Sunday, January 07, 2007

ann arbor bike winter continues

With all the holiday hub-bub over the last few weeks, you may have forgotten that bike winter, sponsored by getDowntown is only half way done. With the continuing warm weather, you may, in fact, have forgotten about winter altogether.

Bike winter slipped our minds, too. We forgot to mention the Winter bike talk that took place on Saturday. However, there are plenty of events still to come. This Friday brings another bike maintenance workshop and Cycler's Social. You can see all of the remaining events, including the Worst Day of the Year Ride (pray for snow!), at the gDt events calendar.


Bruce said...

Has anyone tried one of these events?

Seems like it'd be fun, I just haven't had the chance.

HomelessDave said...

bruce asked: "Has anyone tried one of these events?"

Yes. The 'Bike Lights 101' held today around the snuggly futon inside Great Lakes Cycling and Fitness (under new ownership as of 1.1.07 by the way) was attended by a half dozen folks, not counting Erica Briggs from getDowntown and Peter Hines, the electrical engineer and cycling enthusiast who made the presentation.

Disclaimer: I'm not a fan of DIY cycling solutions to problems that have commerically available alternatives. Got a DIY solution for keeping roadspray from giving me a black stripe down my back that requires me to slice apart campaign yard signs? Uh, no thanks ... I'll just buy some FENDERS from my local bike shop. Got a DIY solution for hauling crap on the back of my bike that requires me to doink around with plastic trash cans and bungy cords? No, thanks, I'll just buy buy a rear rack and some PANNIERS from my local bike shop.

NEVERTHELESS, I think Peter may have just about made the case that his DIY bike light system beats the crap out of systems costing two and three times as much, and he's willing to do much of the heavy DIY lifting. Peter says, "No, I'm going to do that FOR you ..." really often.

Brief System Description for a 20W headlight plus 4-inch disk tail-light

Headlight: housing from off-the-shelf 'driving' (fog) lights; bulb replaced with standard 20W halogen spot bulb

Tail-light: off-the-shelf LED truck rear light (looks to be about 4-inch diameter circle)

Re-chargeable Battery: various alternatives, and this is the variable that determines total system cost.

NiMH flat pack: $115 total system
NiMH water bottle: $145 total system
Lead Acid 4.5 Ah: $90 total system
Lead Acid 7 Ah: $95

If you call Erica Briggs (734.214.0100) with your choice of battery, you can give her your credit card number and you can pay for all the parts through the getDowntown program. Then, on 28 January, from 2-3pm at Great Lakes Cycling, Pete will lead you through assembly of the parts he has gathered up FOR YOU. No tools required. He's prepping any parts requiring prep in ADVANCE.

What I see as the key advantage to Peter's system is not just the initial cost, which is low because it sources parts from industries larger than the cycling industry (like the automotive industry, for example), so economies of greater scale apply. The greater advantage is that the two key elements that will eventually wear out are available off-the-shelf from a variety of different companies and sources. E.g.,

Bulbs: 20W halogen that go into many household lamps

Rechargeable Batteries: lead acid and NiMH available from brick-and-mortar local sources (Batteries Plus on the east side of town) or online vendors (

Scott said...

HD says "I'm not a fan of DIY cycling solutions to problems that have commerically available alternatives."

This from a man who DIYed a pedal-powered washer?

Bruce said...

"The greater advantage is that the two key elements that will eventually wear out are available off-the-shelf from a variety of different companies and sources."

Huh. That's why I'm now just using a couple smaller lights that take AA's--well, that and having the extra battery to deal with was kind of a hassle. It was nice having the extra light, though.... So it's interesting to hear you can put together one of the bigger rechargeable systems from off-the-shelf parts. I wonder how he mounts it all?

HomelessDave said...

Scott: dude, if someone had a pedal-powered washer for sale commercially, I woulda bought it!

Bruce: mounting of Peter's headlamp is via some pretty gnarly looking conduit clamps, available at hardware stores; mounting of the tail-light assumes a rear rack and involves a bending a nailing plate (I think he was going to prep that for people)

So the idea is that it's a 'permanently' mounted system inasmuch as it requires some basic tools to remove and install. This is a virtue to the extent that when parking the bike outside, you don't need to remove the system to deter theft. The fact that the system lacks 'style points' with its kludgy-looking mounting hardware is also a virtue from a theft-prevention point of view.

HomelessDave said...

Oh, and as for mounting the battery, the assumption for the lead-acid variety and the NiMH flat pack style is that they'll be in a pannier, seatbag or something. For the NiHH water bottle style (pretty cool that you can get these 'generically' from BatterySpace), of course, they just go in the cage.

WBWC admin said...

I just posted a PDF version of Pete's bike light presentation on the WBWC home page: