16
May 2010
by larry

Bike Wagon Takes Form

Canopy on the Commons.

As I’ve mentioned in a previous post, there seems to be a need for a practical bike canopy. My first efforts have been to develop a passenger-only canopy for Xtracycles. [Instructions for the finished canopy are now online in a later post.] My design goals:

  • protects an adult or child passenger from wind and rain and temperatures above freezing while giving them some visibility
  • can be set up in less than a minute
  • fits any Xtracycle
  • costs less than $100 for parts
  • is easy to build without special tools or parts
  • is easy to enter and exit
  • adjusts for differently-sized passengers from baby to adult
  • adjusts for different weather conditions
  • provides a platform for flexible solar panels
  • should weigh less than 10 lbs.
  • does not require modifying the bike
  • not necessarily aerodynamic
  • retains the Xtracycle Freeloader cargo capacity
  • presents a snappy appearance

Last February Thea and I constructed and tested a rough prototype. I am pleased to announce that after trying out many design variations and solving several engineering challenges, we’ve created a very pleasing and useful design as shown. Later this spring I intend to post detailed instructions so that anyone can create their own canopy. A historian writing about conestoga wagons wrote the following, which I hope also applies to my Bike Wagon canopy:

All chronicles agree that a fully equipped Conestoga wagon in the days when those wagons were in their prime was a truly pleasing sight, giving one that sense of satisfaction which ever comes from the regard of any object, especially a piece of mechanism, which is perfectly fitted for the object it is designed to attain.

Solar Power

Solar-powered bike wagon.

Solar-powered bike wagon.

I’m currently testing flexible solar panels mounted on top of the canopy. The solar panels should be able to double the range of my bike. And it may be possible that I can just park my bike outside and never have to connect it to an outlet again! A solar-powered stoked Xtracycle may very well be one of the most practical solar vehicles available, if you measure practical in terms of being relatively inexpensive, having spare parts readily available, and being street legal. It’s not speedy or futuristic-looking, but it’s here now.

My Next Canopy Project: The Micro Car

I plan a second canopy development effort in the fall. This second canopy design will be for both driver and rider. I intend for it to be mainly for winter use as a way to replace a car during that most difficult of biking seasons. I hope that people will think of it as a very small but practical car: a micro car if you will. As computer sizes fell from mainframe to mini to micro in the eighties, so I hope that car sizes will fall from the grossly gross SUV to full-size to mid-size to compact to mini to the delightful micro car. Here are my design criteria:

  • protects the driver from rain while giving full ventilation
  • protects the driver’s hands from wind and temperatures 10 degrees and above
  • gives the driver full visibility
  • insulated (perhaps with Aerogel batting) to keep an adult or child passenger comfortable at temperatures 10 degrees and above while giving them some visibility
  • only needs to be set up and removed at the beginning and end of the cold season
  • fits any Xtracycle
  • costs less than $1000 for parts
  • may require special tools (such as a welder) or special parts
  • is easy to enter and exit
  • adjusts for differently-sized passengers from baby to adult
  • can weigh up to 30 lbs.
  • may require modifying the bike
  • may have electrical features such as a sound system and lighting
  • may be somewhat aerodynamic
  • retains the Xtracycle Freeloader cargo capacity
  • presents an appearance that inspires confidence in the project

I’ve attached some sketches and photos of my Bike Wagon and Micro Car prototypes below, from past to present.

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