Gearing Up for Art Fairs

Mr. B to finish piano pedaling tour at July 13 Townie Party
Mark Lincoln Braun tricycle for piano.

Mark Lincoln Braun wheels his custom-built tricycle out of his shop to give The Chronicle a peek. (Photo by the writer.)

Some Chronicle readers might know Mark Lincoln Braun (Mr. B) for his boogie woogie and blues piano playing – this year’s edition of the Ann Arbor Art Fairs (July 15-18) will mark the 30th year in a row he’s performed there.

This year he’ll also be performing at a children’s cake walk at the Townie Party (July 13) – an event hosted by the Ann Arbor Street Art Fair that has kicked off the fairs for the last four years.

Mr. B is also a cycling enthusiast.

So he’ll be arriving at the Townie Party by pedal power. And that’s how his 350-pound piano is getting there, too – on the back of his custom-made tricycle crafted by former Ann Arbor resident and frame builder Mark Nobilette.

The road to the Townie Party for the tricycle isn’t exactly going to be a spin around the block – it first heads to Flint, then to Lansing, back down to Chelsea and then to Ann Arbor.

The Townie Party arrival will mark the end of the final leg (Chelsea to Ann Arbor) of Mr. B’s Joybox Express, which also serves as a fundraising effort. Details of that final leg, to be ridden on July 13, include a mid-day concert played at Chelsea’s Aberdeen Cycling before pedaling the 16 miles on Jackson Road from Chelsea to Ann Arbor.

Cyclists who’d like to join Braun on that leg from Chelsea to Ann Arbor are welcome, he says. In fact, he envisions a group of 100 strong pedaling together into Ann Arbor. The custom rig that Nobilette has welded includes two front fork mounts on the rear of the bed – it would enable a cyclist to unbolt their own front wheel, clamp their front fork to the back of Braun’s tricycle and add some horsepower to the effort.

Not that Braun is likely to need a whole lot of extra push. Though Braun is not svelte, it’s words like “strength” and “power” that come to mind when sizing him up as a physical specimen. He’s thinking he’ll be able to average 5-6 m.p.h. – that should make it an easy ride even for novice cyclists who want to join the caravan.

The rig was picked up from Nobilette’s Colorado shop in early June, and it’s been put through some preliminary testing with the piano strapped to the bed. So far so good. Braun says he’s been able to generate enough speed on flat roads to get on top of the the highest gear combination. And he allows that he’s found the lowest gear ratios to be necessary on occasion.

One thing Braun wants to improve on before launching the Joybox Express is the plywood platform he’s provisionally bolted to the frame as a bed. A woodworker by trade, he would like to craft something a bit more elegant – something that does the craftsmanship of Nobilette’s frame proud.

The first stop on the Express will be Flint on July 6, with a stop in Lansing on July 10. More details as they become available will be posted on the Mr. B’s Joybox Express website.

[Editor's note: Mr. B alerted The Chronicle to the project's status  a few weeks ago.]

tricycle custom built by Nobilette for hauling piano

Former Ann Arborite Mark Nobilette built the tricycle. (Photo by the writer.)

Tricycle with platform for carrying heavy loads like a piano

Tricycle with platform for carrying heavy loads like a piano. Note the front shock. (Photo by the writer.)

Tricycle with platform for carrying heavy loads like a piano

At the center of the rear axle (which includes a differential) is a beefy disk brake. Note the shock absorber for the platform, plus the front fork mount (just to the left of the shock) for a "pusher bike." (Photo by the writer.)


  1. June 22, 2009 at 10:41 pm | permalink

    Take careful notes, Dave; that rig could haul a lot of books.

  2. June 23, 2009 at 10:05 am | permalink

    Bonus points if the “Pushers” can latch on while the train is underway.

  3. July 8, 2009 at 1:26 pm | permalink

    Mark, what a cool way to celebrate your 30 years of playing at Art Fair. Thanks so much for finding a way to tie in fundraising for Monique’s Kids, the fund set up by Wild Swan so that kids who may not otherwise get to experience live theater, have that opportunity. I may ride from Chelsea to Townie Party, but will see you one way or another.