Saturday 12 November 2016

The Black Diamond ReVolt headlamp demanding Black Diamond batteries

I have a Black Diamond ReVolt headlamp which is nice with its night vision red light, light intensity variation and USB charging. Now, after 2,5 years of usage the LED:s started to blink red and orange which apparently means the batteries are screwed. The manual says you have to use Black Diamond batteries which is obvious marketing bullshit, so I got some Varta 1000 mAH, 1,2 V rechargable batteries from the closest store.

But as I got home and replaced the batteries the LED:s started to flash red, which means the batteries are not Black Diamond batteries. WTF I though in disbelief, what could be the difference between two types of NiMH 1,2 V, 1000mAH rechargeable batteries? Looking closer at the headlamp I noticed contacts at the - side of the battery holders. In the picture below one of those contacts can be seen to the right (the - side) in the empty slot.

I always wondered why the Black Diamond batteries didn't have that coloured cover along all the length. At first I thought the headlamp checks if there is a connection between the - pole and those weird extra contacts. So I took a knife and cut off the cover at the - end of the batteries (this has been done to the batteries in the picture) and I got the LED:s to blink green (as in charging). Why, Black Diamond, have you done this stupid thing? To sell more batteries?

Ordering new active carbon for my Katadyn Vario water filter at MontK in Berlin I also talked about headlamps. It turns out Black Diamond has had a lot of trouble with their headlamps so my verdict is clear: Screw it.

Wednesday 9 November 2016

The end of the beginning

All my life I have had the feeling of wanting forward, of never to stagnate, of wanting constant progress in search of something. For a long time it was unclear to me what that something was and I didn't know where to go, what to do. But during the last 15 years it has become clear to me it is love I have been looking for.
It has been hell! I have fought, I have destroyed, I have cried, I have twisted my brain, I have hurt people, I have acted like an asshole but always trying to do the right thing, to take yet another step in the right direction, no matter how tough it has been. I knew I was fighting for something much greater than me, so what did my little life matter. I had to continue.

First I reached out. I have had more relationships than I can remember. I have tried writing, I have hundreds of emails where I have discussed life with loads of people, most of them now unknown to me. I continued the intellectual search with classic Freudian therapy and CBT which made me more aware, intellectually, but it didn't really help. Then I found Zhineng Qigong which has proven to be an absolutely brilliant tool to reach within oneself.

Because within yourself, that is where the key to love is. There is no lack of love, there is no such thing as lack of love. But it is your ability to love that fails. Love is a universal power! It is there for everybody. We can all access it. But you have to clean up whatever mess it is in you that makes it impossible for you to feel it, sense it, be filled with it, become a part of it. To love.

All this trip I have had the feeling of being guided. The realisation I was now strong enough to leave came in January. So I applied for a year off. Then came the idea of an e-bike tour. So I got all the gear, left my apartment and then Sweden. The trip has also been hell! I have cursed, I have frozen, I have yelled, I have suffered but all the time I have had a strong feeling of being on the right track. Being on my way to discover love.

I got there this weekend. I am filled with love. My eyes shine. I expire love! I now understand what it is all about. But there is no point for me to tell you about it because you have to get there yourself. Sure, there are tools that can help you but you have to find out your own truth. YOU have to learn how to love. No one can do that for you. So come on! Get out there, look for your path to love! It is so worth it. The best thing is it will save the world, and how we need that now!

Tuesday 25 October 2016

The solar system - in action up north

This fall was beautiful as I started this trip and the charging battery was kept full. I also stayed at friends' places and charged the bike battery (I know, not solar and I'm not sure why I cheated). But then the sun went and never came back.

The cooler was fine for quite many days as it uses so little energy but eventually the charging battery was empty. This should not happen as I had set the solar charger to cut power to the consumers when the voltage dropped below a low level. But it still did. I need to check the limits once the system is up again.

The problem now is my solar system has a battery that cuts its power when the voltage drops below 10 V and a solar charger that needs power to charge. (The power coming from the solar cells do no good.) I am stuck.

Of course there is the solution of having a 230 V charger charging the battery. This solution would not work where there is no 230 V, however, so I feel I need a better solution. Is there one?

There could be an extra battery but the lithium 12 V battery I have cannot be coupled in series nor parallell. The option of keeping an extra battery just to use it to power a 230V charger through the 12/230 V converter seems so... brutal. What should I do?

Monday 17 October 2016

Ending the first leg

The first leg of this trip is to Berlin, which I want to reach before my birthday on 1 November, and it all looked very well in the beginning. The speed was a bit slow but I compensated that by taking the ferry from Trelleborg to Sassnitz instead of going through Denmark.

Other problems were becoming increasingly annoying, though. First of all the 400 Wh bike battery is not enough with this heavy load. Second, when charging it with the charging battery it was drained. And once drained I could never fill it up again.

The solar system just does not do. At least not in northern Europe at this time of the year. Not if the weather is as shite as it has been, at least. I haven't seen the sun in a week!

So, the conclusion of this first leg is to not depend on solar energy at this time of the year this far north, not if the anount of solar panels is limited, at least.

There is no point continuing but I will now take the train to Berlin. I will simply use other eco-friendly tools to make up for the time I've lost. Hopefully the system will prove to be adequate further south.

The solar system

Going on a bike tour one might think the bike itself would be my primary focus. But with a master's in electrical engineering and being environmentally concerned, I have been very focused on the electrical, ie solar, system.

The bike has a 250 W, 36 V Bosch engine with a 400 Wh battery.

The bike trailer can nicely fit two 50 W solar panels from SunBeam. They are connected through a Peak Power EP MPPT, 10 A solar controller to the system.

Just beacuse there would be electricity on the trip a cooler sounded like that piece of equipment that you just never can bring along but now could. So the Waeco beauty CoolFreeze CF-11 was tajen onboard. It is a very efficient piece of machinery and consumes only about 6-7 Ah a day, meaning about 80 Wh.

So, there are the outer boundaries - a cooler consuming about 80Wh a day and a bike wasting 400Wh and to our disposal are 100W solar panels. It sounds doable, with only half the day sunny, even with a phone and laptop and what not also to be charged.

A battery big enough to feed the cooler and fill up the bike battery would imply 400 + 80 Wh = 480 Wh that in a 12 V system would mean a 40 Ah battery. Lithium, of course, or LiFePO4 to be exact, which I found at Batteriexpressen.

Note that there is a 10% loss in the 12/230 V converter needed to charge the bike battery and the solar panels will not be able to deliver 100W. But not sure about what exactly the needs were and the fact already the 40Ah battery is bloody heavy, I leave the system as this for now.

Saturday 15 October 2016

The irony of life and the art of following the flow

The other day I had to stealth camp at the beach in Baabe, Rügen. The day after, as I was giving up hope on finding a suitable spot for the night, a friend of mine, Elaine, told me she had relatives on Rügen! I tore the camp down and went riding.

I didn't know where to go, all I knew was they were probably in Bergen auf Rügen now and would either go to Baabe or continue to Lietsow for the night. I went to the road between these places and looked left and right. Where should I go? They were at a yoga class so there was no way to find out and it was getting dark. I had to take a chance.

So I took a chance and went towards Bergen/Lietsow. As I was rolling downhill I had a bad feeling though, so I stopped and talked with Elaine on the phone for a long while. We came to the conclusion I should continue to Lietsow. But as we were parting I asked her "left or right?" and she said left, the direction of Baabe!

It felt right, so I went. Almost in Baabe I stopped at a fastfood/beer place in Sellin and ordered beer and sausage as the phone called. It was Elaine's mother and they were coming by on their way to Baabe (!) in 30 minutes, just enough for me to enjoy my food and beverage and contemplate how good it is to listen to the qi field.

Now the two lovely ladies are hosting me for three nights, including coffee on the bed (!) and I have gotten the strength to continue. I have filled the cooler with food and have booked a youth hostel in Greifswald for tomorrow and the weather forecast doesn't look too bad. The only problem is my charge battery is empty but let's save that shot for another post. :)

Friday 14 October 2016

A Swedish-Finnish radio show

As I was preparing my departure I had the pleasure of attending the Swedish-Finnish radio show Sisuradio. It was a blast! I talked about qi, the state of the world and not so much biking.

Link to the program

Covered by the local newspaper

As I moved out of my apartment I formed a basecamp at my parents' place, which is also close to Älvängens cykel where I bought the bike. On the day I was leaving the local newspaper, Alekuriren, came by for an interview. It is in Swedish, of course.

Link to article in Alekuriren

Thursday 13 October 2016

Stealth camping on the German riviera

Already when I arrived to Skåne I realised I had not thought about the higher population density going south. In fact, I haven't camped since I left Halland and Germany is even worse. But, being a good boy I went to the tourist office in the lovely village of Binz and asked. She said all forests are protected but the beaches are free, as an "emergency escape". Cool, I thought and didn't think further about the look in her face.

Off I went, heading for the beaches south of Sellin. Slowly I got conserned. All beaches had a sign saying Hochwasserschutzgebiet, High tide protection area, enter at your own risk. On the other side of the boardwalk were houses. Damn!

As it got darker the small patches of trees in front of the houses showed to be a possible solution. I found a lower spot with a couple of trees and started to set up the tarp. It was hardly possible to see! But I was worried about the residents so I sneaked around, slowly building the camp, trying to act like any tourist. The fact I had a video conference with my colleagues at the same time did not help!

It soon got dark and I knew I was safe until dawn. I do not like acting like this but tonight the same thing happens. This time I've passed Groß-Stresow and there are no houses but some national park guys drove by and said I'd better move. "But if it rains it will be an emergency escape" he added, so for a while I stayed, hoping for rain. But then I saw a notice on Facebook from a friend in Frankfurt am Main about her having relatives on Rügen so I packed my gear and left, believing it would sort itself out. Let's see!

Monday 10 October 2016

The flag

Every mission needs a flag, I thought, and decided on the old classic rainbow flag. Is has been used as a symbol for peace through many centuries. This flag is the same as you can see on the trams and busses of Gothenburg during the Pride week. It is made to handle strong winds and has worked well so far. On it I used an old marker pen my mom gave me to write the mission URL. It has also lasted, so far.

But why a flag, really? I do not know, just as I do not know why I am biking in the first place. Many days it seems stupid. After all, going from A to B, take a train! If you like to camp, why not a seakayak, it can take a lot of weight. Biking with all this equipment is mostly a pain in the arse, to be honest. Well, one day it will all make sense. :)

Stealth camping on the German riviera

Finally! A day of rest. I decided to take the ferry from Trelleborg to Sassnitz instead of going through Denmark, which saves me many days. The reason for shortcutting being it is no fun to stress. Rushing makes the travel boring, I can't experience the environment but have to rush through.

The best days so far have been the ones I've casually cruised south, enjoyed the scenery, stopped whenever I wanted to and just taken in the energies. Those days I've only made about 30 km, though, so maybe I need some lazy days and some others with a clear goal. Far enough to make good progress and with food and a shower awaiting. For this, has proved excellent!

On average I've done about 50 km a day, which is quite a lot, though. There really is no need to stress. Looking at Google Maps I have less then half the way left to Berlin! That would mean I could really relax and enjoy and in fact, travel half speed. Which of course would hit back with a vengeance! ;) So, I won't, but still, I think I can relax.

But I do need to take care when I camp! Setting up a tent in Germany is quite a gray area and it seems the best thing is to simply ask. Ask the locals or the "Forstamt", the forester authorities.

Tuesday 4 October 2016

The beauty of the Swedish west coast

I have realised I will not have time to do all that detailed travel reporting I thought there would be plenty of time for. The days go by while biking, finding a camp spot, setting up the camp, sleeping (plenty!), tearing down the camp... But I will tell you about two beautiful, secluded spots where you can camp, that I've found so far.

Ölmanäs Past the last houses on Mor Annas väg, follow a horse trail and you will see the cliffs on your right eventually. You can't see the ocean but hear it and it is secluded, even if some people walk or ride past. Follow the trail pass the sewage plant (yeah nothing is perfect) and walk right for a swim.
Map 1 October 2016

Gamla Köpstad Just south of Träslövsläge there are some trees by the water that hide a close to perfect camping ground:
Map 3 October 2016
The highway is noicy but where can you find silence these days? A lot of people walk by but they can hardly see you hidden behind the trees.

Thursday 29 September 2016

Time to leave

Finally! What a long journey it has been to get everything ready to leave. Cleaning out the apartment was a tremendous task and getting the equipment has taken so much time. But now, at last, it is time.

Here is the vehicle, 70 kg of bike, trailer, electronics, battery, tent etc. I will write more about the solar system one day because it is well worth a closer look, as are many other things. But now, on the last night before takeoff, I am far too tired to write anything more than this. See you on the road!

Wednesday 14 September 2016

Going in style

Space is very limited but there was a volume that I found a total waste, the can holders of the cooler box. But then one day it struck me - let's find glasses that fit! And I did find two lovely pieces in my parents' vitrine. Now I can dine with class.

Tuesday 23 August 2016

Is it a bike tour or a cool transport?

So I want to be able to cope on my own for as long as possible once out on the road. Hence the solar panels. And the multifuel burner. And a cooler! Compressor driven, to save energy. The smallest I was able to find on the market was the Waeco Cool Freeze CF-11 so I called Dometic and talked to Martin Sandell who thought the trip was an excellent idea and of course I would get a good deal! On a true sinus 12/230 V converter too, no problem.

So I happily got my stuff and placed the cooler in the bike trailer:

It's huge. It is made for a car and in the backseat it probably looks great but a bicycle trailer is so small...

But thou shall never give up! Contemplating the problem and playing around with different solutions I realised the axletree was screwed to the frame. That means wheels can be lowered (or the frame lifted) and suddenly things looked better:
Looking at it from the other side:

Monday 22 August 2016

Qi gong power

At Acorn we each year conduct a physical test at Aktivitus which gives a good measure of the current health state. Last time I did the test running but this time I biked instead. So, the status before the adventure starts is as follows.
Note the lactate measured - they were quite surprised! Also note that I have done no crossfit since April, longest run in the last two years is 3x400m (crossfit) and the longest bike ride was 40 km, 20 years ago. Qi gong power, that's all I can say, so thank you European Zhineng Qigong!
  • Blood pressure  129/76 mmHg (down from 138/78)
  • Hemoglobin 156 g/l (down from 166, but well within the 130-170 range)
  • Glucose 6,3 mmol/l (up from 5,8 but within the 4-7 range)
  • LDL 2,5 mmol/l (down from 3,19)
  • HDL 1,6 mmol/l (down from 2,07, worse but still >1,0)
  • Total cholesterole 2,9 (up from 2,6 but still <4,0)
  • Triglycerides 1,0 mmol/l (down from 1,32)
  • VO2max  47,6 ml/(kg*min) (down from 56,6 but apparently running and biking give very different results)
  • Absorption of oxygen ability 4,0 l/min (down from 4,73)
  • Max pulse, estimated 190 bpm
  • Max pulse, measured 185 bpm (up from 183)
  • Anaerobic threshold 160 bpm (down from 170) or 210 W or 2,50 W/kg
  • Aerobic threshold 145 bpm (down from 155) or 160 W or 1,90 W/kg
  • Lactate, max measured 15,5 mmol/l (up from 10,5)
  • Body fat 22% (an "acceptable" level)
Biking for days on end I must keep below the aerobic threshold of 145 bpm. And I'm pretty sure the body fat will go down, maybe even to the "fitness" level below 18. (The "athletic" level is below 13 which is probably impossible loving cream and cappuccini as much as I do!)

Thursday 18 August 2016

I'm no Jesus after all

The idea of an e-bike tour came to me when I saw that Ikea was about to launch the Sladda e-bike in August. I thought about having Ikea sponsoring the tour and it would be about saving the planet, helping the refugees, being some kind of Jesus spreading the word of the post-patriarch society that is to come.

As I got home I soon realised my Jesus-potential is somewhat limited. But I am an engineer! So, at least for now I am focusing on the equipment and the biking. That saving-the-world stuff will come when it comes. If ever. But maybe a this will help save the world! A tiny step is also a step.

The stove

The plan is to be independent as much as possible during this trip, not having to get to a shop or a hostel or a restaurant every day. So, a stove is a must.

I want to be sure to always have fuel, so a multifuel stove feels natural. MSR is well liked in the USA but Swedes also like Primus (especially the stores in Gothenburg) so I first thought of an OmniLite with a silencer (these stoves are noicy). Digging deeper it turns out there are stoves where you don't need to change jet (for different fuels) and there are also some having a built in needle (for cleaning). After all, small things will be lost eventually. So more and more my eyes was drawn to Optimus' Nova and Polaris stoves.

Optimus is owned by Katadyn which is Swiss, which feels conservative but high quality and their cooperation with the Swiss army felt like reliable so the question became Nova or Optifuel. Optimus Polaris Optifuel became my choice as it can run also on gas. When it turns out my hardcore outdoorsy friend from the Finnish army, Stoffe, has used Optimus for the past 15 years and had it on sale, it was a done deal. I needed a fuel bottle too, and found the 0,6l Optimus bottle on sale at some dodgy internet outlet. Every penny I save is another kilometer on the bike, after all! :)

The bike

After very much research and trying every e-bike I could find around Gothenburg, I came to the conclusion that it would be a front suspension bike, and Crescent was the best. They had a good mountainbike equipped with the Bosch e-bike system. (This was just before Shimano came with their mountainbike e-bike system.) All other bikes were too weak (Skeppshult, EcoRide etc), didn't feel as solid (Batavus etc) or had an old-style system (like Specialized having the engine on the back-wheel).

The bike I decided for was called Crescent Elgar. If you search for that now on Crescent's homepage, however, you'll find an e-bike with full suspension but otherwise like mine. Which probably makes sense because they should have a hardcore, full suspension bike and my front suspension was, I guess, a half-arsed attempt...

What I miss the most on my old Elgar are screw holes for mudguards, bottle holders, carrier etc. Now the mudguards are fastened with cable ties, the carrier is a Thule one that doesn't need screw holes but isn't totally relieble and for the bottle I found a really fancy holder that is fastened on the saddle. But in all a lot of work that could have been done in the factory. (And is, in all new Crescent e-bikes.)

I am very happy with the bike, though. It is fast, it is stable and it feels strong and reliable. And it is quite nice to ride even without a battery. The handlebar is quite wide which add to that powerful feeling. Put the engine in turbo mode and you feel like Terminator!


One day as I was testing bikes I wore boots. Boots are not good for biking. Another day I was wearing my comfortable Brooks Puregrit 4 but they were cold as the wind went right through. Not good.

I don't want bicycle shoes as they are too stiff, making the foot weak in the end and totally useless. The argument that "you can lift the pedal" is not valid as elite cyclists do not do that. And I have never slipped off a pedal, not even on a ladies' bike and these new pedals have claws gripping the shoe! (Well...)

Probably low shoes with goretex, I thought and went to my favourite shoe shop Löp & Sko here in Linné, Gothenburg. As always they had the perfect shoe: The Asics GEL-FujiTrabuco 4 G-TX.

One reason I like the shop is that if you ever have any problem with any shoe they make sure to take care of it, fix the shoe or even give you a new pair. Now I have had problems with a pair of Rockport shoes (the heel turned out to be a thin layer only of rubber with plastic underneath, not like the classic black Rockport shoes I have) so they gave me 30% off. That's good service.

As I've travelled some 700km I do like the shoes but the fact they are quite well-ventilated also makes them cold when the temperature drops and the wind increases. Not sure how to tackle that problem, though. I still think well-ventilated is better than not...

First piece if equipment - a bike trailer

Deciding on a bike and setting up a solar system takes time but when it comes to bike trailers there are not that many options. And besides, it feels like a good start to set the boundaries. In Sweden Thule is the major brand of quality bike trailers but they only make trailers for carrying kids, not stuff. Reading and searching the internet it turns out Burley is the shit. And as I feel I need to cover the electrical equipment I prefer a covered trailer rather than an open one. So, the Burley Nomad is my choice. It can carry 45 kilos and if need be you can attach an extra cargo rack.

Tuesday 16 August 2016

Just follow your guts

Some people say Follow your guts! Others say Listen to God! Some say listen to Mother Earth! Others still say Listen to the Universe! I say follow the qi field.

Every summer I spend 18 days in a village called Nossebro in Sweden where we practise Zhineng Qigong from morning until dawn. It is a wonderful experience every time and it makes you see the world with new eyes, every year. This year it became clear to me I was going on an e-bike tour.

I had already applied for a leave of absence, signed a deal with Acorn and told the tax authorities I wasn't going to earn any more money this year so it was all set! Then a friend said she needed a place to stay (after a year of adventures around the world) so I said Move in with me! All I need to do now is to get all the things needed for a solar panel-powered e-bike tour and off I go!