Ruthy Kanagy shares her breathtaking ride in Glacier this summer
I recently spent a week at Glacier National Park in Montana, USA, with a hiking club from Eugene, Oregon. After several days hiking with the group to beautiful glacial lakes, I decided it was time to ride. I’d brought along my trusty, lightweight Pocket Rocket Pro (recently converted to E-assist), for the purpose of riding the spectacular Going-to-the-Sun Road. I’d heard about this iconic route, carved out of rock in 1933, as one of the most thrilling rides in the U.S.. Would I be up to the challenge? With my e-assist, I felt confident that I could reach the top.
September 5, 2019, dawned cloudy and chilly. I waited till the mist lifted and the sun peaked out. As I started from the east entrance to Glacier National Park (at St. Mary), there were few cars and no other cyclists. The busy Labor Day weekend had passed. I’d forgotten to bring my senior “Golden Eagle” pass allowing lifetime admission to National Parks, but I was happy to pay $20 for the Annual Senior Parks Pass to support ournational parks.
At the east entrance to Glacier National Park in Montana, the start of the Going-to-the-Sun Road.
The clouds lifted as I pedaled along St. Mary Lake.
Photo By Ruthy Kanagy
In front of the massive Going-to-the-Sun Peak in Glacier National Park, Montana.
Photo by Ruthy Kanagy
Going-to-the-Sun Road, built in 1933, curves around cliffs with sheer drop-offs.
Photo by Ruthy Kanagy
I came upon two “Plein air” artists painting the peaks.
Photo by Ruthy Kanagy
Many waterfalls tumble over cliffs along the route. On a bike, you can stop on a dime to take pictures, while cars have to search for a pull-out.
Photo by Ruthy Kanagy
Red elderberries near Logan Pass.
Photo by Ruthy Kanagy
After 19 miles and 2500 feet climbing, I reached Logan Pass and the Continental Divide. From here water flows east to the Atlantic and west to the Pacific.
I kept my e-assist at level 2 or 3 for the climb and still had 50% of battery left (using 3 LiGo batteries). I took about 2.45 hours going up (stopping often for photos) and just 57 minutes back to the camp at St. Mary. It can be a bit intimidating zooming down the narrow road, with a sheer drop off to your right. I concentrated on keeping my hands and arms loose on the handlebars and taking the lane! On most of the route, the posted speed limit is 25 or 35, so I wasn’t holding up car traffic on the descent.
Photo by Ruthy Kanagy
A friend snapped this picture of me on the descent.
Between June and Labor Day there are restrictions on cycling the narrow, winding Going-to-the-Sun Road — bikes are prohibited in both directions from 11 am to 4 pm. Since it was after Labor Day when I rode, there were no restrictions. I met two cyclists at the top who had ridden up the west side, which is a bit longer. One was sitting in a wheelchair and explained that he had ridden up on a handcycle. Bravo! For more information see http://www.hikinginglacier.com/glacier-national-park-cycling.htm
My Pocket Rocket Pro e-assist performed beautifully and riding in Glacier National Park is an experience I will never forget!
~ “Ruthy Kanagy leads bicycle tours to Japan — See japancycletours.com. The next tour is July 2020 to the island of Hokkaido” ~
Five minutes after I installed a solar panel on the roof of my bike shed it began to rain. Since this was April in Oregon, the rain was not an unusual or unforeseen event and in fact, the next five days were rainy and mostly cloudy. But even on those damp days, my solar system managed to generate enough power to not only charge my e-bike, but also my phone, Android tablet, and radio batteries. After that first week, I knew that I had pieced together a workable system. It’s not fancy or particularly elegant, but it gets the job done.
Sparky, my eBike, runs off a 36 Volt, 12.5 AmpHour Lithium-ion battery Since Watts equal Volts times Amps, Sparky’s battery holds 450 WattHours of power. Sparky’s stock wall charger plugs into a U.S. standard 120 Volt AC outlet and puts out 42 Volts DC at 2 Amps so it puts out 84 Watts in an hour. To completely load Sparky up with 450 Watts takes about five and a half hours if I plug into the wall. Charging off the sun is a different story.
The hundred Watt solar panel I got from eBay only puts out 100 Watts in some theoretic, perfectly sunny world that I certainly don’t live in. And even if the panel were to miraculously put out 100 Watts, it would do so only at a maximum voltage of 18 Volts. I needed to get that up to a steady 42 Volts to charge Sparky.
My first thought was to get what is called a “boost controller.” This is a device which will take a variable voltage input (like what a solar panel puts out) and boosts it to a constant voltage. Like damn near everything these days, the Chinese make an inexpensive one you can buy on eBay, so I ordered one to go with my solar panel.
The controller uses advanced software algorithms initiative rope move, quickly and accurately tracking the maximum power point of photovoltaic panels module voltage, active tracking work at the maximum power point of the solar cell module in order to get more solar energy. Enhance the charging current and power generation.
After reading that I decided to initiate my own rope move and I went on YouTube and found some guy with a British accent who had messed around enough with one of these controllers to figure it out and explain it in such a way that even a dumb American like me could use it. Following his instructions, I set up my boost controller put out the 42 volts I needed to charge Sparky’s battery.
While that system worked, the flaw in my plan quickly became apparent, I had to have Sparky parked in the shed and plugged in to get the power off the panel. The panel doesn’t generate power at night and in most of the daylight hours, Sparky is at work with me. While I could just charge Sparky using the main power at work and have my employer pay the power bill, that is not at all what I wanted to do. I want to run Sparky on sunshine.
Sir Robert Watson-Watt, the inventor of radar, once said: “you get one idea today, you get a better idea tomorrow, and the best idea…never.” My next idea was to add an intermediate storage battery to the system and as I researched and thought my next, next better idea was to get a little integrated battery/inverter Power Bank unit. I found a good one, again made by the Chinese and available on eBay.
The device is marvelously complicated and came with a manual that had obviously been translated into English by a not too bright robot. Here is an actual paragraph from that manual:
“The controller uses advanced software algorithms initiative rope move, quickly and accurately tracking the maximum power point of photovoltaic panels module voltage, active tracking work at the maximum power point of the solar cell module in order to get more solar energy. Enhance the charging current and power generation.”
I also got a little recording Watt meter which is not needed for the system to work, but useful in that it tells me how much power the panel is generating and how much has been stored. The Power Bank has a little 4 LED power meter but the Watt meter gives me a clearer picture of what is going on.
The Power Bank has built-in circuitry that lets it take power straight off the solar panel, so I no longer need to use the green boost converter. The solar power, up to 220 WattHours, gets stored in the Power Bank’s internal Li-ion battery. The Power Bank charges up during the day while Sparky and I are at work.
You might have noticed that the Power Bank has roughly half the capacity that Sparky does. That means that if I came home at the end of the day with Sparky completely depleted, even if the Power Bank was fully charged, I could only charge Sparky’s battery half way. If that actually happened, I’d need a second day to charge the Power Bank and then transfer that power to Sparky. In practice, I’m a pretty frugal e-bike rider and in a week of commuting and errands, I only use a few hundred Watts.
My typical charging pattern looks like this: I get home Friday night and Sparky is down to around 50%. I plug Sparky’s standard wall charger into one of the 120 VAC inverter outlets on the Power Bank. The next morning, Sparky is full and the Power Bank is empty. I spend the weekend riding Sparky around and the Power Bank spends the weekend in the shed charging up. Sunday night I again connect Sparky to the now full Power Bank. Monday morning the Power Bank is again depleted and Sparky is ready to take on the work week at full strength.
The actual truth of things is that even with less than great weather and the inefficiencies of various intermediate batteries and inverters, my little solar system gives me more than enough power to keep Sparky humming along. In fact, I have more than enough power so I also use the power bank to keep my phone, tablet, and radio charged up. All the words and pictures in this post come are here thanks to solar power.
If you want to build a system like mine, the only two parts you really need are a Solar Panel and a Power Bank. The prices of these things tend to fluctuate. I paid about $100 for my 100 Watt panel and $131 for my Power Bank. I consider it money well spent.
Here we have a growing list that our friend William Robinson is putting together of modifications he is making to his Bike Friday Haul-a-Day cargo E-Bike. It’s like have an Ikea Bike because it’s so modular.
“Love the assist. My 79-year-old knees and other joints value the boost when scampering across an intersection. I weigh 172 lbs. Bike weight of the bike with battery, motor, lock. whoopee deux and front basket is 76 lbs. It is almost evenly divided, front to rear. With grand-toddler on the back, the assist is an invaluable fatigue eliminator…”
“Child seat by Hamax, a good alternative to Yepp. My 17-month-old grand daughter has her helmet; we first need warmer weather. I will add felt to the inner surfaces of the leg shields. That will prevent chafing the paint on the pipes.”
We just read a really interesting blog post about how E-Bikes are now more dangerous than cars. Though this isn’t actually true it made us think about our design and what we could be doing better as well as what are we doing right.
Well the good news is the decitions we made in choosing the electric assist options we offer also made our electric assist safer than many others on the market.
Our key decitions that improved the safety were:
To only offer pedal assist as you must be pedaling, engaged with the speed of the bike, in order to get any e-assist. A throttle allows e-assist with out pedaling and the disconection with the motion of the bike requires differnt handling skills for safety than cycling
To only offer electric assist that boosts up to 20mph. This is a speed that a very fit cyclist can sustain for a long time handling the bike safetly. Electric assist that boosts faster than that require the rider to have additional special handling skills to be safe while moving at the pace a car or motorcycle moves (with out the protections).
These two decitions along with other benafits that come with Bike Friday designs end up with a wonderful folding electric bike that has kept safety in mind.
Bike Friday Electric pakiT with front hub motor
Our bikes have a low step-over height which makes it much more accessible and we also make the lightest folding bike on the market which makes it the easiest to carry so you don’t have to worry about hurting your back hefting a heavy bike up stairs.
Bike Friday Electric Haul-a-Day with Mid-drive
We are curious to see what you think after reading the article. Know that at Bike Friday we care about your safety so you can ride long miles for many long years. We even strongly suggest helmets as it’s a simple way to improve your chances at protecting your most important asset, which is your brain which makes everything else in your body function.
Stay safe and again, please comment below with your thoughts.
Happy Bike Month!
The Blog Post in question here:(just click the image)
Because we are not good at tooting our own horn…we are truly thankful for our long-time customers who do. This is one such story which thankfully has a happy ending and is one of the many of our “Why’s” when people ask us what our “Why” is. E-Assist truly is a wonderful thing if done correctly. Enjoy the story.
“Hi Hanna, Alan, and the Bike Friday team.
It’s been awhile since we have been in touch with you, but there is a reason for doing so now—an unfortunate reason on one hand, and a positive one on the other.
Last August, a day after her birthday, Sharon had a very serious cycling accident that did not involve any car.It happened on an E-JOE EPIK SE electric folding bike.She described what happened before she fell on a downhill in a bike lane: “The bike’s steering began to wobble uncontrollably—the handlebars were going back & forth [laterally] rapidly and violently.” Because she could not control the steering, she knew she was going to fall either to the left or the right side. She could not remember whether she tried to brake. The odometer showed 925 cumulative miles and the max speed that day was 29 mph. She suffered a number of injuries but has been recovering well since; she isn’t sure whether she will cycle again.
In our effort to determine the cause of this accident we, and two excellent bike shops here in Boulder, could not find the “smoking gun.” Chuck Ankeny, who had previously worked on this bike to improve both the rough steering and the sloppy brakes to make it absolutely safe, said this accident could probably not be duplicated in a lab. An e-bike web site had several negative comments about this bike, but we had not checked it out before buying it. We concluded that the accident could have been caused by a combination of a poorly designed and manufactured frame and incorrect weight distribution (the bike had a 5-lb portable oxygen concentrator in a wire basket mounted on the rear rack, and rear panniers with a few items).
Then I made a comparison between the E-JOE and my 2007 Crusoe BF: both are folding bikes with 20-inch wheels, with a similar, but not identical geometry. The steering on the two bikes is total different, which most likely contributes to the difference in weight distribution on the bikes (excuse my lack of expertise here).
Here is the positive reason that I am writing to you.My emphasis here is the proven quality of the Bike Friday products.I have ridden a BIKE-FRIDAY CRUSOE, my 3rd Bike Friday (BF), since 2007. I rode my 1st BF (1995 New World Tourist) and 2nd BF (2001 Pocket Rocket Pro) on a number of Ride the Rockies tours and elsewhere, totaling thousands of miles (on one RTR tour a fellow rider had asked me how stable these bikes were on the downhill; I told him to follow me down, and never saw him again).During these years, I experienced not one accident attributable to the design or the manufacture of the bike itself. Moreover, Sharon rode her 1995 New World Tourist in Hawaii, New Zealand, and Colorado without a single incident or accident, until health problems required her to discontinue cycling (until she discovered e-bikes). In other words, a big thanks to all of you at Bike Friday! Keep up the good work.
I read with interest your postings and work on e-bikes.In 2011 when she discovered e-bikes, Sharon bought a RANS crank-forward bike with an 8-pound BionX battery. The bike worked for her, she took to it well, but the battery deteriorated after a few years, AND the bike was unwieldy and very difficult to transport.Still, it restored her freedom to cycle again after 12 years off the bike. Then, the unfortunate purchase of the E-JOE.
Sharon and Manfred S.”
We hope to see Sharon on an E-Assist bike soon so she can keep on doing what they both love to do. Happy Trails!
Like Manna from heaven the next dimension of Bike Friday bikes has finally hit the ground and hit the ground with rocket boosters. Going E-Assist has been life-changing for our test crew and loyal customers who were the early adopters of this technology so this is a big moment for us here at Bike Friday.
The Haul-A-Day is no longer just a cargo bike…it is so much more.
When on your commute to work, have you ever wished you could cut a few minutes off your time or climbing that hill wishing you could keep pace with the guy in biking shorts, but the full load of groceries keeps holding you back or you are a bike family but need to haul a load of 2X4’s from the hardware store? Well guess what, it’s possible. It’s even more than possible due to E-Assist.
Our team here has worked hard, invested countless hours not only building but also testing system after system, all to ensure we offer the same quality E-Bike as we do classic bike. We are able to officially replace your daily driver vehicle without skipping a beat. No joke…we are there and we are now able to work together and reach the goal of less cars on the road, less emissions, less carbon footprint, less sedentary life and a better world for future generations.
It’s time to spread your wings and fly down the bike trails.
This is huge…HUGE! We are excited to bring you along for the ride and know that together we are making a difference. Keep following our journey and as you join the movement we hope you share you stories with us as well.