Row Your Bike To China

If you’re a fan of endurance racing motor vehicles, there’s one that puts the 24 Hours of Le Mans, the Dakar Rally, and the Baja 1000 to shame, and the race doesn’t even involve cars. Indeed, the vehicles used for this massive trek from France to China are electric bicycles, powered only by solar panels. This is the epic Sun Trip endurance race, and one of its competitors built a unique tandem bike that is powered both by pedaling, rowing, and the solar panels.

The tandem bike is interesting on its own since the atypical design uses a back-to-back layout which means one person is facing backward, but the storage space is dramatically increased over the normal forward-facing layout. The person in the rear doesn’t pedal, though. [Justin_le] built an upper-body-powered rowing station for that spot so that the person riding back there can rest their legs but still help propel the vehicle. Of course, there’s also a solar panel roof so the two riders can pedal and row in the shade, which includes MPPT and solar tracking which drives a small electric motor on board as well.

This race started in June but is still going on. There’s a live GPS feed so you can keep up with the teams, and if you get really inspired you can go ahead and sign up for the 2019 race as well. This particular bike was also featured on Radio Canada as well if you’d like to learn more about it.

Thanks to [Arthur] for the tip!

11 thoughts on “Row Your Bike To China

  1. When I check out the map, at least two teams already in Western China.The was also a significant spread amount the teams. It would be interesting to see how each team approached the vehicle design, and what worked best.

    1. The guy that’s out front right now is a solo rider with a more traditional stand-up (vs recumbent) bicycle. He has one rather smallish looking solar panel in the front. I find that interesting, from a design perspective. There could be other things at play here, such as athletic discipline.

  2. The trike isn’t just an upper body rowing station, the legs move too.
    The seats they use are definitely affecting the stroke, there’s no back engagement at all which is sacrificing power as well as increasing strain on your arms. I don’t know what kind of resistance this contraption has on it but France-Iran (they say in the linked interview they don’t have time to go to China) is probably long enough to develop some painful tendonitis from a mangled rowing stroke.

      1. Thanks. In the end we made it all 5700km just fine without any tendonitis and no need to tap into any medical coverage! The rowing rig worked great and allows for exactly the same motion (back and all if you want) as a normal rowboat, only it’s equivalent to a sliding rig rather than a sliding seat, meaning we’re not wasting energy moving the entire body mass forwards and backwards with each stroke.

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