Thursday, September 13, 2012

New e-bike born today

Well, finally got my shipment, and today I converted the first of a line of e-bikes that I plan to offer to the general public for sale.  I've decided there needs to be a dealership in this area, and I love building bikes.  So after lots of research and decisions, we have this:

It's a direct drive, brushless 36V system, with a 9AH battery.  The controller is in the back.  Lightweight, stable, and unassuming, it's almost completely stealth to the untrained eye.  It complies with all the laws in the state of Vermont.  Definitely a little more of a leisure ride than my 48V 1000W system, but it's still plenty of fun.  Retail price will be around $1195 USD.  Actual bike model pictured is an example, and may vary.

I'm spending the next few days putting it through its paces, measuring mileage, etc.  It's hard work, but somebody has to do it.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Beautiful late summer ride to north end

Just got back from an uneventful ride up to the north end of Burlington.  The temp was perfect, a little breezy but mostly calm.  Efficiency was through the roof, but I was light on the throttle and not in a hurry.

Stopped at overlook park on the way home.

Took all bike paths on the way up, and main roads on the way back.  I thought it would be treacherous with the rush hour traffic, but it wasn't too bad.  Stayed in the bike lane or on the sidewalks for much of the ride.  Laughed as I rode by all the motorists who were parked on Shelburne road, during traffic jam.  22 miles, 12.4AH.  Could have easily gone twice as far.

Sunday, September 09, 2012

Nice ride home in the dark

A nice ride down to Charlotte to visit the ADV Garage today.  It's about 9 miles each way - about a 5 or 6 out of 10 on the "hilly-ness" scale.  Started out with a fresh charge, pedaled a little (not very much) mostly because I was going too fast to pedal much.  The ride down (during the day) was very easy.  A little chilly, but not too bad.  Traffic was down as it's Sunday afternoon/evening.

Had a great dinner and watched the sunset, then headed out when it was completely dark.  Man, I was glad I brought my new wind breaker (early birthday present from father-in-law),  Doing 30 mph in 50 degrees is COLD.  The new headlight performed like a champ.  The more I use it, the more I appreciate the beam pattern and throw.  It's a very wide beam pattern, which keeps you from getting claustrophobic, but the throw is still plenty good enough to dodge a pothole in pitch darkness, at top speed.

The trek home was paced by a convoy of my neighbors (who all were headed home from the same place).  I had a tiny bit of a lead on them, they passed me about 1/2 of the way home.  Then about 2/3 way, they hit the construction/paving on route 7 and had to wait for the flag man.  I caught up to them, jumped on the sidewalk and blew by. Slowed it down a lot when I saw a cop car at the end of the work zone.  I was far enough out of the way to be harmless, but I figure it'd be hard not to notice a bike going 30 mph down the sidewalk at night.  Pretended to pedal my bike like an average Joe, and then gunned it out of the hole when I was far enough out   As the bike lane ended and the speed limit dropped, I merged with car traffic and rode along for a while, just ahead of the neighbor pack.  Back to the bike lane. An unknown who had been behind me passed me and yelled out their window "that thing is so FAST!"

The neighbor pack once again passed by as we reached the final leg of the 9 mile trip.  I ended up getting home just behind them, about 3-4 minutes.  Not bad for a bike.

Trip mileage: 18 miles
kWh used:  .73

Electricity cost: $.10

CO2 produced (based on electricity national average): 1 lb.

Alternative to: ~1 gallon of gas, $3.60, 19.4 lbs. of CO2 (in an average car)

For more info about how all this is calculated, see this interesting blog post.

Friday, September 07, 2012

Fun quotes from first time e-bike peepers

From time to time, I hear fun comments from people who see me on my e-bike.  Here's a couple that I've heard in recent times:
"I guess my bike sucks."
 -Stoner guy at the package store

"You're cracking me up.  I'm watching you go up this hill, and you're not even pedaling"
-Guy in car next to me, going up fairly steep hill in Charlotte.

Wednesday, September 05, 2012

Flat tires, battery frustration, and new DIY headlight

My e-bike has been working pretty well, barring some occasional frustrations.  These are chiefly centered around flat tires.  I've had the back tire (the powered wheel) get punctured 3 times now.  The first 2 times I found small pieces of 22 gauge wire, which I'm willing to concede might have come from my garage floor.  The last time, I picked up a carpet nail!  It was right around the construction area on Shelburne road, where they tore up the pavement.  There were lots of little pock marks in the pavement for something like a nail to hang out in, at odd positions.  I learned that getting a flat is worse than having a controller blow up or a dead battery, because you can't even ride it home.  On the bright side, I found out it's an hour walk to my house from Burger King (2.79 miles).  Pushing 70 lbs. of dead weight on a floppy rim, that is.

Could have been a lot worse, I've gone as far as 25 miles from my house before.  I put a spare tube and patch kit in my panniers, in case it ever happens when I am far enough away to justify the effort of a field change.

Besides that, I'm really getting tired of having so much weight on the back rack.  I am constantly sweating hitting even a moderately-sized bump at high speed, and breaking the rack or damaging the battery.  I wish I had a smaller battery for shorter range travel, or perhaps a 15-20AH LiPo pack, which would probably weigh about half as much as my LiFePO4 20AH.  The trouble is that the cost would be around $300-$500, and I just can't justify it right now.  I've been studying tons about LiPo batteries - buying options, how to build a battery pack (series/parallel combinations), charge them, balance them, etc.  Once I know enough, I will probably get into building my own battery packs out of used cells or pouch cells.  If I get good enough at it, maybe I'll sell them.

Some good news: I finished my headlight.  It's built out of a 3up Cree XPE, a 700mA BuckPuck, and a snazzy aluminum housing.  I mounted it on a swivel and hooked it up to a small 12 volt LiPo battery pack.  Easily removed for anti-theft.  It puts out 750 lumens, plenty bright enough for night riding at 30 mph!  I plan to sell these for $160 USD.

Adult Contemporary Music - Old School Crap Lives On

I find it both interesting and disturbing that, for the most part, when out and about listening to the radio in the car, shops, etc, the general public pretty much listens to a body of work consisting of about 500-1000 or so songs (by my estimation).  The majority of these songs were written 20-40 years ago (classic rock, 80's, disco, R&B). I'm talking about stuff like Lionel Richie, The Bee Gees, Madonna, and of course, Michael Jackson.  Only songs have withstood the test of time as being "at least listenable".

My earliest memories of the Champlain Valley Fair are probably from about the ages of 6-10.  That would put the years around early 1980's.  I remember walking down the midway and by the rides, all blaring AC/DC, Def Leppard, Ozzie Osbourne, which at that time was only a few years old at the most.  I went to the fair on Monday, and guess what?  It's the same exact songs.  It's like the whole thing is frozen in time.

The unfortunate part about this is, there are lots of new adult contemporary artists out there, but their music will probably never become part of this overplayed catalog.  Not for lack of quality, but because it doesn't have the reputation of being "trustworthy".  Places of business are generally not going to put any effort into their music selection, they just want to play stuff people recognize and accept.