Retrotechtacular: How a Bicycle Is Made

Does your bicycle master boardwalk and quagmire with aplomb? If it was built by the Raleigh Bicycle Company, it ought to. This week’s Retrotechtacular is a 1945-era look into the start-to-finish production of a standard bicycle. At the time of filming, Raleigh had already been producing bicycles for nearly 60 years.

The film centers on a boy and his father discussing the purchase of a bicycle in the drawing office of the plant where a bicycle begins its life. The penny-farthing gets a brief mention so that the modern “safety model”—wherein the rider sits balanced between two wheels of equal size—can be compared. The pair are speaking with the chief designer about the model and the father inquires as to their manufacturing process.

We are given the complete story from frame to forks and from hubs to handlebars. The frame is forged from high-quality steel whose mettle is tested both with heat and with a strain much greater than it will receive in manufacture or use. It is formed from long pieces that are rolled into tubes, flame sealed at the joint, and cut to length. The frame pieces are connected with brackets, which are formed from a single piece of steel. This process is particularly interesting.

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Bicycle Generator for Emergency Electricity

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[Hackett's] back at it, this time with some practical advice for the next power outage to hit your city: why not prepare for the worst by building your own bike generator? You’ll no doubt recall that hurricane Sandy devastated New York City’s grid, even flooding substations and causing massive explosions. [Hackett] experienced the Sandy outages first-hand, and knows the value of having this simple build ready to roll.

The project uses a permanent magnet DC motor (around 250 watts), which you can find in electric wheelchairs or other mobility scooters. His setup’s gear reduction spins the motor 50 times for each revolution of the bike wheel. The apparatus [Hackett] built to press-fit the wheel to the motor’s spindle is particularly clever: a threaded rod adjusts the position of the motor, which is bolted onto a hinged platform, with the other part of the hinge welded to a larger frame that supports the bike wheel.

The motor is connected to a home-built charge controller based on Mike Davis’s design, which monitors the deep-cycle batteries and both kills the charge when it’s full as well as turns charging back on after it’s reached a set level of discharge. The rest is gravy: with the deep cycle battery connected to a power inverter, [Hackett] can plug in and keep phones charged, music playing, and even (some of) the lights on. If you’re a fan of [Hackett's] straightforward, practical presentation style, check out his tripod build and his demonstration of stripping pipes of their galvanization.

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Electric Bicycle Hack is Hilariously Simple

5minEBike

Necessity may be the mother of invention, but limited resources give birth to some of the best hacks. [joejoeboom's] 5-minute electric bike conversion probably can’t drive you into the next town, but it can scoot you around your neighborhood.

[jojoeboom] found a cordless drill at a local hardware store for $15, which he simply zip-tied to the bicycle’s frame. He positioned the drill so the chuck pressed firmly against the side of the bicycle’s rear wheel, creating a simple friction drive system. To create a throttle, [joejoeboom] strapped a spare hand brake to the handlebar and wrapped the brake’s cable around the drill’s trigger. Several carefully placed zip ties hold everything in place and allow the cable to tug at the trigger when the hand brake is squeezed.

Watch the bike poking around in a video below, and for some extreme contrast check out the 102-mph bicycle build from earlier this summer.

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Custom E-Cruiser has features for disabled rider

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As [AussieJester] noted in the first page of his build log, most people’s idea of a “custom-made” electric bicycle involves strapping some electronics and a hub motor onto any off-the-shelf bike. He needed a bigger challenge, so he fabricated his own frame to build a stylish electric cruiser. This bike has a 2-speed transmission and a massive Turnigy 80-100 brushless outrunner motor, which pushes out a top speed of 45mph.

You may have noticed what look like training wheels in the picture above, and you’d be half-correct. [AussieJester] is a paraplegic, and needed to guarantee some stability both when transferring from his wheelchair and when coming to a stop. The best feature of this bike, however, is that these small wheels are retractable. A linear actuator lowers them for slower speeds and for mounting/dismounting, but picks them back off the ground once you are up to speed, maintaining a true 2-wheeled experience.

Stick around for a couple of videos after the break: a first-person POV showing just how quick this bike can move, and a demonstration of the actuators. Then check out another EV pioneer in the world of skateboarding.

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Solar power for your bike

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After the headlight on his bike died, [Patrick] decided this was the best time to hack the remains and solve a few problems: namely a constantly drained battery from accidentally forgetting to turn the light off. He opted for a solar solution, as he already had both an Adafruit solar lithium charger and a Seeed Li-po Rider. [Patrick] picks the Adafruit board for its extra safety features like temperature sensing to prevent the cell from overheating.

The build uses 9 eBay-sourced 2V mini solar panels attached neatly on the bike’s mudflaps. Three groups of 3 panels in series provide the needed 6V into the Adafruit lithium board which safely charges a spare 900mAh Nokia phone battery from the junk drawer. [Patrick] admits this solar setup may be overkill. He decided to include a USB jack to keep his phone charged for some Google maps navigation. The Adafruit board does not step up to 5V, however, so [Patrick] tacks on a Mintyboost kit to kick the Lipo’s output up high enough to charge the phone.

Solar’s not the only alternative way to power your bike’s lights. Check out the RattleGen from earlier this year if you missed it.

The Hubless Horseman

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Of all the free parts up for grabs at a friend’s house, nobody wanted the scrap wheelchair wheels: including [Eric]. That is, of course, until he spontaneously decided to try something a bit crazy and take on a bizarre yet remarkably imaginative hubless wheel bike build.

After attaching the wheelchair’s rim and its affixed handrail to the rim on his bike, [Eric] mounted pairs of rollerblade wheels to a separate piece of metal that essentially act as bearings. As the build progresses, the bike is further refined. More rollerblade wheels, a giant sprocket, and a pile of machined aluminum pieces. The valve stem for the tire had to be relocated to allow the wheel to spin freely.

The finished product is a stunning bicycle, which [Eric] later revisited, updating the rollerblade wheels to precision-lathed plastic (specifically UHMWPE) rollers. Make sure you watch the video of the Hubless Horseman in action. If, for some reason, your only prior exposure to hubless wheels is the TRON light cycle or [Kirk's] motorcycle from the Star Trek reboot, do yourself a favor and check out their inventor, Franco Sbarro.

Building a bike for 100 miles per hour

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As a kid, [Tom] followed all the automotive land speed record attempts on the Bonneville Salt Flats. The cars used in these attempts were all built by guys in their garages, and as a bicycle frame builder, [Tom] is keenly aware of the land speed record for bikes. One thought leads to another, and [Tom] decided he would see how fast one of his frames could go.

Aside from a gigantic gear for his custom bike, [Tom] also needed a little help from a friend. The current land speed record on a bicycle was done by drafting behind a drag racer. [Tom] doesn’t have a drag racer, or a wide expanse of flat open ground in his native England, so he did the next best thing: drafting behind a Ford Zephyr on an abandoned WWII airstrip.

On the runway, [Tom] was able to get his bike up to 80 miles an hour. Wanting to see how fast he could go in ideal conditions, the bike was taken to the garage, put on a pair of rollers, and measured as it was brought up to speed. With a lot of effort, [Tom] was able to get up to 102 miles per hour, incredibly fast for something powered by human muscle.

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