Fathoming this bike’s resistance is futile

A diabolical spin class instructor would love Ben’s peddle-powered reading light.

The bike itself is fixed in 10th gear. But once you’ve built up enough RPMs to switch on the light, it’s stunning how the resistance suddenly kicks into overdrive.

I hadn’t had a chance to try it before last week’s 4-H Fair, and I couldn’t wait to hop on after we hauled it home. I was amazed by the sudden intensity shift. My non-mechanical mind couldn‘t perceive what had changed, other than the fact that the light came on.

The way Ben and Uncle Rick explain it, the wheel is just spinning free at first. Once that energy is harnessed to do work — in this case, powering up an electrical magnet spinning inside the alternator —  it becomes much harder to pedal.

The resistance you feel is the same force as when you line up a metal object next to a magnet. It’s hard to pull them apart. Here, that’s the force you’re up against as you pedal — a constant pull from the magnetic field generated by the alternator.

It’s a formidable fitness machine, though it remains to be seen if we’ll leave it at home or see about putting it on display somewhere.

One place it’s not headed anytime soon is the state fair. Ben’s bike-light got reserve champion*, beaten out by a fan that vents radon from a basement.

*The judges apparently thought he should’ve covered his wire connections — a complaint they failed to mention when they quizzed him during judging and that Ben would‘ve refuted as unnecessary if they had.

He and Rick are annoyed that for the second year in a row he’s been beaten out by a “judge’s helper” who just happened to have a project entered in the same category. But ultimately, the real “prize” was in the process. I just think it’s cool they were inspired to build a project like this — and I can’t wait to see what they come up with next year.

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2 Responses to Fathoming this bike’s resistance is futile

  1. jan says:

    maybe it should be pointed out to someone of the unfair advantage that the “judges helper” had.
    maybe they don’t realize how unethical their actions were. bravo to ben for his project though. he should be proud of it.
    i am in new haven and found your writing in the local newspaper.it propelled me to get off my butt and start walking every other week due to my job. eating fresh and local foods. have lost 8 #’s in one month. thanks for the impetus to propel me on my own journey to wellness and fitness.

    • tischcaylor says:

      Wow, way to go Jan — Sounds like you’re off to a great start! Keep me posted on your progress, OK? I love to hear how people are doing — keeps me motivated, too!

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