Friday, August 21, 2009

Sail for Recumbent Bike (High Wind)

I made this by taking the basic sail design and adding wings made from lawn chair tubing, vinyl and duct tape, attached to the backpack frame with baling wire. The crossbar was made from an old ski pole and the fairing comes courtesy of Windwrap and worth every penny. I tested it through the Salinas Valley with tailwinds averaging between 15 and 20 mph and for the most part, it rocked.

In general, a sail will be helpful up to windspeed but no faster, but really helped compensate for the weight of the bike, which was fully loaded with pack, camping gear etc. On uphills and in high winds it felt like magic.

Probably the most noticeable effect was in cities, where people of all ages and demographics would stop to stare, chat, give a thumbs-up or say "Cool Bike!" And let's face it, when a 12 year old says you've got a cool bike, you do.
(Wings folded back)
Despite the aesthetics, the design and materials are much heavier and more unwieldy than necessary - nice and strong for high winds, but fairly impractical otherwise - so I'll probably try working with nylon and tent materials next. Awfully tempting though to take this up to the high desert and see what it does in a really big wind.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Radical Thinking

Corporations and politicians are fond of telling us that “Children are the Future.” They’re not: they’re the present. (Look down, or check in front of the TV.) The future is a little bit more abstract than that. It will be populated by our children’s grandchildren and their children and grandchildren and very few people are asking us to think about them, least of all politicians and corporations.

One organization that actually is dedicated to this sort of long-term thinking is the Long Now Foundation, described here by Michael Chabon. Although trying to project an arc for the next 10,000 years is probably a bit heady for most, it’s good to know that someone’s doing it. For me, just getting people to think a couple of generations ahead is radical enough.

This sign measures about twelve feet across and was placed over the eastbound lanes of the Santa Monica Freeway between La Brea and Crenshaw at 1:00 p.m. yesterday and was still up four hours later. Let me know if you see it.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

The Elicit Thought Project

The Elicit Thought Project is a startup group that's done installations in San Antonio TX, Duluth MN and Superior WI and is looking for volunteers to help with music, webwork and making people think using the time honored tradition of putting words in front of eyeballs. By using plywood, chains and padlocks, however, they've run afoul of local ordinances, which tend to be fairly specific about the manner in which speech can be affixed.

In time they'll discover, as I did, that it's not so much how the sign is attached, but where it's attached that keeps it up. (and keeps the law off your back...) And while plywood is nice and sturdy and good for a couple of signs, it's cardboard that will truly set you free...

Friday, July 03, 2009

Making a Sail for Recumbent Bicycles (Easy)

What You’ll Need:
1 Backpack Frame
2 2” Spring Clamps
Duct Tape/Scissors
Some vinyl or plastic sheeting

1. Cut vinyl to fit inside backpack frame, attach with duct tape.
2. Attach sail behind backrest with spring clamps like so:

A standard 2" spring clamp costs about a dollar and fits perfectly around the seat strut and sail frame. (Use duct tape to reinforce the seat so as not to tear up the webbing.) You can use tape or a bungee cord to make a third anchorpoint on the crossbars, but the springclamps hold so well it's not necessary.

I used a standard Bike E recumbent extended with a 2” x 3” hammered directly into the frame (the fit is so perfect it’s hard to imagine it wasn’t designed that way). My son and I road-tested this along with a touring bike from Monterey to San Luis Obispo through the Salinas Valley, approximately 200 miles of relatively flat, straight backcountry roads paralleling the 101. Winds are generally light or non-existent in the mornings, but as the valley floor begins to heat up the air rises and starts pulling in the cooler air from the coast, so by 1:00 or 2:00 in the afternoon the entire valley turns into a wind tunnel heading south.

With its lower profile and center of gravity, the recumbent was able to keep up fairly well in low wind conditions, but once the wind kicked in and we put the sail up, the recumbent was definitely faster. Particularly going uphill, which is something recumbents aren't supposed to be.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Biggest Losers in the World Awards

Well folks, it looks like we've got a two way tie between Governor Mark Sanford (for not staying in Argentina for an extra day or two,) and this guy, who went to all the trouble of setting up and maintaining fake facebook and twitter accounts for Yours Truly.


Tuesday, June 09, 2009

The California Bike Road

The above is a quote from Frank Barron, my psychology professor who said it in class over 25 years ago and it’s stuck in my head since. One of the reasons it’s stayed with me all this time is, quite simply, it’s right. There’s really almost no downside to bicycling, and its swift adoption as an alternative to cars would combat not just pollution, global warming and dependence on foreign oil, but obesity and diabetes as well.

The downside to bicycles is of course their relative lack of speed and cargo capacity, and that they require physical effort. Not to mention the chance of getting instantly killed or permanently disfigured by a car. As it is, the biggest drawbacks to bicycling are that it takes place right next to automobiles, and if we want people to start using bikes to any meaningful extent, we have to separate them from automobiles. One of the best things we could do as a society right now would be to start building bike roads between all our major cities. Not lanes, not paths. Roads. Roads built specifically for bicycles, and designed to take fullest advantage of prevailing winds, terrain and gravity. Imagine if we built wind tunnels for bicycles alongside urban freeways, or gondolas up to mountaintops with perfectly graded downhills running along the ranges and foothills. Imagine if those gondolas, or simple tow ropes, were powered by windmills. Imagine the things we could do if we put our minds to it.

Since the election I’ve found myself with a lot of free time, much of which I’ve spent biking between San Francisco and Los Angeles, trying to find the quickest and overall safest route. This is what I’ve come up with:

Following the 101 inland instead of the coast cuts out a lot of traffic and unnecessary climbs and takes fullest advantage of the prevailing winds through the Salinas and Santa Maria Valleys, which are considerable. Although not quite as scenic as the coast it’s a hell of a lot quicker, less strenuous and less dangerous, and if we ever do build a bike road between SF and LA, I can just about promise it’ll follow this route. (which I’ll detail in later posts) Though most of it takes place on quiet country roads, there are a few hellish sections where you have to go on the freeway, and those are the parts I’d like to fix up first. My goal is that one day parents will be able to take their children on this ride in relative safety, without having to deal with cars.

I’m not sure how I’m going to pull this off just yet, but I figure the best way to start is to get other people thinking about it too, so you can expect to see more signs like this appearing here in California.

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Los Angeles

A friendly reminder to the Pasadena Freeway
Update: This sign stayed up for six days over an average of 82,000 cars per day (110 @ Stadium Way, divide by two.) It was eighteen feet long and took less than a minute to post.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Freewayblogging Republican Style

Scarlet, You should put up some signs like these.


Dear El_Khem, Thanks for the tip. I mailed a link to to Mr. Farah so if he really wants to get the message out, he'll know what to do.

Unfortunately, like most of the controversies surrounding Barack Hussein Obama, his lack of a valid U.S. birth certificate didn't seem to gain much traction among voters, proving that Americans would rather have a Foreign-Born Black Muslim Terrorist Sympathizer as their President than another Republican. For the time being I'm afraid you'll just have to add "Americans" to "Republicans" and "White People" on the list of groups that the Bush presidency has politically destroyed.

Thanks for keeping me posted on this billboard campaign: I love the thought of y'all having to pony up 25,000 dollars for something a single patriot could accomplish on a slow afternoon.
Yours, Scarlet

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

100 Days

(Picture Photoshopped)
Although I'm taking heat for it, I'm calling it at 100 days: Best. President. Ever. Here's why: I wasn't around for the first 35 or so, and while I've heard great things about Presidents Washington, Jefferson, Lincoln etc, it's all been pretty much passed along through middlemen such as history books, documentaries and the like, and none of them have really offered the kind of real time as-it-happens accounting I've gotten from the presidencies that have occurred during my lifetime. I was too young to appreciate Kennedy while he was around, and as for Johnson, Nixon, Ford, Reagan, the Bushes and Clinton, well, I'm sticking with Obama. So far everything he's said, done and, most important, the style with which he's said and done them has earned my unwavering political allegiance and vote for Best President Ever.

Friends on both the right and left have pointed out that this is a radical departure from the sort of high-minded critical thinking we've all come to expect from the Freewayblogger brain trust, and to them I say "Damn Right." I look at Obama as being a sort of Reagan for Liberals. It doesn't matter what he says or does or what mistakes he makes along the way, I'm standing behind him 100%. Just like Reagan created huge deficeits, sold anti-aircraft missiles to the Iranians, supported apartheid and helped the rivers of Central America run red with the blood of the campesinos without his supporters so much as blinking an eye, I'm prepared to offer the same to Obama: reason, common sense or even outcome be damned. To my friends on the right it's called "Your Own Medecine" Let me know how it tastes.

(Note, this stance becomes null and void at such a time it can be reasonably determined that Obama has baked a cake for the Ayatollah of Iran: that's where I draw the line.)