The following article is a reprint of our original post at QuietEdVenture - a joint initiative with Nepal based partners to stimulate cycling based tourism as a skills and economic development initiative, enhanced by eBikes if we can get the solution mix right. We've been distilling all our learnings over 5yrs of rugged eBike dealership to work out what can be viable as a fleet bike for such extreme operating conditions and use this venture as a testbed baseline measure when assessing eBike builds.
I first visited the Himalayan region in 2003, a time that coincided with the 50th Anniversary of the Edmund Hillary - Tenzing Norgay Summit. I went there trekking with a close friend and marvelled at the beauty of the mountains, the serenity of the experience and learnt the value of high country tea-houses and hostels and the families who hosted. My friend and I walked the three main valleys of Sagarmatha National Park, seeing micro-hydro schemes, stupas, high passses, the frozen, shifting beauty of glaciers and sharing stories with travellers we'd meet along the way. I had come from a background of Mountain Bike racing and touring in Australia, and was continually taunted by thoughts of how good it would be to explore the region by Mountain Bike. It's an area with inhospitable terrain - no roads, accessible only by walking or yak trains for most, helicopters for the few - and constant geographic movement, causing landslides, slips and rockfalls.
Years later, I crossed paths with a local, Ram Gurung, who shared my passion for high country cycling and the value of two wheels as an alternative to the traditional "foot or Yak" transport options. We stayed in touch, sharing images and stories of high country travellers. In Australia, I had been exploring the role of rugged, off-froad oriented eBikes as a transport option for areas with rugged terrain, augmenting rider effort. In 2017, motivated by the desire to create an alliance that delivers social impact and extra transport options for high country villages, we joined forces to create QuietEdVenture. The fact that Ram had recently fractured his spine in an accident provides him with some downtime to look at how we can scale his efforts, whilst also building in safety engineering + quality controls into the business.
Our mission is to create viable local entrepreneurship pathways for the regions youth, building the capacity of the region to use cycling as an extra transport + tourism option. As capacity builds, we'll be able to look at the extra value offered by eBikes, which augment rider effort and act as a form of portable energy with their onboard batteries. I've been actively exploring this through a related initiative, SolarEdVenture, where we containerise eBikes, capturing and storing renewable energy in a convenient, compact format ready for use by travellers, tourism operators and villages. These can also act as STEAM skills development hubs, training locals in the capture + storage of energy from formats other than micro-hydro, building additional energy security for the regions without further jeopardising their important forests, which are used for lighting, cooking fuel and warmth.
We know that the Himalayas is a region that depends heavily on tourism revenue, with high levels of seasonal variation in tourist traffic. The Nepal earthquakes had a devastating impact on high country villages and tourism numbers - by diversifying the transport + logistics options in the area, we add to regional resilience and their capacity to move supplies, energy + people around in times of need. We welcome you on our journey.
So now you know a little about what we're trying to do - what eBikes do YOU think would withstand this kind of operating environment? We're all ears - our legs + minds are ready to test ride if you think your product has what it takes..keep in mind we're looking for a robust supply chain and world class warranty, manufacturer support (a hard thing to find).
New possibilities for Electric Action riding
With the 2014 Hunter Electric Vehicle Festival now done and dusted, capped off with a 1500 Class win and Energy innovation award, Quiet Rush have started to reach out to new regional destinations to see if we can bring a taste of electric riding action a little further south. The proposed new facility at CASAR Park represents a great option for motor sports enthusiasts of the Central Coast, with the potential to become something more than just a motor-sports venue and broader appeal for boosting already healthy regional tourism numbers.
What we've seen and proven in the Hunter EV Festival is that motor-sports are evolving and innovating in new directions, with exhibitors showcasing cutting edge vehicles in Electric Superbikes, Electric Motorcycles, Solar Racers, Electric Bikes (for On and Offroad action) and Electric Cars. The great example being set by Newcastle based ELMOFO as they redefine racing with their own vehicle, drivetrain and power source systems is a shining example of what's possible, leading to results that see them thumping its petrol powered competitors. Within our own modest racing class, we've experienced the thrill of seeing what its like to ride a bike that blends the best of human and electric performance to create a unique racing format, done at human-scale speed where you can still chat away with competitors whilst racing elbow to elbow in a clean, emissions free racing format.
Within adventure seeking always comes a compromise between adrenaline (proportional to perceived and actual risk) and survivability in the event of adverse outcomes - it's why GP riders often start out racing 125's, before progressing through 250s to higher power machines, honing their race craft, riding and racing skills. With a rehabilitation and human factors background highlighting for us the downside risk potential when things go wrong, we think there's ample space in the adventure sports space to innovate and create a new racing class for introducing new riders, using new zero-emissions machines such as our Stealth Fighter, racing at what we call human-scale speed. We use this to describe a speed that is fast enough to create the perception of risk, induces adrenaline and requires focus, but still occurs within an acceptable risk envelope where the risk to the rider is mitigated by modest power, with lower top speeds, lighter machines and nimble handling. You can read about what it's like to race a Stealth Fighter on a GoKart track to get a bit more background on why it's such enjoyable format, or take a look at others impressions.
With an initial orientation ride offered to Brad Wilson from CASAR Park to get a feel of what its like to ride one of our Australian made Electric Off-Road bikes from Stealth Electric Bikes, we're entering into more detailed discussions to see how we might be able to jointly create an entirely new riding experience, where novice riders can take part in a socially inclusive venue, getting a chance to try powered riding in a low risk riding and racing format. With plenty of sunshine, the CASAR facility is ideal for running an electric race format, powered by solar options, with people able to get a taste of how energised riding can boost their own riding skills and confidence. It can also be a place to participate in non-racing formats, where people of all ages might wish to experience an electric bike, ranging from mild to wild, build their skills and confidence with graded challenge areas (see this example of the The Playground Bike Park at Mt Stromlo to get an idea of what's possible). By combining the option of motorsports and family based activities achievable for all ages, with a road safety and competence building focus, places like CASAR park can help ensure cyclists and motorists leave after days fun at the facility with mutual respect and enhanced road safety behaviours.
In one word? AWESOME!
One of the great aspects of the 2014 Hunter Electric Vehicle Festival is the commitment to parameters for different racing classes so there are common benchmarks for power output to retain a level of competitiveness, an important aspect in Electric Bike racing. In the 1500 class, bikes are limited by battery capacity to 1500Watt Hours (1.5kWh) as the main constraint, with some other racing class regulations. The race takes a similar approach for defining power capacity limits for the High School classes, which keeps the racing competitive and focussed on efficient performance to squeeze the most out of a 384Wh battery.
The Stealth Fighter, with a 3500W motor and weighing in at 34kg, fitted with a set of street tyres like Schwalbe Crazy Bobs is an easy choice for this racing class. Whilst working below class capacity for the battery, Stealth have made sure the power is delivered efficiently for effective range as an off-road electric bike and ready-to ride product. With plenty of suspension travel, there's little risk involved if you find yourself drifting off-track. In fact, it almost eggs you on to give it a go, since this is what it's built for.
1. Human-scale speed: With a top speed of around 60-65km/h, we find that this is an effective human-scale speed for this racing class, which allows for lower risk in the event of a slide, reduced impact and damage to the rider and bike. With a long history in dirt bike riding and mountain bike racing, we know full well the downside risks when things go wrong. Having a set of compliance rules that encourage solid protection for the riders head plus all major joints+points (hands, elbows, knees, feet) helps add to the safety of the rider. The level of adrenaline and attention required still ensures a high level of cardiac output, which can be seen in the race plot below, so there is some interesting stuff happening physiologically as the riders concentrate on the race;
2. Silence: Aside from the Solar Challenge, we can't think of another powered racing class that is so quiet. As you move at top speed around the track, its possible to engage with other competitors in friendly banter, egging each other on, or passing on observations about smelling overheating motors being pushed to their limits, or simply calling a warning during overtaking. It makes for a very social, yet friendly competitive event. Engine sound effects are optional, left to the inspiration of the rider and their engine style preferences (2stroke or 4? Inline or V?) - other riders just hoot and laugh at the fun they've having;
3. Safety: As a business owner and father of 3 young kids, I can't afford to take the same risks I once did - the consequences are far more dire in terms of life impact than if I were young and single. As a Health Professional working in injury rehabilitation I've seen my fair share of people who think they can take the same risks they used to when younger. The body doesn't bounce back as fast as we might like to think it will, and injures more easily than we might expect (go look up Optimism Bias), which is a consequence worth thinking through before committing to a corner overcooked. With plenty of run-off spaces, a GoKart track makes a great medium for racing, with tight turns preventing high speed and rewarding a skilled rider who picks their lines as a counterpoint to a rider on a faster bike, using the full 1.5kWh capacity.
1500 class electric bike racing reminds us of the now defunct 50cc GrandPrix racing class, with teams extracting maximum power from little engines within a lightweight chassis. Its a similar racing format, but made safer and more acceptable with lower speeds and no noise. When combined with solar charging, it makes for great EcoFriendly racing. Loads of fun, easy on the ear and planet, yet exhilarating, adrenaline inducing and within an acceptable risk margin for human limits of the average rider. For anyone using a Stealth in the class, they can rest easy knowing they can then still turn it to off road action that is every bit as much fun when the racing is done. Now I wonder how it might look if we were allowed to actually pedal?
QuietRush wins 2014 HunterEVPrize 1500 eBike class and energy-autonomy award in National Science Week
Quiet Rush are delighted to have won the 2014 Hunter EV Prize 1500 eBike class amongst a diverse team of entries, including converted motorcycles and high powered eBike kit bikes, racing a standard Stealth Fighter as part of our range of Australian designed and made Offroad Electric Bike range from Stealth Electric Bikes. Whilst not designed specifically for tarmac racing, their versatility and leading-edge performance and reliability made the race thoroughly enjoyable, backed up by the knowledge that they can be ridden just as hard in off road settings. The bikes truly are a unique vehicle, developed from Australian ingenuity into an internationally recognised export, regarded by many as the worlds best electric bikes. We relied on quality products from Kali Protectives and Troy-Lee Designs to keep us safe whilst racing.
Quiet Rush was also recognised as an innovator for energy-autonomy, taking 3rd place in the National Science Week Cup-Sparking Innovation in EVolution Prize. Our in-vehicle solar charging system, built with Goal Zero products from Laughing Mind (http://www.laughingmind.com/energy-autonomy.html) attracted a lot of interest over the 2 days, showcasing the possibility of running grid-independent, portable eBike charging systems using solar power as our primary energy source. This makes powered adventure possible wherever you are, providing clean, renewably sourced power for charging a wide range of digital devices and recreational products. Whilst not at the grade of 1st place winner Elmofo with their world-leading electric race-car charging system, we are delighted to be recognised for effort in this category, using consumer products available from Laughing Mind as a Goal Zero dealer committed to innovating in new markets.
QuietRush wishes to acknowledge our sincere thanks to the Hunter EV Festival sponsors for making the event possible, with particular mention of the hard work of the event organising team at the Tom Farrell Institute for the Environment at the University of Newcastle.
Quiet Rush particularly want to thank the following parties:
Since writing our last post on eBike charging off grid using renewable sources we thought it was time to give a bit of an update of our current approach. Our partner company, Laughing Mind, is now a dealer for Goal Zero portable power products which gives us ready access to an awesome range of portable power products from Goal Zero. People might have caught a glimpse in some earlier posts from Stealth, appearing on Pinkbike.
Our two favourites from the GoalZero Product range from Laughing Mind so far include the Guide 10 kit and Yeti 1250 Solar Generator.
Goal Zero Guide 10 Kit
We use a Goal Zero Guide10 Kit for slinging across our backpack, providing power on the go for charging up smartphones and our camera batteries, or giving us power on the days when we're exhibiting. We'll be using this setup at the 2014 NSW EV Festival later this year, along with a range of other upcoming shows - we think its perfect for athletes and adventurers on the move who need power in the field. It powers iPads, smartphones, cameras and keeps some market stall based friends of ours juiced up through the day, supporting them in mobile retail and image creation.
A Goal Zero Yeti 1250 Solar Generator (shown under the front wheel of the blue Fighter) provides power for the heavy lifting, keeping a fridge running, recharging our Fighter and occasionally customer Bombers as well as providing solar sourced power for mobile office duties when the Guide 10 Kit is occupied- laptops, iPads, smartphones, cameras and our lights.
We're able to keep the Yeti1250 charged up as a backup power source, using either grid sourced power from the wall or using the Goal Zero Boulder 30 Solar Panels in a portable array. No more need for carrying fuel or dealing with buzzing petrol powered generators. Just silent, clean charging.
With more products coming up for release in Australia later in 2014, we're going to enjoy acting as a test lab to help refine the ideal product mix for Laughing Mind's Energy Autonomy initiative, as well as bike owners looking for clean, portable, rugged power products. If you want to take a closer look at them, just get in touch, or be sure to schedule the NSW Electric Vehicle Festival into your calendar for 16-17August, 2014 where we'll have them on show.
One of the things that makes my Fighter so much fun is the effect it has on helping me up a steep climb when riding with friends. The more technical the climb, the better, as it just makes for a great skills challenge, drawing on balance, traction, strength and line selection - a great mix.
After weeks in front of the keyboard working on projects for Laughing Mind, with a demo ride looming, I headed out for a bit of location scouting today to try and find some terrain with a decent mix of challenges.
One benefit of having moved closer to the Watagans is the extent of trail networks that have been traversed by dirtbike riders over the years. The ride today gave me a chance to put the 'ebikes can't climb like an enduro bike' statement to the test, as well as capture some metrics on rider effort expended. After a quick scout, I found myself on some clearly well used sandstone rock ledge step-ups, clearly stamped with black rubber imprints from riders before me on much larger and more powerful machines. I didn't inspect the terrain closely enough to see if there was perhaps some residual blood stains as well, but am sure that if a string of expletives could leave a mark, I'd have found plenty.
I wanted to see how my little Stealth Fighter might cope with a decent series of step-ups and the amount of effort I would expend in a brief outing, as time was short and I wanted to cover the full spectrum of technique challenge, anaerobic and aerobic workouts. I wasn't disappointed with the outcome! Whilst speeds weren't high, my heart-rate certainly was, which meant two key (usually mutually exclusive) outcomes were achieved - I got a great workout whilst keeping my risk profile relatively low, climbing steep track at low speed/high effort/high concentration, as line selection was crucial. The terrain was all uphill, with a combination of deep slippery ruts, rock ledges and loose surfaces that were easy to lose traction on if care wasn't taken with the right hand and pedal effort. The results of one 30min section of the ride are shown below, captured from my Strava stream (note that average HR here was 165bpm, MaxHR-195bpm, so was working hard):
The overall conclusion - I can still get one hell of a workout, at lower speed and reduced risk, riding silently, without disturbing terrain or other track users / local residents / wildlife, without needing to be suited up like Iron Man - but 3kw is still no match for a larger motor when it comes to raw torque. However, I know which bike I'd rather be riding now and as far as I'm concerned, my Stealth Fighter climbs just fine. I'll be back for more just as soon as I can, with some more suitable tyres than my my Schwalbe Crazy Bobs, at lower pressures for less line deflection - 65psi was just nuts, so Duro Razorbacks for the next effort.
I might even try it at night, just to see how our new lights hold up to the challenge. Longer footage of the ride can be found at the bottom of the page.
One of the interesting aspects of running an eBike is the extent to which you can eliminate fossilised fuel dependence out of your riding - as the folks at Shrinkfoot have identified, your EV power source does matter. We get quite a few enquiries from people living offgrid, disconnected from electricity mains and running self-sufficiently with their own power generation.
The bikes are well suited to being used in these kinds of settings, but we need to address some of the issues of equipment specification to make it clear for owners and prospective customers what sort of capacity is required. Of course, an EBike is going to have a larger footprint than a standard bicycle, but that footprint can still be minimised.
The Stealth Bomber has the largest battery capacity in the Stealth range, which requires at least the following:
In our case, since we're mainly using a Stealth Fighter as our preferred demonstrator, we've opted for a middle of the road, RV-style configuration that consists of the following:
Whilst there are nicely prepackaged RV style kits such as this, they do take up a fair bit of space. In our case, we wanted a bare-bones setup that minimised space requirements and could be transplanted readily between fleet vehicles. So, we opted for an alternate inverter/charger and portable PV as the main changes from this example prebuilt bundle.
Other options that we considered on the way through this exercise were some of the products available from GoalZero, including their Yeti off-grid generator and panels (shown below). We'll be taking a closer look at that setup over the next few months.
This means that when we're attending ebike or sustainable living events, we're now power independent and have plenty of juice on hand for running a mobile office from our van, along with capacity to do a replenish charge in the event we drain the battery of one of our demonstrators.
A setup like this provided us with ample power to recharge at the recent 2013 HunterEVPrize race between qualifying practice and race time. It also forms the basis of our mobile office for the work we do at Laughing Mind, providing us with a high level of flexibility for working anywhere, anytime.
We find that having a ride of one of our bikes is the best way to get a proper impression of how they handle in a wide range of conditions. It's why we run our business the way we do, setting times and places to meet up with people, taking the time to understand the context of their rides and background skill levels to give them a tailored demonstration.
In our last blogpost we mentioned having set other riders loose on our Stealth Fighter demonstrator at Cameron Park as part of the HunterEV Festival Prize practice day in the lead up to National Science Week.
One of the lucky 3 riders was the owner of EagleBikes, Rob Luck. Rob has a long history with the off-road riding scene in Australia, so we were keen to hear his impressions of the (brief) ride:
"Another dimension in flat-out fun – that's my verdict from a circuit trial on a Stealth Fighter at Cameron Park Raceway. I've been fortunate enough to have some previous bursts on Stealths at other events we've attended with Quiet Rush and always been impressed. But taking to the track pushed the adrenalin rush to a new level. The immediate observation is that riding the Stealth on a track is more like a motorbike experience than a pushbike experience. The Stealth comes out of the box fast and the acceleration rushes you to the corners at near-motorbike velocities. Adopting a motorbike hunch, you can tip the bike right in to the corner at angles you couldn't achieve on a regular bike or e-bike. And get on the throttle early to maintain corner speed and flow to maintain momentum down the next straight and into the next turn.
(Ed: It's just as well the chequered flag came down. We were wondering if we'd ever prise him off the bike..Thanks for sharing the ride impressions Rob.)
We had a chance to spend a brief bit of time this week at Cameron Park raceway with the good folks behind the Hunter EV Festival as part of the Hunter EVPrize and in the leadup to National Science Week.
It was primarily a practice and shakedown day for schools sorting their electric bike entries - we thought it was also a great opportunity to have some of our commercially available Stealth Fighter demonstrators there on show to help give some added inspiration to the school students, teachers and visitors attending.
Whilst the race day itself is on 18August 2013, this was a good opportunity to see how our bikes fare in standard form on a fast GoKart track dedicated to racing, ridden at full power output of 3kw. The verdict? More fun than a barrel of monkeys!
It was great to have a chance to compare the relative stickiness of our Schwalbe Crazy Bobs (on the yellow Fighter) with the Duro Razorbacks which come standard with the Stealth Fighter. Naturally, the Crazy Bobs come up well ahead, with some quite impressive lean angles possible. It's the first time we've seen tread wear getting closer to the sidewalls.
The Duro Razorbacks, as you'd expect with a hard compound rubber, were predictably squirmier on the margins of traction, walking across the bitumen when pressed into hard lean angles. Still, it was manageable and gave good feedback to the rider about the impending loss of traction, allowing me to back off safely without sliding out. After all, we're still talking about the downside risk of hitting tarmac hard at 50km/h, so we're looking to ride within a safety margin.
One aspect we loved about the day was a chance to see what some of the school students had cooked up, with some really novel approaches and inspired designs. it's a great opportunity to blend some practical lessons in science, electronics, maths, physics and construction. Whilst there might be less emphasis on commercial viability, there were one or two designs that leapt out, including some inspired work with plywood. Which of course invites natural comparison against other awesome bikes made of wood. We're always keen to hear of rides with an ecologically sensitive design edge, for which timber is a naturally inspired material.
With a strong emphasis on rider safety and hands on participation, its an event that we'd love to see well supported and attended, so spread the word. Also keep an eye out locally for other National Science week events near you.
Sincere thanks to the supporting sponsors listed at the Hunter EV Festival website. We'll have more material up after race day - we were too busy doing laps to grab too many shots, so we're using images supplied at https://www.facebook.com/hunterevfestival.
Here's a small sample clip - even the wind on the circuit is louder than the bikes themselves..