Michael Mooney Rides High

Asheville’s Michael Mooney rides really tall bikes—on really rugged trails. Mooney rides a six-foot tall, custom-made mountain bike throughout Western North Carolina, competing in races and hucking off 30-foot gap jumps. He also rode a 43-foot tall bike during last year’s Lexington Avenue Art Festival before falling in an unsuccessful attempt at a world record.

Tall BikeWhat made you decide to build a really tall bike?
It is a practice in doing the impossible. The four-minute mile was a benchmark that was considered impossible for many years. Then when it was broken, six more runners achieved it in the next two years. Once something is in the collective consciousness as achievable it becomes attainable by others. If I think I can, then I can, and this is a muscle I can flex in other arenas.

Are there any trails you can’t ride on a tall bike?
Some aspects of Pisgah are too tight in the turns. My bike likes it wide open and fast. I also have problems with the tree canopy on trails. My safety glasses are my number-one protective gear. I take limbs to the face a lot. I’m pretty good at dodging them, but sometimes I just have to take the limb to make a move.

How did you build your bike?
With a lot of help from friends. It’s made out of four mountain bikes put together. It’s a steel frame, made of a Giant, a Specialized, and a Marin.  The rear end was taken from an existing bike. I custom made my chain guide system from spare parts gathered from friends’ junk bins.  It weighs 67 pounds, and it’s candy apple red, like the hot rod it is.

Is riding a tall bike better than riding a regular bike?
It makes me smile like a small child. Do you remember the feeling of losing yourself in joy as a child? I smile that way now when I ride my big bike—like a child getting away with something right in front of the grownups. I used to be a serious racer. When I tried to become a pro, my joy was lost.  When I took biking too seriously, it took something away from me. My escape and my solace became the grind. I quit trying to become a pro racer and focused on the unabashed joy of riding. I am in touch with that unabashed joy most when I’m on my tall bike.   BRO