Astroliner: One Month In

Here’s the update. I had three months to get this Astroliner working enough for Tour de Fat. Now I’m down to two months.

Today was a busy day. The following happened:

  1. The Astro is getting hauled about three miles away to get the motor removed. The motor will have a happy new Astro home.
    Astro getting hauled around… …again.

  2. The grill is off and I’ll paint it black.

    Here’s a mockup of “before” (but not really) and “after” (but not really). I like to fake things in photoshop.

So, there’s progress. This project is behind schedule at this point, but not so far behind that it’s ridiculous. When the motor is gone, I’ll have moved to the period of van destruction (removing the top of the van and the doors) and bike construction (adding the exercise bikes and related drivetrain). Somewhere in there, the whole process of trying to get the power steering and power brakes functional will hopefully happen. All said, the Astroliner doesn’t have to be pretty or complete for Tour de Fat 2017, and worry not, it won’t be.

Bikeliner Design Notes 2017-05

This is the state of design for the Astro Bikeliner from May 2017. This sentence will be replaced with a link to newer information when available.


The not-so-accurate-and-rough mock up of an Astro Bikeliner

Possibilities for bike placement

The Ultimate Dream™ (not pictured)

Driver is in the hood area and the back has 11 or 12 riders.

The Dream™

10 or 11 riders. Driver moved forward and upright.

Driver uses stock seat and placement

This one is not ideal, but keeps the driver area intact from the stock van for easier implementation.

Bare minimum for the short term

One row of five bikes. This would be the minimum configuration for Tour de Fat if needed, and not a long term plan in any way. Should work with the dash intact and the driver sitting in the stock driving position.

Design mentality

Leverage existing cheap used components to create a fun “pub bike” with minimal fabrication. Bonus points for silliness.


  • Stationary bikes now move… …sideways.
  • 3 Speed internal shifting gears (if used) have planetary gears. Who doesn’t want an Astro with planetary gears?
  • It’s a former automobile powered by about 10 people. C’mon!

Existing parts

  • Astro Van (QTY 1) : Has sufficient space between the rear wheel wells for two exercise bikes facing each other, a flat floor, rear wheel drive, and they made a lot of them that can be had for cheap in 2017.
  • Exercise Bikes (about 10) : Can be had for $10 on a good day with a good saddle. These are built to stand on a flat floor, so fabrication needs are greatly reduced.


Drivetrain is divided into three compartments:

  • Above Floor : This is the realm of exercise bikes and the people that ride them.
  • The Cloud : This is drive system that goes under the floor, taking the Power Take-Off (PTO) chain from the exercise bikes and connecting them to the Astro’s differential. Despite being below the floor, it’s called The Cloud.
  • Astro Van : The rear differential and wheels. The tires are 215/75R15 (27.7 inch diameter) and the rear end is a 3.73.

Above Floor

Exercise Bikes

Exercise bikes are non-standardized due to costs, time, and availability. A variety of frame designs, manufacturers, dimensions, and weights. They are all with the front dropout (formerly holding a wheel, weighted disc, or a fan).

The current thoughts:

  • Many (or all) exercise bikes will use their original chainring, crank, and chain to the hub in the dropout.
  • The front wheel/disc/fan will be replaced with a non-wheel hub with an added PTO gear to drive a chain to ”’The Cloud”’

Power-Take Off (PTO) Hub

The PTO hub has a freewheel mechanism for the chain coming off the chainring from the exercise bike. The hub also has a gear added on, way or another.

The current thoughts on possible PTO hubs:

3 speed hub (circa 1980)

  • They made a lot of these, they can be had cheap, and I can probably find 10 on them in a reasonable period of time. (good)
  • They want a shifter (added complexity + part count = bad)
  • They don’t have PTO gears. Have to add the PTO gear. (normal)
  • Possible 3 speed configurations:
    • 3 speed + added gear. A gear is welded on or otherwise to the center of the hub.
    • 3 speed + welded chainring bracket. A bracket is welded that allows a chainring to be attached to it. The PTO gear in this configuration can be changed/replaced.
    • 3 speed + mechanically fastened chainring bracket. By some miracle of awesomeness (as miracles tend to be) there’s a way to screw mount the chainring bracket to the 3 speed hub.

Single speed

Way more availability + options.
Possible single speed configurations:

  • Use of a commercially produced “flip flop” hub. They’re actually making lots of these more recently and on Walmart bikes sometimes no less, but there hasn’t been decades of common production as is the case with the three speeds.
    • You’re stuck with the (tiny) gear (bad?)
    • Built and done (good!)
    • Higher cost since there would be new parts utilized.
  • Add a single gear mechanically or by weld.
  • Add a 7ish gear rear cassette to the hub somehow (added gear options built in + possibility for derailleur shifting to The Cloud)

The Cloud

The Cloud is below the floor and takes the drive from the chains leaving the exercise bikes and turns a driveshaft connected to the Astro Van’s rear differential.

Astro Van

The Astro Van is the frame, floor, steering, and braking platform for the project, or in other words, the Astro Van is the platform.

  • The four 215/75R15 tires are 27.7 inches in diameter and are in nice shape.
  • Rear differential is a 3.73.

Wald cargo capacity

The Schwinn has a large Wald rack on the back. It’s not cargo bike worthy, and is a bit of a hack, but it works, especially if you understand that weight needs to be loaded forward.


You’re better off with a cargo bike, but a large Wald rack will haul lots of stuff.

Preparing for Tour De Fat 2016

My son has seen video of the 2008 Tour de Fat where I went into Rickroll by Rickshaw mode. He wanted in on it for 2016, so we’re bringing it back 2016 style.

I sold the rickshaw earlier this year, so we’re going with the pedicab this time. The CD skipped when it was in the boombox on the rickshaw, so we’re going to use the line in and an old MP3 player.

The first step for decoration was to come up with a new display board for the back. First, I designed one and then put it on a picture of the pedicab. Then, I made some mild changes and printed it out on 9 sheets of packing labels (not including errors). I then applied the labels to a piece of poster board and mounted that to the pedicab. Here’s the mockup:

Fake photoshopped Rickroll by Rickshaw sign
Fake photoshopped Rickroll by Rickshaw sign

…and here’s how it turned out in real life…


Still more work to do in the next week and a half, but we have enough done to go tomorrow if necessary.

Goodbye Rickshaw

The rickshaw was sold last month (June 2016). It has a new family to serve. It really didn’t get the action after the Main Street pedicab showed up on the scene a bit over six years ago. The Colorado made Main Street is just so much more capable.

Rickshaw and Dahon
The rickshaw on the last mission involving me. The Dahon got me home after dropping the rickshaw off to its new home.

The new owners wanted the rickshaw delivered, so I did that and put a Dahon folding bike on the back to unfold and ride home. I’m bummed the rickshaw is gone, but it really did sit a bunch of the time. Our garage seems so much larger now.

Would I buy the Chinese rickshaw again, knowing what I know now? Absolutely. It got me started as a Rickshawala. I wouldn’t have forked over the money it takes to get a used Main Street pedicab on day one. That stated, I seriously doubt I’ll ever go back to an eastern grade rickshaw. It’s nice to have a solid frame, fantastic brakes, and all those speeds.

“Rickshaw Season” is becoming a legacy term

It snowed today. I picked the kids up from school today in the snow. The Maxxis Hookworm tires on the pedicab handled everything quite well. I’ll have to try deeper snow sometime.

Pedicab in the snow
Pedicab in the snow

My “Rickshaw Seasons” are getting longer as the years go by, and I wonder if I’ll ever reach the year-around “season”. Probably depends on the weather. Snow was not a problem today.

His and hers John Deere bicycles

I have wanted his and hers bicycles for my wife and myself for some time. They come into Boise Bicycle Project from time to time. Today, the day arrived. A pair of matching John Deere bicycles. Green with yellow “JOHN DEERE” lettering. Both appear to have three speed Shimano hubs. Here they are loaded up on the pedicab for the ride home.


There’s some rust. The cables are shot. My bike is missing the chain ring, but that’s pretty much all that’s missing. The bikes are probably from the 1970s or 1980s (I’ll learn more I’m sure over the coming weeks). Both bikes have the mixture of campy and his/hers I was hoping for, and the three speed hubs are a bonus.

New Year’s Eve Potato Drop by Pedicab

Parking in downtown Boise is no fun. During events, it’s really not fun. What to do? Bundle up the family and take the pedicab. I was coming off most of a week of winter flu (no fun) and was not 100%, but I’m a Rickshawala, so we’d be okay. We were.

New Year's Eve passengers
New Year’s Eve passengers

Everyone was bundled up. It’s cold out there, but it’s very doable. We parked on the edge of The Grove where the New Year’s Eve Potato Drop was taking place. Met some friends. Saw the potato drop us into 2014. A great event and a wonderful time.

Rickshaw + Pedicab Stop Motion 4K

Here’s the intro sequence my wife and I shot for the passive cycling show TV Cycle.

Both the rickshaw and the pedicab (which isn’t technically a surrey, but you work with what you have sometimes) are in there. It took about an hour and 45 minutes (with a conversation break in the middle) to shoot that sequence. It was shot on Canon 60D digital SLR, and if you look at the quality options, there’s “Original” in the list. In this instance, it’s 4K at 4096 x 2304 pixels.

It was a fun shoot. Here’s the test I did by myself earlier. The “panning” is done by selective cropping, and in reality the camera never moved on the tripod.