Fifteen years ago in Augusta, Maine, sisters Ann Marie and Marjorie Dumas both had a crush on the same boy, Michael Hognut. The girls had a tandem bike and would argue over who should ride with Michael on the two-seater.
Roger Dumas, the father of the two girls, decided that he could solve the problem by building a bicycle to accommodate three riders.
My wife Pauline thought that was a pretty good idea, Dumas said. A few years ago she said, Why dont you build something that the whole family can ride? So I built a bicycle that could accommodate six and then it just went on from there.
Indeed. Last August Roger Dumas and his Bicycle Built For 52 rode into the Guinness Book of World Records.
Dumas, along with 51 others, including seven generations of his family, pedaled a specially designed 140-foot-long 26-wheeler bicycle 7/10 of a mile down a road at the edge of the Maine capital in Augusta.
Last month Dumas, who lives in Englewood, Fla., received a letter from Hein le Roux of Guinness Record Research. It said that Dumas megacycle wasnt eligible for the world's longest bicycle category, since it has more than two wheels.
However, wrote le Roux, we do feel that your megacycle is unusual enough to warrant a world record, so weve decided to create a new category, the worlds longest pedal-powered vehicle, to accommodate it.
Videotape and documentation of the ride were sent to "Ripleys Believe It Or Not" and the Dumas momentous and record-setting bicycle ride was aired on TBS-TV in September and again in November.
Dumas, with the help of his friend, the late Carl Dryer, built the bicycle by welding together new and old models, a couple of three-wheelers and one four-wheeled buggy. One section of the contraption had two tiers, with a set of three child-size seats, pedals and chains towering 6 feet in the air, perched atop another set of seats, pedals and chains at ground level.
There was nothing very elaborate about the bicycle, Dumas said. We didnt go to some engineer and say, 'hey, design us a bike and well build it.' This is something we put together in my brother's garage. We welded the old bike frames together with bed frames. The bike is divided into 14 sections, and when not in use we store it in my 3,000-foot garage in Florida.
Getting everyone together in Maine was quite a chore, Dumas said. We started contacting people in September of 99 to do it in August of 2000. The hardest thing was for people to get time off from work to coincide with our ride. We had people coming from Colorado, Pennsylvania and Florida. Getting everyone together in the same area makes it difficult.
The Dumas family first attempted a world record two years ago, riding a 91-foot, 31-seat bike down Old Englewood Road in Englewood, Fla., 80 miles south of Tampa.
We didnt realize how difficult it was to get a record recognized by the Guinness people, Roger Dumas said. This time we hired a lawyer, Marcella Mika, to help us document everything.
The family sent Mikas official measurements to Guinness, along with dozens of newspaper clippings and photos to back up their claim.
The more verification, they said, the better, Dumas said. Apparently people write in all the time claiming theyve got the worlds largest something when it doesnt even exist.
The record-setting ride in Maine was not without a few bumps in the road.
The multi-wheeled bike had barely begun its ride before a couple of tires blew out. An air compressor and new tires were raced to the scene.
The riders saddled up, but only made it a few more feet before another tire blew and a metal rim twisted like a pretzel under the weight of the cyclists.
Finally, though, the Dumas clan regrouped and put its pedal to the metal for its 7/10-of-a-mile ride.
Making it into the Guinness Book and being on TV on Ripleys isnt the only source of pride and accomplishment for Dumas and his bike.
Englewood has a Labor Day parade called the Pioneer Day Parade each year and for the last five years the Dumas family has driven at least a portion of the bicycle in the event.
One year we took the bike to Lexington, N.C., because we were invited to ride in a parade, Dumas said. The parade was for the Pig Festival so I built the bike to look like a pig.
Asked how he did that, Dumas replied, It wasnt easy.
We just let our imagination go from there.
The Bicycle Built For 52 has been unofficially retired.
Carl Dryer, who spent so many years helping me build and design the bike, passed away last February, Dumas said. We set the record as a tribute to him. Now I think were going to put the bike to rest.
Still, Dumas, 54, who manages rental property, has other projects in the works.
This coming summer were doing an Octagon Double-Decker Bicycle with three wheels, Dumas said. There will be eight sides with 16 people in all, eight on each level, and theyll all be pedaling. There will be a wheel in front and one on each side, wherever the center portion is going to be.
Dumas plans to haul the bike up on his trailer to Maine this summer and ride the bike in a July 4th parade.
After that, Dumas and friends will ride it again in the Pioneer Day Parade on Labor Day back in Florida.
As for Dumas daughters and Michael Hognut, they went their separate ways, but still remain friends and will always share the knowledge that they played a major role in The Bicycle Built For 52."