Long-distance Travel


25
Nov 2014
by larry

The Loneliness of the Long Distance Biker Part 3: The Bike

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A design opportunity is emerging for a long-distance electric vehicle that weighs more than a bicycle but less than a motorcycle. Ebike hobbyists are leading the way.

Last September I made a 240-mile journey by electric bike from Ithaca NY to New York City and back. The trip was not that remarkable in itself. No records were broken; there were no physical or mental challenges that needed to be overcome. In fact, that was the point of the journey: to show that a long-distance journey by electric bike could be easy and enjoyable. Part 1 of this series compared long-distance bike and car travel in general. Part 2 described the trip itself in detail. This Part 3 describes the modified touring bike I used to make the trip. What’s surprising about my bike is not how technologically advanced it is, rather the opposite. My bike is an electrified steel frame Nishiki Cresta touring bike from 1982 with a BMC rear geared hub motor.

Long Distance Ebike Design Criteria
What would the ideal long-distance electric bike look like? First of all let’s define our terms. By long-distance I mean Continue reading →


3
Nov 2014
by larry

The Loneliness of the Long Distance Biker Part 2: The Trip

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In Part 1 of this blog post series I described the context of my journey to NYC last September. I made the trip to demonstrate the feasibility of long distance travel by electric bike, and the People’s Climate March provided the perfect opportunity. This second part describes some details of the trip itself, then indulges in a vision of the future of long-distance biking.

One of the first mistakes I made was trusting Google maps to come up with a good route. In the past I’ve used the “bike button” on Google maps to show me bike trails along my route. For example, on a trip to Washington D.C. I was able to travel two-thirds of the 350-mile trip on scenic bike trails (in particular the C&O canal). Google recommended traveling south through Pennsylvania and then east through New Jersey, and promised a few rails-to-trails along the way. It looked good on the map! What happened in reality is that Continue reading →


27
Oct 2014
by larry

The Loneliness of the Long Distance Biker Part 1: The Context

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Author Laurence Clarkberg sets out from Ithaca to New York City, a 230-mile trip.

The question of the century is “How can we make vehicles that use less energy than our automobiles but have the same functionality?” Electric cars are a step in the right direction–they use about a tenth of the energy of gasoline-powered cars. However, the technology exists to go even further: electric bikes use about one one-hundredth the energy of gasoline-powered cars. But do ebikes have the same functionality as a car? For example consider long distance travel, meaning travel on the order of hundreds of miles. Can an ebike do that? Of course not, right? Last month I made a long distance trip on an electric bike in order to answer that question and discovered that the answer is Continue reading →


2
Sep 2014
by larry

Troy Rank’s Epic 4,400 Mile Ebike Journey and Why It’s Important

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Troy is very casual about his epic 4,400 mile journey. Last year he noticed that the current Guinness Book of World Records for longest motorized bicycle journey was just over four thousand miles. He knew his bike could go that far. He knew he could go that far. He had his wife’s support. So he set out to break the record.

Of course it wasn’t easy. When he stopped by my shop last week on his way back to Rochester after cycling out to Colorado and back, I asked him about a bandage on his arm. “A dump truck ran me off the road. No big deal. I was able to lay my bike down on the grass, so just some cuts and bruises.” He kept a video blog about his journey. He describes many flat tires. He describes many electrical problems. On day 13 he describes how Continue reading →


22
May 2014
by larry

I Challenge Climate Activists to Bike to the 2014 Climate Summit

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I am planning to bike to the 2014 Climate Summit in New York City September 20th and 21st. I am encouraging other climate activists to bike with me. I’m also setting up a network of people willing to provide accommodations for those biking through. If you would be willing to host bicyclists in September let me know.

Why is this important? I lose hope when I see that even my fellow climate activists are unwilling to give up their cars. How can we expect others to make changes that we are unwilling to make ourselves? We need to set a good example for the rest of the world.

For the past three years I’ve been using an electric cargo bicycle as my primary means of transportation. I discovered that ebike battery and motor technology are surprisingly advanced: a 40-pound cargo bike with a 10-pound motor and an 8-pound lithium battery is fully capable of carrying me, my 14-year-old daughter, and four bags of groceries up the steep hills of Ithaca NY. Our city trips are about the same or faster than by car. A day’s worth of energy for our electric bicycle can easily be obtained from a $1,000 solar panel that is about the size of a door. I’ve concluded that an electric bike can easily replace a car for most people at a fraction of the cost, and potentially completely fossil free. So why haven’t ebikes been more widely adopted? The technology is here; all that remains to be done is to bring this transportation breakthrough to the attention of the mainstream.

I propose that our journey to the Climate Summit serve just that purpose: a demonstration of ebike technology’s ability to compete successfully with the automobile, even for long trips. I’ve made several long trips by ebike, including a 350-mile trip from Ithaca NY to Washington D.C. Ebikes, even when piloted by non-athletes, can travel at 25mph. So traveling 100 to 200 miles a day is possible. But staying at hotels in order to charge batteries can be expensive. If we support each other by providing accommodations along the way, we’ll also demonstrate how human kindness can be a welcome substitute for energy use.

I call upon climate activists in New York State and beyond to put their money where their mouth is: let go of your car and take up the best alternative transportation, the electric bike. And use the Climate Summit this fall as a way to show the world what is possible with this revolutionary mode of transportation.

If you want to read more see the petition I created on the 350.org website: “I Challenge Climate Activists to Bike to the 2014 Climate Summit”. You can read and sign the petition here:
http://campaigns.350.org/petitions/i-challenge-climate-activists-to-bike-to-the-2014-climate-summit


22
Apr 2012
by don

Shawn’s Electric Yuba Mundo

 

The author giving his touring bike a break

Today’s article comes from a guest contributor, Shawn McCarty of Venice, Florida. Shawn is an avid cyclist who has completed bike tours through various parts of the United States and Europe. His blog (aworldspinning.com) has some nice photos of his European adventure. And his custom electric cargo bike is amazing!

If you have biking facts, photos, or a story you think our readers would enjoy, let us know. We’re interested in presenting a variety of topics and points of view as we build our biking community.

Continue reading →


21
May 2011
by larry

I Flooded the Mississippi

Thankfully the news media is keeping quiet about this or I could be in big trouble: I flooded the Mississippi earlier this month. I’m also responsible in some small part for the Arkansas killer tornados last month. I may even be implicated in the Japanese earthquakes earlier this year, though the evidence for that is not so clear. But certainly without a doubt (as I confessed in a previous post) I share with BP responsibility for the gulf oil spill last year. How did I manage to cause such massive death and destruction? Simply by living my life as usual, getting around by car. I feel a little bit guilty about it actually. But what can I do?

Continue reading →


19
Sep 2010
by larry

How to Bike Long Distances on Your Electric Cargo Bike

I am on a bike trip to Washington DC.–I am hoping to do more and more of my long-distance travel by electric cargo bike. I’m getting pretty good at it. Many of you are probably wondering “How can I too make such journeys?”

The hardest part is justifying taking the time. Expect a bike trip to take four times as long as driving. Use whatever rationale works for you: you’re saving the environment, you like to experience nature firsthand, you want to get in shape, whatever. I’m driven to bike out of a sense that it’s the way things should be, a way to make our transportation system humane (see a previous post about my vision).

The next hardest part is responding to the objections and warnings of your family and friends. They will say things like “Why don’t you just drive like a normal person?” They will imagine that biking on a lonely bike trail at 15 mph is somehow more dangerous than driving in dense traffic at highway speeds. Furthermore, there is an insidious bias in our culture that bikes are for recreation and cars are for utilitarian purposes. Therefore, the thinking goes, if you are on a long bike trip you must be on vacation. And you shouldn’t be on vacation if you have to do the serious business of getting to somewhere. This thinking makes it impossible to consider the bike as a valid long-distance transportation tool.

I went on several long bike tours in my college days. Those trips were basically fun ordeals. Long-distance bike trips don’t have to be ordeals any more. What has changed? The two big innovations are smart phones and electric assist for bikes.

When I bike I have my smart phone in one hand to tell me where I am and a printout from Google maps in my other hand to tell me where to go. I would be lost (literally) without them. Here’s how it works. Before I go on my trip I visit Google Maps and enter my starting and ending points. I then click Google Maps’ “bike button” to choose a bike-friendly route. I then print out selected portions of the route. The print outs are good insurance that I can find my way even if I can’t get a mobile phone signal. When I’m actually on my trip I stop periodically and use my phone to make sure that my current location corresponds to a spot on my printout. The phone has another use: finding hotels and campgrounds. I don’t reserve hotels in advance since it’s hard to know where I’ll end up. So when I get near my destination I simply search on hotels or campgrounds within a five mile radius, pick one, and dial. I wish I had had that feature in 1988!

The last step to going on a bike trip is the easiest: physically moving the pedals around. Plan on going 80 to 100 miles a day. I know that sounds like a lot to those of you who are experienced bike tourists. But electric assist changes the bike touring game: you can go a little bit faster and farther, carry a bit more, and work less hard. I remember that when I went bike touring 20 years ago I could expect to go 50 miles a day at 10 miles an hour. I carried about 50 pounds of stuff. Hills just about killed me. Now I plan to go 80 to 100 miles a day at 15 miles an hour. I can carry 100 pounds. And with electric assist, hills don’t require much more effort than flats.

The main drawback to traveling on an electric cargo bike is that you have to find an outlet to plug into at the end of every day. For that reason I mostly stay in motels. Motels are cheaper than hotels with the added advantage that since the rooms are at ground level you can wheel your bike into your room. I also carry camping equipment so I can camp out if necessary.

I am hoping that by next year I will be able to recharge my batteries completely with solar power on long trips. On a previous trip I was able to gather about one eighth to one fourth of my power from the sun using bike-mounted solar panels.

What does the future hold? More bike paths? Better batteries and motors? Really smart smart phones? And a kinder gentler transportation system? Let’s not just wait and see, let’s make it happen.


18
Sep 2010
by larry

The Way Highways Should Be

I found paradise. I am on my way to Washington DC by bike, and I chose a route that passes through the Pine Creek Rail Trail in Pennsylvania. This trail is awesome. Sure the scenery is nice and the weather is nice, but what really struck me is that this trail is The Way Highways Should Be. My fellow travelers were pedestrians, bicyclists, and horseback riders. We greeted each other as we passed. The pace was slow. The mood was happy. Old folks tottered along on their bikes and and in their electric wheel chairs. Lycra-clad young guys zipped by on their road bikes. Little kids played in the dirt in the middle of the path. Residents waved from their porches. It was humanity at its finest. It was idyllic. And it was my highway.

Anyone who is willing to give up a vehicle that is wide, fast, and heavy can have this too. What does a vehicle’s width have to do with it? There are many hidden consequences when a cultures embraces wide vehicles. Traffic jams, parking structures, massive concrete structures dotting the landscape. Heavy vehicles also lead to an imposing and expensive infrastructure that could easily be replaced by lighter vehicles on crushed gravel paths. Fast vehicles make it necessary to have a bewildering amount of traffic control–stoplights and signage. And high speeds make it difficult to greet the people you pass.

The Pine Creek Trail epitomizes the humanity in transportation that we as a culture have given up. Can we get it back again? I am hopeful. Over half of my 470-mile route to Washington D.C. will be on bike trails: 65 miles on the Pine Creek Trail, 16 miles on Pennsylvania’s Lower Trail, 180 miles on the C&O Canal Towpath, and lastly a few miles on the Crescent Trail that circumnavigates Washington DC. That’s 265 miles of trail! I look forward to the day I can do the entire trip on humane highways of crushed gravel.