Hardly Extinct

September 30, 2013

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At 8-feet tall, Willie Hatfield’s pedal powered dinosaur stands heads and shoulders over most cyclists, despite having short arms.

[EDITOR'S NOTE: This is part of an on-going series on the individuals who make Bike Friday what it is: A collection of unique cycling enthusiasts spreading the word in interesting manners.]

By RAZ

Everyone has a story, but if you wander around the Bike Friday Factory you might be amazed at some of the tales of life that can be told.

Take one of the guys on the production team, Willie Hatfield.

When Willie starts talking about his life, it moves along as a somewhat typical story.

So, you might ask, how did he come to create something so amazing as the 8-foot- tall human pedal powered Dinosaur in the photo above?

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Willie’s dinosaur was a work in progress when it appeared ready to take a ride on a Witch’s Broom. Hey, it could happen!

He grew up primarily in the Midwest. Went to study engineering at the University of Michigan.

Then, well, like most people, his story takes on a life of its own.

At Michigan, Willie studied Naval Architecture. That eventually drew him to New Orleans, where he worked for defense contractor working on ship concepts.

That job and life isn’t what Willie had envisioned for himself. So, he hopped on his bicycle, and spent the next three years touring the US, basically circling the country.

One day his travels took him through Arcadia, California, where he saw a post for the Kinetic Grand Championship.

What’s that?

Well, it’s a race of Kinetic Sculptures. Their website says:

“Kinetic Sculptures are all-terrain human-powered art sculptures that are engineered to race over road, water, mud and sand. Kinetic sculptures are amazing works of art; many are animated with moving parts like blinking eyes, opening mouths, heads that move side to side and up and down.

“Kinetic Sculptures are usually made from what some people consider junk. But one man’s junk is another racer’s raw material. Each Kinetic Sculpture is a work of art and each racing team has its own theme.”

It piqued Willie’s curiosity.

“It is a combination of art and engineering, and that sounded neat,” Willie says. “I thought about it, and realized that I would need access to a full-time shop. So I just kept it in the back of my head.”

Fast forward four years later, when Willie focused on Oregon as a place to find a job in the bicycle industry.

He came to Bike Friday, and got hired.

“One day Julia [Findon] was talking about daVinci Days in Corvallis,” Willie says, “and I had an immediate flashback to that day four years earlier.”

You could say Willie dug up a fossil of an idea.

Willie put in more than 1,000 hours into building his dinosaur.

Willie put in more than 1,000 hours into building his dinosaur.

He went to work on his project for daVinci Days almost immediately.

More than 1,000 manhours of labor later, he was the toast of the da Vinci Days’ Graand Kinetic Challenge.

“No matter what it is that I’m working on, I try to offer a fresh approach to it,” Willie says. “That makes it more challenging and interesting for me.”

Willie spent less than $200 on materials.

Willie spent less than $200 on materials.

Willie entered his creation in the da Vinci Days’ Graand Kinetic Challenge.

The 8-foot-tall tyrannosaurus rex skeleton is made up of bones from recycled steel bike frames and buoyant foam. The wheels are attached to the legs and tail. It cost about $200 in materials.

While he didn’t win any of the major prizes at the event, he’s proud to say he won almost all the favorite awards.

“I was fans’ favorite, volunteers’ favorite and the racers’ favorite,” Willie says, “I won all the favorites, and that was neat.”

And Greg Alpert, safety judge and emcee of the event, told the Corvallis Gazette-Times newspaper, “I’ve been watching this race since the mid-1980s and participating, and I’ve never seen anything like this vehicle. This is really cool, very unique.”

Willie also rode his creation in the Eugene Celebration Parade.

So if you get a chance to stop by the Factory someday and take a tour, make sure to ask who the Dinosaur guy is.

You can watch a video here.

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