Sunday, October 25, 2009

Crazy Idea: Cable car bicycle tow

Update: I made a little diagram of what I had in mind. Thanks to the commenters for their ideas and suggestions!

Update 2: The fact that this is dangerous, possibly deadly, and probably illegal is blindingly obvious, but several of my friends felt obliged to tell me so anyway. Don't try this at home, kids.

Cable car grip for bicycle use

I was joking around with somebody about using one of these on a bicycle or skateboard to pull myself uphill using the San Francisco cable car cables.

48 inch grabber pole extender reacher

The cable is 28 inches below the street surface and moves constantly at 9 mph. What's to keep somebody from hitching a ride by reaching down with something like this and grabbing the cable?

San Francisco being what it is, I'm sure somebody has already tried something like this.


  1. I've had the same thought before.

    But I've never heard of anybody actually doing it, although I assume somebody ought to have...

  2. I would love to see a video of this.

  3. Its probably too short for what you are joking about. But most of the length is an aluminum tube that will have either a rod or cable running between the handle and business end. Making it longer should be easy enough with some Home Depot hardware.

    The grabbing end is almost certainly plastic. That wouldn't hold up. If you wanted to make your own you could use a bicycle caliper as the grabbing end. A lot depends on how much space is available around the cable.
    God! I'm such a geek!

  4. What a splendidly insane idea - almost norwegian

  5. As long as you can release yourself from the cable when you need to and don't wind up ground into a bloody paste around some subsurface pulleys or whatnot.

    I've never seen the cable system, so I don't know how possible it might be to "hitch", but it sounds fun. Report back when you're done joking and ready to really try it!!!

  6. Anon 10:28 - Now you're talking! Brake lever to activate with cable actuation, a length of tubing of sufficient length to reach down into the cable trench, and caliper brakes to grab the cable.

    The slit is about an inch wide so there's not a lot of room to play with, and the cable is 1.5" across I think I read.

    @GR - You'll need to let go at Powell & California where two cable systems intersect, and around turns as well.

    @Bent - Inspired by that Trondheim bike left :-)

    @spudz - Let's get to work and we'll post something to Youtube :-)

  7. It seems kind of sketchy for the payoff. I've been doing quite alot of risk vs. reward calculations lately and this one seems a little too skewed to not enough reward for too much risk.

    But that's me. I'm sure someone out there has done it or is planning on doing it now.

  8. "San Francisco being what it is, I'm sure somebody has already tried something like this ... and died."