Thursday, May 31, 2007

An unexpected surprise

I rode to a meeting in Southington today (about 22 miles round trip). There's quite a hill seperating the New Britain from Southington. On my way back I had been climbing this hill slowly for about 15 minutes when two cars came zipping out of a new housing development. They turned and went about 100 yards and pulled over. I heard the girls in the second car yelling to the boys in the first car, "Why did you stop?" Meanwhile I'm slowly chugging up to the crest of the hill. As I pulled even with the first car packed full of 5 or 6 teen age boys, and half expecting some wise acre remarks I was greeted instead by applause.

I have to say that despite all the worries about safety from so many of the women I know, the reaction to the velomobile and the car free challenge has been universally positive. There's nothing like 25 waves, honks or thumbs up an few amazed, "You built that's" to make you feel like it was a good day.

Monday, May 28, 2007

First Video

If a picture is worth a thousand words, what's a video worth. You be the judge, but remember this is my first try at this. My daughter did most of the camera work. The editing is kind of rough, but it does give you a good sense of whats under the fairing.

Sunday, May 27, 2007

Grocery shopping

Can this cart full of groceries fit in the tailbox? With the exception of the loaf of bread that got stuck into the "mailbox" behind my head and the two boxes of tissue that tied under my seat, Yes! I fit a week's groceries, $113 worth on my trike.
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Father and son triking

Despite yesterday's qualms about safety, today I hitched up my son's little trike and the two of us headed to church. It's only a mile and its a quiet Sunday morning . My son is always hesitant to get on his trike in this configuration. He'd rather be on his two wheeler but once he's on it he always has fun. Maybe it's that he can loaf from time to time and make me do the work of pulling. He's slowly warming to the attention we get as we ride down the street. It's taken a while for him to understand those people pointing and whistling are giving us their approval not making fun of us.
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Saturday, May 26, 2007

Insurection on the Homefront

I got up early this morning to make a few repairs to the fairing. In a car I never realized how many potholes there are. I also now know why most production velemobiles (manufactured fully faired recumbent trikes) come with all wheel suspension. After regluing some joints that had vibrated loose I turned my attention to my 9 year old son's mini trike. I built a tow bar and if I remove the tail box, I can connect the two trikes. This gives me the ability to take him along which was my strategy for getting him to his gymnastics class about 10 miles away in Southington. When I mentioned my plan to my wife she got all worried about whether it was safe. I wouldn't want my son to ride his regular bike on the road behind me because he still can't ride a straight line, but towed behind my trike the two us are pretty darn noticable. Between us there are two flags and a strobe. Well to make a log story short, my son picked up on my wife's concerns and persuaded mom to let him skip gymnastics this week. I used the found time to make some more adjustments to the trikes but I had been looking forward to the ride.

Friday, May 25, 2007

A Trip to Our Favorite Organic Farm

Its Friday which means market day at Urban Oaks organic farm. Who would have thunk. An organic farm right here in New Britain. With several green houses they run a whole sale business supplying restaurants with organic greens and herbs year round. During the summer they also plant field crops on a couple of acres. Fridays are pick up day for their pre-order business. Order on Tuesday and pick up from 3-6pm on Friday. Since I can never get my act together to pre-order, I just head over when I can. Sometimes I miss out on the incredible morning glory muffins, but usually there are still some scones, all baked fresh by Kathy at Sweat Sage Bakery. The Urban Oaks greens and herbs are always great. They've got kale now. If you would like more info on Urban Oaks or to get on the pre-order list, contact Tony at
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Weekly milage total

My total for the first week was 85.2 miles. Not much by a racer's training standards, but I'm not a racer. I'm riding for transportation. It's actually more than I thought I would be riding. My daily commute is just 1/2 a mile. My trips during the last week included two rides into Hartford for work, grocery shopping, errands and a trip to an event in Farmington. That one was actually a trip and a half as I discovered that the lid for my tail box had blown off and I had to double back to find it. Fortunately no one had run it over and I have since designed a better means of attaching it.

Thursday, May 24, 2007

The politics of the gasoline tax

The headlines say the Gov. Rell and the Republicans in the legislature want to declare a gas tax holiday for the summer. What a dumb idea. Talk about pandering to the polls, this would cost the state an estimated $124 million at the same time public transportation advocates are pleading for a $12 million increase in mass transit subsidies. Eliminating a 25 cent gas tax for a summer isn't going to do a thing except put off the inevitable.
Oil and gasoline prices are going to go up. We are at or very near peak world oil production at the same time that China and India's economies are booming. With that amazing growth record numbers of new cars are hitting the roads in those two countries driving up demand for gas.
The sooner people start factoring higher gas costs into their decision as they buy cars the more hybrids and smaller cars will be on the road reducing gasoline demand.
The problem isn't that gas prices are too high, the problem is that there's not much in the way of alternatives to cars. Last week I tried to figure out how to take the bus from New Britain to West Hartford (the next town over). What is typically a 15 minute drive would have become a three hour expedition due to 50 minute layover at the mall and walks at either end because the bus doesn't run near our house or where were going.
In europe gas taxes are much much higher than in the US. The result being gasoline prices that are roughly double what they are here. The difference is that mass transit is ubiquitous. Bus, subway and train service makes it quite possible for european families to do most things by public transit and have just one small car that the use occaisonally. Many european countries also have very bike friendly cities. In Copenhagen, Denmark and all through out the Netherlands lots of people use bicycles as a primary means of transportation.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Car Free at the Capitol

Today I rode the 12 miles to the state capitol in Hartford. The CT Early Childhood Alliance was having a press conference to present about 5,000 pictures drawn by preschoolers of what they want to be when they grow up. We had the Senate President, a bunch of legislators and 40 or so preschoolers dressed up as what they want to be when they grow up. I got to be Ready Rabbit, the mascot of the Ready Set Grow Campaing and wear the big blue bunny outfit. I've decided when I grow up, I definately don't want to be a mascot. I think I sweated a pint in that thing.
Having done my time in the costume I couldn't pass up the opportunity to have Ready pose for a picture in the trike on the lawn in front of the Capital .
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Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Installing a head light

When I designed the fairing I wanted to have a place for a headlight. Other coroplast fairings that I've seen had a bite taken out of the front where a traditional bicycle light was installed. Most bicycle lights until you get into the real expensive models are mostly useful so that you can be seen. They don't put out enough light to really light up a dark road. For those reasons and because I'm cheep I bought a set of inexpensive car fog lights from JC Whitney took out the yellow light and replaced it with a 20w flood light. Its powered by a 12 motor cycle battery that goes in the tail box. The wires run through the main tube of the trike frame.

Here's the light looking out through the soda bottle window.

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A visit to my sponsor

I finally finished the top of the fairing creating a small storage area behind my head. This was the spot that we decided would be the location of my Bianca Signs Ad. The folks at Bianca were great and did all the lettering on the sides of the fairing.

Here's the trike in front of their shop on Newington Road in New Britain.
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Sunday, May 20, 2007

Car Free at the antique car show

After church I headed down the street to the antique car show. Something about showing up at an event celebrating muscle cars of 50's and 60's in a human powered vehical with the words "Car Free Challenge" enblazened across it appealled to me. It was a lot of fun. Lots of people asked how it worked and I possed for quite a few pictues.
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Car Free at church

I rode to church this morning and our new minister of Social Action Ben Doolittle said, "I've been praying for some inspiration for the children's message, you'll be great." So on cue one of the deacons opened the door and I rode down the isle to the front of the church. The theological connection was a bit of a stretch but the kids were pretty interested. Afterwords I got quite a few supportive comments.
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Friday, May 18, 2007

Burn Calories not Carbon

Catchy little phrase, but I have to admit its not original. It was the title of a piece in the most recent rails to trails magazine. 40% of the trips we take are 2 miles or less but 75% of those trips are taken in a car. Take my commute to work for instance. Its only about 1/2 a mile yet until the Car Free Challenge, I usually drove my car. At the same time that we're using our cars for these short trips many of us could stand to lose a few pounds. Add to that the record high gas prices and we all have a reason to think about which of those trips might be walked or cycled.

So why is it that we all still drive so much? We've build our infrastructure based on the premise of cheep gasoline. In fact until 2004 gasoline prices trended down in inflation dollars with a few notable upward blips. So we don't shop in neighborhood or local stores, we jump on the highway and go to the big box. There we easily find a parking space in the great expanse of pavement.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Day 2 -The kid transport dilemma

I knew from the begining that the most challenging part of the challenge was going to be transporting my kids to their various activities. I can get myself to just about anywhere I need to go under my own power simply by allowing enough time to ride there. Transporting my kids, particularly my nine year old who doesn't know how to ride in a straight line yet is more complicated. I do have an old trail-a-long that I can pull behind my road bike and I've even made a tow bar to pull my son's little recumbent trike behind mine. Further complicating things is the fact that both kids play the cello and their lessons are in a different town.
I figured today would be my best chance to solve this dilemma since my son had his last half day of the school year and I had arranged to pick him up at 1:45. There would be plenty of time to figure this out. The logical first option was the city bus. I've lived in New Britain for 17 years now and I've never ridden the city bus. After checking the web site I discovered that there was a bus from downtown New Britain to the mall and a connecting bus into West Hartford center. Everything seemed doable. There would be a 15 minute walk with a nine year old and a kid sized cello but that seemed a reasonable sacrifice for the cause. Then I examined the bus schedule more carefully. The bus leaves for the mall every hour on the half hour. It misses a connection by 10 minutes with another bus leaving the mall which also runs every hour. So I would have to have left the house at about 2:10 to get to a 5pm lesson and repeat the almost 3 hour trip home. Almost 6 hours on public transit vs. 15 minutes each way by car. No wonder everyone thinks they need a car.
So public transit wasn't a viable option. The more I thought about it the more I said this is maybe a 40 minute bike ride at the most. I could dig out the trail-a-long raise the seat post, hug it up to my road bike, put the cello on my back and get my son to his lesson in much less time than the bus. That was the working plan as I headed to school to collect my son. Then my wife called to ask if I had heard about the tornado watch. I hadn't focused on the weather in the morning. It was warm and sunny as I rode to work. Faced with lousy bus service, a kid, a cello, and a wife nervous about a possible tornado, I concluded I really had no choice but to invoke the cello exemption to the car free challenge. It turned out that wasn't a bad decision. As we loaded the cello into the back of the car, the sky opened up and we got about an inch of rain in a very intense half hour storm.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Bike to Dinner

As part of their bike to work week events, the Central CT Bicycle Alliance had a bike to dinner which was a nice conclusion to the day. It was great to meet everyone. There was lots of talk about this fall's Hartford neighborhood tour.

I rode to my meeting at the Department of Social Services this afternoon. Fortunately I knew just about everyone around the table so my cargo shorts and casual shirt didn't raise too many eyebrows. Coming home after dinner, everything was going fine until about a half mile from home I lost a derailer pulley. It was to dark to find all the parts so I pushed the trike home.
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Day 1

May 15th - The first day of the car free challenge. My email inbox tells me that this is one of those days you're not supposed to buy gasoline. I don't think those things really work, but maybe its fitting that today I start the month long car free challenge. No gas purchases for a month.
The front fairing held together with masking tape.
Despite my best efforts I did not get the front fairing completed last night. My hope was to start the challenge with a completed fairing, fully decorated with the text that Bianca Signs in New Britain did up for me. It will say Car Free Challenge across the back end, Human Powered Vehicle in front of the front wheel and the web address on the side above the front wheel.

My day today consists of a meeting at my office a half mile from home followed by a meeting in Hartford (10 to 12 miles away). When that's over I'll join up with the Bike to Work gang from the Central CT Cycling Alliance for their "Bike to Dinner" outing. Then home. I'll be riding with just the tail box today. Hopefully I can get the fairing finished up tonight. the forecast includes showers tomorrow.

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Sunday, May 13, 2007

Fun pictures from the electrovelo & HPV event

This was one of the funnier scenes of the day. The teacher driving the slick electric racer and his students (who usually pilot the racer) in the 100mpg Moonbeam. The electrovelo is ahead in this shot but the Moonbeam caught him in the straight away.
Despite my objections that it was only half finished one of the student electrovelo racers wanted to try my trike out. It was a pretty funny site with the half finished coroplast fairing flapping in the breaze.
Just before they packed it up I got a chance to take the slick electric racer out for a couple of laps. The crew suggested I go without the top. Here I am as I finished and pulled up next to my trike and its half finished fairing. Right on cue my son who was in the trike stuck his head out to clown for the camera.
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More HPV event pics

Two recumbent bikes with front fairings
My son's little trike always attracts little ones who want to try it out
Here's someone checking out how I'm building my fairing (despite my best efforts it wasn't finished so I took it as a work in progress.
Here's the builder of a photovoltaic charged electric "neighborhood car" telling it's story. Built by a highschool class this electric car can go about 12 miles on a full charge. It's little solar cell it takes about 3 days to fully charge its three lead acid car batteries.
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HPV of New England event 2

Here is a Runabout Cycles, electric assist trike. It rides very well and puts you fairly high up for riding in traffic.
Ethen Davis explaining how he built his coroplast fairing. It's a very cool design that I may try to copy if my son continues to badger me to convert his little trike into a veleomobile.
This was its builder's response to the post Katrina spike in gasoline prices. A 100 mile per gallon 2 seater. He's posted the plans at
A group of folks admiring a homebuilt trike. It's builder started with a $37 closeout on a kids mountain bike and donated wheels from a bike trailer.
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New England HPV and Electrovelo event

For my last big drive before starting the challenge my son and I took a road trip to the Electrovelo and New England HPV event in Scarborough ME. This was a previously scheduled electorvelo race that Ethan Davis,organizer of the Human Powered Vehicals of New England (in the blue jacket behind the electric racer) teamed up with.
Here's a shot of probably the slickest electric racer before the lid went on.
Here it is fully enclosed. Kind of a cross between a formula 1 racer and a recumbent trike.

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Wednesday, May 9, 2007

Scrambling To Get Ready

May 9th - The challenge starts in just 6 days and I'm still trying to finish the fairing for the trike. "What's a fairing?" you ask. In simple terms its an aerodynamic and weather proof shell around my home built recumbent trike. I'm building mine out of coroplast, a relatively inexpensive corrugated plastic used for outdoor signs. The fairing has several purposes. It will hopefully make me a little more aerodynamic making it easier to ride longer and faster. More importantly for the challenge I'm counting on it to keep me dry when it rains and be a rolling billboard to advertise this blog.

I think I've successfully created the support and hinge system enabling the front half of the fairing to open up for easier in and out access.