7 Feb 2015

8th February 2015 Spare a battery, mate?

Saturday 7th 38-40F, 3+4C, overcast, clear, overcast, still at first, becoming breezy. Promised to
be very windy later this afternoon/tonight. [Storm] The climbing temperature have turned the firm permafrost to downright quaggy! Walking on the spray tracks became a sticky and slippery affair. I was soon carrying muddy disks the size of snow shoes! Walking back was into a 20mph headwind with my eyes streaming. I had imagined the much higher temperatures would not require my yellow sunglasses. A flock of Fieldfares took umbrage as I passed.

My ride was going well with a crosswind. I was cruising at 20 mph with several bouts of 26 mph without obvious pain. Coming back was slightly different. Even on the aero bars I couldn't get much above 12mph and was crawling at 8mph for a while. It must have been blowing head-on at 20mph. Only 15 miles.  

I was just reading about a new Storm electric bike which has enjoyed huge success from crowd sourcing finance. The Storm has fat 4.5" tyres for comfort without suspension, 20mph top speed, 50 miles range and 90 minutes recharging. It weighs a hefty 50lbs plus 6lb battery but a lot of that weight must be due to the fat wheels. It has a lot of "youthful" style but little practicality for carrying the shopping home.


Having glanced at the price tags of the seriously overpriced electric bikes in the bike shops they should sell well [to the young] if the eventual price is still sensible. Established bicycle manufacturers must be in for a very rough ride if the Storm and fellow travelers begins to sell at a lower price than the typical, steam pipe "clunkers" being sold with a Chinese electric motor hub! You can buy a far more complex, far more sophisticated, fully suspended, multi-geared, motor scooter to carry two people for half the price of many existing "e-bikes!" So you could have a "his and hers" motor scooter for the price of a single 1920s e-bike? Does not compute!!

The strange thing is there isn't a single image or video of the Storm being sat on like a normal bike. Storm suggests that it looks more exciting for the rider to stand up. So it's really a very heavy scooter and not a serious electric bike? Try standing up in the high street until your legs get tired. You'll look like an idiot and be treated like one! Try pedaling that 56lb weight with fat, draggy tires and a single gear back home uphill. Are we seeing a re-invention of the Sinclair C5 here? Whatever.

I couldn't add any images here because there are none on their fundraising website without a load of text or hype attached. The fund raising has already reached over 6 times the intended target. The sponsors will get a cheaper Storm. The remarkable level of funding will place a far greater degree of expectation of serious mass production at still affordable prices.

Though I see a few pensioners riding electric bikes they really haven't taken off in my part of Denmark. [Meaning there are plenty of pensioners but few e-bikes.] Perhaps e-bikes are more popular in the big cities? I know that I often struggle to keep up with them but what is their useful range in everyday reality? And when the the battery dies what then? Will a typically unfit or elderly rider really be able to pedal home? Taxi fares are astronomical around here even if they do have bike racks in the boot.

If I owned an e-bike I'd probably want two batteries as standard. One on the bike and the other on charge. Perhaps a third strapped to the rear carrier for extended range in emergencies. Given the present cost of batteries it is beginning to look like the same price as three motor scooters! His and hers and one for the teenage daughter!

E-bikes really need a kick start towards far greater range and far more affordable prices. Otherwise they will never become a serious alternative to the internal combustion engine. If only they could settle on a standard battery module they could be swapped at [say] petrol stations. Though an alternative would be much better. If only to get away from the cigarette smoke coming from the slot machine arcade!

Battery swappage would probably require a range of performance options. Rather like 2, 3 and 4 star petrol, if you like. Battery exchange only begins to make sense if proper standards follow mass take up. In that sense e-bikes are still stuck at early 20th century motorcycle acceptance levels. Lots of individual people experimenting and working in their garages but no serious expansion in uptake yet. I don't count the established bike manufacturer's offerings as any more than fleecing the technically ignorant customer with a novelty label.

The Chinese are most likely to capture the eventual mass market. Probably as labelled products for existing manufacturers at first. Or they may finally begin to follow the pattern of the Japanese 1960s industrial revolution. To establish new [and strange sounding] household names for recognised products. Names we now take completely for granted even though we may disagree on pronunciation. Firms like Honda, Suzuki, Yamaha, etc. Some Japanese companies entered motor sport and dominated it for years. [Or decades!] They made most established British motorcycle manufacturers look like handmade, two wheel, traction engine builders! Electric bike racing as a mass public interest sport is still some way off at present levels of performance. The quietness will take some getting used to.

Whatever they do build must have serious capacity for bringing the shopping home safely and securely. Bicycles, scooters and mopeds never really did get that part right. And still haven't! Anything over a single, full, supermarket carrier bag still requires a car. Or two journeys? In the wind, rain or snow? Yeah, right!

Bicycle pannier bags may have some capacity but most are deep and narrow. Making loading groceries a very risky business with mixed shopping items. I speak from years of experience using a variety of bags on my trike. And I'm still struggling for capacity which does not involve flattening the loaf [again] nor crushing the eggs or tomatoes. Nor bursting fragile bottles or cartons of liquids.

Anybody who thinks Carradice makes suitable saddle bags for shopping really needs to try it. I do most days of the year. I supplement their largest Camper with a cheap sports bag with three times the capacity. It cost me a £iver in a supermarket and has lasted for ages. I had another one previously but the dog shit collection area is always tightly designated by the wall hook right beside the bike rack. Danish supermarkets never clean outside the monopoly money, printing premises. They rely on wet weather and the wind. Or the blast from the exhaust of their 6-axle, bulk delivery juggernaut.

Shopping without a car is a worn out joke. Shopping with a bike is a sick joke. What about making you load the carrier bags quickly on the ridiculously-short checkout belt? Deliberately designed to rush slower customers out of the shop. So they only need one pre-pubescent teenager to "man" the checkouts. Rather than opening two checkouts to clear the endless queues.

Supermarket carrier bags are a sick joke and usually far too weak to carry anything further than the distance to the car outside. Preferably in a [filthy] trolley to preserve the contents fragility until they can be safely scattered across the car park while loading the boot in a wet gale. Thus saving on even more pre-pubescent staff for cleaning up spills indoors. Hanging those same, bulging carrier bags from the handlebars of a city e-bike? Are you serious?

Sunday 8th 32-37F, 0-3C, a cold wind, clear and bright. I could walk up to the woods by a different way thanks to the ground being hard frozen again. A few Mallards pottered on the icy lake as they emerged from the scrubby, marginal bushes. The resident Heron circled and disappeared. A couple of dozen Fieldfares are still hanging around the neighbourhood.

Afternoon ride with a gentle tailwind at first. Cruising at 20mph on the aero bars. I am getting quite used to them. It gradually became more cloudy. Headwind coming home using the aero bars to maintain speed. Hundreds of noisy Rooks in the trees and out on the fields. Lots of birds of prey. By sheer coincidence, or irony, a chap outside a supermarket started bemoaning his electric bike. Two years from new and the battery will no longer hold a charge and the controller circuitry is dead. I quickly put him off buying a trike. A few clubmen were out training. Finished the loop on 19 miles exactly. The quagmire is back after the permafrost melted again.

Click on any image for an enlargement.

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