10 December, 2011

A day in the country

Rode out to a friend's place for lunch today. Just under 40 km there, about 10ish km of it dirt. Sorry to be so vague but I still haven't fixed the speedo. I rode out quite slowly, about (I guess) 50 km/h and arrived with 6 out of 11 bars remaining on the voltage gauge.

I plugged in there and had some lunch and caught up with events. I'd missed some excitement as one of his girlfriend's friends had borrowed his chinese trailbike and stacked it in the bush. She'd been shuttled off to hospital with a headwound (yes, she had a helmet on) and suspected broken ribs. I'd seen them on the dirt road, flying low in the other direction. We had some lunch and then chuffed off to recover the bike that had been left still lying in a creek. Two 4WDs filled with lunch guests headed out and I followed on the DS.

I thought the road was a bit slippery as I was riding but when I got off the bike at the crash site I nearly fell over just walking around. The wet clay was like oiled glass. I was quite pleased at how the DS had gone on it. The road was quite tough and we ended up getting one of the 4WDs bogged and the suzuki Sierra had to snatch it out. I hadn't gone fast, only car speed (glacially slow). After about 8 km there and back it was still on the same 10 out of 11 that it had been when I took it off charge after lunch.

I plugged it back in and had a look at Tom's new CRF450. John and Dave took off for a trail ride and I headed home, setting out fully recharged again.

I rode home a bit faster. I still don't know how fast but I'd estimate 60-70 km/h. I arrived home with it flashing low battery on the hills but it was solid 3 bars on the flats.

Overall I'm quite pleased. Just under 100km of gentle riding and a fine day out with friends. It handled graded dirt roads very nicely even with road pressures in the tyres. I would have liked to go a bit faster on the dirt as the bike felt very stable.

18 November, 2011

One Year - Day 365

Odo about 2354

Well it's a year and I should say “what an eventful year it's been” except it hasn't really. The “revolution” of riding electric hasn't been all that revolutionary really. It's been more like owning a really cool appliance than a motorcycle. Little has gone wrong, (more on that in a second) and it's caused me no angst to speak of.

There has been one “failure”. There's a loose connection between the wheel speed sensor and the speedo. Since last Friday I have to jiggle the cable a bit to get a speed reading (that's why it's “about” 2354 km). You can't really blame that on being an “electric” bike. It's got nothing to do with the fact it's electric powered. The speedo on my KTM failed at 8315.5 km and hasn't moved since... So it's not a failure that's unique to electrics by any stretch of the imagination. I might see if Zero can come up with a replacement cable or I might not. I don't really care if it works.

So that's it. A full year of living with an electric bike. Bit dull really. It's just nice to ride, makes me happy and gives me more spare time to do the things I like doing rather than doing motorcycle maintenance (which I hate, I'd rather mow lawns or go to work or clean the bathroom.)

07 November, 2011

Ciao Marco

I've discovered another thing the electric is no good for that the haters can add to their list.  It makes no noise so it was useless for the Ciao Marco.   At 10:30 everywhere in the world, bike riders reved their bikes for 58 seconds to honour Marco Simoncelli.  Glad I still have the KTM, I'm sure they heard it in Valencia.

27 October, 2011

Am I saving the planet? - Day 344

Odo 2230

Ok, so I enjoy the Zero DS. There's no doubt about that and I'd ride it even if it was powered by ground up baby seals it's so much fun. But. Am I “saving the planet”? I don't know, even as I begin this post where that question will lead me, so follow me down the rabbit hole and we'll find out together.

So, I only live a short distance from work. I could walk, but it's a longish walk. I could ride a bicycle and in my younger days that's exactly how I got around, averaging 300 km a week on the bike. I had no thought of saving the world, I just enjoyed it. So I sort of know what's involved.

It's 5 km for me to get to work. If I rode a bicycle I'd shower at work. I know I would because that's what I used to do when I rode all the time. I'm slow in the shower, always have been. 10 minute shower is quick for me. That's 100 litres of water and approximately 2 kWh to heat the water. I'd also have a shower when I got home but I do that anyway regardless, so we can ignore that. A bicycle lasts me about 5 years. The embodied energy in a bike is about 1000 kWh. (more for all alloy bikes, slightly less for steel). I work about 200 days a year. So that's 1 kWh for the bike and 2 kWh for the shower every day. 3 kWh/d.  I'm ignoring the energy to make the food that I eat because I have to get that exercise somewhere and if it's not on the bike then I use the rowing machine or something.

The Zero would have an embodied energy of less than 8000 kWh (that's assuming that it's all made of virgin aluminium which it isn't but I'm ignoring the replacement battery at the 5 year mark). How long it will last is a mystery but say 10 years. That's 2000 trips to work. So that's 4 kWh/d in embodied energy. Plus the 1 kWh that it draws. 5 kWh/d for the Zero.

The car weighs near enough to 1.5 tonnes. Most of it is steel but some is aluminium. Say 1300 kg of steel and 200 kg of aluminium. Steel is about 10 kWh/kg and Aluminium is about 65 kWh/kg, so that's 26000 kWh per car. Now this one is a bit harder. Here in Oz a car is worth nothing when it hits 300 000 km or 20 years. In the UK (according to my Pommie used car dealer mate) a 10 year old car is worth nothing but mileage isn't all that important. So in 20 years I'm never going to make it to 300 000 km at 2000 km a year. So the car will time expire so to speak. That works out here in Oz at 6.5 kWh per trip. (at 4000 trips to work). In the UK it would mean 13 kWh per trip. It will also burn about 1 litre of fuel. Bit hard to say how much energy that represents because the oil companies are rather coy about how much electricity it takes to refine oil. Given the revolting stuff that crude oil is and the lovely clear pure liquid that petrol is, it's got to have a fair bit of processing. Paper which is just wood ground up with water and then rolled flat uses 7 kWh/kg. The lowest plastic is twice that. So conservatively 7 kWh/litre (a bit less than a kg so slightly more than paper and much less than plastic). Of course it has energy itself, 10 kWh/litre. So that's 17 kWh used for every round trip plus around 6.5 kWh embodied energy in the car. 23.5 kWh per trip for the car. Over 4 times more than the Zero!

Car 23
Zero 5
Bicycle 3
Walking <1 (but adds 2 hours to my commute...)

So it looks like I might be doing my bit. Would be better if I rode a bicycle or walked, but not a *lot* better.

Oh, and the next time someone tells you “the grid couldn't handle lots of electric cars” remember the electricity used to refine the oil was probably (the oil companies wont say exactly) 7 kWh/litre and that does 10 km. A leaf has a 35 kWh battery and will go at least 100 km on that. So the leaf uses half the *electricity* that a petrol car uses.

16 October, 2011


You may not remember but I had a bit of an argument with the organisation that builds infrastructure for the railways.  I won't go into it again, but the reason that they gave me for not installing electric vehicle charge points as per their policy was that they didn't know what the standard was going to be at some unspecified point in the future.  I pointed out that every electrical device sold in Australia (including every electric vehicle) uses the same domestic plug standard.  Apparently that's not good enough for them.  Then I saw this on xkcd.com

20 August, 2011

Fuel is Cheap - Day 276

Odo 1969

We keep hearing of the “End of Cheap Oil”, but that's still a long long way away.

Lets look at what energy has cost in the past and compare it to the current cost. Not the very recent past but rather a bit further back. To get some perspective.

Until the very recent past, if you wanted to do something you needed either a horse or a person to do it for you. Say you decided to go for a motor boat ride. You'd need some galley slaves. Now each galley slave, if they're fit, young and strong, could reasonably be expected to put out about 200 watts. So if you work them for 10 hours a day at that level (which is pretty hard work!) you could get 2 kWh of energy out of them. That's about what you'd get from burning 0.6 litres of petrol in a reasonably efficient petrol engine. That means today you can buy the equivalent of a day's labour of a strong slave for less than a dollar. It doesn't just apply to motorboating, but everything, including growing the food that drives those galley slaves.

Come back and tell me oil isn't cheap any more when the cost of 2 kWh roughly equates to a day's labour cost. In the meantime, while oil is absurdly cheap it's going to be hard to convince people to switch away from it.

25 July, 2011

Why won't anyone believe me? - Day 250

Odo 1799

I haven't covered much distance lately, it's been raining almost every day (wettest July in 60 years and we're only 2/3 through it) and call me slack, but I drive the car in the rain.

I've just changed offices at work and I'm in a new building with 500 new people, who all want to know about the electric bike. So I'm answering all the same questions again. What does it cost, what's the range how long does it take to recharge. Again I tell them that it does about 30km riding like your hair is on fire but I've got 72km out of it riding carefully. Again I get the stunned look. What possible use is a bike that can only do 30km. I tell them that I charge the bike whenever I'm not sitting on it, so range is never an issue. No-one ever believes me... “there are petrol stations everywhere, but there's no where to recharge”. I tell them: “mate, there are far more places to recharge than there are petrol stations. Every petrol station has a power point and you've got four places to recharge on your desk right in front of you” More disbelief...

Ok, so here's a typical day.

I ride to work, 5km and plug in.
3 hours later at lunchtime I get on the fully charged bike and ride home for lunch (saving 12 dollars on take away prices) and plug in.
After 45 minutes lunch I get on the fully charged bike and ride back to work.
3 hours later I get on the fully charged bike, ride home and plug in. I have a shower and get dressed in casual clothes then I get on the fully charged bike and ride to the shopping centre 10km away to buy fresh food for dinner. They won't let me recharge, so I shop and ride home. The bike is now about 1/2 discharged. When I get home I plug in and prep for dinner.
Then I get a call from a friend, “do I want to game?” Sure I want to game, so I hop on the nearly charged bike and go 5 km to his place and plug in.
We game for 2 hours then I hop on the fully charged bike and go home to plug in and finish cooking dinner.
I realise that I've forgotten an ingredient. I hop on the fully charged bike and ride back into town for the second time, then home. The bike is now half discharged so I plug in.

Notice I've ridden 70km of errands around town, the bike has never dropped below half charged and I've been able to ride fast the whole time, never sparing the bike to eke out a bit more range. If I did that two days in a row on a petrol bike I'd need to take 1/2 an hour out of my day at some point to ride to the petrol station and fill up. Instead I've plugged in and unplugged the bike about 10 times, and that's taken me less time than warming the petrol bike just once.  I've saved lunch money and I always warm a petrol bike for 3 minutes before I ride it so I've saved plenty of time that way too.

Yet I still explain every day that range simply isn't an issue and every day I get the same disbelieving looks...

04 May, 2011

1000 Miles – Day 168

Odo 1603

Nothing to report at all. Bike continues to run and make my life nicer, I just thought I should mark the first thousand miles. It's taken a long time to get to here, I've passed 1000 miles in the first week of ownership of many of my previous bikes. Still, my life is different now to how it was then and I wouldn't have actually used a petrol bike anywhere near as much as the electric. In fact I've got two petrol bikes and neither has turned a wheel since the electric came on the scene. The KTM is waiting on me to get a bit fitter and the weather to cool down a bit. The honda isn't even registered at the moment. I used to live at the top of a hill and it was ok but since I moved somewhere flat it's a complete pain to use. It has a vacuum operated fuel tap and if you don't ride it for a couple of days it takes about 200 kicks to bring the fuel down and start it. It never bothered me when I could just put it in second and roll down the hill. It would always start before I got to the bottom.

06 April, 2011

I'm really not tyred – Day 140

Odo 1441

Well I rang the dealer as suggested by Phil. I explained that I'd bought a Zero DS from them recently and I'd been told by the distributor that they'd fitted a different front tyre for another customer.

Yeah mate, bring it in and we'll find something”

So, do you know what you'll fit to it?”

Mate, just come in and pick something you like”

“I'm wondering what you've got that will fit, thing is it's 500 km round trip for me to come in”

Mate... I'd have to go upstairs and look..........”

I considered swearing at him but instead I just hung up and wrote a letter of complaint to the distributor.

05 April, 2011

Tyre Anxiety - Day 139

Odo 1411

I've never really trusted the front tyre. I don't like the idea of a front knobbie and a rear dual sport tyre. It hasn't been too bad so far but my lack of trust means I need to slow down more for the corners and correspondingly use more brakes and waste energy.

So I've been on a mission to find a replacement tyre.

Not much seems suitable but the new 2011 DS has just what I've been looking for, a tyre that matches the existing rear. So I emailed Phil (with requests for a bunch of spares) and the tyre I want. First response was “I'll have an answer next week”. Two weeks later I got a price on the spares and the tyre was “Sorry I didn't get the word on the tyre”. Couple of emails later I got the response (just over 2 months down the track) “with regards to the front tire it might be worth giving (a zero dealer about 250 km away) a call and ask him what type of tyre he fitted to the front of a Zero DS that He recently sold.” Which I translate to mean, no I can't supply you with a spare part for the current bike.

So I emailed Duro (who make the oem tyre) and asked them about both the front and rear tyres. They responded.Unfortunately those sizes are not currently imported, at this point there are no plans to bring those sizes in.
So the tyre is completely unavailable in Australia. Great.

However the rear tyre has now appeared on the Zero website as a spare. It's $197.05!!! for goodness sake! 197.05???? It's a 16 inch commuter bike tyre!!! That's at least triple the right price for a tyre like that! Closer to 4 times the correct price really. They're worth about 50 bucks. Bridgestone BT45 (good quality japanese road tyre) is 84 dollars. A similar quality, similar size dual sport tyre (shinko 244 3.0 x 16) is 23 dollars from  BikeBandit.   How a they think a Taiwanese cheapo is worth 200 bucks...

30 March, 2011

Range Anxiety - Day 133

Odo 1390

Well not so much range as falling range. The Molicel lithiums in the pack are rated for 300 full charge/discharge cycles. Zero claims far more cycles from them than that, which seems odd. I wouldn't have expected that they could get more cycles than the manufacturer... Anyway I've put about 250 or so (I haven't counted) part charge cycles on them. I don't know if the range is falling or not as I'm not using anywhere near the maximum range, but the batteries are beginning to behave differently to how they were when new. I know where the first bar disappeared on the way to work, but now it's going one hill earlier. I know that on a round trip to town, even if I rode like my hair was on fire the display never fell below half, but now I'm seeing it go below half even with careful riding. I wouldn't say the pack was stuffed and if there was no voltage display then I'd never be able to tell the difference, but something is changing.

I wrote to the local guy who sells A123 battery packs and he thinks he can build one for the Zero. A123 estimate between 1000 and 6000 full cycles depending on the drain/charge rates and temperature. His first order estimate on cost was lower than a replacement Zero pack so I'm thinking I'll go that way when the time comes. He has a deeply uninspired website but seems like a nice guy. http://www.lightningev.comuf.com/ I actually asked him about building with the 20 Ah pouches but he seems to think the ANR26650 cells would be the ticket.

In unrelated news I just got my car back from the panel beaters who have de-dented, de-rusted and resprayed the whole thing. It looks better than new!

I've also fallen deeply in love

How can a motorcycle be so charming?

20 March, 2011

Blinded by the Light – Day 123

Odo 1364

Today I tried to adjust the headlight. That's one of the things that is supposed to by done by the predelivery that the government mandates. We're not responsible enough to do that so the bike dealer charged me 900 dollars to take the bike out of the crate, charge the battery and adjust the headlight. Well they managed to take it out of the crate but given the fact that they didn't know where or how to plug it in, I strongly doubt they managed to charge the battery. I know for sure they didn't adjust the headlight as it's aimed for koala spotting...

Anyway I don't often ride at night and as I mentioned before I've pulled the fuse so the headlight is off. However I thought I should adjust it anyway. On the rare occasions I had the light on I could see the drivers in front adjusting their mirrors, even in big raised 4wds. Very little light fell on the road on dipped beam and on high beam it just went up into the trees. So today I attempted it. Well I've managed to adjust it from stupidly way too high to just illegal. I have no idea how this thing got through ADR testing. In 7.5 metres the “cutoff” is 25 cm higher than the headlight on “dipped”. It's supposed to be 5 cm lower, so it's 30 cm too high in the test. Of course in actual use I'll be looking about 10 times further down the road than that, so it's actually going to be 3 metres too high at the distance it will be used. To get it down any further will need cutting and bending. Not good enough Zero (I've used that phrase before...). As winter comes on I'm going to be forced to use the bike at night, so I'll have to fix it.

The pattern is completely symmetrical. It's required to be down on the right and should rise slightly on the left. So the reflector is no good either.

Grrrr. I wonder if I should make a warrantee claim.

07 March, 2011

I Drive 600 km and forget to put a title on the post.

Odo 1288

Once a month I have to drive 600 km in a day. There's no public transport option, so it's just the price I have to pay to live where I live.

Last weekend was that day. I needed to fill the dinoburner before we went and I needed to fill it again on the way back. The price of fuel went up by 10c/l on the way back (and has stayed up). I took this photo when I filled on the *cheap* price.

The US dollar and the AU dollar are about the same at the moment, so that's about 78 USD for 14.5 gallons. That lasts me for about 500 km. This is the vehicle I would be using if I didn't have the Zero. I think that the battery pack will last about 30 000 km and cost $5000 to replace. (the factory claims some astonishing number of km, but I don't really agree). So what would it cost me to run the car for that distance? $78.45 x 30000 / 500 for fuel. Equals $4707.00 for fuel alone. There would also be 6 services at about 200 each. The car cost me $30 000 new and I think will last 300 000 km after which it will be worthless. (no-one will buy a car in Australia that has over 300 000 km on it. Just seems to be a mental barrier). So driving it 30 000 km uses about 1/10 of it's useful life. That's $3000. That's a total of 8907 dollars (at last week's fuel price and not counting tyres).

So it appears that every 30 000 km of use the Zero will save me 4-5000 dollars compared to the car. I will need to ride 90 000 km just to *break even*. That's ignoring the interest that I'm not getting on that money which could be earning me 6% in a long term deposit. Electric is still not a money saving thing unless you can make it your only vehicle. I think that's still quite a way off as it will depend on better infrastructure.

Ideally I'd like to see fast electric trains that carry vehicles (like the channel tunnel). Have a stop about every 100 km. Ride/drive aboard, plug in for a recharge while you are whisked at great speed to somewhere close to your destination. Then ride/drive the last 50 km under your own power. Hmmm. I can't see that happening in my lifetime. It would cost less than the roads, reduce import of foreign cars and oil. Take the burden off the hospitals and eliminate the welfare for people injured on the roads. Reduce carbon output from trucks and private cars. 

It's never going to happen.

The NRMA estimates 61 billion dollars in raw accident damage costs during the period between the Pacific Highway upgrade expected completion date (1999) and 2009. That would have easily paid for a high speed car/truck carrying train between Sydney and Brisbane. That's ignoring the billions more of foreign exchange sent overseas for cars, trucks and oil just to drive between two major cities. Also ignoring the 18 billion spent on upgrading the road. For goodness sake, the Channel Tunnel only cost about 22 billion dollars (in today's money). All this would need is a track upgrade and some new rolling stock. I can't imagine it would cost more than 10 billion to link Sydney and Brisbane. 61 billion would link Adelaide, Melbourne, Canberra, Wollongong, Sydney, Newcastle and Brisbane. That would link all but 1 of the 10 largest population centres in Australia. 15 million out of the 20 million population would be within 100 km of a station. For three quarters of the population almost all road trips would be under 100 km and long distances would be covered at 300 km/h in almost perfect safety. That's Sydney-Brisbane in 3 hours rather than 12.  Sydney to Thredbo door to door in well under 2 hours.  You couldn't fly that fast.   For less than what one road has cost the community in 10 years.

04 March, 2011

15 minutes – Day 107

Odo 1288

Well I'm getting my fifteen minutes in the spotlight. Something I never expected to see, a double page colour photo of me in a magazine. It feels quite strange. I'm glad I'm not Matt Newton (who has just been driven completely nuts by the media here in Australia).

The write up in Trail Bike Adventure Magazine is quite balanced I think. Interesting that they should do the write up at all as it's not really an Adventure Bike (other than the fact that with the poor state of public charging, it makes any trip beyond 50 km an adventure...)

It is a complete Pun Fest... Almost every line makes a hidden reference to something electrical.

I think anyone who hates the very idea of electric bikes will find things in the article that will speak to their bias. “...doesn't look good in terms of out and out versatility. It would take a lot of 60 minute sessions to cross the Simpson, especially with four-hour recharges factored in.”

The pro-electric brigade will see things in the article that will speak to them too “And there's a huge group of potential buyers who won't be fazed by the battery charge time. For riders living in cities and suburbs, the near silence of the Zero could easily make the difference between riding and not riding.” “On the road the Zero is brilliant...we reckon it rocked”

As I said, it seems well balanced. I'm lucky in that I have a sportbike and an enduro bike as well, so I don't feel the lack of versatility. I don't think the Zero will work as your only vehicle and really neither does TBAM. It's nice to see some coverage from media that is really somewhat outside the electric world. It's *very* nice to see such good honest coverage.

Anyway, it's in newsagent now and it's the Mar/Apr 2011 edition. I'll put in small thumbnails that I think is “fair review” about what you'd glean from flicking through a mag in a shop.   I don't think electristas will learn much from the article, but I think it's worth the cover price, so buy it!

25 February, 2011

I'm spreading misinformation – Day 100

Odo 1236

In a recent post I blasted Zero. I realise that a lot of what I've said has been based on misreading their website.

The price has only gone up 5% not 25%. I got confused as the website seems to now autodetect my country and gave me local price rather than the US price. Strangely it still gave the US phone number. I used to manually select Australia and it would show local price and local phone number. I thought I was manually selecting the US page to get the US price.

Also there is now a chain option listed for the DS. I don't know if it was there before, but that is a good thing if you're going to be using it on gravel or dirt roads.

On a disturbing note, initial reports are that Neal Saiki has left Zero however blogosphere reports are conflicting. It would be sad if he did. I could see Zero seriously losing their way without him.

I know that the chain has been worrying a few people. Well I cleaned mine last week and adjusted it today. I was careful to get the right size tools 5/16”, 7/32” allen keys and 13 mm open end spanner (thanks Harlan on the electricmotorcycleforum). I also discovered that I needed a 6 mm allen to remove the heel plate and back brake master cylinder to access one of the rear bolts.

Cleaning the chain was horrible as it always is. Used a full can of brake cleaner, but I'm going to try a different lube I've been hearing about. Will report on that when I get some. It was quite sandy (probably due to riding through deep sand I suppose). It's not perfectly clean now but it's better.

Contrary to some internet reports the bolts didn't seem over torqued but I used new tbar allen keys with straight (rather than the ball type) ends and was careful to make sure they were completely home before applying any torque to them. Adjustment was about 20 minutes start to finish and was fiddly but probably easier than adjusting a normal bike as I didn't need to remove a large nut with a huge torque. Didn't even need to wash my hands.  I also got a good look at the front sprocket and I can't see how to change it without removing the motor. It also appears to need a special tool of some sort to hold the motor still while you undo a bolt that retains the sprocket. I guess time (or even a workshop manual should that ever appear) will tell.

16 February, 2011

2011, Backwards or Forwards? - Day 91

Update See my comments and the later post, there are errors in this one. 

Odo 1142

No news on the bike. It continues to just run and make my life nicer.

I've had time to have a look at the spec sheet for the 2011 version of my DS. There's some good things listed. New brakes, which would be good. The old ones were dismal, but that was cured with a change of the fluid. These new ones could be overkill for what is really a very mild mannered motorcycle. Belt drive which will be good if you never go off road and a disaster if you do. On balance that seems like the wrong direction to go. But then the MX is now road legal so if your heart is in the bush then you'd have bought that one anyway (I would have if I was buying now).

The thing that disturbed me most though was the weight going from 122 to 132 kg. It could be a typo, but it's a worrying trend... When Neil was hands on with every aspect of the design, the weight control was very impressive. You could see that every gram was budgeted. Now it suddenly gains 10 kg. Where? What amazing improvement has caused a 10 kg increase? Yes it's got ~10% more battery power, but it's ~10% heavier as well, so no real gain there. I feel that Neil needs to keep a tight control over what's going on here. Great motorcycles have gone west with weight gain in the past. It's also ~20% more expensive. 9995 to 11895. Again, I'm not seeing much in the way of improvement for the money. The 2.3 hour charge is good, a socket that fits car chargers is good (except there's not one public plug that fits it in Australia), but it's another 700 dollars again pushing the total to 12500! 25% higher than the 2010 bike. Brammo has dropped their prices rather than increased. I expected to pay a premium as an early adopter. Now it's looking like I got in on the cheap ones. Looking at the amount of money that's gone into the company in investment and the amount that's been returned by selling bikes you'd have to say each bike has cost 40-50 000 dollars to build. So either way we're getting a bargain. Still, I was expecting that as production ramped up from prototypes to production line that costs per unit would come down rather than rise.

So to sum up, the new one is slower (heavier and same power equals slower), slower to charge (unless you pay 700 dollars extra) and much more expensive.

I feel like Zero is losing its way. However it may be that they're keeping touch with reality and building these bikes is costing more than they thought it would. I guess time will tell.

Just as an aside, while the SAE J1772 is an attractive standard in some ways and may suit the USA with their dozens of competing standards it's not right for here. We're lucky that our voltage is higher and there are really only 2 sockets most people will ever encounter. The 10 amp 240 volt domestic and the 15 amp “caravan” socket (10 amp plugs go into both 10 and 15 amp sockets, 15 amp plugs only go into 15 amp sockets). Rather than a J1772, for my money, here in Australia I'd want the option of a 15 amp 240 volt plug. That gives 3.6 kW and that would fully recharge my bike in just over an hour. (I wouldn't want to charge faster than that anyway for the battery's health) They're found in *every* caravan park and caravan parks are found in almost every town and along most highways. The equivalent in the USA would be the TT-30, found in every trailer park. The installed base is several orders of magnitude higher than J1772 is even forecast to be this decade, let alone what's currently installed. (nothing and no firm plans to do so). Even just having a charger that takes full advantage of the standard household outlet here (10 amp 240 volt) would mean my bike would be fully charged in well under 2 hours. Those outlets are *everywhere*. I counted 9 in the local shopping centre carpark that were next to parking spots. There are *no* J1772 outlets available here. I would estimate that there are at least 400 million 10 amp 240 volt outlets (there are 16 in my lounge room). Of course that doesn't tell you much on it's own, if all the power points are in one place, you can only recharge in one spot.

The last data I can find is that there are 1600 caravan parks with more than 40 sites and a total of 144 000 powered sites in Australia. (average of 90 powered sites) That dwarfs the confirmed roll out of public charge points (none). EV's need to *start* by taking advantage of what's there already. Use caravan/trailer plugs and leverage from that. J1772 will be good in due course. By all means, prepare for them, but don't wait for them.

12 February, 2011

Cars to the left of me, cars to the right – Day 87

Odo 1111

Car drivers never cease to amaze and amuse. Sadly it's hard to get pictures of them in action, but you can figure some things out by what they leave behind.

Here's what one car driver left behind. His car, parked across 3 motorcycle only parking bays.

Porn on the Internet! - Day 87

There's more porn happening on the net than I ever realised.  


Sexy, naked, city girl who's completely unadorned.  Makes my country bumpkin look a bit like she's trying too hard.  Who would have thought that the "fresh out of the shower" look would be so much nicer than lots of red makeup?

10 February, 2011

I tell a secret - Day

Odo 1111

Nice round number on the Odo. Well no, actually the opposite of round. Anyway that's not the reason for this post.

The secret that I alluded to recently is perhaps not so much of a surprise on reflection

In 2008 KTM announced an electric dirt bike and showed what looked like a slightly modified 125SX with an electric motor.  That's quite common for KTM with their two and fourstroke bikes of various capacities sharing as many parts as possible.  40 minutes at race pace, most details pinned down. Great specs but no actual rides for the press. It looked like a finished production bike and all that was left was integrating the electrics into the existing production line. KTM told us that it would be part of the 2010 model line up. Now in KTM speak a year's models are released in the middle (usually June or July) of the year before. So we expected to see the electric in about 10 months. July 2009 duly saw the 2010 bikes released, but no electric. Then there was an announcement in their annual report that 2010 meant 2010 and we would see it in the 2011 line up released in mid 2010.

Then in March 2010 they announced that it would be spun off as a separate line “freeride” and showed some rather disappointing prototypes that appeared to have grown from their freeride bicycle division rather than their motorcycles.

Much fanfare ensued surrounding these rather dismal offerings. (I'm a big KTM fan BTW and ride an EXC200 and was hoping for an electric version of the bike I already ride)

Unlike the initial offering there are no specs, no performance promises, just fancy graphics on the website (which is still up)

Phone calls to the largest dealer in Australia got little beyond nervous laughter.

Then … Nearly a year of silence.

Now the word has come from the distributors, the project has been shelved indefinitely.

That's it apparently. They say they're “waiting for battery technology to improve”. Which I take to mean they've given up.

So it joins the long list of great motorcycles that were never made. Bikes like the Yamaha RD750LC, Ducati Apollo, Kawasaki 750 square four twostroke and Norton rotary.

Seems a shame, but on the other hand the 2011 Zeros have just been shown and they include a street legal version of the X and MX.  Looks like everything we hoped for from the KTM but didn't get.

03 February, 2011

Odo 1033

Had to pop into town this morning. There's tonnes of off street parking but no handy poles I could chain the bike to so I parked on the street. When I came back to the bike this is what I saw. It's a bit hard to see in the photo but there are actually only two vehicles parked on this street for about a kilometre in both directions. Can you see them?  Yes, he double parked me in, too close to lift my bike off the side stand without denting his car.

Car drivers: never ceasing to cause amusement and amazement since 1899.

In other news the magazine's blog:
mentions that the issue with my bike in it has been put to bed. No word on when it will hit the shelves. There's a photo of Tom the magazine dude on my bike in the blog and a *very* brief mention in the blog itself. I took the photo, which I am claiming makes me a published Motorcycle Magazine Photographer. Well in my mind anyway.

30 January, 2011

Twisting the Tiger's tail – Day 74

Odo 953

The DS has a very mild hit off the line. Wheelstands are out. The throttle ramp is just too slow.

So now that the magazine shoot is over I can start to consider customisation. I could see a flash of blue under the yellow of the Delta-Q charger. I think it's an alltrax and if it is I should be able to reprogramme it. http://www.alltraxinc.com/Products_ControllerPro.html

To be sure I need to get a good look at it. There should be an LED near the large electrical connectors that gives a flash code but I can't see it. So time to crawl under the bike with a camera (my eyes aren't that good close up and I'm too lazy/vain to get glasses)

Looks pretty clear that it's an AXE 4855. I don't know what the “R5” means but it comes up on the dash during start up so it must be significant in some way. 4855 means that it's a 48 volt controller that does 500 amps. The throttle response rate is programmable so I should be able to get it wheelstanding. That would make it much more useful off road. Not sure if I want to void my warranty right now, so I'm going to think about it for a while. I haven't actually *needed* to pop the wheel up yet.

21 January, 2011

15 Minutes of Fame - Day 65

Odo 899

Today was the day. I've been hanging out for the magazine shoot. I didn't feel like the bike was really mine. I needed to keep it standard (and clean!) but I'm a bit of a fiddler. Tom from Trail Bike Adventure Magazine turned up http://www.tbam.com.au/blog and turned out to be the nicest guy. Very rushed but so willing to put himself out to explain just what was going on and the background of what he was doing.

I wheeled out the bike for him while he got his riding gear so he could take it for a quick street ride. Normally I never move a bike without shoes, but of course with all the excitement I did...

Wow that meaty sidestand makes a mess of your foot if you run it through the side. The boss reckons I'm bunging it on again, but it's bloody sore. I don't think I broke any bones because it doesn't flex funny, but it sure feels like I have. I asked if we had any bandages (as I wanted to strap it up before I put it in a boot). “Don't waste a bandage! Put a bloody bandaid on it!”

So 4 bandaids put it back together, I slipped on my riding gear and we were off.

I took him to the local mountainbike track. A little naughty but it was close, it was interesting and it was compact making the shoot easier.

Much photography was committed and then he took it for a ride.

Instant convert.

He must have ridden thousands of different motorcycles but that wide eyed enthusiasm is normally reserved for people on their first ever ride. I'm waiting for the article but the first impression I got from watching him get off the bike was bubbling joy. It's what I've been saying about these electric thingos. Nothing you read and no amount of research (and he's done a lot of both) prepares you for the reality of how damn nice these things are to ride. I'm really hoping that an experienced journo can put that joy, that he so clearly felt, down in words. I've tried but I know I've failed.

20 January, 2011

I know a seeecret – Day 64

Odo 884

I've just been let in on a secret that will be quite big news in the electric motorcycle world. By the time I can tell it will be common knowledge. But remember, you didn't hear it here first.

19 January, 2011

20/20 Hindsight – Day 63

Odo 884

I've got the new riding gear as I mentioned before. One of the side effects is that without the bulky jacket I can now see past my arms.

It's meant that I'm now using the mirrors. Unlike every other motorcycle I've ever had, I can actually see things in the mirrors. It's great. A completely clear view of what's happening behind me without turning 'round or looking under my arm.

It's only a little thing but it just makes the bike so much more pleasant to ride than anything else. Even if it cost more for a battery bike (which it might, I'm still not sure), I'd be happy to pay the extra. I couldn't see myself ever going back to petrol except in the most niche situations.

17 January, 2011

Tyred by the Police – Day 61

Odo 864

I mentioned that I was having trouble finding a front tyre. http://zerods.blogspot.com/2010/12/tyred-and-confused-day-27.html

I saw a picture of the new Zero DS Police Special on the net

I was well impressed, there is the tyre that I've been looking for. An exact match for the rear. I've emailed Phil from Zero to see if I can get them as a spare part. I'll let you know how I get on.

16 January, 2011

We don't serve your kind here – Day 60

Odo 849

Got visitors in the house this weekend, nine visitors. The place is a mad house. I have been short on sleep and I don't cope well with that. Last night two of them had a domestic and the kids of various ages were all up and jumping around (5-25 year olds). I tried to go to bed early but it was hopeless so I decided to go for a ride and clear my head.

I wheeled out the Zero and rolled silently into the night. There are no good rider's roads within range of either my wakefulness or my battery so I just rolled along next to the river. The moonlight glistened and my spirits rose.

I realised that I was thirsty. Really thirsty. I resolved to stop at the next available purveyor of beverages. Sadly that turned out to be the 24 hour McDonalds. Oh well. I also had a rather acid stomach and I thought something milky might settle it down.

So I stopped next to the Highway Patrol cars that had met up for a midnight picnic and got them to watch the bike while I slipped into the place. I could see the lights on and customers inside but the auto doors refused to respond to my waving distress. I realised I'd missed them and they were closed. However the drivethrough was open. Saved. I walked around there.

HELLO” I chirped brightly to the unseeing eye of the microphone.

I'm sorry we don't serve walkthroughs”. Clearly I was visible to an unseen camera.

Recognising immediately the futility of arguing my case to a 14 year old that was following orders I apologised and retreated.

So, I'm right in front of two Highway Patrol cars... I'm not going to ride in without my helmet. So it's on with the helmet and on with the gloves. I know that I'm not going to be able to carry a drink on the bike (they forgot cup holders) but I figure I'll make do. There's no clutch after all. Nip round to the drivethrough entrance, this time accompanied by my trusty steed.


Welcome to McDonalds, what can I get for you tonight”.

So I'm now acceptable. I place my order for a small chocolate thickshake.

That's a Large then?”

No, a small”

Choc Thickshake Med” appears on the screen.

After convincing them that is all I want I'm instructed to advance to the payment window where I'm greeted warmly by said 14 year old. (who actually looks about 20, I suppose 14 year olds aren't allowed to work the night shift). She informs me my purchase is $3.75 which seems a lot for sugary ice slurry. Of course I can't balance the bike while extracting my wallet from my back pocket and I can't extract notes from said wallet with my gloves on. Nor can I carry on a conversation with my helmet on. So I get off the bike (instantly converting myself back into a pedestrian) and take off my helmet and gloves, retrieve my wallet, pay and accept the change. Again I'm thanked warmly and instructed to go to the next window to pick up my meal. I sense a script being followed. I'm briefly struck with sympathy for the prematurely aged 14 year old but that feeling is overwhelmed by embarrassment as I see the line of cars waiting behind me while I re-don my helmet and gloves in readiness for the 20 foot journey to the next window.

There I'm handed the flimsiest plastic cup I've ever seen. Someone has worked out how to save 0.001 cents per cup by making it thinner. It's clear that I'm not going to be able to “make do” and carry it in my left hand. It's flexing alarmingly under the pressure of my simply holding it while standing still. So I balance it on a fencepost and ride the bike back out from the drivethrough then walk back against the flow to recover my drink.

By this time I could have ridden home and had something there, so I wasn't dying of thirst as I'd feared but it was very welcome all the same.

Bike continues to run faultlessly and has restored my sense of balance which is after all, what motorcycles are for.

11 January, 2011

Ninja Rider – Day 55

Odo 783

Haven't been riding much. It's been a time for family and friends so I've been driving them around in the Dinoburner.

As well it's been hot. Not super hot, but quite unpleasantly hot. I don't ride without some sort of protection and since I haven't commuted by bike for quite some time I had three options drafted from my other motorcycling activities. Full dirtbike gear, which made me look like I'd taken a wrong turn just before the start gate, one piece road race leathers, that made me look like I'd taken a wrong turn at the end of the main straight and touring clobber that made me look like I'd taken a wrong turn in the Hindu Kush.

I really didn't know what else to wear as there's very little on the market for commuters in tropic (well sub tropic) climes. Christmas came to the rescue as we were shopping for a chrissy present for the oldest boy and settled on a pair of Dragin Jeans brand kevlar lined pants. I got on their website http://www.dragginjeans.net/product/k-shirt and stumbled upon their “K” line of clothes. K-shirt, K-gloves and K-pants. Perfect for me! They were a bit eye wateringly expensive. The gloves were ok at 35 dollars but the pants and shirt were over 200 each. They're 100% knitted kevlar. I would have thought they'd be kevlar yellow but they're black and when I put the whole lot on I look like a Ninja. (well in my mind I do anyway). Getting a bit of reality, I think actually it looks like the tracksuit fairy has visited.  I think you're supposed to wear street clothes over them, but it's too hot for that.  My street clothes are shorts and tee shirt.  I can't imagine what a sight I'd be wearing shorts over track pants.

It's fantastic to ride in. Very strange experience to feel the wind flowing over you. So much cooler than either the leathers or the heavy touring jacket.

I'm back at work now and I'm wearing the shirt and gloves to work. Worn that way the shirt looks like a rather nice long sleeve pullover/jumper.

I don't know what they're like when you're sliding down the road and I hope that I don't find out either. Still they should be a lot better than nothing and they're better than passing out from the heat while riding.

Bike continues to run perfectly.

04 January, 2011

I'm Back – Day 48

Odo 748

Well nothing to report. I've been off work for a couple of weeks and anywhere I've needed to go I've generally been taking one or more passengers. No-one in their right mind would get on the back of a bike with me even if there was a pillion seat (which there isn't). I'm really struggling to think of something exciting or funny, but I've got nothing. Still I never promised that this would be a daily report.