Strolling Amok

Pops goes on tour.

The Last Ten Percent

A milestone, literally. 1001 miles on the Aurora's odo.

A milestone, literally. 1001 miles on the Aurora’s odo!

After nearly finishing up a local solar project, it’s time to try to get back in development mode with the Evelo Aurora e-bike. The title of this post relates to the design maxim, “the last 10% of a product’s development takes 90% of the total project time”. In other words, there’s a big difference in the time it takes to make something work, and the time to make it work really well. I decided to take an impromptu bike ride, motivated by a local fifth wheel packed with yapping mutts having an anxiety disorder. I wanted to keep an eye out for an alternative campsite just in case the noise became intolerable. Well, while I was wandering about, I decided to tour the north shore of Senator Wash Reservoir beside the Laguna Dam LTVA.

This is merely an approach to the north shore area, well outside it. Easy going down, but not so much coming back up!

This is merely an approach to the north shore area, well outside it. Easy going down, but not so much coming back up!

The goal of this trip was two-fold. One, evaluate the road in, to gauge future accessibility for the Mighty USS Defiant. Two, start putting some seat time in on the bike to see where it it now is on the ergonomics scale. I’d like to be able to survive a biking errand to the western edge of Yuma (a bare minimum of 25 miles), and although the bike is now probably capable, the rider may not be.

Just a view on the way in. Coming from decades in corn country, this makes for a welcome stop to take it in.

Just a view on the way in. Coming from decades in corn country, this makes for a welcome stop to take it in.

The scenic version of the Senator Wash Reservoir’s north shore was published about a year ago. This trip is more roadway-oriented. To boil it down, the Defiant can almost certainly be hauled in and out successfully, but the couple of steep slopes involved in the way in and out would make it a real good idea to engage 4WD-Low to urge its 7,000-pound bulk up the dirt grade. It would also be an excellent plan to make the voyage with empty waste tanks, since steep descents can make the greywater tank regurge into the bathtub. It’s here that freshwater and waste systems like the Tankmin make life less negatively adventurous.

The entrance itself knows all, tells all. If in a motor vehicle, you drop cash in the box, or buy an annual pass from one of several camphosts in the LTVA or other local lakes.

The entrance itself knows all, tells all. If in a motor vehicle, you drop cash in the box, or buy an annual pass from one of several camphosts in the LTVA or other local lakes.

Beyond that, I was surprised to find just four small rigs in the entire place! The dearth of level campsites keeps the riff-raff like me at bay, but still, what I consider the primo big-rig spot was wide open. Odd. The north shore is really geared for small, versatile rigs like truck campers, vans, truck caps with tents, and so on. Bigger rigs like the 26′ Defiant can find spots, but not generally in the nicer water-side areas. The main issue is simply the slope to the water, though driving in blind and hoping for turn-around areas to show up is a bad idea. There are many tree-lined dead ends. Exceptionally top-heavy truck campers will have a few issues as well, mainly from crown on some of the trails. Other than that, the more capable the vehicle, the more pleasant choices abound.

This is about half of the "big rig" spot I'd like to see the Defiant in some day.

This is about half of the “big rig” spot I’d like to see the Defiant in some day.

As usual, the Evelo Aurora e-bike handled the excursion just fine. My main concern for it in the Laguna Dam LTVA was an ability to handle the dirt access roads to campgrounds, something which proved difficult with my plain Raleigh mountain bike last year. Besides my own cardiac capacity issue on a particular two-mile stretch uphill, standing on the pedals on the uphill sand merely wasted the extra push in wheelspin. That issue ended with the Aurora, since the extra motor power available makes standing and the resulting weight transfer off the drive wheel unnecessary. No wheelspin, and no wheezing. I’ve even made it up the Grade of Death with a full 30# propane tank in the Ibex trailer, no problem. Two miles of bad grade on soft ground doesn’t do much to help battery range, but that’s to be expected.

Weird thing to shoot, but this is a look down a bank to the water below.

Weird thing to shoot, but this is a look down a bank to the water below.

Today’s trip was sans trailer, and the even steeper grades pushed the needed pedal assist levels from 3-4 to 4-5 (out of 5 available). But the trip also underscored the value of the mid-drive layout, which takes full advantage of the bike’s available gears. The Aurora passed the thousand-mile mark on this trip, which may be chickenfeed for a serious road cyclist, but to me represented checking off its first thousand miles of serious abuse without incident. I mean, the incessant wind makes covers impractical, so it’s out in the rain and sun full-time. Keeping the chain brushed off and lubed every few weeks doesn’t mean that it isn’t usually a bright reddish-brown from abrasive dust. The cranks even tend to accumulate thick dust on their trailing edges! And there’s the physical abuse of all the rocks, washboard and full-power climbs with the extra weight of the trailer.

Another generously-sized shoreline spot.

Another generously-sized shoreline spot.

So the problems that did surface on this 14.7-mile trip were my issues, not the bike’s. I’m still goofing with seats and handlebars in order to take weight off my wrists and nether regions, and the need for continued effort here certainly surfaced. I’d returned the bike back to its original straight-ish handlebar after trying a Nitto cruiser-style unit for quite awhile. I’ll get into that in an upcoming post, but the key is that a wrist injury from my squandered youth resurfaced on this ride, and my petute began to protest at the 11-mile mark, which was odd since I’d been pulling 18 miles in Wendover, Utah! None of that bodes well for any shopping trips to Yuma, so further, more radical corrections to pedaling position and seating are going to be happening in a timely way if I’m going to be able to make the heroic trip.

Whoa! Yeah, I tried it. No-go. The steep side-angle funneled me into the rocks, where all steering control and momentum was quickly lost. Once you're stalled on this, you'll never get traction to restart, and never get out of the rocks.

Whoa! Yeah, I tried it. No-go. The steep side-angle funneled me into the rocks, where all steering control and momentum was quickly lost. Once you’re stalled on this, you’ll never get traction to restart, and never get out of the rocks.

Just another view.

Just another view.

Here, I was on kind of a plateau, and the trail down has become a drain to funnel water down. The opportunities to walk and ride here are plentiful. and several hikers were here.

Here, I was on kind of a plateau, and the trail down has become a drain to funnel water down. The opportunities to walk and ride here are plentiful. and several hikers were here.

Work it, baby, work it! This needed pedal assist level 4, and posed no issues.

Work it, baby, work it! This needed pedal assist level 4, and posed no issues.

Back outside the fee area and about to descend into a valley/wash, you can just make out the scattering of RVs in the distant LTVA area.

Back outside the fee area and about to descend into a valley/wash, you can just make out the scattering of RVs in the distant LTVA area.

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10 thoughts on “The Last Ten Percent

  1. Hey Doug, another great write up from you. In regards to butt and wrist comfort I will be interested to see what you find. I tried that Spider seat and it actually was worse than the stock seat for me…so going back to that…and I am changing the neck on the handle bars to try and get them up higher. Once the weather gets nicer here in Colorado I’ll let you know how things go.

    • Thanks very much for that feedback, Eric. I just finally made some real progress on the handlebars yesterday, and will post about it soon. I’ve also been experimenting with different seats, since the two holes in the Spiderflex began causing issues on longer distance rides that took days to recover from instead of hours. I’ll write that up, too. But I should point out that hornless seats are not more comfortable per se. Their goal is to prevent eventual nerve damage that can make continued bike riding nearly impossible, among other things. The trick is to find one that is comfortable enough to suit your preferred distance. Much like with a conventional Brooks leather saddle, your butt needs to get enough time on it to adapt.

  2. Bill McDonald on said:

    Here is a deal I received an email about today. A rugged electric bike crowdfunding campaign with a special price for the next 3 days. Looks good to me. Thought your readership might be interested.
    https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/storm-electric-bike

    • Thanks, Bill. Interesting, to say the least! But, I should caution that there is no free mechanical lunch here, and a careful reading of the page leads me to warn: let the buyer beware. Seriously. This “crowdfunding” effort looks simply like an ad intended to get enough customer pre-orders to pay for the first shipment of Chinese production bikes. A guy I used to work for vouched for this method – come up with a potential product, and go out and sell it as if it really existed. If you get enough orders for it, contact the supplier and order some to deliver. If there aren’t enough orders to make it worthwhile, walk away without losing anything. Thanks to indiegogo, there would be no refunds required, so you actually make money by failing, too. Win/win!

      The visually identical forebears for the Storm e-bike (which is apparently violating a registered trademark) existed a year ago as the Sand Shark and the Waladli Explorer, neither of which made it to production. Essentially a gutted Pedego Trail Tracker with a steel frame instead of aluminum, weaker motor, and no gears at all, I think that its many buyers will find that the Storm is handy for short urban errands on level ground, and for impressing their friends. In that regard, it should be fun.

      Despite the “all-terrain”, “cruising the beach” and “off-roading the mountains in Colorado” claims though, they will also quickly find that simple physics intrudes, and that the conflicting claims for advanced technology, performance, battery range, and component quality were, shall we say, exaggerations. The claimed hydraulic disk brakes pointed out in promotional videos are actually conventional cable-operated mechanical disk brakes. Hub motor bikes with 4.8″-wide 30PSI tires are not noted for their speed or range. Though not identical, the resemblance to Walmart’s $199 Mongoose Beast bicycle is uncanny, and since the campaigner is under no obligation to offer a warranty or service parts, I’d buy only with money that I could afford to lose. A lot of these will be greatly enjoyed. Even more of them will end up being given away or tossed into a storage unit.

      I think I can safely say that more effort was put into the sales and promotional materials than into the development of the bike itself. If any readers here really believe that the Storm is a clever new technological coup that offers a $1,300 MSRP e-bike that can sell for $500 (+$200 shipping) and best a $2,000-$3,000 MSRP e-bike while doing so, please let me know. I have a crowdfunding project that may be worth trying! 😉

      • Bill McDonald on said:

        Thanks Doug for that well researched reply which saved me a lot of disappointment down the line. I defer to your knowledge and experience and will not be unholstering my credit card.

        • Well, Bill, I may be more opinionated than knowledgable. The Storm would be an inexpensive foray into e-bikes if you intend to ride recreationally on nearly-level surfaces just for kicks. Those big tires will soften the bumps. Looking at a road test video though, it appears that the “throttle” is an on/off switch, so it’s all or nothing. I wouldn’t think they’d do that since it could make turns more exciting than you want, but the savings have to come from somewhere. Only you can make the final call, since only you know what you want your e-bike to do for you, and how.

  3. another enjoyable read! Thank you for the virtual tour, I do intend to snowbird in Arizona one day.

    I ended up going with non straight bars and an Ergo The Seat after coming back to upright bikes. I built and rode a recumbent for years. If I was contemplating that kind of mileage, I would be tempted to put a motor kit on the ‘bent. Of course, they are not very useful on the dirt roads, so it might be one bike for exploring and another for the shopping?? One can go round and round trying to solve some problems.

    • Thanks, Ming. Arizona has some fairly wide choices for a winter stay. I seriously considered the Ergo, and am glad it is working well for you. I do like recumbents a heap too, even though I’ve only ridden a CatTrike for a hundred yards. Very comfy and easy to get speed with less perceived effort. I’m sure a hub motor could be swapped in, if needed. But yes, figuring out what all you’d like to do on a bike and then searching for a solution (or solutions) is a fun puzzle. I know there are “off-road” recumbent trikes, but I simply don’t know how quickly you could kill yourself by taking a long-wheelbase two-wheeler down sandy or rocky trails. Are you volunteering to find out for us, maybe? 🙂

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