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.
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 The Loneliness of the Long Distance Biker Part 2: The Trip
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 The Loneliness of the Long Distance Biker Part 1: The Context
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.
Every week during the summer I have to bike about 12 miles round-trip to pick up my farmshare vegetables. My route consists of three miles on a beautiful rails-to-trails path through the woods, three miles straight uphill to the farm, and then six miles home straight down Troy Road at speeds that can reach 30mph. Needless to say, I usually take my cargo bike for this task. Last week, however, I decided to Continue reading Minimalist Cargo Biking
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.
I had 100 miles to cover. I filled my water bottles, charged my batteries, applied sunscreen, and took off.
I used my motor sparingly in order to make it the whole way. I started out with 720 Wh from my two batteries. The panels gave me another 100. And I was able to freeload another 100 from the cafe where I had lunch. People look at you funny when you ask to use their outlet to charge a massive 12-pound battery, but so far no one has refused.
As I neared my destination the sky darkened and rumbled. A shadow passed over me and I felt as if a giant foot was about to step on me. The sky opened and out poured its contents. In this situation I usually just put on my swimsuit and keep biking. But a man beckoned me over to his porch. We sat drinking beers and watching the lightning crackle and boom like a fireworks show.
I finally reached my destination. My family and friends welcomed me. I was tired but happy. And I had proven to myself that long distance travel by electric cargo bike is possible and even enjoyable. Not necessarily enjoyable in the sense of comfortable, but enjoyable in the sense of meeting people and experiencing nature firsthand rather than from behind a window.
And I showed myself that solar power can have a valid supporting role in my suchlike travels. I think the ease with which an electric cargo bike can be made solar makes it a good starting point for future experiments.
So I had this crazy idea to take a heavy, hundred pound bike on a 5 day, 220 mile bike trip through the rolling hills of Southeastern Indiana. To make the trip more interesting, my 18-month old, 30-pound daughter would ride in the bike I peddled, with my wife and retired father riding their own bikes along side us. My friend Kurt would also join us on a homemade recumbent bike he finished welding the night before departure.
We rode from Richmond, Indiana to Clifty Falls State Park over two days, camped and rested for a day, and rode back. Rather than journaling a day-by-day account of the trip, I’ve gathered some reflections on different aspects of the trip.
This week I lowered the gear on my bakfiets to prepare it for use on longer trips with steeper hills and bigger loads. It was shipped to me with a 17 tooth (17t) rear cog. Lowering the gear range involved purchasing and installing a 20t rear cog.
I found the 20 tooth cog online through Niagara Cycles, referred to as the “Shimano Nexus 20 tooth cog”. The product doesn’t seem to be listed on the site now. Perhaps it is temporarily out of stock. The part was about $6 plus shipping. My local bike shop charged me about $25 to install it for me, which seems like a good deal.
I was quite concerned that I wouldn’t like the change, that it would be too drastic. I had read online that people made this modification for “hilly areas”, almost as if there would be no good gears to use on level ground. My experience has been the change is no compromise at all. In fact, I think it would be sensible to sell them like this in the first place. On flat ground, I am more likely to be able to use the most efficient direct-drive gear. Before, the direct drive gear was set to high for my common use. The lower gearing is welcome on hills, allowing me to spin at a higher cadence. I doubt I’ll miss the lack of gears at the top end of the range. I rarely used them. As a cargo and kid bike, getting up to 20 mph sometimes is plenty, and the adjusted gearing still allows me to do that.
While I’ve only had a few days to test the new gearing, it already seems like a clear upgrade from the 17 tooth cog the bike shipped with. Already this spring I’ve made a successful 20 mile trip with my 13 month old daughter, and she seems to love bike rides, even as long as that two hour trip. This summer I hope to try full day tours, with 50 or 60 mile distances. At this point, my primary concern is working out a shade solution for her.