This is all about augmentations of human energy with electric power for cycling
as the most sustainable form of human transportations

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Routine trip to Mangalore – 90 km

Whether we can use power assist for our routine daily travel was a question which was in my mind for long time. I had some work in Mangalore, about 45 km from home and so decided to make the trip on trike.

It was around 8 AM last Thursday when I left home and weather was still chilly in forested area. The traffic was not too heavy and I had a comfortable ride. Crossing B C Road took some time as roads are bad because of construction work going on and I had covered 16 km to B C Road in 45 minutes.

Roads after that was wide & smooth 4 lane double road and I had very easy time. Normally I have to keep an eye on backview mirror every few moments to evade vehicles coming from behind but wide road means there is ample space for those vehicles to cross. Sometimes I was able to touch 40 km plus while going downhill.

Finally reached Mangalore outskirts @ 9.55 AM after covering 35 km in One hour and 38 minutes consuming about 300 Wh battery power. Same journey by car will take an hour. I put that battery for charging at Ashok’s shop and went around the city attending my work.

Riding within cities is quite easy. With power assist, we can easily reach upto 25 km speed and keep pace with general traffic. Time taken to go from one point to another is also comparable. I wanted to take a small video but with the camera and camera mount combination that I had taken along, my head obstructed the view of road. I realized it only in Mangalore and had little opportunity to rectify the situation.

I paid courtesy visits to many relatives and friends apart from doing some purchases. The GPS tracks will show the route I took and those 15 km inside the city have consumed about 200 Wh power. Consumption within city is more as we use power frequently for acceleration. The roads within city are good but joints inconcrete road makes the ride bumpy.

I left Mangalore around 3.30 PM and reached home before dusk. Rains had started pouring in Mangalore much earlier but here it started after I reached home. I had raincoat with me but putting it on it is bit difficult for me and it comes in the way of pedaling too.

I had crossed 20 Ah power consumption while crossing Kalladka and the remaining part of journey was done with help of charge topup in Mangalore. Totally I must have done 90 km and delayed switching on GPS showed little less distance recorded. Total riding time was 4 hours 33 minutes and even by car – it will take three hours. I have used 850 Wh of power. So for comparison, one and half hour extra time with Rupees Four worth electricity avoided spending minimum Rupees 350 on Petrol.

Kannada newspaper Vijayakarnataka on Thursday published story about my trike trip which can accessed by clicking here and here.

Unfortunately power assist cycling is not given prominence with more focus on my disabilities and on tricycle. Recumbent cycling means more aerodynamic design but it is wrongly portrayed as battery operated tricycle.

I agreed to talk to media not to tell everybody my achievements nor to tell people how I think they should conduct their lives. Such approach is common in environmental circles. In my opinion, a better approach is that of consciousness-raising. I can't tell people what to think, but I can suggest what they might think about. Pedal support systems for cycles certainly deserves such attention and I feel bad about a wasted opportunity.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Trike back on road with power assist

It is more than a month since I returned home from my trike trip. I am taking trike rides almost everyday - for pleasure, for collecting GPS tracks & to bring home groceries too. Few days after coming back, I could not use power assist system. I was mistakenly under impression that the controller is having problems and resorted to pedaling only mode.

Putting the trike on the top of the bus while returning from Bijapur did really create some problem because of rain which I realized much later. After lot of attempts to rectify the problem & exhausting all possibilities I had approached ezeebike who promptly sent one controller plus throttle. WaiWon had given me hint that water may have entered into the controller while riding in rain but then I retorted have done fifteen km ride in perfect weather and there was no rain past two days. He had asked me to open up and dry the electronics inside.

Once they wrote that new throttle and controller are on the way, I did not attempt anymore to prevent further damage to the motor. Since it is not easily replaceable, I was very careful while handling the assist unit. Soon after receiving spare controller from China, just by chance I connected old controller and surprised to see it working. So there was no problem after all, just some moisture getting into delicate electronics. So I am using old controller now.

It was good that I did not have power support for a few days. I did ride about 20 km per day many times and improved my pedaling technique. I was covering about 13 km per hour then whereas with power assist, my average was about 20 kmph. I wanted to increase my cadence as they say now that higher cadence with lower gear leads to pedaling better efficiency.

Recently I came across a story about a American couple using same ICE – adventure model trike (but no power assist ) to cover about 2222 miles in 92 days this year. They have had problem of tire rubbing carrier, loaded trike tipping over and many such similar experiences like mine. One good things I learnt from their story is communication network in rural US, both net and mobile are worse than in India.

Something that stands out in their trip is they have pedaled during night also to avoid hot daytime. It was sometimes whole night and not just small part. The security and road conditions in India will never allow me to dream about this. The roads here not properly marked will add to more confusion.

Some newspapermen interviewed me few days back. I was shocked to find that importance is given to irrelevant issues and main issue using power assist cycle in place fuel guzzling vehicles is mostly ignored. The report carried a photo of mine sitting on a ATV which I felt is sort of contradiction. Another report gave prominence to handicap & tricycle but the power assist issue unfortunately is not given due importance.

Today morning @ 9.30 AM I went to nearby town Vitla to fetch groceries and came back by a different route. The total distance 25 km took 1 hr 23 minutes to cover and I had stopped for 27 minutes to make the purchases. By the way, I was driving boys to school in Vitla for ten years and used to take about 12 minutes to cover 7 km. Today same distance was covered in trike in 24 minutes. Totally it took 2 hours consuming about 220 Wh and it was pretty comfortable ride. So electric assist trike can be useful to me for everyday trips.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Hope to continue with better preparations

Sometimes we have to cancel or postpone the expeditions for relevant reasons. One of the pedaling trips I was keenly following is cancelled last week.

It looks like I may continue my trike expedition at right opportunity with sufficient preparations. One of the main requirement for next lap is there should be a support vehicle preferably Maruti Omni for obvious reasons. The support person can drive vehicle, take photographs plus help in organizing food and lodging, attend to networking. All these are beyond the capability of one person to tackle alone, especially partially handicapped one.

I could not hand over my cameras to total stranger in unknown places and ask him to take photographs while my legs are strapped to trike pedals. So there are very few photographs of mine along with trike on the road. There was a chance few strangers act decently & I develop the habit of asking all people passing by without paying much attention to the circumstances.

One reason for Omni is carrying solar panels on the top so that I will be more self sufficient in power. Convincing people to give me power was not difficult but there was no power on numerous occasions due to power cut. Coming from a village in Mangalore district where power cut is absent because of good payments, I never realized supply was so bad in other parts of Karnataka, leave alone Tamilnadu and Maharashtra. Four or six panels of 75 W can easily be transferred from my terrace to Omni rooftop and that will make considerable difference.

On the day I climbed shiradi ghat road, I had asked boys & Dinakar who were in Omni to go ahead and buy tea. I could take few sips of hot tea in shiradi village sitting on the trike thereby saving few precious minutes. During my long trip, either I went without tea or wasted lot of time.

My life’s philosophy is to just get on with useful stuff and avoid getting bogged down in pointless debates as walking a untried lonely path always attracts criticisms. I do this with purpose and passion.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Return Journey to Home

My plan for returning was to take a train and come via Arasikere or Bangalore. So I went to Railway Station after having lunch at Lalith Mahal. The concerned person booking parcels who himself had pronounced limp while walking was a crook. and wanted to exploit me. With a handicapped certificate I could have got free passage for trike, we both agreed.

Knowing it contains a small motor, he said it is going to cost me INR 750 to book it to Bangalore as nobody will come near the parcel wagon in Arasikere to unload in the middle of the night. I said I spent just INR 100 to take it to Trivandrum from Mangalore. He made a scene of talking to his superiors and confirmed it is going to cost what he has already quoted, Rs 750.

While I was walking out of there somebody said there is a VRL bus leaving Bijapur @ 4 PM and just an hour was left for that. My batteries were low on power but I still coaxed them to take me 4 km to VRL office. The booking clerk said the top of the bus is already loaded with luggage & he cannot arrange for its transport.

So I came back to bus stand area and saw Ganesh Travels bus office and it was repeat of VRL story - they have regular luggage etc. It looked like they wanted to exploit the situation. By that time I was sort of desperate. Next came near Lalith Mahal hotel & saw Durgamba bus office. They said they have tickets for days bus leaving in about an hour and can accommodate trike. I said that I will come back after a tea.

When I told my story to cashier @ Lalith Mahal, he offered to get some discount. He said I should have approached him earlier & could have arranged with the busses, I already spoke to VRL, Ganesh - if necessary. He bargained with the bus agency and I reached Mangalore with my trike for Rs 470 including loading / unloading tips.

The trike was loaded by bus agency office staff and hotel boys loaded my bags. I was sort of running around clueless. Luckily everything was in order. I checked the trike that was tied up in top of the bus in Jamakhandi which is about an hour journey and it seemed okay.

When it reached Mangalore, it was upside down and there was considerable damage to the luggage carrier. I was lucky that nothing was missing. Later examination revealed that water had entered the controller which is very important electronic component   and have spoiled it.   The bus luggage receipt had put the valuation of goods as Rs 300 only. 

In the heavy rain I removed the carrier and then summoned Ashok. By coincidence it was Ashok who had put the trike on train luggage van many days earlier on the way to Trivandrum and had come to my help when I reached Mangalore. Both days, it was raining. If the carrier was not damaged, I planned to ride it home – about 45 km after charging the batteries. So left it in Ashok’s house and he offered to deliver it to my home next day.


Thursday, September 9, 2010

14th Day Throttle failure leads to unexpected trip ending

The Lalith Mahal hotel was best lodge in my whole trip. The trike was parked just outside the door of the ground floor room so that loading and unloading of the trike was very easy. The food was good and was just few steps away. There was hot water in the tap and naturally I waited till 7 AM just to have pleasant hot bath.

Meanwhile in the morning I went to KSRTC bus stand to ask drivers and got input that Arakeri road is not too bad. There was many road options before me and I decided to take a local road to Pandharapur instead of National highway options. Having spent some time in Mysore during my childhood, sight of well maintained tongas was a good sight for me. I took the photograph sitting on trike while passing by bus stand.

The road was not very good but passing thru villages makes it a very pleasurable experience. Two youngsters in motorcycle offered to share a cup of tea in Siddapur the last town in Karnataka side which I accepted. The border is simply difficult to make out but for a marathi board indicating the distances to different places ahead.

It takes total concentration to ride in that road which was comparable to Karnataka roads & not better. I had covered about 6 km in Maharashtra when this happened. All of a sudden the throttle in my left hand came loose & when I noticed the spring inside was visible. Immediately I stopped and tried to rectify it but it did not seem to be working. Considering the horrible roads that I had been in northern Karnataka, I was not surprised as the lock of this throttle broken. It could easily be equivalent to three years of our normal use or more.

Then I took out the other assist control devise and fixed it. WaiWon of eZeebike who supplied this from China had advised me to take this along saying it could be used in throttle failure circumstances. So continued another two km with this set up. So some power can be fed from battery to wheel but there was no fine control over that. It was sort of preset and could mean runaway vehicle.

It can be used in roads where there is no road humps & roads are predictable & smooth. It should be matched with the brake lever actuated cut off so that when we apply brake, the power is automatically cut off. I had this at home and felt get it is not easy. Moreover I had brakes fixed to front wheels only and little control over power fed to rear wheel can lead to dangerous circumstances.

With a makeshift arrangement for shoe cleats already in place, another major failure was too much of a risk. I could not get suitable screw for the shoe cleats in Bijapur also and without shoes locked in, riding even 100 feet is difficult. When I asked about railway network with locals, they said no network is available nearby in the road ahead. So decided to come back to Bijapur as continuing in the crippled trike did not seem logical. Moreover next town Mangalvedha, was too far away.

On the way back I stopped under a tree to analyze the situation and access internet. There was no net signals nor Cell One signals available there. Some kannada speaking locals happened to pass by and they offered to arrange some battery charging. When we went near a shop there was no power and expected to restored @ 12. Waited for about 20 minutes and no signs of power even after 12.20. So power shutdown and road condition in rural Maharashtra appears to be similar that of Karnataka.

I was terribly short of time as evening train to Bangalore leaving around 5 PM and had to book the trike well in advance. So slowly rode towards Karnataka and I realized I was on this side of border after hitting a hump and all three wheels were off the ground for a moment. Gradually I got used to this knob turning business but coordinating it with pedaling was not easy.

I asked for the railway station and was said I had to take left turn at a particular circle and bus stand was half km strait ahead. Still I opted to have lunch at Lalith Mahal hotel as the staff over there knew me & will watch over my trike & bags when I have lunch. After a quick lunch, rode to railway station. Seeing the Gol Gumbaz sign, I went inside for three minutes just to take a snap.

I must have cycled about 60 km on this day. I have done about 1400 km cycling from Kanyakumari and including the distance 100 km done from Trivandrum to Kanyakumari to that - total will be 1500 km over 15 days of cycling. The story of traveling back home will be in next post.

Monday, September 6, 2010

13th Day 100 km to Bijapur

It started to rain as soon as I left Kudala Sangama. I was determined to move on and it was very pleasant cycling in light shower. The approach road to Kudala Sangama was very good but once I reached the highway, it was same old story. Good thing was there was no potholes, just pockmarks for next 20 km.

The land was very level and you could see for very long distance all around. The black soil was tlled but there was no evidence of planting yet. Saw some sunflower fields at distance.

I reached Almatty at 9.00 AM and had good breakfast there. The photograph above shows Almatty Dam in the background. Checked my cleat and the screws appeared okay. The temporary arrangement made yesterday was working well. I may continue with this till I get better screws somewhere. I feel the constant rattling might have played a role in loosening the screw.

There was plenty power to continue then and I decided to have power topup at Muthgi Cross which is supposed to be 20 km away. I was in a shock when they said power comes at 3 PM while it was still 11 AM. Tried at a petrol pump but they said they don’t switch on power continuously. So kept moving and hoping for a miracle.

It happened. When I consumed about 19 Ah, when I reached a KPTCL substation. The lone operator there was sleeping & I had to woke him up. Shivananda helped me in hooking up chargers to power supply but as soon as we completed it, there was power failure there also. So we waited for half an hour and finally power started to flow at noon.

The roads continues to be very strait. Some drivers do drive rashly but there is no shoulders to move on. The road edges are very steep and could topple the trike. The dual lane work is going on and most of roadside trees have been cut. Actually I was a unfortunate witness to JCB cutting tree. So no shelter if it rains.

I was under impression that I can go to Horti and stay there. People I met said there is no lodging facility in Horti and I have to go upto Zalki, 50 km away & there is little chance of reaching there before dark. Since this is National Highway & lot of fast moving trucks present, I did not want to risk at fading light. So decided to stay @ Bijapur.

Since I stopped early, I asked for a engineering college so that I can expose them to this most energy efficient way of transport. That gentleman I met on the road said there are two in city & took me to gate of one. The Secab college that I went to failed to understand the rare opportunity they had and treated me like I had come for free meal. So pedaled out of there into Hotel Lalith Mahal.

Did two stupid things about data collection today. Failed to reset Cycle analyst electronic meter in the morning and reset the GPS without recording the track in the evening. I was concerned as last time when I switched GPS off, it showed low battery indication and in haste to put battery for charging, failed to transfer the track to computer

Will be entering Maharashtra tomorrow. So this is last night stay in Karnataka. Then I can say having pedaled across two states.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Day @ Kudala Sangama

I had spent seven hours struggling with pedals yesterday and it was really tiresome, both mentally and physically. I love to be totally engaged like it happens in all thrilling games and it was just that. Only problem is my body cannot take so much abuse.

I was awake in the early morning @ 4 AM today thinking about options before me and then I realized that it is logical to take rest today and improvise on the cleat screws. Once I decided that I am staying back, I could go back to sleep.

I went to many shops and finally got hold of some screws in cycle shop which offered some hope. I tried many combinations and finally fixed the screws without the plate the bind the screws to the cleat. I hope this holds till better solution is available.

Not getting enough sleep is really alarming me. I am able to squeeze only 5 hours sleep on riding days and this is simply not enough for me. I may just post photos and GPS tracks with less text in future if that becomes necessary. This kind of trip is best done with a support team and I am all alone. Lugging the batteries and sometimes trike too both at beginning of ride and end of ride takes lot of effort. Most of the lodges have rooms upstairs.

Yesterday I had used up 40 Ah which means double the capacity of my batteries. It also indicates that even in worst circumstances you can get 31 km from a charged battery.

This blogsite is blocked in China and occasionally I mail the blog contents to W W Ching, Owner of eZee technology who made my power assist system. I have to say about 1300 km done so far was made possible with this wonderful assist unit and this have been part of many expeditions so far. Here is his comment which he naturally mailed to me.

Govind, you are going so fast I think you probably set a cycling record in India.
Take care and warm regards.

I hope to reach Ahmednagar in four days and it might be via Pandharapur or Sholapur depending on road condition input I receive tomorrow in Bijapur.