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).
Building Competence + Safe-Fail options
With a varied riding background, we know what it takes to build two wheeled riding competence, as well as some of the downfalls that can arise with increased risk. There are plenty of patches of Australia where I've left some skin as I pushed to tackle a new challenge. There are some things that are fundamental in designing a safe, yet challenging riding experience. Here's our must-haves, with some examples of patterns and anti-patterns that we've seen in different riding facilities.
Competence builds in a progression
As toddlers, we learn to crawl before we walk, walk before we learn to run. Riding skill development is no different. Learning to balance, learning to pedal, learning how to turn without a front wheel washout, or wheelie, or jump. All of these are skills learnt in a competency progression, but all need foundation skills to work from. Having riding facilities that support riders at each stage in their skills progression sequence means attracting a much wider cohort of potential riding families. It's one of the reasons Stromlo Forest Park absolutely nails it in terms of attractiveness as a riding destination, supporting riders of all skill levels with challenges suitable for skill level across a broad range over 50km of designed trails.
Locally, on Central Coast NSW, we've seen two great examples, but at each end of the challenge spectrum:
Pattern: Saltwater BMX Park, for beginner riders, adjacent to a well designed and popular cycleway, picnic facility and playground, with free WiFi, where families are going to naturally congregate and create memories;
Anti Pattern: San Remo Xtreme Sports Park, where 66% of the available lines are Black runs, viable for maybe 5% of overall riders skills levels to tackle safely. The one Green line for beginner riders is on a downslope, with double jumps and bitumenised jump faces/landing zones, guaranteed to shred exposed skin, faces and risk fractures for new riders.
Design for Failure and Safe-Fail vs Fail-Safe
Riders of any skill level and any age are going to make mistakes as they challenge themselves to take on a new skill, whether it be riding a berm, looping out on a wheelie, or jumping high/longer, or more extreme challenges like backflips. Inevitably, that's going to involve some injury risk, so we need to consider how to let kids fail safely, using techniques like: motile track surfaces (gravel vs hard/immobile bitumen); differential heights (set landing zones higher than take off in jump-ups), gap-handling (using a table-top style double jump to handle landing short, instead of a jump face that will cause a trip over the bars when landing short); realistic and achievable gradings (make sure Green is beginner friendly).
Patterns and Anti-Patterns
Here's a simple Compare+Contrast experience. Imagine you're a junior rider, off training wheels, with established balance and pedalling strength, looking to tackle new obstacles.
Would you rather:
a) Learn on a gravel track, with manageable slopes and perhaps a bit of gravel rash (Exhibit A) or;
b) Learn on a downhill slope track, with bitumenised jump faces and landing ramps where you're going to lose a lot more skin when you make a mistake (Exhibit B)?
Design for Delight
Designing a Bike Park is the sort of thing that's best tackled by using a Service Design driven approach to create experiences that evoke joy, rather than drive people away with a bad experience.
Design for Delight.
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.
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:
With the Hunter EV Festival practice day coming up fast on 31 July 2014, we thought it would be worth taking a quick retrospective at where two wheeled transport options have evolved from. The electric bikes the school teams will be preparing, whilst unable to be powered by pedals during the event, will have the ability to trace some of their lineage back to older machinery that still gets around today.
On a recent weekend trip, we came across the Newcastle Vintage Motorcycle Club members out for a day trip to Morpeth Park, with a whole bunch of bikes spanning many years of technology and engine styles, including a blast from our past, a Suzuki GT750 water-cooled 2-stroke. But there was also older gear, including combined pedal+powered vintage bikes, allowing two different modes of propulsion, a feature shared by our bikes.
Naturally, seeing two wheel machines fitted with pedals is always going to attract our gaze. When we paused to check them out in closer detail, contrasting a 1912 BSA and Triumph motorcycle with our Stealth Fighter, more than one similarity emerged.
Can you guess which brand name component these machines share across that timespan?
Yep, it was the Brooks saddles. Supporting the backside of riders across the world, for over a century. Performance and drivetrains may have changed a lot, but not riders desire for a comfy seat. It's why we use a Brooks B17, a 100yr old design, but still working beautifully. And in case you're wondering what the pedals on these older machines were for, here's a quick snapshot.
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..
Sample image of Trailbike erosion.
In one word, NO.
There are substantial differences between the two as a riding platform, both in the way they deliver power and a combination of force vectors that involve contact pressure, rider+bike weight. The trail impact damage potential they DO have comes down to how a bike is ridden. Mountain bikes are still capable of making an ecological impact on trail areas without appropriate trail design, trail armouring or riding styles suitable to the area. You can read more on that at http://flowmountainbike.com/features/please-take-the-time-to-learn/
Of equal importance is thinking about how riding needs to be done in multi-use trail areas where there may also be walkers, horses or other recreational area users (the social impact of riding). That's why we advocate for riding in line with the IMBA Rules of the Trail, and recognise the excellent guidance work of groups like Leave No Trace, who've put out specific trailbike resources which apply equally to riders of all kinds.
The following material is set out on the Stealth USA forums to explain the answers to some of the common questions that get asked about Stealth eBike riding and their trail damage potential.
Does the extra weight mean more damage to the trail? No. Sure the bikes weigh about 30kg more than a heavyish DH bike, but it's not the weight that leaves impression on the ground, it's the pressure (Force/Contact area).
Update: The guys at Flow Mountainbike magazine have been writing a good couple of articles on this exact issue, which we thought we'd include as a courtesy for more reading on the issues associated with shared trail use and the need for respectful, careful riding techniques. Thanks Flow!