The Avatar 2000, Movie Star

In 1983, the Avatar 2000 appeared under Christopher Walken in the science fiction film Brainstorm. Here is a bit of the film (which hopefully falls within Fair Use) that shows the Avatar in action along with some stills. Webmaster Paul had been looking for this footage for a long time and it finally showed up on his ReplayTV. Click the Get QuickTime logo if you can't see the video.

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Here's what Dick Ryan had to say about this movie on the alt.rec.bicycles.recumbent newsgroup in 2002:

Ah yes, the somewhat less than successful movie "Brainstorm", Natalie Wood's last movie. MGM called us and suggested that we give them a bike in return for putting our name in the credits. We didn't have a bike available at the time and wouldn't have given them one if we had one. (like most small companies we had 0 dollars on hand). But we had a customer who needed money for college bills and wanted to sell his Avatar. We referred MGM to him and he sold it to them for $500 more than he paid for it. They didn't put our name in the credits. Just as you saw the bike in the movie, I got a call from a guy who had seen the movie and looked for the name in the credits. He went around to all the local bike shops and described the bike but of course no one knew what he was talking about. About 15 years later he saw an article somewhere about the Vanguard and called me. He bought a Vanguard but he also wanted an Avatar, not just any Avatar but the one that was actually in the movie (a very wealthy guy). I called MGM but nobody knew what happened to the bike. Maybe it's lying in the back of Christopher Walken's garage. I found a used Avatar which he bought.

Dick Ryan


We received a nice note from Keith Andrews with a great story about this bike!:

My experience with the Avatar started at the 1980 GEAR Rally at Geneseo, New York. Here is where I will mention that memory doesn't always pan out as the truth. As I remember it, David Gordon Wilson and a somewhat short and stout man were there giving test rides of their recumbent bicycle. I had never seen any modern day bike that appeared like this one. I somewhat hesitantly got in line for a test ride. Our test area was a paved and in a sort of oval shape with a curb around most of the perimeter. I mounted the bike being supported by a gentleman, not knowing at the time that I was not seated squarely in the middle of the mesh chair and was leaning to one side to offset my lopsided weight distribution. I took off with a bit of an assist leaning towards the outside of the test area and just happened to ride through an opening in the curb and ride onto a grassy area beyond the sidewalk. At the time, other test riders were having a difficult time keeping their balance and the guys from Avatar thought I was showing off with a ride off the intended course. They were impressed at first, only to realize I didn't have a sense of what I was doing and was happy not to have crashed the bike. Well, we got back on the paved area after a brief reset and the rest of the test ride was uneventful. A few months later I gave into the bug and ordered an Avatar.

The following year GEAR was scheduled for New Paltz, New York. A friend of mine and myself decided to ride to Cobleskill, New York where my brother was attending college and then to ride to New Paltz on my newly acquired Santana tandem. We then rented a station wagon and drove to the Boston area and picked up the Avatar and drove home. I only had a learner's permit at the time as all my time was spent riding and racing bicycles (I was 22 years old at the time). We left New Paltz early on the morning to pick up the Avatar and by the time we had traveled from there to Boston and headed back to Western New York, my friend was falling asleep at the wheel. We decided I would drive the last hundred miles or so.

Everything was going fine until we got around Bath, New York. I was feeling pretty excited about driving a car with two beautiful new bikes packed in the car a failed to realize a tractor trailer driver has just locked up his brakes on his vehicle ahead of me ... trying to avoid running into the overpass directly in front of him. It seems he didn't know if he had enough clearance to avoid coming in contact with the overpass. I suddenly locked up the brakes on the car. My sleeping, accompanying licensed rider went flying towards the somewhat padded dash board from the passenger's side of the front bench seat. I managed to stop short of the rear of the trailer. No bikes were harmed in the many of this bit of entertainment.

Needless to say, that summer I put on a lot of miles between the racing and club riding season. I did a lot of rides with my group of guys on the Avatar. While I enjoyed commuting to work and rides on my own on the recumbent, it became more and more obvious to me that I was no wheres near as fast on the Avatar as on any of my other bikes. As it turned out, I could ride the Santana faster on my own with no stoker than I could ride the Avatar. Back in those days in my mid twenties, speed was everything and the Avatar just wasn't cutting it. I could see the only way I was going to make any headway on this adventure was to mothball all my other bikes and focus riding the Avatar for a long time to come ... and that just wasn't going to happen.

This is when I made the call to the guy back in Boston about selling the bike. I told them I was enjoying the product, but just could not get up to speed with the rest of the collection. I told them if they had anyone contacting them about wanting an Avatar and not wanting to wait the necessary lead time out (about thirteen months as I recall at that time) I had an almost new bike that I was willing to sell.

It was only a matter of about six weeks as I recall that I got a phone call from one of the gentlemen at Avatar saying they had just received a phone call from what turned out to be MGM studios looking for a bike that they wanted immediately. We talked for a brief time, but quickly came to the understanding that the facts were limited and fairly hazy about what was going on. The only way to clear things was to call the contact number in California and talk to who ever made the inquiry.

I remember talking to what I will describe as a middle aged woman speaking as if she was in the middle of a busy work day. She had no time for discussion and was doing what we now call today multi-tasking her way through another busy work day. She got it across to me that she worked with a production company and was interested in procuring my bike for a movie. After a brief conversation I let her know I would have to get back with her.

I was ready to part ways with the bike, but had to figure an asking price. I knew this was an opportunity to make a quick dollar, but didn't want to lose the sale asking for too much. After much thought, I asked for $2000. This was about $300 - $350 more than the original price of the bike. I was not asking for a great deal of money as I had purchased a Zefal HP pump and a Huret Doupar rear dearailleur as upgrades for the bike. These were included with the Avatar as part of the package.

I returned the call to the production company and gave them the price. The same lady asked why the price was more than the current price of a new Avatar. (I did not know at the time, but the retail price of the bike by that time had gone up to about $1850). I explained the upgrades I had made to the bike and let any other concerns about the price difference rest with them and how badly they wanted the bike. (Again, I later found out that the producers of the film had looked at other recumbent bikes, but liked the look of the Avatar and wanted this one for there film).

A few days later, Federal Express arrived in front of my house with a short pup tractor trailer ... having knocked down several small tree branches on my residential street. I was not home at the time, but had boxed up the Avatar in the bike box my Santana had arrived in several months earlier. Santanas at the time were delivered with both wheels mounted on the tandem frameet, so the box was quite long and the Avatar easily fit into the box. While the driver and my mother was dragging the box out to the street from our garage, the driver realized the box was addressed to MGM studios and the movie "Brainstorm" was listed on the address label. He was carrying on the whole time prior to this about his struggles getting to the house ... having to drag the bike to the truck and other various things. Suddenly, his outlook completely changed. He was picking up a prop for a Hollywood movie!!!

That's about it as far as the sale of the bike. I did have the check stub of the purchase for quite some time with the MGM logo of the lion. I remember so well the announcing of the death of Natalie Wood and how the movie was eventually finished using the back of the head of a stand-in for the remaining scenes of the film. The long wait until the movie was finally released. Finally, seeing my bike on the big screen. I can remember spending more effort watching for a prop in the movie then caring anything about the movie.

Keith Andrews Batavia, New York


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