Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Lubbock in a Garden: Pedal-Powered Water Pump - More Progress! (Part 3)

(For all of you who've been following the Heart of Lubbock Community Garden series) 
See where it all started by clicking here and here.
Keeping words to a minimum. (Sometimes I talk too much.)
I really hate plumbing stuff, snagit!

(Nothing to see here.)

It's coming along.
Next steps:
  • Create adjustable, sliding brackets for the pump
  • Attach the V-belt and pulley setup
  • Attach the new wheel (We will try to keep the speedometer intact.)
  • Figure out the rest of the plumbing (Snagit!)
  • Put it all together
  • Have a super-soaker party
May your projects go smoothly, bless someone, and make this ol' blue marble a better place to live!
(And may the plumbing department not prompt male and female anatomy questions from children - ¡Oy vey, hermanito!)
PS. It would already be in the garden and pumping if it weren't for you meddling plumbing parts, snagit!)

Saturday, February 25, 2017

Saturday Random Junky Old Bike Post: Huff3 Rat

[This post is for all of you who wait impatiently by the phone/tablet/computer for the next thrilling installment of Mesquite Hugger. (Hi, Mom!) I am working on some more diversified stuff, but it's some slow going.]

An update on the Huff-E-Rat:

With the addition of the Phantom, the Huff-E-Rat lost its battery and started gathering dust. So...

The Huff3 Rat is born!

Yep, the electric stuff came off and I added the used 3-speed Nexus wheel from the Going-Out-of-Business sale (that broke my heart) in Dallas a few months back. I picked up a shifter and cable, gathered up the right gears - I found the Goldilocks combo - and got it all cruiseworthy.
Now I just need a seat that feels less like concrete, and a pair of grips.

The overall verdict? This thing is great! If you've never had the pleasure of riding a bike with an internally shifting hub, try it out some time. This one is much smoother and quieter than a derailleur. I love it! Now, if I can figure out how to get a GeoOrbital Wheel to sometimes throw on the front...

Detroit Bikes Fanboy Detour:

I came to a big realization this morning when I took the above photo. Without making a conscious attempt at doing so, I built an homage to one of my favorite bikes - the Detroit Bikes A-Type. No, I am not comparing the rattle-can Huffy to what they are building up there in the Motor City, but I was very pleased to realize that I had created a poor-boy version of such a cool machine.

Quintessential Cool and Handmade in the USA

The Fanboy hat I wear a lot - thanks, Mom!

So, now I need to finish up this post and gather up pieces for the community garden water pump that's next on the list!

Garden pump project lurks on the left.

May your green projects thrive, may you be healthy, and may everything be better than expected!

PS. Here's a preview for the next next (yes, I meant to do that) junky bike project on the list:

Friday, February 24, 2017

You can't be too cheap or too skinny? Two $800 (shipped!) commuter e-bikes

So, let's say that
  • you're cheap
  • you're broke
  • you live in a not-too-hilly place
  • you just can't imagine paying $1000 for any bicycle
(Check, check, check, check. Yep, I fall into all four! If you do too, welcome to the club, my frugal amigo!)

Do I have two bikes for you? Do I have two bikes for you!

So, let's check out the first bike:

Lately we've looked at the Populo, and the before that the Propella. I even got to pick up (it was very light) an Easy Motion EasyGo Race at an electric bike shop in Dallas back in December. And I have to say that they are all gorgeous. I love the look (but not the reality) of a fixie, and these bikes have brought that sleek minimalism into the e-bike world (and have done it at very low prices.)

So, let's look at one more -  the Vilano Core. Besides the sleek looks, this bike has one really compelling reason to buy it (price) and one surprisingly upscale and trendy feature (belt drive). You can get one (delivered to your house) for $800 and it has belt drive instead of a chain. Other than those, it is extremely similar to the Populo and the Propella. Strangely, the Vilano seems to be very widely available. I was surprised to see that you can order one from Newegg.com:

See how I managed to squeeze the price, the vendor, the belt drive, and the no-name and slightly underpowered motor all into one pic? (I have mad blogging skills like that.) [Cursor drop and walk away, Mesquite Hugger]

Other than lots of identical vendor sites and the product site itself, I haven't found much online presence or review for this bike. I do wonder why it has a 220 watt motor rather than the industry standard 250 watt and I'd sure like to know who makes the components used in the bike, but hey, it's hard to get too picky at $800, right? So, I am not recommending it (or not recommending it) - just letting you know it's out there. (Me, I would not be brave enough to order one until Pete, Court, and a passel of youtubers checked it out.)

Actually, I do find it a little disturbing how widely available it is:

Yep, you can even order one from Wally World.

On to the other $800 (shipped) bike

This one, on the other hand, I feel qualified to endorse (with a few caveats) even though I've never seen this particular model in person.

Sondors still keeps sending me emails, and each time they make me ponder. I have to say (after getting to know Grizz's sondors Originals) that Sondors offers an impressive bike (for this price range.) The Sondors Thin has me intrigued.

What's red, white, blue, and black all over?

You see, I'm a street commuter, and I just don't feel any need to have the big honking tires. And I would not want to pay for their replacements when it's time. So the Thin makes sense to me. It's 10 pounds lighter, it's thinner, (Duh!) and it has a decent reputation. And this may or not appeal to you, but it has a cult following that can offer lots of tech support and/or hop-up advice. And, it has a 350-watt motor from a well-respected manufacturer. Also, similar to the little speedsters listed above, it's a pretty simple machine. And, of course, you can have one delivered to you for $800.

Grizz's Sondors - in stock form - surprised us both. We did not get to test it with pedal-assist, but we had no problem reaching 17mph (throttle only) and 20mph was attainable with some hard pedaling. For most bike commuters, this machine is plenty powerful, and with pedal-assist installed you should be able to get some fairly impressive range.

One other thing to consider, if you are less than 5'6", this bike will be a stretch for you. The Sondors bikes are tall.

LunaCycle (pictured) and Velomobile Shop offer Sondors aftermarket parts

[A little Sondors aftermarket sidebar - Sondors is the only e-bike I know of that already has brand-specific aftermarket stuff availability, but be careful, most of the aftermarket parts are designed for the fat-tired bike. Threads where Thin owners are frustrated with aftermarket upgrade parts are very common.]
Image from OverVolted

[Another little Sondors Thin/Belt Drive sidebar - when the Thin was originally offered, there was an option to order one with a belt drive, but it added close to $100 to the price. But I have not seen that option available these days. So, if you want one with a belt drive, you may be able to pick up a used one. But be careful, I often see used Sondors bikes for sale at prices higher than the new prices. It pays to do your homework.]

To be honest, in my quest to give up petroleum I have given serious consideration to purchasing a Sondors Thin. If you're looking for a no-frills e-bike on a very low budget, this thing could cover a lot of bases. With the addition of a rear rack, a suspension seatpost, and some lights, it would easily cover my commuter needs.

May you find petroleum-free transportation that covers your needs and does not empty your bank account.

And two more low-cost e-bikes for those of you who like to hang around and watch the credits:

For those of you who want to go super-low price, check out this Treehugger article about the Stark. (Thanks, Derek!)

For those of you who want a high-quality and very capable cargo/commuter for not much more money, check out a refurbished U-350 from Juiced bikes. (If you're gravitationally challenged like me, pony up the extra $70 to go 500 watts.)

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

For One Lucky Lubbock Business: Be More Bike Friendly for $45

[By the way, traffic congestion in Lubbock is a very real problem. Fewer cars would be very helpful. More bikes could mean fewer cars. It's that solution to vicious cycle thing.]

I commute on a bike and I often run errands on a bike. To lock a bike up in Lubbock, you gotta get creative.

I literally hug a tree each day I bike commute. (But it's not a mesquite.)

At work, I chain my bike to a tree. I have a self-recoiling cable that I wrap around the tree and slip through the frame and the rear wheel. It often slips from my grip and makes me a great candidate for America's Funniest Home Videos or Lubbock's Dorkiest Cyclist. I don't love the idea of picking on a tree that way (although the hugs are nice), but my other two options are to chain it to a light pole in the parking lot next door or carry the bike up three flights of stairs and park it in my already cluttered office.

U-Locked to a handicap parking sign - another not-so-great choice.
I will finally get around to the point:
Yes, I get a little excited about a bike rack!
(Look in the Bike Parts and Accessories section.)
The point is that life is better when there's a good place to park your bike. And we cyclists like to work and shop at places that hook us up with a nice rack or even a mediocre rack. We like to talk those places up to others - even those strange people who don't try to ride a bike everywhere.
So, Lubbock businesses, how about it? But before you answer that question, please read this article:
The CliffffffsNotes for Business Guide to that link above:
  • Want more jobs, read Benefit 1.
  • If you're trying to increase sales, read Benefit 2.
  • If your business suffers from high health care costs and too many sick days, read Benefit 3.
  • If your business does not have enough parking, read Benefit 4.
  • If you're a city planner or economic developer, read Benefit 5.
  • If your business wants to attract more students, read Benefit 6.
So, Lubbock businesses, how about it? Who's going to rack up all those benefits for just $45?
May we find better and healthier ways for us all to get around and treat each other much better!

Saturday, February 18, 2017

Saturday Morning: Natural Beauty and Threat

This is what natural beauty looks like:

(Photo taken in Central Lubbock this morning)

This is what an attack on natural beauty looks like:

May we figure out what we love and work passionately to protect it

Friday, February 17, 2017

A Valentine's Present from Germany: Smart to be all-electric

[After the massive disappointment of seeing Ford's Mark Fields' campaign to weasel out of fuel economy standards, it was really nice to see a car company make a move in the world-saving direction this week.]
Honey, it may be time for new Mesquite Hugger Logo!

The headline from John Voelcker over at Green Car Reports reads Smart to be all-electric in U.S. and Canada; gasoline goes away this fall


So, here is my open letter to Daimler, Smart's parent company:

Bravo! Genial! Ihr Leute schaukelt! Über Nacht bin ich ein Smart Fan geworden! Vielen Dank!
(Bravo! Awesome! You people rock! Overnight, I have become a Smart fan! Thank you!)

Now, I have a few requests: [Kannst du diesen verrückten Amerikanern glauben, immer etwas mehr? Oy vey!]

Please bring back the Smart Roadster (Electric):

Mid-life crises need more eco-friendly choices!

Please send us the Smart ForFour (Electric):

Why should single people have all the fun?
Please build us the Smart Crosstown (Electric):

It could be the coolest electric car ever! Ever!
Please build ME the Smart Truck (Electric):
(Here and Here, respectively)
This one is a desperate plea - I need an eco-friendly way to haul recycling and bicycling and upcycling. Please!!! (Please beat Carlos Ghosn to the punch on this one!)
The old Dodge just ain't doing the eco-friendly trick!
Daimler, thank you!
May we see this kind of good news and corporate responsibility become more and more common!
PS. Carlos, I still love you, man, but some major car builder needs to offer us a fully electric truck!


Thursday, February 16, 2017

Fossil Free Friday: A Cargo Bike Relapse

[Snagit, I blame this one on Derek Markham.]

A few weeks back I made a declaration that I was giving up the (active) pursuit of owning a cargo bike. Since then, it's been cargo bike temptation everywhere I look. But I have mostly avoided the temptation to keep looking.

Until yesterday morning, that is.

One of my coffee-swilling buddies asked me if I missed riding my bike this week. (I have. It's been one of those weeks where the bike has not been the right tool for hauling stuff and people about, so I've been driving the old Dodge.) Then he commented that it would be nice if I had a bike that would haul stuff and an extra person - the extra person in this case is a certain eight-year-old that I take to school most days.

I don't think the coffee guys noticed, but a dreamy thought bubble appeared over my head:

[A woman at church once told me that I look like an older, heavier Adam S.
I don't go to that church anymore.]

The dreamy thought bubble contained my default cargo bike -  the Radwagon. There are lots of cargo bikes I'd love to have, but the Radwagon is always that subconscious first thought when cargo bikes pop into the brain. Mmm...Radwagon!

So, I had a little internal talk with myself:

So, I went back to my normal default dreamy thought bubble, and life was good again:

Yes, life was good again until I turned the computer on. There it was -  a Derek Markham article on TH:

Derek, what's the deal? Are you the guy who takes a tres leches cake to a weight loss meeting? You're killing me! Why'd you have to pick the Radwagon? Why not a German postal cargo bike like Feargus used? (Much less tempting)

Or maybe something Scandinavian and way out of my league like this:

In case you are wondering...

For me, it's pretty simple.

The more I can do on a bike, the less I need a car (or truck), the less I need to burn gasoline, the less I contribute to climate change, and the less I damage the air that all of us (including the eight-year-old) breathe. So, a bike that can serve more purposes is a better bike than one that can just serve a few. A cargo bike is a pickup, a station wagon, a commuter, and a chick magnet. (I came up with that last part because my wife already told me she will not leave me if I start riding one.)

Also, if it can raise my status in the kingdom of nerds, that's an added bonus!

If you want even more reasons, find fourteen of them in this article:

(Out here in the 'burbs, Number 2 may not apply, but don't let that slow your roll! ;-)

Okay, I can see it in your eyes - you want to know more. Here are some links to help you see what's out there in the cargo-sphere: (In alphabetical order - they are all very cool!)

May Derek help us all to make some healthier choices! Somebody sure needs to.

PS. Adam Sandler is a few years older than I am! 

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Minipost: Lubbock (and all US) Bicyclists - a Survey From People for Bikes

If you spend much time around here, you know I am a fan of bicycling, of making bicycling more accessible, and of People for Bikes and the National Bike Challenge. I received an email today from People for Bikes. They are conducting a national survey to help them focus on ways to improve cycling throughout our country. Please take a little time to fill out the survey so that they can have a better view of what our needs and wants are.

[By the way, filling out the survey will also lead you to an opportunity to win a bicycle.] Here is the info and link from their email:

Hi there,
PeopleForBikes is the national bike advocacy organization working to make bicycling better in the U.S. They're looking for riders of all types to tell them what it's like to bike where they live. Share your thoughts and give your city a roadmap for becoming a better place to ride.
Take this survey today:

May we work together to create better opportunities for everyone who seeks healthier transportation!

Valentine's is (apparently) for the Birds

Birds make me very happy. Pretty much all birds. For me, a truly wealthy day is one where I spend at least ten minutes getting to watch wild birds somewhere.

I received a Valentine's email and slideshow from the Cornell Lab of Ornithology yesterday. It contained birds. Birds make me happy. I wanted to make you happy, so I am sharing the birds with you!

I am featuring one of their photos for you and a link to the slideshow. This is by far not the best photo in the bunch, but the Great Blue Heron is by far my favorite bird. Period. So don't you be talkin' no trash about my herons!

May you know the wealth of bird-watching time (or your personal equivalent) on every day. Happy Valentine's, amigos y aves!
PPS. If you run across my wife today, please tell her that the Mesquite Hugger adores her more than Great Blue Herons, grackles, and burrowing owls combined! (She'll know that it's a big deal.)
PPPS. If you find yourself needing a little nature time, read The Urban Bestiary already! Seriously, just read it!

Monday, February 13, 2017

E-Bike vs Pedal Bike: This time it's personal!

Okay, it's not that personal. But this is not a study by the University of Whatever on the Isle of Some-Place-Far-Away. It's yours truly comparing a few recent days commuting in Lubbock on an e-bike and a pedal bike.

[Why am I writing this one? Well, there are a lot of questions out there about e-bikes and about their validity as transportation. Me, I love bikes in almost all forms, but I see the e-bike as a great tool for commuting and for low impact transportation. Lots of people consider an electric motor on a bike to be cheating, but I don't. I see it as an inexpensive way to get around with a tiny carbon footprint. (And it's a whole lot of fun!) For me, cheating is travelling a few miles in an expensive and inefficient vehicle that pollutes the air and promotes environmental destruction. The e-bike is definitely not a solution for everyone all the time, but it's a great tool to cover part of your transportation needs efficiently and often joyfully.]

The 500-watt Electric Bike
(Bought used on Craigslist with a bad battery)

The Mesquite-Hugger-powered Pedal Bike
(Given to me by a friend who wanted more room in his garage)

We'll start with the pedal bike:

Last Friday was a cold and very windy day here in Lubbock. (We have lots of those windy days.) The e-bike was needing a few small repairs, but I was determined to ride. So, I rode off to work and into the wind. And it was a workout!

Average speed of 7.6 mph. Ouch! And a 39 minute commute -  not good for someone hoping to make it to work on time - I did not. Yep, I was late to work and I arrived needing a shower and a nap. (Five miles in 39 minutes.)

Average speed of 11.1 mph (The ride home is usually quicker due to warmer weather and warmer old-guy muscles.) It was still windy, but the wind was at my (sail-like) backside and gave me a pretty good push. Even so, I took a 20 minute recovery nap when I got home. (4.4 miles in 24 minutes.)

So, the round trip commute time for the day was 63 minutes, and I was exhausted after both rides.

Now let's look at a similar day's commute on the e-bike:

[A little info about how I ride an e-bike - I pedal along with the bike. It's a bike with a boost, not a bike that does all the work. I generally arrive at my destination breathing heavily but I am not wiped out and I don't have an overwhelming desire to lie down and take a nap. As an overweight middle-aged guy, most things make me want a nap, but the e-bike doesn't.]

I love teacher in-service days - light car traffic on the residential streets! (Five miles in 25 minutes.)

4.6 miles in 21 minutes.

You can see, for me at least, that the e-bike doesn't offer a great deal more speed - it offers a lot more consistency. Regardless of how I feel, how cold it is, how windy it is, or what time of day it is, I have a good idea of how long it is going to take me to get to work. There's also a distinct possibility that I will be less smelly when I arrive.

Summing up:

The pedal-bike commute covered 9.38 miles in 62:50 minutes.
(Arrived smelly, late, and exhausted!)
The e-bike commute covered 9.61 miles in 46:12 minutes.
(Arrived on time, less smelly, and invigorated.)

(To be fair, smelly seems to be fairly constant state for me, but there are times when it's especially bad.)

But a friend of mine messaged me about one smelly issue a bike won't save you from here in Lubbock:

I'm with you, Captain Kirk!

Well, you can't have everything, but you can have a very low-carbon, low-cost commute and keep it consistent.

May you find your own low-carbon transportation that keeps you smiling, consistent, and not too terribly smelly or broke.

PS. By the way, recharging the battery after one day's commute will require about 15 pennies worth of electricity.

Saturday, February 11, 2017

When a plan comes together: The Pedal-Powered Pump

This is not a completion report by any means, but it is progress.

The people-and-pedal-powered pump project for the Heart of Lubbock Community Garden had a major leap forward - we were blessed with one of the two major components this week - the groovy retro exercycle:

Isn't she a beauty!

The exercycle has all the amenities - a seat, pedals, handledars, and the oh-so-crucial speedometer! A gentleman on 70th Street responded to our Craigslist ad and sold it to us for less $ than many of us will pay for dinner tonight. Yes, Grizz and I are thrilled!

The pump will tie into the black barrel

An overall garden shot - soon to be green!
(That pallet structure is a Motel 6 for solitary bees!)

Don't let the Lubbock-in-February-brown vegetation fool you - this is where the magic happens!

My favorite thing at the garden - a recycled window greenhouse!
(Why have I not built one of these yet?)

They also have some (not pictured) cold frames out there. Why haven't I built any of those yet either?

Now, we just need to come up with the other major component: pump (and some pulleys or sprockets, a  belt or chain, and some fittings to hook up the water hose).

Community Garden???

In case you just don't get this whole community garden thing, be sure to check out this Ted Radio Episode: The Food We Eat

My favorite quotes from this broadcast:
  • "We do our flippin' best!" Pam Warhurst of Incredible Edible
  • "A hundred years ago...you didn't eat ethnic unless you were ethnic." Mark Bittman
  • "74% of all the food in the [grocery] store has been spiked with added sugar in some fashion." Dr. Robert Lustig
May you get involved with something that makes your community a healthy place to be!