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

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Most cost-effective currently available lithium battery source and/or configuration

From the AtomicZombie bike building forum:

“Well, another spell in the repair dock gave me more time to think about possible add-ons (or more correctly build-ins) to the Timberwolf languishing in what I laughingly call my workshop. I’ve been giving a lot of thought to various possible additions to Brad’s basic design, including a geared mid-drive, but mostly about how best to incorporate electric assist right from the get-go.

The logical first idea is to use an electric hub motor on the front. This has the advantage of simplicity, but on the other hand, it puts the motor at the part of the trike where ground contact weight is lightest. I don’t know how much of an issue this will be, but its fair to say that the majority of the weight in any of the Deltas is carried at the rear, and so traction at the front wheel is a question mark.

The second idea is to use one, or two, Currie-style external motors either directly driving one or both rear wheels, or else connected into the chain/derailleur drive train at some point between the pedals and the rear axle.

However, the biggest single consideration is batteries. I have the wreck of an e-scooter that will, I hope, become a tadpole recumbent trike at some point; its all-up weight without passenger is over 200 lbs, and of this probably 2/3 is lead-acid batteries. I just can’t see building a Timberwolf, which with rider will mass somewhere between 135 and 150 kg., and then adding a great whacking load of lead-acid batteries. Even if the tires would stand up to the load, it would be a tremendously heavy vehicle.

So, we then come to the lightest currently available battery technology, the various lithium-based types. These have an astonishing power-to-weight ratio, but they are new technology, and as such there’s a lot of mis-information floating around. There’s also the question of cost: what form of lithium cell offers the best “bang for the buck” in terms of watt-hours stored vs. dollars (not forgetting overall weight).

It’s a basic truism that for a given power rating, using a higher voltage means a lower current draw. Since with most types of batteries the rate of current draw or discharge is a big factor, using a higher voltage would allow the use of cells with less amp draw capability.

The brick wall that I keep coming up to, and banging my head against is this: What form of lithium pack is the lowest cost for a given current draw, and what form of lithium battery is the most flexible in terms of series-connecting the packs to achieve higher output voltages. I have read various “opinions” and “reports” until I’m drowning in hyperbole, and I’m no closer to the answer: what’s the best available form or configuration of lithium battery to start with.

For example, there are a wide variety of lithium cells used in RC model aircraft, robots, etc. There are any number of different lithium cells available for commercial-grade power tools. There are lithium batteries available in various ratings for laptop computers – and the list goes on. The common denominator is that they’re all expensive, and so if one is going to bit the bullet and invest in a lithium battery system as an integral part of the build, it would make sense to try and maximize the power storage capacity and ease of recharging for a given dollar expenditure.

Once upon a time, I had a shingle that said I knew something about electrical engineering, and I suppose I still do know some parts of it. But I’m having tremendous difficulty in separating fact from hype in discussions about lithium technologies, and even more difficulty in finding out how best, and from whom, to source the batteries for the least cost without buying junk.

I’ve considered other options, from lead-acid, NiMH, Nickel Cadmium, etc. – and all are expensive if purchased new. So although lithium technology is expensive, any discussion of cost vs. weight vs. energy storage capacity has to take into account that, unless you stumble across a free or very cheap source, the battery pack is going to be the largest single expense in an electric drive system for a bigg-ish delta trike. Even if motors are purchased new, controllors likewise, the battery is going to be the big expense, according to all the research I’ve done so far.”

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Bike builders newsletter Sept. 4

Featured article: “New AZ Parts & Plans”
Freewheel and disc brake adapters for your bike projects for sale.
More parts coming in September.
Aurora Delta Trike – new AtomicZombie bike project
The Giraffe and Shorty – new Atomic Zombie bike projects
Builders Gallery bicycles around the world
Builders community chat
AtomicZombie Facebook group
Summer special: 6 plans for only $36!
This and other AZ newsletters are here.

AZ newsletter Dec. 5 – Builders Gallery

recumbents
choppers
tandems
trikes
Pennyfarthing
Zombie feedback
Atomic Zombie salutes you!

Stealth bike chopper in Australia

The Stealth bike chopper, Paul Hodgson, Australia
diy bike plans AtomicZombie.com

Stolen recumbent tandem trike

 

 

“The two-seater was stolen. The other trike is what I ride now.

I used two children’s bike frames and an adult bike.  Simple to make and the parts can be replaced with regular bicycle parts.

The steering isn’t quite right though and that is the only drawback.

Sincerely, Keith Guthmiller”

Sorry to hear that the tandem trike was ripped off, Keith. You did such a great job and attention to details it was probably very tempting for someone to steal it. Good thing you took pictures and have a back up recumbent ride. 

Maybe someone will see the picture online and recognize the tandem as being stolen. Where are you located?

Atomic Zombies – you have a mission. Let’s spread the word and the picture to get Keith’s tandem returned to its rightful owner.