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

Saturday, July 31, 2010

More riding on 31st July

Today was expected to be a rainy day and I had to cancel a longer trike trip. Yesterday I had got a camera mount fabricated in Puttur with mount head from Dinakar’s collection and fabrication under his guidance. So now I have a nice mount that can be fixed to the back side of my trike seat. I had also purchased a rain coat and wanted to check the possibility of trike riding while raining with raincoat on.

Sky cleared up a bit around 11 in the morning & I went to post office to collect mail & postal stationery. Then I decided to continue making full use of sunny day. I had fixed the camera mount and camera but unfortunately it took only a small video shot. I was mistaken that it had recorded the whole trip. The mount seem to be okay but I dont have much experience with mounting camera.

I took some rural roads & it was good ride. I forgot to take GPS and so the data was not recorded. I came home around 1 PM and it started raining immediately afterwards.

Evening it was drizzling. Using the opportunity I wore the new raincoat and started riding. After about 14 km there was heavy rain and I took a U turn. Riding in the rain was fun and comfortable. After rain receding the power unit started giving problems.

Maybe moisture enter somewhere in the circuit and created the problem. I could get some assist but that was not sufficient to climb in hilly areas and I had to put in more effort. Somehow I came closer to home & gradually there was more power available. So I have to make numerous connections waterproof before next time riding in rain.

Total distance was about 47 km and consumed about !0 Ah of power.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

27th July ride report 37 km

I could not pedal the trike for many days as there was heavy rainfall and for a few days there was no charger to charge my batteries. So today when I saw the opportunity naturally I was happy.

Ride duration was about 2 hours with moving average 18.2 kmph. Total distance was 36.9 km which consumed about 7.2 Ah and 286 Wh.

Half km of the approach road to my house is very muddy. So I cannot take the trike out during rainy days as it becomes very dirty and consumes more power. Climbing uphill becomes difficult as muddy road do not give good traction and is tiresome. So I prefer drier road surface and do not take trike out as soon as Sun comes out of clouds.

Meanwhile I had made few changes & adjustments. So had to sharp keep eye on those things and had to take tools along. I realized my mistake when the cleats unexpectedly released my left shoe in a bumpy road. It was not tight enough and that happened few times after that but luckily there was no leg injuries, just little bit sprain.

Two weeks of rainfall have considerably damaged the road surface in many parts of Highways. The ride today was more bumpy and naturally took more time to pass certain area.

The assist controller was tied with the rope earlier. Yesterday Anilkumar came and helped me with proper mounting of the controller. It was bit tricky as the rectangular shaped controller had to be mounted on the round tube of the trike frame.

Both my cycle meter and drift camera are supposed to be waterproof but the sunny weather resulted on condensation of water vapour. So it was difficult to read the meter while moving and videos I recorded was not sharp. So it was bad start with Drift camera about trip recording.

There was a chance meeting with Nibeesh who was traveling in the same road and spent some time talking with him.

Afternoon it rained and I only took trike to post office about 2 km away to post a letter and did not record that data.

PS: When I look out of the window no on 28th July , I see heavy rain and total cloud cover. Maybe we will have rain next two days. I was damn lucky yesterday to cover some distance.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Charger problem and courier services

Ashok and myself finally realized that the sophisticated Li Ion battery charger cannot be repaired here. So I decided to send it to Shanghai. Before sending I had to decide which among the couriers is the best bet. Having had bad experience with two of the reputed ones, I could not make quick decision.

My trike from UK came by UPS & it was stuck in Hyderabad for more than twenty days for no apparent reason. I missed lot of sunny days practice because of this late delivery but later on they refunded GBP 230 ( About INR 16000 ) shipping cost . Moreover I had already paid more than INR 4000 as customs duty on that amount too. The frustration trying to communicate with UPS customer service simply cannot be put into words.

The senior staff of UPS were not really helpful & some were outright harsh. Their Customer service telephone number also did not work properly. Responding to my mail one of them even wrote to me asking my phone number when my letter itself contained my phone numbers & Email ID. It was like asking – Rama, What is your name ??

The motorized wheel carried from China by TNT. The custom clearance was handled by them at no extra cost but I had to pay a heavy price for communication difference. The IEC code is not mandatory for personal imports but Delhi Customs were arbitrarily imposing INR 8000 penalty which was not properly communicated to me. I had IEC code which I procured during ATV import earlier but was not sent this time to clearing agency.

The original documents of this consignment from China was delivered to me by TNT one month later and I had to write to them many times for that. Documents took ten days to reach here from Bangalore which is 350 km away. We have to submit a copy of Bill of Entry to exchange control department thru the bank we made money remittance and naturally I was concerned.

The in charge lady in Mangalore simply ordered over telephone come here and collect if you want that document and I retorted it is your duty. I rushed a mail to Bangalore office which chastened her. She called little later and offered to send it next day.

So two bitter experiences made to look for alternatives. So settled for government owned SPEEDPOST. The services of government owned telephone and courier may be bit bad but you know that somebody can be held accountable.

The guy in the post office in Mangalore baulked looking at Li Ion charger and I explained it is just a charger and non hazardous. Then they put the words – at senders risk and accepted the package. Incidentally I had used a Li Ion laptop battery package.

Meanwhile WaiWon sent two chargers on 13th July from Shanghai by TNT and the news itself gave me lot of relief. Many thanks to Cyclist friend Shreekumar who helped me in organizing this. Tracking number 976048816. It was repeat of earlier experience. Complaining to Bangalore hastened the delivery after the package spent three days in Mangalore which is just 45 km from my home. Finally the package reached me on 23rd July evening.

The tracking of the charger I sent to WaiWon by speedpost on 15 July was also a adventure unlike private courier companies where single website tracks the package end to end. Here I lost the package position in first site & after some searching leads to second only to lose again once the package reaches Beijing. The third site that tracks internal movement in China finally confirms the package delivery on 20th July. This site also shows our package's latest location on Google Maps.

Simultaneous tracking the two way traffic was fun like watching a closely fought football match especially with very cold & wet conditions outside in which I couldn’t go out and pedal. Finally Speedpost won by five days. TNT took almost double that time. Finally it was not rabbit but tortoise winning the race. Private courier companies have really attractive advertisements on TV but service and accountability is often poor. Hats off to SPEEDPOST or EMS.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Backstage story

People ask me why I am going on a long pedaling expedition ?

My answer is simple. I am cycling for the sake of cycling that also symbolizes self reliance or independence and this is sort endurance trip and not pleasure tour. Considering my fragile health, I am confident of holding together for a month on road. The basic reasons behind the trip are already outlined in the earlier post.

Here I am basically exploring a transportation alternative that is based around sustainable human and solar power.

So I have two things to focus on:

First is spread the advantages of cycling, especially recumbent. Recumbents are much more efficient and faster than normal cycles.

Second, Advantages of solar power assisted mobility. I wanted to travel in a solar power assisted trike based on design by cyclist friend Mark Havran of USA
but it also meant lot of hard work and couple of month's delay. Here I am not physically carrying the solar panels but do have solar panels at home that minimizes the power use from electricity board.

My interest here to show the viability of a vehicle that gets 400 kmpl equivalent from a plug to make up for the use of vehicle that gets 15 kmpl from petrol or 50 kmpl (Reva Car) from plug. I want to focus on advantages of pedaling and work done by young students in other countries on solar vehicles .

Each year, engineering students from universities across America and Italy design, analyze and build a human and solar powered vehicle. These competitions allow students to apply the engineering practices they learn in school to build efficient, reliable and sustainable modes of transportation

Many high school students design and build the solar powered vehicles in USA and Australia and have cross country competition with them. I can draw attention to the fact though actually I cannot use such vehicles in this trip.

One American university has a course called Cycle the Rockies: Energy and Climate Change in Montana and experience of one of past participants can be found in

Compared with this what our students ( Junkyard maniacs ?) are doing ? Unfortunately cream of our engineering talent builds practically useless dune buggies and race them every year at Pithampur near Indore so that sponsoring companies like Mahindra can have their pick of talent. The society is no way benefited and we don’t have appropriate place to use such machines too.

Considering development of wireless communication and mobile phone, progress of computer, network of charging points and electric propulsion is certainly possible. The scenario I envisage is recharge points every 15 km all over the country like they have mobile recharge points every 5 km. Every hour charging gets me 35 km range as I have two batteries.

Here is a case study. We park for ample hours between work in town and we have to bring charging points to those places. Considering small roadside shopkeeper gets power @ INR 3 per unit and sells @ 15 per unit. One hour charge means 300 Wh and I pay Rs 4.50 and my cost of travel is 13 paise per km. While waiting I buy something else too and that is bonus business for him.

My trip should act as a catalyst for growth of low cost mobility incorporating electric propulsion using solar power and efficient cycles. It doesn’t looks logical to me a car weighing 1000 kg carrying one passenger weighing 60 kg or a small truck carrying 100 kg load. It is clear that transport bikes can be an effective way to stop throwing toxic emissions into the atmosphere and contribute to the better quality of life in the city.

Let us strive for coexistence of pedal and petrol. Now pedal is being elbowed out. The trend is to be reversed and the pedal should be given due place in the society. Further expansion should be on pedals. I hope to convince thousand of people to hop into cycle & pedal.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Deadline rescheduled

I have reset the deadline having postponed it by six days. The development past week have not only slowed down the preparations but also have encountered new problems. The monsoon has become weak and there could be continuous downpour early August.

Feasibility of the trip is now confirmed. My vehicle, trike and the assist motor do match well and having covered 350 km plus I am more confident of my stamina now. It is not in doubt any more. Some issues are still to be sorted out.

I went to Bangalore to get among other accessories, Chain link. That was not available in Decathlon store as I hoped and they directed me to R R Cycle @ Madivala and cost of that 9 speed chain link was INR 450. I do not expect chain problem but is just being ready for emergency.

I also got a Driftvison X 170 Action camera in Bangalore and it was last piece with the dealer. The seller admitted lot of people have examined the camera. Hope it was not mishandled. So far the picture quality is just okay. Here and here are samples taken on new camera.

The Li Ion battery charger is giving problem and I have got in touch with manufacturer in Shanghai. Having faced plenty harassment by Indian Customs, I want to make sure it cannot be repaired here before sending it to China. Our Customs may even suspect warranty replacement as new material.

I have two batteries but only one charger. This is like two old people sharing one set of false teeth. One battery has to wait till other is charged and midnight battery swap will become mandatory during the trip. So I am also working on getting additional charger which will increase my daily range substantially. Then it will also improve success chances as one charger failure will not mean trip cancellation.

I did not want waste a sunny day. So pedaled today for about three hours without battery assist. It was a good exercise. Recumbent cycling means different leg muscles are utilized and it is good to have lot of practice.

The guy who agreed to stitch bags for me fell sick and is admitted to hospital. So I will be getting my bags only after a week or two. So I feel another six days postponement was logical.

Monday, July 5, 2010

Another good riding day

Sunday 5 July 2010

Today morning it was sunny but I could start only after 930 and went almost upto Nelyady. I had decided to take a turn soon after consuming 8 Ah power. The slow uphill road was very much inviting and I continued another 3 km. Total distance was about 69 km.

Had to reset the GPS about 2 km from home. So GPS registered 67. 1 km only. Consumption was 15.5 Ah and it was 2 .15 PM when I came home & had lunch. Anil, 17 was at home being Sunday holiday for him, wanted to ride and so I decided to not go out again.

Had to stop about 45 minutes near Valalu because of heavy rain. Today I did not take the charger with me. Had tea in nearby shop there. I am certain that I could convince that chaiwala to allow me little bit charging.

Today total ride time was 3 hours 12 minutes excluding 45 minutes stop for rain. On the way had stopped for 38 minutes. So moving average was 21.7 km and Overall average speed was 18.1 km. the route involved considerable climbing but I cannot accurately account for that.

The dogs nonchalantly watching the road and vehicles going by do not become conscious of the approaching trike. Once trike is very close they act as if they have seen demon and jump backwards and sometimes into ditch. This happened twice so far.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Came back from ride dripping wet

Wednesday 30 June 2010

I started at 845 AM anticipating impending rain. Luckily I was able to go about 48 km without problems. There was heavy rain much later, while coming back near kalladka and I had to sit in the trike holding umbrella.

Going fast downhill on concrete road is not really pleasure. It feels like on train where changing rails makes similar notes. Here bump is more pronounced. On the adjacent tar road, I was able to hit maximum of 46 kmph. This is maximum recorded so far. This was my second trip on that area and so I was more liberal in letting go of brakes.

Holding handle while going downhill imitates cycle handle. The vibration gets transmitted to our hands.

Last part of the road was extremely bad and I had to pedal with wet shoe in slight drizzle.

This photo was taken today of trike on banks of Nethravathy river which I marked in above map as Waypoint.

64.6 km total consuming 14.9 Ah and 551 Wh. 8.5 Wh/ km is little high because of combination of bad road and riding in rain.

I could not ride in the afternoon as I had a appointment to keep at Puttur.

Now I am having confidence that I can do 100 plus anyday.

Hit Century

Tuesday 28 June 2010

Today I had successful 114.7 km trike ride. I could start only after 915 AM as I had to drop my kid to bus before that. Rain also stopped me for about an hour.

Actual riding duration was about 5 hours and 31 minutes.
Average speed was 20.5 kmph.

My batteries capacity is 20 Ah but today during mid day break I kept it for charging adding another 6 Ah. Out of that I had used up 24 Ah by 6.30 PM.

Consumption was about 7.6. Wh / km. I was not paying attention sometimes to throttle level and more keen maintain average speed contributed to increased power usage. The part very close to my house is very bad with sharp edged boulders while going uphill. That consumed some extra power.

I took GPS to track the distance as my cycle analyst gave me problems yesterday regarding distance recording. Early part of ride I did cross checked GPS and meter few times to make sure it works ok.

Morning I went towards Upinangady on National highway and took a U turn about 8km after Uppinangady. Normally I have rest stops secluded places. Today there was few villagers chatting nearby and came to talk with me. They were curious of this strange machine.

My younger son calls KSRTC busses as kesaratisi meaning throws muddy water. Today on a wet patch, the muddy water was liberally thrown at me by the tyres of passing bus.

People frequently want to stop me and ask me questions. One question is Cost. I have decided to keep this aspect confidential now for security considerations.

Morning had covered 62 km and balance was done in the evening. Evening anticipating rain, I delayed for about 20 minutes. But later on the way there was rainfall and I took shelter under a petrol pump. Morning while returning I had visited same pump to check air pressure in tyres. Unlike other cycles, these have same tyre valves like in automobiles.