Photos: Grant Ray
One part art project, one part practical transportation and one part skill builder, the Nemomatic is Berkeley-based artist Nemo Gould’s first foray into bikes. Better known for his whimsical found-object kinetic sculptures, Nemo makes giant robots that ride bikes and walk and impossibly complex tiny robot worlds that exist inside old TV sets and similar. Almost all of the parts he uses to construct those sculptures come from junk yards; he keeps a hard hat, high-vis vest, steel-toed boots and generic liability waivers behind the seat of his truck. The Nemomatic isn’t any different. The front fender is street lamp shroud, the mirror-covers are the bodies of old vacuum cleaners and the swoopy taillight is a nozzle off one of those vacuums.
Nemo built the ‘Matic to prove to himself that he could make a
functional motorcycle and to give himself a practical, cheap way to get
back and forth between his house and nearby studio. It’s based on an old
Honda Elite and he didn’t do much in the way of mechanical work other
than to get it running properly. The plastic came off and about 80lbs of
welded aluminum went on. He also swapped out the clocks for a digital
speedometer made with vacuum tubes and some old fuel and temp gauges he
found somewhere. The speedo works, kinda, but the gauges read backwards.
Tearing all that old plastic off actually saved a huge amount of weight,
so the Nemomatic’s not as heavily burdened as you might think. Figure
on it being 40 or 50lbs more than the stock bike. Riding it feels like
riding any old Elite, but as if you’ve suddenly become a bit of porker.
The suspension’s damping loses the plot if you hit a big bump and
acceleration is probably a bit blunted, but it’s still an entirely
functional, easy little scooter.
Now that Nemo’s proved to himself that he can build a bike without
screwing it up, he wants to create something from the ground up. He’s
thinking electric, but there aren’t many good lithium batteries filling
Bay Area junkyards. We suggested a really long extension cord.