[python] Re: New Jetrike Rev B Plans

  • From: Rhisiart Gwilym <Rhisiart@xxxxxxxxxxxxxx>
  • To: python@xxxxxxxxxxxxx
  • Date: Tue, 6 Feb 2007 09:36:22 +0000

6 FEB 07. NOTE TO JURGEN AND THE PYTHONAUTS: I wrote the article below last month, but then decided to hold it back as being a) too long, b) perhaps not quite on topic, and c)maybe contentious. But reviewing it today, I still think these things need to be said. So, with apologies for my tendency to run on, and further apologies to any toes I might be standing on, here it is--


Siwmae pawb,

I guess subscribers to this list don't need much, if any, introduction to the subjects of Peak Oil and Climate Change. But I thought I'd pass along a link to an interesting item on the Energy Bulletin website. It's called 'Joyride To Global Collapse: Reflections On Kunstler's "Home From Nowhere"', by Jim Minter. It's one of the 11 January postings at www.energybulletin.net

The point to bikers of this posting (and of many other clear-seeing peeks into the near future that Energy Bulletin hosts) is the crucial interest that practical alleweder velos are going to raise - perforce - in the very near future. It seems to me that a lot of people are going to be looking into velos, because practically speaking it will be their only realistic choice for short and medium range transit, with respectable freight capacity as well; once mass car-ownership has crashed, that is, and cheap fuel is a thing of the past. (Did you hear that - at bloody last! - sales of sucker-trucks in Britain - you know: two-ton, three-litre, four-wheel-drive, five-miles-per-litre posing-pouches for the ecologically inadequate - has started bombing at 15% a year. 15%! Yeah!! Make it 30% in '07!)

If - no, WHEN - Henry cracks the self-righting leaning trike, with a little help from other listees, the next step (one that interests me mightily in mighty rainy Britain) is the practical, everyday all-weather, ultra-lightweight, damage-recoverable fairing. In fact, this is one particularly fascinating project that I've been working on for a while now - mainly in the drawing office of the mind's eye, but with some actual hands-on investigations into candidate materials. I particularly like the soft, flexible closed-cell foams, that can take considerable impact, deform, and then spring back without serious damage. (But of course, all of them are petroleum-derived. Hmmm...)

Seems to me that, whether subscribers realise it or not, Jurgen's list is something of a spearpoint in this trend towards more velos on the road, in practical use. We have the swiftly-growing practical experience of the use of python-form FWD, to complement the flevo-form, and now the development of a back-end which, already, can accommodate effective, cheap and simple tilting trike designs (Bram Smit's and Paul Sims's, f'rinstance) and it seems that any time now there'll be a self-righting facility on offer too.

In Jim Minter's 'Joyride' column, he points out just how practically difficult it is at the moment, at least in N America, to live car-free. That's my experience too, during the two attempts I've made, even in much more conveniently-organised Britain. Now, two months into another car-free stint, in Winter, I find that the one thing that constrains me more than anything else is the lack of really effective protection from rain and road filth when the weather's harsh. Yet since he developed the Leitra, I believe that Carl-Georg Rasmussen has been car-free for much of his time. We stand on the very edge, I suspect, of a lot more people starting to live car-free, even amongst the hitherto Pampered Twenty Percent of the world's human population. Because they must; no option. Some time in the next ten years, this is going to take off, as it did briefly in the early 20th century, with the Mochet velos and others.

Behind all the idiot posturing of the politicians and bigbiz spokespeople and their corporate-mediawhore stenographers, there's a fascinating grass-roots ferment going on, only reported on the Net and other fringe media, as lots of people who've seen which way the wind is blowing start to develop practical, local community solutions to the growing crisis: The commoners ahead of their 'leaders' again, as often happens.

Incidentally, Jim's original posting of his column was on 5 December, 1996. Read it now, and marvel at how prescient he was, particularly about the price of oil, up and down like a yo-yo, but with the underlying trend remorselessly upwards. He's also wonderfully lucid about how everything else in our hitech society, including 'alternative, renewable' energy systems, floats on a big petroleum-energy subsidy.

That idea does give me one problem, though, to which I can think of no answer: All our bikes and bents assume reasonably smooth, hard surfaces to run them on. Nothing about the growing energy crisis suggests that somehow, magically, road maintenance will by exempt from the crunch. (Tarmac prices have been rocketing everywhere in the past few years) I spent yesterday afternoon with my partner, she on her horse, me on my ATB, riding what's called here a 'green lane', meaning an unclassified country road with the sort of gravel and quagmire surface that must have been common before the widespread advent of tarmaced roads, at least in the over-rich countries. A seriously-different biking experience.

So can we re-invent an updated version of MacMillan's 'Boneshaker' bicycle, to run on the mid-Twenty-First Century's reprise of early Nineteenth Century roads? And can we build effective velos using only neo-traditional wood technology, and the steel technology of modern small-scale blacksmithing work? Can we continue to expect to have rubber tyres, with pneumatic tubes? MacMillan and von Drais only had iron-rimmed wooden wheels, I seem to remember. At the moment, every single part and material that we use to build bikes, plus the tools to build them, also float on that petroleum-energy subsidy - just as the global petroleum ebb-tide is setting in.

Still, at least delta full-fared leaning trikes are a bit simpler to engineer, and therefore cheaper and lighter in principle than tadpoles. Yet at the moment all successful velos offered for sale in N America, Europe and Australasia are tadpoles, I believe, and none are leaners. Seems that there are important breakthoughs actually being made at the moment in velo tech, many of them by subscribers to Jurgen's list.

Anyone who's seen Frederik van der Valle's Master's thesis: 'The Velomobile As A Vehicle For More Sustainable Transportation' (VERY highly recommended) will have seen that really striking picture of TWENTY SEVEN!!! velos lined up beside one COMPACT car, the weights being about equal. Frederik also has some really insightful things to say about the social/psychological component of technology, often not noticed at all.

History is being made, I suspect, by the members of this list.

Hope you're keeping the archives safe, Jurgen. The practical, how-I-did-it material generated by the pythonauts will, I surmise, be pure gold hereafter.

Incidentally, if there +is+ anyone on this list who still has doubts that world oil - and probably natural gas - production has peaked, and that the consequences will be serious and soon, especially in Europe and - above all - in N America, then Jim Kunstler's article in the online edition of the Jan-Feb 2007 'Orion' magazine: http://www.orionmagazine.org/pages/om/07-1om/Kunstler.html should help. And there's an ocean more of such insightful material, by many researcher/commentators, if anyone needs help to locate it.

And hey! Don't Henk's pictures of 'Why I like the trike' say it all........

Cofion,    Rhisiart
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