Paul Andrews

Posts Tagged ‘electric bike’

Will the Copenhagen Wheel Cure Cancer?

In Bicycle advocacy, Bicycle Commuting, Obama Bikes on December 18, 2009 at 12:44 pm

Several people have breathlessly alerted me to the big announcement at the United Nations Climate Change Conference of the MIT “Copenhagen Wheel” — a rear wheel with hub-enclosed technology that not only boosts a cyclist with a “burst of power” on demand but contains a number of “smart bike” features, including anti-theft “braking” and email notification.

OK, I love all this. But really.

First off, in evaluating any Woo Woo Tech Whiz product, I like to see numbers. In the reports I’ve seen so far, there aren’t any. Battery type. Wattage output. Drive-system specifications. Weight. Volume. Does the hub have internal shifting? Judging from the photo, it’s either that or a singlespeed with a fairly challenging gear ratio. No wonder it needs a battery boost.

Battery technology is improving all the time, so maybe this thing can put out enough power to be meaningful. And the brake-regeneration system works, as the Prius I drive attests to. But you don’t brake bikes the way you brake cars; bikes slow down pretty well on their own on most surfaces. Cars have to be braked far more, with considerably more force.

Further, the press release mentions only “steep inclines” for acceleration boosting. Seattle and San Francisco, to cite a couple of bike friendly cities, don’t have inclines, they have hills. Inclines are something almost anyone serious about cycling can handle without a battery boost. Hills are where you really need an electric backburner.

But auxiliary power is just one facet of the Copenhagen wheel. It’s supposed to be chock full of “cheap electronics” that notify you of friends nearby, how much pollution is in the air, terrain challenges ahead, distance to and from, and other cool stuff. It supposedly will interface with your iPhone as the client, all well and good. The iPhone can do much of this already, but the notion of real-time communication with your bike invites all kinds of fantasizing.

The one that stopped me, though, was the theft-deterrence feature. Apparently the bike will automatically go into brake mode when stolen and automatically send the owner an email that his or her bike has been purloined. Under the “worst-case scenario,” the press release states, “the thief will have charged your batteries before you get back your bike.”

No, under the worst case scenario, the thief tosses your bike in a truck, slaps a lead case over the hub (or simply jams the signal) and drives off to a lab where the electronics are reconfigured to impede any detection of or communication with the bike.

The Copenhagen Wheel is asking a lot in terms of consumer faith, and my skepticism derives from two real-world reality checks. First, this is still a project in development (is there even a prototype?), which means it needs continued funding. And the best way to get funding is to hype something over the ever-gullible mainstream press and eWorld.

Secondly, recall the last time we were promised a huge breakthrough in personal transportation technology. A two-wheeled invention that would prove bigger than the personal computer, and more important than the Internet. That’s right, the Segway.

Yeah, like that worked…

Copenhagen wheel, meet Seattle's mayorStill, I know a guy who’d be the perfect ambassador for the Copenhagen wheel. It’s Seattle’s new mayor, Mike McGinn. He already rides an electric bike and knows a lot more about its ins and outs than a mere blogger like me. Plus he’s committed to continuing to ride as mayor.

MIT, here’s your guinea pig.

The Copenhagen Wheel unveiled

Daily Roundup Returnz!

In Bicycle Racing, Daily Roundup, Mountain Biking on June 24, 2009 at 9:51 pm

Sorry all…I’ve been traveling, mountain biking, and collecting all sorts of new contacts. More later…but for now, here’s the newZ!

The City of Seattle intends to complete the Burke-Gilman “missing link” for cyclists, as we noted, but it won’t be easy. From the Ballard Tribune:

“Attendees at the meeting claimed that bicyclists do not need a bike lane on Nickerson, or even on Leary Way, because there are off-street bike trails nearby.”

This needs clarifying: The problem being that the trail is available at some points paralleling Leary, but not everywhere. On the Nickerson side, the same thing applies. Not sure what point “attendees” were trying to make, but in general more bike lanes are needed everywhere in the city, especially along east-west corridors. The other factor in play here is that mixing rec trails with commuter trails is increasingly a harrowing proposition. As bike commuting grows, it needs a conduit of its own to flourish.

A $500 billion Transportation Bill has about as much chance as Dick Cheney renouncing torture in this Year of Living Deficitly, but BikePortland.org has a thorough rundown anyway.

I came within a couple of days of seeing the Ashland Super-D mountain bike race. But it was all the talk of the town even in the aftermath. When I rode Ashland, it was sunny and in the high 80s. More on that later.

You can go 50 miles an hour on this bike without pedaling, and not even downhill. It’s the only bike you can get at Best Buy, and here’s why.

The Godz of Klunkerz, Gary Fisher, Joe Breeze, Charlie Kelly and Wende Crage, were on the public radio station KQED. Photo here (guess which one is Gary!), hear here.

Daily Roundup: ‘lectric bikes in Japan, Cannondale recall, Tweet, Trail maintenance, Travel tales, Rider Down Update

In Bicycle advocacy, Bicycle Commuting, Bicycling, Daily Roundup, Mountain Biking, Rider Down on March 17, 2009 at 6:58 pm

ElectricBike: “Japan Electric Bicycles Booming” Battery technology is leading the way, but the high price of fuel is pushing it along too. Top drivers: Delivery services and rental firms.

Cannondale is recalling road bikes lacking spoke protectors. Doesn’t seem like that big a deal but there you have it. The law’s the law…

Bicycle Times, whose visit to Seattle we chronicled in our review of Bike Expo, can be followed on Twitter now. So can its parent mag, Dirt Rag.

BikePortland: On Saturday, mountain bikers will fill Forest Park in Portland to do trail maintenance. I love linking to these stories and showing them to my Sierra Club and Washington Trails Assn. friends who complain about mountain bikers. Hey, we’re the good guys!

More OR: The state’s tourism agency, Travel Oregon, is looking for biking tales. Now you get to commit those epic adventures to print, exaggerations and all.

Rider Down Redux: Remember the Chattanooga cyclist whose saddlebags got hooked by a passing truck, dragging him underneath the truck to his death? Looks like there will be an investigation after all. Thanks to DrunkCyclist by way of Eastside Cyclist.