Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Lubbock on a Bike June Update and an Idea for the Baddest of Cyclists

In the National Bike Challenge, Spencer kicked my butt all over the place in June. I started strong and then started working out of town and... Let's just say it wasn't pretty. Man, I want a folding bike to take with me on trips. (Stupid snagging consumerism that rises in me like a kraken or a phoenix or a helium balloon!) The red circles are the days I rode in June:

I will try for better in July!
So there I was pedaling my way to work this morning while my two cycling mantras kept cycling through my head: Don't push harder, but definitely keep pushing! and Just keep swimming swimming swimming. (I channel my inner Ellen/Dori for help on that one.) I was my riding my 25-year-old mountain bike that switches gears like a cranky old man. I was thinking of how much easier it is to ride a modern bike with modern drivetrain components. Then I started thinking about the exercise I get from riding. Unlike most workout programs, it does not get progressively harder. With small adjustments for wind and temperature, it's pretty much the same workout each day.
So I thought of what I could do when I want to take my workout up a notch. Two possibilities came to mind: pick a different route or pick a less efficient bike to ride. Then I thought of serious road bikers who often spend massive amounts of money to get lighter and easier-to-pedal bikes. I think they are doing it all wrong! If you want a better workout or to prove that you are one seriously bad mamma jamma, you need to go road riding on this:
A $79 dollar cruiser
Maybe it's time to start a new racing series. Require everyone to ride the same crappy bike with a single speed, coaster brakes, and balloon tires. We can be sympathetic to a few ergonomic changes - the seat and handlebars could be changed. We can also allow upgraded tubes for the sake of reliability. Otherwise, let's level the playing field and make it about just the rider and not about the rider's budget. We could call it Tour de Work-Your-Butt-Off and market it to those who have something to prove.
Maybe then the serious cyclists will put their high-dollar road bikes up for sale (cheap!!!) so that those of us who can barely manage a five-mile commute to work can buy used bikes that are lighter and easier to pedal.
May you definitely keep pushing and leave your car at home!

Monday, June 29, 2015

PCR Olla Update: Tomatoes and Pollinators equal success!

For those of you following the olla progress, here are a few photos and notes from the weekend.

Getting close!
These are the free tomato plants from the "Preparedness Fair" that have been present in almost every olla post. I have been excited for a week now watching this tomato start to blush.
A welcome sight!
We are seeing lots of pollinators passing through - this one showed up yesterday.

Yesterday I reached in to check the olla for water and found this hidden and fully ripe tomato. This is our first produce from the olla planters. It was rich and wonderful. My lovely bride and I enjoyed the first fruit of the garden.
In the immortal words of some singer from Indiana, may "we cannot forget from where it is that [our food] comes from..." or something like that. May you find a little joy today!

EV Vespa, Farmers Market, glad to be alive

I love Saturday mornings. Saturday is the one morning each week where I do not have a prescribed place to be, and there is a tremendous value in that.

This Saturday was a good one. I met some (many) of the Too Flatters downtown for breakfast and a stroll around the Lubbock Downtown Farmers Market.

I bought coffee, dog biscuits, carrots, peaches, and a truly magnificent brownie from my favorite vendor - Chocolate and Beyond. (Condo's favorite is still the KDJ Barkery.)

Lucy the truck, the (silver) Gas-Powered Vespa, and the (black & dusty) electric Vespa
The electric Vespa has gathered entirely too much dust lately, so I dragged it out of the back of the overly junky garage. And the same thing happened that always happens. I re-fell in love with it and electric vehicles in general. I have been toying with the idea of selling it to raise funds for paying bills and funneling a little to the electric pigeon fund. The Vespa is quick (but not fast). It has a low center of gravity and great brakes. And it is silent. It handles better and stops better than any vintage Vespa I have ridden. And I have ridden many. It doesn't leak any fluids. It emits no carbon monoxide and doesn't require any increasingly expensive 2-stroke oil or gasoline. Riding it makes me smile a lot! (And without the guilt I feel when riding a gas-powered scooter.)
Where am I going with this? Nowhere. When our country is running around angrily pointing fingers and judging each other, sometimes it's refreshing to spend time with friends, feel the wind in your hair, share a little chocolate, and take some time to enjoy life.
May you have a Saturday morning soon.

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Electric Bike Choices: Genze, Faraday, and now Vela

A little while back, I wrote a post comparing two very appealing e-bikes, the Faraday Porteur and the Genze e-bike. The general gist was that they are both very cool but the Faraday was cooler; however, the Genze cost less than half as much and (arguably) had more features. So the Genze would be my choice if it weren't for the fact that they both are underpowered for an 1/8 tonner like me.

If you read that article, you have now probably re-watched Some Kind of Wonderful and have thought to yourself, If the Faraday were just cheaper and more powerful...

[Let me be careful here. The Faraday is as much a work of art as it is an e-bike, and as such it has nice components and nicer fit and finish than a lot of bikes out there. At least I would think so - I have never seen one in person.]

 Out in the ether yesterday (treehugger.com), a competitor for the Faraday popped up, and it's very intriguing, and it's less expensive than a Genze, and it has a more powerful motor than the other two. And it has a touch of Brazilian sexiness to it. And it comes in three sizes, men's and women's models, and four colors. I still think the Faraday is a better looking bike, but this one is no slouch in the looks department. It's called the Vela.

A few stats for you:
350 watt motor
20 mile range
20 miles per hour
42 pounds
removable battery
pedal assist (no throttle)
remote control alarm
GPS tracking
You can buy one for somewhere between $800 and $1400

Is it the bike for you? I'd sure ride it, but yesterday I admitted to the world that I'd happily be seen in a Citicar. So you might take my aesthetic opinion with a grain of salt.

May form and function come together in your green choices.

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Vintage Electric Car Profile: the almighty Sebring-Vanguard Citicar!

It's a gross oversight, the ever-present thing you never notice. A few years back, five of us found our way to the Pate Swap Meet. Swap meets are areas of great temptation for my crowd. And there is always a story of the one that got away. This one is a whopper for me.

You see, the ever-present symbol for the vintage electric car around this blog is the Sebring-Vanguard Citicar. When I hear the term "electric car," my brain goes straight to the little Floridian wedge and then adjusts itself back out to things like Leafs, MiEVs, and Teslas. And there was a not-so-lovely pink Citicar for sale at that swap meet. (There was also a non-running Allstate Jetsweep like Bo Diddley's that got away too, but that's another post.)

 EVAlbum.com has several entries for Citicars/Commutacars/Commutavans

Grizz and I went by a few times to check the Citicar out, but we never caught the owner present. The last time we went by, it had "sold" written on the windshield. And we were a little bummed. As time passed, the little bit bummed became the very bummed. "Hey Grizz, do you remember that time we had a chance to buy that Citicar?" Grizz sighs and shakes his head. It's not often that you have a chance to bring the archetype home. Through a lack of persistence (and a fear of the look on our wives' faces), we let the little electric doorstop get away.

On rare occasions, I post a Vintage Electric Car Profile, and they are pretty popular. The little Zagato gets a fair amount of traffic, so does the Kewet. I usually feel a little fraudulent when I post things like those. I have never actually seen a Kewet or a Zagato. I've never seen a Kurbwatt (but I really want one!) And I realized today that I have never profiled THE vintage electric car - the Citicar, the highest produced American electric car until the Tesla Model S came along. And I have seen one in person. I lay on the ground and checked out the motor mounted to the differential. My hands ran across the not-so-smooth pink paint. I stuck my head inside and checked out the rough and spartan interior.

Keith did not make it to coffee this morning. He told me that he woke up in the middle of the night and his mind swam with all the possibilities in building the motor for his next project - an old Vespa Rally. And I knew the feeling. I remembered a night where my brain swam with upgrades for the little, pink slice of American cheese: an upgrade to 72 volts, or maybe even 96 volts of lithium batteries, an Alltrax contoller, and what motor? How scary would the little beast be at 96 volts? Would it be fun to park near a gas pump and point and laugh at people? Would it do wheelies? Could it sneak up on cats and squirrels like the electric Vespa does? Would my poor wife dis-own me?

It's probably a good thing it got away. Like several other projects, it would gather dust in a corner. But I was that close! That close I tell you! Snagit, here comes another sleepless night.

May you find your green chariot of choice and give Mother Nature a break!

Mesquite Hugger Declaration: It's Tiny Trailer Day!

All the world's a trailer, and we are merely trailer hitches, bi!@#es!

It was the best of trailers. It was the worst of trailers.

Ask not what your trailer can do for you...

Green/greenish news seems to travel in waves. And the wave this week appears to be little trailers.

Okay, I will be honest - I do not want one of these in reality, but they fascinate me in theory, and they seem to fascinate many others as well. Enjoy this random assortment.

As always, let's start with Instructables. There are several teardrop trailers on Instructables, but this is my fave (and it has Elvis!)

Treehugger featured this svelte trailer today for the ambitious bicyclist on your gift list: [If Grizz recorded music, it would sound like this video's soundtrack.]

If those others are just not retro enough for you, how about this Scooter Caravan video that seems to make the rounds every few years? I have to give props to this Lambretta for hauling a family of three, a sidecar, a trailer, and a boat! That thing is a beast! (Thanks, Knippa!)

Have you ever wanted a teardrop to haul behind your rig but you feared the claustrophobia of actually getting in the thing? Maybe you need the expandable model that popped out :-) on the Just a Car Guy blog yesterday.

Whatever and however you haul, may you have a great night's sleep!

Monday, June 15, 2015

PCR Updates: Ollas. Raised Bed, No Worms (Snagit!)

The runaway success (with minimal investment) is the ollas on the porch approach. The plants have thrived, flowered, and are now putting on fruit - at least the free tomato plants are. Now, if I just had a bigger porch...

Ollas on the porch are rocking!
Want to make your own ollas? Here is an instructable for you.


The Food Is Free Project raised-bed, self-wicking planter is less of a success, but I think it's a victim of my own cheapness. I think I messed up with poor quality soil. As I add more compost and a little fertilizer, things are looking sad but better. We do have two celebrity tomatoes out there!

If you look closely, there are two tiny tomatoes in the photo.
My attempts at catching local worms have been less than impressive. I did come up with one very small red wiggler. I am travelling for work quite a bit, but that should slow in July, so I am going to order a bunch of worms when there is time to get them started. I am hoping to avoid last year's worm carnage. My wife has started juicing, so the Mesquite Hugger demand for composting has definitely increased. I will keep you (com)posted.

Zucchini flowers!

May your adventures in personal carbon reduction be fruitful!


Friday, June 12, 2015

Looking for an e-bike in Lubbock? A few options just popped up

A few used e-bikes showed up on Lubbock Craigslist today (6/12/15), and one is pretty tempting if you have the coins lying around to pay for it. I do not know much about BM E-bikes, so do some researching before you jump in, but this one has a nice list of components - 52 volt mid-drive powertrain, front and rear hydraulic disc brakes, Shimano gear components, Suntour forks, etc. The list is actually pretty impressive and it would be pretty easy to spend more than the $1750 asking price to build your own similar bike. Hmmm... (The other one was an expensive folding bike in Austin.)

In case you are looking for a deal on a new e-bike, I received an email from Genze today and they have a $150 special for Father's Day. I included the promo code in case you want. If you want to learn more about this Genze, check out this older post: A Tale of Two E-bikes and an 80's Movie

This next image came from a Zero email. I liked the slogan so I thought I'd share it with you. (Ok Too Flatters, I guess I am not a very good friend.)

May you get cleanly, greenly, and quietly across town with a big ol' EV grin!

Monday, June 8, 2015

A Camaro roars by

It's Saturday morning, and I am sitting outside enjoying a little mandatory wait time. A Camaro roars by. I just finished watching a Robert Lewellyn Fully Charged video about battery life. The video featured a somewhat famous Nissan Leaf. A Harley grumbles by.

I keep listening for a Leaf. 

A noisy Jeep crawls the parking lot, a megaphone on its tailpipe.

We are Americans. It's our God-given right to annoy the crap out of the people around us. A Dodge truck rattles the windows. I know it's our right, but wouldn't be nice if it weren't our choice? if we instead chose to offer our neighbors a little peace, if we chose not to scream "Look at me!" every time we ran an errand?

A Mustang howls by.

Imagine a rustle of Leaves driving by.

Imagine a little more peace.

May it not be hard to imagine.

Thursday, June 4, 2015

The (Daymak) Beast has escaped!

Image from Daymak.com

I was having breakfast with a bunch of scooterists a few weeks ago. One guy was telling stories of some pretty amazing scooter exploits. My friend Daniel looked across the table and said, "Where's the pictures? Dude, if there ain't no pictures, it didn't happen!" (Daniel really talks like that.)

I have come to realize that "...it didn't happen" phrase is a new motto for our youtubily-Instagrammatically-driven culture. And it's especially true when we look at new electric things with wheels. And I am very susceptible to the hype. I will run across an article on that new thing, get all excited, and then wait to see the first images posted by real consumers in the real world. Lots of them never materialize. (The e-bike world is currently waiting to see if the Sondors [formerly the Storm] fat-tired e-bike from Kickstarter ever materializes.) I write about a lot of those electric things on this blog.

And I am always excited to share news when those electric things do appear in the consumer wilds.

I had heard nothing about the Daymak Beast in a while, so I did a quick search and found that they have indeed been shipping them to Kickstarter supporters. I even found one of their supporters who posted a video on youtube the day after he received his back in April. While it may not be the greatest video you watch this year - or even today - it is exciting to see that thing is indeed being built and delivered!

The beast ebike by Daymak review (standard model)

If you are still thirsting for Beast video, I also ran across the assembly video for this unholy offspring of an e-bike, a Honda Ruckus, and a solar panel.

Beast Assembly Video (on the Kickstarter page)

May the thing you've been waiting for arrive and be even better than you hoped!

(On a related note, I received a little communication from Superpedestrian about the Copenhagen Wheel this morning - they are apparently going to start shipping this month. If so, I will apologize for referring to their product as "mythical" in yesterday's MH post.)

Copenhagen vs. Flykly Follow-up (Sort of) and my e-bike

In case you ever wondered about the MH blog post stats, these are the all-time greatest hits.

The runaway post for this blog is unquestionably the Copenhagen Wheel vs. Fykly post. Almost a year after being published, it still gets multiple visits each day. I don't know if anyone is actually reading it, but readers all over the planet click on it every day. In the post I asked myself a series of questions, which I will now try to answer, even the rhetorical ones. (Bear with me, I do have a reason for doing this.)

Who can I call to pick me up?
My wife told me she would have happily done so.

How committed am I to this National Bike Challenge thing?
Apparently, pretty snagging committed - I am still at it.

Whose idea was this anyway?
Some stupid MH writer thought he could become leaner and greener by riding a bike to work.

When are the FlyKly and the Copenhagen Wheel shipping?
The Flykly apparently started shipping in January (2015) and Superpedestrian is still taking Copenhagen Wheel pre-orders and hoping to ship this spring (which is now).

Is this what fall and winter are going to be like?
They were pretty rough, snagit!

Does Cinnabon deliver to moving targets?
Believe it or not, they don't even deliver to non-moving targets.

Is it time to order an electric bike kit?
I thought it was. I sold the undependable electric motorcycle and used a tiny portion to order a kit.

When are the FlyKly and the Copenhagen Wheel shipping?
See answer above.

Should I look for a job closer to home?
Nope, I like my job and love the people!

Isn't "telecommute" a beautiful word?
It really is - four-syllables bookeneded by a "t" sound....

Why is that woman in the Tahoe laughing at me?
I don't know, but they are still laughing.

Does this mountain bike tire make my butt look bigger?
It did. I finally invested in a skinnier tire, and the old caboose looks much more petite now.

When are the FlyKly and the Copenhagen Wheel shipping?
See answer above again.

Which one should I buy?
These days, I would probably lean toward the GeoOrbital wheel, but it's not shipping yet either.

Will I spend the whole winter waiting for a wheel that ships "this fall"?
Indeed, I would have.

Should I just spend the money on a lesser bike kit that is currently available?
I did that. I built a really cool bike, but it was not easy and required a fair amount of trial and error. Learn more below.

Which of them should I buy????!!!!!
Probably neither.

So, let's talk about the one I did buy. I went to Green Bike Kit and ordered their 36 volt 250-350W rear geared hub motor kit on a 26" wheel. By the time it made it from China to my house, I had about $550 tied up in the conversion kit.

Ain't she pretty?
It took a while to install it, and I eventually figured out that the PAS system was incompatible with the bottom bracket on my fairly standard mountain bike, and the LED meter really needed the PAS sytem in order to work effectively. And 250-350W really means 250W and that's really not enough power to get a fat boy like me around. So, I ordered this controller, did away with the PAS setup and LED meter, and now I have a very usable electric bicycle that is capable of hauling me and my petite-looking caboose, but I have to pedal a lot to make any impressive progress.

(FYI, the only other physical problem I have encountered is that the connector between the charger and the bottle battery is very poor and needs to wedged into place in order to charge the battery.)

Overall, I am (mostly) happy with the quality of the components, but I do not think it is suitable for a novice installer or anyone without a fairly strong knowledge of bikes, e-bikes, or electronics. (I overestimated my own knowledge and skills on this choice.) The installation instructions are terrible, generic, and incomplete, and the company representatives tried hard to answer all questions, but the language barrier proved to be a substantial one. (I wish I had spent a few hundred more at a place that could answer questions and offer advice on the initial purchase.)

The sad part is that I almost never ride it. After participating in the National Bike Challenge last year, I found myself a lot stronger and more capable of riding in adverse conditions. (And, the NBC has no category for e-bike miles.) Also, I really like not having to charge the non-electric bike. I also like being less worried about weather and theft with the standard bike.

The true beauty of a standard bicycle is the simplicity. I am healthy enough to ride a regular bike and my commute is not overwhelmingly long (10 miles round trip), so I built an e-bike I do not really need. And it gathers dust as I get stronger.

E-bikes encourage more cycling, research says

E-bikes have a definite list of virtues, but not everyone needs one. (I blame it all on the National Bike Challenge!) And I am really glad that I did not pre-order a Copenhagen Wheel way back when I first started drooling over them.

May you find the green transportation that serves you best - I will endeavor to keep making mistakes on your behalf.

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Get Ready for Fresh Veggies in Lubbock!

It's coming!

A friend of mine is part of a long-term cancer study, and she occasionally gets a really big questionnaire to fill out. One sobering part of the questionnaire is the sheer volume of questions about a person's diet. There are lots of questions that deal with fresh/processed, mass market/organic, etc. It serves as a strong reminder that we should all be very aware of the foods we are shoving down our throats, especially if you couple that idea with all the studies of the health benefits/cancer-fighting benefits of eating fresh vegetables. So, snagit!, get out there and start eating fresh veggies!

Yep, you know I am going somewhere with this - we are just 17 days away from the opening round of the Lubbock Downtown Farmers Market. The first one this year is Saturday, June 20th. Remember, nothing can be sold before 9 and most of the really good stuff is sold by 10:30.

And for those of you who whine about living in a lame city (i.e. me yesterday), the farmers market is one of those things that helps hold the lameness at bay, so get out there, have a good time, support your neighbors, and support your health. I sincerely hope to see you there!

May you be the change you wish to see in the world!

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Lubbock makes another green list, %$#@! (Minipost)

This one is a list of places where it's great to own an electric car. Once, again, I clicked on the article expecting to see Lubbock nowhere in sight, but there it was toward the bottom of the page.

10 Best Cities in the U.S. to Own an Electric Car

Sure enough, the author also included the five worst cities in which to own own an electric vehicle, and there we are at number 4, snagit all to Midland!

Of course, I do choose to live in a town that actively discourages renewable energy, offers decreasing levels of recycling, has only one semi-public charging station (at the Nissan dealership), and has a mayor who considers cycling to be a niche issue, so this should come as no surprise.

Keith, I may need a sustainably brewed beer. (Oh well, at least we are not in Denton, Texas where the people who democratically voted to ban fracking are being arrested by the people who passed a bill to ban the act of banning fracking. Maybe it's time to ban the people who ban banning.)

May you find yourself on a good list somewhere without having to move.

Monday, June 1, 2015

Lubbock on a Bike: May Wrap-up and Commuter Nirvana

It started like a Monday. The brain was rather foggy. I had to go back a few times for the things I forgot. The legs were a little foggy too as I started for work. But I crossed Indiana Avenue with no hesitation. Very little traffic. I pedaled on through the neighborhood.

The fog cleared away enough for me to realize that the day had come. I have looked forward to this day for months. I had marked my calendar for this day. The kids are out of school! The stressed out mothers swirling and swarming to and from the schools, they were not on the streets. I casually pedaled to work feeling less stress, less mortal fear, and a sense of peace. The streets are safe(r) again.

If you have been looking for the nerve to ride your bike to work in the morning, now is the time! Commuter nirvana! Get your butt out there!

No red circle on the 23rd - but it was a great day in Waxahachie, TX!

National Bike Challenge/National Bike Month: I survived May, and the rain did not stop me. It did definitely slow me down, though. There were thirty-one days in May, and I rode a bike on thirty of those. Sure, I only logged 102 miles for the month, but it still feels like an accomplishment.

Okay, enough of me bragging. Now, let me invite you - please try riding if:

you want to lose some weight,
you want to strengthen your heart,
you want to lower your blood pressure,
you want to live longer,
you want more optimism,
you want cleaner air,
you want to save money,
your doctor told you to lose weight,
you want encouragement to eat better,
you want encouragement to drink less,
you want to be an obnoxious blogger,
you want to enjoy your commute,
you want a sense of accomplishment,
you want a better look at the world around you,
you want to be a nosy neighbor inconspicuously,
or if you want to find a selfish way to selflessly work at making the world a healthy place for generations to come.

By the way, the first week will be rough, but anything worthwhile requires a little work. You will be glad you did.

May June be a great month for you!