GLIDER CHRONICLES 2011 – November 12th : Pedal Power.

Believe it or not there WAS some flying on this day despite the weather at the start of the day being misty.

However this post is primarily to show some of the pictures of the 50th anniversary of a human-powered flight back in the 60s at Lasham by the then CFI Derek Piggott. Check out this hilarious British Pathe newsreel here.

The aircraft being flown at Lasham is called Airglow and uses modern materials and ideas. The day dawned very misty and the pedal-powered aircraft was trying to get some flights in before an airliner was due to take-off. You can see the firetruck trying to chivvy them along in the following shot.

Trying to get some last flights in before an airliner is due to roll. Hence the fire truck.

Mist covered sun.

The shot at the right shows just how misty the day was. I even managed to get some shots with the camera.

An interesting point about the construction that is shown in some of the shots later is that rather than having the weight of control cables running from the front cockpit area, they used model aircraft servos. Who would have thought that a pedal powered-aircraft would be fly-by-wire? But it worked admirably well, apart from getting a bit wet in the mist which messed up the contacts.

Also I am not sure I can say much positive about the fashion sense of the flyers. But what can you expect from a mixture of a pilot and a cyclist? 🙂

I will leave you with some of the other shots I took on the morning.

Until later.

View of the model aircraft servos for the elevator and rudder.


Back in 2004 I used to cycle to and from work. This was about a 10 mile ride and thanks to my left knee having been damaged over the years – I blame it on cars with stiff clutches – the daily 20 miles of cycling caused it to swell and become painful.

So rather than doing the sane thing and taking the bus, carrying a folding bike – which I did later – I decided to play at engineering! I fitted an electric motor to my bike. Obviously!

I had forgotten I had this web page around so I am now posting it up here where it belongs. This is exactly the same bike as I used in the Scotland charity ride in 2010, and I still use it.

I have now removed the electric motor and drive to work. I found that during the winter when it was dark on the way home, I did not have the energy after a full day of work. I might take another look at the battery technology now to see about using it in the summer. That would be a fun piece of research since it is the batteries that are really the limiting factor.

The bike is a standard Giant Terrago 2002 (rear wheel is 36 spoke pattern – this is important). I fitted the Currie US Pro-Drive system which attached to the rear wheel hub and spokes and had a 24V brushless DC motor. Scott MacGregor, EVDeals, in the US was extremely helpful and is a very authoritative source of information and parts.

Some photos. The bike is of course very grubby due to the off-road portion of the ride!

Battery mounting showing that they only just fitted within the frame.

Some photos without the batteries mounted:

Shot showing the motor attached to the rear wheel.

Photo showing the battery mountings.

The Ride
The cycle ride was 9.25 miles each way, 3 off road. The batteries when fully charged lasted the whole journey giving 17-18mph on the flat, so I got (with a fair level of assist) a 16mph average speed giving a 35 minute travel time (10 more than the average car journey).

Charging Regime
I recharged the batteries as soon as I arrived at work and as soon as I arrived home in the evening since it is just a slow charge rate (0.1C). Depending upon conditions (headwind etc) the day charge meant that the batteries would not last the whole way home. I was always on the lookout for a faster NiMH charger, but I didn’t have a temperature sensor on the battery pack. This would have been needed for higher charge rates to stop the batteries overheating. I would have used that only in the day since I had planned to only do a slow overnight 0.1C charge to keep the battery stress level down. The batteries were given a full 0.1C recharge at the weekend to even them out. The charger was a Lawtronics 0.1C charger.

The Batteries
The final battery setup was 20 NiMH (Nickel Metal Hydride) 1.2V ‘D’ cells of 7Ah each. Altogether they would deliver between 20 and 30 Amps peak!

The batteries were BYD H-D7000D types which I had intended to upgrade to the SAFT 8.5Ah D cells to give greater range. But at around £120 for a full set, which would only last one year, I demurred. I could also have used the SAFT 13Ah F cells which were twice the weight and half as long again as the D cells and would have needed another 2 tubes on the bike.

Overall, apart from more capacity and a faster charger I was very pleased with NiMH cells. The SLA (Sealed Lead Acid) gave me only a 40 minute ride time due to the voltage sag while riding. Also the NiMH cells only weigh in at 3kg against the 9kg for the SLA battery.

Getting a Decent Contact
The battery pack was originally connected in line, but not very tightly, and with about 1 inch of copper wire between each battery. This resulted in some voltage loss and a VERY high temperature during running and recharge. I then soldered them directly to one another – very tricky – and this all changed dramatically. Their charging temperature was “tepid” at the 0.1C rate and they hardly got warm during discharge at all, especially since they were in the air stream and had good cooling.

Its amazing what you can do with:
1: 32mm plastic drain pipe.
2: Some pipe sleeves.
3: Some blagged 9mm soffit board, cable ties, epoxy and B&Q velcro straps, plus all the wiring and batteries of course.

Construction Photos
Although you cannot see them the batteries were a nice tight fit in the tubes and I soldered the wiring to their contacts. This is the only way to make this technology work well, because otherwise you lose too much power in the contacts.

Battery pack showing the audio charging connector and the bullet style main connector.

The other end of the batteries.

The internals of one end of the connection.

Closeup shot 1 of top mountings.

Closeup shot 2 of top mountings.

Closeup shot 3 of top mountings.

Closeup shot 1 of bottom mountings.

Closeup shot 2 of bottom mountings.


Scott MacGregor, EVDeals, in the US. Knows his stuff and very helpful.

Yahoo power assist group, contains photos of disassembly.

4QD – controllers (brushless only), electronics etc. Some very useful documents.

AtoB mag.

Lawtronics, makers of battery chargers.

Cycling now done

Well, managed to actually enjoy myself on the cycling trip from dear Inverness to John O’Groats. First day was beautiful and only a 50 mile run so was all done by early afternoon. Second day was more challenging what with a 20mph headwind for the first 50 mles followed by a 50 mile run along the coast with massive hills that went on for miles. A place called Bettyhill is forever stamped in my memory.

I can recommend the area north of Inverness and south of Lairg. The scenery around there was really lovely. But as usual it is possible to get some rather grumpy B&B establishments. However the Mackays Hotel at Wick at the end of it all was very hospitable.

So 2 photos. The first is the view coming down to Bonar Bridge near Ardgay, and estuary to the north of Inverness. The second is a view of me looking gormless with the bike and a much nicer view in the background. For this part of the journey I was the only one with a mountain bike and panier! But its my setup and works for me, despite being rather heavy. Just think what I could do with a real roadbike!

View down into Ardgay estuary

Yours truly with bike.

So all in all a great experience, and all the training made it manageable. Also got to see a lovely part of the countryside, well worth it.

Time to go Cycling

What have I done?
On a completely different subject to the posts so far, I have committed to a charity cycle ride of 150 miles over 2 days in…

Its being run by Lloyds. Tour de LDC they are calling it. Cheesy or what.

I though it would be pretty in Scotland! In mid-June… All those mosquitoes. Hmmm, or should I say Buzzz.

I am taking part in the last 2 legs of the ride which is a 14 day Lands End to John O’Groats run.

Day 1: Friday 18th June. Inverness to Lairg. 49miles.
Day 2: Saturday 19th June. Lairg to John O’Groats. 95 miles.

The first day is manageable, although rather hilly. The second day will be the interesting one. Rather a long route but according to the blurb: “Not too hilly” Yeah. Right. This is Scotland we are talking about.

The Training so far…
My training so far has got to the point where I can manage 49miles in 4 hours saddle time going from home to my favourite airfields, of course! Kingsclere to Popham to Lasham and back to Kingsclere. The last leg back to K-town is a long climbing run of 400ft over about 8miles which, at the end of 40miles is good practice.

Next weekend is time to extend to 70 miles, then 90 after that if I can manage it.

The Bike
The bike is just a mountain bike and no I am not a “lycra lout” so I do not intend to have figure hugging lycra clothing. Perish the thought. Although I have to say I have invested in some padded shorts. The bike is the same one I have had for a while when I used to cycle to and from work in Newbury. Doing that every day did my left knee in and so I put an electric motor on it. Some pictures are here. Luckily, as long as I am careful, the knee seems to be holding up.

The Charity
The charity I have decided to support and get sponsorship for is called “Friends United Network”, FUN, geddit? And no not the re-united one. I had not heard of it until signing up for the ride, but it is a charity that has volunteers to help mentor young people over a sustained 2 year timeframe. This looks like it really is something that can make a difference and is a subject close to my heart. I think it is something I will look at volunteering for later in life once work comes to a manageable level.

The website for it is called Friendshipworks and is nicely done.

If you do feel like donating, I have set up an online charity page here:

(Note that bmycharity does this as a free service unlike others which take a percentage)

Well that’s all for now. Will keep you posted. There are some tech postings in the pipeline.