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.