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Saturday, February 28, 2009

First Road Ride--About 6 Miles Successful

I finished putting the headlight and signals/taillight on today.

I used the Honda's ex-wiring harness, stripped down to just the wires needed for the lights and horn.

Kind of a mess at the stage above, which was about 3 hours to untangle, sort, and splice as needed to fit the harness to the bike (which is much longer than the Honda Spree).

When completed, it is fairly neat, though I still have to pull some of the corrugated wire-protection tubes from the Ford LTD engine compartment to cover the rest of the harness.

All I had for now were the plastic partial covers from the Honda's harness, so I used them mostly in places the wires might get damaged, or where they would look better.

I also did some more DayGlo paint, such as the rear rack, the wooden parts of the seat, the chains and sprockets, and the new headlight's casing. For now I left the rest of it the powder blue and purple, to contrast with the DayGlo orange and red-orange, painting only the parts that aren't likely to change much, if at all.

For the battery to run the lights, I needed a secure holder to mount in the open frame. I tackwelded the base of a dead UPS (a different one from the one the battery holder on my upright bike came from) into the Magna's rear triangle, currently unused by anything else.

It would be nice to put the 12V 12Ah batteries there for the quickie road motor tests (they'll all be very short due to the battery condition), but I'm not sure I can fit more than one in that space. The one used here is a PowerSonic 12V 7Ah, just about 2/3 the width of the 12Ah, and about the same height and length. It doesn't have it's full capacity anymore, as I believe it came from one of the dead UPSs, but it is better than nothing, and will do fine for the LED lighting I will be replacing the scooter's automotive-type bulbs with. (The scooter uses 1537 dual-filament bulb for tail and brake, and 1536 single-filament for turn signals, and they suck down several amps of current during operation, without generating even as much light as the *much* lower power LEDs on my upright bike!).

As I will eventually want a keyed switch for the motor power, I went ahead and temporarily installed this Briggs & Stratton keyswitch with foam strips into the top of the steering stem extension.

Turned flat like in the image, power is off. Turned parallel to the bike frame, power is on. Rather like the traffic signals for the valley's new light rail--horizontal = stop, vertical = go. Right now it's just stuffed in there, but I will eventually secure it to a plate that will then be welded to the top of the tube. It also for now directly passes all the power for the lighting, but it will hook to a relay to switch all power once I put the motor and controller in there, because the lighting voltage is different from the motor voltage, and will also come from a different battery (or set of them).

The new headlight is just a Hewlett-Packard Scanjet XPA transparency/slide/film/etc adapter, mounted using a bolt thru it's casing (with a large washer inside to spread the load against the plastic more evenly) onto a standard front reflector stem-mount.

I've had an identical one as a very bright reading lamp for several years, and it's CCFL inverter is powered by about 12V (an old scanner power adapter, which I think runs a volt or two high with so little load on it) at about 800mA. It fills the whole bed area with enough light to easily and comfortably read by, and is too bright to directly look at when laying in bed and first waking up. ;-) Since it could be possible to destroy it by going too high a voltage, I put a 12.1V zener (and resistor) on the input just inside the casing, to prevent the battery charging voltage from burning it out (or any possible feedback from the motor circuits, should I end up having to run the motor and lights on the same battery set sometime).

I long ago did the same thing on the upright bike's CCFL, as well as a diode in series with it, after destroying one inverter board by hooking the charger up backwards to the battery with the charger's clips (this was before I used a 1/4" audio jack for the charger tip, and just used the charger's alligator clips instead). Battery and charger were unharmed due to the charger's protection circuitry, but since I had power on to the lights at the time, it destroyed the CCFL inverter in a smoky/poppy fashion the very instant I clipped the second lead on.

Unfortunately, at some point during the test ride the headlight became quite dim, for reasons that will probably require disassembly to find out.

I also have a front reflector on there, but I didn't have it installed when I was taking pics, and forgot to go back and do it before making this post. The reflector is just mounted using a flat bit of metal going up from the back of that protruding bolt (secured with another nut, washer, and lockwasher), then a screw thru this second metal bracket/tab into the back of the reflector, just as it was when it was mounted to this original bracket.

The taillight is bright enough to be visible even in sunlight with the camera's automatic dimming feature, and is perhaps three times as bright when braking. The signals are even brighter, since they are amber rather than red, and more of the incandescent bulbs' light is in that part of the spectrum.

This was still during the stage of sorting out the wiring harness, so the bike is quite a mess in the pic above.

A few hours later, nearing sunset, I finished the wiring harness, rechecked everything, then just in case I pulled the 12V 7Ah battery off the upright bike light system in case this one died before I could get back, since I was planning as long a test ride as I felt comfortable with based on ride results. I also figured I might get tired and have to stop somewhere for a while, since I have no motor on this one yet, and all testing is being done by human-power-only for now.

I found during a little yard-based ride to shakedown the harness that the right-hand turns still really needed a limiter, so I started to get out more of that angle bracket, until I saw that the way the handlebar-stem mounting-plate of the steering tie rod moves against the stem's headstock tube where it is welded to the seatpost of the Magna frame. I realized that all it needed was a small bump of metal to get in the way of the mounting plate, and keep it from pivoting as far right. A quick job with the welder (which I did not remember a pic of, but will edit in here later if I remember tomorrow) and now it steers only about 40-45° to either side, and doesn't have the problem of the wheel edge catching on pavement or rough terrain during a really hard turn.

While fixing this, I also decided that the amount of handlebar turn vs wheel turn was going to be a problem, because there are moments when I keep turning it much farther much faster than I need to, and it is going to cause a crash if I don't adapt faster or fix it. Since adapting will take me a while (I already did all the *quick* adapting I'll be able to do), reducing the ratio is better. I welded shut the bolt holes in the handlebar-stem mounting plate, then redrilled the hole as close as I could possibly get to the inside edge of it and still clear the plate with the actual steering tie rod eye. That's still a significant difference (about 1.5" from pivot center to tie-rod swivel center at the front end, the fork, and about 1.75" or so from pivot center to tie-rod swivel center at the back end, the handlebars. Maybe a 1:1.17 ratio. Much easier to steer, though--it had been perhaps 1:1.5 or more. Then I removed as much of the plate's outer end (now not needed) as I could, to eliminate it's catching on pant-legs/knees during top of pedal stroke.

I also put Slime into the tire tubes, as I don't yet have any good tires or tubes for the 24" size, and will have to use these for a long while, most likely. I still have the old Slime protector strips from my upright bike over a year ago, one of which failed and let thru a nail (they're guaranteed against that, and Slime replaced them under warranty, but didn't want the old ones back, so I kept them around for emergency use). I'm considering putting them into these tires, since they would be better than nothing, even if they're not as good as the newer versions (like the replacements they sent, which have kept my upright Columbia bike flat-free for over a year now, despite everything it's been thru!)

After packing the foot pump, the toolkit, my aluminum sketch folder (formerly a hospital chartbook from many years ago), and a handful of repair materials like zip ties and duct tape into a backpack, I clipped the backpack into the rear rack using it's lift-up spring retainer, and then for good measure bungeed around the pack's straps so they could not possibly tangle in the wheel spokes. :-)


First I rode around the local blocks again, as I did for it's first road test ever (see previous posts), and this time the handling was much better and more comfortable, as I had the real seat installed now (and repaired from the breaks documented previously). Overall I REALLY like this bike, but it does have a few issues.

I noticed a very slight wiggle in the steering, and checked everything, finding no breaks or bends but instead that the bolts used to hold the steering tie-rod ends to the mounting points at each end do not perfectly fit the holes in the bearing units. It's very small, but that translates into a fairly large pivot of the steering by wobbling. Enough to make it hard to keep a straight line, instead sort of weaving quickly a very small sideways distance at each pedal stroke or tiny bump in the road, then overcorrecting for that and weaving the opposite direction, and so on. It's something I can live with until I make some shims to surround those bolts with, but it tires the arms.

A more serious issue is that apparently something is wrong with the outer (pedal) freewheel on the rear BB stack. Sometimes the palls aren't catching after they've freewheeled a moment, and then pedalling does NOTHING but freely spin. I have to stop, reach down and back, and turn and wiggle the motor's receiver sprocket (for the 1/2" chain) and pedal, then it will cause the palls to latch and start moving again. It does not happen on any pattern I can yet predict. I had seen this happen once when i was playing with the freewheel before assembly, but only the one time. I oiled the freewheel since a dry freewheel could theoreticaly have enough dirt/etc to catch on the palls and stop them from springing back into line and forcing the sprocket back into action--no change. It happened several times during the test trip, both locally and on major streets, forcing me to pull over and get out of traffic.

A bit more experimentation simply shows the freewheel itself is probably worn-out. I have others, but I will have to make a new mounting plate for it as I did for this one, cut off the broken freewheel, then reweld another one on there. For now, since I don't have the motor on there and don't need this sprocket to freewheel, I'm probably just going to tackweld it in place so it will always just transfer power. Once I put the motor on there, I'll need to change it out, though.


I was forced to test the horn when an idiot in a motor vehicle (some sort of minivan-ish thing) attempted to run me down by turning right directly in front of me, on 29th Avenue, when they had no business doing so--if they had waited literally ONE second, I would have been past the street they wanted to turn into, and would not have had to gun their engine to squeal around me on the left--they were behind me at normal speeds just before that. I had to slam on the brakes and stand up out of the bike to stop it in time, and still only just managed to keep it from sliding underneath the back of their vehicle as they turned in front of me. I used the horn as soon as I could see that they were about to turn in front of me illegally, but they ignored it completely and continued their dangerous (potentially fatal) maneuver, then sped on down the side street away from the accident they caused. Fortunately for me and them, no one was hurt, and the bike just got some scratches on it--if there had been more traffic on the road, I could have been run over by any vehicles behind us, if they were too close to stop in time.

It's not like they couldn't see me--it was still very much light outside, and you can clearly see the dayglo and light-colored paintjob, and I was the only vehicle on the road in front of them for quite some distance, including parked cars. They most likely simply didn't care, since I'm "just" a bicycle, and figured I couldn't possibly be going fast enough to be in danger if they did what they did--but I was going 25MPH at that point, as fast as *they* were going before they gunned their engine and raced around me!

It's a danger all cyclists (even motorcyclists!) face, whether they ride in traffic by the rules of the road as I do, or not, because some motor vehicle drivers either do not understand that cycles are part of road traffic and must be treated as such (if the cyclists are doing their part) or they don't comprehend how fast a cyclist can go, and that they can under good conditions keep up with much of regular traffic, or give a fair attempt at doing so.


Rant aside, the rest of the ride went fairly well, except for the several times the pedal-side freewheel failed to engage again, but none of those was at a dangerous time, just inconvenient. Because I could not trust that I would have motive power when I needed it, from a complete stop, I did not attempt any street crossings while on the bike unless there was absolutely no traffic for some distance in any direction, and walked it across instead. Sometimes there was little enough traffic that I was able to do my normal street crossings, lane changes, left turns, etc, but more of the time walking was safer--if I did not get pedal power when I needed to start, I might end up a bit too late crossing and cause a hazardous condition, or else I might piss off whoever was waiting behind me at a turn lane, etc.


I get a fair amount of people, usually once a day or so, that comment on the Columbia upright bike's lights or paintjob or cargo pods, either when I'm stopped at a light or as I pass a pedestrian on a less-trafficked route, or in a parking lot. But on this trip, total of around 6 miles, I must've had several DOZEN people stop and ask about it, or comment on it (some are making fun of it, I'm sure, but at least I know they noticed it!). Lots of them were kids, maybe 8-12 years old, some teens, but most were adults of varying ages. One said that she had a lot of old bikes and parts piled up in the garage, and had been thinking of getting at least one of them working for a while, but now was considering building something like this. I explained what a challenge it's been, and gave her this blog address, so hopefully she'll get enough pointers from this and other places to finish her own! :-) Several kids asked their parents if they could have one, to which there were many kinds of replies.


After stopping by work to pickup the schedule for next week (and giving a preview of the bike to those who were there at the time), I had gone about 3 miles and was getting hungry, as I hadn't eaten since breakfast, and things had run longer than planned getting the wiring harness and such ready before doing this test run--I'd intended to start it about 3pm, but was at least 2 hours later before I could do so. I don't have enough money to eat fast food very often, but decided that if I didn't eat some real food and sit down for a while, I might have trouble making it home (my hands and body start shaking if I lack food for long enough, and I felt close to that point). I ended up going to Taco Bell, as it's the closest inexpensive fast food place to where I was--$4.75 will buy a complete meal, including tax.

The part I don't like about this place is that there is major "construction" in the middle lanes of Peoria Avenue right there, and I can't ride safely for some distance east and west of there--people seem to drive faster and more hazardously in construction zones, and are particularly hateful of cyclists and pedestrians in these areas, no matter how careful the cyclists and pedestrians might be. Even if speeds are greatly reduced by signage in the area, such as down to 15-20MPH, and I pedal that fast, drivers often are lined up behind me gunning their engines and honking, even though they cannot go any faster than that anyway. Just because I am a bicycle in front of them, and not a car, they seem to perceive that they are forced to go slower, even though they are not. (Unless perhaps they intend to illegally speed thru the construction zone, where fines for doing so can be at minimum doubled, and often there are police officers visibly present!).


Anyhow, around 8pm I safely got there, and locked up the bike in their rack, which I like because it is viewable from the dining area, from most of the tables. Many places don't *have* racks, and those that do tend to place them out of sight, perhaps to keep other customers from seeing these strange human-powered vehicles. ;-) There were a few people around, but none seemed interested in the bike, beyond looking at it (or me) strangely, which isn't uncommon even on the upright bike. I went in, ordered, and sat down to eat and think.

I have been pondering how to build essentially this bike, but with a lighter and more elegant frame, and have made a few "napkin sketches" of these ideas. But this time I had an inspiration, based on an idea I'd thought of a few days before, and drew it up.

It's complete enough I decided to scan it in and clean up the pencil a little, running it thru a contrast-enhancement in GIMP. Basically it's all curves wherever I could do that. Really hard to actually *make* because of that, but a lot nicer-looking than the CrazyBike2.0 is. :-)

Another difference is that this one has a rear shock, in a way I never thought to try before this. The swivel point is still the same type I designed for the very first recumbent I was going to make, where the bottom bracket has a "U" bolt around it holding the rear to the front, in such a way that the chainline never changes length, and the pivot point is also the center of rotation of the forward sprockets of the wheel's chainline. (I still don't understand why no one does this yet on bikes built in factories and such--I doubt very much that no one thought of it before *I* did!).

But the shock absorber is very different. It uses a leaf-spring, or rather, one leaf. My first thought is that I could probably use one from the Ford LTD's rear suspension, assuming I can get it apart and out of there, which isn't certain. It is used differently than in a car, as here the center of the arch is pointed upward rather than downward, and is not attached to anything at all. Only the ends are attached, one to just above the rear dropouts, and one to a few inches forward of the bottom bracket (far enough for all the hardware to clear chains, sprockets, derailers, etc., regardless of position of swivel).

The chainstays are the only part of the rear frame that is attached to the wheel, as there are no seatstays in the normal sense. They are also curved, rather than straight. To keep side-sway and warping down, a cross-X is made near the front of them, with the same diameter tubing. These chainstays are very long for the wheel size, so that I can keep the front chainline shorter by making this one a bit longer. It also allows for a larger rear wheel should I desire it--24" or 26" would work here. It would require different brake pivot stud points to be welded on for whichever wheel size was used, but that can even be worked out by putting one set on top of the chainstays, and the other set on the bottom. Something I'm willing to do to make it easier to experiment with.

The rear rack is made as an extension of the seat mounting base, which is a twin tube splitting off from the toptube/downtube, as you can see more clearly in the ortho view than in the side view. This curves up and around back to the top of the seat as a stiffener there, too. There are diagonal braces zigzagging across between the twin tubes to stiffen them and to make a rack to set things on/tie them to.

The seat itself on this one would be tubing with open-weave stretched between them (probably laced on), which is lighter and cooler to ride on than my wooden seat. Probably just as comfortable, too, or even moreso.

Steering presents a challenge, since I don't want a straight tube anywhere if I can avoid it, just for sake of consistency in the design. Cable-steering is the only easy option, but it might be possible to use a number of what amount to long U-joints in series down the curve of the tube from the handlebars to the top of the headstock. I'd have to make each U-joint from scratch, as I have none (except the ones in the Ford LTD, which I think are all too large and heavy for this). Basically making a "driveshaft". It would also be possible to use a steering tie rod like I'm using now, but it would not look very good against the backdrop of the rest of the bike.


More to come, but all I have time for today.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Kirby The Grinder, Added Steering Limiter, Bike Linked To Blog

I've been meaning to link the bike to the blog for months and months, and keep forgetting to actually do it when I have the time to. Now it's done, badly, but done.

I just hand-painted it on the down tube and the cargo pod on the left side, and more neatly on the right side cargo pod mount plate:

I would have just written it on there in a giant marker, but my writing is actually worse than my paint-lettering. ;-)

I'd still like to print some signs up to seal in plastic page-keepers, then mount those to the bike. Or laminate them, perhaps. But since I keep putting off doing it the good ways because it takes so long to work out a design and perfect it on the computer, then print it and mount it, this at least gets the blog link out there for those interested without them having to find and ask me. Maybe more people will see how the bike stuff is done, and be inspired as a young perhaps-engineer-to-be in New Zealand already has been--that person has motorized a small bike using a radiator fan motor that looks the same as the Toyota Tercel motor I'd used first, though in a completely different way than I did it.

I like inspiring people to do this kind of stuff--both recycling and bicycling are fun things to do!



Yesterday before work, I fixed up a crude but simple and effective steering angle limiter to prevent the steering problem from a recent post.

It's just a piece of angled steel from an old rackmount ear tab that had seen better days (part of the same stuff the throttle pivot/chain guide wheel holder is made from).

It's welded directly to the back side of the fork (really the front side, but the fork is reversed specifically because it made the angle of this easier to do for now) so that the short side is on the outer face, and the long side on the rear face. The angle gives that corner more support against the stress of being slammed against the down tube during steering to the left (which shouldn't happen often, once I get really used to the steering on this), to prevent it from simply folding over.

The inner part of the long side is beveled inward at the top, so that it gives the correct amount of limiting. If I find I need more steering angle than this:

then I can grind that bevel down a little further.

There's no limiter plate on the right side yet, but there will be a matching one shortly.

It doesn't need one for the same reason, but since the only thing limiting rightward turning angle is the stem of the eye hitting the steering tube/stem, it's going to bend that eye-stem or break it, and I really don't want that to happen during a ride.

If I duplicate that limiter on the right side, it'll prevent steering-link damage.



Now here's another great find via Freecycle (sort of, in that it's from someone I re-met via a FC listing, and she brought this over with some bike lights and generators some time later, rather than thru a FC post):

The Kirby vacuum we already had here, courtesy of my oldest sister. It's not in great shape, and has a broken main brush roller bearing end in the primary carpet attachment, but it does work, and has a handful of odd attachments and such, most of which look like they've never been used (I know they weren't in all the years we had it), such as the paint/liquid sprayer, the air-powered vibrating sander, etc. One thing I never imagined they'd made for it however was a GRINDING WHEEL, which you see above before attaching it, in front of the Kirby.

Above shows it mounted and latched down. I had no good belts for the Kirby, but I've saved every belt from everything else I could get my hands on, including all the dead vacuums and whatnot people have had around me over the years. One of them just barely fit (it will probably break during use, because it's old and too tight).

It sure looks strange on there, doesn't it?

It works fine, though. It is missing the front cover for it, which would help it to suck all the ground-away dust and bits from whatever is being worked on, into the vacuum and thus the bag, keeping the work area all clean and stuff. ;-) Still works very well in that regard, even without the cover plate.

It has two stones, a smaller finer one, and a larger coarser one. I would never have even thought to try this if it were not for the very tattered remains of a paper label on the larger stone that says "...Kirby...somethingsomething...something...." with the "Kirby" as the obvious Kirby logo. Then I remembered about that vacuum, dug it out, and voila!


So now for essentially nothing, I have a fine-grained low-speed stationary "bench grinder" courtesy of what might be the most famous vacuum company, Freecycle, and packrat-ism.
It's already come in handy fixing up a pair of notched-out wire cutters I really liked before they were damaged from misuse. :-)

Friday, February 20, 2009

More Yard-based Test Rides, Steering Problem Found

I finished boring out the steering tie rod eyes for the skate bearings, which didn't take long thanks to the lathe. Since the eyes couldn't be mounted in the chuck due to their length, as they would have hit the lathe's main beam during rotation, I clamped the vise to the tool-holder platform and put the largest Unibit in the big chuckholder for the tailstock. Then I took the tailstock's tube out (simply by cranking it forward all the way to unscrew it from the crank) and put that whole thing in the lathe's headstock chuck to hold it straight and centered to spin it. The eye went into the vise, and I just moved the tool-holder platform in and out to bore out the eyes to the same size as the bearing units.

It was a slightly loose fit, in that I could push them in and out with my fingers, and since I did not want them to come loose during steering, but also didn't want to destroy the bearing races by trying to weld them in, I decided to use my small butane torch (it's "pocket sized" and only holds enough to burn for about 20 minutes on medium, or maybe 7 or 8 on high) to heat the eyes and bearing units enough to solder them in place. Since the torch doesn't get hot enough to even melt the silver-solder I have, I just used regular electronics rosin-core solder, and scrubbed the outer ring of the bearing units thoroughly with a sanding foam block in hopes this would be enough to let the solder stick. The eye surfaces were just lathed, so they're nice new shiny clean metal already.

I clamped the threaded part of the eyes between two pieces of wood (since a metal vise would have just heatsinked away the torch heat), so that the eye was vertical and the bearing could not fall out or shift during soldering. It took a few minutes per eye, but it worked well, and in the ride tests later it did not show any signs of cracking or other failure so far.



In the process of reinstalling the steering tie rod with it's new bearings, I managed to crack away part of the aluminum handlebar-stem I had been using as the front end of the arrangement, but fortunately it was not the threaded portion I needed for this. However, it did take away the only stop the system had had preventing a full-on left swing of the wheel from "plunging" around and flipping the entire front fork direction 180° from what it should be.

Above is how the forward end looks at "rest" position in the center of the steering range. It's taken from directly above the forward headstock and the front fork. The tie rod is to the left, and the top tube of the Magna frame is near the center of the image, vertically.

Below is the point at which it becomes impossible to steer back from a left turn, and the wheel is stuck almost 90° from straight.

If I'm steering hard left, moving the bars fast, the momentum will continue turning the wheel past this point, and the pivot point will now be on the right side instead of the left, and I will be unable to steer anymore as it's almost locked into that position (only a few degrees of movement possible).
The video below shows it more clearly:
video
Pardon the shaking camera, as I didn't take time to setup a tripod for this like I should have.

I have a couple of ideas to fix it, both involving essentially a stop pin or plate that keeps the front fork from going past a certain point. Most likely I will go with a plate welded to the back edge of the fork's top bar, where it joins the steering tube. This will limit the max steering angle to about 70° or so to either side of straight ahead, at a guess (have to measure it to know for sure), and prevent the disastrous momentum-flip.

It will also give me a place to mount the front turn-signal/marker light units, which look basically like the ones on the rear of the bike (at the top of the seat back), but have angled brackets built-into them, with bolts integrated into the brackets. The angle of the plates won't perfectly match the original angle of the lights, but I can bend the brackets a bit at the end where the light is to fix that. They originally mounted to the front plastic leg-shield on the Honda Spree, which was angled back quite a bit to deflect wind around the rider's lower legs and feet.



I did about a quarter-mile of riding around the backyard in circle-ish patterns, testing out and getting used to the steering, now that it doesn't have any slop. The problem above nearly crashed me several times, so it's definitely got to be fixed before it goes on the road again. Other than that, the chain guide/deflector wheel works pretty well, though I can see enough wear on it that I'll need to find a more permanent solution if I don't get the motor on here soon. The chain is gouging into the wheel's plastic too much, since if I can notice a difference (barely) after only 1/4 mile, there's going to be severe wear after not too many days on the road if I do my usual riding with this bike, but without the motor on it.

With the motor, once it's attached, it will take most of the pedal-chain tension away, so the wear won't be much of a problem anymore. Then this wheel will just be the throttle sensor pressure roller and chain guide, and not have to take so much pressure from the chain that it gets chewed up.

One nice thing about this bike seat being where and how it is, is that I can easily just put a foot down to stabilize the bike if I start to tip too far or skid or whatever, and generally prevent any bad stuff from happening at lower speeds. At higher speeds, if I have time to brake enough to shed speed I can do the same thing. Otherwise, the only difference it makes is that I have a much smaller distance to fall, and I'm going feet first instead of head and hands first, so I tend to just roll and skid a little, which didn't even tear the pants or anything, in the more-than-a-dozen crashes I had (mostly due to the steering problem above).

On the upright bike in a similar type of crash due to locked steering or being unable to make a turn due to high speed, the bike slides out from under me or flips taking me with it, usually landing me on my hands or shoulders if I have no time to begin a body roll. Both of those kinds of landings are a lot more likely to break something or injure me in other ways than the skid landings I'm getting with this new bike.

Until I can really test at higher speeds (like on the canal paths both paved and gravel, where there's no traffic to run me over after I crash), I won't truly be able to compare the lifetime of experience I've had crashing the upright-style bikes to the few minutes of riding and crashing this one, but so far, at the 5-8MPH and lower speeds I'm getting up to in the yard tests before I have to start a turn, it's way better on this new one. ;-)



Since today it had been relatively warm and dry all day (in the mid to high 70's in the afternoon), then when I finished with all the work today, near sunset, I primered the bike to keep it from rusting at all the places I've done paint- and surface-damaging work and modifications, since it has been raining so much lately.

I didn't have enough of any one color spray primer, so I used the lightest colors I could for most of it, and the least-blending-in-with-background color I had after the light colors ran out, especially over the areas with the roughest surfaces and the most hard-to-reach crevices, like the rear part of the steering assembly, and the top and bottom of the kickstand. Those got purple. It's not really primer, but it'll keep the water out of the welds and cut/ground-off areas.

Most of the primer was an off-white, which turned almost tan on the rubber of the tires. Painting the tires a light color makes the bike MUCH more visible from the side at night, even without lights. Compare the side views above with the one below, which although it's in daylight, and the seat is lighter-colored (not yet covered with the brown vinyl) is still clearly less visible than the light-colored tires above.

The light-colored frame vs dark-colored frame also makes a difference, but the tires are large and round, and the eye (brain, actually) does see such objects "faster" than others, at least for me.


Later, once the bike is actually "finished" it will still probably get the DayGlo Avenger paintjob. However, I found some old (very old) cans of Pactra RC-Aircraft type paint in my stuff when I was digging around for the primer a few days back, and though the thinner/carrier in it has yellowed significantly, it is still usable. I tested it by painting the lids of the cans, since the original color samples printed in ink on the labels have all faded a lot in 15 years. ;-)

Surprisingly, the paint dries as it should, and sticks well. It stinks very badly, and I have doubts that whatever was used in it would be allowed these days. :-) Definitely outdoor-use-only stuff. There's four colors, plus some "clear" that is more like aged-lacquer-translucent-brown now. Tropic Blue, a bit turquoise-tinged due to the aging carrier, is a fairly bright color. Darker but would still stand out is the Sunset Orange, which is more rusty-amber color to me. It's a bit redder than Loki's fur in the bike pic up above. Strobe White is more beige from the carrier, but still good enough to use as a white reflector underneath the DayGlo paints, or for white trim anywhere I might want it. Airframe Aluminum is your average slightly sparkly silver paint, not apparently affected by the carrier's color change.

I am considering using these, along with my airbrush, to do the final paint job on the bike, using the DayGlo Avenger colors only for parts of the bike here and there. It would look pretty nice, and these are tougher paints than the crappy Rust-O-Leum junk I still have for the DayGlo stuff.
I also found some old dried-out poster paints that include several DayGlo colors, and am thinking of grinding up some of them and mixing with the Strobe White in some separate jars to do small bits of DayGlo here and there without having to use the crappy Rust-O-Leum sprays (of which I don't have enough Orange, anyway, and no Yellow). I've never done this kind of mixing of pigments from other paint types together, so I have no idea what the result will be until I try it. :-)

Thursday, February 19, 2009

100th Post, Kickstand, Chain Guide

So this is the 100th post on this blog, since September 3rd, 2007, roughly a year and a half-ish. It seems as if I've learned an awful lot since I started out, from being just an average cyclist to something of a bike mechanic. The project itself has progressed and even mutated a bit along the way, branching out from simply adding a motor assist to my existing bike, but actually creating a new bike to handle all the various needs I've pretty much always had, but only in the last couple of years really done anything serious about.

Even cargo pods and trailers are new since starting this project, as I had made cargo pods of various things before, but really only the basket type worked out very well for any length of time, and I had rarely seriously thought about lockable weatherproof pods. Trailers are something I'd wanted now and then, but never enough to do anything about it, until this project--it became necessary to have one to haul larger scrap finds, especially multiple bikes. After finding Freecycle, I really had to have one (and I need a bigger one that can be used as a flatbed style).

It's been an interesting start to the journey of the ultimate electric-assisted bicycle-class human-powered vehicle. I'm sure it will continue for a long time to come.




I built a kickstand today, started before the last rain the other night, but had to stop due to a drizzle suddenly starting. Not safe to be welding in the rain. ;-)

It's simply made from the forward part of the chainstays of the little kid's bike I made the forward tube and headstock of the original recumbent out of, plus a really hard-metal gate hinge salvaged from a wooden-and-chicken-wire gate someone dumped in the alley a few years ago. It's one of those hinges that has the long triangular tab starting about 1.25" wide at it's base, tapering to a narrow rounded end around 5" away (used to attach the gate), and the post-side hinge a 1.5" or so wide plate about 3.5" to 4" tall.

The chainstay was already a very short one (I think it was only a 12" wheel bike, but it didn't have any wheels on it by the time it got to me), and I had cut the dropouts off of it for some other purpose I've now forgotten (might've been for the 24"-to-20" shock fork conversion). The remainder was the part from just behind the Bottom Bracket tube to just in front of where the dropout tabs would have been welded in, just long enough to reach from the new bike's Schwinn Sprint frame's kickstand mount plate to the ground and leave the rear wheel about 1" off the ground, if the stand was left nearly vertical, or to simply hold the bike upright with both wheels still on the ground if allowed to cant forwards a lot more.

The chainstay piece was fairly narrow at it's forward end, and since I don't want it rubbing on the tire when it's retracted (as it will fold up and back to sit against the bottom edge of the bike's actual chainstays), I spread the stay tubes apart at the former seatpost end. This makes it wider than the actual bike chainstays at the rear/bottom end, but about the same at the front/top end, for good clearance on the tire. I used a spring from the junkbox (no idea what it was from) to keep it retracted when not in use. It's simply hooked over one of the hose clamp screws for the seat mount at the top, for now, with the bottom end on the kickstand itself, bolted to it via the threaded hole in the back of the mounting plate that was already part of that chainstay piece.

Since drilling a new large bolthole in the hinge would leave it weak, as it already has the three screwholes in it to begin with, I decided to weld it to the bottom of the kickstand mount plate, first flattening the mount plate's anti-swivel tabs, as they would have been in the way of this large flat hinge, and aren't needed if I'm welding this on. The first step was to clamp the old short chainstay piece in the vise, and clamp the hinge's post-side to the chainstay's BB end, flat against this chainstay's kickstand mounting plate (which I only removed the front-edge anti-swivel tab from), then weld the hinge to the chainstays.


I took some scrap metal bits and welded them as flat plates across the BB ends of the chainstay piece, to give a sturdier end for the bike's weight to lean on, rather than just the bare tube ends. Then I clamped the whole assembly to the kickstand mount plate on the Sprint frame and welded it onto the plate only, but with the long triangular end still on it and bent a little downward to rest against the BB of the Sprint, giving it a bit more anti-leverage against being twisted by the force of the bike's weight (and sometimes mine) when it's down and the rear wheel is off the ground. I also left the end there because the last screwhole on that tab is potentially useful for mounting something (don't know what yet).

After it's all secured, I found a little bit of sideways wiggle in the hinge when it's extended, so I welded on the edges of them just a bit where they fold up against the Sprint's chainstays during use, to make a pair of bump-stops that prevent any wiggle.

The former dropout ends of the kickstand were still open tubing, and really needed to be a bit wider and flat to keep the bike from wobbling about or tipping when on soft surfaces like dirt/grass, though it was nice and stable on concrete or asphalt already. I picked a bit of angle-steel out of the scrap bin; it used to be part of a rackmount ear for something, but had been bent and broken (must've been a LOT of force) and was probably why I'd found it in a junkheap someplace way back when. It was just long enough to reach all the way across the entire kickstand and leave about 3/4" on either side of it, and wide enough to leave the same front and back, so that after welding it on and cutting the center section out (to clear the tire when stowed), I was left with a square pad on each kickstand leg, with a rear-facing softer corner going upward with the angle-bracket edge (this makes it easier to get it to catch on something while parking it, without digging into the surface so it doesn't destroy the surface, especially on tile, carpet, etc, when it must be stored inside like here at home or at work).

Now the kickstand tests fine, and while I did some adjustment work on the derailers and handlebar positions, etc, I sat in the seat directly over the kickstand, on the soft dirt in the yard, and it did not tip over or wobble, and it kept the rear wheel off the ground even when I leaned back in the seat. That is good, because it allows me to test pedal it without riding it anywhere. I verified this works a bit later, when testing out the partly-finished chain guide.



Since I don't yet have the throttle electronics built, there's no need for the chain guide to pivot yet, so I'd intended to just thread the entirety of the former skate axle and tighten it down to hold the skate wheel as rigidly as possible, and also pin the plates together so it wouldn't pivot (basically leaving out all the washers that would have allowed it to move).

I ran into some trouble, though, because it turns out the axle metal is about as hard as the cheap tap & die set I have, so I can't properly thread it. Until I find another shorter axle or bolt that will also fit thru the skate bearing's center tube, that means I can't use the skate wheel as the guide roller.

Junk bin to the rescue again. :-) I found this roller left from the dead treadmill that gave me the motor this bike will use. I don't remember for sure, but I think it had been used to guide the unfolding upright bars and handle/rails on the treadmill, when pulling it out of it's stowed position to it's in-use position. I also think there is another one, but it's not in this junk box, so I probably considered it for use in a project somewhere, and it's still in that project's box. ;-)

It's a heavy-duty but slightly resilient roller, probably nylon, with a VERY hard steel axle bolt that is short enough to mount it on my pivot plates as I'd intended to do with the skate wheel axle (but couldn't since it's threads didn't go far enough down). I verified where the chain will ride on it, and then notched the roller about 1/8" deep for the chain to ride in, using the lathe. Bolted it in so it just clears the bottom half of the chainline, and tested it by sitting in the seat and pedalling in the highest gear combination. It doesn't move or allow chain slippage, so I'd say it'll do as a replacement for the skate wheel at least for now. I don't know if it'll wear any faster than the skate wheel, as it shows no sign of wear after about 20 minutes of pedalling in various gears as I rechecked the derailer adjustments, and just generally played with riding positions and whatnot, while still on the kickstand.



The steering I'm still working on right now, but I did get the bottom tab fully welded to the bottom of the steering tube the handlebars are on. Previously it had had a lot of play because I had tried to thread it on, and nothing I could do would keep it from swivelling, so welding was required to fix it.

Now I have to finish filing out the inner edges of the eyes in the steering tie rod, so the skate bearings will fit inside them, and allow better and more precise steering control, without any play in the connect points.


I've also been painting some of the bike accessory parts, such as the mirror housing and the lighting modules from the Honda, since it was sunny enough yesterday and today to let them dry outside. So they're nice DayGlo Orange now.

I don't have enough DayGlo type paint to completely repaint the whole bike in Orange and Yellow, so it's going to be a really ugly mishmash of colors for a long while, with Orange, Red-Orange, Pink, and Green.

But no one who could actually get a motor vehicle license legally will be able to say they didn't see me coming. ;-)

Need More Planning, Less Impulsive Building of Stuff

Just a thought today:

I think that my biggest problem with the various bike projects is that since I'm using stuff intended for a different purpose, and I'm trying to always first use it as unmodified as possible, that I end up having spend more time to make more workarounds for the unmodified parts than I would if I just go ahead and figure out how and what to modify on everything the first time.

As an example, when I was starting to use the small type of chain for the motor, I didn't have a short enough one, and the chain-tool I have can't take apart or put together the links in this small a chain. So I spent about an hour or maybe even two, to make a tensioner pulley setup that kept the extra length in-line and tight.

This tensioner made the chainline get in the way of the pedal's chainline, though, which made me have to work out a way to deflect the pedal chain around the motor chain, and also not hit the bike frame. I worked on that for at least 4 or 5 hours, and never got a satisfactory solution.

About two days later I finally just figured out, in about 10 minutes, that I could use a few other tools not intended for the purpose at all to pretty easily remove the links from the motor chain and put it back together in it's shorter form. Then I could take out both the pullley-tensioner and the deflection mess, and simplify everything.

So 10 minutes of thinking hard and about 15 minutes of actual work negated the need for the at least 5 to 7 hours of work I'd already done trying to work around the problem.


I need to sit down and plan things more, instead of just jumping in and sticking parts together just because they "almost fit like they were made to", and actually *make* them fit perfectly.


I suppose my real problem is that doing that is much more like work, and the other way is a lot more fun. ;)

Monday, February 16, 2009

Minor Improvements, Still In Progress

Since not enough of it is done yet to see how it works in an image, this is a quick MSPaint of how the chain deflector/guide will work.

The dark blue/purple across the top is the Magna's bottom bracket and chainstays, with the green bar along the bottom edge of that being the kickstand mounting plate on the Magna. The peach ring around the BB is the pedal chainring, and the gray bar diagonal to that is the crank. The white plate is the mounting plate for the CDG, and the red outlined portion is the pivot plate the blue skatewheel is attached thru, via the bottom green axle with bearings. The gray squiggle is a spring, to pull the wheel downward against the orange chain's tension. The top green dot is the pivot bolt for the pivot plate to swivel against. The gray arc is where the green axle can swivel thru. The spring is attached to a pin welded to the main mounting plate in the lower left corner, up to the axle bolt on the inside of the mounting plate (other side from where the wheel is). I have several possible springs to fit in that space, depending on the tension required.

The need for the swivel is caused by this being the primary throttle control. As I pedal, the more tension in the top of the chainline (such as when starting up from a stop, or uphill), the more torque I am having to apply to the system with my legs to do work, and the more the wheel will be forced upwards along the arc, against the spring's pull. The pivot plate will be attached to a throttle control (at this point, a magnet that will affect a Hall-effect sensor), so that as it swings farther upward, it commands more and more power to the motor. If there is no tension on it at all (such as when I am not pedalling, or when the motor or a downhill section is forcing the wheels faster than the pedal chainline), then it swings all the way down and the motor gets no power.

Since there may be a need at some point for me to use the motor either without pedalling or more likely to use it to go faster than I *can* pedal in a particular situation, or for a burst of emergency speed to avoid some situation, the cable from the Honda Spree's throttle assembly will attach to this in a way to pull the pivot plate up just like the chain would when under tension, giving me manual control of the throttle as well, without complicating the electronics by having to merge two different inputs. The Honda throttlegrip is already designed to use a cable to pull a fuel throttle valve in the engine, so all I am doing is using that same cable to pull the pivot plate instead. The original cable should easily reach this point on the frame from the bars, and if for some reason it does not, I have plenty of other cables that will.

This also allows me to not have to rig up an electronic throttle to the mechanical grip on the bars themselves, leaving me a bit less wiring to do up there. There is quite a bit already, with just the built-in Honda grip controls:

  • twin brake-light-switches
  • turn signal switch
  • headlight bright/dim switch
  • run/stop/run knob
  • horn button
plus if I use the Honda's mechanical speedometer/odometer/etc box:
  • backlight
  • turn signal on light
  • highbeam on light
  • oil light
  • fuel gauge
The run/stop/run will likely be used as the kill switch it's intended to be, but in this case to cut power to the relays on the motor controller.

The horn will apply power to a car horn (from the Ford LTD). I'm pretty sure even a closed-window car or truck will be able to hear it, for those situations when someone is creating an unsafe situation I need to call their attention to (not common, but sometimes I wish I had one for them when they do happen). A bell can't be heard at all by most motor-vehicle traffic, and neither the electric scooter horn (pitiful little buzz) nor the Honda scooter horn (quiet beep) have been heard (or at least, not reacted to) by anyone in such a situation so far. If nothing else I can honk back at all those motor vehicles that honk at me as they pass, which they are not allowed to do (at least in AZ, as far as I am aware). Or as they pass me closer than the required 3 feet, which is EXTREMELY common in the daytime, even when they have multiple other lanes to the left that they could be using, and the lane I am in is even wide enough to accomodate two entire cars! It is far less common at night, as many people seem to assume I'm a motorcycle or something, with the marker lights and signals I have on the Columbia upright, and give me a wider berth than they do a known bicycle.

The brake-light switches (one in each brake handle) will be wired in parallel, and run both to the motor controller's brake-input (to stop the motor during braking) and the brake light. It'll need a transistor or other buffer between the switches and those two functions, since the motor controller runs on 24v or 36v, and the lighting on a separate 12v battery.

The turn signal switch has three wires, one for left, right, and common. The common goes to the turn signal flasher module (electronic, in this case, rather than thermal like the Honda used), which provides power to the signal lights when it is then switched to either left or right instead of off (center). At first, I will just be using the Honda lighting and thermal switcher, because I am still building the LED lighting boards to replace the bulbs with. That system only lights the markers and signals when they are being used to signal. The way I will have my LED system work is the same as on my Columbia upright: the markers will be lit all the time and blink when signalling, by alternating the side and front/rear marker LED sets, using transistors within each of the four light modules.

The front markers and signals will both be amber, simplifying the system, because I can keep using the intact signal lenses, and simply install a row or two of side-facing LEDs on the outer portion of the lenses, with the rest of the LEDs facing forward. The rear markers will be similar, but they will require red LEDs for the side-facing rows, and amber for the rear-facing. This means I must cut a section of the lenses out for the red LEDs to shine thru, and replace it with either red or clear plastic, or more likely simply clear silicone (since that works very well to diffuse the rear amber signals on my Columbia upright bike and trailer light).

The taillight and brake light is very easy: Simply replace the bulb and reflector with a board of LEDs, one-third of which will be wired always-on with the taillight, and the other two-thirds of which will be wired to the brake light. The ratio is to give very high contrast to the braking, so it is very noticeable that I am changing states, just as with cars. On the Honda's incandescent lamp system, it is at least that high a ratio, and might be even greater.

I would like to use clear lenses instead of colored ones for the LEDs, but that will have to wait until I can build my own assemblies to go onto the bike. For now, using the existing Honda parts is the quickest and most reliable way to begin using the bike with a safe lighting and signalling system in place (which was even DOT-approved at the time of it's manufacture), and then replace the incandescents with LEDs as I have them ready, then later transitioning to a custom-made system if I find the need.

I *do* need to transition to LEDs as fast as possible, because the taillight uses almost 1A constantly, the brake light uses another 2.5A, and a pair of turn signals uses 3.8A for about 50% duty cycle pulsing of the lamps, meaning about 1.7A constant for the entire time I am signalling. My headlight (the CCFL scanner attachment) uses about 0.8A constantly. So if I am using 1.8A all the time, plus call it an average of another .2A for braking and signalling during a trip (just a guess), then my 12V7Ah battery isnt' going to last for more than *maybe* an hour before the lights are significantly dimmer than starting brightness, and the turn signals probably wont' work at that point, perhaps earlier (they require sufficient voltage to generate the current thru the thermally-controlled relay in the blinker box). So the taillight/brakelight will be my first LED set to work on, which should reduce the entire current down to about 0.4A during max usage, probably a lot less, depending on how many LEDs in series, plus how many parallel sets I use.

One lesson I learned on the Columbia's lights was that I need to use 3 or less LEDs in series for braking or signalling units. This gives a 6V drop, plus any transistors or diodes I have to use, up to 8V or so I could drop the 12V battery to before I get no lighting out of it. On the Columbia, it's 4-LED strings, so I have about 10V as the lower limit--if I forget to recharge it enough times, or (as happened once) the charger connection or jack fails and I *think* it's charged but it's not (because the charger LED shows full-charge if it's not connected the same as if it's connected to a full battery!), I end up losing all but headlighting completely once it drops below that point. The CCFL runs, dimly, down to about 6 or 7V, and is still bright enough to easily see that I'm there at 8-9V. The taillights on this new bike can still be 4-LED strings, as they have no other drops besides their limiting resistors.

I would *like* to transition to using LED-driver chips that do a buck/boost conversion to run them, so that they will work much more efficiently with less power wastage in the dropping resistors, and will work longer at lower voltage levels with no change in brightness. But that is going to require PCBs and surface-mount chips, which I currently don't have a way to create and solder reliably. I can get the PCBs made but the cost would be about $30 on up, which I don't have to spend right now. The chips I already acquired for developing the safety-bike lighting and control system that I am still stalled on due to total lack of programming skills, and very little electronics-engineering skill (sure, some of what I do might *seem* impressive at first, but it's all hack-and-slash re-purposing, not actual engineering and design). The passive components can come out of all the salvaged junk electronics I have laying around.


On the Honda speedometer/gauge box, I am working out ideas in my head to use the mechanical speedometer, which I'd have to calibrate for the bike. It goes up to 35MPH, which I doubt I would be coming anywhere near, except downhill on the long stretches of 7th Street or Cave Creek Road that run thru the "mountains" here, but I don't even need to pedal to reach those speeds on some parts of that, much less run a motor. :-) Most places are flat, and I expect that with the motor assist, I should be doing 15-20MPH most anywhere that allows those speeds.

It's fuel-gauge I have to work out how exactly it works. It appears to be a position-servo, powered by some separate electronics that match it's position with the float in the gas tank. I won't need that sensor, but I might be able to use the electronics by finding out what input gets me what output (manually moving the float, which I already have entirely out of the tank). Then I just build a battery monitor sensor that measures the voltage across my pack and converts it to whatever that electronics module is expecting, and I can use the fuel-gauge. It appears to take about 80mA to run that box and gauge along with the fueltank float sensor. That's a bit more than one string of LEDs, so no big deal power-wise.

It's a lot easier to read than a bargraph LED display, because it's backlit for darkness, and it's easily read in externally-lit conditions. The LED bargraph displays are nearly impossible to read in sunlight conditions, even in the shadow of a building or tree, unless you stop and cup your hands around it to your eyes, unless you use high-brightness LEDs, and then you'd be blinded at night, unless you add an automatic brightness control to it (which eventually I will have for the bike as a whole anyway, but for now, I don't need the extra complication for just one display).

That said, I may use some type of light sensor to enable/disable the backlight in the module, though more likely I'll just use some fairly dim green LEDs (the original bulb isn't even there, just part of it's socket, and no remains floating around inside).

The "high beam" light I don't have a particular use for, so it will become a functioning indicator light later on.

Turn-signal on light I don't really need, as I can clearly see the signals blinking in front of me, but I will probably still wire it in, since the blinker module will be right there anyway. However, once converted to LED, it won't go in series with the blinker, it will instead have a diode from both L & R sides of the turn signal switch, so that using either of them will engage it, then a dropping resistor and an LED, which doesn't have to be very bright.

The bright/dim headlight switch again won't be used for this, but instead will probably be used to turn the headlight on when on highbeam, but only taillight, running lights and signals when on
low beam. The headlight itself, because it is a wide-angle diffused CCFL, is not very visible in the daytime anyway, so it would be nice to just turn it off to save power (it's the major consumer of my lighting battery) in daylight conditions. I *always* use the lights if I am riding the bike, even in daytime, for the markers and turn signals make me more visible than without them, based on traffic reactions to me with and without them since I built and installed them last year. Thus, no actual "lights off" position, just "no headlight".


Since I have no key for the Honda ignition/lock/etc switch, I'm not using that at all. But I have a weather-resistant Briggs & Stratton electric keyswitch from my junkbox (no idea of it's original source), with two good keys, that will be used to enable main power for both lights and motor. It only has two wires to it, so it will probably be used to engage a relay that switches motor controller power on one set of contacts, and lighting power on the other. I don't really like the keyswitch from the old ScootNGo (currently on the Columbia for motor only, when I had a motor on it), as it has a really cheap key and mechanism, even though it has a separate set of contacts to turn on the lights with, so it'll stay where it is. I have other keyswitches from PC cases and the like, but none of them are weatherproofed in the slightest, so aren't really appropriate for this purpose.

I guess that's enough rambling for this post. ;-)

Minor Improvements, Still In Progress

Since not enough of it is done yet to see how it works in an image, this is a quick MSPaint of how the chain deflector/guide will work.

The dark blue/purple across the top is the Magna's bottom bracket and chainstays, with the green bar along the bottom edge of that being the kickstand mounting plate on the Magna. The peach ring around the BB is the pedal chainring, and the gray bar diagonal to that is the crank. The white plate is the mounting plate for the CDG, and the red outlined portion is the pivot plate the blue skatewheel is attached thru, via the bottom green axle with bearings. The gray squiggle is a spring, to pull the wheel downward against the orange chain's tension. The top green dot is the pivot bolt for the pivot plate to swivel against. The gray arc is where the green axle can swivel thru. The spring is attached to a pin welded to the main mounting plate in the lower left corner, up to the axle bolt on the inside of the mounting plate (other side from where the wheel is). I have several possible springs to fit in that space, depending on the tension required.

The need for the swivel is caused by this being the primary throttle control. As I pedal, the more tension in the top of the chainline (such as when starting up from a stop, or uphill), the more torque I am having to apply to the system with my legs to do work, and the more the wheel will be forced upwards along the arc, against the spring's pull. The pivot plate will be attached to a throttle control (at this point, a magnet that will affect a Hall-effect sensor), so that as it swings farther upward, it commands more and more power to the motor. If there is no tension on it at all (such as when I am not pedalling, or when the motor or a downhill section is forcing the wheels faster than the pedal chainline), then it swings all the way down and the motor gets no power.

Since there may be a need at some point for me to use the motor either without pedalling or more likely to use it to go faster than I *can* pedal in a particular situation, or for a burst of emergency speed to avoid some situation, the cable from the Honda Spree's throttle assembly will attach to this in a way to pull the pivot plate up just like the chain would when under tension, giving me manual control of the throttle as well, without complicating the electronics by having to merge two different inputs. The Honda throttlegrip is already designed to use a cable to pull a fuel throttle valve in the engine, so all I am doing is using that same cable to pull the pivot plate instead. The original cable should easily reach this point on the frame from the bars, and if for some reason it does not, I have plenty of other cables that will.

This also allows me to not have to rig up an electronic throttle to the mechanical grip on the bars themselves, leaving me a bit less wiring to do up there. There is quite a bit already, with just the built-in Honda grip controls:

  • twin brake-light-switches
  • turn signal switch
  • headlight bright/dim switch
  • run/stop/run knob
  • horn button
plus if I use the Honda's mechanical speedometer/odometer/etc box:
  • backlight
  • turn signal on light
  • highbeam on light
  • oil light
  • fuel gauge
The run/stop/run will likely be used as the kill switch it's intended to be, but in this case to cut power to the relays on the motor controller.

The horn will apply power to a car horn (from the Ford LTD). I'm pretty sure even a closed-window car or truck will be able to hear it, for those situations when someone is creating an unsafe situation I need to call their attention to (not common, but sometimes I wish I had one for them when they do happen). A bell can't be heard at all by most motor-vehicle traffic, and neither the electric scooter horn (pitiful little buzz) nor the Honda scooter horn (quiet beep) have been heard (or at least, not reacted to) by anyone in such a situation so far. If nothing else I can honk back at all those motor vehicles that honk at me as they pass, which they are not allowed to do (at least in AZ, as far as I am aware). Or as they pass me closer than the required 3 feet, which is EXTREMELY common in the daytime, even when they have multiple other lanes to the left that they could be using, and the lane I am in is even wide enough to accomodate two entire cars! It is far less common at night, as many people seem to assume I'm a motorcycle or something, with the marker lights and signals I have on the Columbia upright, and give me a wider berth than they do a known bicycle.

The brake-light switches (one in each brake handle) will be wired in parallel, and run both to the motor controller's brake-input (to stop the motor during braking) and the brake light. It'll need a transistor or other buffer between the switches and those two functions, since the motor controller runs on 24v or 36v, and the lighting on a separate 12v battery.

The turn signal switch has three wires, one for left, right, and common. The common goes to the turn signal flasher module (electronic, in this case, rather than thermal like the Honda used), which provides power to the signal lights when it is then switched to either left or right instead of off (center). At first, I will just be using the Honda lighting and thermal switcher, because I am still building the LED lighting boards to replace the bulbs with. That system only lights the markers and signals when they are being used to signal. The way I will have my LED system work is the same as on my Columbia upright: the markers will be lit all the time and blink when signalling, by alternating the side and front/rear marker LED sets, using transistors within each of the four light modules.

The front markers and signals will both be amber, simplifying the system, because I can keep using the intact signal lenses, and simply install a row or two of side-facing LEDs on the outer portion of the lenses, with the rest of the LEDs facing forward. The rear markers will be similar, but they will require red LEDs for the side-facing rows, and amber for the rear-facing. This means I must cut a section of the lenses out for the red LEDs to shine thru, and replace it with either red or clear plastic, or more likely simply clear silicone (since that works very well to diffuse the rear amber signals on my Columbia upright bike and trailer light).

The taillight and brake light is very easy: Simply replace the bulb and reflector with a board of LEDs, one-third of which will be wired always-on with the taillight, and the other two-thirds of which will be wired to the brake light. The ratio is to give very high contrast to the braking, so it is very noticeable that I am changing states, just as with cars. On the Honda's incandescent lamp system, it is at least that high a ratio, and might be even greater.

I would like to use clear lenses instead of colored ones for the LEDs, but that will have to wait until I can build my own assemblies to go onto the bike. For now, using the existing Honda parts is the quickest and most reliable way to begin using the bike with a safe lighting and signalling system in place (which was even DOT-approved at the time of it's manufacture), and then replace the incandescents with LEDs as I have them ready, then later transitioning to a custom-made system if I find the need.

I *do* need to transition to LEDs as fast as possible, because the taillight uses almost 1A constantly, the brake light uses another 2.5A, and a pair of turn signals uses 3.8A for about 50% duty cycle pulsing of the lamps, meaning about 1.7A constant for the entire time I am signalling. My headlight (the CCFL scanner attachment) uses about 0.8A constantly. So if I am using 1.8A all the time, plus call it an average of another .2A for braking and signalling during a trip (just a guess), then my 12V7Ah battery isnt' going to last for more than *maybe* an hour before the lights are significantly dimmer than starting brightness, and the turn signals probably wont' work at that point, perhaps earlier (they require sufficient voltage to generate the current thru the thermally-controlled relay in the blinker box). So the taillight/brakelight will be my first LED set to work on, which should reduce the entire current down to about 0.4A during max usage, probably a lot less, depending on how many LEDs in series, plus how many parallel sets I use.

One lesson I learned on the Columbia's lights was that I need to use 3 or less LEDs in series for braking or signalling units. This gives a 6V drop, plus any transistors or diodes I have to use, up to 8V or so I could drop the 12V battery to before I get no lighting out of it. On the Columbia, it's 4-LED strings, so I have about 10V as the lower limit--if I forget to recharge it enough times, or (as happened once) the charger connection or jack fails and I *think* it's charged but it's not (because the charger LED shows full-charge if it's not connected the same as if it's connected to a full battery!), I end up losing all but headlighting completely once it drops below that point. The CCFL runs, dimly, down to about 6 or 7V, and is still bright enough to easily see that I'm there at 8-9V. The taillights on this new bike can still be 4-LED strings, as they have no other drops besides their limiting resistors.

I would *like* to transition to using LED-driver chips that do a buck/boost conversion to run them, so that they will work much more efficiently with less power wastage in the dropping resistors, and will work longer at lower voltage levels with no change in brightness. But that is going to require PCBs and surface-mount chips, which I currently don't have a way to create and solder reliably. I can get the PCBs made but the cost would be about $30 on up, which I don't have to spend right now. The chips I already acquired for developing the safety-bike lighting and control system that I am still stalled on due to total lack of programming skills, and very little electronics-engineering skill (sure, some of what I do might *seem* impressive at first, but it's all hack-and-slash re-purposing, not actual engineering and design). The passive components can come out of all the salvaged junk electronics I have laying around.


On the Honda speedometer/gauge box, I am working out ideas in my head to use the mechanical speedometer, which I'd have to calibrate for the bike. It goes up to 35MPH, which I doubt I would be coming anywhere near, except downhill on the long stretches of 7th Street or Cave Creek Road that run thru the "mountains" here, but I don't even need to pedal to reach those speeds on some parts of that, much less run a motor. :-) Most places are flat, and I expect that with the motor assist, I should be doing 15-20MPH most anywhere that allows those speeds.

It's fuel-gauge I have to work out how exactly it works. It appears to be a position-servo, powered by some separate electronics that match it's position with the float in the gas tank. I won't need that sensor, but I might be able to use the electronics by finding out what input gets me what output (manually moving the float, which I already have entirely out of the tank). Then I just build a battery monitor sensor that measures the voltage across my pack and converts it to whatever that electronics module is expecting, and I can use the fuel-gauge. It appears to take about 80mA to run that box and gauge along with the fueltank float sensor. That's a bit more than one string of LEDs, so no big deal power-wise.

It's a lot easier to read than a bargraph LED display, because it's backlit for darkness, and it's easily read in externally-lit conditions. The LED bargraph displays are nearly impossible to read in sunlight conditions, even in the shadow of a building or tree, unless you stop and cup your hands around it to your eyes, unless you use high-brightness LEDs, and then you'd be blinded at night, unless you add an automatic brightness control to it (which eventually I will have for the bike as a whole anyway, but for now, I don't need the extra complication for just one display).

That said, I may use some type of light sensor to enable/disable the backlight in the module, though more likely I'll just use some fairly dim green LEDs (the original bulb isn't even there, just part of it's socket, and no remains floating around inside).

The "high beam" light I don't have a particular use for, so it will become a functioning indicator light later on.

Turn-signal on light I don't really need, as I can clearly see the signals blinking in front of me, but I will probably still wire it in, since the blinker module will be right there anyway. However, once converted to LED, it won't go in series with the blinker, it will instead have a diode from both L & R sides of the turn signal switch, so that using either of them will engage it, then a dropping resistor and an LED, which doesn't have to be very bright.

The bright/dim headlight switch again won't be used for this, but instead will probably be used to turn the headlight on when on highbeam, but only taillight, running lights and signals when on
low beam. The headlight itself, because it is a wide-angle diffused CCFL, is not very visible in the daytime anyway, so it would be nice to just turn it off to save power (it's the major consumer of my lighting battery) in daylight conditions. I *always* use the lights if I am riding the bike, even in daytime, for the markers and turn signals make me more visible than without them, based on traffic reactions to me with and without them since I built and installed them last year. Thus, no actual "lights off" position, just "no headlight".


Since I have no key for the Honda ignition/lock/etc switch, I'm not using that at all. But I have a weather-resistant Briggs & Stratton electric keyswitch from my junkbox (no idea of it's original source), with two good keys, that will be used to enable main power for both lights and motor. It only has two wires to it, so it will probably be used to engage a relay that switches motor controller power on one set of contacts, and lighting power on the other. I don't really like the keyswitch from the old ScootNGo (currently on the Columbia for motor only, when I had a motor on it), as it has a really cheap key and mechanism, even though it has a separate set of contacts to turn on the lights with, so it'll stay where it is. I have other keyswitches from PC cases and the like, but none of them are weatherproofed in the slightest, so aren't really appropriate for this purpose.

I guess that's enough rambling for this post. ;-)