The Blog

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!!