Brian Campbell's House Bikes
by Randy Ghent
You've heard of house boatsóbut house bikes? Probably not. There's only 13 in the world that we at the Auto-Free Times know of. And Brian Campbell has built every one of them. Together they form what Campbell calls "the GeoFleet."
Each bike weighs 200 pounds, has 135 gears, andóonce you get goingócan go faster than a racing bike. It can even carry loads of 500 pounds, and is extremely strong and durable. Sound like too much to be true? There's more: One GeoFleet house bike, effectively replacing both the owner's house and car, can even provide economic security for less than $2,600. If used parts are relied upon, the bike can be built for under $500. So you can say goodbye to rent, insurance, pollution and the rest of it.
It's not exactly luxurious livingójust a cozy weatherproof place to sleep, made of rigid urethane insulation, that's the width of a twin bed. But for the claustrophobic, the largest sleeper box available with GeoFleet's standard frame sleeps four. In fact, the sleeper box is so well insulated that the occupant's body heat keeps it warm all night long. "It's like the Bahamas within seconds, even in the winter," Campbell said, "though there's no condensation problem because of dehumidifying windows."
And with a unique double kickstand, the bike is remarkably stable. It won't budge, even with three people inside. Mostly aluminum angle bar bolted together, the bike's framework has long drive chains and sets of gears underneath that connect to a specially designed automobile wheel in the rear. The bike is driven partly by a turning, weighted mechanism that provides centrifugal-force power. So once you get going, it can feel like you're riding a two-pound bike, Campbell said. He calls it a "spring-action, thresher flywheel." "This mechanism uses the internal weight of the wheel itselfónot where the wheel is hitting the road," Campbell claims. "It almost feels like you have a big ball of steel pushing behind you."
Campbell and a partner have even patented this design, as well as that of the drive chain. GeoFleet bikes are so unique that Campbell and his cohorts jokingly use Star Trek terminology to refer to them. They call the bikes "ships," and have assigned themselves titles such as "Captain" and "Admiral."
But Campbell has little desire to promote his product, prove his claims about it, or build a business out of his creation. In fact, he doesn't even have an address or telephone number.
After hitchhiking around the U.S. for 11 years, Campbell says the house bike idea came to him through "non-action, non-thinking power," which he combined with self-teachings in science and physics, having quit formal school in eighth grade. "The spirit of the Earth came and spoke to me, saying I'm not going to be like all the rest," recalled Campbell. "Before I started those bikes, I didn't accomplish one thing. I just barely ate, barely slept, and that's it." Now 40, Campbell has been building house bikes since 1984.
The geometric-structured frame design, made to hold weight from all sides, hasn't changed in seven years. At press time, Campbell is building GeoFleet's fourteenth house bike for the Auto-Free Times to use as a work bike and for demonstration purposes. The magazine will be unofficially joining what Campbell calls a "private club" of house bike owners.
Campbell's personal house bike holds all his possessions, and he is otherwise homeless, sometimes building bikes for others to raise food money. He views his bikes as a means to achieve financial independence and extricate oneself from poverty. He now has the freedom to take vacations at willa freedom most car owners lack.
Thus Campbell's life calls into the question the idea that a high quality of life must result from a high monetary standard of living. He does quite well without what are usually a person's two most environmentally unfriendly possessions: a house and a car.
"I have never paid rent in my life," Campbell proudly asserted.
For more information about GeoFleet, or to have your own bike built, contact the Sustainable Energy Institute at 215-243-3144.