Electric Bikes


5
Mar 2012
by mark

Hauling couches by bike

Couches are fun to haul by bike.

couch by bike.

Workcycles bakfiets, pictured above, is not particularly well-suited for the task, as the couch is much too large to fix in the box. That didn’t stop it from being fun to make it work, anyway.

The best choice for hauling couches to use a Bikes-at-Work
trailer, as seen in the photos below.

Couch hunting: riverside break

Couch weight varies greatly. The one above had lots of metal guts to allow the seats to recline, plus it was water-logged for being outside. Simple couch designs can be relatively light, with a lot of the volume being in cushions.

new bikes-at-work trailer

I try to keep my total cargo weight not much above 200, so that the handling remains safe. It will be tempting to give friends rides on couches that you might be carrying, but this most likely quickly put you over that weight limit. That’s why the experience above didn’t last much longer than it took to take the photo. On some cargo hauling trips, I have carried a bathroom scale with me to check how much things weigh, to avoid exceeding safe limits. With practice I could get a sense of how cargo weights were adding up as the trailer was being loaded.

The lowest-effort arrangement for hauling couches by bike is to pair the Bikes-at-Work
trailer with electric assist. With that arrangement, I’ve been able to haul couch and loveseat pairs
without strain.

another alley couch and loveseat liberated.

Hauling a couch and loveseat to the dump..


3
Mar 2012
by mark

Electric Yuba Mundo as school bus

Here’s a great little video about one dad who uses an electric Yuba Mundo as a “school bus” to take his two kids to school:

I’ve used my own electric Yuba Mundo to take two children to school before as well:

Missed the bus.

More about that experience is my previous posted called Missed the Bus.


1
Mar 2012
by mark

Big Dummy vs Yuba Mundo vs Bakfiets

Cargo bikes are increasingly viable as car-replacement vehicles, but there are some significant differences between the options to choose from. The Surly Big Dummy is lighter, while Workcycle’s bakfiets puts kids front and center with a large box for cargo up front. Yuba’s elMundo is one way to add electric assist to the equation.

I have not had my own car for a decade. Instead my family replaces a second car with a number of bikes and other gear. Our bikes include WorkCycles bakfiets, an electric Yuba Mundo and a Surly Big Dummy. Here’s how they compare with each other based on our experiece riding each as part of our regular routines.

The basic details about each are readily available online, and won’t be repeated here, although the photos below will give you a sense of each.

Bakfiets

100 mile radius potluck at the park

Electric Yuba Mundo

Electric Yuba Mundo with Bikes-at-Work trailer

Big Dummy

First ride with my new custom Big Dummy. More to come...

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9
Dec 2011
by larry

Currently in the Clarkberg Bike Stable

Here’s a little photo essay about my family’s bicycles. I’m proud to say that we use our bikes a lot. Each bike is tailored to its user: I drive a cargo bike capable of carrying passengers and cargo long distances; my wife drives a slower and lighter but more stylish bike; my 11-year-old daughter Thea and her friend JJ drive bikes tailored to their 2-mile drive to school. (My son Jasper, aged 15, resists having a bike. He pretty much walks wherever he needs to go.) Ithaca is hilly, so it’s important for a utility bike to have an electric motor. I’ve spent a lot of time over the last couple of years  experimenting with electric bike motors and other accessories. Maybe you can benefit from my discoveries.

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4
Oct 2011
by larry

Aqua-Xtracycle, the Amphibious Bicycle

boating mode: the boat carries the bike

boating mode: the boat carries the bike

biking mode: the bike carries the boat

biking mode: the bike carries the boat

The Aqua-Xtracycle is a do-it-yourself amphibious electric cargo bike. This video shows how it works, and the photo gallery below shows a bit of our development process. In a future post I’ll describe how you can make your own Aqua-Xtracycle.

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14
Sep 2011
by don

Electric cargo bike, made in China

If you have been following my blog about electric cargo bikes for a while, you know that I often make predictions about where the market for these bikes will go.  Over time, many of my predictions have come to pass, but usually later or on a smaller scale than I had anticipated.  For example, I wrote this almost a year ago:

I know what cargo biking will look like when it enters the mainstream, and I bet you do, too.  We’ll see stores like Wal-Mart and Costco selling electric cargo bikes for about half the price of today’s models.  They will be made in China, and probably designed there as well.  When that day comes, I won’t know whether to cheer or cry…

That was one of my most audacious predictions, and one that I didn’t expect to happen any time soon.  But let’s check where we are one year later.  Available at Wal-Mart?  Yes, but not electric cargo bikes, just electric bikes in their traditional form, priced between $400 and $800.  Still, an electric bike for $400?  That’s just unbelievable.  Or maybe crazy – the bike has mixed reviews from customers on Amazon.

ODK Utility Bicycle

But as far as I can tell it’s not manufactured in China, and surely not designed there, so that part of my vision hasn’t arrived yet.

Or has it?

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19
Aug 2011
by larry

My DIY SLA Trip Batteries

Test drive to Sheldrake Point

Test drive to Sheldrake Point

Caution: shop talk blog post intended for do-it-yourselfers. For my recent 240-mile journey I created what I call my “trip batteries”—batteries that I can attach to my bike to augment my regular batteries, but that I don’t intend to carry around on a daily basis. As such, the main design criteria for these batteries is that they be inexpensive. I don’t want to pay the big bucks for a battery that I only use once in a while. The obvious choice is SLA (sealed lead acid) batteries. These are the same kind of batteries used in cars, and the technology is almost 100 years old. E-bikers out there may poo-poo this choice of battery. After all, compared to my lithium batteries, my SLA batteries are heavy (20lbs vs. the lithium’s 15lbs), not quite as powerful (600wh vs. the lithium’s 720wh), don’t last as long (300 charge cycles vs. the lithium’s 1,500) and they are dumb (that is, they don’t have a battery management circuit board in them to prevent human error from damaging them, although most controllers provide the necessary protections). But they are cheap. I can put together a 10ah 36v battery for about $120 versus a 10ah 36v battery for $600.

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28
Jul 2011
by larry

Long Distance Trip on My Ebike Workhorse

A couple of weeks ago I set out on a 240-mile journey from my home in Ithaca NY to the New York Yearly Meeting (a Quaker gathering) in Silver Bay. Silver Bay is a resort on Lake George in the scenic Adirondacks. My vehicle of choice: a Surly Big Dummy cargo bike equipped with a Stokemonkey electric motor. I had made this journey last year covering the distance in three days. This year I planned to tackle the distance in two days, going 120 miles each day.

Last year my strategy was to charge my batteries en route using three solar panels supported over the rear of my bike. The solar panels were helpful, but couldn’t generate as much electricity as I needed. This year I upgraded my bike to use two 36-volt LiFePo4 batteries in series (for 720 watt-hours), and for this trip I carried an additional pair of 36-volt SLA batteries (for an additional 600 watt-hours). All of these batteries together weigh about 70 pounds.

I purposefully limited the amount of power my bike could draw from the batteries. My 72-volt system can easily push my bike over 20 mph, but at that speed my distance would be limited to about 60 miles. However, if I kept my speed between 10 and 15 mph I could get a full 120 miles out of my batteries, though I would have to be in the saddle 12 hours.

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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?

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3
Apr 2011
by larry

Name Our Ebike Club

Could this be our new logo? Have a better idea? Let us know.

I’m planning to start an electric bike club with some friends in Ithaca and we don’t yet have a name. Can you help us think of one? Finding a name is an important first step for any organization. It will force us to think about the goals of our group. This grueling process may release our hidden differences, but the fires of our disagreement will forge in us a new a sense of unity! Right. We invite you to participate.

Ithaca is especially suitable for ebikes. The largest part of our community is students. A very visible part of our community is environmentalists. Both of these groups would benefit from biking: students need an inexpensive mode of transportation and environmentalists want transportation that better fits with their values. But both groups are held back by (among other things) the incredibly hilly terrain here. An ebike erases that impediment. For a variety of reasons the bike stores here are unable to step up to the plate to promote ebikes. That’s where a club comes in. Our club is all ready to go except for one thing: we lack a name. Here’s some thoughts that may guide your club naming.

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