Bike builders news – Pedal Positive!

Think Positive…Pedal Positive! In this issue, Joe Crennen, the creative genius behind Pedal Positive, reveals what drives his creativity, the birth of Pedalpalooza and pedal tractor pull competitions. Folks in Colorado love bikes. Read about some of the unique human powered projects Joe works on.

Also in this issue, Builders Gallery: recumbents, trikes, choppers, tandems, kids’ bikes, tallbikes, electric and motor cycles, cargo bicycles, and more. More than 2 million views!

We need your help. Find out how you can get involved.

This and archived newsletters can be found here: http://atomiczombie.com/NewsLetters.aspx

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No summer this year!

More rain – what a surprise!

 

Well, it’s official – this has now been the worst summer I have ever experienced in all my time on this planet! I have a total of five days of bike building time in since the snow melted and will be officially throwing in the towel this year. Normally, I can get three to five bikes out in a year, but this year will leave us with only one new bike plan, the Transporter Cargo Bike. Now, it may sound like I am giving up too soon, but with the fact that it rains almost 90% of the time here lately and the fact that I have oodles of yard work to get done mixed in there with a 10 hour work day, it’s not lookin’ too good, eh.

There have been some cool lightning storms this year which is pretty typical, but the rest of the time has been spitting rain every hour or so. I would rather have a massive downpour for hours and then some clear skies for a few days, but this year it has ALWAYS, ALWYAYS, ALWAYS been raining just a little. This makes it like a swamp down the hill in front of my bike building shack, and since I have to work and photograph projects outdoors, it is impossible. It’s just enough rain to stop me. And, I have given up falling for that stupid “20% chance of rain” lie they tell on the weather network because what that really means is spitting rain every three hours so you can’t work outside, Suckah!, bwa ha ha ha ha!

The line snapper after a good wind

 

Another thing that is happening around here is intense bursts of wind. Now, I’m not talking about a nice summer breeze, I mean tree-snapping, furniture-flinging, tent-collapsing wind. This unnatural weather amplification downed this old +80 foot tall tree at the corner of our yard and it snapped the hydro line with such force that it broke a hydro pole in half down at the bottom of the hill. The good news is that I wanted to clean up this part of the yard and we now have a woodstove, so free firewood!

Being a noob at cutting wood, I took my brand new chainsaw and worked on this monster tree for three days, getting what seems to be at least a cord of wood out of it. But after a week of use my chain seems dull. Is this normal for a chainsaw? Hmmm…at that rate I might as well look for a huge bow saw and spare the hassle of fiddling around with mixing oil, bar oil, dull blades and all that noise.

This will be my view for the rest of the year

 

So, instead of fooling myself into believing that I may actually get to build anything this year, I have decided to work on adding some useful stuff to the AZ site. We will be starting the new welding, grinding, and bike hacking tutorials /DVD production soon and I am dedicated to adding all kinds of bike tech calculators to the main site. I want to hear from our community and get a list of suggestions for making online calculators.

I am working on the following calculators and converters: tubing weight, metric/imperial, spoke length, Ackermann steering, chain length, rake & trail, and gear ratio.

If you have an idea for an online calculator, please suggest it in the forum: http://forum.atomiczombie.com/forumdisplay.php/189-Conversions-calculators-amp-more
That’s all that’s new here. I am looking out the window and guess what, it’s gonna rain again soon!

~ Brad

New Plan Online – The Transporter Cargo Bike

The Transporter Upright Cargo Bike

 

Well, it’s finally online! The Transporter Upright Cargo Bike is the latest addition to the AZ plans page and is ready for download. It has been a real battle trying to find a few hours between the rain to get the bike photographed, but the weekend played nice for an entire day. I had fun moving some cargo around the yard and down our windy, hilly dirt roads and everything worked perfectly.

This plan takes a typical department store mountain bike or road bike and converts it into a rear loading cargo bike, leaving the front section of the bike in its original form. By keeping the part bike mostly unmodified at the front, the ride and stance is much the same as any bicycle, so you can head out into traffic and maintain eye level with those gas guzzlers.

A typical yard sale mountain bike

 

This plan is highly adaptable to your needs, and includes a rugged frame that can carry many different types of cargo carrying systems. The Transporter can be made to practically any wheelbase and the entire plan only requires standard bicycle components and a few lengths of round or square tubing, so it will be an inexpensive and straightforward build. I opted for a flatbed cargo top since I intend to move some large items around such as firewood and potted plants.

Testing the brakes down our hill

 

I loaded some heavy cargo and drove the bike down the steep hill up to our driveway for a brake test. Even using only the front disc brake seemed to offer adequate stopping power, and the handling was good. The only learning curve was getting used to the wide turning circle of a bike with an 8 foot wheel base. I did manage to get it turned around in the width of our narrow dirt road, but did use the entire road to do so. For typical navigation, the bike handles just like a regular cycle.

Blending in with the wildflowers

 

Our field is just bursting with color these days thanks to the rainforest-like climate over the last few months. Normally, the wildflowers bloom in shifts of yellow, white and then purple, but this year they are all here at the same time. I rolled the Transporter over to the edge of the yard and got some great shots of the bike contrasting against the rolling blue and white sky and the matching yellow in the field. I think photographing a bike is almost as fun as riding it, and I enjoy trying out different backgrounds to set the mood of the shot.

Well, there you have it, another plan completed. We are now turning our focus towards a set of highly detailed welding, grinding and bike hacking tutorials which will be part of our tutorials page and offered for sale as a complete DVD as well. I should be able to do most of the filming under the non-leaky section of the old trailer, so the rain will not get in the way this time.

~ Brad

Mutant Ninja Flowers and a Turtle

The AZ Yard Muncher

I know, it’s a bizarre name for a blog title, but when I started doing these morning musings, I decided to just write about the day before and try to keep it fun! As I had mentioned previously, this place has been like a rain forest lately, with rain almost every day for weeks on end. This onslaught of cloud juice has made bike building a real chore since I work outdoors mainly and have a completed bike that I need to take final photos and videos. Yesterday, the rain turned into more of a drizzle so I took this rare opportunity to get the mower out and get some of the yard cut. Now, this may not seem like much of a big deal, but we have to mow a three acre section of the yard. OK, that may also seem like no big deal but get this…I hand mow the thing!

No doubt you think I am insane for mowing three acres with a hand mower, but we have no place to store a ride mower, and this twice monthly mowing sure keeps my legs in good shape. Of course, a true garage hacker would NEVER EVER use an unmodified appliance, so of course I turned this otherwise tame mower into a beast of fury by modding the deck.

As you can see, the safety guard thingy that once held the bag has been replaced by a steel horn like thing that looks more like a snow thrower output horn. This little mower can now shred 3 foot grass, leaves, even small trees into mulch, tossing the shavings in the air a good 10 feet. Before I made this scary mod, the mower could barely cope with knee high grass and would jam up once every half hour. When I mow this yard, it takes me seven to eight hours if I walk non-stop, only stopping to refill the tank.

Mutant mow-proof wild flower

 
Since we have been having rain forest like rain lately, I have not been able to mow for more than two weeks, and these tall yellow glowers have taken up most of the yard. I don’t know what these things are, but I don’t think they are from this planet, and probably came here on an asteroid or some alien probe. In two weeks, these things grew over 2 feet tall and they can actually survive being run over by the mower. Yeah, no kidding, I mow them over two or three times and they just pop back up! I pulled one out by hand for inspection and they seem to have a stem made of green carbon fibre. At less than a quarter inch thick, the stem is so durable that it cannot be snapped by hand, and is as strong as wire. Anyone know what these things are? I wonder if dynamite will get rid of them?

Half-way through my mowing, a turtle decided to crawl up the hill through the tall grass for a visit. This little guy/gal was a bit annoyed by being picked up at first, but then relaxed and seemed to enjoy the free ride to the other side of the yard, away from the Yard Muncher. There are several creeks and ponds way back in the yard, but these are almost a mile away, so it must have really wanted to explore to make that kind of journey.

This cool dude came for a visit

With the way the weather is changing around here, I wouldn’t doubt that the next thing that comes wandering our of the pond will be a big ol’ gator.

~ Brad

Random thoughts, more rain!

Managed to snap a pic in between storms.

 

It’s official; we now live in the rain forest! And, when it’s not raining, the humidity hovers between 70 and 80 percent, so it might as well be. Oh well, here I am complaining about the rain when three months ago I was up to my waistline in snow. I guess that spring and fall really are the only good seasons for an outdoor bike hacker like me.

I did manage to get an hour on the Transporter Cargo Bike and added the cables, levers, and shifters. The first test run went well minus the fact that I had almost no air on the front tire. To complete the plan, I still have to get some photos and video of the bike being loaded with cargo, so it will be a game of waiting for the weather to cooperate.

Wow, a day that might not rain!

 

This week’s forecast is pretty much the same as the last two months with 40 to 60 percent chance of showers, which really means spitting rain every hour followed by intense rain for a few minutes and then 70 percent humidity until the next wave of rain. I don’t ever remember this much rain, and I am seeing plant life that looks like it belongs in the Amazon jungle around here.

New welding and grinding tutorials coming

 

In an effort to do something useful this year, we have decided to start making some highly detailed welding and grinding tutorials to replace the old ones on our website. These will be step-by-step video and photo tutorials from the very beginning that will show a noob what kind of welder and gear he or she might need, right up to controlling distortion. Since bike building seems nearly impossible out here this year, I plan to retro fit the non-leaky side of my shack with some backing boards and turn it into a video studio to make the new tutorials.

I will be purchasing a MIG welder as well for the tutorials since many are using one and will go through the process of both arc welding and MIG welding in great detail. Grinding tutorials will be the same in depth video and photo tutorials with hundreds of images lots of example videos, and text that explains everything one would ever need to know in order to jump head first into this great hobby.

A robot project from 2001

 

I like to dig through my old photo archives when I am doing my morning blog. Here is a real retro photo of one of my first large robot projects. If you can drag your gaze away from my super cool sideburns for a second, then you will see that I am riding on the robot, with an RF controller in my hand during a test run of the differentially steered transmission system. This robot was quite unstable and dangerous since it could reach speeds of 20 miles per hour and then flop over face first when something glitched in the motor drive processor!

But, the robot was fun to operate. I would sit indoors looking at a video link being transmitted from the head mounted camera and navigate (carefully) around the block, interacting with stunned bystanders using a text to speech processor that made the robot talk. I do miss building these things. Once I have an indoor workspace again, I have plans to build a 4×4 autonomous robot that will patrol our yard and keep that dumb bear off the property.

Well, I am going to head our and face the rainforest now. I have to find a way to cut the lawn in between drizzle as it is now knee high in most areas. Talk at ya later.

~ Brad

Apples, Sparks and Skitters

Summer is definitely a lot better than winter! Let’s face it, when it’s -30C out or even -10C, you cannot work in an unheated space. I have tried this in the past, and even if you can keep your hands warm somehow, the welder won’t run right, causing sticking and burn-throughs nonstop.

There are good and bad things about summer as well, but for the most part summer beats winter any day. Along the pathway down the hill to my building shack are several apple trees and Saskatoon bushes, and I find myself living on the fruit for days on end when I work on a new project. A few gallons of ice water and the apples are usually enough fuel to keep me going for eight hours or more.

Thanks to a lot of rainfall lately, the Saskatoon berries are almost ready to pick, the raspberries are coming along and the apples are about half way there. I look forward to “living off the land” once the berries are ripe, but will probably have to deal with that bear again. Oh well, I have a plan this year, and it involves some “MacGyver-like” contraptions.

Of course, summer does bring it’s annoyances as well and yesterday they almost drove me completely mad. Yeah, you already know what I am going to say…black flies, ticks and mosquitoes! It was raining yesterday afternoon and then the temperature went right up to 30C, so I took the opportunity to head down the hill and see if I could get the Transporter Cargo Bike together for this morning’s blog, but the mosquitoes were so bad that I had to run like a coward back into the house.

Since there is a 60 foot difference in height between the old shack I work in and our house, the climate is completely different down there much of the time. Up on the hill, it is always dry and breezy, but down the hill, it can seem twice as hot, muggy and often no breeze at all. Add to that the fact that my shack has no doors and you have mosquito hell sometimes.

I did manage to get the wheels and chain on the bike, but after dropping the bike twice to swat humming bird sized mosquitoes off my neck, I gave up in frustration. The grass was too long, the place was humid like the rain forest and water was leaking through the roof, so it just wasn’t a productive afternoon. I am really looking forward to getting the new bike out for a test run, so I will see what the weather has in store for me today.

So far, the Transporter Cargo Bike came together very well and only needs to have the brake and shifter cables installed to be usable. I also have to come up with some kind of latch to hold the kickstand up, but have a plan on the drawing board for that. The other tricky bits will be the rear shifter and brake cables, since they need to be more than twice as long as those on a regular bike. I do have some long throttle cable that was purchased off a roll from a motorcycle shop, so I think that will do the trick.

Well, that’s it for this morning; not too much to report on the new bike. If it dries out a bit today, I may get the chance to add the cables and get a few action photos of the completed bike for tomorrow’s blog. Hey, I wonder if I could weld and grind with a mosquito net over my face.

~ Brad

Bike builders news October 15

 

Wheel building and truing tutorial
Hub flanges and axle adapters for your bike projects
Bike builders community chat
Bike builders gallery – new additions:
recumbents, trikes, choppers, tall bikes, kids’ bikes, cargo bikes & more
This and archived newsletters are here.