TriloBike team vies for third Kinetic Grand Championship

Contraption has a new interactive carnival theme this year

Steve McHaney, grand champion of the kinetic sculpture race for the past two years, poses with his TriloBike machine and team. This year’s theme will be a carnival featuring games, including a fortune teller machine in the form of Hobart Brown. (Contributed)
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Steve McHaney has been refining the chassis for the TriloBike machine he’s been racing in the Kinetic Grand Championship since he first built it five years ago. Since then, he’s figured out a lot of tricks to help his machine travel the 42 miles from Arcata to Ferndale over land, sand, mud and water, winning the grand championship twice in a row.

This year, McHaney’s built an interactive, carnival-themed machine that includes games and attractions for attendees to play when the TriloBike Carnival is stationary. There are a lot of little details incorporated into the TriloBike, including jokes and references to the Kinetic race and trilobites, that are all part of the charm that McHaney believes will help him win the grand championship for the third year in a row, and possibly his last.

“I have two other themes that I’d love to do and we’ll see if I do them,” McHaney said. “You know, life has many different dimensions to it and I’ve done some really fun artwork and engineering for the Kinetic sculpture race … for me, the problem is, it does become a demon.”

McHaney begins planning for each race immediately after the one at hand concludes. He said he’s poured several hundred hours into the TriloBike over the years and “there’s no limit to what (he)’d like to do with it.”

“This is my finest work yet,” McHaney said. “Topping this would be difficult.”

The TriloBike Carnival includes three games, a prize wheel, an electronic love tester, a fortune teller in the form of the race’s founder Hobart Brown and a ticket seller in the form of T. Great Razooly, who McHaney said was an arch-nemesis of Brown’s.

Jack Sewell, a local artist who helps with the artwork on McHaney’s machine, put together the polyurethane foam-based puppets, one of which is animated. Sewell said it took him about two months to carve the puppets, but that the costuming came from a costume factory.

“I didn’t deal with the costume thankfully,” Sewell said. “I’m not much of a seamstress.”

Sewell began helping McHaney with his TriloBike art after the two met at an Arts Alive! event a few years ago. Though Sewell wasn’t able to participate last year, he said everyone who helped put the float together is “looking to win a third one.”

“It’s already proved that it can go through all of the elements required in a phenomenal fashion,” Sewell said, on top of which it has a “whole lot of fun stuff for people to look at and play with.”

The idea for the TriloBike came to McHaney after his first race with his son Westin.

“The first year was just like, can we just throw something together,” McHaney said. But what he and his son put together was “dangerously unstable.”

After the first race ended, McHaney began sketching ideas for the TriloBike, of which he first made a wood mockup before building the actual machine. McHaney said the actual chassis took several hundred hours to put together and he was working on it almost up until the beginning of the race the following year.

“It turned out that we were two points away from the grand championship,” McHaney said. “In part, I’m glad we didn’t win the grand championship that year because the artwork wasn’t good enough. Next year, we came up with a new theme.”

The idea for the name TriloBike came when McHaney and his sons were trying to think of what to call the machine, which had three wheels at the time.

“We pulled out the Webster’s dictionary and started looking under tri- because we wanted to make a play on words,” McHaney said.

When they found the word trilobite, they decided TriloBike was a fitting name and referenced a fossilized mascot that could be featured in the machine’s artwork.

McHaney said he expects some stiff competition this weekend, but is still hoping to get a third win.

“There’s always a lot of really good machines,” McHaney said. “Some people do really beautiful artwork. I just do my artwork the way I like it.”

If you go

What: Kinetic Grand Championship

Where: Arcata Plaza

When: Starting whistle Saturday at noon

Cost: Free for spectators

More information: http://kineticgrandchampionship.com/

Sonia Waraich can be reached at 707-441-0506.

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