Wesley Weisheit is one of those guys who's hard to fit into a box—and if you did, the box would have to have some wheels. He's a 48-year-old Tucsonan who feels more confident on a bicycle than his own two feet. He has years of machining experience, and even helped develop parts used in UA-related aerospace missions. Today, he works as one of Tucson's rickshaw riders.
What exactly is a rickshaw?
A rickshaw is a human-drawn cart with handles that are either going to be attached to a bicycle or a person.
How many rickshaw guys are around town these days?
Maybe seven or eight, but they're kind of in their world, and I'm in mine.
Did you ever think you'd end up riding a rickshaw, or is it just something that kind of happened?
I had a strong background in cycling, and starting around the early '70s, we'd go around and find bike parts in alleys—so we're talking some major junk, but we had a lot of time and no money, so we just had to make shit work. I really developed a mechanical background and a lot of freedom from my bike that I couldn't get anywhere else. When I could get on a bike and get away from things, life was just extra-special. As I got older, the feeling just stayed the same. ... One day, I remember seeing this guy on (Fourth) Avenue on a rickshaw. I could see this guy just didn't get it, so I started laying all these bike references on him, and he finally crumbled and let me ride it. I've been kinda doing that ever since. I think it's been almost five years now.
How many people have you crammed into the ride at once?
Seven is the magic number right now, the new record. And those blankety-blank girls gave me 12 lousy dollars, ha ha. ... It seems to me that amounts to less than $2 per girl, and that was a ride all the way from Gentle Ben's to Cherry (Avenue) and Second (Street). Help me out, guys.
Can you actually make some decent cash doing this?
The "best night" thing is hard to define, because there are times I've had to kill myself to make $350 for a 12-hour night, but on the other hand, I've been given $100 for a single ride. That couple had me drive them to the base of A Mountain, and decided we were friends, so I can really appreciate that.
How do the finances all work? I know there are some restrictions involved.
We aren't technically allowed to advertise as a taxi service, so we run on a strictly tips basis, and hope customers appreciate what we're doing. There are people who take advantage of that, but luckily, we are under no obligation to (give them a ride) again.
Have you made any modifications to your ride?
I've done a lot to mine. Kind of like any bicycle, there is a break-in period and a certain kind of quality-of-parts issue. I did a lot of work on mine right when I first got it, and then after that, I added some gas-charged shocks, which ... ended up being surprisingly good in the weight-ratio department. Then I did some custom chain tensioners and titanium spacers.
What are some of the stranger requests you've gotten?
There are always girls who want to go pee in the alley. If there's more than one, I will take 'em, and, no, I don't look. I've also had people who remember me and like me, so they will have me ride them, like, 20 feet and give me $20. One of the strangest, though, was the drunk fella who had me drive him and his girlfriend back to his apartment, then he proceeded to explain that because of a recent DUI, he couldn't drive, so for another $10, I drove his BMW and the drunk girlfriend back to her place. That was interesting.
Are there any other crazy stories you'd like to share?
If they were giving us a two-page spread, I'd tell you some, but otherwise, let's not open that book, man.
Is there anything else you'd rather be doing?
Anyone who knows me pretty well knows I have aspirations as a jeweler, but that's not even quite the right word: I'm a machinist who makes jewelry. I've had some good success in the recent past, and at some point in time, my legs aren't gonna be much good for riding. ... I make a lot of bike-spoke pieces, and those feel really good.
So all in all, wheels have been pretty good to you.
I don't even know how to say it. I would have been pretty lost without bicycles.