Christmas day here in Umbria was unseasonably warm and sunny, and after days of rain everything was as lush as green as December allows. Being so nice my dad and I have been walking the woods and fields. I have many beautiful pictures to edit and post, but these are two of my favorites.
Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, and Happy New Year.
For most of the country today is voting day. (Take this as a reminder and go vote) There has been a lot more scrutiny around how voting systems can be manipulated to deter people from voting.
Though there isn’t a closely watched election this year in Washington I did want to call out how much I like the voting system here. Everyone is mailed a ballot weeks in advance along with booklets which explain all the propositions and have statements from each of the candidates. One can fill in the ballot at one’s leisure, using the the provided materials or the internet to do research while going down the ballot.
The ballots can be mailed back without postage anytime on or before Nov 5th or can be dropped off at one of many ballot boxes around. Since I had just finished adding a new lights to my bike last night I took a test ride to the ballot drop box.
For a healthy democracy I think two things are critically important: access to voting, so everyone can participate; and access to information, so everyone can vote with full knowledge of their choices. I really like the vote by mail system as it means that I don’t have to worry about finding my polling station, and I can research my choices thoroughly while filling out the ballot without pressure of holding up a line.
Down the street there is an amazing loose leaf tea shop where I source my favorite blends. To brew my tea I like to use a Bonavita Immersion Dripper. The dripper is very elegant being made mostly of porcelain, it seemed like a reliable and durable piece. Unfortunately the base and in mechanisms are plastic and one day a small, but critical, plastic arm snapped.
Normally this would be the end for the entire piece of hardware and the entire thing would need to be replaced. Luckily the bottom is easily removable and small pieces of plastic can be 3D printed.
With a little over 30 minutes of modeling and printing I had a design that fit and worked well. I decided to change the design and move more the the torque to be around the metal screw points instead of the plastic pins. I think this new piece should be much stronger than the original, but I might reprint it it more neutral color.
My mountain bike has been sitting in the garage for more than two years. It hasn’t been ridden and it was in dire need of maintenance and repair. Its a big heavy bike that is exhausting to pedal around a hilly city. It was just taking up space.
With my recent change of jobs I significantly extended the distance of my commute. The routing for the buses are not convenient and its a little too far and hilly to bike normally. To get across lake Washington and make it tolerable the mountain bike was going to need a little help.
So I decided to add an electric motor.
I ordered a hub motor kit and battery from Ebay with the goal of converting the bike into an e-bike that will make it easier to go long distances and to chew up all the hills in the way. But ordering a lot of electronics parts from china means they don’t come with very clear instructions.
The bike is still mostly in working condition. There was just one small broken plastic ring in the handlebar headset that had been keeping it off the streets. Bike shop wasn’t sure it would be able to source the part and wanted to replace the entire headset.
A small piece of plastic, why not just 3D print it?
I didn’t print this piece myself. I outsourced it to a friend who could print it in high performance PETG plastic so the ring would be flexible and durable. It took a couple of tries to get the fit exactly right.
Before mounting 20 lbs of electronics to the bike I needed to test to make sure everything was working. I temporarily mounted the new front wheel without tube or tire and hooked it up to the pile of cables on the ground.
Glad to say everything was working properly.
In attaching all the electrics to the bike I did encounter one expected problem. As a safety feature, the brake leavers needed to be replaced with leavers that have integrated electric switches which will serve as emergency power cut offs for the motor, so it can never accelerate while the brake is down. This Trek bike has integrated brake leaver and gear sifters on the handlebars, so I can’t replace the brakes without losing control of my gears. So instead of mounting the new brake leavers I went with magnetic switches attached to existing brake system.
There was still a lot more that needed to be done, but with everything critical bake in place and the electrics working I had to have it out for a test ride.
The test ride was a success though a little wobbly. I found that there were a lot of things to tighten down and that the front tire was not sitting completely evenly.
The electronic cut off brakes were working, but I wasn’t happy with the physical brakes. Unfortunately this bike cannot fit disk brakes, but I replaced the old brake pads with new larger ones and tuned up the whole system.
There are still a lot of improvements I would like to make, integrated front and rear lights, better cable management and housing for the speed controller, a speedometer and control display, and maybe even a more conformable seat. Its serviceable as it is and I have all winter keep making improvements.
I’ve been very busy for a few months now, which has meant that I have not had many opportunities to go out and take photos. With autumn here things are settling down and I was happy to find that the bees are still out stockpiling polling for the winter.
This weekend I was down in LA and on the Warner Brothers studio tour I got to live out a dream I didn’t realize I’d had, visiting the set of Friends. Though not in its original sound stage the set of Central Perk has been set up as it was on the last day of filming for visitors to take pictures sitting on the signature couch.