Pedal Power Generation Homebrew : LUSENET : TimeBomb 2000 (Y2000) : One Thread

This is an article from Home Power Magazine Issue #56 (about 3 years ago), posted with permission.

Electro-Biking Coyright, Bill Gerosa, Jr. 1997

The northeastern portion of the United States is not particularly kind to avid cyclists, especially those who work during prime daylight hours. The electro-bike, herein referred to as E.B., was designed to keep the user aerobically fit while creating some extra power to charge batteries.

Any bicycle will do. However, bicycles with wheels of larger diameters, such as 27 inches as opposed to 16 inches, create more mechanical advantage as will be shown. Both street bikes, with very narrow, smooth tires, and mountain bikes, with wide, knobby tires, have been used with equal success. The bicycle is placed upon the stand, which is an Advent Mag-Trainer. It comes assembled and folds up easily for transport even after the generator is added.

Construction/ First, we removed the roller and flywheel mechanism from the Advent Mag-Trainers frame. Two nuts and bolts hold the roller in place. Then, a metal plate, with two holes drilled in it, was placed upon the bike stands swivel mount, right under the rear wheel of the bike. This plate was 11 inches by 7 inches and stiff enough to allow slight flexing. Two nuts and bolts were used to secure the plate to the swivel mount. The generator was mounted upon this plate using four, two inch L brackets. There are two long bolts that run through the generator, horizontally when the generator is on its side. The L brackets can simply be fastened to these. It is not feasible to have the axle of the generator pressed up against the bikes rear wheel because massive slippage occurs. A small wheel needs to be fastened to the generators axle. Anything with a circumference between 2 and 10 inches should do. The smaller the wheel, the greater the mechanical advantage, but the more likely slippage is. I simply used the flywheel that came with the stand. Since the generators axle was too large to be fastened to the flywheel, I had to grind the axle down. Hooking the generator to a 12 Volt battery and running it as a motor allowed the use of a file to whittle down the axle to the proper size. Once this was accomplished, we put the flywheel on the generator and drilled a hole through the flywheel mount and generators axle to get a secure fit. A bolt was passed through this hole and fastened with a lock washer and nut.

Operation/ The bicycle is secured upon the stand by placing the E.B.s back wheel between the Advent stands two cup holders. A cycles rear wheel has an axle with a lug nut at each end. These lug nuts are to be placed in each one of the cup holders. Then the cup holders are to be tightened down on the lug nuts until the bicycle is held firmly. This also allows perfect alignment (left to right) of the rear wheel directly above the generators wheel. Now the tension of the generator mount needs to be set. The knob under the metal plate changes the inclination of this plate upon which the generator is mounted. The adjustment knob should be tightened so that you can hold the generators wheel with one hand while trying to spin the bikes rear wheel with the other and get no slippage. Do not overtighten. This will put undue stress on the components. It does not take much tension to eliminate slippage.

Since the rear wheel of the bike is about one inch off the ground while in the stand, place a piece of wood under the front wheel. This will make the bike level and prevent the rider from sliding forward on the seat while pedaling. Keep in mind that the folks at Advent constructed this stand so that you may easily remove a fully functional road bike and take it out for a spin on a sunny day. Simply unscrew the holder cups from the lug nuts of the E.B. and the bike easily comes away from the stand.

Math and Mechanics/ The Univega Mountain Bike we used for most of the testing has 26 inch wheels. The circumference is approximately 82 inches (Circ. = PI * Dia. or 3.14 * 26 = 81.64). This fact is important when deciding on the wheel you are going to use on the generator. A wheel with a circumference of 10 inches will spin 8.2 times faster than the bikes rear wheel ( 82/10 = 8.2). A wheel with a circumference of 4 inches yields much more mechanical advantage ( 82/4 = 20.5 times). The faster the generators axle spins, the more amperage is available at the generators output terminals.

I had no way of accurately measuring work exerted on the bike, but I tend to spin a bikes cranks at about 80 RPM using the large sprocket when I am on the road. This large, front sprocket has 52 teeth and the smaller sprocket on the rear wheel has 13 teeth, meaning the rear wheel spins 4 times faster than the cranks do. If the cranks are spinning at 80 RPM, then the rear wheel is spinning at about 320 RPM. As shown before, the rear wheel has a circumference of 82 inches to the flywheels 10 inches. The generators axle spins 8.2 times faster than the rear wheel. So, the rear wheel moving at 320 RPM means that the generators axle is spinning at about 2,624 RPM.

This generator speed consistently creates about 4 to 5 amperes of power. Crank speeds closer to 100 RPM create about 6 amps. On sprints, I have watched the ammeter jump to almost 7 amps, but these speeds are not sustainable, even for the disciplined athlete. The amperage measurements were obtained by hooking an ammeter directly to the generator. Use blocking diodes (I suggest at least 10 ampere diodes) between the generator and the battery to prevent the generator consuming power when it is not in use.

The Next Step/ Recently, we have added a second generator to the stand which doubles the power output. I am searching for a larger generator that would do the work of two American Bosch generators. Please note, that although I have listed the supply house for the American Bosch generator, they no longer list this item in their catalog. I believe they still have some in stock, though. All of this experimentation is a fine balance between power creation and the strength required to turn the bikes rear wheel. The current configuration with one American Bosch generator can be easily spun by people of all ages. Larger generators would be more difficult to spin and might be feasible only for those looking to endlessly climb imaginary hills.

Finally, a cyclocomputer will be added that will measure ground speed, time in training, average speed and top speed. This instrument will be used primarily to compare the E.B. feel to that of a bike on a road surface. If the average speed of the E.B. is much higher than that of the bike on the road for a trip of the same length, then it can be deduced that the E.B. is too easy and more load should be mated to the E.B.s rear wheel. Since there is no wind present when using the E.B. indoors, additional resistance must be presented to the E.B.s rear wheel to experience a life-like ride.

System Cost/ The Advent Mag-Trainer was purchased at a cost of $140 plus tax at the local bike shop. The American Bosch generators were $12.95 apiece. All the other hardware, which we already had in the basement, would have only been a few extra dollars to purchase.

Access/ Author: Bill Gerosa, Jr., 134 Palmer Avenue, North Tarrytown, NY 10591-1616  212-222-9042  Email: Advent Mag-Trainer procured at local bike store American Bosch generator (Item# 10-1023) Supplier: Surplus Center, 1015 West O Street, P.O. Box 82209, Lincoln, NE 68501-2209  800-488-3407

-- Don Kulha (, August 18, 1999


I'm a big believer in time being our most precious resource. It's the one thing you never get back. To ride a bike for electical production seems foolhardy to me, but maybe the writer doesn't understand the minisucle value of his 5 to 6 amps output.

With all due respect, let me put it in perspective:

It looks like this contraption would produce about 72 watt per hour or .072 kW hrs for every hour of pedaling, that's about 1/3 of a cents worth of power, so if you pedaled 8 hours a day for a year, you'd earn about $9.00 worth of electricity. Only 22 years and you'd pay it off.

In that same hour you could cut and stack 1/4 cord of firewood (worth $30, or 10,000 times more value and 2 kwhr of power (6 million BTUs) or 27 times the power capacity.

For that same $200 you could buy a lot of propane or diesel or even batteries already filed with potential power.

Seems like human powered electricity is a little inefficent doesn't it?

-- Randers (, August 18, 1999.

Yep I think so....I'm not terribly interested in pedaling one. However, over the years I've recieved numerous requests from folks who were interested in this. The article author did a good job of quantifying the amount of energy it would be expected to produce which is good info for anyone considering this. For a minimalist amount of power it could run a radio, some lights (LEDs would be perfect) and charge the batts for a 2 meter handheld or scanner. Then too, anyone having read Dean Ing's "Pulling Through" might be interested.

Me, my 750 watt PV array filled the batts early this afternoon so I'm set to "couch potatoe" this eve and maybe watch "Blade" or something. I just nuked a bowl of chilli and pulled a Brisk ice tea from the fridge. If it stays cloudy tomorrow I may start the genny for a while (it's been a couple months since I ran it). I do need to buy a bike but the only generating it will do is sweat on my brow.


-- don kulha (, August 18, 1999.

My first thought when reading this was that the set up would only produce about 60 watts of power, or one kwh every sixteen hours, more or less. Two eight hour days to produce five or ten cents worth of power.

Then I read Randers's letter, whose numbers are about the same. However, I don't necessarily agree with his conclusions.

Believe it or not, there are a lot of people who actually ride their bikes on stands, or ride "excercycles" inside their houses. All these bikes generate is waste heat. If someone wants to ride their bike to power a small (50 watt) light bulb to light a book while they ride, power to them. I just hope they don't buy a battery to go with it. Batteries are a real pain, and aren't necessary to light the lightbulb. If you already have a battery system, might as well help charge it, though.

Who cares if you get a "return on your investment? If you buy ANY solar equipment, you are NEVER going to get a "return" on your investment, if you figure in replacement cost. figures that the cost of generating power with solar panels costs some 43 cents per kilowatt hour over the life of the system, compared to between 2 1/2 cents per kilowatt hour and over ten cents per kilowatt hour for "grid" power (in the USA).

But if you want a back up system, you may be willing to pay a higher cost per kwh for the security.

For myself, (I ride my bike OUTSIDE, to go places, and feel like a fool riding inside for excercise) I guess I'd rather generate a little power than waste heat, if for some reason I decided to ride inside, just for excercise. Ride on!


-- Al K. Lloyd (, August 18, 1999.

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