wisconsin ---".  One man entered the rotunda, but couldn't quite make out what was being chanted.  He asked me what they were saying - I had to shout, even though I was inches from his ear.  When he understood it, he leapt up and started jumping and chanting with a completely different rhythm.
 
"We are Wisconsin - we are Wiscon-siiiiiin"  It's hard to describe it in text.  He wasn't chanting, he was SINGING.  He used half-beats, and raised the pitch at the end.  It was infectious.  At first, people looked startled - they backed up a little bit and made space (what little there was).  There were easily over 1000 people chanting under that dome and in under 2 minutes, one man's joyous contribution had spread, and everyone in the room was literally jumping and singing together.
 
The 'Blue Fist', a now-iconic symbol designed by Carrie Worthen
 
I left the capitol that night, determined to contribute in some way, and eventually, the idea for the solidarity bike was conceived.
 
 
I made paper sketches, I transferred the sketches to the computer, I tweaked and honed it, simplified the design a lot.  The symbol was never designed to be a bike, I can say that for sure.
 
 
 

I integrated a head tube and dropouts, then I printed it and wrote all the angles and tube lengths on the paper.

It was lunacy - I thought it could never be done (I don't usually get much time in the garage - a few hours a week).
 
Then one day I was out there, cut a few tubes and made a star.  From that point it had to be done; I had to complete it.  The star grew - I outlined the whole state then added the 'fingers'.  The rear end was the most difficult - the back of this thing is unlike any bike I've ever seen.  This delayed the project for a while.
 
The nearly completed frame sat in the garage for a month or two, until I got a spark of enthusiasm.  The recall petitions would be circulated and there was to be a big rally the Saturday after.  On top of working a 40 hour job, I spent all the time I could in the garage - I got about 3-4 hours of sleep each night for an entire week, and stayed up all night Friday to make it safe and ridable.  A 'reinforcement loop' was added, that strengthened the frame immensely and counteracted a really scary wobble at low speeds.  It all added weight, and now the thing is built like a tank and HEAVY.
 
The last thing I did was to cover it with blue painters tape (the same type that was used exclusively to hang signs and banners in the state capitol).
 
Another moment in life that I will never forget is the first time I rounded the corner onto the capitol square - the day after the recall petitions started circulating.  I came around the corner and people cheered with glee.  It filled me with pride.
 
 
I'm actually not a member of any labor union.  My wife was - and her company was personally attacked in Scott Walker's speeches.  A private insurance company, rated #2 in the nation for customer service and priced competitively with other plans.  "Open for business" my ass!  The rules were changed to make it more difficult for school districts and teachers to keep the insurance they rated so highly. Now, they're allowed to choose the bottom-of-the-barrel insurance from faceless out of state companies - plans with multi-$1000 deductibles and huge copays.  Profit over people.
 
Wisconsin has now lost jobs every month for the past six, while the rest of the nation has been slowly recovering.
 

That's the story of 'Solidarity', the bike.
Tonight, I'm putting the second coat of paint on it, and this Saturday March 10th at 1PM, I invite everyone to bring a bike to the capitol and Ride With Wisconsin!
 
SOLIDARITY!