Friday, October 29, 2010

Kalkhoff USA Donates Ebike to City of Portland

Mayor Sam Adams and the new Kalkhoff Agattu
On Thursday, October 28, Green Light Bicycles, the US distributor of Kalkhoff electric and traditional bikes, donated one of their Agattu ebikes to Mayor Sam Adam's office. Included in the donation were some additional accessories, including a bag for the handlebars, a ulock to supplement the built-in rear wheel lock, and a complementary bag of their custom coffee roast, “e-spresso”.

When considering which model to donate, Kalkhoff USA asked for feedback from the staff on the other ebike in the Mayor's office, a Sanyo Eneloop. The Agattu was selected because it's a bit larger than the Eneloop, has a bit more speed, and finally, staff requested a step-through frame. It's a comprehensively equipped ebike, with dynamo-driven front and rear lights, the aforementioned rear wheel lock, and an integrated bell in the brake lever, something I missed in my original review. It retails for $2,499.
The city's new Agattu ebike.
Following brief remarks, Mayor Adams took the Agattu for an inaugural spin around the plaza in front of city hall. Todd Seres, from Kalkhoff USA, helped staff members familiarize themselves with the operation and use of the new ebike. They seemed enthusiastic about ebikes, and reported often using them to ride to meetings – an additional one will increase the options available for them. I suggested they add ebikes to the city's Women on Bikes curriculum, as well. Do you have any other ideas for ways the city (and Metro, who offers ebikes in their motor pool as well) or other organizations could use ebikes as shared vehicles?

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

The eBike Shelf: Mastering Cycling, by John Howard

I didn't expect "Mastering Cycling", by John Howard, to be completely relevant to people on ebikes, as it's targeted to Masters class (30+ years of age) racers, but I was pleasantly surprised to find several chapters with some good tips for anyone on an ebike. Turns out the title has a double meaning - it's both about Masters racing, and about perfecting your skills as an everyday cyclist.

Written by a cycling racing coach with many years of experience and an impressive array of clients, Mastering Cycling is an easy read, and it has some good take-aways. In particular, I found the chapters on Bike Setup and Perfecting Bike-Handling Skills to be particularly interesting. Many, if not most, ebikes aren't configured or designed to the perfect racing form. Likewise, many cars aren't designed to be F-1 stars. Understanding the compromises made between optimum efficiency and comfort or cargo-carrying capacity helped me understand my riding preferences, and make some subtle, yet significant changes.

To the cycling racer, chapters on nutrition, seasonal training, and race strategy would no doubt be vital information to build a successful Masters racing season, or career. To the ebiker, it's also useful to know what the racers we often ride with are anticipating in terms of traffic flow.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

The Last Hurrah: NW Portland Sunday Parkways

The fenders are on the bike, it's starting to get dark early, and I pulled out the heavy rain gear. That can only mean one thing - summer's drawing to an end. But we're not done yet!  This Sunday is the final of the five Sunday Parkways planned for this year. This month we explore another new-to-Sunday-Parkways neighborhood - NW Portland, as well as Old Town, China Town, and even a bit of downtown.  Here's a summary of ebike-related activities at each park, and details on the traditional ebike meetup.

At Couch Park, look for Best Buy's signature tent, and check out their electric bikes and scooters. Then, brace yourself for the ride up to Wallace Park on NW 25th and Pettygrove.

In the shadow of Chapman School, Wallace Park should be busy - indeed, most of the vendors will be located here. Check out ebike demos at The eBike Store tent, as well as Kalkhoff Bikes. The hills of NW Portland would be a great venue to check out the hill-flattening capabilities of ebikes.

With all the action in Wallace Park, let's plan on a meetup at 11am at the Kalkhoff tent. The one-way downtown loop is only open from 11am to 1pm, so we'll likely head there first.

If you're riding to the NW Sunday Parkways and would like some company, I'm joining a group meeting at Florio Bakery on NE Rosa Parks and Grand (1 block east of MLK) at 10am to ride in together. We'd love the company.

Friday, September 3, 2010

Meet an eBike Builder: Bill Stites, Stites Design

Bill Stites, c. Stites Design
At Southeast Sunday Parkways, as our Intersection Superhero shift drew to a close, our replacement rode up on an impressive recumbent tricycle. Closer examination showed that it was also a mid-drive ebike. It's rider, Bill Stites, and I exchanged contact info, in hopes of talking ebikes again soon.

Bill is more than an ebike rider; he's an accomplished designer and builder of ebikes and trikes. His company, Stites Design, shares a workspace in Southeast Portland with several design and fabrication companies, and enjoys the synergies that often emerge from sharing space with people with a mix of skills and experience.

The New Truck Trike, c. Stites Designs
His latest design is the Truck Trike, a modular trike with a flat bed that can be reconfigured specifically  to carry heavy or bulky loads. The each rear wheel is driven by a 36 volt motor, while the front wheel is driven through Bill's own StitesHub. This unique product transmits pedal power to the front wheel via a top-mounted universal joint, which has also appeared in other Stites-designed bikes.  Photos from the design and build of the Truck Trike can be found here  -  fortunately, the prototype was sold to local bike delivery service B-Line that I wasn't able to see one on this visit. B-Line has been putting the Truck Trike through vigorous testing - in fact, early testing of the Truck Trike suggested improved rear brakes. While we were speaking, Bill demonstrated his solution, a motorcycle-grade disc brake, mounted to the hub via a bracket and plate he designed and machined himself. The disc is nearly as large as the 20-inch BMX-style tires used on the Trucker Trike. When asked if he'd producing more Truck Trikes, he said, "Yes, I plan to build them in-house, leveraging Portland's great network of bike and part builders. For example, the Truck Trike uses Epic Wheelwork's products."

"I have to run in a meeting."
Bill started his second career designing ebikes after leaving his previous one as a chiropractor.  Once you know this, a lot of little touches in his workspace make a lot more sense - for instance, a model of a human spine occupies a prominent position on one of his workbenches, workstations include mats for better comfort while standing, and his preferred desk work position - while walking on his treadmill.  "Sitting is really the worst position for your spine; it's basically direct compression. Besides, it's good to get some additional exercise in while working," he said.

His early designs included a variety of recumbents, trikes, and a very interesting modulated trike. This design combines the benefit of trike stability with the efficiency of being able to lean into a turn. The pivot can also be locked out, turning it into a traditional trike. Past designs are literally hanging from the rafters; indeed, it obvious that Bill is as prolific as he is focused.

Increased swept area should improve brake performance.
While the brake upgrade continues on the Truck Trike, Bill's not losing momentum on other projects, including  mounting an ebike kit midframe on a smaller-framed bike, and designing a new, more ergonomic front end for the Truck Trike, which will feature a more comfortable riding position without sacrificing any power. "We're seeing a lot of different forces come together at the same that increasingly make light electric vehicles valuable solutions. An aging population, increasing petroleum-based transportation expenses, and denser urban living are just a few of these. It's going to be exciting to see how the industry evolves."

Thursday, August 26, 2010 Guest Post

I'm happy to say that I'm a guest poster on today. My post, "eBikes, the Law, and You" is a brief summary of federal, state, and local laws regarding ebikes and their legal usage on the streets of Portland. Check it out!

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Charlie Sorrel, "Shimano STEPS Up with E-Bike Component Set", WIRED, June 21, 2010

Sorrel reviews the new Shimano ebike component group. Commenters question price, complexity, and battery capacity, but it looks like an interesting set of hardware.

7 positive
2 negative

"16 Electric Bikes That Help with the Pedaling", The Daily Green, June 13, 2010.

The staff at The Daily Green round up a gallery of 16 ebikes that "help you do the pedaling". Unfortunately, most of the comments were from dealers/resellers posting multiple copies of the same comments.

18 total comments
 6 positive
1 negative