December 5, 2021

Work in progress

Photos by Katie Keyser/living and leisure editor

Tina Miller, left, and Harrison Grant Sr., on June 9 at their Cortland home.

Harrison Grant, Sr. has created a one-of-a-kind three-wheeled pedal-powered vehicle that slows down traffic in Cortland.

Parked at his house, car drivers and walkers like to take photos as they go by.

“There will never be one like that around,” said the 51-yearold tinkerer, who likes to help others by fixing their cars and trucks.

Grant’s long bike is a trike he extended to nearly 10 feet with a frame lengthened by some four other bike rear ends.

“It took six bikes to make that, so far,” he said.

For some people, creativity is a painting. For others, it’s custom-made clothing. Or pottery. Or music. For Grant, creativity comes with wheels, pedals and an eclectic mix of lights and gee-gaws.

It’s got two rear car lights with turn signals, lights in the front and a strip of lighting along the bottom of the frame that provides a kaleidoscope of color. A motorcycle battery provides the juice.

Photos by Katie Keyser/living and leisure editor

Grant on his three-wheeler.

He’s got to be careful making turns: “You can’t take corners sharp.”

“I love it. It’s so unique how he puts his (bikes) together. To take a three-wheeled bike and extend it!” said Tina Miller of Cortland, Grant’s other half. “I am very proud of him. He came up with something unique.”

“I’m going to have a stereo mounted on it,” Grant said. “It’s going to have electricity hooked on it: 13.5 volt to 110 AC. I am hooking a coffee pot on it. I am a serious coffee drinker. I have a lot of ideas. If we go camping, we can run electricity off it.”

A plastic deer skull whose eyes light up is mounted on the handlebars.

Change is a common part of creation, said Carole Ferro of Little York, an artist with Frog Pond Folk Art Gallery, who does the painting for Tino Ferro’s metal sculptures.

“My husband is the one that does all the welding. He changes this, that and the other thing all the time. We never know what we are going to make next.”

She paints the work and advises “even if he doesn’t want it.”

But with something like a bicycle, art is only part of the process. There’s engineering involved.

Rick Vernay of Homer has a firsthand respect for tinkerers and customizers. He enjoys buying bikes at garage sales and rebuilding them so they are reusable and safe.

“Seventies bikes were made really well,” he said, and he now has a bike collection he is trying to sell.

“When I retired, I quit smoking. To reward myself, I started riding. Once I started riding, I got interested in repairing them,” Vernay said. He’s more into the engineering and craftsmanship than the art, but the skill-set is much the same.

“I’m not an expert on this business,” he said. “I don’t try to tease things around on them. I figure the engineer that built them got the ideal (design). I’m a traditionalist.”

For Grant, art is something that’s practical, too.

“I feel like a kid again when I am on a bike,” Grant said. “It’s easy as heck to pedal.”

Except for the hills. He pushes the 100-pound trike up in those cases.

Photos by Katie Keyser/living and leisure editor

Tina Miller, left, and Harrison Grant Sr.

“There’s not a spot I would not try riding to. We go across town, collecting bottles and cans. I did have a rack on it. I need something lighter,” Grant said. “It will have a back rack. It needs something aluminum. I did have a steel one. It didn’t look too bad.”

Grant and Miller are all-weather riders. Miller, 48, a housekeeper and home care provider, rides a bicycle to work. The couple does not have a car right now. Miller had one but gave it to her kids. “They’re in the middle of nowhere and they have a baby,” she said.

At one point, she had to take a bus to the Homer trailer park, with the bike stowed on a rack on the bus, disembarked and then biked up a curving road 2.5 miles to her job. Then back home.

“(One time) I was riding in the winter and a heavy wind blew me off the bike,” she said.

Grant also made a trailer out of a ladder, mounting it on wheels, for when he needs to haul big loads across town. He’s hauled go-karts on the trailer before selling them off.

Grant loves fixing bicycles for people and will even do it for free, to make them happy, he said.

“A friend of mine, Mikie Bartholomew, got me into it. I started to build long bikes four years ago,” he said.

“The more I got into it, the more I wanted to do it by myself. I would have ideas. He would build them. I had so many ideas, she went out and bought me a welder,” he said of his girlfriend.

He gets bikes and parts from people who don’t want them and from garage sales.

“I love working on things with wheels,” he said. “I really love my bikes. My bikes are my heart.”