Bikeliner Design Notes 2017-05

May 18th, 2017

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

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 wheelwells 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 (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 backet. 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 backet. 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.

Party Bike: Source Vehicle Decision

May 10th, 2017

The Party Bike was a personal project, so there wasn’t a huge budget. If that wasn’t enough, I’m not talented at metal fabrication. To make things worse, I like things to have a quirky fun factor when doing so is not completely unreasonable.

The initial thought was to use a Saturn SL-series wagon. Why?

  1. Saturns can be had inexpensively
  2. Saturns are light
  3. The body panels and paint on many Saturns have aged unusually well
  4. There is an added joy of using a discontinued nameplate vehicle.

Here’s the first “car bike” photoshop mockup I ever did, which was based from a second generation Saturn SL series wagon (SW1). I wondered what one might look like:

Unfortunately, the Saturn had a serious problem: Transverse mount front-wheel drive, which means the drive needs to come in 90° from how it would as mocked up. That’s a real problem. Fixing this would add complexity, plus I wasn’t all happy about having to drive the front wheels anyway (though that might not be that big of a deal in practice with a manual transmission).

The more practical options were rear wheel drive vehicles, all wheel drive vehicles, and maybe even the few longitudinal front wheel drive vehicles out there with manual transmissions. Here’s a Renault Fuego mockup:

Availability is lower with the Renault, so that’s a factor. Also, the steering wheels are the drive wheels. I passed on longitudinal front wheel drive.

Another option is rear wheel drive cars. Full size American cars are typically rear wheel drive, as are some European sedans. As a bonus, older European sedans are pretty cheap if they need a motor. Here’s some mockups:

These would all need each bike area set in somehow, not a simple and obvious bolting or welding operation. I’m not a welder and that sounds like a lot of labor.

The practical but still fun choices seemed to be minivans. The all wheel drive vans had lower floors than the rear wheel drive vans but still had a rear differential.

I found a no reserve car auction locally with about 350 vehicles for sale. Tons on minivans but most were front wheel drive. The only all wheel drive ones were Chevrolet Astro vans which had higher floors since they were rear wheel drive-based. After some looking, it seemed that if the Astro had running boards as a step, the added floor height wasn’t much of a problem. Here’s a van I was outbid on by a local salvage yard.

The fourth of the four vans I was interested in came up for auction. It was my favorite of the four. It had a broken windshield (will remove), a broken side mirror (will probably remove) and a broken headlight (will replace). The body was in nice shape. It was a newer van (2000) but that didn’t matter so much to me.

I won bidding at $175 and with fees, it was a bit over $200. I had a van.

The Astro has a lot going for it. In no specific order.

  1. Supply: There’s a lot of them.
  2. Cost: More supply than demand equals low cost
  3. Nice width: The target floor width was 52 inches and that’s doable with the Astro between the rear wheel wells.
  4. Flat floor: This would allow for the use of exercise bikes, also known as stationary bikes. They are inexpensive used, and with a flat floor they are theoretically easy to mount with little skilled labor involved.
  5. Rear wheel drive
  6. Short nose area
  7. The front wheel drive vans often had dual sliding doors so the drivers side body wouldn’t need cut out for rider entry/exit, but upon further observation, the Astro door openings (existing and needing to be cut out) were wider than those on the front wheel drive vans, or at least the Chrysler models anyway.

    Was the Astro a good choice? I don’t know. As I write this, I don’t know. It has potential and the price was good. Gotta like that.

Wald cargo capacity

September 14th, 2016

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

August 3rd, 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

July 9th, 2016

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

November 13th, 2014

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

April 5th, 2014

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

January 1st, 2014

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.

Hauling Home a New Bike in Style

December 14th, 2013

This is from last year. A friend of mine bought a new Worksman from the factory and needed to haul it home. Problem solved. He and the new bike were transported to his place for assembly.


When I was in India in 2009, I saw a lot of rickshaws being used for hauling in addition to passenger duty.

Rickshaw + Pedicab Stop Motion 4K

November 17th, 2012

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.