Art Therapy: “My Self Propelled Dream Machine”

Article and photos by Karl “Kajomo” Moritz

My life changed just before 5:00pm on June 29, 2010 on my evening bike commute in Portland, Oregon.

I was riding on the same daily forty mile commute that I had done for the past ten years. That evening my path crossed with the 24-year-old driver of a car that later reported that he saw my handlebars begin to shake and then, describing the accident, “He just fell off his bike into the north bound lane.”

Karl-Mortiz-Xray-324x400The driver didn’t have time to avoid hitting me and I was dragged underneath the car for thirty feet. At the initial impact, my backpack, helmet and clipped-in shoes were knocked from my body.

I fractured my spine in five locations, my skull in three, my right leg in four, and I broke my hip. I had thirteen titanium screws set in to hold it all back together.

I spent three months in the hospital and 32 days in my “unplanned sabbatical from life”… aka a coma.

There are three categories of a TBI – mild, moderate and severe which is judged the Glasgow Scale and, because of the amount of time I was in a coma, I was categorized to have a Severe Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI).


Karl-Mortiz-Kajomo-coma.jpgI had ridden that same bike in three century rides prior to my “life change” with no issues, so I really do wonder what did happen. Accepting that I may never know the truth and spinning on!


That was then, this is now

Before my accident, I was planning on customizing a Trek Y-Foil into a Time Trial bike because I really love the frame design and the fact that it was banned by the UCI (Union Cyclist Internationale) for its aerodynamics and carbon frame design also attracted me. The frame was only manufactured for two years. I like the look of a bike that looks like it is moving while standing still.

I decided to move forward and learn how to build a new complete custom single speed bike.

After doing some research on single speed (S/S) and the benefits of riding this type of bike (balance, cadence & strength), I decided to change from a time trial (T/T) multi-speed build to a single speed build because I can now benefit from these attributes.

The original T/T build idea was to customize the bike with paint and graphics – this S/S idea would be a total frame up custom build.

In this build, I wanted to apply my years in design as an apparel tech designer with an artistic approach by incorporating high design-oriented details.

I also researched if anyone has ever converted a Y-Foil into a Fixie / Track setup. I could only find a few posts that said; “Put down your tools and don’t destroy a beautiful design.” So this may upset a few Y-Foil purists, but oh well!

I really wanted to have this unique build completed for my fourth year “rebirth” as a present to myself, but with all the prepping, details, components searching, planning, and budget constraints, time got away from me to finish on that date.

Getting started

Karl-Mortiz-ART-Y-FOIL.jpgThe frame is a ’98, 58cm pictured as the way that I got it from my immediate family on my actual birthday.

I removed the front derailleur mounts, bottle cage mounts, and all the cable housing mounts (4) from the carbon frame and filled in all the rivet holes with a two-part epoxy resin. I did this because I wanted the frame to be silky smooth with no visual or aero distractions.

So, it will now be a single speed frame forever, unless it is taken to have the mounts professionally re-installed.

I asked for advice from a few blog sites on whether or not I could create a single cog with a double chain-ring. I wanted more gear options due to my daily commute ride having a 13% grade incline.

The answer was no, because of chain tension even with using a chain tensioner. It was suggested that I use a ‘step back’ two speed rear hub. I never knew this even existed!

I wanted to assemble as much as I could of the build myself to learn more, including and building a custom wheel-set.

I also wanted to use the bike for local event rides.

I bought a set of 70mm Deep V rims and a new rear hub with 100% ratio on 1st and 138% ration on 2nd gear along with a front Disc 32H hub. I didn’t want to set up this bike to skid for braking because I am older than most “hipsters” and wanted this bike to safely stop and go.

It was a little difficult to find a front fork with a disc brake mount for a one-inch head tube, but I finally found one online made for Cycle Cross. I went with a 160mm Disc Rotor at the front and no rear brake. From my parts bin, I used my 170mm carbon crank arm set, carbon seat post, and carbon T/T bars.

I volunteered at a local non-profit bicycle repair shop called Bike Farm. There I learned more about how to make bike repairs myself and got ideas for this project build.

Laced Mag Style

Karl-Mortiz-Rim-build.jpgBefore starting to lace the rims, I applied a red carbon vinyl laminate film (Wrapped as it’s called in the auto field) over the rims. I then had to have the spoke length calculated for each hub.

The unique lacing pattern is one that I created myself by using 4 white double butted spokes and 4 black bladed spokes X4. I used the 4 white double butted spokes to make the black bladed spokes visually set back.

I have never seen this done before, so I’m calling the wheelset lacing pattern “Laced Mag Style”.

Lacing the wheelset took a very long time and was a real brain tickler, especially for a first-timer.

But, it’s all done and I’m very happy with the results, although, in hindsight, I should have flip-flopped the spoke colors!

Bike Farm guided me through the process of pressing in new fork headset bearings and caps, re-threading the bottom bracket threads on the frame, and using the wheel balance stand to adjust spoke tension and balancing the wheel-set.

I bought a new single chain-ring online that is an asymmetrical with 46 teeth and a 22 teeth rear cog that is a propelled by a black and gold chain.

Bike Farm also assisted me with converting from a threaded fork to a thread-less set up for a disc mount front fork including installing the bottom bracket and correct chain line.

I was not sure whether the ‘step back’ hub would work well with the asymmetrical chain-ring, but so far no issues and I absolutely love it!

The Flaming Flying Eagle

Karl-Mortiz-Final-bike-build.jpgI really wanted to have the frame professionally painted like I had done on some of my other bike projects, so I sent out pictures of the frame to several local bicycle paint shops and auto paint shops to get an estimate on the price.

Wow, I was blown away at the proposed cost. I didn’t want to spend more money on the paint than on the cost of the frame itself! Sadly, I could not work the painting cost into the total build budget that I had set up for this project.

So, I wet sanded the frame, seat post, crank arms and T/T bars removing all Brand/Model names with 320 & 400 grit wet/dry sandpaper to prep it for painting myself with shaker cans.

But, my former neighbor, Taji, helped me out – and took the sanded and prepped frame to a painter that painted the frame and applied the graphics.

I designed the graphic of the Flaming Flying Eagle myself using Adobe Illustrator and took the file to a local vinyl sign shop to have it cut out in a gold color vinyl laminate.

I used a clear gloss shaker paint on the crank arms, seat post, and T/T bars because I wanted the carbon weave texture to be exposed on these components.

For the longest time I have been a fan of the 50’s hot rod – so that’s where the color scheme of red, gold, black, and white originates – and I wanted the finished project to look Neo-Vintage.

100% hand-built by myself

Karl-Mortiz-Y-Foil-frame-caps-bearings.jpgAll in all, this bike was 100% hand-built by myself with only the frame paint being outsourced.

After having the bike completed, I went for a spin and rode past by a UPS shop and thought to myself, “Let’s see how much this puppy weighs.”

Hmm… a total weight of 14.3 Lbs.

Not so shabby for my first build – but I was actually a little surprised on the weight and thought it would be a wee bit less!
Live and Learn.

Riding a bicycle is in the top three types of physical activities that increases cognition because you are asking your beautiful noggin to multi-task in so many levels all at one time.

After surviving the nearly fatal accident and coma, I had the most difficult time finding work again and this project helped me work through many of the TBI issues and I’d also like to thank Icebreaker for the opportunity they’ve since given me.

I would like to end my story with a jingle that comes into mind from the band Queen: “Bicycle bicycle bicycle, I want to ride my bicycle, I want to ride my bike, I want to ride my bicycle. I want to ride it where I like.”

So get on your bikes and ride – with a helmet!