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, WarmShowers.org 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.