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.