Friday, December 2, 2011

The Permaganic Produce Cart

Here is my first bike to be done by commission. It was requested by a friend who works at Permaganic, an organic garden in Cincinnati. Their garden is located about a mile from the market they sell at, so they've been wanting a way to move their goods to market without a car. They gave me dimensions for how much storage they needed, which will be enclosed in an insulated compartment. We brainstormed some design ideas together, and I persuaded them to go with the sidecar platform as opposed to the delta trike design they had drafted by the MoBo bike co-op. One advantage of this layout is that the overall size is much shorter, but the other great benefit is that the driver can sell the produce from the same seat by turning it 90 degrees to the right.

Here are my designs from the drawing board:

You can see that this is more than just an ordinary bike with a sidecar added. Due to the size of the cooler that's needed, it necessitated an extra-long bicycle to fit alongside. So my first phase of the project was to build a longtail bike.

Then I went on to build the box frame out of recycled bike tubing, which has used up at least 8 different bike frames so far. Once I had the big rectangular box together, it was attached to the longtail and set up for some test rides.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

The Bumblebee Bike

Here's my newest sidecar project that's coming together. This one is a 20" kids bike with a double bench seat welded permanently to the side. My biggest obstacle so far in creating sidecars is that they have a tendency to ruin wheelsets, usually when handling loads on uneven surfaces. Ordinary 26" wheels are not meant to handle side-loads, and I found myself replacing them often on the Widecar. Even the 24" wheels on the Decidecar and Arthur's sidecar were being warped periodically. Therefore, I decided to make a model with 20" rims all around, like the Filipino sidecars. Such wheels are almost as readily available, and much better at holding their shape.

Since the donor bike began its life as a little tyke's rig, it had a smaller size bottom bracket and short cranks on it. My first step in making it a suitable workhorse was to do some BB surgery and replace it with a standard-size crank housing. Using the original rear wheel and sprocket with a MTB crankset gave it an appreciably low gear ratio, with longer cranks plus a smaller chainring. It will only have one speed so I wanted to be sure it was set up with lots of torque for hauling and hill-climbing.

I also had to remove the original seat, which was so rusted in place I was afraid that I would never get it out. With persistence,  a little grinder action and a lot of WD-40 I was eventually able to extract the bugger and put an extra-long seatpost in its place.
Once the bike was ready I began chopping bike frames for steel tubing. I think I ended up using at least four donor bikes for this. I discovered that certain bike frames have tube diameters that allow the seat tube to be sleeved into the top tube, which then can be sleeved into the down tube at the other end, resulting in a tube about 4' long that is straight, rigid, and easily welded together. Not all my donor bikes had that fortuitous combination of tube diameters, so I had to practice doing butt welds, which are harder to make straight without a jig.

With the sleeved tri-tube I established the overall width, going from just above the back wheel of the bike to a similar point above the outrigger wheel. My goal was to create a bench seat that could easily seat two, because that seemed to be the configuration most desired by passengers. From my experience pedi-cabbing, it is most likely that fares will involve two passengers, if not three. Most of my other sidecars (except for the Widecar) were designed for one passenger, with a little extra room in case another had to be squeezed on. On some the second passenger seat is present, but more as an afterthought than a deliberate aspect of the design. This would usually mean it would take some convincing to assure potential passengers that there was indeed room on board for two people, even three if they were desperate. But this is not the best way to lure in potential fares. I needed to make it patently obvious that the craft I'm piloting will fit two people no problem, and a third without stretching the imagination too much. The Widecar fits this ideal on the surface, but falls short because it is not sturdy enough to properly handle the three-passenger load that it seems large enough to carry.

Consequently, this machine ended up being wider than it is long in overall dimension, which is why I'm calling it "Shorty". As a result, it is very stable. It is virtually impossible to lift the back wheel when cornering hard to the left. It is still possible to lift the outrigger wheel turning right when unloaded, so leaning right to make hard turns is a must. Once loaded, however, this vehicle is very forgiving and can be wheeled any which way without needing special care to keep the wheels down.

Here's the completed frame entering the painting stage:

Here's the completed bike after paint and accessories

Sunday, February 13, 2011

New Project: King Arthur's round vehicle

At least that's the working title I just made up. So named because I chopped up this round outdoor table for a steel donor, besides multiple different bike frame tubes.

I plan for it to have stoker pedals like the Widecar, only centered more and running a chain to an axle that transfers power out to the side and then through another chain to the wheel.

I chose a different bike to pair the car with, and set it up with only three attachment points. Other sidecars I've made have all had at least four points of connection, yet this arrangement is as stiff as any I've made yet, and far easier than the Decidecar to unmount and re-attach. PLUS, this model gives more pedaling room to the driver than any other I've made yet, which is great! No more bumping of the right knee on the front connection or catching of the right heel on the chainstay connection.

Here is the axle/chainstay connection. Originally, it was two parallel seatstay tubes going over to the compression plate, but I realized it would impinge upon the pedaling action somewhat. So I chopped the forward one in the center (well, close anyway) and angled the tubes aft to connect with the other one. There are two bolts on the compression plates holding the chainstay. After a bit of testing, I noticed there was still some play in this area, so I added a bit of angle iron and cut dropouts into it to be held by the axle nut of the donor bike. Super solid hence.

Here's the seatpost connector, fairly easy to connect and remove. It's a recycled chainstay with the dropout fitted between the nut and quick-release cam. The other end is welded to the frame and in the middle is a sleeve tube and hose clamp to be able to adjust the camber of the vehicle. Having a bit of camber makes cornering a little easier, but too much and the wheels will suffer under heavy loads.

The head tube connection. First, I sliced open a piece of 1"x 2" rectangular tubing lengthwise on the 1" side, turned the halves away from each other, and added some oversized oval down tubing to connect them around the front of the head tube. Three bolts hold it on while recycled tire rubber protects the frame. The tube projecting out from it sleeves inside the front attachment bar and is only about 8" long. That way, you can remove the car by sliding it off from the front attachment point and ride the bike itself without the car and not have to hassle with removing the three bolts. ( The Decidecar works this way as well, only that the longer tube is connected to the bike and the shorter one comes off with the car.)
After a little testing, I noticed this connection was a bit flexy, so I added that little piece of 1/2" conduit for stiffening. The slider here allows for tracking adjustment of the sidecar wheel. If the wheel is parallel, it happens to drag one side of the bike enough to make no-hands riding impossible, except for short periods. By giving the car wheel a bit of toe-in, the drag is mitigated to where the vehicle rolls in a straight line when unguided.

Then I made some convoluted attempts to link up the sidecar's drivetrain, which ended up looking like this:
Then, Paint!

Widecar Revamped

It's the new and improved version, Widecar 1.4

Yesterday I went about repairing and revamping this sidecar, in part for and upcoming parade including our strolling minstrel to help Dan Zimmer go to Holland in the name of Love. I also did it because my other sidecars are too small to easily carry three people, although it happens often. But if the car looks large enough to easily fit two passengers, people will hop on more readily. A lot of people would look at the Skruvskar or the Decidecar and say "Oh, no way. It's only a one seater." or advise me to get a 2-seater or a bench seat. Also, I hear a lot of "Where are the pedals? Can I help pedal this thing?" So the Widecar is now pedicab-worthy again to fill those requests. The drawbacks I face in using this sidecar is the heavier weight to chug up hills like Mill Street and also the potential to become overwhelmed with passengers and ruin a set of rims. At the Paw Paw Fest I let a gang of kids run amok with it and they were cornering it real hard and had kids hanging off the back of it to make it ride wheelies in a circle and such...which I'll admit looked fun and it was hard to be mad at them for bending both back rims.

The main difference in this version is the improved stoker seat backrest and armrest with two layers of pipe insulation and fleece blanket wrapped around it. Having the stoker more caged in has eliminated the
awkwardness of trying to pedal while feeling as though about to fall off the side of the machine. Also there is the chain tube I made from some flexible piping, because the chain is held low by an idler wheel on the top side and the bottom side crosses beside it twice.  Besides that, the "BIKE TAXI - rides 4 tips" sign, a saddle pouch up front for the ePod and radio, the slow moving vehicle bag I used on the other car, a Safety Bug rear blinky, and a LED flashlight/laser pointer secured with electrical tape for a headlamp.

Further improvements to make on the Widecar include:
  • a HORN or two
  • a sweet set of beefy rims
  • a super low gear ratio
  • some filler in front of the deck so people don't step inside the frame
  • bottle holder
  • canopy??

Friday, January 28, 2011

Sidecars from elsewhere on the internet

First, there's Wikipedia's article on sidecars, which at the top describes some of the physics of using a sidecar, as applied to motorcycling. The same physics are in effect on bicycle, but the main difference is the lesser weight. Also from Wikipedia, under cycle rickshaw, the Filipino-style BMX sidecar.

More sidecars from the Philippines on YouTube: here and here

Then we have the Burmese sidecars that are the Myanmar way to travel. Check out the size of that klaxon!!

In Singapore, sidecar trishaws are also common. And not all of them are half a century old, either, as this Travel Folio shows.

A swiss company, Smike, offers a purpose-built electric bicycle with a quick-releasing detachable sidecar.

From an off-road fixed-gear junkie comes this machine.

Instructables, of course. A cargo sidecar that looks pretty good, and also one for child-carrying.

This is the only company I know of in the United States that is trying to produce sidecars, Jeinkel-Heimer.

Not large enough for pedi-cabbing, but these old Watsonian sidecars from the 30s exhibit exemplary style. I like the very simple design, utilizing a pivot and spring suspension

Nice website: There's a decent page on sidecars, though they seem to be a bit critical about the form as a stronger element than the function. In the pedicab world, though, people notice the shape of your cab before they notice how it performs, so it can be a major plus to look goofy but cool at the same time, as long as its performance is safe and satisfactory.

The kustom page.

And this one strikes me as incongruous:

A sidecar, with checkers and "Yellow Pedicab" printed across the side, yet it appears to be selling pizza and not pedicab rides!

Friday, January 21, 2011

The Decidecar

Wednesday was this machine's debut for pedicab service. The pics are from Thursday night when the canopy was just completed. Friday my night was cut short because something finally broke. It happened to be a bolt that clamps the sidecar to the bicycle chainstay, which will have to be replaced by a meatier one. Nothing like real-world testing to successfully locate the weakest points of my design that need improvement. It is reassuring too, I think, that it was a bolt that failed first and not any of the welds or tubes. I had to ride home 2 1/2 miles with enough lean to keep the sidecar floating.

One year of sidecar bicycles

One year has passed since I built my first sidecar bike, and now I am on my third. I have been attracted to the sidecar setup ever since 2009, when I began driving an imported India rickshaw here in Athens. First off, the Raja Royal was super heavy, and probably should not have been driven anywhere but on the bike path. Navigating steep hills was either toilsome on the way up or unstoppably fast on the way down. But besides the drawbacks of working with and on such a bulky and foreign machine, it certainly made me fall in love with pedi-cabbing in general. And when I found out how sidecar bicycles are built and used in various parts of Southeast Asia, I came to realize how this could solve most of the problems of pedi-cabbing in hilly Southeast Ohio.
Sidecars have a number of advantages, but the most important one is weight. The Raja Royal was a trike so heavy I didn't even want to know how much it weighed. The latest sidecar is light enough that I can pick it up easily. The advantage is most notable when climbing hills, but also in negotiating curbs, or when making emergency stops. The slight disadvantage to less weight is that the wheels may lift off the ground when cornering sharply. To counteract this, the driver must lean heavily into corners, which makes things interesting. Properly conducted, however, a sidecar has a level of agility much closer to that of a bicycle than that of a rickshaw.
Another distinct benefit of the sidecar is having your passenger in a more conversational arrangement by your side. It is nice to be able to see who I am driving and how much fun they are certainly having while on board. Since my passengers seem to almost always want to ask me questions, this is a great way to have it.
On my latest version, the car itself is detachable from the bicycle. This makes owning and building pedicabs far more convenient, because I don't have to sacrifice a bike by permanently welding an addition onto it, nor do I have to build completely from scratch. Also, once it has been built it can transform from pedicab back to a bicycle for seasonal storage.
Another thing about the sidecar is that, for a pedicab, it is very compact. sidecars are usually both narrower and shorter than traditional rickshaws. This makes it far easier to bring it onto sidewalks, where it can more easily entice customers.
One thing I heard yelled from the sidewalks when I drove the Raja Royal were comments like, "This isn't China!" "We're not in China here!" People had some pretty strong cultural prejudices regarding that type of vehicle, it seemed. In contrast, when people see a sidecar, they usually respond positively. Perhaps it is because our culture is at least familiar enough with sidecars, usually in the context of motorcycles, to be able to assimilate the idea of a bicycle sidecar.

The first build I call the Skruvskar, because its seat is made from a recycled Ikea office chair.

This being my first sidecar, it taught me many things good and bad about sidecar logistics. It has been on  many an interesting ride and carried many a drunken a passenger. It has a three-passenger limit, and I found out what happens when the limit is exceeded a few times. As the wheels get more and more splayed apart and the bike leans toward the sidecar, the vertical load imposed on an angled wheel will eventually fold it. for this reason the car must be firmly braced to prevent flexing, and sturdy or smaller diameter wheels should be used because they incur side-loads that most wheels are not designed to handle. The Skruvskar's frame was made mostly from 1/2" electrical conduit, which I discovered was much too flexible to stand up to the abuse I was giving it. I had to repair and re-weld the thing at least a half dozen times, and is still far too deformed to go back to carrying two to three passengers regularly. One part of this car I really like is the backseat made from a bike frame's rear triangle and seat, with handlebars that had a pair of klaxons on either side. It also has a coaster brake on the car wheel, operated by a foot pedal.

The next sidecar I built is called the Widecar. Simply because its...wide.
The idea was to build a 4 passenger sidecar, if possible. The base was made from recycled bed frame angle iron, and the rest 1/2" conduit. It became a tandem when I added a recumbent seating position with a crankset linked to the sidecar wheel. With a stoker on board, it was able to reach a good cruising speed. Unfortunately, the driver pictured wrecked into a curb because his passenger, already on the far right side, was leaning even more to the right when a left turn needed to be made. They both recovered, and so did the Widecar too, for the most part. It was also brought to the PawPaw fest last year, where the kids got to have fun on it until the wheels were shot to hell. I still haven't had it working since it went out on Halloween.

And so, here comes the newest iteration:
The Decidecar - because you can decide whether or not it stays attached. It was made almost entirely of recycled bike frames, with conduit used only on the armrests. The thing I like about this design is that it can be adjusted for camber and toe-in. A sidecar works best when the wheels are not quite vertical but very slightly angled in at the top. Also, the sidecar wheel should track not straight ahead, but very slightly towards the bike. Being able to tune these adjustments, I ended up with a sidecar bike that can be ridden no hands, which is always a good sign for a customized bike.
This car has a 24" wheel instead of 26", so that the seat can be over the wheel and the track width be fairly narrow. What I failed to do is place the wheel in the proper fore/aft position. It is a few inches behind the bike's rear wheel, when it should be either in line with or ahead of. This makes it such that coming off a sharp dip while loaded may cause a tipover, so I may need to add a safety wheel to catch the bike should that happen. This version also has a third brake, again operated by foot pedal. Braking the sidecar wheel is tricky, however, because sharp braking will certainly pull the vehicle to the right unless both rear brakes are applied together. When all three are put to use, though, this thing sure stops quickly.