The Blog

Friday, December 18, 2009


A few days ago I was merrily pedaling away when the roller wheel on the shaft from the generator motor broke off.  I blamed the failure on the fact that the shaft of the motor was bent so I called one of my favorite neighbors who I knew would love the challenge of helping me figure out how to make the generator work.
When we talked on the phone he said it was no problem to straighten the shaft so just bring it on up.  To speed things up, I took the motor apart before stopping by.  John, my neighbor, checked out the shaft and it was dead on straight.  Very mysterious but he had fun accusing me of drinking too much.  I let him play with me.  I suggested that maybe the way the motor was put together was the cause so we put it back together and it stayed straight.  I have no idea why it had a wobble but it no longer does so I'm happy.
I also asked John to help me figure out how to get the motor shaft and the tire relationship to work.  We talked it through for a while and then pulled a small pulley wheel off of the wall and attached it directly to the motor shaft.  I was concerned that the pulley wheel would cut the tire since the edges are sharp so John wrapped a load of rubberbands around the wheel hoping that they would distribute the pressure onto a larger surface area.
I took the motor home and set it up on the bicycle trainer.  The rubberbands didn't work so I took the pulley wheel off and filled the groove with epoxy putty which hardened into what so far seems to be a great surface.    Original version:

Check out this photo so see the new improved drive wheel.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Interview With Jon Dougal

Jon Dougal 1 hour interview 12-15-09I met Jon a few years ago while working on a green energy project with New Voice of Business.  We reconnected last week and he agreed to talk with me about what he's been up to.  He's been up to a lot and I got a lot of his fascinating history that I never learned about when we were working together.  Jon is also quite the philosopher and he agreed to let me record our conversation.  It's an hour long and I didn't edit it since most of it is worth listening to.  Check it out and learn about Jon, some of his projects and his vision of the future.  Warning:  it's not a very bright vision!  

Monday, December 14, 2009

Bicycle generator update

Two issues have come up now that I've actually had a chance to put some time in pedaling.  I am getting a lot of wear on the rear tire which I can hopefully minimize by adjusting the tension between the motor shaft and the tire.
The other issue is that the battery pack with the inverter is a really inefficient way of storing electricity.  This computer is charged with12 volts DC which is more or less what I produce when I pedal.  Running the power into the battery and then through the inverter creates a lot of waste.  Since I'm not really doing this to maximize efficiency but more to demonstrate that I can produce useful power while exercising, I don't really care.  It is disturbing though, when the fan goes on in the battery pack as part of the charging process.  Why am I running all that energy to convert DC power to AC power to convert back to DC power?
Well, at least I'll keep my legs strong!    

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Building the bicycle generator/trainer

Before explaining the image above, I'll tell a little history about putting this together.  The first salient point is that I knew almost nothing about what I was doing.  I have some experience doing electrical work for home wiring but that is about the extent of it.  Feeling rather ignorant, I poked around the web and found a trainer/generator kit for about $450.00.  The price was high but I figured that since I was so ignorant, I had no right trying to do it myself.  Additionally, I ordered a power pack which is basically a battery with an inverter in it.  The battery stores the energy produced by the bicycle generator and the inverter turns the 12 volt battery juice into 110 volt power so that anything can be plugged into it.  As I mentioned in the last post, my goal is to charge the computer with the energy produced by the bicycle generator.  That way, I get exercise and keep my energy use down by just a very little bit.  The amount of energy needed to charge the computer is not insignificant when measured in terms of how long I have to pedal!!
So, I ordered the stand with generator and it didn't come.  I finally contacted the supplier who told me it was backordered.  (My kind of customer service!!)  So I cancelled the order and went to e-bay where I found a stand and a motor and figured I could put the two together.  Along the way I got the help of one of Liza's friend's father who understands these things and helped me decide on a motor as well as helped me more recently as I finally put the unit together.
All of the bicycle generator sites told me that I needed a charge controller to prevent too much current from entering the battery and destroying it.  Made sense to me so I went to Fry's electronics and got a charge controller for about $35.00.  So now I'm into this thing for about $200.00.  Much better than $450.00.  After a very entertaining and inexpensive trip (about $4.00) to the hardware store, where the salesperson and I came up with plumbing components that attached to the drive shaft of the generator-motor, I then came home and rigged up an adjustable mounting system for the generator so that the turning tire of the bicycle spins the motor shaft.
Very excited, I hooked up the charge controller from Fry's and began pedaling away.  Within seconds, I got huge resistance in the pedals and the distinct smell of burning plastic filled my nostrils.  Damn,  I had cooked the charge controller.  Depressed by my lack of success and not really knowing where to turn, I went back to the internet and found a real person in Arizona who told me I could forget all the fancy charge controller nonsense and just hook up and watch a volt meter so as to deliver just the right amount of current to the battery.  Much relieved,  I got another volt meter (cooked the first one) and set it up.  When I plugged the generator into the battery pack, the motor started turning.  Wait!  That was supposed to be my job!   With some expert advice, I figured out I needed to put a blocking diode in the line so that the power can only go in one direction.  For $2.50 I picked up 4 diodes, soldered one of them into the line and voila, everything works.

I still haven't figured out how much power I'm producing but I know that it takes quite a bit of energy to charge this computer. I think more than two battery charges.  I don't really care though, because the point is to demonstrate that it can be done and to make me feel like I am not just exercising for exercises sake but because I also want to make electricity.  The side benefit of teaching my kids that their energy can be turned into electrical energy is also very cool.

So, the photo.
RIght hand side you see the rear wheel, the stand, the mounting plate and the generator.  There are 4 big bolts that hold the mounting plate to the stand by squeezing the plate onto one of the stand's uprights.  Three hose clamps hold the generator to the plate and offer some adjustment of the shaft in relation to rear tire.  You can see the plumbing fixtures I found that attached to the shaft.
On the left you see the battery pack that stores the energy produced and has the plugs in it for AC power out.
In the center you see the volt meter putting out almost 15 volts which is about right.  The little black thing is a diode that is exactly like the one that is in line where the wire nuts are.  When I pedal, I put the volt meter where I can see it.  It turns out that the battery provides resistance so it is easy to know when I'm pedaling enough.  When pedaling becomes difficult, I am right at the correct voltage.  To try to pedal harder is a real challenge and since it's bad for the battery to put too much current in, everything works out just fine.


I've finally figured out how to bottle kids energy!!

This story begins as the days became colder and the threat of rainy weather occasionally became a reality.  I felt myself losing my desire to get out my bike, push it up our very steep road and go for ride.  After seeing the Rock the Bike folks at the Climate Action day in San Francisco, I decided to look into generating electricity while training on an indoor bicycle stand.  After many false starts, I finally got the rig up and working.  (I'll detail the story about building the trainer in the next entry.)  Well, lo and behold, the kids just love the bike.  Being a recumbent, it's easy to climb on, comfortable to sit on and completely stable the way I have it setup in a stationary stand.

So, here it is.  A way to finally bottle some of that extra energy!  My oldest daughter, Liza, is actually able to pedal with her feet and today she charged up the battery enough to add some charge to my laptop.  The other cool thing is that when we have a power outage, we now have a way to keep our computers, cell phones, and other small load things like lights up and running.  Very cool!!

Sunday, December 6, 2009

December update

Outreach efforts made me realize that asking strangers to host an event is a huge ask that most folks don't have the time or inclination to tackle.  So I looked at our event plans and adjusted them to a more feasible program where we will set up appointments with "sustainability heroes" as we pass through town.  We will record the visits and post them here.  If folks want to invite a few friends or whatever, that will be gravy.
In addition, I just posted a petition on our website where you can go and sign,  if you agree.  The petition is a statement of commitment on the part of people who agree that sustainability is an active process that includes sustainability in our personal lives, our communities and in Washington DC.
Check it out.  Sign it if you agree and spread the word!!

Finally, I got the pieces to turn my bicycle into a trainer/electricity generator.  I put it all together and started pedaling away.  Almost immediately I got huge resistance and my charge controller started smoking.  Not good.  I'm not sure how to move forward.  I somehow need to control the energy coming off of my legs so that I can charge a battery with it.  My goal is to keep my computer running on pedal power.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Event Outreach Begins

Now that we've got the website going with route, calendar and the story of The Green Riders, it's time to take the potential locations we've been exploring across the country and turn them into contacts with real people who will hopefully help us create fun and inspiring events across the country.
Today I will call Coalinga, CA where I found the plans for a solar thermal plant that will augment the solar gain with the burning of biomass (cow shit and agricultural waste) to create 24/7 power.  Apparently, PG&E will buy the power.  I couldn't find any up to date info on the project so a call to the Town of Coalinga is where I'm going to start.  They'll know something since there will be permits involved.

I love this photo we took in Ashland in October on our "tie dye" weekend.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Ross Evans of Xtracycle talks bicycles

Conversation with Ross Evans – Founder Xtracycle
I had an inspiring conversation with Ross on October 27th.  Turns out that while he was at Stanford studying engineering and product design, he rode his bicycle on a lot of the same roads that I use up here on the ridge above Stanford.
Ross recently stepped away from his role as CEO of Xtracycle.   He’s exploring his next move and he’s fascinated by the electric bicycle market for a number of reasons.  Figuring out what kind of electric bicycle will encourage people out of their cars, use the least amount of resources and sell for an attractive price are some of the challenges that Ross is looking at.  He’s not interested in an overpowered electric vehicle where the only exercise the rider gets is from engaging the throttle.
Ross believes that the barrier to riding a bicycle is largely perceptual.  If I think that getting on a bike is going to cause me more pain than pleasure, I’ll probably stay in my car.  On the other hand if I see biking as a fun, pleasurable way to get around, I’ll be more likely to leave the car keys at home.  Adding an electric motor to a bicycle can tip the pain vs. pleasure meter in the direction of pleasure.   It sure did for me!  Just watch a first time electric bicycle rider return from a test ride.  It’s usually ear to ear grins!
Another way that the barrier to riding bikes can be overcome has nothing to do with electric motors but a lot to do with upping the pleasure principle.  Ross talked about  the benefits of sound systems on bicycles.  We both agree that ear buds are extremely dangerous for a bicyclist but that a good loud sound system not only keeps the rider groovin’ but it also attracts the attention of  pedestrians and if the music is right they may start dancing in the street.  I’m going to look seriously at building a good sound system for The Green Riders tour.
I invited Ross to join us on an upcoming field trip to visit an inventor friend who has a brilliant electric motor design that is currently going into a line of scooters but could be reduced in size to work for electric bicycles.  Stay tuned!!

Video Post

Helmet mounted camera goes for a ride

Friday, November 13, 2009

Conversation with Buck Cendejas of Easy Racers

Easy Racers makes the recumbent bicycles that we are using on our ride.  I wanted to learn a bit about their history, what they are up to now and where they see the electric bicycle market going.
Buck is a wealth of information so I'll try to distill our conversation down to a reasonable length.
In 1979 Gardner Martin designed a recumbent for his wife who couldn't ride a regular bike.  (That design is still being produced!)  Gardner soon figured out that recumbents have advantages other than comfort and got into building recumbents with full fairings to get as much speed out of the bicycles as possible.  The company has continued to grow since the early days but unfortunately, Gardner passed away a few years ago.
In the mid -90's a decision was made to offshore the production of some of the bicycle designs developed by Gardner and the Easy Racers team.  The Sun Bicycles are produced in Taiwan and sold exclusively in this country.  The Tour Easy line is still produced here at the facility in Watsonville, CA.
We talked about adding electric drive trains to the recumbents and Easy Racers does do some of that.  Buck is not excited about the extra weight that the electric drive train adds but agrees that for commuter and cargo applications, the electric drive is a big help.  As with most electric bicycle conversions, the battery issue looms large.  Easy Racers tries to stay away from becoming a supplier of batteries and leaves that up to the customer.  They do work closely with the Eco-Speed folks in Portland who we are using for our drive trains.
We also talked about recumbents and touring and because of the comfort, aerodynamics and relative efficiency of the Tour Easy line, most people who buy recumbents do go on tours.  It seems to be where the market for these bicycles is the strongest.
I mentioned that I get numb feet after riding for a while and Buck thinks it's related to the position of the feet relative to the rider's butt.  With the feet higher, the blood tends to drain out of the feet and then they can go numb. It's not nearly as bad with this bicycle as it was when I had my three wheeler when my feet were a lot higher than my butt.
Buck is excited about our ride and looking forward to watching our progress.  We are glad to have the support of the folks at Easy Racers as we move forward with our project.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

A German uncle shares his perspective on Carbon

My uncle is visiting from Germany and we had a chance to discuss The Green Riders and our focus on sustainability. I mentioned some of the issues surrounding carbon emissions, including subsidies to the mining and other extractive industries. My uncle is a retired executive from a large multinational manufacturing firm and understands a lot about regulation, subsidies, etc. His attitude about charging for carbon reminded me how obvious it is for there to be subsidies for the clean renewable energy sources and no subsidies for the polluting energy sources. Europe has a price on carbon that has been in place for a number of years and my uncle's acceptance of that as normal struck me as an indication of how the European community is much further down the road towards getting carbon out of their waste stream. It's expensive to spew carbon so they are finding other ways of getting products manufactured, people transported, energy produced, etc.
My uncle again repeated his amazement at what a bad job our houses do at conserving energy. He is constantly amazed at how drafty our houses are. Lots of green job potential there!!

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Photos of the electric bicycles

In the process of putting together outreach documents soliciting support, I managed to get a nice photo of one of the electric bicycles we will be using. Aside from the battery packs, what we ride will look pretty much like the image in this photo. (I'd like to paint the bikes green!!)
Next week I hope to post two videos. One of me riding with my video camera bolted to my helmet and the other is an interview with our first official sponsor, Jeremiah Ridenour of Wise Solutions. We are using his bio-based lubricants and cleaners on our bikes.
So, more next week!! Oliver

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Sustainable camcorder

The camcorder I got about a month ago does not have an external mike. We need that to have good sound quality for the interviews along the route. Today I get to return the camera I got and buy another one on E-bay. Going used is a great way to reduce consumption. Hopefully it will work out!!
I read recently that Craigslist has changed the way people look at stuff. One person's old stuff becomes another person's new stuff. No new resources are mined and everyone is happy. The seller gets some cash and gets rid of something they no longer want or need and the new buyer gets a deal and something they want or need. Bicycles are actually a great used product since they can be become virtually new by replacing a few parts or just cleaning them up.
The obsession with 'new in the box' is something that needs to go away!!

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Hold the Presses!!

I got a phone call from Michael this morning and he dropped the bombshell that he doesn't want to ride!! I'm going to let him explain why but in the meantime, we plan to move ahead with his continued technical support. We do want another rider or series of riders so this wrench adds another project. Ever onward!!

Monday, September 14, 2009

Slowly coming together - Oliver

It's been a fun ride the last few weeks. After our attempt to build a team through the Presidio Graduate School didn't work out, we agreed to dip into our own networks and use other resources for building a team. Ryan And Hope arrived in our lives and have agreed to support the project however they can. In addition, they are loaning us their Mercedes Sprinter Van which is exactly the vehicle we wanted to get as a support vehicle but we didn't want to spend the money to buy one.
My buddy Steve has been helping us clarify our values and mission and as a consequence there is a lot more clarity around what we want to do. The challenge, as Steve says, is that there is a tremendous amount of work required to create impactful events along our route that will attract people and support their efforts to become agents of change for a sustainable future.
I started a website which is not beautiful but it is where a lot of my energy has been going as I try to describe the Ride. I also developed a route that connects a few points we definitely want to stop at like Albequerque, the Denver area, Eudora KS and Fairfield Iowa.
Ryan has been out of town for a week or so and when he returns, we will work on building some of the social network sites that we will be using like Facebook, Twitter, video links, links to this blog, etc.
I also am posting a request for volunteers on We'll see if anything comes of that!
Catherine is back from a vacation with our mother so she's ready to help out before she heads back to Sweden in early October.
Michael is hard at work on getting batteries and controllers that will meet our needs. We all agree that electric bicycles that break down all the time are not going to help our message!!

Saturday, September 5, 2009

A Desk I just finished

Why Electric Bikes?

This is my first post in the site. I'm Michael and have been building electric bikes for a couple years now and this project has given me the opportunity to step it up a notch. I love to tinker with things, always have. How this all started was that I would ask the question whenever I needed to go somewhere could I take the bike instead of the car? First I found that usually I would take the car because I needed to carry something, so I started riding an Xtracycle, then I noticed I would take the car because I didn't like peddling up the hill on my way back home from town. So I started with very small hub motors that gave me enough help to make most of my local trips very easy even with a load on the way home. Then being a good motor head and inventor at heart I wanted to improve on the performance of the original stock ebike conversion kit that I used (the Bionx). That system is actually very good in many ways until it gets old and starts to have a mind of it's own and is not really fixable as the motor and motor controller and battery are all integrated and the dealers don't really know how to fix them beyond buying a new battery / controller or console at a very steep price.
So for now what I am working on is biulding a team to help with the development of a very sturdy reliable bike that will make it across the US at a rate of 120 miles between charges. That can be done first by building a very efficient drive system and then building a very energy dense battery (at 80% discharge: 1620 watt hours / 25 pounds) and peddling a lot. Without peddling the bike would do perhaps 70 or 80 miles at the same average speed. Electric bikes are really for short trips and the rider can choose how much to peddle depending on how much energy they have, how hot a day it is or how far they need to go on a charge.
I like to use the image of the film Apollo 13 and see first how little energy we can use to get down the road, it's really a game, but last time I checked the planet was a sphere and a finite system like the Apollo 13 space capsule. So the first order of business is to see how much energy we can not use, like what you would do if you are planning a solar system for your house, reduce the amount of electricity you need. It's far cheaper to start with efficiency and build less PV capacity than it is to live by the old adage brought to us by the Nuclear Energy Commission moto: "To Cheap to Meter". I could go into details about how the battery systems are build, but some of the information is, for good reason, protected IP and other information is open source. We are using equipment that is all open source and sometime a bit crude, but the only way that this or any other technology will be available for prime time is if it is made in large enough quantities. Since it is by definition a "sustainable solution" the entire process from cradle to grave need to be looked at. For example, I would opt for a battery pack that can easily be fixed if one cell in a group of cells goes bad. This may cost a bit more to build, but perhaps not. It's a matter of good design and a huge impact on the sustainability of the battery pack when serviceability is designed into the system. When profit and "economic sustainability" are at odds, our challenge is to keep that inquiry open and find solutions that consider the true costs and market realities. One point of this ride is to open up the question in people's minds about the true cost of the things we use, remembering that we are on a large version of the Apollo 13 space capsule. It seems to me that the electric bike is a good platform to play with this question.


Friday, September 4, 2009

The bikes go to surgery

The other day, I rode my electric bike down the hill to meet Michael for an appointment we had in Menlo Park with a new Battery manufacturer named IMARA. I had a great ride down, the meeting went well and then we went back to our mother's house where we discovered that the motor bracket that is bolted to my frame was loose and bouncing around. Not good.
We did a quick fix and I rode home with the intent of doing a better fix. When I got home and was working with the bike I noticed that half a link on the drive train was broken. Also not good.
After talking with Michael, we decided to turn my aluminum framed bike into a regular bike and to convert the older recumbent I got to train with into the electric bike. So I spent the weekend switching parts around and on Teusday I went up to Michael's shop in San Geronimo and prepared my bike for surgery. Preparations included cleaning and removing the paint where brackets etc, need to be brazed. The brackets will hold the motor mount plate, the battery packs and the oversized disc brake. There will also be some smaller stuff done for routing brake cables etc.
We took a ride at lunch time on my sister's newly outfitted electric bike and on one of Michael's older bikes. I noticed a noise on the bike when it was under load and the following day, Michael discovered that one of the bearing supports that holds a sealed bearing was machined too large and caused the bearing to rattle around. An easy fix and the company has thankfully been very responsive in dealing with the problem.
With his extensive and talented resource pool of Marin County bicycle enthusiast he is putting together what promises to be very sturdy bicycles.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Team Building Time

The Green Riders are all gathered together for a short while before Tinki heads back to Sweden to finish her Masters in Public Health program. So, it's time to take the opportunity to build a team who will help make this project a success.
This evening all 3 Green Riders will be at Fort Mason Center in San Francisco to present the ride to a group of Green MBA students who are looking for marketing opportunities as part of their Project Oriented Learning requirement. We have one enthusiastic student but we need to get a couple more before the project will be accepted. Michael will bring the electric bicycle he is currently building for Tinki. He says it's beautiful thanks to the work of Charlie Cunningham who knows how to do things right.
The other team building news is that I have a commitment from a couple who just moved into our neighborhood, Ryan and Hope to help us however they can. Ryan is a musician among other things and understands production much better than any of us. They are both delightful folks who have a daughter my daughter's age and a dog friend for our dog. Life is good!!
In a couple of hours, I am meeting with a new friend who is a leadership coach for businesses and organizations. I'm going to have a walking conversation about how to proceed on the team building process. I hope to enlist his ongoing advice as we build this project.
There's a lot more going on but I've got to get my daughter to school so more details later.


Thursday, August 20, 2009

Moving forward after a summer away

My family visited friends and family in Europe this summer and I kept an eye out for electric vehicles. I saw a bunch and learned that in Europe, many countries require liscenses for electric vehicles that go over 20 miles per hour. As a result most of the bikes have small hub motors and relatively small battery packs. Truly a design for power assist.
One of my favorite scenes was the classic family outing on bicycles that crossed in front of us. The dad had a child in a trailer while the Mom worked with the other child on their own bike. Dad waited impatiently while the child tried to get the bike up the hill with the tired support of the mother. Like a flash, an older man on his electric bicycle passed through the scene and disappeared without a sound. I liked it!!
Back on the home front, we are team building. Presidio School of Management has an MBA program that requires students to choose a project and we are on the list. So far we have some interest and we'll know more early next week.
We made a video that briefly describes the ride and that is what got us interest so far.
On the technology side, Michael has advanced the battery management by incorporating a Battery management system designed for the small battery powered airplanes that hobbyists fly around. It seems to work just fine. He is also getting a bid on battery packs custom made for our trip that will get us the range we need.
My sister Tinki and I spend a lot of time together in Europe and then again when we got back home. She's excited about the ride and I know it will be a lot of fun.

I hope to post more regularly now that I'm back in the saddle.


Thursday, June 18, 2009

Summer break - Oliver

This may be my last post until August when we get back from our summer trip.

There has been interesting movement on many fronts since my last post. On the technical side, the bicycle I got is wonderful. After getting to the top of our hill, the roll down to the flatlands is a total kick. The long wheelbase and the low center of gravity makes the ride a complete delight.

Fast too!!

Michael picked up a recumbent like mine and is working on getting another one for Tinki. All off of Craigslist! He will borrow my bike while I'm gone so that he can get some real numbers on how efficient it is compared to the bikes he's been building.

Michael and I spend a lot of time talking about and even went to look at an older shuttle bus to convert for use as a support vehicle. As it turned out the seller is a realtor and had our offer and another offer so he started a bidding war. He just couldn't help himself. We didn't like that so we backed out. Our current thinking is to use my VW Vanagon as a support vehicle and spend more time in hotels along the way. Since we have to charge nightly, it makes sense to be close to the grid.

I posted my trike on Craigslist and after a flurry of activity decided on a buyer who is an above knee amputee. It will be interesting to see how this works for him. He plans to strap his prosthesis into the pedal and use his good leg as the majority of the power source. I sure hope it works out for him!! He's very excited.

On the media front, Michael and I met with an old friend who insisted that the project have a "take-away" for followers of the ride. We both agreed and I've been working on what that take-away is and how to sell it. The current thinking goes something like this:
"The ride of each of our lives begins at birth and ends at death. For the last 200 years, our rides have been mightily influenced by the ethic that values personal gain over benefit to the commons. As the planet's eco-systems go into decline, the personal gain values are showing their flaws. A renewed ethic that values the good of the commons needs to inform each of our rides. The bicycle ride that we are taking is really a metaphor for the ride that describes each person's life. The GROWH invites followers combine their rides with ours. When the GROWH is over, the real work of transforming humanities ride will still need doing. Come to our website and pick from the palette of choices out there that will contribute to the healthy survival of this planet."

That is a rough version of the take-away value that the GROWH offers. We will need to build that website but there is nothing to invent. I see apalette of opportunites ranging from changing lightbulbs to growing your own food to marching on Washington. Once people engage
more fully in their rides, they will want choices of actions they can take that are aligned with their passions and available time.

AS I may have mentioned before, we want to put together a team that will help us develop the media portion of the GROWH. This will include the website mentioned above and well as the communication with the various "riders" we will visit who are currently engaged in supporting the commons.

That's all for now!! Oliver

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Blog lessons- Tinki

I'm trying to learn to use this blog and as you can see the pictures keep squeezing the text to a thin little are on the right. Now I'm going to try to put a picture above the text. Just my chickens. They are coming on the ride too so we can have fresh organic eggs.

More Swedish pictures

Sweden's 4th of July is June 6th-Tinki

To celebrate Sweden's national day we rode our bikes to the nearest town, Norrköping, about 14 miles away. It didn't seem too close so I wonder what 100 miles a day is going to feel like. In any case it was a very pleasant ride with bike paths all the way and everywhere in the city. There were speaches and singing in town and everyone waving Swedish flags. On the way home we stopped to take pictures of prancing foals. Life in the Swedish countryside makes it hard to believe that the world is in a crisis.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

My New Ride - Oliver

Bob and I smiling about the future.

My new ride! Check out my Scion XB which is headed to Los Angeles to be converted to full electric.

As my wife Deirdre noticed, the fates have been busy.

After the weekend in Sebastapol introducing folks to electric bicycles and all of the challenges we are facing with battery management, controllers etc. I came home and cruised through the listing of bicycles on Craigslist. Lo and behold, my new ride appeared. The seller, Bob had put the bike together with the intention of riding across country with his brother!! The ride didn't happen and Bob didn't have room to keep the bike so he sold it to me.

I went over to Half Moon Bay this afternoon, hung out with Bob for about an hour and a half and came home with a bike that will work to get us across the country. It's a mid drive system which means that the motor is attached to the frame and is connected to the pedal powered drive train. The advantages that I have noticed are 1) the bicycle gearing connects with the motor optimizing the ability of the motor to help on any terrain and 2) losing the weight of the motor in the hub makes the bicycle much more manageable as a bicycle. I tested the bike without using the motor just to get used to it and it was surprisingly easy.

I feel like the almost insurmountable technical challenge surrounding the Green Ride has evaporated thanks to Bob and the bike he put together. Michael had set the deadline of getting the bike technology sorted out by the end of the summer and after today, I feel like we're ahead of schedule. There's lots of details about why this bike will work that I won't bother to explain. The bottom line is that the bike has the potential for a 100 mile range and weighs less than 75 pounds.

The weight of the bike is key to its success as a long range vehicle. And the fairing doesn't hurt either!! If this bike performs as presented, charging batteries and battery management are both idiot proof. Plug it in . . . wait . . . unplug . . . ride! I love it!!

Monday, June 1, 2009

Swedish skating (Tinki)

To get in shape for the ride I roller skated 90 km last weekend with 10 friends, along an old train track that has been changed to a bike path. It travels along a river called Klarälven with very little contact with roads and we had a great time enjoying the scenery, the unusually warm weather, the perfect asfalt, the exercise and each other's company. Perhaps some of them will join us on part of the ride. I can assure you they can skate as fast as an electric bike. They ended up pulling me so that they didn't have to keep waiting.

Sunday, May 31, 2009

Public Announcement! May 30 in Sebastapol

Happy Riders
The "Eco Hummer" heading for Sebastapol

The Vixen

Allergy and Elements Protection

On Saturday, the Blue Sky Showroom opened its doors to the public in an old Ford Dealership. Blue Sky is 4 companies under the same roof that share the electric vehicle vision. Michael has been working with Thunderstruck Motors (one of the 4) and they have been very helpful on the battery front as well as teaching us about electrics. Michael was invited to speak during the open house about his experiences with electric bikes and right before he spole he told me that he was going to introduce me so that I could talk about the Green Ride to Our White House. After we spoke, a small group of the people who had listened to us gathered around and the interest and excitement was fabulous. I gave out this blogsite and I hope to create relationships with some of the people who are interested in supporting this project.

To get to the event, Michael rode his "eco hummer" from his house to Sebastapol which is a trip of about 40 miles. I followed in the truck with a load of more electric bicycles. I gave him an hour lead time and he beat me by almost 15 minutes! He averaged a little over 20 miles per hour, pedalled along with the motor and used less than 2/3rds of his battery 48 volt 50 amp battery pack. Of course the batteries weight 65 pounds and he was pulling them in a trailer but the performance was impressive and as we learn more about this technology, we are discovering ways to maximize range and still average a good speed.

After our talk, we hung out and talked to people interested in electric bikes. It was a lot of fun and a preview of what I expect we will be doing a lot of on The Green Ride. It's such a gas to put people on the bikes and after about 2 loops around the parking lot, they are grinning ear to ear. Not only do they have fun but they immediately understand that electric bicycles increase the viability of using a bicycle by a lot!

On Friday, Michael and I went to look at the Vixen RV. They look better in the pictures. The owner had not cleaned it up but it was still obvious that making it work for our needs would be a huge and expensive project that neither of us want to tackle. It's a vehicle that has a loyal following and hopefully Brett will be able to find someone who needs a project who will buy it. We are now turning our sites onto a Dodge Sprinter that we can convert to a RV. For the same money we will have a very reliable vehicle that will have value once we are done with the Ride.
Time to hunt for a SAG vehicle!!

Friday, May 22, 2009

Here is the video footage from the electric bike workshop with the Cabrillo College bike coop. Enjoy!

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Batteries, Batteries Batteries (oliver)

Talking with Michael the other evening was very sobering. As I've mentioned before, the technology is not yet reliable for what we want to do and a new wrench has been thrown into the tech pot.
It turns out that since Michael has been working with the battery cells that he's chosen, he has been getting a metallic taste in his mouth and he's felt more fatigued than usual. He spoke with Rob about his symptoms and Rob suggested that the batteries Michael is using 'off-gas'. Since Michael carefully monitors his batteries during charging, he has his face right over the cells and is breathing off'-gasses. None of us are sure about what the connection is between the batteries and his symptoms but we are not excited about going down this particular road with batteries that might pose a health hazard beyond the obvious hazard of dramatic failure.
The reason for this adventure is to promote a viable alternative in the form of a safe, durable and trouble free electric bicycle. Even if we were looking to financially capitalize on this project, we all feel very strongly that the integrity of what we are doing is primary. Having a battery system that is dangerous doesn't meet our integrity requirements.
So the search is on for better batteries.
We believe that they are out there and we are also quite sure that they will be significantly more expensive. Apparently, the round, small sized cells like those used in the Tesla are safer and don't have the 'off-gas' problem. We are searching around for batteries that will work for us and when we find them we'll figure out how to get our hands on them without spending our children's inheritance!!

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Oliver - Green Riders go to Santa Cruz

A happy rider returns!

4 electric bikes and a trailer loaded up.

Onkel Reinhart taking a spin!

Michael and I went down to Santa Cruz yesterday with 4 electric bicycles in the back of the pick up truck. Michael talked for about 25 minutes to the students from the bike co-op who were interested. (I tried to record the talk but failed!) After the talk, we let the students ride the electric bikes around campus. They all came back grinning, delighted with the power and speed. Michael's talk highlights the challenges with current electric bicycle technology. It's a rather complex story but very interesting. My take away from the afternoon was that there are a lot more challenges ahead than I had anticipated with getting the electrics worked out for this trip. Since Michael is taking on this part of the project, I hadn't paid it much attention. I now realize that getting this project to work is a big deal in that we will have to develop technology that will bring electric bicycles to a new level where they will greatly broaden their appeal due to improved performance. Existing electric bikes don't climb well and don't have great range. We need to achieve range and hill climbing ability without adding huge battery packs. No matter what system Michael has tried, he still gets about 1 mile per pound of battery. 60 miles is a lot of weight!!!Michael and I have a great conversation going about how to charge batteries on board the Vixen while we are underways. One equation we thought of is how much gas in a generator would it take to charge a battery pack? Another idea is to create a trailer with regenerative braking to carry and charge extra batteries as the Vixen rolls down the road.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Vixen news and more

The Vixen is the RV that we are interested in using as our SAG vehicle.
Brother Michael talked to his neighbor who has one and inspired him to offer to loan the vehicle to us for the ride!! We will do some work on it to get it able to charge batteries for the bikes en route and add a "granny gear" so that the vehicle will make it over passes. What a generous offer!!
The Vixen adds to our story. Here is a 21 foot RV that sleeps 4, is fully self-contained gets 30 mpg and was built in 1987! The technology to move around efficiently is here and has been here for a long time. We will highlight that!
Also, the generosity of the neighbor is a story about new ways of living in a post- "all about me" society. Based on a belief in more than money and personal gain, the owner of the Vixen is willing to let us borrow the RV. I haven't spoken with him and don't know why he is willing to share his vehicle so I can't ascribe any reasons to his decision. Based on his willingness to be so generous, I have to assume that he supports what we are doing and is willing to let us fix up the RV for the trip, add a lot of miles and return it to him when we're done with it.
I hope the generosity that Michael inspired in his neighbor is an indication of the value of the Green Ride. By supporting the trip in whatever way, individuals, businesses and other institutions will contribute to the possibilities for different ways of living in this country that we are promoting. Get out of cars! Ride bikes! Share with your neighbors! Build communities that are increasingly self-reliant for energy, food and entertainment.
It turns out that the owner's of Vixen's are quite the family. It will be fun to include them in this project and hopefully we can get together with some of them on our ride.
Today, MIchael and I head down to Santa Cruz with a load of electric bicycles to show them to the Bicycle club at Cabrillo College. Albin is organizing the demonstration and we hope to inspire some of the club members to take a more serious look at doing electric conversions.
We are also going to get our mother's brother to ride one of the bikes this morning. If nothing else than for the photo opportunity!!

Friday, May 8, 2009

The Green Riders' first ponderings

Taking on this journey is a big deal. It will disrupt our lives and the lives of our loved ones. On the other hand, sitting on our undisrupted butts won't do much to add to the growing movement on this planet of people, institutions and businesses that understand the desperate need for change.
The biological systems that make up this planet are failing rapidly and that recognition is a bummer. So this ride is dedicated to cheerfully showing how doing things differently can be fun and that humans can fix the mess we've made.
Today we are still not commited to this project but we are getting closer.
I bought a bike that we may convert to electric.
We're looking at a Vixen RV to use as a SAG wagon.
I'm writing this blog.
We talk about the project every day.
We've done a visioning exercise.
We're impressed by the work that needs doing to get our vision to become a reality.
We're worried about our old bones, muscles and patience.

I'm also really excited.
This feels like a project that can make a difference in the world, challenge my aging body and relieve some of the constant frustration and angst I have about the world that my daughters are inheriting. I strongly believe that if enough people get off of their undisrupted butts and passionately do something to fight for a livable future, we can make it happen. I'm absolutely positive that staying in the chute we're sliding down will get us where we're headed. Not a conversation I like having with my daughters!! Oliver

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Getting started

The Green Riders are Tinki, Michael and Oliver Bock.

We are two brothers and a sister. Tinki's son Albin is getting excited about joining in the adventure. Not only for the adventure but to push for the change he knows the world needs.
Right now we are talking about Albin being the SAG (Support And Gear) guy. And since he's young, he can help us implement the internet piece and probably ride for us when we feel too old. (Hopefully only one of us will feel to old at a time!!)

We are not athletes or even in very good shape and we are going to ride electric bicycles across the country to go have lunch with President Obama. Along the way we are going to stop . . . a lot. For lunch. For dinner. To duck behind a tree to . . . and to talk to people along the way who are commited to greening the planet.

We'll talk to people at solar farms, wind farms and organic farms.

We'll talk to politicans, business people, farmers, academics . . .hey, anybody who "gets it" and is commited to a future where our children's children will thrive.

We'll get tired and grouchy.

We'll get happy flying down hills on our rigs. (Have you heard the joke about how to tell a happy biker?)

We'll play with each other as we have for more than 50 years.

We're leaving Palo Alto, CA on April 22, 2010.

We'll arrive in Washington D.C. . . . when we get there?

Next steps look like:
1) Get the gear good. Bikes SAG wagon etc.
2) Create a time line for both before the ride and during.
3) Develop material for potential sponsers
4) Pick a route
5) Find someone to organize and keep us focused.
6) Pitch potential sponsers
7) Develop interactivity piece (video, photos this blog etc.)
8) Research stops that will highlight our mission.
9) Tighten and focus vision
10) Work our networks to get access to people and places that support our vision.
11) Decide what to have for lunch with Obama. (Top priority)
12) Design 10 second media pitch "Commit to Green . . . energy . . . policies . . . business behavior . . . farming . . . water use."
13) Flesh out media pitch for more in depth coverage item #12's Commit to Green" list.

What have I forgotten??