What's davintosh? Mostly just the random ramblings of a hopelessly distractible… Hey, what's that?

The SplinterBike

Filed under: Bikes — dave @ 9:33 pm 2011/09/12

Here’s a great wooden bike project; The SplinterBike!

No bolts or screws, just wood and glues!
…a 100% Wooden Bicycle Land Speed Record… attempt!

The bike is built completely from wood; no spokes, no chains, no metal anywhere (although it appears he did resort to using some nylon bushings when he discovered that no matter what species of wood is used, it doesn’t make a good bearing surface.) Even the drive system is made from wood; a wooden chain probably wouldn’t be strong enough so the builder went with a huge cog system instead.

The bike was built intending to set a world speed record for an all wood bike, and they did it; 18.11kph (11.25mph)… Wait, what? 11.25mph?!? Not exactly breathtaking, but I guess it’s something. I think I could do better. Time to hone my woodworking skills, then next stop; Guinness Book Of World Records!

Scooter Races? Seriously?

Filed under: Bikes — dave @ 10:01 pm 2010/09/02

Bumped into this site tonight. It’s in Italian, but Google Translate helps to make sense of things. They’re racing modified 70-100cc scooters. In wild sometimes neon colors… And I think they’re serious.



Another Wooden Bike

Filed under: Bikes — Tags: , — dave @ 5:19 pm 2010/06/11

The boys & I have been dreaming of building a bike for a long time now, and the idea of using wood for the frame, while sounding a bit far-fetched, really isn’t that far from the realm of the possible. In fact, it’s actually quite do-able, more so than building a frame from metal is for me right now. I’ve posted about wooden-framed bikes before (here, here and here) and spent a little time dreaming about it again last night. A new item I stumbled across is an article about a very cool project built by a guy in Germany. Jens Eichler built this thing entirely from plywood.


While I’m not all that crazy about the lines on this bike, the concept he demonstrated — building the frame from layers of plywood laid up like this — is pretty interesting. Not to mention beautiful.


He obviously had to do a huge amount of grinding/sanding/carving to get from the rough build down to the svelte shape he ended up with. What I find fascinating is that it appears he simply epoxied the metal bearing surfaces into the wood shell… I wouldn’t think that would be an adequate method of attaching them. I guess if it were me, I would use some kind of pins or welded-on extensions from the metal pieces that would extend into the wood, below & behind the finished surface of the wood that would help in holding them in place. Perhaps Jens did the same, but it just isn’t shown here. But the finish on this frame is flat-out gorgeous.



And some of the details he worked into the design are pretty awesome as well.



I don’t think I’d want to build a tandem like his, but the concept is very transferrable to other types of bikes. In fact after seeing the Renovo wood bikes, I drew up some possible designs that used plywood that overlapped at the joints. I had thought back then that it might be necessary or desirable to keep the ‘tubes’ of the frame hollow, but as demonstrated with this tandem, keeping it solid is also possible. Another possibility that comes to mind is carving grooves in some of the layers for routing cables; that would clean things up considerably. The biggest issue that comes to mind is the weight; the tandem tips the scales at over 100 pounds. But it appears to be hugely over-built. I think a lot of that weight could have been whittled away.

Biked To Work

Filed under: Bikes,Fun! — dave @ 9:19 am 2010/04/12

The forecast looked a little sketchy for today, but when I woke up at 6 it wasn’t raining (we did get a sprinkling overnight) and KELO’s Live Doppler HD scan showed the stormy stuff had moved on to the east, so it looks like I didn’t drag my bike up from the basement for nothing after all. I thought sure that just the act of getting it ready would surely give rise to morning rain, but Murphy must not have been paying attention last night!

The bike had hung in the basement all winter, pretty much ignored, untouched & unused, so I spent a little time cleaning some of last year’s accumulated dust & grease from it before heading out this morning. Checked the air in the tires and briefly checked the electric motor wiring. Tires looked good, wheels were still acceptably true, but the thing is such a mutt… I really need to do something with the odd-colored front fork. And the handlebars look about as dorky as could be. But no time for that now. Another project for the list.

The batteries had sat pretty much ignored & unused all winter, so I plugged them in for a charge last night as well (that must not have attracted Murphy’s attention either). This morning the ready light on the charger was glowing green, so it was as ready as it would ever be. I remembered again my failed attempt at making a somewhat more convenient attaching plate for the batteries, & thought briefly about how to get by for a few more rides; rubber shock straps to the rescue. One over the top to hold the box down and keep the handle from flopping, and another across the back to keep the front notch in the rack crossbar. No problem!

The ride was pretty uneventful. Didn’t meet a soul on the trail until I got past the Bailey Street underpass; two guys on foot, then another guy on a bike a short time later, then a woman out for a run on Westport Ave. north of the UPS depot. And no goose attacks at all (in fact, the only goose I saw was on the water near the zoo. Phew!)

I had a decent tailwind most of the way (wind out of the SE, gusting to about 30 mph) so I made pretty good time, and I’m sure that helped maximize my battery life as well. By the time I got to Benson Rd. and heading up the hill on the home stretch (work stretch?) the batteries started dropping power. That makes me worry about the ride home, as I’ll be bucking a headwind the whole way back. I suppose it’ll be time to replace/upgrade the batteries sometime soon. The SLA batteries are ok for a powered bike, but they are so heavy. I bought about the minimum size to get me to work, and anything bigger would add a considerable amount of weight. I would so love to upgrade to some Lithium Ion batteries. They are expensive though… Some day.

The ride made me think about the Sioux Falls Ride To Work events of years past, so I did some checking to see when this year’s event would be. It looks like it might not be happening at all. The banner at the website hasn’t changed since last year, and there hasn’t been much added to the site at all. Nothing at all mentioned about it at the MinusCar Project, the FAB website, the Spoke-n-Sport site, or Harlan’s Bike & Tour site. Not that I really need to have someone feed me free pancakes, but it’s a nice chance to see who else is riding and see some old acquaintances. I guess there is still a month or so until the traditional time to have the event, but I would think that if it were happening, the organizers would be getting the word out by now…

Spooky Tooth Death Race

Filed under: Bikes,Fun! — Tags: , — dave @ 9:01 pm 2010/03/27

Here’s an event I’d love to attend, just for fun; the Spooky Tooth Bike Shop’s annual Death Race! Not an actual death race (as in the really bad movie with the same name) just a fun annual event which is pretty much just an excuse for a customers together to show off their wacked out motorized creations. And an opportunity for Spooky Tooth to say thank you to their customers, and for their vendors to show off some of their new stuff. But it looks like a total blast!


I stumbled across their website a while back whilst shopping for an electric motor for my bike, and have been getting their newsletters ever since. Spooky Tooth specializes in retrofit kits to add a gas motor to a standard bike; they also sell some pretty funky bikes, and of course they sell funky bikes with motors on them too. I’ve got an electric motor on my bike, but have considered a gas engine as well; they’re a bit louder, and you’ve got the exhaust smell to deal with, but what you’d gain in range might be worth the tradeoffs. Harlan’s Bike & Tour in Sioux Falls sells some bikes that are similar in design, and I’ve seen some motorized bikes running in & out of their parking lot, so I’m sure there would be some local help in getting things rolling.

But the ultimate cool would be one of the crazy fat-tired retro monstrosities you see on Spooky Tooth’s site. One of these days…

Rickshaw USA — Sean & Coop’s Big Adventure

Filed under: Bikes,Fun! — Tags: , , , — dave @ 1:45 pm 2010/03/11

The brother of a long-time friend of mine is on an amazing adventure; he’s riding a pedicab on route that nearly circles the continental US. His route took him through Baton Rouge, LA, recently, and he was featured in a local ABC news report:

Sean started out his trip from New York in the enormous Thai-style rickshaw you see pictured below, but found it wasn’t quite up to the trip and ended up being replaced by a more modern pedicab about a 1,000 miles into the trek. I’m sure he misses the built-in sunshade, but won’t miss the extra weight; the old one weighed about 700lbs and had only 3 gears! His knees will thank him in twenty years or so.


When asked why he’s doing this, it seems there are a lot of things motivating him; from his FAQ:

Q. Why are you doing this, what is your cause?
A. My cause is because.

My buddy John (Sean’s brother) says he’s doing it to avoid work. “Because” seems to be a better motivation, so we’ll stick with that. And what he said in the interview about the importance of having an adventure rings true to the romantic in me. I wish I’d had the gumption to do something like this in the years before wifejobkidshousemortgagecarsstuff, because I sure don’t see anything like it happening in my future.

Sean is now in the Gulf states region, and his planned route will take him…

… west across TX, NM, and AZ up to Vegas then over to Cali. Up Cali and try to go as north as possible depending on the terrain then head east thru Montana (one of the states I’m really looking forward to riding thru, Big Sky!!) Head into the Dakotas, stop off at my brothers in Sioux Falls. Then hit up my home state of Iowa try to meet up with Ragbri. Hang with my folks for a week or so. And then haul butt to NYC.”

His original plan was to hook up with RAGBRAI 2010, but considering he also planned to be in New Orleans by Christmas, RAGBRAI 2011 might be a more attainable goal! It’s cool that he’s planning a stopover in Sioux Falls; should be a big party at John’s place!

Sean & Coop’s Blog

When Geese Attack

Filed under: Bikes,Just Stuff — Tags: , — dave @ 10:45 pm 2008/08/22

So, there I was, minding my own business riding my bike to work. When out of the blue, a Canada goose attacks me. Stoopid goose.

It’s not unusual to see geese on the Sioux Falls greenway bike path, but usually they scurry down the side of the dike to get out of your way. Just last week there was a herd of them not far from this morning’s encounter, and most of them just moved out of the way. There was some hissing, and one ended up trying to get out of my way by moving in the same direction & taking flight, but not this morning.

I was going north on the path near the fairgrounds when I saw him. My first thought was, “Aha! My nemesis!” (that actually did cross my mind.) It looked like the goose started moving down the slope, but as I approached, he opened his beak hissing & took flight right at me.

I was buzzing along about 20mph (thanks to the handy dandy electric motor) and stuck my left foot up to at least keep him out of my face and hopefully stay on the bike. That worked pretty well; my foot caught him square in the breast, and he wasn’t able to lay a wing on me.

I looked back & saw him picking himself up off the ground, so I don’t think he was hurt too badly. I had thoughts of going back and finishing him off, but that might have some, ummm, repercussions if someone were to see it. Besides, something tells me that particular goose won’t be pulling anything like that again any time soon.

Stoopid bird.

What’s Wrong With This Picture?

Filed under: Bikes,Fun! — Tags: , , — dave @ 12:32 pm

Yup, there am some reel jeeniesses workin’ in transportation. Uh huh.

Thanks, Miss C.!

The $350 Electric Bike

Filed under: Bikes,Geek — dave @ 11:02 am 2008/07/01

At the other end of the spectrum from the $13,000 Optibike that I wrote about a few weeks back is the E-Zip 2008 Trailz Hybrid Electric Bike. The E-Zip is built by Currie Technologies and uses a DC motor with a 24-volt sealed lead acid battery pack that locks onto the rear rack. The bikes are being sold through a number of retailers, including Walmart! (gasp!)


From reports I’ve read online, (Treehugger, for one) the bike is a bit on the heavy side, but its performance is pretty decent, especially considering the price. Range is about 15 miles or so, top speed of about 20mph… Sounds a lot like my e-bike, but with a lot less hassle involved in getting it on the road.

Heck, if I’d known about these things before buying mine, I probably would’ve gone that route instead. If only it weren’t for the Walmart connection…

The Trials & Tribulations Of Building An E-Bike On The Cheap

Filed under: Bikes,Cool Technology,Fun!,Gadgets,Geek — dave @ 10:37 am 2008/06/15

Last fall I finally broke down and bought an electric conversion kit for my bike. Getting there was a long process because the CFO (aka: the Wife) wasn’t terribly excited about the idea, so funding for it was very spotty. A bonus at work finally provided the cash needed for the motor, and I was on my way.

I had checked out lots of different hubs, including the GoHub that I wrote about a while back, and settled on a rear wheel hub motor manufactured & sold by Golden Motor.

In retrospect, the decision to go with the Golden hub was probably a poor one. The design of the motor itself is reportedly pretty decent, and my experience with it on the road is positive, but reports from users on their user’s forum show that the product quality from Golden is very inconsistent; most work well, but a sizable (and what most would consider unacceptable) percentage have serious issues, and service is about as bad as it gets. That means it’s nonexistent. Orders are handled by way of email and PayPal transactions, and the primary sales contact — Philip — is in China; messages to him go unanswered for way too long, if they get answered at all. About the only communication I received from him is when I actually placed an order for the motor; all the pre- and post-sales emails I’ve sent to him have been ignored. The best support for the product comes via the user’s forum, but that’s of pretty limited usefulness as there is absolutely no official presence there from Golden Motor. There are some knowledgeable, helpful individuals on the forum giving good information on occasion, but I’d much prefer someone on the inside keeping things humming.

I picked the Golden Motor hub mainly because of price; $265 shipped — far less expensive than most others. When I first found them earlier last summer, the kit was $175 plus shipping, but with the weight of the kit, I’m sure shipping was fairly expensive; not $90 expensive, but… I really shouldn’t complain though. Now the price has jumped to $338 shipped. Guess the weak dollar has really taken its toll.

After placing my order, I didn’t expect to see the hub for a while — reports on the forum pegged delivery to be measured in weeks — but it turned out that the longest delay was getting PayPal to transfer the cash to Golden. After they got my money the hub kit was shipped from a distributor in California (I think) and I got it within a few days. Apparently things are improving on that front.

From what I read on the user’s forum, most hub motors sold are for front wheel installations. That kit seems to be well engineered and goes on the bike pretty easily. But the rear wheel kit… that’s pretty much a work in progress. I went with the rear hub thinking that it would give me the best flexibility for mounting it on other bikes, especially with the rowtrike/rowbike the boys and I are hoping to build in mind. After making that decision and placing my order, one issue that came to my attention is that the rear hubs required 160mm between the rear dropouts. I planed to mount the motor on my ProFlex mountain bike, which has a standard rear axle width of 135mm. If I did nothing to narrow the hub I’d need to spread the dropouts to add 25mm between the dropouts. That’s just under an inch, which may be a bit much. But when the motor arrived, the story was different.

Others who had bough the rear hubs before reported that they had threads on both sides; the right side for the freewheel of course, and the left with matching threads for a brake. The hubs were originally designed for scooters in China, which use a band brake on the left side. Generally, band brakes are used on scooters and other small-wheeled contrivances; on a 26″ bike wheel, the torque is too much for the band brake to handle, and makes it pretty much worthless for stopping power. But the hub I received had threads only on the right side, for the freewheel. That made the width of the hub less of an issue, but I had a few other issues that I still needed to deal with.

The first order of business was to fabricate a new set of spacers for the axle that left enough room on the right for the freewheel. The spacers are short bits of steel tubing that fit between the bearing races and the bike frame dropouts. My motor appears to be one of the transitional iterations that was only half done right, and the spacers that were included were far too short to be of any use. I first measured the width of the hub, from the outsides of the two bearings and subtracted that from the space between the dropouts. I measured the depth of the freewheel and added a bit to that for the right side spacer, then used the remainder of the room available for the left.

Problem number two was with the axle. The axle has flats ground on them which holds the axle in place and allows the torque to be transferred to the ground instead of spinning the axle inside the hub. The axle flats were cut as if this hub still had the threaded cover on the left side — transitional species again. So I had to grind down the round part of the axle to extend the flats to where the dropout would hit it. You can see in the photo that even then, the threads don’t go far enough toward the center of the wheel, so I have to add a washer outside the dropout to keep the wheel on.


The problem I then encountered was the rim; the wheel was built with the rim centered on the hub, so with the freewheel on the right, the hub — and the rim — was off center by about an inch.


I took the wheel to Spoke n Sport to have them dish it; I don’t have a truing stand, and I’ve only built two wheels in my entire life, so I thought they could do it much better than I. Turned out they could only move the rim about 5mm toward the freewheel side because the spokes on the other side were running out of threads. Dang. Not sure if buying longer spoke nipples is an option or what, but it’s still not where I need it. I went ahead and mounted the wheel on the bike, then adjusted the brakes to get them to work. It works, but I don’t much like the arrangement and will be swapping in a different rim properly dished sometime soon.


One option that I had thought of earlier, but may end up just doing is to build a new rear triangle for the ProFlex specifically for the electric hub; one that pushes the wheel backward six inches or so to make room for batteries between the wheel and downtube, similar to the rear triangle on the Liberty Electric Bike. That idea comes in part from the XtraCycle FreeRadical and the Stoke Monkey; in fact a home-built version of that made from the rear triangle of a scrapped frame might be just the ticket. Hmmm… That’s got possibilities. I’ve been trying to scrounge up some old bike frames for the job, but most everything is just junk bikes, so I may have to get a little more sophisticated than Freecycle or thrift stores. Mainly what I’m looking for is a dropout that has a real derailleur hanger on it; I would think that something like that would be easier to come by, but…

My bike is a ProFlex 872, and the rear triangle is composed of a pair of beefy chainstays on a pivot just above the crank, with a smaller diameter set of seat stays attached to an elastomer shock just below the intersection of the seatpost and top tube. If I build a new rear triangle to supplant the original to make space behind the seat tube for mounting batteries down low, it will also make room for a real shock absorber for the rear wheel. The funky elastomer shocks on ProFlex bikes never lasted long, and with the demise of the manufacturer, replacement elastomers are hard to find — mine is long gone, replaced with a chunk of rubber designed for an automotive application, so it doesn’t have much give. It would be really nice to have a real shock in there!

I ordered a set of three 12 volt, 7 amp/hour sealed lead acid batteries from Rage Battery for it, again being budget conscious in that decision. I put the batteries in an old trunk pack that on hand, setting that on an aluminum rack on the back of the bike. The controller was mounted to a small piece of plywood cut to fit inside a nylon bag that hangs from the top tube. Maybe when I get around to building the new rear triangle I’ll include room for the controller in there as well. The bag works ok, but it could be much better. Some of the other bikes built by Golden Motor buyers have some goofy looking controller installations, and I think mine is a bit cleaner looking. I might be compromising airflow around the controller a bit, but I don’t think heat has been much of an issue thus far.

The biggest problem in using the bike so far this year has been the weather. We’ve had an unusually long, cold & wet spring. Mechanically, the bike has worked well for the first 100 miles. I have been able to use the bike to get to work and back with little effort… Riding the bike is like, well, riding a bike. Except riding with the motor feels like you’re always going downhill. Without pedaling the bike will carry me at a pretty steady 18mph. If I pedal a bit it’s possible to kick it up to about 25mph, but the biggest restriction there seems to be gearing — I can’t spin much faster than that. I’m thinking about putting a bigger chainring on it to increase my top speed.

On the subject of gearing, another modification I’m considering is eliminating the multi-speed rear cluster. I’ve got a bit of a Mickey Mouse shifter arrangement set up for the rear derailleur — and old thumb shifter mounted on the left handlebar — and the result is that I don’t use it much. Most of the shifting is done on the front chainrings. A single speed freewheel on the wheel will make centering the wheel much easier.

One thing that makes riding this bike feel different than a standard bike is out of the seat pedaling. Definitely not recommended. I did that riding up a steep hill last week, and I thought I was going to lose the batteries from the rack. Going up a hill does take a bit of effort; the motor alone isn’t up to the task. But even with a single speed freewheel, even a steep hill should be very doable by dropping down to a smaller chainring.

When riding on the bike trail in Sioux Falls, it’s a kick being able to pass others so easily; makes you feel like Superman! I was riding it home one day last week, and there was a nasty crosswind. Other cyclists were struggling to keep going at about 10mph; I was able to maintain the usual 18-20mph with no trouble, so I flew by the others. So all in all, I think the project has been a success.

Update: The bike worked great until this week. I hopped on it yesterday morning to go somewhere, and the rear wheel felt funny. I thought it might be low on air, so I turned around to fill it up. While attaching the pump I noticed a problem with one of the spokes…


It’s not supposed to look like that. Closer inspection showed that several other spoke holes showed less severe cracking; not a good sign, but not all that unexpected either. The rim that was included with the hub motor was a cheapo single-wall alloy rim, and obviously wasn’t designed for use on such a heavy bike. The motor, batteries, bike and me was a bit too much for it. This situation makes replacing the rim more than a someday thing. I hope to get the wheel dished properly this time; whether that involves buying different spokes or not, I don’t know.

After removing the wheel for closer inspection, it also seems that the wheel doesn’t spin as easily as it did when I first got it. I’ll be removing the motor covers to inspect the bearings to see if there is a problem there. It appears that the wheel spacers have held up well; I was a little concerned about them. Even considering the initial challenges and this most recent setback, I still think the project has been successful. This issue with the rim will indeed be a challenge, but I think the end result will be a better performing product.

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