Homer man illustrates power of pedaling

HOMER, ALASKA - A local bike repairman brought a new lifestyle idea to the Homer Farmers' Market recently: Why not use bike pedal power to blend a smoothie instead of electricity?

Here's a food blender with strawberries and juice. Here's a bike and here's an inverter box for the electricity. Curious crowds drew in for a closer look.

"I think a lot of locals knew of this, but were happy to see it out in the public eye," said Chase Warren, who sold the smoothies for $6 each. "The tourists seemed more amused. But we all live here in Homer, and a lot of us like to see this technology as practical."

Something tasty to show for the mechanical process proved a good way of illustrating the possibilities.

"Our intent at the market is to get people thinking about the possibilities of pedal power, to realize that, in fact, pedal power is the most efficient transferral of mechanical energy from one form to another, calorie for calorie, than any other I know," said Derek Reynolds of CycleLogical, a bike repair shop by the Kachemak Gear Shed.

He rents a booth at the market. The bicycle-powered smoothie operation is by no means an original idea, Reynolds said.

"You can find people doing this all over the world. The idea to try this at our local market came from my friends Chase (Warren) and Haley, who saw it in Hawaii and thought it was awesome and a perfect fit for our Market booth. I thought they were right so we went for it," he said.

There are a couple different means to use pedal power, Reynolds explains. Some, such as the XtraCycle's Fender Blender use a direct drive set up whereby the power from pedaling the crank is directly transferred mechanically to the blender or whatever machine you can think of that is stationary and requires a spinning motion, such as a washer or dryer. The idea has been applied to light bulbs and any number of low-watt appliances. But those aren't as interesting to illustrate as a food blender producing a little instant satisfaction a person can sample right there at the market.

There's some technical information and equipment to master, but Reynolds and friends say it's not too difficult for most to grasp. After all, at one time the concept of turning an electrical switch may have seemed more complicated to people than lighting an oil lamp.

"Our set up at the Homer Farmer's Market is indirect, in that the power produced by the spinning of the wheel is transferred to a DC generator motor via a belt and is then stored in a battery that is tied into an AC/DC converter, into which you can plug any given appliance you desire, provided the total wattage isn't more than we can produce while pedaling," he wrote in an e-mail.

Best off, the end product is clean energy. Except for the production of the motor and other gadgets, no oil, coal or natural gas was burned to produce that power.

"No rivers dammed, no holes dug, just a strong pair of legs is all it takes," Reynolds summarized.


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