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January 13, 2005

More eGO shenanigans...

So, to add to the excitement of the ongoing eGO situation, I give you the latest chapter:

Theft!

I was dropping Joy off at her place tonight, only to discover that her eGO had been stolen. Argh. More on the story as it develops...

October 01, 2004

An ironic sign....

An ironic sign....
An ironic sign....,
originally uploaded by bpendleton.

This sign is just down the road from where I was hit by a car while riding my eGO (motorized scooter, classified as a “motorized bicycle” in California).

Aren't you glad to know that the community is “bicycle friendly”. Perhaps the guy who hit me isn't from the area....

September 22, 2004

Disaster strikes!

More troubles in eGO land. As I was riding home last night I had an encounter with another moving vehicle. I'll spare the details here, as I'm not sure what legal rights I might give up by publishing an account.

Suffice it to say that I'm pretty much ok, but the whole encounter is responsible for the delay in Gadget Guy issue01.0 page 13 coming out, as it was otherwise scheduled to do this morning.

May 03, 2004

eGO costs analysis

Many of you have chuckled when I told them the eGO company line that it costs "less than 10cents per day to charge", assuming (as I did) that this was a conservative number, not reflective of California's messed up utility system.

So, since J is moving, and I wanted to figure out real costs because I don't currently pay my utilities, and my landlady has been complaining about our usage, I looked it up.

Spec is that it takes approximately 0.6KWhr (for those not familiar with the units this is 600 Watts for an hour, or, perhaps better, a 60-watt light bulb left on for 10 hours) to charge the battery from empty. I ride my eGO about 8-10 charges per week.

Poking around the PG&E website, I found a calculator for energy costs in Menlo Park. Just pretend its an appliance, like a washer. 0.6KWhr 10 times a week comes out to about $2.73/mo. Not bad for 80% of the energy that I commute with (by comparison, if I drive every day, it's more like $60/mo). And my landlord can quit complaining... as can anyone at PARC were they to decide to be annoyed that I plug in there each day.

March 30, 2004

eGO 1k Day

As I mentioned before, I was close to my 1000th mile on my eGO. Since that time, I had to deal with a trifling electrical problem, so my rate kind of slowed down. Frankly, it's sad to see that Ken's 1000th post is about to happen, and I just today crossed to 1000 miles on my eGO. For the last month, that means Ken's been posting about as aggressively as I've put miles on the poor moped. Oh well.

Hopefully, since the weather is getting nicer and I've filtering through all of my outstanding maintenance issues, I'll increase my average miles per day quite a bit.

March 01, 2004

Upcoming milestone - 1000 miles on the eGO

Ken may be approaching 1000 blog entries, while others of us are less, uh, prolific. But, I'm approaching 1000 miles ridden on my eGO. The exact point is a little rough, because I didn't get the odometer until I'd been riding for about 2 months. But, based on my rate of miles, and the fact that those were the months when I most often got to ride the eGO to work, I'm going to assume that I'm missing about 200 miles from my odometer. It reads about 840 miles right now.

So, does anyone have any fitting suggestions to commemorate? Something electric-themed, or perhaps pro-environment? Given my various experiences (yes, this post is very self-referential), perhaps safety or robustness-related?

October 28, 2003

eGO madness - how worthless is the DMV?

J and I had our DMV road tests for the eGO today.

This entire message is going to be a gripe about the DMV, btw. Be warned.

I guess I should gripe chronologically. A month ago, when it seemed likely J would keep her then-new eGO (she's committed now, and has put her car on craigslist), and when I realized that I would need to get a real license before DST came to an end, I tried to call the DMV to schedule us both appointments. The eGO is kind of a pain to get that far north, so I figured we'd want to both take the test the same day. Problem is, you can't schedule two appointments for the same day on the DMV website. I tried calling the appointment number. All day. It was always busy.

I got smart the next day, and I think this advice generally applies to all things DMV - beat the crowd, even when you can't. I called the DMV at exactly the minute that the appointment line came online. I got through. Sadly, they only schedule a month in advance, yet seem to run a fairly large lag, so we had to choose from 4 days almost a month away. None of them were Monday, which is when a friend had offered to transport us and our eGOs to the DMV, thus avoiding range and time wasting worries.

Flash forward to today. J had her appointment at 8:20. It was the second of the day. Mine was at 9:20. We showed up around 8.... there was already a line about 50 people long outside of the DMV. Beat the line? No chance. Fortunately, those with driving test appointments (and no, no other appointments - you still need to show up probably a half hour early to make it to those) can skip all of the lines. J actually took her test pretty promptly at 8:20. She was a bit shaky, but it didn't prevent her from doing just fine. They went inside, and issued her her new temporary license - a C & M1 license. Not an M2, even though she tested on what could at best be considered a moped, but an M1. For a time, she could have actually ridden a full motorcycle legally, though she had no such intention.

Anyway, I went inside again around 9:00, for my 9:20. They have me go and wait outside to be tested.... and more or less forgot about me. At 9:45, one of the two working testers asks me "What, are you still waiting?". Sheesh. No, I just signed up a month in advance, got up way before I ever would've, waited around another hour, grabbed my paperwork, then left. I was at the front of the testing line, too. I don't even think the tester was being sarcastic. The DMV is just that clueless, folks.

Finally, a test administrator comes over, and administers my driving test. I was probably pretty shaky too, but apparently did ok. The woman who tested me went inside, and, since she was unsure, asked the other tester what he had done with J's application. When she discovered that he'd issued an M1, she started a dizzying trail of paperwork that eventually lead to re-issuing J a C+M2 license, and got me my M2. It only took until about 10:45 to sort it all out. I feel bad for those testing after me. Sheesh. Can you do anything at a California DMV in under an hour? I've yet to see it done.

Just in case anyone from the web wanders in, wanting to read about how to get a moped license in California, or what kind of hassles it takes to legally ride a moped in California, I should describe the course. Most motorcycles drivers in California would be wise to take the motorcycle training course - you learn to ride a motorcycle, safely, one someone else's bike. And you don't have to take this silly road test. For those who only want to ride a moped, or foolishly skip the training course, you'll have to ride the course.

There are two passes, both of which involve a course shaped like a fat lollipop. The first pass has you ride your bike through a set of cones, do two laps around a ~25foot diameter circle, staying inside its lines, and back through the set of cones. Touching any cone, or going outside of the lines is grounds for immediate failure. My sense is they're pretty lenient here. The second part of the test involves riding inside the outer straight lines, doing two laps (in the opposite rotation as the previous test), and riding back on a different set of lines. You're supposed to do this one really slowly - actually harder, because turning inside of a narrow space at low speed means you have to have good bike balance. Balance is easier at higher speed.

One last thing, for those wondering if the California DMV still makes you surrender your (possibly only) photo ID when issuing a new license - no, apparently not anymore. They punch a hole through your renewal year on your current license, and let you keep it. Fwew. It'd be ironic if you'd have to give up the ability to fly (assuming you have no passport) to be able to gain the right to drive.

September 25, 2003

eGo news catchup

Lots of history to catch up on:

On Labor Day, after apparently fixing my eGo's tire again, the rear tire blew while I was taking a test trip. Turns out, I had damaged the bead on the inside of the tire when I replaced it a few weeks before, and it was shredding tubes. *sigh*

I hurt my shoulder, got plenty of road rash, and broke a few of the attachments to the eGo (specifically, destroyed the bell, seem to have loosened a few other things on the handle bars, bent the front fender, and bent/broke the screw holding the headlight on, though the headlight is ok). Turns out, I damaged a ligament in my rotator cup, so I've been slowly regaining vertical reaching power in my shoulder since then. I'm due for my first Physical Therapy appointment today, actually.

In fixing things up, I stuck on a speedometer, as well as replacing the bell with a similar piece. I'm still looking for a screw to fix the headlight with, though.

During all of this, I was somewhat concerned about J's interest in an eGo, which had been growing. In the end, she decided to order one anyway, since the numbers were pretty compelling. eGo offers a 30-day "trial", which she is planning to deploy.

J's experience with ordering the eGo went a lot better than mine. She ordered her's last Monday, September 15th, and received it a scant 8 business days later, on September 24th, just a teensy bit under 2 months since mine got here. Her's is red, and new, and unscuffed, making me fairly jealous. But, since she doesn't have insurance yet, she can't ride it anywhere.... so, at least there's that. More on her first experiences and her own early reactions to being seen experimenting with the bike in a future posting.

eGo, day 9 addition

Whoops, forgot to post this a long time ago. Here's the addendum to eGo, day 9

7) At Ultimate, an onlooker asked me about the bike. I gave her the normal response. Amanda, also looking on (Yayh, Amanda made it out to Ultimate, though didn't play...) remarked that I was definitely going to have to blog the incident. Well, yeah.

August 29, 2003

eGo economics - or, should J stop worrying and learn to love the eGo?

I was facetiously suggesting this evening that I buy an eGo for J, given that I've had such a good time riding mine, and that we've found ourselves in several situations lately where she was driving a car to meet me someplace, or returning from someplace, while I was riding my eGo.

Given that I bought at the pre-$999 price point and got a rebate I haven't spent yet, I could make the eGo-for-J quite a bit cheaper, especially if I can compound that discount with my hopefully soon-to-arrive evangelist program discounts.

Intrigued by the idea, I sat down to figure out what the base costs would be. I was thinking maybe I'd split the cost with her, since it'd be more fun for me, and I have a significantly larger disposable income. In the midst of my musings, J pointed out that there was another option I hadn't been accounting for - with an eGo, she could sell her car. Woah. That changes everything.

I quickly drew up a spreadsheet. I calculated the cost of the eGo, with the accessories she'd probably want, and minus my expected discounts. Throw in a helmet, shipping and registration. That brings the eGo to around $1000 again (they gave me a pretty hefty rebate for buying so close to the price drop...).

Then, we looked at the blue book for her car, and her car payments. Looks like she just recently passed the point where the car's worth more than she has left on the loan. That's good news. And that's before we actually sell it (well, ok, it could sell for less, given the market conditions around here, so that's iffy). Of course, the number I used for her outstanding loan is the sum of her remaining payments, not that actual balance of the debt. It should cost somewhat less to buy out the loan than that.

Delving a little deeper, I threw in the cost of insurance (about $80/mo less for just motorcycle insurance than for car insurance), the amount she spends on gas (she, like I, would not pay any increased utility costs for charging the eGo), and her parking permit.

Turns out, if she can live life with the eGo, and only occasionally rent a car (say, 8-10 days a year), she'll come out about $3000 ahead the first year. Since she's got 2 more years, at least, in her program, this is not unrealistic. Living on campus has its advantages, and Stanford has lots of ways of supplementing transit because of the low amount of parking on campus. Heck, if she moves off campus, she can start collecting another $160 or so as an incentive Stanford offers to those who don't need a permit on campus. If she manages with the eGo for two years, she's saved well enough to make the difference between buying a new car and a used one at the end of her program. Pretty incredible.

Now, why is this all so possible? Basically, I think, as a grad student living on campus, a car isn't a very good deal. So, a reasonably solid car-substitute-only-cheaper is. Now that J is over 25, renting a car is also fairly cheap, and there are at least a half dozen rental places within the eGo's operating range, making it pretty compatible with occasional jaunts of larger distances. Having a boyfriend who is keeping his car helps, too, for socializing and whatnot. Goodness knows the mass transit in the peninsula isn't sufficient.

She's going to make the decision soon, but I think we'll soon see how J stopped worrying and learned to love her eGo.

August 20, 2003

eGo roundup (discounts, flats, safety), PotD

It's getting a bit tedious to do day-by-day updates, so here's a summary:

eGo has dropped their prices, at least for "Back to School". It's now $999 for an eGo 2 Cycle through their website. Yes, I once again got burned (can anyone say iBook? Yeah, model upgrade and $200 that time, too). I called them, though, and they didn't leave me totally out in the dark.

I got a flat on the eGo Monday morning. That made for kind of an annoying day (not to mention that PARC didn't have Internet, thanks to a rather annoying version of MSBlaster, and a lot of unpatched machines). I fixed it with a fresh tube, which I proceeded to blow out (yeah, very loud). Sage wisdom: Before inflating a 100p.s.i. bike tire at a filling station, make sure that their gauge runs to the same range of pressures as you're filling. I'm fortunate to still have both my hearing and my sight... others have been less lucky with blowouts.

However, because it was violent, it makes for the Picture of the Day:

Pretty impressive, eh? Replacing that mistake was a little more difficult - the eGo can use normal inner tubes (although "thorn resistant" ones are recommended), but it must have high pressure tires, especially for a heavy rider such as myself. Calling around bike shops, it's not impossible to find such a beast, and I eventually ended up purchasing a replacement at Chain Reaction in Redwood City. I didn't realize it until I was being wrung up, but I even bought the exact same model tire as my eGo came with, which isn't even the one that the eGo folks were recommending over the phone.

In all the rear-tire maintenance, I had to re-tension the eGo drive belt twice. The first time, just before the blowout, I had it just right. Today, after a second trade, including the whole tire this time (and 100p.s.i. tires are hard to get off of the frame, too, in case you couldn't guess), I wasn't as successful. Good tools help, though. Yesterday I was using an entirely inadequate wrench, today I had tools that fit well, and snug, just not enough time to tweak.

Because of my foolishness Monday night, I've cost myself an extra two days of commuting with the old gas guzzler. Put gas into it today for the first time since I got the eGo in late July, though. At 2.05 for the cheap gas, I'm looking forward to a lot of eGo miles in the future....

August 12, 2003

eGo, day 9

I've ridden the eGo to and from work every day since last Tuesday. As a commuter vehicle, it does a good job. It would still be nice to have some sort of quick-refillable range boost. Hydrogen fuel cells - how many years off are you?

6) PARC researcher (not related to last night) - Parked his bike at the bike rack next to mine, then asked me the whole 9 yards. Didn't realize there were no pedals at first, and expected it to be totally silent (the eGo makes very little noise, but is not silent). I tried to explain that the weight would make pedaling quite a chore, but I don't know if he understood me. Seemed interested, all the same.

August 11, 2003

eGo, day 8

More interested passers-by:

4) PARC researchers, as I was leaving. Waited patiently in their carpool car until I took off. I expect a follow-up on this one.

5) Guy at Safeway - asks about eGo, charging time, etc. Seemed interested in how applicable it was to that task (carrying groceries).

August 05, 2003

eGo, day 4

I took a vacation over the weekend, that's why I haven't blogged any more eGo days since last week.

Today was another Ultimate day, but my first day commuting all the way from home in one trip. It went pretty well... one thing I find I have to do with the eGo is build a new set of maps in my head. I've already got the "bike-able routes" map... you know, maximizing uninterrupted speed, flatness, minimizing the top speed cars are allowed to go around you, bike lanes, etc. Likewise, I have the "drivable routes" map in my head, too. Now I've got to establish the "eGo routes".

It's a different process, right? Lots of the neighborhoods around here have blockades in place to "calm" traffic. But they're designed to be bike-able. So far as I can tell, they should be eGo-able too, for the same reason as I'm allowed to ride in the bike lane when it's attached to a road. Not like I'm making a lot of noise - the eGo is very quiet. But, hills are less of a problem than on a bike. At the same time, I can't ride on bike-only paths, of which there are quite a few in Silicon Valley that could shorten my travel distance. And riding on roads with a 35 mph or greater speed limit, even in a bike lane, is still nice to avoid.

So, I'll be doing that. It means that, given a starting point and a destination, there will be more or less 3 different routes I will take, depending on the means of transportation I'm employing. Strange stuff.

Another thing: eGo has an "evangelist" program. So, if you read my blog and are interested in the eGo, let me know, and I'll hook you up. They built the program to both reward me, for telling you about the eGo and getting you excited, and you, so you won't be bitter that I'm the one getting all the perks. Write me here if you want to cash in. Unless, of course, you're a spambot. In which case... go away. Thanks!

July 30, 2003

eGo, day 3

More on interested people:

3) Little old lady at Trader Joe's: She asked me extensively about how it works, what it costs (... eGo's cost less than a lot of gas scooters. Check out the going rate for Vespa's on eBay, for instance), it's range, etc. Then she proceeded to watch from the curb as I pulled away from Trader Joes, into the road.

July 29, 2003

eGo, day 2

Comments on the eGo: It's heavy. You can read the specs for yourself, and it does sound heavy. But picking it up is definitely something to avoid. Not the kind of vehicle you can just throw in a closet someplace. If you're going to stick it somewhere, it's going to need to roll over a smooth surface to get where it's going.

I suppose I should say that, technically, what I bought was an eGo 2.

Coming soon: A costs breakdown. It's not clearcut, but, unlike some of my friends have been suggesting, this might well be a good move financially, at least in sunny California, where it doesn't rain for months on end.

July 28, 2003

eGo, day 1

So, my eGo arrived today. It's quite a thing.

I plan to begin counting how many people comment on it, and ask for more information.

1) This one was a classic - I was riding along in Menlo Park, getting a feel for it. At top speed (~24 mph), a guy rides along next to me, with his window open, and asks me what I'm riding, and where he can get it.

2) J's friend Julie, as I rode up to J's place to show my eGo to her.

A few gripes on the whole experience, though.

July 11 - Original order placed. Since it didn't ship right away, I e-mailed the company (I ordered direct from the manufacturer) to find out what was up.

July 15th - They shipped most of my eGo stuff, at my request. I ordered a tow trailer, which they are currently out of stock on. It will ship separately.

July 22nd - I call to figure out where it is. I'd be told that I should receive a shipping confirmation and tracking order by 48 hours after shipping. 7 business days should have done it. The answer is that it had left without full paperwork with the shipper, Seko, a US Freightways affiliate. I called them to find out what was up, and was promised a 10am-2pm delivery the next day.

July 23rd - Stay home until 2pm. Call Seko to find out what's up. The package had missed its delivery, and they'd called to tell me... but had my number wrong. The new due date is Monday.

July 24th - I write eGo to express my dissatisfaction. It has now been two weeks since the order was placed, and still no eGo. Pretty sorry for coming from a warehouse in Rhode Island. The eGo people check into it, find that the Seko folks screwed up. I actually get a call of apology from a manager at Seko that morning. He says it'll for sure be delivered Monday.

July 28th - The next promised delivery date. This time, I call. At 10:50 in the morning, I get told that it'll hit the delivery window of 10am-2pm again. So, I wait. At around 2pm, I get a call, telling me that the truck is running late, and asking if a later delivery was possible. I say "Sure", but can you target a specific time. The response is "Sure, how about 5pm-6pm". I thought that'd be great, since it would give me a chance to go to the DMV. I'm even given (and accept) the option to be called before the delivery, so I can make sure I'll be home. At 2:45pm, I leave for the DMV. At 3:55pm, I'm returning home - to find that the driveway is blocked, completely, by a delivery truck. Turns out it was them. My roommate had just returned from his 10 day trip, and was fortunately there to accept delivery. But, common people - you miss two delivery windows, and then you show up early after promising a time window and a call? Give me a break.

Plus, the eGo box was broken on one side. My eGo is a little scratched, and some of the parts were falling out. It looks like nothing is missing, but gosh darnit if it isn't frustrating to be treated this way. This was a nontrivial purchase, and I'm sure the shipping company got a reasonable take. What gives? 17 days from order to delivery? Considering the age we live in, and that I bought it from their Internet website, you'd really hope things would've gone better. Or at least they'd've built some snappy interface to tell me where the eGo was the whole time, to keep my content, rather than building up frustration and resentment. Not to mention almost a day and a half of work missed, for little obvious reason.

Oh well. More eGo stories coming. I plan to commute with it tomorrow, laptop, Ultimate clothes, and all. Demos at lunch? You better believe it!