Bike builders newsletter online – Oct 30

bike builders news

Feature article by David Monk: Building the AtomicZombie Warrior Trike

Parts for your bike projects: axle adapters, disc brake adapters, hub flanges, head tubes and bottom brackets

Bike builders community: Hot topics and intriguing conversations.
Bike builders gallery: New additions. Upload your own photos.
Bike builders feedback: We love to hear from you.

Free DIY tutorials: Many in PDF format
AZTV webisode: There and Back Again: A Zombie’s Tale

This and archived newsletters are here: http://atomiczombie.com/NewsLetters.aspx

 

diy bike plans

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

100 million volts and an un-ridable scooter

Lightning and propane – not so good! This picture was taken after dark.

Last night was yet another typical example of the weather around here for the last two months – torrential downpours followed by non-stop lightning. Is it just me or has the weather really changed over the last few years? Everything is much more intense it seems, with more snow, more rain, more heat and more cold. Global warming? Yeah right, maybe in the summer, but winter around here is worse than ever. I would like to propose a new term for this wild shift in weather – “Climate Amplification”. Things are not hotter or colder; they are just more intense.

But, I did have fun with the camera last night.

A very intense strike at the back of our yard

The lightning flashes were so intense and so often that it was easy to capture them with a camera. Odd, when I was younger I tried so many times to get just one photo of lighting but never could and now I can get 50 good shots on two days out of a typical week. Perhaps my next project should be a giant high voltage capacitor that can store 100 million volts and then convert it to a lower voltage for later use. Hmmm…as some of you might know from this project, I actually have built equipment almost capable of that feat!

http://lucidscience.com/gal-rock%20disaggregator-1.aspx

Oh well, the show was definitely fun to watch, and the strikes were not so close that we felt like running.

Watching lightning is so cool! My favorite strikes are the ones that look a mile wide and make that phhhzzzzttt-shhhaaaaaaa-powwwwwwww sound, rocking the house to the foundation. I actually captured one of these strikes last night, and judging from the photo, the strike was probably just at the boundary of our yard, about a mile away. You know the lighting is close when sound and flash are less than a second apart since sound travels at 750 miles per hour.

I could never actually ride this thing!

OK, enough about the weather, it’s starting to aggravate me now since once again I am stuck indoors due to the usual 60% chance of thunder showers today. Maybe one day I will actually get to take the last few photos needed to release the Transporter Cargo Bike plan.

As a diversion, I dug deep into my bike graveyard photo director and found this funny one wheeled scooter contraption that I built and could not ride. The idea was to balance like a pendulum and kick with one foot to glide. I figured it would take some serious practice to learn to balance this thing, but being decent on a unicycle and able to pilot almost anything, I thought I could do it – wrong! After a long weekend at camp and almost non-stop practice, I managed a total of about 100 feet on the one wheel scooter. Seems, there was not enough counter force at work when pushing along the Z axis, although side-to-side balancing was pretty easy.

Of course, I will never give up until I make a workable one wheeled scooter and do have another plan that involves some counter acting weights and a sneaky lever system, but probably won’t try it anytime soon. I did make this thing out of the one wheel scooter though, so it wasn’t a total loss.

http://atomiczombie.com/Tutorial%20-%20The%20Spin%20Scooter%20-%20Page%201.aspx

Well, that’s about it for now, not too much in the way of bike building progress, but tomorrow is actually calling for no rain, so the Transporter may get finished finally. If it rains again tomorrow, I am giving up on building anything with wheels and will start making water craft!

~ Brad

www.AtomicZombie.com

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

Paper, Proto, Plan, Precipitation!

A tandem tadpole trike sketch

I was really hoping to have the Transporter Cargo Bike ready to show off for this morning’s blog, so far this year has turned our area into a rain forest. Sure, it’s great for the garden and berry trees, but not great for getting any welding or building time in because my shack has no doors or windows and leaks when it rains. Add to that the 2 foot tall grass and I am starting to wonder if perhaps winter would be more productive after all! OK, enough complaining I will save that for the end of the blog!

While searching for something else to blog about, I thought of what it takes to turn an idea into a working project. I divide the process into three steps: paper, prototype and then plan. Most of the time, an idea never leaves the paper stage. I currently have 43 full spiral ringed notebooks of bike ideas that I have collected from over the last five years. Sadly, I never kept notebooks before that time, so a lot of cool and crazy ideas ended up in the recycle bin.

I usually start with a few pages of rough sketching just to get my head around the basic idea and how it might look.  It takes only a few minutes to sketch up a bike. The sketches offer a decent view of many of the difficulties in designing a bike or trike such as chain line, seating position and steering. I can usually determine if an idea is viable within a few pages worth of sketching, and by the 10th drawing often the bike or trike is radically different than the original idea. This tandem tadpole trike sketch seemed workable, so it was one of the few drawings from several thousand that moved to stage two – prototype.

The Viking Tandem Trike

All of the AZ plans go through a prototype stage so that ideas can be tested in the real world and then either modified or scrapped. Having a rough prototype means I can beat the hell out of the vehicle and see what it can take, making any adjustments that may be necessary. This tandem trike proto was made of electrical conduit and BMX wheels and took about two weekends to put together. We tested this trike at a campground for three days, beating it up over trails, down rough gravel roads, and even off road at times. It held up, even though there was no frame trussing and many of the welds were only half finished. My thinking is that if a poorly build proto can hold up to abuse, then a properly built final design would certainly hold up to just about any conditions. So, the next step was to turn proto into plan.

Turning paper into prototype

When I built the Viking Tandem Trike based on the original prototype, I made it a lot more durable and added many new features such as an unlinked transmission system, adjustable bottom brackets, dual disc brakes and under seat steering. The 1.25 inch conduit was replaced by 2 inch square tubing and the frame was properly triangulated for supreme strength. Building a plan from a prototype is a much longer process because every step has to be meticulously photographed and documented, but it is worth the effort when I see completed projects based on our plans being posted in the gallery.

So I am 95% into the plan stage on the Transporter Cargo Bike and only need to add the brake and shifter cables to complete the plan. But, the rain-man seems to have other plans, keeping me indoors as of late.

This is a typical site out here lately

The weather report has been practically the exact same for more than a month – a 40% chance of thunder showers and high humidity. What that means is that it spits rain once every few hours and dumps rain once a day. The grass is constantly wet, and my bike building shack smells like the back of uncle Jeb’s cabin…ack! I am at the point where I need a nice dry sunny day to get the final photos done, even if the rain holds off for four hours, I would be happy. Oh well, the apples and berry trees are sure enjoying the new rain forest, but the lawn is getting so tall it may take three days to hand mow the yard the next chance I get! I wonder, is there such a thing as an anti-rain dance?

~ Brad

DIY always gets attention

I’ve always had a passion for radical bike designs.

If you have been hacking things together for any length of time, then you probably know that your unique creations draw attention wherever you are. When I was in my early teens, I would string four or five scrap bikes together and my buddies and I would wobble down the street on my contraptions that often resembled bikes from Doctor Seuss books. Making it back home in one piece was a 50/50 chance because I usually only brazed my early bike hacks, but the one thing that was guaranteed was a lot of attention.  My intent was never to make something to draw a crowd, but I often found myself talking to a group of interested onlookers or even speaking into the camera on the evening news.

I took a long break from bike hacking after getting my first motorcycle (and job), but found myself back out in the garage in the year 2000 to rekindle my DIY roots and get my mind off the daily grind of living in the real world. I started collecting junk bikes and old power chair parts and concocted some cool bikes and robots out in the small garage just to have fun on the weekend. Oddly enough, I never took any photos or intended to publish these works. One day Kat suggested that I put some of the bikes up on my website AtomicZombie.com, which at the time was a home for electronics hacking stuff I was doing.

Getting youth interested in technology.

 

Well, within months I started connecting with some amazing people and realized I wasn’t the only one who enjoyed making art from metal, sometimes for fun, sometimes to be practical. It didn’t take long before the word spread locally, and we were dragging my creations to all kinds of events. The large video guided robots were always popular. I enjoyed inspiring young hackers to consider this great hobby. The robots were a natural crowd magnet since I controlled them from miles away via video link and could communicate to people by typing words into a speech synthesis station at the base, making the robot seem intelligent. Soon my remote robots’ main purpose was to draw in a crowd and baffle them with technology.

Photo op with some visiting teens from the USA after my World Record ride.

At one point, I decided to aim for a Guinness World Record, making the tallest rideable bicycle, and figure it would be fun and possible draw a bit of attention to the website which was now mostly dedicated to bike building. Well, I was certainly not ready for the storm that this thing generated once the word got out! I must have done a dozen live radio interviews, news casts and even a live spot on a a national broadcast of Canada AM . Tall bikes sure draw the crowds!

When the tallbike called “SkyCycle” made it to a full color page in the Guinness Book (along with my mug), I was shocked. I knew these crazy contraptions could draw interest, but I had no idea how far it could go. Even a simple recumbent bike like the Marauder would spend half the time parked as I explained the bike to interested people along a ride. No doubt, all you DIY enthusiast out there know what I am talking about.

When I think back to me pre-DIY days, I guess my inspiration did come from seeing others’ creations, although it was mostly in the form of photos from old Popular Mechanics books or the odd newspaper article. Now, with the internet jacked into our heads like The Matrix, it’s so easy to connect with other DIY folks and share advice, so the community is stronger than it’s even been. Back in the early 1980s I would have never thought that one day I would be saying, “Hey!” to a cargo bike builder in Africa and then a trike builder in Australia within a 15 minute span.

So, if you are a new builder just getting ready to roll open that garage door and head out on your new DIY creation, get prepared for the attention your work will draw.  You will now become the source of inspiration for a young generation of future DIYers, so make sure you pass along that attitude that drives us all, “Yeah, you can do this, too”!

~ Brad

Revisiting an unfinished prototype – sociable tadpole trike

In 2001, I decided to tinker in the garage with my angle grinder.

Once in awhile, I like to dig through my photo archive labeled “the Graveyard” where I keep photos of unfinished or failed bike and trike concepts made over the years. Sometimes these ideas just fail completely, or they become too complex to make into plans since I try to ensure that anyone with nothing more than a basic welder and a grinder can do the same work I do.

So, I was waiting for some microcontroller code to compile the other day and I want for a photo trip down memory lane and found an old project called “the Sociable Tadpole Trike” and it sparked some new ideas.

I remember building this thing sometime around 2001 or so. I scoured the ‘Net for any examples of a side-by-side (sociable) tadpole trike (two wheels up front) and there was nothing out there at all, so I thought it would be cool to make the first one. Without any forethought, I spent a free Saturday cutting up tubing to make the trike. I don’t think I even measure a single tube, but sometimes that’s how it goes when you are driven by an idea – cut first, measure things later!

I had some leftover machined 20mm tubes that were part of another project and they fit nicely into a 20mm hollow axle hub wheel set that I built the year before (these were eventually used on the Warrior and Viking Trikes). To make the front steering, fashioned a bracket from two pieces of angle iron and then welded the 20mm tubes to another tube that held some brass bushings. A bolt acted as the kingpin. The odd angles shown between the kingpin and axle tube are there to allow for center point steering (this makes the wheels pivot in their center on the road).

My first attempt at center point steering.

This steering system worked out quit well, but I never used it on any of our plans because it requires four machined tubes to be made and unless you have your own lathe, these small jobs cost a lot to get done at a machine shop. But, for this prototype I decided to just use whatever bits I had on hand in order to make the trike functional in the one free day I had to work in the garage. Yeah, back in 2001 I had a garage to work in, so I didn’t have to dodge the weather all of the time!

The prototype trike required machined tubes for the steering system.

The Sociable Tadpole Trike went together in a hurry and actually looked pretty good when it was done. The steering was almost perfect and the frame seemed stable and strong. I even had an independent transmission system rigged up that ran the two cranks to a transaxle that had independent derailleurs for each rider and a main drive system to the rear wheel, but sadly, I did not take any photos of this unit. I thought for sure that this trike would make it to the plans page, but after rigging up some temporary seats the next day, I found an unfixable flaw in this design – elbow room!

My prototype Sociable Tadpole Trike
 

It seems I misjudged how much room two people sitting side-by-side would need, especially with the captain having under seat steering, so the trike would need to be almost 5 feet wide in order to steer properly and not have the rides sitting shoulder to shoulder. I made the trike exactly 4 feet wide, and decided that a 5 foot wide trike would be too wide for any practical use. Eventually, this design was flipped around and made into the Kyoto Cruise Sociable Delta Trike, which was no wider than 4 feet.

But, the point of this musing is that I intend to revisit this concept once again, and have a wild and crazy idea on how to make the trike less than 4 feet wide, have an independent transmission, suspension, and need only simple components. Are you ready for this one? Front wheel drive and rear wheel steering!

Yeah, that’s right! It will have fixed front wheels driven independently like on the Kyoto Cruiser and run a linkage to a rear steered wheel.

Now, normally I would recommend against a rear steered vehicle as they have quirks, but in this case, the width of the trike along with the riders being placed over the front axles would make the trike stable. I wouldn’t use it as a racing trike, that’s for sure, but for a fun sociable trike, I think the rear steering would work just fine, and allow for a nice stable ride with a great turning circle.

Richard Buckminster Fuller, inventor of the Dymaxion

There was an interesting rear steered three wheel car called the Dymaxion invented in the 1930s by Richard Buckminster Fuller and it seemed to be quite maneuverable and stable from the text I was reading. The length and width of the trike seem to make the difference, which would make sense if you think about how a rear steered vehicle would handle.

A short wheelbase rear steered trike would want to oscillate due to momentum of swinging the rear during a turn, which would then cause the pilot to counter steer and create a hard oscillation that could lead to a rollover. Add speed to this equation, and you have a ride that would not be easy to tame. Add a wide track and a longer wheelbase to the vehicle and it should steer more sensibly, allowing the vehicle to make nice tight turns and handle in a controllable manner.

Now, this is just my “guess” on how the thing will actually work, but I have been thinking about making this my next trike project for 2013, since I really miss the aspect of cruising side by side. If this new FWD Sociable Tadpole Trike actually works, it may be the base for a full body, since it would be easy to make one due to the fixed front wheels and the teardrop aerodynamic shape. In fact, the body might look like a mini Dymaxion!

Well, there you have it, a new idea is born and it will involve some things that have not yet been tried, so I am all charged about either making a new plan or adding to my folder called “the Bike Graveyard”.

~ Brad

Building bikes in my “spare time”

Now that I am having my morning coffee in front of the computer in order to do these daily blogs, I find it difficult to talk about anything except for bikes and trikes. After 10 years of keeping to the subject on the AZ forum, it is almost strange to sit here and simply spill my thoughts out to the blank document on my screen. Ok then, let’s talk about the term “spare time”.

As many of you know, AtomicZombie is a spare time venture for us and I have a day job that had required a lot of attention lately. Yes indeed, I only build bikes when I have the chance and most of my days are spent in front of an oscilloscope in my basement lab where I cook up all kinds of “MacGyver-ish” solutions to my clients’ technical problems. Add to this the “To Do” list of house and yard chores and spare time is almost like gold these days.

We moved out (way out) to the country a couple of years ago and have been learning the ins and outs of being mostly off the grid and maintaining a large yard, greenhouse and garden.  We also intend to move to mainly wood heat, so there has been a lot do to in regards to cutting wood, making a woodshed, insulating the basement and getting ready for another harsh winter. So, it seems that bike building has taken a back seat lately. Am I complaining? No way! But I do miss having two or three days in a row to complete a new bike project.

So, I figured it would be interesting to show some of the other things I have been doing that require the same type of “build it and see” attitude that bike building requires. The last few weekends and non-rainy evenings have been spent digging 3 foot deep post holes in our yard in order to make an arbor and a woodshed.

We needed the arbor because we have no shade in our yard and need a space to grow grapes, so this structure will come in handy. Digging post holes in this soil was an interesting task indeed since it is hard red clay littered with baseball sized stones. This hydraulic auger really worked hard for 12 straight hours, and it was a monumental chore to dig the 20 holes we needed for both buildings.

Some online videos showed this “one man auger” effortlessly drilling into the dirt, making a hole in about 10 minutes, but here it took both of us anywhere between 30 minutes and two hours to dig a single hole due to the sticky clay and rocks that jammed up the machine. To make this thing dig, I actually had to hang off the handle while Kat attempted to keep the auger level at all times. Every 30 seconds, I then had to lift the machine out of the hole and use a screwdriver to chisel out the sticky clay. Yes indeed, we were both sore the next day!

Oh well, we eventually had the posts all set in and finished the arbor, but this two weekend job took up almost a month of evenings and weekends, so I saw no garage time last month. The end result was certainly worth the effort though, and considering this was our first attempt at putting in post or building anything like this, it turned out very well. The arbor is 32 feet long, 14 feet wide, and had a lattice roof so that we finally have a place to hang out and get some shade. I intend to write the next AZ plan on a laptop, and enjoy the country air rather than sitting inside for two straight days.

We planted eight grape plants in the bed behind the arbor and hope they will grow up the entire side of the structure and take over the roof as well. Kat cut dozens of small willow trees from the ditch and wove them between the wall boards to help the grape vines climb the wall, so this should work well as they grow.

Building something like this isn’t really much different than building a bike or trike prototype, you just have to dig in and give it your best shot. Measure three times, cut once, and hope Murphy’s Law won’t work against you that day. So, now I have to build a similar structure to hold our firewood for the year. Oh yeah, I have to actually cut and split it as well, so that should eat up a good chunk of spare time!

I did manage to get three evenings in the bike shack though, and managed to finish the Transporter Cargo Bike, which is now half assembled.

I was just about to put the wheels and chain on and the rain came in heavy, so this is as far as I managed to get on the bike. I am hoping to have the cargo bike ready for the weekend so I can start writing up the plan (under the new arbor), but that will depend on how my day job goes.

This week, I have to complete a circuit board layout, design a software program, build a new graphics processor prototype, and somewhere in there find time to complete the woodshed, so I better keep this blog entry short and get busy so I can show off the new cargo bike soon. So, I shall talk at ya later, and hope you find some of your own spare time to enjoy fun hobbies like bike building!

~ Brad

Painting under the stars

Yesterday I managed to get a full day in on the latest project “the Transporter Cargo Bike”. It was a hot one, but now that I have power running down to the old shack, I was able to stay somewhat cool by aiming a huge fan at myself as I welded and grinded away on the almost completed frame. My goal was to complete all of the welding and have the frame painted before the end of the day, but with all of those round tube trusses to weld and the fact that I had not yet figured out the kickstand, I knew it would be a late one tonight.

Since the Transporter was really turning out nicely, I decided to go all the way and add a front disc brake. Actually, this worked out well for the plan because I could now show the steps needed to remove the brake studs from the front fork and install them at the rear and then show how to make a disc brake mount for a front fork that had none. Since most of the stopping power is needed at the front of a bike, the disc option was a good one for a cargo bike that may see loads topping the few hundred pounds mark.

The cardboard template method of making a front disc brake mount went well, and was easy to do thanks to the “weld it in place” method of aligning the brake hardware. I will probably make this into a separate mini tutorial for the main page, since disc brake hardware is becoming very common and inexpensive these days, and is fairly easy to install.

Now, I was faced with how to design the kickstand. A good kickstand is a key feature on a cargo bike; it has to hold the bike stable while the heavy loads are moved on and off the platform. Obviously, a flimsy side kickstand would be pretty useless, so I worked out a stand that would raise the front end slightly off the ground and level the bike on both sides for maximum stability. This type of kickstand is called a “center stand”, and turns the bike into a trike, with three points hitting the ground (two stand legs and the rear wheel). After some testing, the stand proved to work very well and was made out of nothing more than some tubing and bits of flat bar.

When I finally finished all the welding and did a little sanding on the rough spots, the sun was already setting. I decided to paint the bike under the moonlight and brave the mosquitoes that were now coming at me in large waves.

I decided to use brush on paint this time since this bike would be taking a beating and living outdoors mostly. Instead of a perfect paint finish, I opted for a slathered on thick coat that would be easy to retouch as the bike was used like a piece of farm equipment. Under the dim light of the moon, I slopped on the paint as thick as peanut butter, painting the bugs right in as they landed on the tacky paint! I could barely see what I was doing, so I figured the paintjob would be less than pretty in the morning, but yellow is somewhat forgiving and the goal was durable paint, not a showroom finish.

Next morning, I took the frame out for inspectio, and wadda-ya-now, the yellow paintjob wasn’t all that bad! There were a few spots needing a bit of retouching and some runs near the joints, but at a distance of 6 feet away, it looked as good as a spray on paintjob. I may use brush on paint a lot more in the future since it requires no primer, and costs only $10for a can that would paint 3 bikes.

The only drawback to the department store rust paint is the selection of colors: black, white, grey, red, green, blue, orange and yellow. Knowing that I can make any color imaginable by mixing red green and blue, I have a cunning plan for my next brush paint job – mix ’em and see! By using the color picker in Photoshop to get the RGB values, I “should” be able to concoct a similar color by converting the decimal value to a volumetric mixing value.

Well, that completes the first official plan of 2013, so if the weather holds out today I may get the chance to assemble the Transporter Cargo Bike and show it off in tomorrow’s blog entry. I am looking forward to hauling that old freezer out of the bush and then loading a few hundred pounds of firewood onto the cargo bed to make some fun videos of the bike in action. Type y’all tomorrow.

~ Brad