Warning: Do not build an eTrike

I’m frustrated and this is a venting post: fair warning.

Nellie My electric tricycle is out of operation AGAIN. I borrowed a truck and drove her it to the shop. Then M picked her it up for me. They said I needed a new charger. Fine. New charger: $160. BUT, I went to charge her it today and the charger is doing the EXACT same thing. So I paid $160 for a new charger that I probably didn’t need and don’t have the old charger anymore which I probably could have used as a second charger. And all the bike shop could say was to bring it back in! What? Just like that? “Bringing her back in” means I can’t use her it today or tomorrow or maybe for another week.  Plus, I PHYSICALLY CAN’T “bring her in”. That process is so damn hard and puts M out. I’m mad. I’m thinking about fixing her it and selling. Riding an eTrike is obviously is not a solution to my transportation needs. The extra weight makes her it impossible to use without the assist and the assist is broken half of the fucking time!

Done.

My Second Cargo Tricycle?

For a few days I have been looking for solutions to my problem of transporting more cargo and bringing my dog with me on trips. I happened upon a cargo trike that seems like an out-of-the-box solution. Check out the PET Pedal and Go Cargo Electric Scooter Tricycle  using the link. It has a big acid battery and it wicked heavy. It is slower and has a shorter range-per-charge than my current trike. But, what do you think? There are no reviews. Has anyone seen one? Do you know someone who owns one? I’d love to get my hands on a review of the PET Pedal and GO Cargo Trike OR a test drive!

Wah Wah Wahhh (Sad Trombone)

Nellie is out of commission for a while. The battery charging port is loose and the battery no longer charges. Yesterday the plug and wire pulled out when I tried to disconnect from the charger. I thought I’d be able to re-thread it using pliers, but didn’t realize that the port was not getting power. Unfortunately, the lights run off the same port to the battery. I discovered this at 9:30PM when I left a “girl’s night out” at Father Tom’s and couldn’t light my way home. Fortunately a gracious white knight loaded Nellie (and me) into his truck and dropped us at the front door of my very temporary home.

Photo of eBike battery with red wire dangling.

I made a necessary stop at Caney Fork Cycles where Curt has assured me that eBike will cover this repair. It is too new for this kind of thing to happen, so I hope it is not a sign of things to come.

Earlier this week I mentioned how nice it has been to be free to move around over the last month. Maybe I spoke too loudly? Each day the battery is in the shop is a day I lose independence.

Happy Independence Day to me? Fortunately, due to the holiday weekend, I have arranged for drivers for Saturday, Sunday, and Monday. Lots of small fun things going on!

 

ETA 7/6/2016: Nellie is still down. Problems buying the trike and with the battery are not what I anticipated being frustrating about giving up driving! I am looking in to using a different bike shop. I just hope they didn’t sell me a lemon.

Happy Birthday, Nellie!!!

Isn’t she beautiful?

To me, all vehicles are feminine (i.e. la bicicleta amarilla), like ships. I tend to personify them in other ways–naming cars, boats, and even bicycles. [Since “tricycle” is actually a masculine noun in Spanish and French, I inexplicably adopt the feminine German (e.g. die gelbe dreirad).] So, without further ado, I am proud to introduce Nellie.

Yellow tricycle in the park below the TN State Capitol.

I purchased Nellie on Friday, April 15, 2016, thus her birthday is established. Because Mike and I wanted to ride around Nashville during the TEDx weekend, he picked her up despite having to return her at some point to attach the trunk.

View of Cumberland River from Pedestrian Bridge in Nashville.It was a beautiful weekend and
bringing her into Nashville made Nellie‘s inaugural ride that much more memorable! We parked in Cumberland Park for free and rode to TPAC where parking is $12 per day.  The ride was fantastic. I immediately felt a lot of peace in my car-free lifestyle and in investing in what some people may consider a toy. We began with a John Seigenthaler Pedestrian Bridge crossing and then climbed the bank of the Cumberland River toward the capitol. You can’t beat bike parking: we hitched the bikes at TPAC’s front door.

After the event, we hit several sites just because we could:

  1. We swung beneath an old Magnolia Tree at Centennial Park;
  2. We lost ourselves for a moment among the stacks at Bookman Bookwoman and then walked around Hillsboro Village;
  3. At dusk, we tested her lights and cruised the neon of Printer’s Alley and Broadway, passing a pedal tavern along the way;
  4. On Saturday, we checked our local geography on the big map at Centennial Capitol Mall Park; and then
  5. Crossed back over the bridge in time to photobomb several pairs of prom-goers.

Riding Nellie into Nashville on her first day.As I expected, the Trike drew attention wherever she went. I high- fived a cowboy (only in Nashville), received a smile and thumbs-up from a homeless man, and delighted several children for being an adult on a tricycle (or “training wheels” as one little girl at the pond in Centennial Park happily pointed out). Everyone from a bookstore patron to the officer directing Bridgestone Arena traffic was interested in the big battery.

I found a sense of profound joy in the entire experience: it felt like childhood. It is hard to feel much else when you are on the back of a yellow tricycle on a 75° day with bright blue skies and children splashing in a fountain for the first time in months.  Beyond that, I was happy about how the trike performed. She is a tool not a toy for me and everything worked as well as I had dared to hope:

  1. 48V front-wheel power assist is enough to take off and get me through busy intersections safely.
  2. We rode for several miles and it did not register a drop in battery power.
  3. I didn’t max out the speed or the assist-level, but I registered over 30kph (18mph).
  4. The lights are bright and so easy to use.
  5. I can sit comfortably at a stop.
  6. The gears are internal and automatic, so I didn’t have to think about shifting.
  7. I had one moment of vertigo while riding and didn’t end up on the ground. It scared me a bit, but I think I will gain confidence the more I have them without pitching over.

The trike is so ridiculously easy to ride that my softer and much-less-fit self (fitness level: slow 3-mile jog) on Nellie could fly past a 7:30-pace-marathon runner (fitness level: can’t be measured) on a mountain bike . As the person always setting the painfully slower pace, it was marvelous to finally be able to keep up. I need to gain confidence for speed going down hills and hopping curbs, but my physical ability did not slow us down. The relative velocity inspired her name: “Woah, Nellie!”

Some items that I know I need to purchase or address:

  1. The grips hurt my hands enough to consider either gloves or new grips.
  2. The chain is squeaky. (Mike says he will take care of that with a little grease.) and the breaks could be tighter.
  3. I was right: having a lockable trunk is SO IMPORTANT. That feature is an absolute must-have. I had nowhere to hang a chain-lock, hold a purse, or keep anything else. Due to pocket-less women pant design, Mike ended up carrying my phone, wallet, and chain.
  4. The seat was not stable at first. I survived my first “wreck” as the seat pitched to the right and I ran into a curb . (Mike tightened it up for me, but we are going to add a bit of electrical tape to create a stop too. Are you getting the impression that it’s pretty fortunate I have a Mike to go along with my bike?)
  5. Accessories to consider: cup holder, key chain (I will have more keys to the trike than to my house and car combined), helmet (light color, ponytail capable), rain and wind gear to keep in the trike at all times, a few emergency maintenance accessories, and potentially a solar charger for my phone.

The first trip was so exciting I could fill pages, but I’d rather jump on Nellie and visit my dear friend/neighbor, Ron. Get out there and enjoy your afternoon!

 

 

Trike Build Team

This blog is largely brought to you by the men and women (mostly men) who built my trike. Thank you all!

IMG_4614 IMG_4615 IMG_4613

Mark Dement (MOAB owner and master builder)
Mr. Dement, AKA Mark's Dad (electrician)
Mike Lepley (logistics, troubleshooting, sounding board, co-conspirator) 
Xavier Solís (MOAB manager and master researcher) 
Alec from eBike (master of all things lithium ion battery & light kits)
Engineer Brian (custom trunk rack designer - his plans appear above)

Good things come…

Did I mention that I struggle with patience? Today, Mark (owner of MOAB Bikes) called with a Trike update. The following news will go forth as evidence in perpetuity that good better things come to those who wait have patience:

The good news: The lights work! The lights work! Mark (and several others I suspect) spent waaaaay too many to be profitable hours wiring and splicing  so that not only will my bright lights run directly off the main battery (only one thing for my scattered seizure/insomnia-brain to remember to charge), but I will be able to turn the taillights on and off using a foot switch. The foot switch was not my idea, but a great feature added by Mark to provide more ease of use (i.e. better than I asked for).

The other good news:  I can pick the trike up tomorrow (after 11:00 so I can give Mark a huge hug and take my photo with him). I especially wanted it Friday because I am invited to attend TEDx Nashville this weekend. Can you think of a venue better than TEDx to break in alternative transportation? It is going to be 75° and I get to roll around downtown Nashville in my brand new Trike!

The bad news: On one hand, the trunk will not be ready when I pick the bike up tomorrow, BUT…

The awesome news: …that is because while Mark was laying out the trunk design, an engineer one of MOAB’s customers happened to take an interest in his project. Mark explained my car-free lifestyle change due to a nasty mix of epilepsy and insomnia along with some of the snags that we’ve hit along the way. This stranger had some cool ideas about how to build a better, lighter trunk and volunteered to build a custom trunk for my trike for FREE! Mark is convinced that this turn of events is going to create a custom trike that is BETTER than what I asked for. People can be awesome. I hope our paths will cross out there someday so that I can thank you in person!

I will post a list of people involved in this project HERE.

MOAB – Build

This post was supposed to be full of the fun photos that MOAB took while building my trike. Unfortunately, my last update on the trike build feels a bit like an April Fool’s prank. It looks like I need to change my FAQ post.

When I asked my local bike shop for a custom adaptive bike I had very limited information about trikes, bike commuting, or ebikes. After a few phone calls and a visit to the store, I felt confident that my trike would include the features that I need in a second vehicle.

I waited two months for parts only to now hear that the bike shop can’t deliver what they promised.

  1. They can’t give me a locking trunk that houses and protects my expensive battery plus provides room for me to store emergency items and any cargo.
  2. They can’t give me head and taillights that integrate into the bike’s power source.

Magic Eight Ball says "outlook not so good"Unfortunately, these are the two features that I was paying a premium for in the first place! I could have bought a standard eTrike with no lights or locking storage from an online retailer and had it delivered a month ago for half the cost. This news puts the entire project in jeopardy.  I’m going to visit the shop this afternoon to discuss (1) the solution they have come up with to provide the features that I wanted or (2) a refund of the deposit because I will not be purchasing the bike.

Sadly, I’ve lost confidence in their ability to build the trike AND I feel manipulated. They didn’t call me with these updates, I was only updated when I called them. The owner tried to convince me that I didn’t really want the light features that I had requested or the shop had promised. The owner offered to allow me to ride the trike while they came up with a solution. I felt like he was trying to have me “use” the bike so I wouldn’t be able to return it… “I felt”… meaning, I don’t trust him anymore. Why should I? The shop was not able to deliver ANY of the special features I requested according to their quote.

Should I have used a specialty ebike dealer instead of my local shop? Signs point to yes.

Patience

I am extraordinarily patient, provided I get my own way in the end. ~Margaret Thatcher (1925-2013)

I have many admirable qualities, right? We all do. However, patience does not top my list. Those words choke me as I approach a car-free (or at least very limited use) time in my life. I expect an adjustment period that includes late arrivals, missed appointments, general frustration, and possibly a teensy-tiny bit of personal growth in the area of patience.

But, at least part of my wait is over: ALL THE PARTS ARE IN!

Since February I have called MOAB weekly for updates about the Trike build. We patiently waited from parts from five suppliers and ignored the big tricycle box in the store until everything arrived.  Apparently “everything” was delivered Saturday with no warning. Mark has been out this week. My Trike awaits his return so the build can begin!

I asked Xavier to update me with some “crazy” pics while they are putting it together. When I get them, I’ll update you. Until then….. patience.