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Old 03-26-2011, 03:24 PM
ndk ndk started this thread
 
Location: Estes Park
68 posts, read 262,898 times
Reputation: 61

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Electric Bicycle to Rocky Mountain National Park (RMNP)-bike-v2-001.jpg

Mike from back east thought my electric bike story would be interesting to the assembled on this forum, so here's the tale.

BACKGROUND

I live in an apartment in the middle of Estes Park. I don't own a car, and I use the Estes Park Shuttle to go to Lyons & RTD or DIA when necessary. But the best thing about living in Estes Park is, of course, Rocky Mountain National Park. You can actually hike into RMNP from downtown from a little-known trail , but that's only one trail. So, to enjoy all RMNP offers, and to have enough energy to hike when I arrive, I built an electric bike.

Specifications: Diamondback Kalamar LX Steel-framed 700C hybrid from teh internets; Golden Motor 500W direct-drive hub motor from Pete's Electric Bikes in Boulder(for perspective, 250hp is ~186,425W); 36V/20AH LiFePO4 battery from Hong Kong; countless pieces from the Estes Park TrueValue store. Total cost, ~$850.

Electric Bicycle to Rocky Mountain National Park (RMNP)-bike-v2-003.jpg

Assembly took a lot of time, a lot of learning, and was a lot of fun. Virtually no part of the bike was untouched, and now I understand exactly how everything works and can repair most of it if necessary.

For a home-made piece of machinery, it doesn't look too janky. The first wheel I got had a fun habit of loosening spokes to complete detachment, but I survived. Pete's was kind enough to replace that wheel completely, and the new one has had no issues at all.

The whole assembly weighs ~55lbs. I weigh ~200lbs. I'm a good hiker and a terrible cyclist for biomechanical reasons that I'll never comprehend.

PERFORMANCE

Electric Bicycle to Rocky Mountain National Park (RMNP)-dekita-007.jpg
At the Fern Lake Trailhead parking lot

On flat surfaces, the bike is capable of going way-too-fast. It's like everything is downhill and you have Floyd Landis on steroids pushing you from behind. Fantastic fun, and perfect for the prairie out east where I grew up, but how's it do in the mountains?

Going uphill, it's a lot worse than I thought it would be. This is largely because there is no gearing, and I was stupid enough to build the bike around 700C wheels instead of something smaller. As such, the power output is directly proportional to the rotational speed of the wheel: the faster you're going, the harder it can push. Big wheels + steep hills = terrible transmission of energy. Lesson learned for the next edition. On the long stretch of ~10% grade on the way to the main entrance station, particularly fighting the constant west wind, I have to peddle my lungs out to keep things going. I don't think this bike will make it to Bear Lake without some upgrades or revisions.

Going downhill, it's a lot better than I thought it would be. This is largely because of the Golden Motor's regenerative braking. I don't care at all about charging the battery at that point -- "it's all downhill from here" -- but it's strong, reliable stopping power that doesn't wear down disc or caliper brakes. I'm going to stick with hub motors with regenerative braking for that advantage alone.

Electric Bicycle to Rocky Mountain National Park (RMNP)-dekita-022.jpg
Man <3 Machine: A Romantic Moment at Cub Lake Trailhead

RESULTS

It takes me about 20 minutes to get from downtown to Moraine Park, which I consider excellent for the ~6 miles I cover. The return trip downhill is as fast as you want it to be, but I get scared going faster than 30MPH on a bike.

The speed limit on the road ranges from 25MPH, which the bike can easily match, to 45MPH, which I really don't want to match. Going faster gives cars more time to notice you, and I make sure to stay highly visible and obey all traffic rules keenly. Thank you to every car who shares the road with me, and I'll do my best to be a good citizen too.

I haven't had anyone yet notice that this is an electric bike -- or, at least, everyone who's noticed so far is polite enough that they don't want to embarrass or trouble me. It's much quieter than a golf cart, but loud enough and strange enough that I scare the elk more than the cars, to which they're accustomed, do.

Parking the bike isn't easy because RMNP has lots of hitching posts and no bike racks. I lock it to the bus stop signs during the winter, which I think is fine since there are no buses in the winter, but I'm not sure what I'll do come Memorial Day Weekend. I'll call the Park and ask.

RMNP

... is absolutely splendid this time of year.

Electric Bicycle to Rocky Mountain National Park (RMNP)-winter-cub-lake-036.jpg
The First Green Shoot (bottom center-left)

Electric Bicycle to Rocky Mountain National Park (RMNP)-winter-cub-lake-087.jpg
Frozen Cub Lake, Stones Peak, and Tombstone Ridge

All told, I'm thrilled with how this worked out, and I'll be riding into RMNP several times a week until the shuttle bus starts. Next goals: Lake Bierstadt, and building one for my wife. She wants pink.

Last edited by ndk; 03-26-2011 at 04:04 PM..
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Old 03-26-2011, 03:41 PM
 
20,304 posts, read 37,784,136 times
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Awesome story! +5

When the wife's pink bike is done, please add that.

Hopefully some gears will solve the uphill power issue.

BTW, regenerative braking (aka dynamic braking) is used on railroad locomotives and provides up to 30% of the braking force on ten million pounds of coal train trying to race downhill.
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Old 03-26-2011, 07:03 PM
 
2,253 posts, read 5,834,746 times
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Wink Hmm

Most interesting tale.

RMNP would be all the nicer if far more people accessed it via bikes. As for the elk, I thought they were inured to most things tourist related.
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Old 03-26-2011, 08:51 PM
ndk ndk started this thread
 
Location: Estes Park
68 posts, read 262,898 times
Reputation: 61
Quote:
Originally Posted by Mike from back east
When the wife's pink bike is done, please add that.
I hope I never have to. I think I've talked her into bright green on the basis of it being more "ecological". We'll see if it sticks -- and I'd be delighted to show photos of a green bike.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Mike from back east
Hopefully some gears will solve the uphill power issue.
It certainly would, but there are two gearing choices for electric bikes as made today. One is mid-drive, where the engine is out of the wheel, and one is planetary gears in the hub itself. From what I understand, they're both less reliable and much more expensive than the plain hunk-o'-copper approach I've got in there today, and the mid-drives can't do regenerative braking.

Obviously, with the amazing engineering and manufacturing in the world today, these are not insurmountable problems. But electric bikes are still very much in the cottage industry phase, and I expect the world to be more interested in electric cars and motorcycles in the longer run anyway(one of which I think makes no sense -- at least with even the best of today's tech -- because of the ginormous batteries required for that kind of weight and range, and one of which I think is dangerous).

So, I'll make do with what's available. This may be one of those problems solved by over-provisioning, and only using the extra capacity when necessary. Throwing more voltage at the system will be my first test, followed by a different motor with a different KV, followed by smaller wheels and a new frame, and finally switching to gearing if I have to. Curious that, under current electric bike constraints, the most obvious, logical approach is the least appealing to me.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Mike from back east
BTW, regenerative braking (aka dynamic braking) is used on railroad locomotives and provides up to 30% of the braking force on ten million pounds of coal train trying to race downhill.
That's fascinating, and I don't doubt it. It's just fantastic how much smooth drag it exerts. And I feel way safer knowing I have two forms of braking, one of which can back up the other.
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Old 03-26-2011, 09:02 PM
ndk ndk started this thread
 
Location: Estes Park
68 posts, read 262,898 times
Reputation: 61
Quote:
Originally Posted by Idunn View Post
RMNP would be all the nicer if far more people accessed it via bikes.
Very thankful that you took the time to read it, Idunn.

It would be great if this were a practical and feasible option for everyone. But most people come from far out of town, many from out of state, and you clearly need the power of the ICE to accomplish that in America as it's set up today.

I think the new transit center being built down by the Stanley Fairgrounds is a fantastic start to reducing traffic both in downtown Estes and in RMNP proper. It remains to be seen if people use it, but having seen traffic jams on free admission days that stretch from inside the park past my apartment and onto 36/34, I sure hope they do.

One of the very first lessons I learned from this project, though, is how amazing gasoline really is. Even modern ICE's are about 20% efficient in their conversion of combustible energy in gasoline. And even so, fed just a few pounds of gasoline, those 3,000 lbs of steel manage to barrel down the road at 60mph for a long way. Meanwhile, it takes 20 lbs of battery to push 250 lbs of bike + human at 20mph for ~40 miles.

Ironically, it's my experience with electric bikes that has made me skeptical of electric cars.

But for local or small-scale commuting, like from the real world to the fantasy world of RMNP , this electric bike is a fantastic solution. I highly recommend that curious people take one for a test ride. It's free entertainment, if nothing more.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Idunn View Post
As for the elk, I thought they were inured to most things tourist related.
I think they are. It's just that the engine makes a slight high-pitched whirring sound, not unlike other electric motors in e.g. subway systems, and I think that sounds both unfamiliar and predatory. Or maybe I'm just hypersensitive about bothering the poor things...

Last edited by ndk; 03-26-2011 at 09:40 PM.. Reason: I fail at paragraphs
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Old 03-27-2011, 01:41 AM
 
2,253 posts, read 5,834,746 times
Reputation: 2615
Wink Electric elk

Good point. There is a huge amount of energy in fossil fuels such as oil. One reason we cannot be cavalier with supply, as in total nothing yet matches the energy available. Solar alone could in electricity, but not sufficiently developed. Then so many products derived from petroleum, and dependent upon it alone.

I just saw one in RMNP, and for local trips, even Boulder, the Tesla would do well, with an advertised range of 245 miles. But of course then after no refueling in a matter of minutes. Also, of course, quite expensive. The new Nissan Leaf has a more practical layout, and with an MSRP as low as $25,280 it is distinctly more affordable. Although its average range is a more modest 100 miles. There are other electric vehicles in the offing. In every case the one severe limitation remains a truly decent battery. The advent of that will change everything.

Even for bicycles. One would think the elk would prefer that over noisy trucks.
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Old 03-27-2011, 10:01 AM
 
Location: San Diego
32,798 posts, read 30,025,534 times
Reputation: 17687
This is a great thread and narrows down my choices since I'll want the power strictly for steep uphill off roading with lots of gear.

I am pretty good on the bikes but I don't want to be dead by the time I get out of a Canyon either.
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Old 03-27-2011, 03:48 PM
ndk ndk started this thread
 
Location: Estes Park
68 posts, read 262,898 times
Reputation: 61
Quote:
Originally Posted by Idunn View Post
Good point. There is a huge amount of energy in fossil fuels such as oil. One reason we cannot be cavalier with supply, as in total nothing yet matches the energy available. Solar alone could in electricity, but not sufficiently developed. Then so many products derived from petroleum, and dependent upon it alone.
You've really been doing your research here. Wind is great, especially where we live, but it and any form of energy other than solar can never scale even to the amounts of fossil fuel energy we consume today. Spot on.

WRT the last sentence, some oil executive once said something akin to, "burning oil for energy is like burning a Picasso for heat."

Quote:
Originally Posted by Idunn View Post
In every case the one severe limitation remains a truly decent battery. The advent of that will change everything.

Even for bicycles. One would think the elk would prefer that over noisy trucks.
Change the "will" to "would" and I'm with you. I'm not sure we'll come up with a good battery solution. Nature, in all her infinite time and wisdom, found nothing better than the humble hydrocarbon. And she was clever enough to build on everything from iron for hemoglobin to iodine for thyroid hormones. My best guess is that we come back to that, finding a way to synthesize them using some other energy source, and funnel that new fuel into the existing infrastructure we have in place, ICE's and all.

It's not the solution I'd like, but I think it the most probable.
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Old 03-27-2011, 09:24 PM
ndk ndk started this thread
 
Location: Estes Park
68 posts, read 262,898 times
Reputation: 61
Took a joyride late this afternoon up US-34 into the park through the Fall River entrance. I call this ride joyous because the 36V battery was perfect for the ride, more than strong enough. I covered about 25 miles and 1200ft vertical with moderate pedaling, going as far as Roaring River, and the bike is still sucking kWh -- about 0.3 of them, in total -- out of the wall. I used around 50% of the battery this time, with over 2 hours of there-and-back and noodling around once there. Not bad.

Electric Bicycle to Rocky Mountain National Park (RMNP)-img_0333.jpg
Bad iPhone photo from Sheep Lakes; sunny skies down on the prairie!

There were two piles of tourists & cars in Horseshoe Park, and correspondingly, two packs of grazing elk. They sure are mangy this time of year(not talking about the tourists, of course ). I'm not accustomed to having to do my part to not scare them away(still not talking about the tourists ), but even slowing down and using nothing but human power I still spooked them some.

Electric Bicycle to Rocky Mountain National Park (RMNP)-photo-2.jpg
Pausing to enjoy heavy snowfall on Old Fall River Road

But what a glorious ride Old Fall River Road is, and how much easier it is to ride to there from downtown than to Moraine Park. I'm going to need a bigger battery so I can go further up it. I envy cyclists who can do this without juice, but I'm just glad I can experience it myself. Getting intimate with winter given nothing but a pair of handlebars to shield you is my idea of a wonderful time.

But bearing in mind that the further west you go, the heavier the snow falls, I'm bringing goggles next time. The front of my body was still coated in a thick white pelt of snow by the time I arrived downtown.

Last edited by ndk; 03-27-2011 at 09:48 PM.. Reason: Sheep Lakes
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Old 04-05-2011, 10:13 PM
ndk ndk started this thread
 
Location: Estes Park
68 posts, read 262,898 times
Reputation: 61
Default Swearing Up & Down Mountainside Drive

Inspiration struck me at the end of my workday today, so I did what any inspired denizen of Estes Park would do: set off for Rocky Mountain National Park.

But, I'm not just any denizen. I'm also a moron. So, instead, I set off to do what any moron would do, which is to find a new route into Rocky Mountain National Park, by electric bike. I chose SH 66 as my initial vector, and based on some strategizing, triangulating, dead reckoning, and reliance on online maps and free satellite photos (O our modern era), I was off.

From the satellite photos, it looked like you could sneak into Moraine Park via a trail from behind the Dunraven Inn. The good news is, you can. The bad news is, your bicycle can't. The trail is remarkably easy to find and of high quality. It would be a wonderful walk before or after a fantastic Dunraven dinner.

Electric Bicycle to Rocky Mountain National Park (RMNP)-swearing-mountainside-road-007.jpg
Wild Turkeys near Dunraven. Of the birds that have been domesticated, the noble turkey fared the worst.

Backup plan was an apparently connecting route over a much higher mountain that would plop me out somewhere above Hollowell Park on Bear Creek Road. The path followed Mountainside Drive through and above the YMCA.

The layout of the YMCA is... organic. I had expected something more austere, or at the very least, planned, but once I arrived, I saw normal life happening, including a bunch of kids on playgrounds and some bored teenagers stalking elk.

I finally found Mountainside Drive after some circumnavigation. Let me tell you, that sucker is steep. I had been encouraged by its presence on maps and the apparent switchbacks, but now know that on low-powered wheels, switchbacks are actually not a good sign.

Still running 36V, and despite peddling my legs off, I quickly came to experience "voltage sag". It is every bit as emasculating and debilitating as it sounds, and no, there is no pill for it. The batteries weren't dead -- not at all, they were still quite charged by the end of my trip -- it's just that they had no more immediate oomph. If Scotty were in my engine room, he'd have come up to the bridge just to deck me for trying this.

Things slowed down. I peddled harder. I'm going to have to tithe a little extra for swearing from the exertion as I worked past idyllic intersections with roads like "Friendship Lane", "Tranquility Way", and "Harmony Circle".

Anyway, after a lot of walking a lot of bike up a lot of hills and passing some interesting old lodges, I finally made it to the top of the hill. Got rewarded with views similar to those from Lily Mountain:

Electric Bicycle to Rocky Mountain National Park (RMNP)-swearing-mountainside-road-048.jpg
Peeking into Loch Vale, Taylor Peak lording over the scene

Electric Bicycle to Rocky Mountain National Park (RMNP)-swearing-mountainside-road-047.jpg
Flattop, Notchtop, and Odessa Gorge betwixt

Electric Bicycle to Rocky Mountain National Park (RMNP)-swearing-mountainside-road-051.jpg
Hallett Peak(my personal fave of all in the Park) and Flattop

Electric Bicycle to Rocky Mountain National Park (RMNP)-swearing-mountainside-road-064.jpg
Wind Toppling Top-heavy Electric Bike in Worst Bike Photo Evar

... but absolutely no trail down to Bear Lake Rd. that I could find. My only guess is that you have to go through either insurmountable snow, or, more likely, one of the Christian retreats to get there. Sneaking across their property was too much additional sacrilege for one day, so after carefully calibrating my brakes, I took off for home.

Electric Bicycle to Rocky Mountain National Park (RMNP)-swearing-mountainside-road-074.jpg
Your humble flash-forgetting protagonist, in his finest NO KILL PLZ yellow livery. Thanks for reading.

Last edited by ndk; 04-05-2011 at 10:55 PM.. Reason: Much better Hallett Peak shot
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