OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Dogman’s Tale

Dogman is a contributing writer on eb.com and the most prolific poster ever on Endless Sphere. This is his tale:

When I started chatting on the internet, I wanted a screen name to protect my identity.
So I chose Dogman because I am part dog, I speak dog fluently, and I have always had
a pack of dogs around the house. Mostly bloodhounds, Jed Clampet style dogs with the
big saggy faces and long ears. My real name is Dan, so lots of folks have known me as
Danger Dan. I can’t imagine why?

The two wheeled vehicle addiction began early. Childhood play was practice to become
a movie stunt man, so of course bikes got crashed on purpose. We “invented” vert riding
on 20” schwinns in dry irrigation ditches long before bmx came along. So did every other
group of kids in the 60’s that had an empty ditch to ride in. But I really started riding
bikes seriously during the summer in Santa Fe New Mexico at age 13. I had just gotten
a “real” bike, a ten speed, big wheel skinny tire thing. I can’t remember its brand name,
something french. But it was a solid 10 pounds lighter than a Schwinn Varsity, which
was about all you could find in 1970 in New Mexico. The summer house dad had in
Santa Fe was 5 miles of dirt washboard road out of town, and we had no TV or running
water. So every day was a long ride to town, often to use the showers at the public pool.
By end of summer I was riding to the nearby ski area in the mountains just for something
to do. 50 mph descents from the ski area were the only fun I was getting. I got the basics
of high speed cornering on skinny tires. Soon I wore that bike out, and got a new cromoly
frame Peugot 10 speed, and rode it till it wore out. Young an energetic, I rarely shifted
out of 10th gear, riding it fixie style. I tried bike racing, but disliked the elbow fight in the
peloton. I loved the training rides though, often to the top of a mountain pass, followed
by the descent of course.

Before long I got old enough to get a job, and at 15 bought my first motorcycle. A 350
pound pig of a honda CB 350. It was too much power and way too much weight for a 100
pound punk. But I survived, and never had a problem riding anything with two wheels
since. Nothing could ever handle worse. Dumping the horrible honda for a pickup truck
a year later, I still wasn’t done with two wheels. I still had the Peugot, and a mere 70
miles away was Emory Pass. Emory pass is just about identical in length and grade to
Alp d Huez in France. Except it’s got more curves. Most of the corners are big sweeping
horseshoe switchbacks posted 15 mph. Emory pass 10 miles of 8-10 % grade road in the
rocky mountains of New Mexico, and in 1973, it had just been repaved. With the truck
to shuttle bicycles to the top, and some motorcycle riding buddies to compete with, it was
gravity racing time. The idea was, pedaling the bike was not allowed, or needed anyway.
So to win the 10 mile race to the bottom, all you had to do was scream the entire descent
without ever touching your brakes. We’d hit those 15 mph corners going 40 or more.
We’d catch and pass cars, and sometimes even motorcycles. My friend Charlie was very
good at corners, and we used to race to a tie over and over, leaving the rest of the guys
who touched their brakes far behind. It was great cheap thrills. If it was raining, we’d still
do the run. Brakes didn’t work wet, but who was using any? It was 1973, so of course we
were baked as a potato the whole time. Usually we were skipping high school so the road
would be pretty empty on a weekday, which allowed using both lanes.

Years went by, and it was time to starve my way through a degree in horticulture. And
I do mean starve. Meat in the diet meant I shot a rabbit. Along the way the truck died,
and I wore out another new Peugot 10 speed, then wore out a Motobecane moped, then
finally I got a honda 125 which could not be worn out. I kept seeking cheap thrills in
the mountains, learning to rock climb in the nearby Organ Peaks. There are world class
vertical granite faces right by Las Cruces, but somehow they are still nearly unknown
to the climbing world even now in 2013. I suppose it’s the long approach hikes bashing
though cactus the whole way to the rocks, and the fact that in summer you fry like an egg
on a Phoenix sidewalk on that rock.

In 1976, I tried snow skiing, and loved it. After I graduated and got work, I started to ski
seriously and there went the next 20 years. I still had a few motorcycles along the way,
but the ski slopes were the thing for me for a long time. I progressed from “hold my beer
and watch this” skiing, to real black diamond slopes, then made the big jump to telemark
gear. Telemark skiing means beefed up cross country skis, and skiing with only the toes
attached to the ski. It’s 10 times harder than downhill gear skiing, but half the weight in
the ski and the ability to ski uphill which cannot be done on ordinary skis. Once you have
the skills, the idea is to ski up the easy side of a mountain, then ski down the steepest
avalanche chute you can find. In a ski area riding lifts, it means you shuffle a few steps
uphill and get powder the regular skiers and snowboarders can’t reach. In time, I never
skied a cut ski run anymore, too boring. I was over there off trail, dodging trees, and
hucking huge air off secret cliffs. This went on untill I crushed my lower back disks in
1995. Then I switched to windsurfing, which actually helped my back get stronger, rather
than punishing it with two to ten story drops on skis.

Backing up some, at about age 26 I was then riding a kawasaki 750 fully dressed
with a big fairing. Seems lame by todays crotch rocket standards, but at the time that
motorcycles easy zip to 90 mph seemed very fast. Remember, Carter was president at
that time, and the speed limit was 55 mph. I was riding it like a maniac, getting tickets,
always nearly dying on the thing every ride. I was getting really kook, looking for a
slide all the time, going riding right after a rain for that extra rear wheel slip and other
crazy stuff. I just couldn’t get enough of that countersteering. You know, turn right by
pointing the wheel left. Flat track kind of riding. But one fine day, I nearly died three
times in about 5 min of riding, came home, parked the thing and sold it. I went skiing in
Colorado with the money and considered myself completely done with two wheels. And
I was for about 20 years. I wanted to survive to ski more, and powder snow was so much
softer to crash in than asphalt.

So I skied a lot, I’d build an igloo in the backcountry and ski mountaineer from it on
weekends all winter. Once I wrecked my back, I switched to windsurfing, which I had
been learning for a few years by then. I never got that good on the windsurfer, but I did
get good enough go get bashed around when the spring winds got to 50mph. Even if you
just got beat up and blown to the far side of the lake it was still good cheap thrills.

Splash and dash

By the 90’s I was also getting into a very expensive thrill. I was helping friends with
chasing their hot air balloons, being there to pick up the pilot wherever and whenever he

landed. In 2000, I took the plunge, bought a balloon, and got my balloon pilots certificate.
For the next 9 years, I sold my soul, racked up the charge cards, and spent enough
to retire on. It was worth every penny. I got plenty of thrills, but now I usually had
passengers, and when it got really sketchy landing the thing, I had extra duty of acting
like everything is fine while I was really crapping my pants thinking we were all about to
die. In some ways, flying made all that extreme skiing look like mere childs play. Sure,
90% of flights were very easy and safe, but the other 10% took the right stuff. Some of
the most thrilling flights were done solo in a cloudhopper balloon. This is a small one
man balloon with no basket. You strap it on like a parachute. Once you get aloft, you can
bounce along the earth taking 500 vertical foot steps that we called moon jumps. Time
your burn right and you land like a feather, time it wrong, and SPLAT. Great fun taking
500 foot leaps into the sky like superman.

Dan launchig the cloudhopper

So how does this lead back to bicycles you ask? Simple, I ran out of money. After 9
years of flying, it was the fall of 2007 and I was dead broke. My car was wearing out, and
I needed a way to stop driving it so much, to avoid buying a new one till I paid off about
$25,000 on charge cards. I was getting interested in solar, to eliminate my electric bill,
and looking at getting a cheap electric car like a converted bug. After some research, I
realized that a typical cheap 48v bug conversion couldn’t do the range I needed. Work
was 15 miles away, but the hard part was I live on the mesa 1000 vertical feet above the
valley where I worked. The kind of electric car I could afford was only going to have
about 10 mile range, less with that hill to climb home.

So I looked into motorcycles and converting them, and I looked at scooters like the
vectrix. I figured that at 50, I could be trusted to ride a motorcycle again perhaps. I was
still pretty stuck on the electric idea. This was the spring of 2008 now, and any fool could
see gas prices were going bonkers. But the cost of an E-motorcycle was still going to
be a bit high. I got the feeling that carrying heavy lead batteries on a motorcycle was
not a great idea, and lifepo4 was costly. A gas moped didn’t appeal to me that much,
the motobecane I’d had during school had fallen apart nearly immediately. That spring,
Walmart announced that it was going to build a new store up on the mesa top 5 miles
from my house. The nearest store had been 9 miles away, and down to the valley. Then
I saw an ad for a Wilderness Energy electric bike kit. A bike? I hadn’t heard of electric
bikes. I hadn’t even thought about bikes.

Read Dogman’s story on how to build an affordable commuter Ebike

The ad said 20 miles range at 20 mph. Not bad. The price was cheap, about $300
including lead batteries. Man, the light bulb over my head lit up bright. I was already
using adult trikes on my job as maintenance worker at a condo complex. With the big
rear basket, I could haul a weeks worth of groceries as easy as we hauled paint and
cordless tools at work. I was still riding bicycles some, but 50 and fat now, I couldn’t
pedal my 70’s vintage motobecane 10 speed more than 4 miles at a time. A 10 mile round
trip to the new store would still be too far for me to pedal it. But with 20 mile range at 20
mph, that trip to the new Walmart would be a snap with a motor kit. I started planning,
and soon had a Wilderness Energy brushed hub front motor kit coming to my door. I then
bought a schwinn meridian adult trike, to be shipped to the nearest Walmart. I was ON
MY WAY to having my own electric vehicle.

BD 36 on Schwinn trike

Then reality arrived. The kit arrived before the trike, but when it came I had an old rusty
mountain bike in the shed. I quickly got it out, and in about the 30 min it promised in the
ad, I had the motor bolted on, and rode off on my first e-bike ride! Which lasted about a
half a block…. In my haste, I overlooked the poor fit of the washers and nut on the forks,
and I immediately blew the motor out of the forks, spun the axle, and cut the wires to the
motor. The cut wires shorted the controller, and smoke came out. Oh, and the cherry on
top, the charger that came with the sla batteries never did work at all. The wife was quite
amused, “There he goes again, saving money. Uh huh.”

Read Dogman’s story on maintenance of lifepo4 battery

Quite some time passed, before the folks at WE sent me a replacement charger at their
expense, and a new controller at my expense. So by then I have the trike ready, a better
understanding of the term lawyer lips, and how to make the oversize washers that come
with the motor fit right. Happily, the trikes forks just fit better, and the torque washer
that came with the kit works fine with the trike forks. Off I go again, and this time very
happily. Soon I’m using it around the neighborhood, for runs to the dollar store, and a
nearby flea market 2 miles away from my house. I started thinking about making much
longer trips on it. But I’m disappointed by the range of the lead batteries. At top speed,
which is 25 mph, I get 5-6 miles at most. At 20 mph, I get maybe 7 miles. That’s a wee
bit short of what the ads promised, and I’m a bit pissed. I read the ads again, and notice
that I bought the cheaper brushed motor kit, which is said to go 20% less far. OK, 20
miles minus 4 miles is 7 miles right? Welcome to e-bike marketing Dan. Well, looks
like I just need to double up the battery size. Good thing I bought the trike.

About a week later, I read in the paper that the new walmart won’t be built after all. If I
was going to go get groceries on this e-trike, I would now need to have at least 20 miles
of range. And that much range means I could ride it to work too, if I charged again while
working. So I started looking at getting more batteries. I tried various things, including
adding one more 20 ah sla battery to have a 48v bike. Now it ran 30 mph, and I really
liked it, but even riding it as slow as possible, I still didn’t have the range to go as far as
I need. I could make it to work, but I couldn’t make it home up that hill hauling lead. I
knew I need more batteries, but even just 4 of those lead bricks was starting to bend the
back wheels of the trike. I was stumped and didn’t know which way to jump. I got on
the internet, and searched electric bike battery. I found a forum, called V is for voltage
and started reading.

Soon I found another forum called Endless-Sphere. More information there too, but I
couldn’t understand a word of it. So I went back to the V, and started reading about this
new kind of battery. They are calling it a duct tape pack, and you buy it from a guy in
China on ebay. Soundded awful sketchy. It’s LiFePO4, a kind of lithium battery. I’ve
heard of lithium drill batteries, and know they are much lighter and smaller than the nicad
drill batteries I’ve been using for many years. But pricy. A few weeks go by, and a few
guys get 10 ah duct tape packs and like them. But they say the bms trips if they draw 20
amps. Whatever a bms is? I decided to buy one from the same guy on ebay, named Li
Ping, but I need more range, so I click buy on a 20 ah 36v pack, thinking the 20 ah lead
plus the 20 ah duct tape should be enough. I just sent $400 to a guy I barely heard of who

is in China. I prayed I haven’t just made a huge mistake.

ping-battery-charged

It takes a while to arrive, the whole time my wife is thinking, “there he goes again,
saving money, uh huh.” But a month later, it comes. It’s about the same size as the 36v
20 ah lead pack, but it’s a LOT lighter. After an overnight charge, I took it for a ride to
test the range of it at 25 mph, hoping for at least 10 miles. I ride a 5 mile circle, and then
another one. And a third. 15 miles! And it still feels strong! It’s a miracle! I keep riding,
on a one mile circle thinking it must be about done. Finally it quits, and I’ve ridden 20
miles! I have the range to ride to work, without even using the lead at all. I started doing
that 3-4 days a week. Parked, the old junky car could last forever. I really could save
some money with this crazy thing.

read our article on how an ebike can save you money

But there is still a problem. The trike is pretty awkward down in town. Up on the
mesa, traffic is light, and I have a wide bike lane to ride in. Down by the university, or
downtown, the trike is just plain cumbersome. It’s great to haul stuff, but riding fast
every bump tends to launch everything in the basket out. At work I plugged in a charger
and It spits sparks. The bouncing has bent stuff inside, and wrecked it. So I decided I
need shock absorbers, and make the switch to a cheap used full suspension mountain
bike. It works fine, much more agile in traffic or on a bike path I ride across town on. I
decide to order a second motor, and have the trike for running errands on the mesa, and
the bike to go downtown. The wife is still skeptical I was still spending money, but I’m
totally stoked on my cheap transportation. It was May of 2008, and gas prices were going
completely bonkers. I was riding past the gas stations every day and giving them the
raspberry with a huge EV grin on my face.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Then on the third ride home from work on the full suspension bike, I reached for a drink
from a bottle, and fumbled the bottle into the forks at about 15 mph. Next thing I know,
I’m really hurting, I’m on the curb, and my bike helmet is squashed flat. I could tell
instantly that I’ve broken both collarbones but at least the head is ok. My wife met me at
the Emergency room to take me home, and says, “you’re really saving money now. Uh
huh?” Sympathetic sure, but she’s also laughing her ass off. That’s about it for riding
the new e-bikes for about three months. That’s about it for working much that summer
too. Just when I still have about $20,000 left to pay for that ballooning addiction. I just
couldn’t believe I crashed in such a rookie way. I drank from bottles at 30 mph or more
for years, riding thousands of miles, and never had that happen before.

Dogman at the race track

I end up with a lot of time on my hands that summer. I was not allowed to work or do
much, and it hurts too much to do anything with my arms anyway. Nothing to do but
read and watch tv all summer. I started reading the e-bike forums all day, and signed
up to start commenting too. I told guys to be careful with a water bottle to start with.
Part of why I crashed was the funny location of the bottle mount on Y frame suspension
bikes. I told them this guy Li Ping will send you a pretty good battery. I keep reading and
learned the basics. Amps x volts = watts. I started reading the Endless Sphere forum, and
began to actually understand about 2% of it. By the end of the summer, I was hopelessly
addicted to the bike forums.

I was still a moron on the Sphere, but some are asking me for advice on the V. I tell
them get a Pingbattery. Over the next six months, I noticed the smartest and the wittiest
people are gathering at the Endless Sphere. I now understand as much as 30% of what
people write there, and I start spending more time at the Sphere. By fall I healed up
enough to ride again, and Christmas I have logged 3000 miles on the e-bike, which has
paid for its entire cost. I don’t think about the lost pay or the hospital bills.

The rest is history. I can’t believe I’ve posted 21695 comments at the Endless Sphere,
and likely read 10 times that many comments. Even more amazing is that people actually
read my comments. Mostly I just tell new guys what an e-bike can and can’t do, and
what it will cost to do what they want to do. I keep it as simple as I have to, depending
on the person, and try to advise some common sense to be used. I keep learning
every day. I might understand as much as 60% of what the real geniuses are writing
by now. At this point, my main rides are either a bike made specifically for riding dirt
trails, or a frankenbike. The frankenbike is two bikes welded together to form a long
tailed cargo bike perfect for getting groceries. In about a month they will finally open
that new Walmart. Meanwhile my health went bad, after an infection with West Nile
Virus. I can’t work anymore, or pedal a bike for very long. I have severe chronic fatigue
syndrome. Now if I ride a bike, I really NEED the electric motor. But sick or healthy,
you can’t get me to stop riding an e-bike. I have the EV addiction and the only cure is
more riding. I love that silent motor so much more than noisy stinky motorcylces.

Dan and wife Sue at post flight party

Dan and wife Sue

 

 

 

 

Eric has been involved in the electric bike industry since 2002 when he started a 6000 square foot brick and mortar Electric Bike store in downtown San Francisco. He is a true believer that small electric vehicles can change the way we operate and the way we think.

  • Wayne Bergman

    Its great to hear your story Dogman. Sue sounds like a saint! You have helped me with countless tips and advise since I first started reading things on the sphere and thanks for that. ………….wayne

  • maramusa

    Great story.
    Im about to begin your electric journey

  • M.H.

    Dogman / Dan: Thank you for sharing your stories with the appropriate life lessons attached accordingly. May you keep the sunny side up and the wind in your face. Sincerely, Mojo