Monday, October 4, 2010


Oh, and in case you're wondering why it has been so long between posts, I had 4 cutovers in 4 weeks for SAP systems at work. For the uninitiated, that means I slept at the office on more than one night, and worked multiple 24 hour days -- sometimes in a row.

Drive Line Improvements.

I got the Sram 3x9 drivetrain installed, and then tried to attach it to the mid drive. No joy. The mid drive cogs are too wide for a narrow 9 speed chain. So I disassembled a wheel in the garage that had a 7 speed cluster on it. The slot was still to narrow to go on with a quick release, so I had to hack up a quick release and get some washers to make this whole thing fit in the really tiny access compartment. I bought a surley chain tensioner but now I can't adjust it, so I'll have to make a tool so that I can reach in there and tension the chain. Now if you look closely, you'll see that the chain tube is protecting the electrical wiring, but the chain actually has to go AROUND THE WIRING. This can't be efficient. I want to find a way to run the chain without tubes. Maybe that idea about hacking all the bits of automotive grade electronics from the velomobile is a good idea....

The freewheel (yes it was a freewheel) is a 7 speed. This will allow me to adjust the gear ratios once I get everything running and depending on the planned terrain. Since you can't mash on the pedals in this velo, I'm going to need a way to get really low gearing for some of the hills around San Diego.

Lighter is better

The velomobile weighs about 210 pounds empty. I got to thinking that this is a bit heavy considering that most of these things are around 70 pounds empty and without any electrical. At any rate, I decided to remove all attempts at motorizing this thing as it adds weight and as far as I can tell only slows me down when I pedal. Even the new motor did this. I'm thinking if I strip it down I can get it under 100 pounds -- ideas for stripping it include:
  • Pulling the mirrors and replacing with bicycle equivalents
  • Removing the horn (replace with a bike horn)
  • Removing turn signals (replace with bike signals)
  • Removing the struts and hinge for the canopy and making it slide forward rather than lift up
  • Removing some key bits of fiberglass
  • Removing the ventilation system
  • Possibly replacing the full canopy with a cloth top for a heads out sort of velomobile

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Drivetrain improvements

Okay so after my motor fix I've been thinking long and hard about how to get an acceptable gear range in this thing. The aerorider only had an 8 speed drivetrain and it was geared high which doesn't work for a hilly area like san Diego. So I went to replace the cranks with some campy 10 speed cranks I had in the garage. The crank bolts weren't even tight. After searching for my crank extractor for an hour I gave up.

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Commuted by trike last week.

Since I had to go on blood pressure medicine last week, I decided enough was enough. Since my current work schedule does not allow me to work out at lunch like I used to, I built up my catrike trail for commuter duty until I can get the aerorider functioning. I doubt the SLA batteries are going to have the range I commute anyway, but just in case. I rode to work two days last week. My commute is 40 miles round trip. Hopefully the velomobile is faster than the catrike because it takes too long to get to work right now.

The dc-dc converter works at 48 volts.

The dc-dc converter on the aerorider is flagged at 36 volts of input. I finally decided to try and fire it up. It works at 48 volts. None of the magic smoke came out. I tested it with the headlamp, horn and blinkers. Then I went to remount the blinker switch in the left handlebar.... I messed up the switch doing it :(, so now off to radio shack to get a new switch. I also ran the throttle wire through the body, and mounted the controller on an existing stud in the fiberglass. It will rattle, so I'll need to put something under it to protect it.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

It rides again!

I bought a conhismotor from and got the velo running again. Took it out for a spin. It's got a touch more power than the 500 watt motor did. The new motor is 48 volts and 1000 watts rated. The new motor can get me up the hill from the house a little better than the old one. Now to get a new freewheel and configure the rear shifting to support a 9 speed drivetrain.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Vic made me post this.....

Wow, the last post was feb 6th....
I've been too depressed. My dream car is up on blocks. In frustration, I gutted every electronic component to start over with modern electronics, batteries, and motors.
I had to research electric motors and find a manufacturer that could meet a few requirements.
1. Push 400 pounds up a 15% grade (that's 200 pounds of velo, and 200 pounds of lard). I live on a 15% grade, so the 15% part is important.
2. Allow for a reverse -- it's not like you can put your feet down and go backwards.
3. Cover 70 miles without a charge (this is more of a battery issue than a motor issue)
4. Not run through the body -- many motor solutions use the crank system to drive them. I plan to use an internally geared hub for shifting. They typically can't take much power, and the monocoque construction of the velo bends when I press with all my might -- bad news for powering through the drivetrain.
5. Sustain 20 MPH over the bulk of my ride.

I found out that when I was pedaling with the old motor system, I was actually fighting the motor when my power output was in excess of the speed that the motor could drive the velomobile.

The new motor will probably have the same problem, but if I am pedaling faster than the motor, what I need to do is cut the power and pedal on my own power.

After talking with everyone and their mother about how to power this thing (every ebay seller, every internet ebike seller, etc), I'm planning on getting a BMC motor from:
Whenever I can save my pennies to pay for it. I'll get a large capacity LiFePO4 battery direct from China at a place that seems to have good reviews at In the process, I will have to change the power side of the drivetrain -- I have parts coming for that which I will show in another post. Basically, in the middle of the velomobile there is a transfer case of sorts. I'm going to mount an internally geared hub in there and affix a cog to the disk brake side of the transfer hub, and the motor. The other alternative is to mount two hubs in the middle with a crossover chain, but I don't think it will fit.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Long distance test ride...

Well, what is the first thing you would do? Get out and drive right? I showed it off to some friends down the hill. This thing is not going to get it done with san diego hills -- not enough torque... Get about 2 miles from home, and blammy, the cranks lock up -- a chain tube came loose and jammed up the rear chain tensioner -- no problem, head home electric only -- until the 15% grade that I live on arrives whereupon I get out and push up the hill while running the throttle. Fix chain tube and leave again to find that the chain keeps jumping off the internal mid drive point. After three attempts to reset, I decide to actually look at what is going on. One link has been completely thrashed by improper use of a chain tool. Remove offending links and we're off again only to find that the total distance I can drive is 10 miles -- off to diagnose another problem....

New axles and wheels.

Okay, I got the new axles and wheels in Ashley at did a fantastic job -- I'd recommend him for any custom bike work you wanted done. The axle is 20mm stainless. One end is male threaded 16mm 2.0, the other side accepts a bolt to retain the wheel. That's 12mm 1.5 threading. I used loctite red to help keep it in place.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

The Wiper

My new wiper arrived today. Of course, the wiring to connect it was too short so I had to extend it and put a bit of conduit around that, and the model appears to be a bit different than the original, so I had to drill a hole in the canopy for the stabilizing point. Then it was too tall after installing it.

A quick visit to the vice and hacksaw where it might have appeared that I cut the wiper too short....

The final result was pretty clean, but I still have a small hole to cover. I'm thinking I'll find a black rubber piece and cut to shape and cover it. Also, I feel I might need a nut and a washer over the stabilizing point for the wiper.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

The canopy rattle...

Look closely at the canopy and the body of the aerorider in this picture. Notice anything missing? Yeah, the bit of spongy foam that normally seals the hatch like you'd find on your car.... Fortunately Bert at Aerorider gave me the spec and where it mounts. The only problem -- where to find some. Fortunately JC Whitney had some generic substitutes that should fit so I ordered a bit. Tomorrow should be interesting as the horn to replace the missing horn, and hatch handle should arrive! Yipee, some things will get fixed.

The speedometer

The speedometer started working and asking for a wheel size. It is a wired bike computer. That seemed so 1990, so I took it out. I thought there would be just fiberglass behind, but it turns out there is a hole. No worries, I know what i'm going to use that hole for....

Friday, January 22, 2010

Is there anything not broken!?!?!

This is the latch that holds the hatch down. It's broken. Fortunately it's a common marine part and Cabelas has them for about $35. I think it will be necessary to replace to prevent rattling while driving down the road. This is starting to feel like the old saying about the boats the construction of my velomobile mimics. It's a hole in the pavement I throw money into.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

The axle drawing.

Here is what Ashley from Utah Trikes is thinking of.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

It's the Axle Stupid

This is the axle for the Aerorider. See how it is bigger on one end than the other? Well, nobody has a hub that will fit this axle. I took this thing to every bike shop in town, a couple of quad and motorcycle shops, and the local bolt place to see if we could come up with an equivalent. In the end I sent it off to Utah Trikes -- to see if they could machine me something that would work with any 20mm thru-axle hub. 20mm thru-axle is a downhill mountain bike racing standard designed for large loads. I figure if the current axle is 17mm, then 20mm is better right?

The front wheels

The front wheels are really turning out to be a problem. They're solid magnesium and are not round. I started this blog after I got the Aerorider, so it's catch up time. I fixed one cut ground wire and removed the cheesy splices in the system for the cigarette lighter adapter addition, and then got new batteries. I had full power, and the motor worked! So, I took her for a spin. The whole time, I kept hearing this whoop whoop noise and the velomobile would wobble from side to side. I had Nicole (10 year old daughter) drive it around -- after a misunderstanding where she started driving it all through the neighborhood and I couldn't get her to stop, she did some loops around the cul-de-sac so I could see what was going on. It was obvious one wheel in particular was out of round, so I swapped tires to make sure it wasn't a tire problem, but the issue persisted with the new tire. That's when I did some percussive maintenance with the 5 pound hammer. (I figured it was messed up anyway). Aluminum does not like being bent so the rim snapped. Off to find a new wheel.....

What I've found wrong so far

12 volt systems weren't working
Rear wheel not bolted on the frame
Front wheels out of round
Windshield wiper missing
Belt drive for the electric motor not attached
4 12 volt batteries installed when there should be three.
Someone spliced in a cheesy 12 volt cigarette lighter adapter to power more accessories and did a poor job of it.
The wiring on the rear of the velomobile had fallen into the rear wheel because the double stick tape (No, I'm not kidding) holding it up had lost its stickiness.


I found this on a classified list for recumbent bicycles. I bought is sight unseen because it was so cheap relative to buying it new, but NOTHING, and I mean Nothing worked. It is a velomobile made by Aerorider -- a pedal powered fully enclosed vehicle. This one happens to have electric assist that can push it over 20mph on level ground.