The Bettie download

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by Byron on Sep 07, 2006 at 9:52 PM

Bettie FamilyBettie is a Bike Hugger project to build a sport-utility bike with a Karate Monkey 29-incher frame, Stokemonkey, and an Xtracycle. Bettie has an enormous carrying capacity, it’s heavy duty – 2 adults or an adult and 2 kids at a time – and is fun (really, really fun). The total Bettie download follows.

We chose the Surly Karate Monkey for it’s big wheels and versatility and a look at the specs will tell you why – the frame is built to be built into something else, your ideal Frankenstein. Bettie with this set up, as Todd describes in his blog post, addresses my biggest concern about putting your foot-down when weighted. Imagine coming up a hill in Seattle, stopping at a light fully loaded, and shifting all the weight with your back to one toe. Much easier to just foot down. Additionally it’s like riding a “working” bike, an industrial cruiser with a very nice motor assist from Stokemonkey.

By running a 29-incher with 26 inch wheels and 2.35 inch tires, we get a lower center of gravity and a cushy ride. Much of that ride has to do with the balloon tires. For the skinny tour crowd, big tires take some getting used to, but do roll and ride very nice.

A sport-utility “balloon” bike

We need to run at least 2.35s (the biggest tire we could find) to keep Bettie low, but not too low and are running the Big Apples from Schwalbe, which offer among other things, “carefree cycling.” See Balloonbikes for more on the benefits of big tires.

Amazing Cargo Capacity

We opted for the FreeRadical Hitchless Trailer Kit with Wideloaders. The Wideloaders add capacity and foot rests for passengers.

Human Electric Hybrid

Todd of Cleverchimp has been enormously helpful and you can find his comments in our posts. We chose a complete Stokemonkey kit with the big-ass battery. We live in a very hilly part of Seattle and need the juice.

Components

  • Nitto Albatross bar – a comfortable cockpit with upright position, wide bars, and lots of room for the controls (tip: these are cruiser bars that accept bar end shifters)
  • Magura Gustav M – a legendary downhill disc brake with enough stopping power to fold the fork in half. Remember an adult, 2 kids, in hilly Seattle, so we chose lots of brake.
  • DT Swiss FR 6.1D – extremely stiff, “big hit” rims. Made to ride through a war zone or the streets of Seattle.
  • Sugino Mighty Crankset – 44/32/22 9-speed compact MTB cranks – right and left chainrings, one for you to drive and the other for the Stokemonkey.
  • Shimano 16T freewheel threaded onto the Stokemonkey – the freewheel drives the left chain ring. That’s your motor assist.
  • Deore LX derailleurs – “pretty standard really.”
  • Bar end shifters – for the flexibility of switching to friction mode, if things go bad with the drivetrain, and because the throttle is taking up space for grip shift or other levers.
  • MKS platform pedals with Powergrips – old school and functional. You don’t want cleats, clips, or anything else with Bettie. Just hop on and ride – same goes for the seat.
  • Brooks B17 – been riding all over town without bike shorts. Bouncy big tires and springy seat adds to the fun factor.
  • Loud bell from REI – announce your motor-assisted smugness when you pass fellow cyclists.

Jedi master mechanic

Bettie wouldn’t have moved an inch without the work of Eamon Stanley at Elliott Bay Bicycles, home of Davidson.

Initial impressions

As I’ve been posting, we’re having a great time with Bettie and most of that is no parking, no sitting in traffic, and no car. I’ve been running errands, going on dates, and Pam has been riding the kids around. Bettie is doing exactly what we wanted and performing well.

There have been some surprises. Bettie makes dogs angry. I guess that’s all the sounds because some dogs have gone into vicious mode when I ride by – Cap’n our Pug likes Bettie, but only after lots of alert barking and a good long sniff. Of course, you can easily out run them with a twist of the throttle.

Motor-assist is just that: an assist. You’re still working and need to learn quickly how to stay on top of the gear. To ride Bettie daily, you’ll need good bike-handling skills, basic fitness, and situational awareness. You’re the motor in the human electric hybrid drive and efficiency is very important. Riding heavy on the throttle is going to burn through the batteries. It’ll be fun, but not good for commuting. With the motor-assist on, Bettie is like a fixed gear and you can’t stop pedaling. It’s easy to get lulled into la-la land, on Bettie, but realize your riding a big bike at fast speeds.

The magic, the secret sauce of Bettie and the genius of Xtracycle and Cleverchimp is that they’ve invented products that allows us to do what we want without a car. As an inventor myself, they get full props and one of the first things I did with Bettie was deliver an order of Clip-n-Seals to the mail drop.

Riding Bettie Downtown




And More Bettie

Another project

Our next project is to build up a light-duty commuter.

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New Shimano utility group wins Eurobike award

1

by Frank Steele on Sep 07, 2006 at 12:42 PM

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p>Bicycle Design | Shimano Alfine

Alfine

Shimano is introducing a 2007 component group aimed straight at Bike Hugger’s heart. Alfine is a new internal-hub group, with 8 speeds, that includes a 3-watt dynamo in the front wheel, disk brakes, and very clean and pretty cranks.

It’s based on Shimano’s existing Nexus line, upgraded to promote very quick shifts. Instead of a twist group, it includes trigger shifting.

The group took one of Shimano’s two design awards at last week’s Eurobike trade show (the other went for the 3rd-generation XTR mountain bike group). This should be a terrific and reliable group for bikes intended for everyday transportation.

(Via Bicycle Design.)

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Treehugger hugs us

2

by Byron on Sep 07, 2006 at 9:54 AM

Alerted by a reader, I just discovered that Treehugger gave us a big hug today. Nice! And thanks, much appreciated… now I’ll get a cup o’ Joe and start responding to the comments and emails. If you’re interested in learning more about Bettie, our project to build a sport-utility bike built with a Karate Monkey 29-incher frame, Stokemonkey, and Xtracycle check the tags, galleries, and video posts

Questions on Sport-utility bikes? Fire away and also note that we’ll be blogging live at Interbike September 26, 27 2006 with all kinda posts about cycling, culture, commuting, and more.

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Photo of the day

1

by Frank Steele on Sep 07, 2006 at 7:30 AM

Critical Tits @ Burning Man

Untitled, by herby_fr.

Bikes play a critical role at Burning Man each year as the transportation of choice around Black Rock City.

For the last 11 Burning Man festivals, they’ve also been the centerpiece of a popular event celebrating “women’s freedom, power, and beauty.”

That event? Critical Tits. In 1996, five women, inspired by San Francisco’s Critical Mass, painted their chests and rode through town yelling “Critical Tits.” Last year, the event drew 5,000 women.

This photo is from this year’s edition, last Friday.

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Bike Night Out

5

by Byron on Sep 05, 2006 at 7:52 PM

Bike Night Pam and I rode Bettie to dinner last night and the highlight, besides the romance of riding a bike together, was no parking stress. We rolled up to the new Cactus restaurant without the usual parking search on Alki, ate dinner, and rode back. We took turns sitting on the SnapDeck, used a light in the dark on the way back, and relaxed.

The ride to dinner was one of 6 trips/errands over the weekend that we did without a car and that’s the most liberating thing about Bettie and sport-utility bikes. We’re not stuck in traffic, sitting in a car, wasting our time.

A reader sent us a great article from the Moynihan Institute on bicycle commuting. The Rant n’ Irishman takes Critical Mass to task and also insists that he’s not making a big statement, by poking a stick in the eye of people in cars, but simply taking control of his life. Today the AP ran a story on about going car free and the benefits of arriving at “one’s destination without feeling all tense and angry.” There’s also a book about How to Live Well Without Owning a Car.

For our bike night out, we were in control, not in a car, and having fun.

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Like riding with Armstrong’s leg

3

by Byron on Sep 03, 2006 at 9:46 AM

Switched the Stokemonkey setting to high-mode today on Bettie and flew up Admiral Way for a morning coffee run to Metropolitan Market. The high setting was like having an extra leg, Armstrong’s leg in fact, when you consider the Stokemonkey is putting out 430 watts at a cadence of 80!

I grabbed the coffee, more groceries, loaded Bettie’s FreeLoaders, and headed back home by way of Schooner Exact, where I tasted their latest pale ale. To make sure I condition the battery properly (as Todd told us), I flipped the switch back to low mode and cruised up the hills back home.

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Staying on top of the Gear

3

by Byron on Sep 02, 2006 at 5:27 PM

Todd, the inventor of the Stokemonkey says, “Your timely and appropriate shifting permits the motor to operate within a small band of powerful and efficient speeds at all times. This is key.”

As a roadie, I was reminded of that saying, “stay on top of the gear” and found Bettie’s sweet spot within a few minutes of riding. When the Stokemonkey bogged down a bit, I’d shift, and the motor assist would pick up speed again. After a few longer rides, I could tell how well the Stokemonkey was operating by the vibrations in the seat tube and also hear it cranking away. In the video, I’m rolling up a gently sloped, 5% grade hill.

The “small power band” also keeps you working. This isn’t an electric or gas-powered bike, it’s an assist and going up the steepest hills, I was definitely pedaling at a good effort (not breaking a sweat and breathing hard). On the last ride, I took my Polar and averaged a heart rate like a typical cruising pace, which is a great winter heart rate and a good workout.

So what we have now with Bettie and this project is a great errand/working bike. I used it to get lunch and say hello to Marcus while he brews up Bike Hugger Brown. Later in the day, Pam got a full load of groceries and we didn’t burn an ounce of gas or start the car, and got a nice workout. As Todd warns, a Stokemonkey isn’t for someone that isn’t in shape or isn’t good at riding a bike and shifting. In fact you could probably start a Tuesday night Stokemonkey workout club!

Next week, after the holiday, Pam will commute on it and I’ll post on all the details including the parts we chose, why issues, recommendations, and a wish list.

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Bike Hugger Bettie first ride

2

by Byron on Sep 02, 2006 at 8:56 AM

First ride with a “thrilled” passenger on Bettie, our sport-utility project bike.

And I quote, “it shoots you up the hill at like 25 miles per hour …”

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Hook a hugga up!

0

by Byron on Sep 01, 2006 at 5:36 PM

Today we launched Bike Hugger @Interbike, a blog just for the bike industry’s big show. As previously posted, we’ll be in the media center, on the floor, blogging it all, and hoping for some serious schwag. And not the schwag you leave behind in the room, but the kind like with Eddy Merckx’s autograph! Oh yeah.

Having just ridden Bettie (reports to follow), our project bike, I’ll want to meet all the component manufacturers and talk about what it’s like to ride a commuter that looks like it rolled off the set of Mad Max.

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Bettie In Progress

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by Byron on Aug 31, 2006 at 9:15 PM

Bettie, our sport-utility bike, is being built up and I took some photos today at Elliott Bay Bicycles. Eamon is putting lots of extra touches and making sure Bettie is built to last and safe. Bill Davidson has been observing the progress as well.

Note the tires, brakes, and the fabulous Xtracycle Snapdeck custom pad made by Pam.

Tomorrow, Pam will ride it home and blog all about that as well. It’s damn cool and lots of questions are being asked by the guys in the shop and everyone else that sees it. I’ll post the Q/A. For Stokemonkey questions see Todd’s excellent site, FAQs, and blog. For the Xtracycle, see their site and user forums.

Put simply, the Bettie is a sport-utility bike that replaces a car and is built with a Karate Monkey 29-incher frame, Stokemonkey, and Xtracycle,

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