Solar Xpedition Day 3

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.


bicyclist’s view of wildlife


Silver Bay

Reflections on box bike touring

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.

Continue reading Reflections on box bike touring

bakfiets touring step 1: lower gears

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.

A bike tour from Richmond, Indiana to the Ohio River

Kurt on Old Brownsville Road

I recently returned with some friends and family from an unconventional vacation: riding bikes 110 miles over two days to Clifty Falls State Park, where we hiked and rested for a day…then rode back over two more days. Along with Kurt, Derrek, Hopi and Don we put together a bicycle tour journal with photos and stories featuring a home-built recumbent bike, wild parsnips, “road closed” adventures and more.

Bike tour from Richmond, Indiana to Clifty Falls, 2008

Kurt on Old Brownsville Road

A first bicycle tour post-child. My wife assured me that bringing a three-month old baby on a bike tour would work out fine. For me, taking the trip was important for establishing that life does go on after children arrive.

See the complete tour journal of our  bicycle tour from Richmond, Indiana to Clifty Falls State Park and back.

Bike Tour: Two Bags to the Farm, May ’07

bicycling in Kentucky, two perspectives

This was my first week-long self-designed tour. In the past I had added my own extensions to Cover Indiana and GABRAKY. Unfortunately, on both of these organized rides, I experienced some knee problems, and the fixed distances and schedules left me feeling locked into the event schedule.

By organizing my own trip, I had the flexibility to redesign the trip on the fly and use a more personally meaningful route– riding from my home to visit family and friends in central Kentucky, about 150 miles away.

See the complete tour journal.

Bike Tour: Cover Indiana ’06

I banked my bicycle towards the sign labeled “International Circus
Hall of Fame”. On the outskirts of Peru, Indiana Hopi and I pedaled
down the rural road looking for something that would live up to the
name on the sign.

I thought we were close when we passed what appeared to be flying
trapeze rigging sitting in a field in front of two large barns. Still,
nothing looked active or open.

I paused in front of a plain trailer with a small window labeled
“TICKETS” on one end. As a dog barked nearby, I was working up the
courage to knock on the door of what increasingly appeared might be the
wrong building.

Read the complete tour journal.

Bike Tour: Richmond, IN to the Tennessee Border ’05

Need a Ride?

By the 40-mile morning rest stop in Willisburg, I was about ready to give up again, and my bike was making a strange creaking noise at times. Scott, our ever-present mechanic from Pedal Power was there to help. Meanwhile, I snacked on Clif Bars and Advil and rested.

A small screw on my brakes was stripped he said, and he didn’t have the part to replace it with him. This was necessary to hold my back break on.

I ate a banana, drank some water, and let him tinker some more, half hoping a mechanical failure would be my excuse for not completing the day. Already, all but the slowest two riders had come and gone from the rest stop.

But dropping out was not my fate. A few minutes later Scott had jammed a wire cap perfectly into the stripped hole, and promised a full brake kit replacement that evening. He just happened to have parts for the exact model in stock.

So I was back on the road again now with no riders in sight ahead or behind me. At least one hill was too much for my knee before I got to the lunch stop. I got off and walked the bike up it.

Read the complete tour journal.

Notes from my first bicycle camping trip

Early May, 2005

Need a Ride?
I got several positive looks and comments as I pulled my full loaded recumbent bicycle out of town. With the trailer and bright yellow pannier covers, it was hard to miss.

“What did you pay for that?”
“What IS that?”
“NICE BIKE!”

Along the route, I got the opportunity to try out a loose dog defense technique I’d read about. I squirted the barking booger in the face with my water bottle when he got close enough. The dog did in fact stop immediately, as confused as anything else.

Continue reading Notes from my first bicycle camping trip

Mounting a third water bottle cage on a Rans V-Rex recumbent

I wanted to follow the pattern of Rans V-Rex Commuting Weapon by adding an additional water bottle mount to carry a light system battery.

That’s what the picture above is. There’s also a large version. Here are some notes on how this was created.

Continue reading Mounting a third water bottle cage on a Rans V-Rex recumbent