The ELF – a cheaper, but not quite perfect velomobile

2 08 2013

The ELF is an interesting little electric assisted pedal trike. It can charge in an hour from the grid, or in 7 hours with the 60W solar panel on the roof. It’s chief innovation is that it is US$4995 which is about half that of the European built velomobiles. It has turn signals, brake lights, LED headlights and wing mirrors, plus it mostly keeps the rain off with a polycarbonate shell. It is open to the elements in the floor and in the sides.


It has a 750W electric motor, so yes it would be illegal under current New Zealand laws, but it is an excellent example of why that law (250W max electric assist on a bicycle) is not a good law and is stifling innovation. In the US it apparently is a legal bicycle.

It has a max speed of 32km/hr under electric assist (to comply with US law) and a range of approx 30 kms. Having an extra battery pack that doubles the range is an option. Windscreen wipers, a better performing solar panel, and doors are all future options.

It’s chief disadvantages are its weight which is just under 150lbs or 70 kilos, making it double the weight of a velomobile. And it only has 3 gears, so when the battery ran out it would be a very heavy trike to ride up a hill.

For electronics in the dashboard add your own smartphone and an appropriate app.

The ELF, being built by a company called Organic Transit,  was started by a kickstarter campaign and is being built in Durham, North Carolina. The guy behind it, Rob Cotter, gave a Ted talk about it:

Here’s a nice blog, called Orasfarsasiget from someone who bought one in North Carolina and rode it home to Massachusetts .

Although there is really nothing all that new, that other people aren’t already doing, it is a nicely designed package.

Sometime a design like this is going to reach a tipping point and be widely adopted and then our cities are going to be fundamentally changed. We aren’t going to need new billion dollar motorways. We’re going to need safer places to ride our bikes and trikes. It is time that we were bold. It would be completely within the capabilities of New Zealand companies to build similar machines. We will be able to decouple transport from burning oil. The sooner the better. It’s time to think smart.


Tranzmetro, this is what could be achieved

28 02 2013

Tranzmetro‘s new Matangi trains have an internal width of about 2.4 metres, and a bike on average is 1.8m long, so parking on a slight angle will give plenty of room for a bike to be stored on a train.

Copenhagen’s S-tog trains have a carriage in the middle of each train, with a one way system, where you enter with your bike at one end of the carriage, and get off at the other.

The inside of  the carriage looks like this:


Bikes on trains are an important part of integrated transport, and should be encouraged by making it easier than it now is, be for way more than 3 bikes per train, and should be available for all services and not just off-peak. If crowding is an issue increase the frequency of service. It is more cost effective to increase the cycling options between Kapiti and Wellington than to build a billion dollar motorway for 3.25 billion dollars.

Info from the Cycling Embassy of Denmark.

Please ride with bricks in your panniers

17 11 2012

As someone who rides an electric bike it is amazing that I am sometimes exposed to a strange mixture of hostility and snobbery that cycling purists, who’ve never ever ridden an electric bike, will generously offer me. Some of the daftest opinions offered are that it is only for the old or the disabled or that it is “cheating”.

Well if I was riding an e-bike in the Tour then maybe it would be cheating, as if cheating in the Tour was totally unknown, but if I am riding 40 or 50 km around the district on a weekend, or riding down to the supermarket with my panniers empty, and coming back with them full, then what rule am I cheating against?

I am not old. I am not disabled. I could probably get myself a non-electric bike and ride that quite happily. I could get my old mountain bike out of the shed and spray it a bit til the chain moved, but I like riding my comfortable e-bike. The ride is smooth, solid and oh so comfortable. I generally pedal at a healthy cadence that makes me sweat. I go through my gears to help me keep my cadence in a nice range. When I get tired it is nice to keep moving and have a bit of a rest. I get help up the hills or into the wind, and sometimes on the flat. But overall I get a good workout on my e-bike. I average 25km/hr and I can go for 2 hours before I’ve had enough. Mostly I ride because it feels great to get out into the fresh air and get some exercise. I couldn’t really give a damn what some ignorami in a lycra leotard thinks.

The comments this week on the Conversation on an article about Australia adopting the European standards for electric bikes will show you what I mean. Of more interest is the comments from people who think that the European standards are not the right fit for Australian conditions. In particular I think the European rules have two dumb points that just don’t make sense. Firstly cutting out assistance at 25km/hr is limiting. It is quite an arbitrary limit. My bike has fat tyres and I hover around that speed anyway, but my next bike will probably be belt driven with thinner tyres and an internal geared hub. On a non e-bike version of that I could probably ride 35km/hr. The second dud rule is that you have to be pedalling to get electrical assistance. Why? Again its completely arbitrary. As I said I don’t mind having a rest and keep moving and if someone wants to commute on an e-bike and never pedal then I really don’t have a problem with that. It’s not like they are breaking any “rules”.

So to me the European rules seem to take on-board the opinions of the cycling snobs out there. Australia adopting the laws is a backwards step (although going from 200W to 250W is an improvement for Australia). New Zealand will probably follow Australia’s lead and blindly adopt the European law. Looking on the bright side one advantage would be that there’ll be a greater range of European quality bikes on the market, such as the new Grace electric bikes.

For what’s it’s worth I think that it’s the cycling “purist”s who don’t cycle with bricks in their panniers who are cheating. Bicycling is only meant to be done by stoic, self-flagellating ascetics after all.

Any less than 4 bricks is cheating.



The Fliz

7 09 2012

We do like a bit of lateral thinking around bicycle design, and we do like this from Germany.

The Fliz

It is the Fliz. There’s more about it on the Daily Mail.

You also might like my posts about prone bikes, shweebs and rail cycles, and sail carts.

Riding like Superman

17 05 2011

Here at Wellington Region Cycleways we love bike technology and there are many different ways to ride a bike or trike. Whether they be railcycles, sail bikes, treadmill bikes, step bikes, water bikes

or whatever, but this one takes the cake. It is H-Zontal, and you can get to pretend you are flying like Superman.

The fellow behind it, Gilles Lalanne, saw a French patent drawing from 1934 by a Monsieur Louis Hubault and thought he’d have a go at building one. He calls them prone bicycles.
Gilles improved on the original design by having the braking on the handlebars, rather than relying on the rider clenching their bum cheeks.

Because you are looking down at the road instead of what is coming in front you need to ride it with a special pair of goggles that has a mirror mounted in them, which makes you look super-cool:

I have some ideas for improving the design myself. Instead of steering with the handle bars, you could just shift your weight,  freeing the hands for if there were some handles on pullies that could be used by the hands in a freestyle swimming motion with a kick mechanism like the step bikes above for the feet then you could swim without needing any water. Or for the authentic swim sensation you could fill up your mirror goggles with water and not see much of what is going on, so you’d need to paint on a black stripe like on the bottom of a swimming pool lane so you could ride straight. Let’s call that the Swim Bike.

A colleague suggested a new mechanism for the prone position rider instead of the pedals at the back like in the video. He suggested that the rider moved by moving their hips up and down. The harder and faster the quicker the ride. He couldn’t come up with a suggestion of what to call a bike like that thought. Suggestions in a comment please.

You should get out there building such bikes and riding them as you would not be caught sittin’ around in no Junglescape, dumb as an ape doing nothing, now would ya?

New Electric Bike Magazine

28 04 2011

Visit for free pdf downloads of their first 3 issues starting from Issue 0

They review ebikes and ebike kits. I don’t think the magazine will be free forever, but these first issues are.

Worth a bit of a read if you are interested in electric bikes.

Musical Fences and Xylophone Bridges

28 04 2011

In the centre of Queensland is the somewhat unique town of Winton. Home to the Australian Age of Dinosaurs museum. It also has a musical fence, which amuses small minds, like mine:

In a similar vein, and somewhat inventively brilliant is the Xylophone Bridge, designed by Yeon Jae Won and Soo Jeong Hoo as part of the Seoul Cycle Design Competition 2010. Anyone reckon this’d be brilliant on the Wellington waterfront?

The magical equation is Bicycle + Bridge = Music

So you ride over wooden bits that hammer differently tuned bits of wood:

And they light up in different colours:

and lastly if you’ve ever watched Sigur Rós’s DVD called Heima then you might remember the brilliantly happy stone xylophone/marimba: