Thursday, April 6, 2017

Building the Oma Cargo Bike frame

Bike builders often use a heavy metal table with custom spacers bolted on to it to hold tubing in alignment while they work, or a jig made of angle iron or extruded aluminum sections that are adjusted to fit the frame design.  If I was making more than one bike I'd build a jig to hold the frame in alignment during cutting and tack welding.  But since I'm building one off experimental bike designs, the methods that I'm using have more to do with custom cabinetry.  The design is drawn full scale and pieces are then scribed and cut to fit the pattern, using strings, templates, and other measurements taken along the way to keep the project straight and lined up.

To start the Oma cargo bike I found the flattest part of the floor I could, and taped a sheet of thin underlayment plywood (smooth on one side for drawing lines) to the floor to keep it from shifting around on the different bumps.  (I might build a low, flat, and level table if I keep doing this.)   Plywood has decently parallel edges for hooking measuring tapes and squares over, allows me to erase lines when I make mistakes, and lets me glue spacer blocks on it to position the tubes in the right locations.  Plywood does move with the weather just like wood and the corners do swell out of parallel, but over the years I've learned habits that allow me to easily work to 1/32" tolerances (which is 0.031"), and with minimal effort I can work to 1/64" (0.015") and can push it to less than half that when needed, so wood patterns are OK for a project like this.

For this bike I had an overall style in mind (the Adelaide Longbike) and I knew the dimensions of my components, so I started at the head tube and laid out the rest of the bike moving towards the back.  Making this frame was actually a lot like lofting for shipbuilding- while I didn't use a spline for drawing the upper tube curvature, I did use a beam compass, and then used triangles, squares, and blocks to build the frame over the drawing.  For example after drawing the top tube high enough to clear the front derailleur and the motor but as low as possible under the cargo box, it was simple to place the tube on the pattern to check the fit while bending and notching it.

Before cutting anything I propped up the donor frame level with some weight on it and took measurements.  The head angle is good to know because that is what the fork is built for, but the front axle to bottom bracket centerline distance, wheel radius, and the bottom bracket drop and height should be checked too.  This frame was very large, and while the head tube angle was a nice slack 68 degrees, I decided to move the bottom bracket 1.5" closer to the front axle to help shorten up the length of the bike.  

My goal is an everyday bike that can easily do many of the functions of a car, but quite a few people have told me that they couldn't use one of my bikes because it was too big for them to store easily.  This bike also turned out too big- the wheelbase is 82 3/4", which while 4" shorter than my bakfiets is 6" longer than my longtail.  An easy way to make this bike at least 12" to 18" shorter would be to move the rear wheel forward and have a hump inside the cargo box (like a Madsen cargo bike), but I decided I wanted my dog to be able to ride in the box so I left the floor flat and about the size of a car front seat.  I also kept the solar panel 6" behind the rider to reduce the butt shadow on it, but if the solar wasn't as important the bike could be shortened another 4" to 5" behind the seat.  The Bike Friday Haul A Day is proof of how popular a smaller cargo bike can be.  Eventually I'd like to build a small run of Scarlet Runner cargo bikes for people around me to use, but for now I'm still learning how to package the components of a work bike tightly.  One thing I have learned is that really good bicycles are about doing many functions with the least amount of bicycle possible.

To transition the rear chainstays to the lower tube I made a cone shaped adapter piece.  Before welding it on I welded a diaphragm across the ends of the chainstays to keep them from deforming under load.  The tubing is propped up on the drawing with blocks to the correct height to keep it straight, and then it is easy to use a try square (with one wide leg so that it stands up) to line the tube up with the drawing while fitting joints.

To fit the rear upright tube and the seat stays to the hoop that runs along the top of the cargo box, I used a short piece of hoop tubing held vertical to the drawing.  The diameter of the seat stays are a good fit to the hoop tube, but the larger rear upright will have to be welded along the bottom half first, the lips tapped closed to the hoop tube and then the weld finished.

The hoop that supports the rim of the cargo box was made of two pieces welded together.  To form the outline I simply drew lines up from the drawing of the frame at the bottom of the plywood (click on the picture to enlarge if you can't see the drawing), and then drew in the sides the same width as the solar panel that forms the lid.  I then placed the tubing over the outline as I bent it to check the shape.

Bending small radius curves without heating the tubing has been a problem.  I have a tubing roller that works very well on large radius curves (such as the top tube on this bike), but while it's possible to turn out small curves, it's too difficult.  This picture shows the results of experiments with several different dies, supports, and also techniques like welding end caps on the tube and filling it with sand, etc.  I'm finding that the small radius curves I've made so far are about 2.5" to 2.75" center line radius, which is not a common die size for commercially available tubing benders, and the tooling gets very expensive so quickly that I've started to build my own rotary draw bender instead of buying one.

Once the backbone of the frame was finished, it was time to install the hoop.  The two wood supports propping it in place have legs that center them on the frame which kept the hoop very close to being lined up, but I also ran a string from the head tube back over center marks on the hoop to the rear upright and then leveled the hoop and frame too.  With the hoop held in place, I fitted the uprights.  In the background you can see some of the shim blocks glued onto the drawing on the plywood sheet from the earlier steps.

I also decided to try a feet forward seating position on this bike, and the seat tube post is set back about 9" from the bottom bracket.  The goal was to have my feet flat on the ground at a stop.  The basic formula for this is that the distance from the middle of the top of the seat to the ground (i.e. inseam) is the same distance as from the middle of the top of the seat to the top of the pedals at full leg extension.  If you draw this out the seat actually has to adjust up and down in an arc, however the middle 6" of seat height adjustment is close to a straight line, which is what I used for setting the seat post location and angle.  I knew that I'd lose some pedaling force by not being over the pedals (unless I stand up), but this might be OK because of the electric motor assistance.  (Since my next bike will be a semirecumbent this is a good intermediate seat position trial.)  I don't have many miles of riding this bike yet, but first impressions are that it's good, but the front fork stem is far away and the steering feels like a tiller.  Since many velomobiles and recumbents have a similar tiller this should not be an issue, but I think that if I built these for others I would move the seat post an inch or two forward closer to the usual position.  When people extend their leg they naturally point their toes, (which is why setting the seat height using a straight leg and your heel held flat on the pedal works- the toe pointing reflex gives the correct bend in the knee at full extension), and this pointing slightly reduces the need for having the seat as low as the theoretical inseam height that I calculated.

The curved top tube makes it easier for people to get on and off the bike- my impression from comments on the test rides with my other bikes is that at least 1/3 of riders want easy access on their everyday bike.

After adding uprights to support the hoop, I put in a few diagonals to help brace the frame.  I curved the diagonal braces that run up to the hoop so that they would clear springs on the back of the seat, they bend inwards as well as down.  The motor mount is a weak spot, although I did include a bash bar that bolts on underneath the motor which will take some of the downwards force that would try to bend the mount open.  The next time I mount a motor like this I will use plates that attach near the axle shaft instead of around the spoke flanges.  I then added some ells to support the cargo box floor.

I had an old bent fork that I made into the kickstand, the legs turned out nice but I'm not happy with the pivot (it's too far over center and hard to use), and the chain clearance is minimal.  I plan on redoing the idler sprockets for the front chain, probably by making the front sprocket into a single gear and adding a 3 speed freewheel and derailleur to the motor, which should help the clearance.  But for now the frame was done enough to ride, and it was time to get some paint on it and make the cargo box.

Friday, February 24, 2017

An Act Promoting Work and Commuter Bicycles

I currently have a proposal in my state legislature for "An Act Promoting Work and Commuter Bicycles" by removing the sales tax on them.  It's in the VT House Transportation Committee, and it looks like it is going to "die on the wall" before even getting out of committee because of generic state budget concerns.  If you are a reader from Vermont, I'd appreciate it if you would write both the sponsors of this bill (John Bartholomew and Mollie Burke), and your House Representative for your district, and ask them to support this proposal.

Why does everyday bicycling need to be actively promoted?  Because we've had almost 100 years of heavily subsidized pro automobile policy, and our transportation system needs to be brought back into balance after the damage that this has caused.

Everyday bicycling (which includes Bike to Work) provides the greatest benefits to both the rider and society.  These include financial, health, environmental, personal well being, and societal benefits.
(click on image to enlarge)
The costs in this infographic are based on urban Vancouver, B.C. transportation.  They appear to include personal and municipal costs and some health and environmental costs (immediate but not catastrophic), but not all costs of ownership.

 Automobiles are highly subsidized.  There have been roads for thousands of years, but the automobile is effectively less than 100 years old.  The first automobiles were built in the late 1800's, but the auto did not become common place enough to affect the average person's life until the 1910's.  In much of the US around 1930 only every other family owned a car.  The car centered lifestyle we now have was built in less than 90 years.  We should be questioning whether this is an appropriate use of technology and resources, or whether it is a prop for the obsessive compulsive side of our human psyche.  Indeed, the better explanation of why we are willing to pay so much money for 38,000 fatalities (over 3000 a month) and 2.3 million injuries (half of which are disabling) each year in the US, (not to mention the 700 bicyclist or 4000 pedestrian deaths) is addiction.  If you do not think that you are addicted to your car, then try to stop using it.  Our transportation system did not have to be built this way.

Blue Hills Parkway at Brook Road, Boston, looking towards Mattapan, August, 1914
Photo credit; Massachusetts State Archives, reprinted in:
Old Wheelways, Traces of Bicycle History on the Land, by Robert McCullough
In addition to all season pathways for pedestrians, bicyclists, and the travel lane, Blue Hills Parkway designer John Charles Olmsted recognized in 1914 that many residents of the outlying city districts were unable to afford carriages, and included an electrified trolley line to serve them.

My father owned an Austin Healey sports car when I was a child, and I have played with Porsches.  I'm well aware of the joy of a pleasant motor ride through the countryside.
1950's Austin Healey Sprite, Photo credit
This world does not exist anymore.  Vehicle Miles Traveled (VMT) has more than doubled since I was a young driver, and the most common driving experience now is to be stuck in traffic.  If you want to motor down the road like I did, then half the cars have to be removed.

The roadway design that was acceptable for 1950's traffic is marginally criminal now, it's long term effect has been to promote only one road user.  Our car centered transportation policy developed post World War 2 with little thought to anything more than level of service, throughput, and speed.  But humans are squishy little marshmallows and don't survive hitting bridge abutments at 40 mph, so our cars have become safety cocoons that disconnect us from the world around us.  Unfortunately this does not remove the effect of cars on the world.  We now have whole populations of school children who can't breathe because of asthma from tailpipe emissions, and a general obesity epidemic.  In 1969 48% of kids rode their bike to school, in 2009 only 13% did.  Our transportation policy has deliberately moved schools to the outskirts of towns, making the bicycle rides longer while simultaneously increasing the number of cars.  (See Safe Routes to School for more info.)
Credit: Yehuda Moon

Our car centered transportation policy is seriously short sighted.  We know that distracted drivers are a major cause of crashes, but we have yet to admit that those drivers are not there to enjoy motoring down the road.  Wouldn't they be better served on transit where they can check email without the distraction of driving?  Wouldn't active transport (walking and biking) for short trips improve our health and personal connections?  Or a more fundamental question- why is it OK that we are now commuting huge distances?

This is the result of 105 years of our current car centered transportation policy.
Genesee Street, Utica, NY in 1910 above, and in 2015 below, after American Urbanism
Photo credit: Built Brooklyn
And here is an even more fundamental problem- you may like Genesee Street in 2015 because you grew up on a street just like it and it feels comfortable, however it is not a functioning landscape.  Natural ecosystems do not work this way, and it's turned out that human society does not function well this way either.  This landscape is all about the car, not humans.  A huge lack of diversity, social equity, or inclusion is required to make this landscape work.

"We shape our buildings, and afterwards our buildings shape us."  Winston Churchill

"Nature is not a place to visit.  It is home."  Gary Snyder

"Bicycles are the indicator species of a community, like shellfish in a bay."  P. Martin Scott

"First, from a technical viewpoint, all negative externalities depend on speed, often significantly. On the one hand, they all increase beyond 30 to 60 km/h (20 to 40 mph). This is true not only for the most studied nuisances - noise, pollution, accidents and congestion (OECD, ECMT, 2007) - but also for less studied nuisances, such as severance effects, land use and urban sprawl, social segregation, or the disqualification of non-motorized modes."  Frédéric Héran, About the Effective Speed of Transport Modes: Ivan Illich's concept revisited, 13th World Conference on Transport Research, Rio, 2013
Photo credit:  Wes Craiglow, Deputy Director Planning & Development, City of Conway, AR
The way we think about transportation is flawed.  Technology has changed our concept of what the car is and what the car does.  With the increased levels of automobile use that we are seeing, our old paradigm of traffic management is broken.

"Much of the opposition to cycling schemes is based on a belief that motor traffic is like rainwater and the roads are drains for it.  If you narrow the pipe, these people say, it will flood.  If you block one route, they say, the same amount of traffic will simply flow down the next easiest route.  But that seldom or never actually happens in practice.  Because traffic isn't a force of nature.  It's a product of human choices...   Officially the cycling programme is about cycling.  In reality, it is about breathing.  It's about pollution, about health, about noise, about the kind of city we want to live in. It is about making the best use of scarce space on public transport.  Most of the people who will benefit from the cycling programme aren't cyclists.", Andrew Gilligan, Cycling Commissioner, Human Streets: The Mayor's Vision for Cycling Three Years On, Greater London Authority, UK, 2016

Do I expect "An Act Promoting Work and Commuter Bicycles" to solve all this?  No, this problem has been building for 90 years and it is much too big and deep,  Actively promoting everyday bicycling is a small beginner's step, but at least it goes beyond the "helmets and hi visibility clothing that politicians love because they don't actually have to do anything other than shifting the responsibility for it all onto bicyclists" (Анастасия Ромашкевич, Правда и ложь о светоэлементах, VeloNation), and is actually supporting a mode of transport other than the car.

Credit:  Adam Zyglis, The Buffalo News
We choose the car for our trips because it is easy.  It is now our job to make walking and bicycling just as easy.

I've tried to calculate the costs of this Act for our budget people, and here is my best estimate:
1.  Vermont sales of bicycles, related parts, and accessories in 2012 (Bicycle Retailer and Industry News (BRAIN) Annual Stats Issue – August 1, 2014)
2.  Corrected to 2015 (national sales of $6.5 billion in 2012 versus $6.2 billion in 2015, or a decline of ~5%) (National Bicycle Dealers Association 2015 Statpak – Industry overview)
3.  Adjusted for proportion of retail sales at shops due only to bikes (47.4%) (National Bicycle Dealers Association 2015 Statpak – Industry overview)
4.  Adjusted for portion due to commuter and utility bikes (6%) (an estimate based on both Alliance for Bicycling and Walking, and People for Bikes, survey data)
5.  Vermont Sales tax amount that would not be collected (6%):
My estimate of the market share of work and commuter bikes is the most unreliable figure above, the national average is around 10%, but this would be quite high for Vermont because of the effect of the large California, Texas, and Florida markets.  The overall mode share of people commuting by bike in Vermont is a fraction of a percent, and combined with declining bike sales at a time when we actually need more active transport, only underlines the need for a transportation policy that proactively supports bikes.

The Return On Investment (ROI) for this $46,546 could run from 7.8 to 1 (Helsinki Bicycle Account 2015 using the World Health Organization- Health Economic Assessment Tool), up to the 20 to 1 derived in several studies of the health benefits of bicycling.  This would be a return of $363,000 to $931,000.  A typical scientific analysis out of these several would be "Moving Urban Trips from Cars to Bicycles", Australian and New Zealand Journal of Public Health, 2011, which concludes:
"Results: Shifting 5% of vehicle kilometers to cycling would reduce vehicle travel by
approximately 223 million kilometres each year, save about 22 million litres of fuel
and reduce transport-related greenhouse emissions by 0.4%. The health effects would
include about 116 deaths avoided annually as a result of increased physical activity, 6
fewer deaths due to local air pollution from vehicle emissions, and an additional 5
cyclist fatalities from road crashes. In economic terms, including only fatalities and
using the NZ Ministry of Transport Value of a Statistical Life, the health effects of a
5% shift represent net savings of about $200 million per year.
Conclusion: The health benefits of moving from cars to bikes heavily outweigh the
costs of injury from road crashes."
Since this report was published in 2011 there have a couple of studies showing that the more bicyclists there are, the lower the crash rate.  Shifting 5% of vehicle kilometers to cycling should result in less than 5 additional cyclist fatalities.

As far as I know California is the only other state with a similar working and commuting bike proposal (here is a good summary on Streetsblog).  I've had the chance to speak with Jeanie Ward-Waller, Policy Director for the California Bicycle Coalition, (, and their proposal is strongly focused on transportation equity.  Their incentive is much larger than my sales tax exemption proposal, however they expect a more complicated qualification process, compared to the simple test for a work bike that I'm proposing.  Both of our incentives face the same budget opposition though, and both could use support.

I still enjoy Porsches, and I do think Electric Vehicles are important.  But there are some deeply serious problems with the transportation system we have built, it's all been short term gain.  We need to support active bicycling and walking.  We have left the human out.

Copied below is the proposal I gave to the Vermont House Transportation committee, it has not received a Bill number yet.  In it I reduced all of the benefits of this proposal to short summaries for the legislators, but if you would like to follow up please feel free to send an email and I'll try to connect you with references.

An Act Promoting Working and Commuting Bicycles

Introduced by: Representatives John Bartholomew of Hartland and Mollie Burke of Brattleboro

Date: January 2017

Subject: Transportation, energy, greenhouse gas emissions, traffic planning, Complete Streets, First mile/Last mile, public health, social equity

Statement of purpose of bill as introduced: This bill would promote the use of Bicycles used for working and commuting purposes through a sales tax exemption incentive.


Working and Commuting Bicycles have:
-Tires wider than 1” and less than 3” wide
-Seat wider than 5.5”
-Rack(s) installed or mounts for racks built into the frame
-May have an electric motor assist, which must meet the requirements set forth in the 2016 Vermont Transportation bill for electric bicycles.

Sales tax exemption:
-Similar to the procedure that is currently in place for renewable energy equipment

Background explanations for the Committee:

This incentive covers bikes that are a practical replacement for a car, which includes:
-a regular frame commuter style bike
-a cargo bike with an extended capacity frame for carrying larger loads
-a commuter or cargo bike with an electric motor for extended range and/or cargo capacity
-electric motor conversion kits for bicycles (both a DIY route for owners or installation by a bike shop)
This proposal is not meant to cover sport bikes, but the committee may wish to extend the incentive to include them because they share some of the benefits of work and commuter bikes.

Choice of Sales tax abatement for an incentive:
The price of bicycles suitable for work purposes can vary widely from $100 bikes to $5000 or above. An incentive based on a fixed amount such as used in many Electric Vehicle incentive programs would not work well, but using a sales tax abatement would automatically link the incentive amount to the price. This amount would also be approximately in line with many EV incentive programs.

Reasons for encouraging working and commuting bicycle use:
These include meeting state GHG emission goals, Vermont Comprehensive Energy Plan goals, reduced road congestion and wear, achieving Complete Streets and local community benefits, helping First mile/Last mile issues, public health benefits, and social equity.   A brief summary of each follows:

GHG emission and VT CEP energy reduction goals:
-Bicycles produce 10 to 12 times less GHG emissions and use about 90% less energy than automobiles.
A. The European Cyclists Federation found that the complete life cycle emissions in grams of CO2 per passenger per kilometer for various forms of transportation were:
-Bicycle 21 g
-eBike 22 g
-Bus 101 g
-Passenger car 271 g (for average short trips)
Source: “Cycle More Often 2 Cool Down the Planet: Quantifying CO2 Savings of Cycling”, 2011
B. Shreya Dave at MIT using Carnegie-Mellon's EIO-LCA methodology found that:
-Electric bicycles use less than 10% of the energy required to power a sedan for each mile traveled and emit 90% fewer pollutants per passenger mile-traveled than a bus operating off peak
-walking, conventional bicycling and electric bicycling release exactly the same amount of greenhouse gas emissions
-All forms of human powered personal transport are at least three times better [for emissions] than any other form of commuter transport.
“Life Cycle Assessment of Transportation Options for Commuters”, February 2010

Reduced road congestion and wear:
-A working or commuting bike replaces a car, and will take up about 1/10 the road space, which helps traffic planning, traffic flow. and parking in urban areas.
-Cycling infrastructure is also much less expensive than infrastructure for cars, helping to reduce road budgets for similar traffic capacity.
-Road wear is proportional to the 4th power of the axle weight, and in general a 250 pound bike will have 1/1296 of the road wear that a 3000 pound car does, which is beneficial for highway maintenance budgets.

Complete Streets and local community benefits:
-Complete Streets design guidelines create a roadscape suitable for multiple users, and this incentive would help to encourage bicycles on those streets.
-Local community benefits derive from the range of a bicycle. Approximate distances based on historical trolley stop settlement patterns from the stop to a house are about:
Pedestrian 0 to 2 miles
Bicycle 1 to 5 miles
An electrically assisted bike can on average double the bike range to 5 to 10 miles.
Thus a bicycle commuter or consumer will be doing business within their local area. which promotes down town businesses, center of towns and local economies.

First mile/Last mile issues:
-Promoting working bicycles helps not only commuters that ride a bike directly to work, but also those with the First mile/Last mile problem that is connected with Park and Rides and transit.
-Increased use of commuter bikes will also fit in with Amtrak's new program for carrying bicycles on the Vermonter train line.

Public Health benefits:
-Americans have an obesity epidemic, as well as cardiovascular issues, and a rising diabetes problem that are primary concerns for public health. Exercise has been shown to help these problems, and bicycling is one of the preferred exercising methods (second only to swimming), for being easy on joints while still providing a beneficial cardiovascular workout.
-In addition biking to work is a mild exercise that is repeated as a daily routine so that it provides a continuing benefit. Many studies have shown that the health and medical benefits of regular bicycling outweigh the risks by around 20:1.

Social equity:
-In 2016, the California Bicycle Coalition (CBC), along with several coalition partners, presented a petition to the California Air Resources Board (CARB). The CARB distributes funds for the Clean Vehicle Rebate Program (CVRP), which offers rebates for electric vehicles, and CBC is asking them to expand their rebate program to include “the cleanest vehicle of all: the bicycle”. CBC is seeking the creation of a $10 million Bicycle Purchase Incentive Pilot Program. The program would rebate half of the cost of bikes that are commonly used for commuting, up to a maximum rebate of $500. Under the program, California would pay for half the cost of cargo bikes, electric bikes, folding bikes, bike share, and other utilitarian bicycles used for everyday transportation. The CBC finds that in addition to the cleanest vehicle being excluded from the CVRP, that the CVRP program is also inequitable and discriminates against both low income persons and limited income families who do not own or can not own a car.
The CBC letter to CARB can be found at this site:
-A second consideration is that for children and young people cycling and walking are the only forms of independent transport.

For further questions, please contact:
Karl Kemnitzer
My Solar Electric Cargo Bike, Scarlet Runner Bikes, VBike

Saturday, February 4, 2017

Longtail construction (3/3) finishing the frame

Once the main part of the frame was welded together, I began to add the smaller pieces.  I started by making a hoop out of 7/8" tubing for the foot support.  I made the bends a large radius because the foot support is at shin height, and sharp corners could easily hurt.  The front of the hoop is 16 1/2" back from the crank center line to give enough room for heel clearance when pedaling, but I still occasionally bump it when walking the bike.  I also decided to add on a trailer hitch so that I could carry very long pieces of wood, and made the back of the hoop long enough to go around the tire.  On top of the back I welded on a small piece of 3/16" plate for mounting the hitch.

I used a 3/4" EMT electrical conduit bender that had a 5 1/2" center line radius.   Since I would custom build my trailer, I simply used a 1/2" bolt with the head cut off sticking up from the plate for a connection pin instead of a more standard bicycle hitch.  A common Heim joint mounted on the trailer tongue can then be slipped over the pin and secured with a hairpin spring clip through the bolt.  This setup is much less expensive and stronger than a standard bicycle hitch.

I started the kickstand by fitting a template cut out of cereal box cardboard to the bottom frame tubes.  Using this type of cardboard works well because you can bend or fold it for fitting 3 dimensional patterns easily, but you can also draw grids on it when it's flat to keep the pattern square and straight.  You can then use it to line up the parts for tack welding them together.  I like to build the kickstand so that it lifts the tire only 3/4" off the ground.  Some people prefer 2" to 3" in case the kickstand sinks into the ground, but I think that just makes it harder to use.  I prefer to add foot pads to the legs instead.

I've now built 4 heavy duty kickstands, and while they all work OK, I don't think they are particularly good designs.  I've started to think it's one of the hardest parts of a bike to design well.  If I want to know if someone is a good bike builder, I've now started to look at their kickstand.

With the tires temporarily installed in the frame for measuring the kickstand height, I noticed that I had miscalculated the chain line and two diagonals were in the way.  Oops.  I cut out enough to clear the chain and replaced it with an ell piece that has a brace on the backside to stiffen it.  This gave me a chance to test my weld- I squeezed the cut out tubes together at the top, and they crumpled without the weld at the bottom giving way.  

Besides the chain line repair and the kickstand, I started adding other tabs, such as a bracket for chain idler sprockets, and tabs on the hoop for attaching the plywood foot boards.

The foot support hoop was propped up level and tack welded at the front to hold it in place.  Then I added two diagonals at the back running up to the rack, followed by stays to the rear dropouts.  I ran braces from the dropouts sideways to the hoop to take the side forces, but had to make two compromises- they had to be moved backwards because the right one interfered with the derailleur, and I had to use a sharp mitered corner to fit the tube under the plywood foot board.  The corner hasn't been a problem though because the sharp points are hidden away from most activities.

I also fit cross pieces to the rack for attaching it's deck board, and included a downward ell on the rear piece for attaching a light.  However I ended up replacing the reflector I had there with a much brighter LED truck side marker light, which I attached to the fender with automotive double sided foam trim tape.  All of my bikes have a small 15 watt DC to DC converter to convert the battery's 48 volts down to the automotive 12 volt standard, and regular car components like lights and GPS can be wired in.  I'm planning on adding a 5 volt USB port next, so that riders on a trip can recharge their cellphones or notepads.

I knew that I wanted the bike to be a sunny solar electric yellow, but didn't want it to look like a bumblebee with black fenders.  Two of my great grandparents are from Ukraine, and I decided to use the sky blue from their flag on the fenders and battery box.  However in Vermont we have long winters, so everyone here thinks the colors look like a Caribbean vacation,..

The brushed on acrylic latex enamel leveled out OK, but I sprayed the next Cruising Oma bike and it came out looking nice, like it was powder coated.  I'm trying to use water based enamels that have some urethane in them, but they are hard to find, most often that formula is only available as a clear coat.

Instead of using nuts, I threaded all the tabs.  I had predrilled all the screw holes in the tabs, but left tapping the threads until after painting because they would have been clogged with paint.  This way I was also able to clamp the foot boards in place and easily drill screw holes in them through the tabs, without having to mark out the holes on the foot boards.  In a production setting this step could be done with self tapping screws instead.

Decent power hub motors need to have the dropouts reinforced, or the axle will eventually twist around.  My bikes are 750 watts, and one medium thickness torque arm on the left side will do.  First I made a pattern that ran forward 4" from the axle centerline to a clamp wrapped around the chainstay.  It goes above the chainstay, so that the drive torque will pull upwards on the clamp to keep it straight, and spread the clamp's force on the chainstay more evenly than if the bolt side of the clamp were pushing on it.  I cut it out of a piece of 1 1/2" x 1/4" bar stock, working from the end towards the bar, so that the bar formed a big handle until the very last cut.

Clamp a piece of scrap on the arm to make a rip fence for the angle grinder.

The axle hole was drilled undersize and then fitted to the oval axle.  I traced the oval hole from the washer that came with the motor onto the torque arm, and then filed the hole to match.  I used a carbide die grinder bit to rough out the oval, but because I wanted more control I mounted it in a slow speed drill instead of a high speed die grinder.

With the torque arm cut out, it had to be bent inwards to line up with the center of the chainstay.  I marked out the two bends and then used a cold chisel and a press to make the bends, but they could also be done with a vise and a pipe or hammer.

Next was a strap clamp to go around the chainstay, it's shown resting on the left side of the hammer.  I wrapped a strip of cereal box cardboard around the chainstay, folded the ends upwards to fit the torque arm, and then traced the bolt holes through the torque arm hole onto it.  After tracing the pattern onto a piece of stainless steel sheet metal, I drilled the holes, bent the ends up, and then rolled it around a bolt that was the same diameter as the chainstay.  You could also use a tab welded on the chainstay instead of this clamp, but if you do make sure that it is wide enough to spread the load out.  Chainstays are small diameter and can't resist much sideways bending from a point load, and the extra weight of a cargo bike makes the situation worse.

The finished torque arm takes the rotational force off the dropout.

The front fork legs did not have any tabs for mounting fenders, so I used the axle to mount it.  I have used plain washers (unplated) for eyelets for the smaller 5 mm stay bolts, but for the 7/16" axle I cut out some elongated eyelets and welded them on the end of the fender stays.

All the physical components have been assembled, and now it's time to add controls and wiring.

In the upper left corner of the battery box is the motor controller, and the small black box below it is an electrical data logger with GPS.  In the center is an A123 cell type LiFePO4 (Lithium Iron Phosphate) battery (48 volts x 20 Amp hours, which is about 1 kWh).  At the top front is the key switch, below it is the solar controller, and tucked in behind that is the 48 VDC to 12 VDC converter.
For the new Cruising Oma bike I'm switching to Panasonic NCR18650GA cells in a 52 volt configuration (14s7p), or about 1.25 kWh, which will be about 20% smaller and lighter.  I also have 4 different new solar controllers to try out- the Genasun in this picture works well, but it is very expensive, and it can not deal with shading issues well if there is more than one panel on the bike.  I would also like to use a different charging voltage than is available.

This bike is about 4 mph faster than the bakfiets on most trips, mainly because the bakfiets is set up for 36V, but also the aerodynamics are slightly better, and this hub motor has a faster speed motor winding.  However the bakfiets has the top speed honor, coasting down Miller Hill at 46.7 mph, and this bike has reached only 46.5 mph.  I think the bakfiets is faster when coasting because it has a gear drive hub motor with a slip clutch, and it doesn't have the drag when coasting that this bike's direct drive motor has.  Because of the long wheelbase and the relaxed head angle, both bikes respond slightly slow, and they feel very comfortable at speed.

I originally intended to put a small windshield on this bike, but too many new ideas came along so I started building another bike instead.  The basket has worked out well though for cookies, chocolate, potato chips, gloves, sunglasses, etc.

With the reflector mounted on the rack, before the LED truck side marker light was added down on the fender.

Before I got the canvas panniers, I used to have to choose between having the solar panel or a backpack on the rack.  This load is for the 12 mile (one way) trip to recycling.  Although the solar panel takes up rack space, I think it is important for fast, long distance bicycling and I'm working on fitting it in better.  The battery alone gives me about 65 miles at an average speed of 16 to 18 mph, and the solar panel allows me to move the average speed up to 20 to 22 mph and have the same range or more.  To give you an idea of the maximum solar boost possible, I took one 57 mile long trip last summer on a clear bright day, and when I recharged the battery back at home I found I'd only used a little over 1/4 of the energy.  If I had wanted to I could have gone 190 miles before the battery was empty.

Monday, December 5, 2016

Cruising Oma (Grandma) Bike

Yesterday I took the third bike to the annual Vermont Energy and Climate Action Network (VECAN) conference.  It is not finished yet (I have to do all of the wiring still), but I didn't want to wait another year until the 2017 conference so off it went.  Since 275 people have now seen it at the conference I thought it should be introduced on the blog, and then I'll write more about the details as I finish building it.  Because I've built 3 bikes and have ideas for 3 more (plus I've been asked to build a bicycle bean thresher), I've decided to introduce Scarlet Runner Bicycles as a name for this series of bikes.

The Cruising Oma Solar Electric Cargo Bike at VECAN 2016

VECAN is a network of town energy committees from about half of the towns in Vermont.  This year's conference was "Local Leadership, Local Action: Partnering to Get to 90% by 2050", which is acceptable because it is our state's energy goal, but I'd really prefer Sierra Club's "Ready for 100%" renewable energy goal.  The local leadership is necessary because our federal government is such a mess.  The keynote speaker this year was Søren Hermansen, Director of the Samsø Energy Academy in Samsø, Denmark, an island that is generating all it's electricity with renewable energy sources and now exporting power back to the mainland.

Søren Hermansen, keynote speaker at VECAN 2016, photo by Bob Farnham

If you would like to watch Søren's presentation, Bob ("Bob the Green Guy") has filmed and posted it at   Søren's talk starts at 30:30 and ends at 1:33:42.  It's a good talk about community building, which is sorely needed right now.

As you can see I kept the rear chain stays, seat stays, bottom bracket, head tube and front fork, but I added a little bit in between.  This bike was inspired by the Longbikes built in Adelaide, Australia in 1987 by the Musgrave Community Bicycle Works.

The GreenMachine Longbike by Ian Grayson and company, 1987

I based the mid cargo box layout on a Dutch Oma (Grandmother) style frame for easier getting on and off, and then I moved the seat back and down into a cruiser style position for both comfort and having feet flat on the ground at a stop.  (click on pictures to enlarge them)

The box is thin cherry veneer with fiberglass cloth and resin wrapped around both the outside and the inside.  I almost tried canvas instead, but this turned out fairly light weight.  The length and width are the size of a car front seat, and a child seat will fit inside.  The paint is magenta acrylic latex enamel house paint, and I've finally figured out how to get a good coat applied- two people asked me at the conference if I had sent the frame out to be powder coated.

I moved the motor from the rear wheel to the frame for two reasons, the first is shifting down for climbing very steep hills (20% to 22% grade), and the second is to make fixing flat tires easier.  I converted a geared hub motor from spinning the outside case (out runner) to spinning the shaft (in runner), which gave me an internal freewheel inside the motor and an external one on the shaft, so that the motor and pedals can work independently.

There are many things to be finished up yet on the bike, but I've been able to take short rides and it seems good.  It takes forever to turn because it's so long, (it's shorter than the bakfiets but longer than the longtail), but I'll save that discussion for another post.

The end.

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Political Bicycling

The third bike is almost done, but I thought I'd write a post first about some of the people I've met along the way.  I'm not a political person, I'd much rather design and build projects.  It's been my experience that the things that really matter in life are usually done by people first, and then a couple of years later the politicians figure it out.

However my solar electric cargo bikes have been at 80 or 90 events since 2012, and I also have had two bike blenders since 2007 that have been to even more events than that, so I've met a few politicians along the way.  The bikes have been very public, and I've unwittingly become a bicycle advocate.  The events for the last 4 or 5 years have usually been for my town's energy committee or the Sierra Club Upper Valley group or the SC Vermont Chapter.  Before that it was our regional Farm to School food program, and also our local Transition Towns group.

This post is really about friends I've met along the way.  Vermont is from "vertes montagnes", which means "Green Mountains", and our love for our forests doesn't really have any political boundaries.  The early events were focused on local agriculture, business, and sustainability in general, but lately transportation has become a stronger focus.  Transportation is Vermont's largest source of pollution, responsible for 46% of  our carbon emissions.  I've helped organize a lot of Electric Vehicle actions over this time, but bikes are still my first choice for cleaning up our transportation.

Last summer the Longtail was up in Montpelier at the VT Agency of Transportation for a month long pilot study, and people from VTrans brought the bike over to the capitol building and gave legislators test rides on it.  Vermont Secretary of Transportation Sue Minter took a ride, I recently saw her and her report was: "That was fun!"  (Sue is now running for Governor in this year's elections.)  Here is a short video of the test ride:
This is special to me, as the only other Secretary of Transportation that I've seen on a bike is Janette Sadik-Khan, Commissioner of  NYC DOT, and she was riding just a regular bike (well OK, a bikeshare bike).  I give Sue a lot of credit for trying out my bike, and of course I hoped this would translate into more bike lanes.  I've had the chance to talk with our current Transportation Secretary Chris Cole twice now, and he understands the need to include bikes in our transportation mix (see our state report "The Decline of Driving: Navigating Vermont without a Car", January 21, 2015), and he supports electric bikes because of our rural and hilly terrain.

Going back a few years to the blender bike days, I have to include Bernie:
We held a series of annual Farmfests that celebrated our local farms, which eventually resulted in their produce being included in school kid's menus around the Upper Valley.  Bernie Sanders attended in 2009.  Eric Dicke and I had built the red blender bike for our Transition Town group, and Nora (in front) was running it for the day.  Bernie came over and talked with the high school students that were hanging around, asking them about their plans for the future.

The Leahys also showed up in 2010:
After giving speeches along with VT Secretary of Agriculture Roger Albee, Senator Patrick Leahy answered questions, (in the group visible in the back of this photo), while his wife Marcelle made smoothies.  We had made the red blender bike that Marcelle is pedaling first, but the 26" tire frame was too big for many elementary school kids so we had to make the smaller blue blender bike.  Both bikes are still being used several times a year at regional events (although they really could use new tires).  Often they are used by elementary schools (kale smoothies from their school garden yum!), community groups, food coops, parks, and other town energy committee events, but this past spring they were also out at the Hypertherm Plasma Cutters green week promotion (for the third time), as well as a Tuck School of Business Sustainability Club Social (one of several times they have been at Dartmouth college).

The blue blender bike premiered at the Dartmouth Hopkins Arts Center on Earth Day 2011

This is Will Allen, co owner of Cedar Circle organic farm in Thetford, author of "The War on Bugs", GMO labeling advocate, and host of many Strawberry festivals that I've brought both the bike blenders and solar electric cargo bikes to, (as well as Solar Hartland solar displays).

Tom Kennedy of the Southern Windsor County Regional Planning Commission, helping the Springfield High School Students fund raise at a smoothie booth at a Springfield region Energy Expo.

Change The World Kids is a Woodstock High School group where kids explore our natural world and what it means to us.  They've borrowed the bikes for several events, such as this Energy Fair on the town green back in 2010.  The Middlebury college student group was just picking up momentum with the guidance of Bill McKibben at the time, and they helped with this fair.  The blender bike was used as part of an energy awareness display.

My local food coop held a summer celebration at one of the community gardens, and we made smoothies for a treat.  They ended up using a photo of the bike for their listing in the national coop directory.

My Elementary School Principal Judy Callens and Town Manager Bob Stacey make smoothies at the school during National Healthy Eating Week.  The kids were very enthusiastic- teachers had to designate students (i.e. ration biking time) from each class for pedaling.  They made a different color smoothie each day of the week, this day was blueberries.  The bikes have also been at our annual Trek to Taste regional celebration five times, which is about local food and has displays from the kids about their school gardens.

There are several dozen more blender events, but back to the solar electric cargo bikes.  The bike blenders are fun, but at this point I've made enough smoothies to float from here to Montpelier.  If you'd like to know more I wrote a webpage about the blenders (along with a solar panel powered blender) back in 2010, with instructions for making one:

I also decided around 2010 to use my car less, and you can't travel very well on a blender bike.  Since I've been building projects all my life (including a lot of car and motorcycle experience), I started building bikes to use as a car replacement.  I've already written about several of the cargo bike events- here are a few more (that have kept me from keeping my blog up to date).  :-) 

The North American camel meets solar electric cargo bike.
Although not directly political, (artists do have their share of political drama though), this photo from the mists of time is special enough to repost here.  I had curated 4 environment and climate art shows at my town library, and as a result was participating with the bikes in Sculpturefest 2013 over in Woodstock.  This Aepycamelus (tall camel) was widespread in North America about 20 million years ago, and became extinct about a million years ago because of the last ice age.  This sculpture is made entirely of brush and flowers collected from the fields, and the artist did such a good job that the sculpture looked real.

I gave a talk about the bakfiets in 2013 at my Two Rivers Regional Planning Commission, to the Transportation Advisory Committee (TAC) representatives from area towns.  It was great fun, and I also met Gina Campoli of VTrans for the first time, when she gave her presentation about Vermont Electric Vehicle programs.  I'm now working on EV issues for the Vermont Sierra Club and appreciate the work that she and others in state agencies have done to build EV numbers in the state.  Afterwards we took the bakfiets outside for test rides (aka playing with bikes).

Getting back closer to political biking advocacy, Bike Aficionado Albert Echt and Go!Vermont program consultant Deb Sachs talk bikes at the 2014 Vermont Walk and Bike Summit in Burlington.  This was the beginning of the solar bike discussion at the state level.

Go!Vermont program Director Ross McDonald arranged for the longtail to be in a pilot study last summer at the Vermont Department of Transportation.  It was part of their bike pool, and this is a picture of it in the lobby with a sign out sheet.  During last fall's Vermont legislative session a bill was passed that defined electric bikes as having the same legal standing as regular bikes, and our legislature decided to allow 1000 watts of power (a bit above the federal consumer products safety limit of 750 watts), which was a good step for making both cargo and everyday working bikes more feasible in our terrain.

The longtail also took part in last year's 4th of July parade in Montpelier, ridden by Robert Atchinson, one of the railroad administrators from VTrans.  He put a poster board explaining the bike on the back, and enjoyed passing by the gas pumps.

In addition to events like the Renewable Energy Vermont conference and the Burlington Church Street alternative transportation expo which I've already written about, (see,
I've also brought bikes to the Vermont Toxics Action Center conference at Vermont Technical College, (you can just see one in the back corner of the photo above).  Toxics Action is a New England coalition that works to clean up polluted areas.

The bikes also been at the Vermont Energy and Climate Action Network conference a couple of times, the Sports Trails of the Ascutney Basin (STAB, hosts of the Vermont 50 mile race to benefit the Vermont Adaptive Ski and Sports Association), and the Bellow Falls Community Bike Project for several events:
The Bellows Falls Community Bike Project 1 year anniversary celebration!

Lately I've also enjoyed teaching about the bikes, such as at this SkillShare event last June.  Although this class was about the basics of converting a bike to an eBike, I had brought along a demonstration hub motor that I'd converted to mid mount use (it's now an in runner with the shaft spinning instead of the outside case) to take apart, and everyone was eager to see what was inside.  I don't think the people attending will be getting that involved in their projects, but I wouldn't be surprised to see a few regular eBikes built- there were several members from a nearby Quaker community attending that have been self sufficient and energy efficient for decades that wanted to be able to use their bikes more.

I've also been attending the Vermont Transportation Efficiency Network (VTEN) meetings, which are all about everything except the Single Occupancy Vehicle (SOV).  One of the members is Stagecoach transit in Randolph, and I brought the longtail to their 40th anniversary celebration. Laura Perez organized the event, and although it was about buses, there were some serious bikers there too that kept me busy explaining the longtail.  In this photo I'm doing double duty- the Tee shirt I'm wearing is for Sierra Club's national "Ready for 100" campaign, which is about becoming 100% renewable energy powered by 2050.

Another Sierra Club event was the 100th anniversary of our National Park System celebration at the Marsh Billings Rockefeller National Park.  Similar to some of the parks out west, they have a no bikes policy on the trails, but about half the staff were very interested in the longtail.  Tour guide Bonna Wieler (at the table) of Boots to Boats (a hiking and canoeing program) took a test ride, and we ended up talking about the price of eBikes versus cars, (in other words what would it take for her to get an eBike?)

I helped with an Electric Vehicle Forum and Demonstration in New London, NH last month.  They think it was the largest EV event in New England so far, but I think my event at the Montshire museum was bigger (both were around 250 people).  I may have overstepped a little, holding my sign saying "I'm ready for electric cars in NH!" since I'm a Vermont resident.  Oh well, New Hampshire is a bit behind the curve and needs a push.

Last April several state organizations organized a Youth Climate Day at the Vermont capitol building, and close to 500 high school students stood on the capitol building steps and called for climate action.  I brought the bakfiets along with some carbon emissions information that I've been using for Sierra Club and EV work.  This is my legislative representative John Bartholomew, who I hope gets re-elected because I've been training him for months to introduce an incentive bill for working bikes to the legislature during the next session.

By coincidence it turns out that Sierra Club has built a very strong national Electric Vehicle program because of the damage that transportation emissions are doing to our environment. (SC is one of three main sponsors of National Drive Electric Week.)  I have fallen into the role of the EV person for our Vermont Chapter because of my bikes and car knowledge.  It's been great fun.  I've gotten to be part of the state VW Diesel Emissions Settlement comments, as well as part of a federal National Labs study on EV programs, and also sign a state letter to the California Air Resources Board (CARB), (because California's vehicle standards affect our Vermont vehicles through the Zero Emissions Vehicles Memorandum of Understanding (ZEV MOU) that we are part of).  I've also learned about the Transportation and Climate Initiative in 12 states, which is working along with NESCAUM to implement a Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI) for transportation.  In all honesty though, I have to say that an EV is still a car, (and a self driving car is still a car), and we will continue to have congestion and resource problems with them.  The native mode of transportation for humans is walking, and we have built a system where 4800 pedestrians die each year in the US.  In urban areas our interstate highway system is obsolete.  We need a new vision of transportation.

In the meantime EVs can be extremely impressive cars, and I'm happy to support them during a transition to better transportation.  A summer ago Drive Electric Vermont worked on the "Drive the Dream" campaign, which promoted Work Place Charging (WPC).  This has been shown to be an important step in building EV infrastructure, and there were 22 large businesses that agreed to put in vehicle charging stations for employees.  They held a conference at the end of the program at the Vermont Teddy Bear company, and I got to bring my bike.  In this picture Vermont Teddy Bear CEO Bill Shouldice and Governor Peter Shumlin are talking to the press about the program.  Democratic Governor Shumlin has been strongly supportive of EVs, but it was actually his predecessor Republican Jim Douglas that initiated our state EV work.

And what does all of this mean to the person in the street?
Sometimes you have to wear a suit while Driving the Dream.

Yesterday I took the frame for the third bike over to Sculpturefest.  It is now ready for paint, but the bright shiny metal at this moment looks like one of the sculptures in the show.  There were about 50 elementary school kids visiting, and I got to talk with them about making bikes, bending and welding tubing, cargo boxes, electric motors, and solar.  Two of them even asked for my autograph!  (I signed, but told them it wasn't worth anything.)  It was a blast, and they asked some very good questions- several of the second graders were expert bike riders already, and figured out the electric drive right away.  It's time to put in some more bike lanes.