Great film! Thanks for sticking with it and coming up with a finished product! I’m sure people will enjoy it. Here’s some comments, which I tried to match up with their approximate locations in the film:
“Tommi started the business (TUF) in 1984” That was interesting to me because I know he was building Big Wheels and other stuff for people since the mid-late 70s. Was the birth of the “Factory” the point where he made it full time? Probably something like that.
Tom speaks of Connie Cotter having the women’s giraffe record at 16’. I thought she rode it at 22’ but I might be wrong. I think hers was built to the same specs as the two he made for himself and Chaz Marquette in 1984(?), meaning it had a 6’ center section that was removable, so it could be ridden at 16’ or 22’. Or maybe Connie only opted for the 16’ and I’ve been telling people an inaccurate story for all these years. She rode it at a big promotional event for the Nintendo UniRacers game, which took place at the Mall of America in 1994 (or so). I think they had Guinness presence and everything.
Cartoonist Mike Kazaleh, a friend of mine since second grade. I don’t remember the details but Tom relayed to me what he had in mind for a logo, and along with the Ed Roth theme I think he also mentioned Odd Rods. Remember those? From Topps bubble gum, they came in a pack like baseball cards, but were all crazy cartoons of monsters driving hotrods, usually sticking out the roof and often with big shift levers. That was also the inspiration. Mike was drawing cartoons all the way back in second grade, and went on to do comic books and cell animation for his livelihood. He was also learning to ride a unicycle at the time, and I asked if he could draw something for Tom, which came out great. Last name pronounced with the accent on the second a. I’ve lost touch with him in recent years (got to dig up an email or something and get back in touch!) but you can find out more about him with a Google search; lots of links and images!
The whole story of building the giraffe was fascinating; never knew how much goes into doing such a project properly! The “factory” way, I guess, with lots of pre-existing jigs and specialized tools.
I also have a Unicycle Factory giraffe. This is a 9-footer with articulated step. That is, the step in the back is spring-loaded, and presses down on the tire so it won’t move when you’re on it. So it was possible to freemount the thing, though I never got beyond about a 30% success rate. It’s a lot of work jumping on and off something that high, catching it, standing it back up and repeating…
It got used rarely, since I lost interest in being trapped up there for entire parades. I once rode it in the Old Sacramento St. Patrick’s Day Parade, going a whole block on brick pavement–very bumpy! Now I can say I did it. In more recent years, I was working on turning it into a piece of wall art for our living room. The plan was to paint it in blocks of many colors, separated by black borders, and replace all the silver plated areas with copper (paint). No we no longer live in that same house, but I’ll eventually finish that paint job. The intent is for it to still be rideable, but to look super-fine when not going anywhere…
Other reason why seat mast tubing is so thick; the joint where it connects to the crankcase assembly (I used to call that “crank barrel” but don’t know where I got that name from) tends to be the weakest point in cheaper giraffe frames. A lot of torque goes through there between your feet on the pedals and your legs/crotch torquing at the seat. I’ve seen even Schwinn Giraffes bend or break there, though they were very well built.
Thick material for your seatpost on a tall giraffe is a good thing. If the uni gets dropped, an ordinary seatpost might bend!
My first product from Tom was my 45" Big Wheel, which was completed in 1982 for the National Unicycle Meet. I had ordered it one year earlier, at the '81 National Unicycle Meet. It has TMU stamped on the side, and is #0030. It’s a much more fun parade machine, though it needs tire help. A gap has opened up in the tire, which was last redone in 1994. I don’t want to ride it much with that gap, for fear of damaging something. Not sure where to take it (locally) for tire help…
Oh yeah, I was going to add that I’ve ridden a few tall unicycles but not that much 10’, 12’ and 16’. The 12’ was one of Toms, that I rode on a couple of occasions. One was at the 1983 National Unicycle Meet, where I juggled clubs on the thing. I dropped one, and as it fell I considered Murphy’s Law of it landing directly in front of the wheel. Which it did. Time for quick thinking! Should I panic, and end up eating it into the floor (same room I pictured Tom on Chaz’ 22-footer)? Or grab the seat and see if I could power over that club handle! Fortunately I managed not to panic, made it over the handle and then straight to the wall to have a quiet heart attack.
Tom brought his “other” 16’/22’ to the National Unicycle Meet in 1986, I think, where people were trying it out from a catwalk under the seating of the Bowling Green University football stadium. There was a railing at a perfect height to hold onto while sitting on the thing. My impression of first time on a 16’ unicycle. You look down at a tiny little wheel waaaaay down there and your brain says “Aw HELL no.” I did not ride it out in the open, but got a feel for it by riding along the rail, and doing 50 idles. That was the requirement for Level 3 of the Skill Levels at that time. Someone else had fallen off of it earlier that weekend, and I didn’t want to be a copycat. I imagine a 22-footer wouldn’t be too different; still way the hell up, but with a little more weight and a little more distance between control input (pedals) and output (wheel). Add some wind, and no thanks!
Thanks for making that great documentary. It was very educational, and also contained a bit of history! I hope lots of people get to see it. It runs pretty long though, so if you ever want to play with it you could make it more palatable by taking out any slow bits, or even splitting it between the history part and the giraffe build. But I have some idea how much work goes into such things. That’s why you don’t see much in the way of videos from me…