The perfect bike

After months of grey skies, the sun has finally returned to Seattle.  If biking in damp weather is fun, biking on a clear spring day is nothing short of euphoric. Our area is blessed with snow-capped mountains, lakes, abundant greenery, and flowers.    It is so much easier to appreciate this on a bike, I am again pondering what it would take to get more of my neighbors on bicycles.

As I see it, there are three parts to the equation:  better hardware, better infrastructure, and a shift of expectations that allows people to consider alternatives to the car.  Given some months of experience with this bike, I’m ready to start imagining what improvements to bike hardware could expand the biking experience to more people.

Average the effort

To my mind, there should be a nice middle ground between a manual bike, where all of the energy comes from your muscles, and a moped, where none of the energy does.  It would be cool to pedal at a constant, comfortable rate no matter what the terrain.  When you’re going uphill, you would be taking energy out of the battery, and when you’re going downhill (or flat at less than maximum speed), you would be putting energy in.

On my bike, I still crank the pedals pretty hard going up the hill, even though it’s nothing compared to when I turn the electric motor off.  Then I coast down the hill, recovering a little energy due to regenerative braking, but I could do more if I were actually pedaling.  I don’t pedal because the hill is too steep: I would start going uncomfortably fast.

More power

I can ride up our hill at about 10 miles per hour unloaded, or about 5 miles per hour with a passenger.  However, I wouldn’t mind going a little faster and putting in somewhat less effort.  Perhaps the BionX motor isn’t the ideal choice for this hill, but I love its quiet operation.  It emits a very low hum under the largest loads, but it’s not a sound most passersby would notice.

Reduce maintenance

Although our cars need occasional maintenance, it’s amazing how reliable they are.  The weak part of my bike seems to be the gears: I’m still missing a few that I could probably recover by doing some adjustments to the derailleur.  It’s kind of a pain to do it myself, and I don’t want to take it to a bike shop, so I just live with it.  But I really wish I didn’t have to deal with gears at all — I want an automatic transmission like my car.  I want to pedal at that nice comfortable rate and have my bike figure out how to apply that energy to the task of moving me and my stuff forward.

The perfect hill-climbing bike

The perfect bike for our hills would feed energy from my pedals into a continuously-variable transmission, combine it with energy from the electric motor, and scoot me forward at 20 miles per hour regardless of the pitch of the hill.  However, that transmission sounds complicated and expensive, and possibly not reliable.  Instead, maybe I should have a powerful motor driving the bike by itself, and my legs just turn a generator that adds charge to the battery.  I know that won’t be ideally efficient: converting mechanical energy to electricity and then back to mechanical energy will come with a significant tax.  More electricity will be needed from the plug to compensate.  However, I’m already accustomed to recharging my battery in order to go anywhere, so I don’t think this is a showstopper.  Then my friends can put in whatever effort they want.  If it’s a hot day and they don’t want to sweat, they could ride the bike like a moped without putting in any effort at all.  Such a bike would work for people of all fitness levels.

But I like the idea of pedaling not only to contribute some of my own energy to the task (thus improving fitness), but it’s also a nice control system.  Pedal faster to accelerate, slow down to go slower.  That seems more natural than twisting a handle bar grip like a motorcycle.

Keep dreaming…

I would like to experiment with the bike I’ve described, but the first challenge is finding a pedal-powered generator suitable for mounting on a bike frame.  It’s hard to find a manufacturer with a product like this, because generating power with leg muscles is a pretty discouraging experience.  First you need a heavy flywheel to smooth out the effort.  Even then, most people who try it find that it takes a huge effort to generate a few cents worth of electricity.  This mirrors my experience.  The three cents that I spend to fill up my bike’s battery delivers a huge amount of power to my bike’s wheel compared to what I can do with my legs.  

If any of my readers knows of a leg-powered generator that might work (smooth operation but not too heavy), let me know:  don “at” mycargobike.net

What do you think?  Is there something I’ve overlooked, or do you have different ideas about how a powered bike should work?  I would love to hear them!

Cargo bike economics, part 2

In my last post, I wrote about a few of the implications of riding my electric cargo bike from a financial and social point of view.  Today I’ll tackle another topic that I’ve been pondering: how much extra time do my cargo bike errands cost?

My first errand under the stopwatch was picking my kids up after school.  As sometimes happens, I was late leaving our house, so I had to literally sprint the half mile up the hill to the school.  When I pulled into the parking lot, I was surprised to see that I had done it in 2 minutes!  Sure, I had cranked those pedals pretty hard, but you can keep up a pretty good effort for an interval that short.  While it’s true that I could get there a little faster in a car (possibly even a minute faster), I would spend much longer waiting to get through the traffic jam in the parking lot, so the bike wins this contest easily.

For my next errand, I needed to pick up a few items for dinner from the closest grocery store.  The route winds through neighborhood streets for 1.7 miles, descending about 500 feet.  The bicycle route tool in Google Maps says it should take about 8 minutes; it actually took me 9 (I got stuck at a red light for a long time).  I spent 11 minutes finding my groceries in the store, and then I pedaled back up the hill in 9 minutes (no significant traffic light delays in this direction).  So, my total errand time was 29 minutes.

To compare, I jumped in our mini-van as soon as I got home so I could measure the same errand in the car with the same traffic conditions.  I got to the store in 6.5 minutes, and the return trip took 7.5 minutes.  The total errand time would have been 25 minutes.

Although the car would have saved me 4 minutes, this was really a best-case scenario for the car.  There was very little traffic at this time of day, and there were plenty of parking spots.  Many times I spend several minutes looking for a place to park.

To be fair, there are many errands in the 5 or 10 mile range where the car is much more efficient time-wise, especially if the route uses a freeway outside of rush hour.  If you’re thinking about buying a cargo bike, you will have to determine whether the kinds of errands you do make this feasible for you.

The terrain is also a factor.  Google estimates that my return trip from the grocery store should have taken more than twice the time it did.  Without the electric motor, the time and effort would force me back into the mini-van on many days.  I really can’t imagine using this bike without some kind of assistance on these hills.

Video of Rans Hammer Truck electric cargo bike

If a picture is worth a thousand words, I’m guessing a video is worth at least a hundred pictures.  I’ve been wanting to make a video showing the bike in action for months.  Now that I have, it won’t win any awards, but hopefully it will give you an idea of how the bike works and how it sounds (silent motor, squeaky brakes!)

Cranking into spring

Spring weather has arrived here in Seattle, and it looks remarkably like winter.  That’s because, unlike the rest of the country, Seattle had no measurable snowfall this winter.  If you saw how pathetic the snow coverage was for the Vancouver Olympics, you’ve got a good idea how we fared 120 miles south of Vancouver.  Although I missed the snow, I must say that biking was pretty easy without having to worry about snow and ice on the road.  Although there were a few very wet days when I resorted to our mini-van, I was able to ride quite comfortably all winter long.

So now I’ve been at this for almost 6 months.  In that time, I’ve ridden about 400 miles, which is a pretty pathetic distance for nearly half a year.  But those were 400 hard miles, all up and down steep grades, hauling groceries and kids most of the time.  Most of my trips are to school and back: barely a mile round trip, but 500 feet of elevation gain and a matching descent.

I’ve had very few difficulties with the bike.  Even with the wet weather, I haven’t had to oil the chain or perform any other maintenance.  At this point, the derailleur is skipping a few gears, but I haven’t gotten motivated to adjust it, because with the electric motor, I don’t need that many gears anyway.  I really use only about 5 of the 24 gears I’ve got.  That’s pretty amazing considering these hills and these loads.

Even more amazing to me is how safe I’ve felt on the road.  Many bikers have complained about inattentive or even malicious drivers in our area.  Fortunately, this has not been an issue for me yet.  I think it’s partly because my cargo bike looks so unusual, it draws the attention of drivers who might not notice a more traditional bike.  But I think the motor helps too.  I can ride fast enough to blend with traffic better than most bicyclists can.  For example, I have to make a left-hand turn on a steep hill with a stop sign at the top.  If I did that on a normal bike, it would be torture for any cars behind me.  But with the motor assist, I can scoot over to the turn lane and keep up a pace of 10-15 miles per hour.  At that particular intersection, cars aren’t going much faster than that, so it’s not a big interruption for them.

I’ve had many discussions with people who are interested in the bike.  Most are surprised when I tell them it has a motor.  Since there is no noise, no exhaust, and the battery and motor are not visible, they just think I’m in great shape when they see me sailing by!

My next project is to make some objective measurements of the bike vs. the mini-van.  How much longer does it take to get groceries, to pick up the kids at school, and to go to the health club?  I’m getting a lot of other benefits from riding — how much time is that costing?  I have some rough guesses, but now I need to get scientific about this.  Stay tuned!

Long Trip to Corner Country

This morning I took a long ride out into the country for the express purpose of finding out how far I could go before my battery gave out. And the answer is: it depends on which way the wind is blowing. I headed towards Ovid, which is 26 miles from my hometown of Ithaca. My strategy was to bring two batteries, and to head back when the first battery ran out. I found I could easily maintain 20 mph. I got to Perry City Road (9 miles) in half an hour. I made it to Trumansburg (12 miles) in 45 minutes. And Interlaken passed under my wheels in an hour. I made it to Ovid in an hour and a half. This very much exceeded my expectations and I was in high spirits until I happened to glance at a flag and saw that I had had a significant tailwind. Getting back home was a struggle. The first battery gave out after 30 miles. The second battery started to go after heading into the wind for only 15 miles. I managed to make the last few scraps of electricity last another 10 miles. The theoretical power limit of my battery is 360 watt-hours. When I finally made it home the battery had given me 385 watt-hours.

The landscape beyond Ithaca is pretty bleak. Those of us who grew up in big cities tend to equate poverty with the inner-city and wealth with the country. This however is poor country. The small towns encircling Ithaca look like they were once thriving little spots. What happened to them? Here I must (predictably I’m afraid) blame the automobile. What were things like here before cars? Here’s a possible clue: the roads in this area form a very precise grid with each cell one mile to a side. Towns sprang up at the crossroads: Hayt Corners, Marsh Corner, Applegate Corner, Whipple Corner, Bostwick Corner, Trumbull Corners and even Cat Elbow Corner. Why did they choose a mile? My theory is that this was a convenient distance for people to walk. Once people could drive, however, they skipped over these small towns to go experience the big-time entertainment in Ithaca. Maybe when the automobile infrastructure topples we’ll see these small towns in corner country come back to life.

(A friend has since told me that the spacing of the roads has to do with the size of the Revolutionary War Bounty Land Grants given to veterans here.)

Making Winter Biking More Comfortable with Electric Gloves

electrically heated gloves

Winter biking can be excruciatingly uncomfortable in Ithaca. (It can also be dangerous—see Making Winter Biking Safer.) This winter I developed two bike accessories to combat the cold: electric bike gloves and a bike canopy (which is still in development).

If I bike an errand longer than a few miles and the temperature is in the teens, my fingers and toes tend to go numb. Numb is okay until I stop and warm up; I then become doubled over in pain as my extremities thaw. I’ve tried all kinds of gloves to no avail. And I discovered that if I wore several gloves at a time my fingers still got cold because their circulation was lessened. Finally I hit upon the idea of using electric socks and glove liners. Personal electric power is just one of the many design opportunities presented by electric bikes that have yet to be explored (while the transportation industry wastes their time with stupid technologies like hybrid cars and hydrogen power). The electric socks and glove liners I bought (from Brookstone) were powered by a total of 12 AA non-rechargeable batteries that you had to strap to your limbs (three batteries for each limb). I realized that with a little inventiveness I could power them all with the bike battery instead.

Using the bike battery required figuring out how to get the electricity from the battery to my extremities. First I lined my coat and some snow pants with wiring using safety pins, and then I added Anderson connectors and a central connection block. Anderson connectors are a wonderful kind of connector for inventing things. You can just crimp the wires on and then snap together as many connectors as you need.

I also needed some way to step down the voltage from the battery’s 36 volts to the electric clothing’s 4.5 volts. I found that ebikes.ca sells such a converter especially made for electric bikes. (These are the same folks that made my front and rear LED flashers.) A word of caution: I learned from experience that if you plug the converter in backwards sparks will shoot out of it. However, it still works! I marked all my 6-volt connections with purple tape.

Finally I wanted an easy way to connect my clothing to the battery as I got on and off the bike. I expected that some sort of slick magnetic breakaway connectors like the ones Macintosh computers have would be available. There was nothing. Two possibilities—the Belkin BreakFree or Replay breakaway headphone adapter advertised in 2007 and 2008—are nowhere to be found. I suspect that Apple has a patent on magnetic breakaway connectors that is preventing others from selling them. So I ended up just using my Anderson connectors.

The results: after some trial and error it worked. One problem was that the wires I used were old and they broke a few times. (Once my left foot suddenly grew uncomfortably warm while my hands suddenly became cold.) Also I was nervous that I might damage my expensive LiPoFe4 battery. It is true that LiPo batteries can be damaged by either too much charging voltage or dropping too low in voltage. However, most of them also have very sophisticated battery management systems built in to prevent this. Finally it was too inconvenient to attach and detach the wires all the time so I started using an old NiCd battery instead.

Next year maybe I’ll explore some alternatives such as handlebar muffs or windscreens or heated handlebars grips. I wonder if it’s possible to find flat wiring that you can sew into a garment. And here’s another design opportunity: one problem with biking in winter is that you are too hot on the uphills and too cold on the downhills. With electric garments you can control the heat. One way to do it is that you could have a clutch to spin the motor on downhills and switch on the garment connection. Or you could use the computer to sense your speed and switch on the garment connection when you are going over say 15mph. I’ll keep you posted.

Making Winter Biking Safer

After my bad fall last December I’ve been thinking a lot about how to make winter riding safer. The first step was to install studded snow tires for both wheels. My fall was caused by only having a snow tire on the back wheel; my front wheel slid out from under me when I was going downhill at 20mph with my daughter on the back of the bike (she was unhurt). There is no good reason not to wear snow tires during winter. My tires of choice are the Schwalbe Marathon Winters, which are designed for icy pavement rather than deep snow.

Another safety factor is simply learning to recognize danger. Some conditions are more dangerous than others. Just before my fall last December I had ridden five miles without incident. It was only when I turned onto a new road that things became dangerous. The new road was recently plowed and the shoulder had a thin layer of innocent-looking slush. Unbeknownst to me the slush hid a layer of ice that was my undoing. I’ve since learned to recognize this “killer slush” and avoid it.

Another danger to watch out for is of course the legendary “black ice” (see photo above) which is caused by melting snow forming puddles which then turn into patches of ice in unexpected places. Now when I ride in the winter I periodically set my foot down to test the slipperyness of the road. If it’s too slippery I either walk my bike or resort to “outrigger mode” (described in the last paragraph).

After my fall I imagined all sorts of technological fixes that would enable bikes to handle snow and ice better (see some of my sketches below, and see http://www.ktrakcycle.com/ for a seemingly successful commercial product). Could bikes have anti-lock brakes? Apparently motorcycles do, and electric bikes already have the electricity and the computing power that is required. Could bikes have roll bars? How about caterpillar treads?

I also wondered whether a trike would be less likely to flop over when it encountered ice. I made a lot of sketches of trikes, and contemplated Xtracycle to trike conversions. I imagined  outrigger wheels that could perhaps fit into the Xtracycle H-rack mounts and prevent a bike from falling over, kind of like giant training wheels for adults. However, someone I know who rides a trike says that in the same situation as my fall a trike would probably flip over rather than lay onto its side. I scuttled my plans for constructing outriggers until I was riding with my son Jasper last week in packed-snow conditions. The going was so difficult that he simply stuck out his legs, planted his feet on the road and let the motor move him along. It struck me that here are the outriggers I was looking for—our legs! They were right here all along at the end of our torsos. So for riding on packed snow I recommend lowering your seat, taking off your toe clips, letting some air out of your tires, taking your feet off the pedals, and taking off. This style of riding wouldn’t have been possible without the advent of electric motors for bikes. Now how about roller-shoes for pavement or ski-shoes for deep snow?

That’s a cool bike but is it practical?

What do people think when they see me biking around town? When they see me on my electric cargo bike, panniers full of groceries and Thea riding on top? I imagine they are thinking “That’s a cool bike but is it practical?” This is the very question I’m trying to answer with “my experiments with transportation” (which is my new tag line by the way—how do you like it?) So what makes a vehicle practical? Safety, cost, comfort, carrying capacity, and range come to mind. My preliminary results are in: an electric cargo bike is much more practical than people think in a number of ways:

  • People tend to overestimate how dangerous biking is. Over time you develop safer and safer routes to your destinations. You learn how to avoid dangerous intersections and you discover scenic back routes. So get over your fears and get on your bike—studies show that the more bikes there are on the road, the safer the roads become for everyone.
  • People tend to think biking isn’t practical for the very old or even the very female. The elderly are actually leading the way in the use of electric vehicles. There are whole retirement communities exclusively for the use of under-20mph electric vehicles. And the cultural bias against women biking is an American phenomena: in Europe the percentage of women biking matches men.
  • People underestimate how much a bike can carry. I remember the moment in my undergraduate physics class when my professor told us that a frictionless cart rolling on a level road uses no energy, no matter how much weight it’s carrying. This is almost true of a bike. The only limit is the strength of the bike frame. There have been improvements in chromoly steel such that my forty-pound bike can easily carry over 400 pounds. (For some extreme examples of carrying capacity see these photos of Cambodians carrying an outrageous amount of stuff on their motorcycles.) “What about hills?” you say. Read on.
  • People overestimate how hard it is to bike up hills and how sweaty they will be when they get to work. This is a big issue for many people, but they probably haven’t heard the good news about two key developments in the past decade. Now that we have relatively light-weight brushless electric motors and lightweight but powerful LiFePo batteries, people no longer have the “sweaty” excuse. An electric motor assisted bike lets you get as sweaty or remain as dry as you want to be.
  • People underestimate how far a bike can go. Again an electric motor makes it possible to run several 10-mile errands in a day. You’ve probably heard statistics like this: “Americans use their cars for two-thirds of all trips that are less than 1 mile.” Is that practical? Is it practical to hammer a nail with a sledge hammer?
  • People tend to underestimate how fast it is to run errands with a bike. Of course a bike can’t go as fast as a car on the highway. But in stop-and-go city driving I find I am not too far behind my compatriots in cars. And motorists neglect to factor in how much time they spend waiting in traffic, parking and walking from the parking lot.
  • However, people are currently realistic that rain and snow and cold can make biking very uncomfortable. I am confident we can develop a technological fix for this problem.

In this analysis we have to ask the converse question: how practical is the auto-centric transportation system that we have?

  • How practical is a vehicle that costs 50% of the average family’s income (and goes fast enough to be totaled by a wayward deer?)
  • How practical is a vehicle that is so dangerous an average of 114 people die each day in car crashes in the U.S.?  It’s appalling to me that otherwise good people think nothing of stepping into a vehicle that has such possibility of killing or injuring someone else.
  • How practical is a transportation system that limits our bodies’ mobility so much that it leads to unprecedented obesity?
  • I won’t even get into the bigger question of “Is a transportation system practical if it destroys the planet it’s on?”

It perplexes me that bikes with both an electric motor and cargo capacity are not on people’s radar yet. There was a great piece on NPR about cargo bikes. And there was recently an informative article in the New York times about electric bikes. But the mainstream hasn’t seemed to put those two together. Even the cargo bike people and the electric bike people do not seem to have met each other yet (with the Clever Cycles Stoke Monkey being the exception). I am looking forward to an explosion of interest when people discover how practical electric cargo bikes are.

Don’s New Year status report (2010)

It has been a couple of months and a couple hundred miles since my last post.  I really intended to update my blog more often than this, but it’s more fun to ride my bike (even when the errands are rather mundane) than to sit in front of my computer.  However, there have been many ups and a few downs since November, so I will try to catch my blog up.

The Hammer Truck continues to be a great bike for us, and I owe you another post or two to describe some of its features.  But it’s really the electric motor that makes the whole thing practical and fun in our abundantly hilly neighborhood.  On the flip side, the electric motor has also been the source of a few challenges.

Specs

Our motor is the BionX PL-350, with a retail price close to $2000.  I haven’t done a thorough comparison of different motors, but this one seems like it’s optimized for biking enthusiasts.  It’s relatively lightweight, very quiet, and supposedly maintenance-free.  But the features that really set it apart are torque sensor activation and regenerative braking.

Torque activation feels really cool when it is working the way you want.  The system senses the amount of torque you are applying to your pedals, and it kicks in additional power from 35% to 300% of your torque.  You determine how much assistance you want by selecting one of four assistance modes on the handlebar controller.

Regenerative braking allows you to reduce your speed and put some charge back in your battery while extending the life of your brake pads.  There are 4 generation modes that increase the drag on your back wheel and put increasing amounts of electricity back in your battery.  There’s also an option to activate the highest generation mode when you start to apply your rear brake.  I really like that feature.

Pros and cons of electric assistance

During the first week or two, I rarely used anything but the maximum assistance mode (level 4, 300%).  It’s frankly thrilling to blast up pretty steep hills at 10 m.p.h., to sprint away from stoplights as fast as most cars (at least until they shift!), and to haul kids around with less effort than going solo on my traditional bike.

With more experience, however, my strategy has become a bit more nuanced.  Assistance level 1 (35% additional torque) makes the unloaded Hammer Truck feel like an average weight bike.  It’s great for level ground or a light head wind.  Levels 2 and 3 are good for moderate hills when I don’t feel the need for speed.

For a while, I was fiddling with the regenerative levels a lot.  I would sometimes put it in a high regenerative mode and pedal downhill, reversing the direction of my battery meter by a click or two.  However, one day when I was doing that, the rear wheel suddenly locked up.  After some investigation, we found that I had shorn off the axle nut of the rear wheel.  After that, I’ve been quite cautious about pushing the limits of this bike/motor combination.  Since the motor wasn’t especially designed with a loaded cargo bike in mind, and since the bike wasn’t really designed to be motorized, and since our hill probably puts us in the 90th percentile of steep neighborhoods, I’m feeling that extra caution is probably the best course for now.

Bionic legs

When you match the power mode to your legs and an appropriate gear on your chain-ring, the reward is great.  With each stroke, you feel a surge of power, as if Lance Armstrong’s legs have been grafted onto your body.  In power mode 4, you might be even better than Lance!  It’s a beautiful marriage of man and machine – the kind of thrill you had the first time you rode your bike faster than you could run.

However, this is a great solution only for someone who likes to bike already.  It’s not a moped!  It works best when you’re putting in some effort yourself, not just coasting along and letting the motor do the work for you.  As a matter of fact, if you’re not pedalling, the motor isn’t working either.

I spend a lot of time in my higher gears, even going uphill.  Since the torque I’m exerting is pretty high, the motor is putting in a high level of effort as well.  If I get tired and shift to a lower gear, the motor seems to scale back as well, so I end up going slower with only slightly reduced effort.

Once mastered, the combination of Hammer Truck and BionX motor enables many kinds of errands by bike.  It extends your speed, your practical distance, and the amount you can comfortably haul.  And of course, it’s fun – I look for any excuse to get on my bike now.

But is this the bike that will get millions of people out of their cars?  I don’t think so.  It’s a little quirky and the learning curve is a bit steep.  Although it’s a good first step, the ultimate bike will be designed with an integrated motor from the outset.  There are already a number of electric bikes in a traditional form factor.  I haven’t seen a cargo bike with an integrated motor, and we may have to wait awhile for that.  For now, this is a pretty good alternative to a second car for many of our errands.

embracing the bicycle: checking in

bike
Thea drew this Big Dummy

It’s been four months since my life-changing post Don’t Ask Me to Drive in which I explain how I have rejected driving (or more positively, embraced bicycling) as my primary mode of transportation. How is it going you ask? Very well thanks! I have only driven three times since my embracing: driving my Dad to the bus station, driving Joyful to the airport, and driving Rini to the airport. And I plan to drive 26 miles to Ovid  next weekend to teach a class there. But other than that I have kept to my commitment. It wasn’t too hard actually.

A big help was my discovery of the Surly Big Dummy “cargo bike” and the Stokemonkey electric motor. We have two Surly Big Dummies now, and the smaller one has a Stokemonkey. We use them a lot. Jasper has taken to biking to school every morning (to the east a mile and a half and then uphill). I usually join him, then bike back to the Commons for work. I’ve used my bike several times to take Thea to the dentist which is four miles uphill to the north. (Everything is uphill in Ithaca.) On Thursdays I help Amanda carry Indie’s baritone from South Hill School. We’ve made several trips to Family Math events at Ithaca College which is straight up South Hill a mile and a half. Often we have passengers and we are toting some major educational materials such as this 6-foot-long physiognotrace. (Google it dude!)

trace

I have to admit that I am sometimes exhausted by the end of the day. Partly this is due to the fact that I am training for a marathon. Sometimes I like the workout the bike provides. But other times I just want to get an errand done. So I’ve ordered a second Stokemonkey for my bike. Beginning in December, I’ll need to bike south (uphill) four miles every week to the Three Swallows Farm pick up our winter CSA. Wish me luck.