Ethan Schlussler Builds Bicycle-Powered Tree House Elevator

By ABC News

Sep 3, 2013 3:19pm

When Ethan Schlussler of Sandpoint, Idaho, realized that it would be “tiresome” to climb a 30-foot ladder every time he wanted to reach his tree house, he didn’t decide it would be easier to just stay on the ground.

Instead, Schlussler, 22, decided the obvious solution to his problem would be to build an elevator to his tree house powered by his bicycle.

“As soon as we came up with the idea, I knew I had to make it a reality,” Schlussler told ABC News by email. “It would be so incredibly fun and whimsical.”

Schlussler never put pen to paper to figure out how he would make a bicycle transport him 30 feet up a tree. He spent “many hours,” he said, designing the bicycle elevator in his head, figuring out how to stabilize it, attach it and configuring the gear ratios.

“When it came time to modify the bicycle, I just started cutting and welding pieces of scrap metal to the bicycle frame for attachment points and pulleys and such,” Schlussler said. “After the first trial run, it became clear that the gear ratio was not nearly low enough, as I could not even pedal it up the tree at all.”

“First, I changed the gear ratio on the bicycle by swapping a large front sprocket to the rear, which was still not quite easy enough to pedal, so I added a pulley into the system to gain a bit more [mechanical] advantage,” he said. “Once I had the counterweight adjusted, it worked better than I could have hoped.”

Schlussler used an old water heater tank to create the counterweight that made his bicycle elevator a success. The counterweight is adjusted by adding or removing water, he said.

In all, the process of constructing his bicycle elevator took Schlussler less than one week.

Schlussler is still finishing construction on his tree house that he can now more easily access via his bicycle. He plans to install walls and insulation in the next few weeks, with the ultimate goal of sleeping and, perhaps eventually, living full-time in his 30-foot high outdoor home.

“I have loved trees all my life and wanted to live in one for many years,” Schlussler said.  “So this is me manifesting my dreams.”

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