Monday, June 25, 2007

A great week end

Saturday I dropped my daughter off for her first day of her summer job as a life guard and went in to Hartford to hear Bill Moyers and Barak Obama at the 50th annual synod of the United Church of Christ. They were great. An intelligent, thought provoking, motivating speech from a presidential candidate. What a concept!

Having done my church thing on Saturday, Sunday was for cycling. Newington Bicycle held their 2nd annual recumbent trike rally. Mike Gallagher put together a nice ride and good food. There were 8 of us who rode including Mike and his wife on their Greenspeed tandem, Franny Yerkes on her ICE trike, Alex (my trike building apprentice from last summer) and a woman doing her first trike ride on a borrowed Greenspeed gt3s, John (I think) on a HP Scorpion trike and John Tetz and I in our home built velomibiles.

John has just fitted his zote foam velomobile with a 4 1/2 lb homebuilt electric assist system which he kept talking about as still being in the test phase. Well John, when a 75 year old guy passes me with ease going up a hill, I'd say the test is successful. John and I had lots of fun racing down the hills. The aerodynamics of velomobiles make it easy to leave everyone else in the dust. I set a new speed record for my velomobile at 47.4 miles per hour coming down the hill into Newington at the end of the ride. That front end alignment I did a little while ago made all the difference in the world. At 47+ mph the trike was rock steady.

After the ride I had arranged to meet up with my new friend Mike, one of the blog readers who had contacted me about building a trike/velomobile. We had planned out a rear suspension trike with 20" BMX wheels all around. Knowing that Mike has been spending a lot of time reading everything he could about trike construction on internet I knew he would be excited to see John's zote foam velomobile. Over lunch at the end of the ride I asked John if he wouldn't mind stopping by my house. Three homebuilders talking trikes, it was great fun. I know I eagerly awaiting John's write up of the power assist.

Saturday, June 16, 2007

So what's next?

I think my middle aged knees will appriciate a couple of days off, but I'm looking forward to next Sunday's 2nd annual Newington recumbent trike rally. Over the next week, I'll be working on the story of my car free challenge experiance for BentriderOnline.
Without the pressure of needing the velomobile on a daily basis I will be able to start some redesigns which I'll continue to document on this blog. I've been operating under the principal of, "If it aint keeping you from riding don't start taking it apart. you're going to need to ride the thing tomorrow." Some of the issues I'll address are:

  • The lid of the tailbox. I really like the look of the lid, but the thing was a pain in neck to line up to fit down tightly and frankly velco was not the best way to secure it. It blew off 3 times. Twice I had to backtrack to find it. I think bungee cords are probably the better solution.

  • The steering of the trike. What I have now works fine, but the handlebars swing out in a wide arc that will interfer with wheel wells for the fairing. This has been the primary project I've put off because I knew I couldn't get it done in one evening so that I could ride the next day.

  • The floor of the velomobile With warm summer weather around the corner, tightening up the velomobile with a floor hasn't been my top priority, but the real advantage of a velomobile is to extend the riding season later into the fall and winter.

  • A rain/sun awning I was lucky during the challenge month that I only got caught in the rain 3 times all on the way home when it didn't really matter if I got wet. A coroplast roof extending a foot or so out in front of my head seams like it would do the trick.

Other projects on the horizon:

Helping a friend build a rear suspension trike similar to the one to the right that I built last year and turning it into a velomobile. He found this blog and realized we lived about 10 miles apart. After he looked me up we spent an afternoon talking trikes and are now developing the shopping list of parts.

Figuring out how to build a no weld trailer out of conduit. My experiance riding the velomobile with the tailbox filled to the gills with groceries made me think that a trailer would be a better solution. I'm sure I was very very close to the weight limit on the tail box and the trike handled like a battleship. I've seen write ups of how to build a trailer out of conduit, but they all involve welding nasty galvinized conduit. I don't have a welding set up and I'm not excited about exposing anyone to the zinc fumes that are released when welding anything galvanized. So hopefully I devise a workable alternative to share with the world.

Finally, I'll also be working on a blog with the Plainville Greenway Alliance, a volunteer group working to fill the hole in the Farmington Valley Greenway that eventually will run from New Haven,CT to to Northhampton MA and be part of the East Coast Greenway.

Friday, June 15, 2007

Last Day

Well its after 10pm on June 15th and I'm not planning on going anywhere tonight so I guess this is the end of the challenge. Over the past month I've ridden 306 miles in my velomobile through 10 towns in central CT. Thousands of people have seen me, hundreds have waved, given me a friendly toot of the horn or a thumbs up. A bright yellow velomobile with "Car free challenge" written across the back attracts attention. I'm happy to report that virtually all of it was positive.

Many of the women I know were concerned about my safety as I rode in traffic. The only near miss was when someone was so intent on looking at me as they passed me that they almost caused a head on collision.

Lots of people thought this had something to do with high gas prices. The fact that gasoline prices reached record highs during the challenge month was, however, purely coincidental. Back when I was driving I typically filled the tank once a week at about $35 right before the challenge started. So in the month I saved $140 on gas. To be honest that pales in comparison to the $303 car payment. Put another way, before the gas prices went up this spring it typically cost about $25 to fill the tank. That means the higher prices added $10 a week. Most Americans spend more than that a week on coffee they could make at home.

No this wasn't about gas prices this was about seeing if I could do it and getting into shape. I'm happy to report that riding everyday, I've lost about 5lbs and about an inch around the middle. My homebuilt velomobile held up pretty well and I have enjoyed showing it off.

This blog has been my first serious try at blogging. In the last two weeks since I figured out how to put a site meter on it there have been 540 visits. My blog has been featured in a local political blog and a blog by a recumbent bike rider somewhere where I think the speak Portuguese. I followed a link back to his site and it wasn't Spanish.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

2nd to last day

Today I rode to two events. The first was a ground breaking for a renovation and expansion of New Britain's HRA Head Start program. This was a great milestone as we'll finally be able to offer high quality preschool to poor children in a nice facility rather than the 90 year old school and portable classrooms that we've been making due with for so long. There were lots of folks I know at the event and for some it was the first time they had seen the velomobile.
Eventually I checked my watch and had to make a rather hasty departure to allow my self enough time to stop at the office before heading to my next meeting at the State Department of Education in Middletown. As I rode through Berlin I stopped in front of the local hardware store to take of my jacket and stick it in the tailbox. As I was putting the lid back on a guy came over to check out the trike. Turns out he was at the hardware store to pick up some parts for his latest project putting an electrical assist on a bike. Apparently we live about a mile apart. I hope to connect with him in the future. The next stop on the way was at Berlin Bike shop for a planet bike high intensity LED flasher. Bruce, Mark and some of the other mechanics came out to admire the trike.
After cranking up a long hill in the granny gear there was the thrill of a long steep decent. I hit 38 miles per hour and the trike handled well. Last Saturday's front end alignment certainly helped. As I came into Cromwell I realized that my options of places to pick up something for lunch were rather limited so I ducked in for a salad at (forgive me) McDonald's. To my surprise, sitting a table was Bill Graustein. Bill was the first person I met in CT who regularly commutes to work on a recumbent bike. He's also the chair of the board of trustees of a foundation that funds much of the early childhood work going on in CT. After a little quick showing off of the velomobile it was on to my meeting.
On the way home I stopped in to say hello and show off the velomobile at Suburban Cycle in Berlin. As of the end of the day I was up to 295.4 miles for the month. Even if I have to invent a couple of errands, I get in at least another 5 miles tomorrow to break 300 miles during the challenge.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Ride to the Plainville Greenways Alliance Meeting

With only a 1/2 mile to and from work today it didn't really feel like I had been out for a ride today so I decided that I would finally go to a Plainville Greenway Alliance meeting. Plainville is the next town over from New Britain and is the one town along the Farmington Valley Greenway route where there hasn't been any construction. There is an East-West rail line that carries through traffic and a line that goes north and south to the town line. This North-South line in Plainville is the only strech of the rail line that used to run from New Haven up to North Hampton, MA that is still active. The small but dedicated Plainville group came together to try to save an old railway bridge that crosses Northwest drive near the Farmington town line that had been abandoned by the railroad. While the group was too late to save the bridge, they have continued to work to close the gap in the trail. At some point during the meeting I asked, "So do you guys have any kind of web presence?" Of course the answer I got was, "Well, no we've kind of been waiting for someone who has a clue how to do that sort of stuff to help us". So sometime in the next week I'll be setting up a blog for them.

Monday, June 11, 2007

Starting Week 4 with a ride to Hartford

I started the last week of the car free challenge with a ride to a meeting in Hartford for work. This is now the 3rd trip into the capitol city so I've perfected the route and shaved about 10 minutes off the trip. That's probably due mostly to having lost a couple pounds and gotten into better shape with daily riding. As of the end of the ride today my mileage for the challenge is 253 miles so far. Not much compared to the training regime of hard core racers but I'm just using it for daily transportation. There were several fairly level stretches were I found myself spinning out in the top gear doing 26 miles per hour. The fairing definitely has an impact when I start getting up over about 15 miles per hour.
I've just added a link to pictures I took of Ethan Davis's corplast fairing. Its in the Favorite Web Pages section to the right and down.

Saturday, June 9, 2007

Red Bull anyone?

This afternoon I rode up to Walnut Hill Park to check out the New Britain Criterium race. Lots of spandex clad guys on expensive bikes. On the way home Amy and Kristen from the Red Bull marketing team chased me down to tell me about the Red Bull soap box derby Apparently they saw my velomobile and thought that it looked like like something that might get entered into the race. They gave me some free samples and were good sports about following me home so that I could get the camera
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Building the front fairing

The front fairing is built out of coroplast. Sometimes called corrugated plastic it's waterproof and light weight. As you can see from the ribs of the fairing I used recycled signs for the parts that wouldn't show. The basic skeleton consists of a coroplast bulkhead in the front and then about 18" to 20" behind in a second inverted U shaped piece of coroplast. Finally to add stealth there is an inverted U of 3/8" aluminum tubing that when the fairing is closed fits into a space on the cross bar of the trike next to where the seat attaches.
Here's the fairing skeleton from the front showing the bulkhead and ribs. All of this started as a large drawing on flip chart paper to figure out knee and toe clearances. I then cut out the drawing and traced it on to the coroplast.
Here's the fairing half assembled at the NE electrovelo event in Maine. I had hoped to have the fairing finished for the event. Then I had the crazy idea that I would work on it up there giving a live demo of how to build one of these. It was way too windy and there were too many other cool vehicles to try out. That's me in the formula 1 type electric racer and my son clowning in my half done trike.
Here it is making taped together prior to hot gluing. The fairing is held together with pieces of scored coroplast which enables one to fold the coroplast into an L. Using these L shaped pieces the outer shell is hot glued to the ribs underneath. Preeating the pieces to be glued with a hair drier seams to make a better more durable bond.
Sorry, for some reason this picture comes out sideways. Tip your head to the right for the proper orientation. If you click on the picture you'll get a larger view clearly showing the small scored pieces of coroplast hot glued to the underside of the fairing to hold it all to gether. To finish off the outside I used red electical tape to cover and seal the joints.
Another sideways picture. Tip your head to the left this time for the proper view. As you can see the fairing tips forward for easy entry to the trike. The video clip to the right shows how the fairing lifts forward.
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Wednesday, June 6, 2007

Tail Box construction

The tail box was inspired by pictures of Lee Wakefield's tailbox.
I used a similar construction method of building a frame out of aluminum. There are two pieces of aluminum L that run parallel to the trike with some cross pieces. The picture is taken from behind the trike

From the side you can see the two vertical pieces that support a cross bar that is higher than the wheel and can therefore go all the way from one side of the tail box to the other
Here you can see a piece of recycled coroplast sign that will serve a bulkhead across the tailbox.
In this picture you see the frame with the coroplast floor of the tailbox in place

Here you can see how joints in the coroplast are reinforced with pieces of coroplast that has been scored with a knife so that it can be bent. These pieces are then hot glued into place

Hot gluing

Here's the finished tail box with out the lid

The finished lidPosted by Picasa

Monday, June 4, 2007

Rainy Day

The remnants of tropical storm Barry are soaking us today. I went with the original form of car free transport, I walked to work. Sorry no way to do exciting pictures of duck boots.

When I can't ride I turn my attention to other distractions like how to build a no weld trailer to pull behind the trike. The tail box may be able to hold $113 worth of groceries, but the trike does handle very well with that much weight in the tail box. A trailer that transfers the weight to another set of wheels might be just the trick. I found a couple of interesting designs on the web:
The bamboo trailer
Conduit trailer
Not being near a local supply of bamboo, I'll probably go with conduit. Now I just have to figure out how to get it home from the store on the trike. On a related homebuilder note, for all of you thinking about experimenting with building something out of coroplast like a fairing or tailbox, I've discovered that coroplast signage gets pitched by fast food franchises on a regular basis. So get to know the manager at your local Tim Horton's or Kentucky Fried Chicken. They get signage to advertise in their stores as part of their franchise deal.

Sunday, June 3, 2007

Plainville Trail Day

Plainville, CT's Greenway Alliance held its trail day today. Clearly not as big a deal as yesterday's event in Southington, but I got to walk down North West Drive to see where the proposed trail will be. Jim Cassidy in the tan shirt behind the trike, Kathy Cole (seated) and her husband Steve (not pictured) have been at the core of the effort to fill the Plainville hole in the East Coast Greenway through CT. So far Plainville is the only town along the old New Haven to North Hampton (MA) rail line not to have any trail building activity going on. north of Plainville the Farmington Valley Greenway is mostly complete from Farmington up to East Granby. To the south part of the trail has been paved in Southington and the trail along the route of the New Haven to Northhampton canal/rail line is complete from Cheshire south to Hamden.
The Plainville Green Alliance meets at the public library on the second Tuesday of the month at 7pm. If you would like more info call 860-747-2909.

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Saturday, June 2, 2007

Some Stats

Today's ride was 22 miles which means my ride to Southington a couple of days ago was more like 17 because I went several miles further to get to Panthorne Park where the trail fest was. The mileage total so far for the car free challenge is 181.9 miles. There have also been a couple of times I've had to readjust the sensor when it wasn't recording so I know its really a couple of miles more. I know for the serious racers out there that 180 miles in two and a half weeks is no big deal.

A number of you have been asking, "How much does it weigh?" The trike including the lock that's always on it is 44lbs. The front fairing is 11lbs and the tail box including the tools and patch kit that stay in it are another 12lbs. So yes, I was peddling 67lbs up that killer hill today. It's a good thing I've got a granny gear. 28 teeth in the front and 34 in the back with a 24" wheel. That's 18" of travel for each revolution of the peddles. So far the maximum speed I've hit coming down a hill is 37.9 miles per hour. It would go faster, but until I figure out why there's some play in the steering I start riding the brakes when it gets up over 30.

Southington Trail Day

I rode out to the Southington celebration of National Trail Day this afternoon. It was a much bigger event than I expected. This picture doesn't do it justice. There must have been over 700 people while I was there and plenty more people coming and going. I briefly met the guy who organized it before he went off in search of a photographer to take my picture. I didn't get as much time at the festival as I had hoped. Repairs to the trike this morning took longer than expected so I got a late start. I ended up making a mad dash for home to catch a ride to my kids orchestra concert.
A couple of days ago I rode to Southington for a work meeting and had an unexpected surprise as I approached the crest of the big hill between Southington an New Britain. Today only about a 1/4 mile away from that spot someone stopped the minivan and got out to take pictures of me as I came by. She commented on the "Cool factor."
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Riding to work meetings

Yesterday I had a meeting for work in Middletown, CT at the State Department of Education. It was an advisory committee meeting not a formal presentation so I didn't feel compelled to show up wearing a tie. The ride was a little over 10 miles each way and it was hot. My strategy was bring a change of cloths, fill the platypus water bladder with ice water and get there early enough to wash up and change prior to the meeting. Everything went according to plan except one of the supports on my left front fender broke requiring the occasional readjustment to keep it from rubbing on the tire.