Progress and Setbacks

by Ben N on August 27, 2015

It’s only one week until I leave for the LOOP THE LAKE trip. Am I ready yet? Well…..

IMG_4949I HAVE made some good advances on my aero/cargo tail. After seeing how much gear I needed to bring with me, I decided that I really needed something better than a passenger seat to carry it all. I already had some long-term plans for aerodynamics improvements for entering next year’s Craig Vetter Fuel Economy Challenge. So, I started building the tail.

The framework is built from aluminum – mostly angle, 1/8″ for the main pieces and 1/16th for the secondary pieces. The aluminum bolts to the bottom of the battery box, the fiberglass backrest/bulkhead, across the trunk (original grab-bar front mounting point) and across the very back end of the cycle (rear grab-bar mounting point.) Mostly, this involved me making a lot of cuts with my 4.5″ angle grinder and drilling holes with a 1/4″ bit.

Which leads to the frustrations…
I’m on a bit of a time crunch now, and I’m just working on the project as much as I can. I was FINALLY in the groove, cruising right along building the tail when – bzzzzt – my cordless drill stopped working. Huh? Try again. Nope, not working. Wait, it spun a tiny bit, for a moment. OK, try the battery on another tool. Hmmm. That one works fine. It’s probably the switch on the drill that’s the problem. If not, then the brushes. Either way, it’s a fair amount of work to take apart, examine, troubleshoot, and repair. Time I didn’t have.

IMG_4955That’s fine. I’ll just use my good old reliable corded drill. Bzzzzzt. What!?!?! Wait! The exact same thing just happened on my corded drill!?! Awwww come on!!!

Now, I’m standing in my driveway with about another 100 holes to drill, and no power drill to do it. Sigh.

I called my Dad. Fortunately, he was home and said he had an old, but perfectly good corded drill I could have. After a trip to my parents’ and back, I was in my driveway again, borrowed drill in hand, and making more holes.

I’ve pretty much just kept adding more triangle to the tail until it didn’t seem to flex anymore. A rectangle with an X inside it seems like a nice and simple way to build the box and include cross-bracing. When the frame is finished, I’ll cover it with a weather-proof material.

IMG_4971Except that I didn’t really have any material yet. So, it was time for another road trip. I called Midland Plastics several times, but never got an answer in their retail store. (A friend of mine later said that they are always really busy there.) Instead, I just drove there. Midland is a plastics distributor where you can get pretty much any kind of plastic material you want – ABS, PLA, Syrene, rod, sheet, whatever. They also sell retail and most of what’s in their storefront is scrap pieces from their custom cutting. I asked for 4×8″ sheets of corrugated plastic. Those go for about $15 each. (At Home Depot, they had some, sold as sign material, for more than $10 for a 30″x32″!) In the “drops” bin, I saw a number of sheets of black coroplast, about 2’x3′. It was selling for a dollar a pound. I grabbed a pile of the smaller sheets, ordered a 4×8, paid, loaded it all in my pickup and headed home.

The other thing slowing down working on the cycle is that I had an unexpected work project come up. It’s three solid days (very long days, including the weekend) of work that I was NOT expecting. For a while there, it was also going to be a last minute half-day as well, which then cancelled the moment I put away the project, all my tools, and got cleaned up!

That brings my 7 days of prep time before the trip down to 4. And one of those days is going to be my little girl’s first day of school, which I don’t want to miss.

In other good news, the wire harness IS long enough for me to mount the tail light ABOVE the tail. This is the high-visibility “Third Brake Light” position. It will be a little tight for getting the turn signals in, but I think I should be able to mount them appropriately. The license plate will most likely go right on the end of the tail.

I was also able to borrow an extremely small tent, which is good because it packs up so small, and a sleeping bag that is warmer than the one I own. Last time I camped near Lake Michigan, it was freezing rain all night!

I still have to skin the tail, build a lockable door for it, remount the chargers, build a seat (I removed the original one to fit the backrest!) add a 12V/5V out for running my phone and GoPro’s, AND work out all the details for meeting up with everyone on the trip.

Whew! Is that all? I know I’ll still have to pack, buy some food, and other general trip planning. Guess it’s time for me to get back to work!

Stay charged up,


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