A brief history of Gary Hale Bicycles
My first unusual bike was built in 1975. I was 17 years old and working
at a wonderful old Schwinn bike shop named Zeller's Cyclery in Santa
Ana California. I thought it would be fun to build a "racing trike". I
bought a differential unit for an adult Schwinn trike and attached it
to a lightweight Raleigh International frame. I rode this around for a
couple of weeks. It was kinda fun in a weird way, but not for going
really fast. Anyway I learned a lot about brazing and frame
construction, and how unstable a trike with two rear wheels and a high
seat can be when going fast. At that time in my life, I was doing 100
mile rides every weekend, just for fun.
Zeller's Cyclery had been in the same location since 1922. During its
existence the shop had accumulated some very beautiful bike parts from
the early part of the century, and I gained an appreciation for fine
By this time, it was clear to me that bikes would be my life.
In 1976 I rode across the
States on the Bikecentennial route with a friend from grade school.
I flew from Southern California to Eugene Oregon and rode to the coast
and got my wheels wet. I was not in a hurry, spending 90 days riding
about 4800 miles. I was riding a custom-built Schwinn Paramount touring
bike. All along the ride, I was thinking about bicycling and how the
experience could be better. At breaks and at night I would scribble
ideas in my little diary.
In 1977 Ross Shafer who later founded Salsa Cycles was living at my
house in California. Ross had a welding torch and had built a couple of
bike frames and was planning to show me how to build them. I already
had some tubing, and since I now had access to a torch I built a new
frame for myself. I built a few frames for friends, anybody who had $75
for a set of tubes, just for the experience.
In the summer of 1977 we loaded up Ross' VW bus and headed for
Colorado, looking for a nicer place to live. The bus broke down in
Santa Fe New Mexico, and we rented a U-Haul truck and a tow-bar and
proceeded to Denver, and bought a rebuilt engine. We spent about a
month riding bikes around the mountains of Colorado, looking for a
place to live. We next decided to drive to Eugene Oregon and arrived on
July 3, 1977. We did a quick tour of the bike scene in Eugene and
discovered quite a few builders in the area. I decided to stay in the
Eugene area, and Ross decided to "drive on down to Santa Cruz".
I started building custom racing and touring bikes for sale. In all, I
built about 300 racing and touring bikes and become well known in the
In 1979 the owner of the bike shop I worked at asked if I could build
him a new bike trailer since he had just sold his old plywood box with
wheels. I built a wooden tube bender and he soon had the first Blue Sky
Cycle Cart. He decided he wanted to go into the bike trailer business.
I built the first 100 frames and set up a production shop in Eugene. A
couple of years later he sold the business.
In 1980 my wife Jan and I were expecting our first child. We didn't
want our baby's first breaths to be filled with the grass field burning
smoke so prevalent at the time in the Willamette Valley where Eugene is
located, so we moved to the coast range to the west of Eugene. My son
was born at home with the help of a midwife.
In 1980 I built my first trike with 2 wheels in front. This design was
much more stable in turns and braking. The trike had 24" front wheels
and a 26" rear wheel, and a lever drive system. At the time I was
living about 25 miles from Eugene without a car and building bikes in
I bought an old hand powered drill press from a friend for $15. I was
very impressed with how efficiently the machine could remove metal. I
needed a way to cut the miters in tubing for bikes. Making bikes with
pedal power somehow seemed like the essence of appropriate technology,
so I made a ten speed horizontal boring mill with pedals. I sold about
ten of these to other frame builders. When the power went out in my
shop, I just kept working! This machine was written up in Mother Earth
News in the early 80's. Later I converted a few other devices to human
power, including making a generator stand for electricity and a
5-gallon ice cream maker.
So my family was living 25 miles from the nearest city and I would ride
my trike into Eugene and go shopping and ride home with a bale of hay
and cat food and dog food and people food and bike parts and so on in a
trailer behind the trike. I spent a lot of time on these long commutes
thinking about how to make bikes more useful. I had a serious case of
the bike design itch.
A small group of people in Eugene was experimenting with an arm and leg
powered front wheel drive bike design called the Manuped. I built a
couple of frames for them. They taught me an appreciation for the
application of the whole body to the problem of self-propulsion. On the
Manuped the leg crank axle goes through the front hub. The theory with
the Manuped was that you could go in a straight line by balancing the
leg push with the arm pull by placing the handles farther out than the
pedals. Well, at least that was one theory. Personally, it seemed to me
that a lot of energy was being used to maintain this balance. I
experimented with a similar design I called the LightSpeed in which I
placed the leg crank in front of the front wheel. It was a little
easier to learn to ride, and in my opinion more efficient. The
limitation was the 20" front wheel, and the forward center of mass of
the rider. There are still a few of these LightSpeeds around, and the
owners love them.
I realized that it would be possible to build a trike with leaning
steering, by allowing the chain to twist. In 1982 I built the first
QuadraPed trike. This trike made it possible for a person with any
number of limbs to ride efficiently. I sold one to a triple amputee.
That trike was set up so it could be powered, steered and the gears
shifted with one hand. He bought one for his wife, and they go on rides
together. These trikes are very stable and natural to ride, with the
rider leaning into the turn while steering. One of these trikes was
sold to Richard Rau in Corvallis, and he made a few. A few were made by
Co-Motion Cycles and AngleTech is currently producing a similar design.
These trikes have changed the lives of many people with various
disabilities, making it possible for them to have more fun and do more
for themselves. The trikes are very good for heavy hauling as well,
with the arms and legs together providing significantly more power than
the legs alone.
In 1985 I helped design and build the first HandBike, an arm only
powered bike with spring loaded fold down landing gear. About this time
I worked on various hand power attachments for wheelchairs, built a
racing wheelchair, parts for kaleidoscopes, child seats, garden carts,
a blimp gondola, and designed and produced some parts and tooling for
Burley bike trailers, among many other projects.
Also in 1985, I developed a simple above seat steered long wheelbase
recumbent with two 27" wheels, called the Runner. Co-Motion Cycles
built a few of these, and a similar design is currently produced by
Human Powered Machines in Eugene as the Roadster. The Runner was the
first recumbent bicycle in my experience built with quality bicycle
tubing, namely Reynolds 531. I built a couple of double tandems and a
triple tandem Runner as well for the family.
I estimate that I built about 60 unique designs of wheeled human
transport over the years. I don't have pictures of many of them. I used
to build things just for fun, as an experiment. One day I woke up and
decided I wanted to build a trike with two small wheels on the left and
one big wheel on the right. By the end of the day, I was riding it. The
big wheel was powered by arm power. A rod linked the small wheels so
that when the front one steered left, the rear one steered right. This
caused the trike to steer about the intersections of the axles. I had
seen an old picture with something similar, and I wanted to see if it
could be adapted to arm only power. It worked well. Moving the hand
cranks forward to turn left, backward to turn right steered the
machine. 2 days later I cut the trike apart, because I didn't have room
to store it, and I needed the parts for something else. I once built a
side by side recumbent bicycle. Those were fun times. So many ideas, so
As many of you know, it is not easy to make a living doing this kind of
work. I was selling about $40,000 worth of bikes and other work a year,
and my family was living on $10,000. Not enough to buy a house. I had
been doing some design and fabrication work on metal parts for store
fixtures, and this work paid much better. In 1986 I stopped building
bikes and about 1988 I sold the shop to some friends who were starting
up Co-Motion Cycles. I worked until 1999 designing, engineering and
building store fixturing. Along the way I held positions in project
management, information services management and engineering management.
The company went from 7 employees when I was hired to more than 500
employees 5 years later. This was a very good experience for me,
teaching me all aspects of running a business.
For the last few years I have been doing free-lance design, engineering
and CAD work, network setup and custom database and graphics
programming, and I have developed a new recumbent two-wheeler with an
unusual drive system, which I have just brought to market called the Glider.