If you're driving on Seminole Avenue in Catonsville, you may spot a homeowner taking a different approach to mowing his lawn.
Jason Mah, 40, an avid cyclist, has created a contraption that allows him to cut his lawn, while riding his bicycle.
"I'd have to mow my lawn or pay someone to mow my lawn — it's a definitive given," Mah said. "And it dawned on me one night — why am I paying someone to mow my own lawn when I could be biking and mowing it at the same time? I'm going to be killing many birds with one stone."
Although not as precise as a typical lawn mower, the contraption leaves few blades behind. But it does attract attention.
The custom-built mower consists of a push reel mower, without the handle. A custom-made arm attaches the push reel mower to Mah's silver mountain bicycle. The arm also prevents the mower from hitting the bike's rear tire and allows the bicycle to make turns. A 10-pound sandbag attached to the top of the mower adds enough weight to the mower to prevent it from toppling over.
"Steering is not your typical biking — you have to take a longer, wider route," Mah said. "It's not like a zero turn riding motor where you can turn on a dime. You have to plan ahead and plot your route."
It's not unique. A Google search shows there are hundreds of similar machines around the country.
"It really mows well. If you let it get too long, it doesn't do as good of a job," said John Jacob, who helped build the lawn mower. "But it forces you to exercise harder."
It takes about 15 minutes to mow the front yard, which is flat. Cutting the grass in the backyard takes about 30 minutes, due to the incline with the house being built on a hill, Mah said.
"It's a pretty strenuous workout," said Mah, a product manager for a mobile advertising startup company.
His wife, Erica, said her husband is always trying to find ways to save money and get exercise.
The pedal-powered lawn mower was the perfect solution, she said.
The contraption not only offers a way to exercise, but is also beneficial to the environment.
Each year, Americans burn 800 million gallons of gas cutting their lawns, according to the Environmental Protection Agency.
One gas-powered motor releases 88 pounds of greenhouse gas carbon dioxide and 34 pounds of other pollutants into the air, the EPA says.
"I think he was inspired to do this because it covers so many of the things that he cares about," Erica said. "A lot of the things that he believes in come together with this."
"It's a lot of fun, and it's great when you have an idea that you can materialize," Mah said.
Mah said he enjoyment of alternatve workouts inspired the idea to build the contraption.
Three years ago, he began doing Brazilian jiu-jitsu, a martial art he describes as "human chess."
He has also recently taken up slacklining, a way of practicing balance that involves using a nylon strap tethered between two anchor points.
Mah and Jacob spent hours working on the arm, which was custom made to fit the bike, Jacob said.
Like Mah, Jacob is fellow bicycle enthusiast. Both are part of a bicycling group called "The Catonsville Clunkers."
Jacob, a broadcast engineer by day and former professional welder, custom-built the metal arm on a drill press and welded it together.
They haven't patented the device but have thought about it, Jacob said.
Others have created bicycle-powered lawnmowers.
Patent records available through Google show that Deanna F. Porath filed a patent for a "pedal-operated mower" June 29, 1982. The apparatus consists of a tricycle frame that provides support for the mower. David R. Woodling filed a patent for his "bicycle-powered mower" in 1991. Both differed in design from Mah's and Jacob's project, but the concept was similar.
"We're doing it more for fun, but we have had a couple people come up to us and say, 'Oh, I'd like to have one of them,' " Jacob said. "Because it is great exercise and it really does work."
For Mah, building the bicycle-powered mower was also a way to teach his two elementary school-age children to be innovative.
"I've talked about a lot of crazy inventions in the past, but I'm just now getting the time to spend the time making them. Because as I'm getting older and the kids are getting older, I want to show them how to build things and how to invent," Mah said.
"It's all about having fun and making art," Mah said. "I told [Jacob], if we stop having fun, then we've got to stop this."
"He really believes in innovation, I think because he's in the mobile and Web industry," Erica said of her husband. "And it's the future of the world."Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun