Sunday, September 5, 2010

2,000 Mile Update - Taking the scenic route

I struggled pushing this bike 38 or so miles, much of which on 55 mph highways where most cars want to go over 65 mph.  After mix and matching every possible combination of routes I've settled on the shortest, most scenic route. I spend less than a few hundred yards on the two lane highway for the first 17 miles. Then I hit the 2005 housing bubble built on what was California's greatest concentration of vernal pools where i travel the speed of traffic on urban roads.  The following photos show what my alternative route looks like each day.  The slower speeds, quieter roads and motor bike allow me to listed to audio books during my long commute which makes my ride feel much more productive.  This route has allowed me to never come close to running out of energy, I always have two of 11 bars of power left.  And when I factor in the time I spend on my gas bike stopping for gas every other day, this slower route adds right about 30 minutes total per day.  With being able to better listen to audio, low maintenance, cheaper fuel and hopefully endless reliability I think I've finally found peace an relaxation taking this bike on a 38 miles commute.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Pissing Gas

Riding home after work, rush hour, road packed.  As I drive I get a horrid breath of gasoline smell, I see a road kill at the side of the road and my fried brain puts the two together and thinks "humm, there was dead animal and they tried to clean it up by scrubbing the road with gasoline, weird"...  then I get another huge wiff of gasoline, it brings another flashback of I think cleaning with kerosene when I was a kid, so once again my tired head thinks "are they trying to clean the whole road with gasoline?"  Then a mile or two later I wake up and realize it still smells like gasoline and this is not right! and I start paying attention and realize a mini van ahead two car lengths and in the lane to my left has a continuous stream of gasoline just pouring out from the back of the car.  I think how stupid I would be if I stop the car and I'm just being paranoid and its not actually gasoline so I pull up close alongside and kind of lean over and sure enough, is a full mist of gasoline hitting the road at 40 miles per hour and misting/splashing all over the road and up into the cars wind turbulence.

Of course next I pull up to the poor high school looking drummer (he had a full drum set in the back) kid's passenger window and let the kid know his car fuel pump is just gushing gas all over the place and so on.

I thought I ought to post this as that night when I got home I caught up on my emails and made it the the Tesla news letter with this forum about electric vehicle crashes being safer than car crashes (think pissing gasoline).

Crashing an Electric Car:

Thursday, August 19, 2010

55 mph Trail

The manual of the bike claims the bike should go 30 miles while the bike is traveling 55 mph. Last weekend I tried a second road test. My test road is not perfectly flat, but I cannot get the bike to break 25 miles with normal riding posture. I hope to try my aerodynamic (cyclist/road racer) position as I did on the 65 mph trial and see how much over 30 miles it will go that way. I'm left being a little skeptical the bike would make it 30 miles even on the most perfect road going 55 mph under “normal” riding form.

ADDED 09/12/10:  To compare the difference Aerodynamics played while traveling 55mph I tried another test this time fully tucked with as little wind resistance as I could figure out while keeping the motorcycle in stock form.  I pushed it about 20% further, with a distance of 33 miles.  However the difference is a bit overstate, the wind resistance factor may only be about 10% as I pushed the battery to a lower charge on this most recent test and previous.  Check out the range chart added on page two of the Data Log (linked on the right column of this blog. 

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

1,000 Mile Summary – Still stuck in perpetual self restraint

(I'm actually now up to 1,240 miles)

Range: I have spent most of my time trying to optimize my 37.8-41.1 mile one way commute. Thus have yet to spend too much time looking into other performance aspects of the bike. On the long commute I'm left with the same feeling I had on my gas sport bike: stuck in a perpetual sense of almost painful restraint. Commuting on my gas motorcycle took self restraint to keep my bike from getting impounded by the police or face a hefty ticket or at least keep from instantly halving my gas milage. Now trying to get my electric bike to make it this 40 miles, with this much 55 mph travel, takes just as much restraint to not use a single extra watt of energy in order to make it to the destination.

In comparison this week I'm staying downtown and making a 20 mile round trip (16 miles on freeway) commute. I can easily make it there and back, still have miles of energy (4 of 11 bars when stopped) left and be able to push the bike all out, a treat I have not gotten to experience much over these 1,000 miles. As a city bike it's all fun, as an inter-county commuter, it is a long endeavor.

Besides my long commute, I've had no performance issues with this bike thus far. Every charge has been within the spec charge times, power remains steady...  

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

5.5 millimeter!!!

Fixing Flat (tire on my backpack after trip to get new tube)
I officially have my number one documented complaint regarding maintaining this motorcycle. It is supposed have almost no maintenance liabilities and the simplest standard motorcycle maintenance. However, my one task, adjusting chain tension, took me days just to even find the right tool. Somehow the engineers of this bike decided to use a 5.5 millimeter hex nut on two of the bolts needed to adjust the chain tension. As it turns out I could not find a 5.5mm hex nut socket even at Sears which I thought had every craftsman tool ever made. If the bike is going to need a proper tool that can only be ordered online just to adjust the chain tension (usually done every 200-800 miles) then they should save the buyer some time and just sell the socket with the new bike, it is note listed on for sale even on the Zero website.

I also had my first flat (picking up an industrial staple on the road). Between the chain the flat I've had myself busy past few weeks and not had the chance to write much about running the bike. More soon.

Note: As I was complaining to a friendly German who is riding his Suzuki motorcycle to Alaska in a few weeks, he advised me from his experience he thinks the Zero engineers mixed up the sizing and used difficult hex style bolts to deter theft.  No run of a mill meth addict would be able to get the motor out without having a specialty tool, or stripping the bolt and leaving the motor (hopefully run of a mill meth addicts aren't reading my blog for tips)...   that sounded like a smart analysis so we'll hope that was the plan and I'll get over my hex nut rant.  

Friday, July 30, 2010

Sound Part 4: “I Don't Like the Sound or Lack There of”

The sound of something new is a mental association not yet built into the brain and not yet linked to our feelings of adrenaline and excitement. Most anyone not involved in motor sports truly hates the sounds loud engines make, and this is by far a huge majority of people in this world. The only reason some of us think a race motorcycle or cruising Harley sounds good is because we have positive associations with those sounds. When we hear the gargling almost backfire of a motorcycle, we associate it with the feeling of down shifting and braking into a corner or the hum of the Harley is associated with the cruising over green rolling foothills.

No one who actually rode my electric bike has complained about the sound. When they ride it they've said something like it sounds so different, its so quite, its a fascination of how it sounds when riding it and not a complaint, something radical and unknown.

Sound is one of the key complaints that I hear/read every time there is a discussion about electric vehicles by those who have not yet had a first hand experience.

I want to start with the sound of the A123 drag race bike. Last time I checked I think it had a 168 mph quarter mile speed, in the 7 second range. When I saw this drag bike on YouTube it was the first step in creating an association with the sound of electric motors.

Listen to the sound of this bike:

When I heard that bike I said to myself that is not in the slightest way a “quite” bike. That is a ridiculous amount of energy burning through rubber tires and I can only pretend what it would feel like to race to 168 mph in a quarter mile with that sound.

After hearing that A123 bike tear off, I thought: nobody had ever said lightening sounds boring, or people being burned to death on an electric chair sounds boring. The sound of energy is the sound of energy regardless of its form, people have yet to link the association with sound of electric motors to the feeling of speed.

Even the much quieter sound of my electric bike still makes sounds at all speeds , and now that I'm tuned to it after 800 miles my brain has the association of the hum this bike makes under my favorite part of the gearing power ratio around 45 mph at full throttle and I know the adrenalin association of flying into a corner with no engine braking and the different sounds the engine makes still spinning into a decelerating corner.

Sound Part 3: Electric Bikes at Laguna Seca Raceway

With my growing associations with the sound of electric power this brought me to one of my favorite races of my life watching the electric bikes do an unofficial race at the world famous Laguna Seca Raceway. With my associations built, hearing the sound of the top two bikes racing down the track hitting 120 mph! I was more than 100 yards away and could still recognize the motor under different levels of power flying into the corner, rolling on the throttle and full throttle electrified energy.

The Electric bikes don't sound like the top of the world gasoline engines, but nothing does and most everyone in the world hates that sound. In fact most raceways are only allowed a handful of non noise restricted races a year. In regards the electric race last weekend someone posted a comment that the Electric bikes don't sound like Moto GP bikes (the top of the world motorcycle race series that was the headline at the track). But after the Moto GP bikes, The American bikes came out with restricted noise and it was hard to tell they were even racing (noise wise) compared to the Moto GP bikes. If the bikes aren't good enough because they don't sound like Moto GP then that is the end of racing as most racing/track time has restrict noise levels. I will still listen to Moto GP come to California once a year, but otherwise I am also thrilled to hear this electric racing on the track.

Sound Part 2: “Loud Pipes Save Live”

Back in the 60's cars were not insulated for sound and people did not walk around with cell phones and MP3 players. When driving in a 50 year old car and driving in a new car I can see how loud pipes may to some extent helped motorcyclist be noticed on the road back in 1960. However, today, there is no evidence that people on loud motorcycles are less likely to be killed by another driver. If you truly disagree with this and support motorcycle safety then I challenge you to put you money where you mouth is, as I have done, and donate to the American Motorcyclist Associations safety study to determine exact causes and solutions for motorcycle safety, or show me a modern study showing loud pipes save lives. (and just for the record: with my 60 miles on the street on a motorcycle I have decided visibility is best factor to improve motorcyclist safety, in the form of the modulating headlight, bright solid colored helmets and neon vest.  I take no credit for any of these ideas, just learned from years of reading and watching others)

Sound Part 1: Lawmakers Require Noise?

Quite vehicles and pedestrian safety: Right now Plug in America ( is working with lawmakers addressing a lack of noise and associated safety concerns for electric vehicles on urban roads. Lawmakers are trying to force electric vehicles to make noise, Plug in America is trying to prevent noise pollution and ensure the policies are effective and rational Once again, in today's time I do not think this is an issue. A new gasoline car with a stock exhaust traveling at 10 mph on an urban street does not make a noticeable amount of additional noise compared to an electric vehicle. People who are being injured and killed by vehicles are not correlation to the sound the vehicle is making. A teacher friend of mine just had a former student die from a train not because he couldn't hear the train, but because he had headphones on and wrongly placed what direction the monotonous, but surely loud train horn was coming from. At this moment, while writing the previous paragraph while sitting on a San Francisco street corner, a pedestrian was just almost crushed and caused cars to skid to a stop as he jay-walked through a red light with his MP3 player plugged into both ears. If your listening and paying attention you can hear and electric vehicle, if you not, nothing is going to save you except maybe other peoples evasive maneuvers.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Drafting the Logging Truck

To keep on the same topic of the last couple post I wanted to share my fastest commute to work on the electric bike the other day. I made it within 3 minutes of the normal time on my RC51 gas motorcycle. I'm not counting it, so its in red text on the chart, due to technically braking laws by riding with a 1-2 second following distance behind a semi truck instead of the 3 seconds that I think is supposed to be the safe following distance. On my way to work, I pull up to the main 55 mph speed limit road that I travel for 10 or so miles and I see a big logging truck on its way. Since I had just finished the 65 mph wind resistance test the weekend before, I decided to try drafting the truck to see how it would go. Now by drafting I don't mean Lance Armstrong style, practically kissing the bumper of the truck. By drafting I mean I was at the closest one car length following distance and would go back and forth down to two car distances, or 20-40 foot, 1-2 car, or 1-2 seconds was my best estimates of my drafting distance. It was pretty amazing feeling the difference of throttle required, it was more like I use to go 40 mph. We were cruising at 60 mph the whole way. After I turned off to arterial roads I had so much more power I road as aggressive as I could, taking off at each light and pushing the speed limits on all the roads, throttled through a yellow light and I still made it to work having more energy than I could get used on the bike (2 bars left). From this I imagined maybe some day in the future when there is an electric car lane where all the electric cars use the computer technology that exist today to have all the computers driver the cars with a 1 foot following distance and they could drive using less energy and at faster speeds than ever before... Or I will just see how long I can follow semi truck with 1-2 second following distance until I get a CHP ticket... maybe one day I'll draft trucks on I-5 and see how many miles I can get the bike to go that way.