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<  Yao off the court; Yao's personality  ~  YAO'S CUSTOM MADE $12,000 BICYCLE!

PostPosted: Thu Oct 28, 2004 6:11 am
Posts: 2735Location: Houston, TexasJoined: Wed Jan 28, 2004 4:43 pm
Houston Chronicle wrote:
Yao bike like no other
For the Chronicle

Building a bicycle for a guy who is 7-foot-6 is a tall order, but West U Cycles has proven it is up to the task.

Rockets trainer Keith Jones approached the bike shop last year about making a custom bike for Yao Ming. The star center rode a bike for much of his life while growing up China. Bikes are such a way of life in his native land that Yao did not even have a driver's license when he came to the United States to play in the NBA in 2002.

Constructing a mountain bike for someone who is that tall isn't easy, but if there was someone in Houston who could make it happen, it was Jeff Nielsen. Nielsen, the owner of West U Cycles, has become something of a bike-builder to the stars in Houston.

"I've built bikes for Hakeem Olajuwon and Charles Barkley," Nielsen said. "It's just not feasible for these guys to get a bike off the shelf. It takes some time to search for all the right parts to build a specially made bike like this, but I think it's worth it in the end."

The process to build Yao's ride began about 1 1/2 years ago. It started with Yao visiting the Rice Village shop so Nielsen could make note of some specific body measurements. Then it was time to locate a frame builder.

"Once I managed to get the frame, I had to source out most of the other parts," Nielsen said. "It wasn't as simple as just adding parts to the frame. You got a guy who's 7-6 tall. The bike wasn't going to take normal-size handlebars. It wasn't going to take a normal-size seat. The bike had to be able to handle a guy who weighs 310 pounds."

In fact, normal size and the Yao bike really can't be said in the same breath. The top of the seat of this all-black, slick-looking bike with knobby tires is more than 4 1/2 feet from the ground. It has reinforced handlebar posts and seat post, 29-inch wheels and extra-long pedals to accommodate Yao's size-18 shoe.

Collecting all the necessary parts from bike shops and custom bike builders from across the country was the most time-consuming part. Once all the parts arrived at his shop, Nielsen and his crew at West U spent about two days putting them all together. Amazingly, even with all this custom work and ultra-durable parts, the bike only weighs 28 1/2 pounds.

And as if there was any danger of someone mistaking this bike for their own if they stumbled upon it on the street, Nielsen added a special touch with Yao's name painted in white on the top tube.

All this custom work does come at a price. Nielsen estimates the total cost of the bike is around $12,000.

Yao's ride spent a few days on the display in September in Las Vegas at InterBike, the annual international bike trade show that features all that is hot in cycling.

Nielsen says they are still working out the details about how the bike will be presented to the Yao.

"It's one of the most unusual projects I've ever worked on," he said. "I hope he likes it."

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