The Blog

Friday, March 26, 2010

Yet another twist - A good one!!

As our electric bicycles go through their testing, tuning debugging etc., we are pushing dangerously close to our departure date without having full confidence in our rigs.  The most recent concern has been the bicycle we built up on a cargo bike frame.  The bicycle works well but the extra weight adds extra stress to the wheel and requires more battery power to get the mileage we need.  As a consequence of losing confidence in the cargo bike for the long trip, I approached Michael DeVisser, the owner (with his father) of OHM bikes.  About a month ago they had expressed interest in providing us with a bicycle but I wasn't interested since we were counting on the cargo bike.
I called Michael on Thursday,  we talked four about 15 minutes and I emailed him our website and a short note updating the status of the trip and by 4 oclock on Friday he wrote back to me and offered us the loan of an OHM bike!!   Not only that, he is loaning us the high end model with the bigger motor and suspension and providing an additional battery pack to extend our range to where we need it.  OHM is a small company and to loan us a bicycle that won't come back new is a big deal for them.  Not only am I completely delighted with their generosity but their bike uses the very reliable BionX system.
The disadvantage of the OHM for many people is the price.  I'm not sure what they retail for but they are more expensive than most electric bicycles out there.   On the other hand, they use excellent components, they ride really well and they will outlast most other electric bicycles on the market today.  So, you get what you pay for.  The OHM's are selling really well in Marin where the terrain overwhelms the lower end electric bikes.
Here's a terrible picture of the bike OHM is loaning us. (I shot it off the image on my computer screen.)
Here's a link to their website where you can learn more about the OHM.  The bike has a pressure sensor that provides power based on how hard the user is pedaling.  I don't have much experience with this system but I figure I will by the end of June!!

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Durango event update

This was a good week for planning visits.  Greg Caton at the City of Durango has offered to host an event at their soon to be LEED certified transit center.  I am talking with a solar advocate who has a solar PV business and an electric vehicle business (Love Bug Motors).  Ben and his wife Holly are excited about bringing their wares down to the transit center along with other businesses in the area that are focused on sustainable transportation.  I have a call next week with an interested bio diesel company in the area and Ben will probably invite a pizza restaurant that delivers their goods in electric vehicles!   The City of Durango also has lots of very cool sustainable transportation offerings that they are going to feature as part of the event.
This is going to be a fun one!!

Boulder has some interesting possibilities in the works and I will describe them as they actually enter my calendar!!

Friday, March 12, 2010

The Team Comes Together

Here's my bike all green and clean.
With the arrival of sister Catherine from Sweden and with the shortening time window before we leave, the pieces of the team are coming together nicely.  One of my big concerns has been the support driver.  The fallback plan was to pull friends and relatives in to do different legs of the trip but we really wanted to have a committed and seasoned driver for the whole trip (seasoned at least by the end of the trip!).
In the search for a missing chain link, that was the final part needed to get my bicycle back together after its paint job, I ended up going to 4 bike shops in a mad hunt.  At one of the shops, the young man helping me expressed a lot of interest in the ride and when I told him we needed a driver, he jumped on it.  We have met 3 times since then, he's driven the van with the trailer attached, he's a certified bicycle mechanic, he did a lot of video in high school and he's thrilled to be part of the team.  We are excited to have Sean Eagleton join us!
Spokey from The Bicycle Works in Marin County is our master mechanic who has been building the bikes.  He will also join us for the first two weeks of the trip.  He will not only be great at working the bugs out but he is also an incredibly sweet guy and we look forward to enjoying his company for the first part of the ride.
Dave is an electric bicycle builder who we have yet to meet but he started corresponding with us quite a while back and said he wanted to join us for as long as he could.  I just got off the phone with him and we set up a meeting prior to our leaving date.  We both agreed this is kind of like a blind date!
Since the success of this trip relies heavily on accepting what "the gods" send, I know there is a good reason for Dave to join us and I'm looking forward to seeing that reason unfold.
Here's a link to some press we got during our visit to Marin on Tuesday.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

The Electric BIcycle Challenges continue!

To stay with the theme, I stripped down my electric bicycle and got it painted green.  I spend a long day putting it back together with a few annoying mechanical disasters along the way.  On the whole, though a good exercise for being on the road since I now know the bicycle very well.

So I finally hooked up the batteries and was heading out for a test ride when the electrical system died.
Not the usual death.  When I first plugged the battery in, all was well.  After about two minutes there was a smell of burning electrical connections and the buggy died.   I checked the connectors and the one battery was still live and sparking like crazy when I hooked it up to the rest of the electrical system.  The other battery blew a fuse.
Not being very savvy about the electrical system, I'm not sure what the problem is.  I assume it is either the controller or possibly the throttle.  Hopefully, when I take the bike up to Marin on Tuesday, we'll be able to sort it all out and fix the problem.
The bike does look good . . .  even if it isn't working!!

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Planning Fairfield, Iowa

Fairfield, Iowa is one of the most interesting stops on our route.  We are spending almost 3 days there because there is so much to explore.  A friend of mine lives and works there and he has jumped in full force to support our visit.  We talked today and he asked me to describe my ideal vision of our visit as a way to prepare him for a meeting with the people who participate with us when we are there.
So here's our rough schedule-
Friday afternoon -  Big Art Walk event where we will gather other electric vehicles, bicycles and our rigs.
We will let people ride the bikes and talk about our adventures.
Saturday morning - Farmer's market - Again the focus will be on the electric bicycles as well as on sustainable agriculture.  Should be colorful and fun.
Saturday Afternoon - Visit the Sustainable Living Coalition  a learning center with 15 off grid buildings, solar and wind, a beautiful new design center and greenhouses growing organic food.  We will have a pot luck  for dinner and then a discussion about health and wellness and how it relates to sustainability.  Healthy people, healthy communities, healthy relationships are all part of a sustainable future.  That should be a great conversation!!  
Fairfield was a average Iowa town until the mid 70's when the Maharashi University moved in.  Over the last 35 years, the blending of the two cultures has been a fascinating story that I want to explore.
At this point, the sustainability  focus of the "meditators" has merged with the necessity of economic transformation and Fairfield is becoming a leading green community in the region and the nation.
So, I am really looking forward to some fascinating conversations that promise to go way beyond describing the latest gadget.