If only the Victorian's had lithium: the extra-Ordinary

justin_le

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Hey everyone, it's been quite a long time that I've been somewhat fascinated by the idea of an electric Penny Farthing AKA ordinary AKA high-wheeler bike. Not only since it has such an iconic imagery associated with the early development of cycling and would be a fun merging of late 19th and early 21st century tech, but that it seemed like an actually decent candidate for a hub motor given the very small relative rear wheel diameter. And apparently I"m not the only one on ES who was thinking this.

This interest was totally rekindled in June when we participated in a Vancouver bike expo and the nice folks from Caps Bicycle Shop (vancouver bike store since 1930's) were there to do a presentation on bike history and had with them both an original high wheeler and a 1950's replica shown here.

Bike Expo Farthing.jpg

I had thought that my experience unicycling would in some way make me prepared and familiar with riding a large fix gear wheel like this but it didn't translate at all. At first, mounting involves standing on small pegs from the frame of the bike after giving a kick for forwards momentum, and then from there you can reach forwards with one foot to catch the turning pedals and then take the leap of moving your weight onto the saddle.
View attachment 1

Once you're up there, riding becomes in its own way stupidly fun. You have the vantage point of riding a tall bike being perched well above everyone else but with a very visceral connection to the wheel and the road that pedaling directly on a solid rubber tire gives you. The pedaling pushes the wheel left and right and so you need to counter this with the handlebars, at first this was a little awkward but after a bit of riding you learn to push and pull with the arms just enough to keep the wheel straight with each leg stroke. It was actually a bit of an unexpected workout as my arms were more sore than my legs after zipping around block a few times.

Riding Aaway.jpg

The Grin there is almost as big as my first time riding an ebike. There was something hard to describe that was so fun and thrilling about riding one of these.
 

nutnspecial

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Dude that's awesome!!! New experiences we can share with others mean so much to all.
I understand wanting to try, and conquer challenges, even this specific one, but I'm still left with the question as to why in the world this was EVER a mainstream bike design :lol: ?
I'll grant them if they didn't have chains/sprockets to use (for mainstream), but surely there would still be more 'comfortable' geometry that should/could have been used?

It's the times, they change. Back then we were only just starting to entertain the idea of 'spoiling' ourselves I guess? Maybe too many of us are now 'spoiled', but at least the benefit today is that we can not only master the high wheel, but a dozen other kinds of challenging mechanical transport (and 1million other things), and have tools to dream up something for the future's list. The present may be all we have, but I trust we'll always make it better than what's past. That means there has never been any better time than NOW.
 

justin_le

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The High Wheeler had a pretty short window of popularity in the late 19th century bike development, and the downsides of this design were legendary. The rider's CG is located just behind the front axle, so it doesn't take much of a bump or imbalance or excessive application of the front brake to cause the rider to launch forwards over the bars. You're too high up to reach the ground with the legs so any time you stop you have to either dismount or find a nearby pole to lean against (I tried to trackstand, not so easy). The frame design doesn't allow seat height adjustment so only a very narrow range of rider heights will be the right size for any given wheel diameter. And there is of course no gearing, so going up steep hills can be difficult. But it seemed like adding electric assist could help with at least some of these shortcomings.

A small rear hub motor would provide boost for the hills and propulsion for the rider before they got settled on the seat. The motor could do regen providing rear wheel braking force that would have no risk of causing the bike to roll forwards like a front brake, and the extra weight of the motor on the back wheel would further help with countering the forwards launch. Maybe? It seemed worth a try at least.

Anyways as a result of this show we ended up hearing through the grapevine about someone in Vancouver who had a couple dozen modern replica Penny Farthing's made and imported here to use in a rental business. Crazy! For those of you who know Vancouver, the plan was to offer them for rent for riding around the Stanley Park seawall which is a dicey proposition to say the least, crowded path with a rock face on one side, drop off to the ocean on the other, and just crowded with people. That business didn't exactly take off so the bikes had been sitting in storage ever since. This seemed like too much of a coincidence to be true and after a few weeks we were able to get our hands on two 48 inch bicycles made somewhere in the USA by "The Ordinary Bicycle Company".

The conversion was almost too easy. We replaced the small pegs on the frame that you use for mounting with a full size metal platform. Not only did this provide a space for mounting the two LiGo batteries, it also made a much easier and larger platform to use when mounting and dismounting. The rear wheel was replaced with a SAW20 direct drive Cyrstalyte hub motor laced into a 16" rim, and then we controlled this with a phaserunner for smooth acceleration and regenerative braking.


White Highwheeler Back End.jpg

The bikes were not trying to be authentic replicas, in the sense that they had a freewheeling rather than a fixed hub on the front and the brake lever was a conventional cable actuated lever that went to normal rim brakes on the rear wheel (rather than the bar linkage front shoe brake on the original bikes http://classiccycleus.com/home/wp-content/uploads/2014/01/Spoon-brake.jpg ). But that cable was routed through the frame and provided the perfect parallel path for the electrical signals. So we just added a thumb throttle, replaced the brake lever with an ebrake lever, and spiraled the cables together into the frame

Throttle and Ebrake Detail.jpg
Cable Pass-Thru.jpg

And the end result after one very late night in the workshop was pretty damn slick.
Finished White Build.jpg

For the second black bike, I did more or less the same thing but decided to try a geared hub motor and more conventional controller
Black Build Complete.jpg
 

Stu Summer

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Ride report! Ride Report!
 

justin_le

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Stu Summer said:
Ride report! Ride Report!
Hillhater said:
Frame rigidity report...frame rigidity report !... :lol:

So yeah. We picked up the frames just a couple days before the VEVA electrafest show on July 15th thinking that with two of these we could have electric Penny Farthing races on the test track as part of our booth exhibit! It didn't quite work out like that, the ebike test ride area was a pitiful 40' x 20' or therabouts, and people in the general public weren't nearly as daring / foolish / adventurous as I'd imagined, but a few people were excited as heck.

The electric system really did make it way easier to manage. You can use the throttle to get up to a stable speed before attempting to pedal, and since you don't need to pedal hard off the line to get going there is much less initial twisting of the wheel to fight with the handlebars. With the platform at the back most people would stand and ride it like a scooter for a few laps before braving a reach for the pedals and saddle.
Scooter Start.jpg

Steve who is the founder/owner of the Motorino electric bikes was up and riding in little time
Steve Mounting.jpg
Steve Riding.jpg

And this is me and Samson (gammaray here on ES) doing loops and loops. The black bike with the geared motor and infineon style controller was quite twitchy with the throttle and had a little too much kick to it, while the phaserunner/Crystalyte SAW motor was perfectly behaved for this application.
Justin and Samson highwheeling 2017 electrafest.jpg

We've also had a lot of people visiting the shop give it a go. Scott Wilton who holds many of the world speed records for unicycling happened to be in Vancouver last week.
Scott Wilton.jpg
No attempt was made to establish an electric High Wheeler world record yet. I imagine the bar is pretty low since AFAIK there aren't many (any?) other electric penny farthings out there.

But where riding this thing really shines is in the reactions and relations to all the other people on the street. That'll be the subject of the next post!
 

justin_le

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I forgot to post this little video that Aaron made while riding around Vancouver this summer:
[youtube]GJgHl_CaWE4[/youtube]

Direct link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GJgHl_CaWE4

It does show the one bad accident that has happened so far, luckily the injury healed in a few days. Reminder to all, when you are about to hit a bump on a highwheeler bike, lean back first!

Anyways, if that doesn't scare people off, we're kindof toying with the idea of making a few more of these for sale if there is any interest out there in that. The person who supplied us with the replica penny farthing's has over a dozen more in storage somewhere and this would be a great way to see them getting used rather than collecting dust. Are others interested in this or am I out to lunch?

-Justin
 

MadRhino

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Really funny. If I ever get old enough to stop seeking performance, I will get one of those. Then I will buy myself a top hat and a box back coat, start using my horse riding boots again. 8)
 
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Would be fun to see , As long as it does not take time away from ..

1) Designing , Making , Selling , a touch pad throttle , Par Example .. Two touch pads each small enough to fit onto a handle bar grip and / or brake lever , that increases speed
by 1 kph for each press when pressing on the + key pad and decreases the speed 1 kph for each press on the - key pad.
With incremental increase and decrease with holding each pad until the desired speed is reached.
When on the grips + on left side and - on the right of it.
When designing for Drop Bar Sti Shifters/Brake Levers , the + on top and - lower so that when a continuous press on the - you are also at the same time pulling in the brake lever.
To work with standard Controllers/Your Phase Runner, and RC VESC Controllers .

2 ) The Cycle Analyst 3.1 gets finished and ready to ship

3 ) You can get the Airline Industry to accept higher watt hour packs if made by you / any other authorised Mfg. in packs of 13s / 14s and enough cells in Parallel to make 250 watt hour packs each.
not the under 100 watt hour that is accepted now. ( Could have a stipulation that packs/each pack , must also be in a " lipo Safe " bag )
In other words , your li-go packs only bigger , 13s 14s , higher watt hour each pack.



justin_le said:
, we're kindof toying with the idea of making a few more of these for sale if there is any interest out there in that. The person who supplied us with the replica penny farthing's has over a dozen more in storage somewhere and this would be a great way to see them getting used rather than collecting dust. Are others interested in this or am I out to lunch?

-Justin
 

Dauntless

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Coordinates: 33°52′48″N 117°55′43″W
Victorians were just learning how to ride bikes at all. Can you guess how scary they'd have been going over 20mph for the first time in their lives? Trains weren't so fast yet.

I mean, it would be real entertaining looking back through time and seeing what they'd done to themselves. Especially on penny farthings. I think it's better that powered bikes waited for the matching size wheels.
 
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I hope next time im in Vancouver I'm able to ride it!

A pair of those wheels would perhaps be a capable off roading machine. :)
 

MadRhino

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liveforphysics said:
I hope next time im in Vancouver I'm able to ride it!

A pair of those wheels would perhaps be a capable off roading machine. :)
Sure. The problem is to decide if it is going to be a pair of the big one or the small one. I suppose the answer comes easy if you have a river to cross. :wink:
 

12-C

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christ! helmets guys!

Looks fun as hell!

I'd be wearing my fullface DH lid tho...
 

markz

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Where would someone get spokes for something like that?

Excuse me Chinaman on fleabay but can I get 100 spokes cut to 1375mm please, thanks so much. Sapim if possible :oops:
 

amberwolf

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Here's a shorter version for the less-daring to electrify:
https://endless-sphere.com/forums/viewtopic.php?f=3&t=91211
 

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