engineering on two wheels

a bicycle engineering and design weblog

1980 Raleigh Super Grand Prix

My uncle, Marty, was recently cleaning out his garage and he unearthed his 1980 Raleigh Super Grand Prix touring bicycle.  I have not snapped any pictures but it looked pretty much like this one:

Uncle Marty said it was mine if I wanted and so it is now my very own.  The bike is in amazing condition — the original tubes still hold air!  The tires had deteriorated and the grease in all the bearings was dry but as the bike has been in storage for the last 30+ years it is rust-free!  I repacked the bearings in the bottom bracket, the wheel hubs, the headset, and in each pedal.  A set of Schwalbe Marathons and a fresh wrapping of Cutter Artist’s Tape, a Mirabell and the bike was ready to go.  

I took it out for a 25 mile ride the last two Saturday and it felt great.  It already had a rear-view mirror and on the Chicago Lakefront Path, it has been a great help.  The slow zones are not exactly respected by a lot of folks who think they are racing the Giro d’italia and making a careful pass of the lakefront pedestrians.

I look forward to many a weekend pedaling about and racking up the miles on this frame.

(Source: vicsclassicbikes.blogspot.com)

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Every day I see bicyclists because they want to be seen.  They have shiny bicycles, bright neon shirts, flashing red lights, and sturdy, protective helmets.  The outfit and the gear announce to the world that they are present, they need to be noticed, and they want to be safe.
The bicyclists I see are also traveling the wrong way down a one-way street and blindly charging through intersections.  Admittedly, I cannot see how a stop sign applies to someone traveling the wrong way down the street.  It is, after all, facing the opposite direction and is quite unreadable.

Even so, the physical safety gear seems a little superfluous considering they choose to be flagrantly reckless.

Every day I see bicyclists because they want to be seen.  They have shiny bicycles, bright neon shirts, flashing red lights, and sturdy, protective helmets.  The outfit and the gear announce to the world that they are present, they need to be noticed, and they want to be safe.

The bicyclists I see are also traveling the wrong way down a one-way street and blindly charging through intersections.  Admittedly, I cannot see how a stop sign applies to someone traveling the wrong way down the street.  It is, after all, facing the opposite direction and is quite unreadable.

Even so, the physical safety gear seems a little superfluous considering they choose to be flagrantly reckless.

(Source: )

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Three wheels or two?

The cargo tricycle project has stalled.  I had a few days of fervor last week where I sat up late working out some of the details of the changes that I wanted to make from the original frame I tacked together last year.  The new design would require new brakes, waterjet aluminum and a fair amount of work.

My second choice has always been to make a bakfiet.  I had worries about transporting the dog in the bakfiet but after seeing one in action outside the Peggy Noteabart Nature Museum a few weeks ago, I think a bakfiet is the way to go.

Some of my inspiration, as seen across the web.  I can make plenty of room for London, Cheryl, and even a picnic basket.

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The Hardest Part of becoming a PE is …

paperwork.

Far and away the most difficult thing was the paperwork.  Studying mechanics of materials is a fairly straight-forward affair.  There are dozens of texts dedicated to the subject but there are zero books on the subject of paperwork related to the PE exam (or at least none of which I am aware).

Not all states have the same requirements for registration as a PE.  Some states require character references and interviews similar to those required of applicants to the Bar.  Illinois requires documentation of at least four years of engineering experience with an employment verification form that is to be filled out by your supervisor for every job that you use list as an experience credit.  You also need transcripts from you college and some deep pockets to cover the cost of all the application and examination fees.

The tricky part is that in Illinois all of the testing is carried out by third-party company.  In order to sit for the exam you must send all of your forms to this company and they will determine if you are eligible to sit the exam.  They require all paperwork to be completed about two months prior to the exam but they do not send you any indication that you have been accepted until about ten days before exam day.  There must be people out there they have diligently prepared for the exam only to be turned away ten days before showtime.  After sending your paperwork to the testing company, you also will have to send everything to the State, as well.  If you do not, your application will be regarded as incomplete and you will not be granted a license until you complete all of the required paperwork with the State.

I missed this little fact and my license was delayed a month or so.  This was on top of the two to three month wait for the exams to be graded.  All things considered it is a very slow process, but as it ultimately could lead to people living or dying, it is understandable that the exams must be graded very carefully.

Oh, and in regards to the need for deep pockets, sitting the FE and PE in the same weekend will set you back about $340.  Getting your test results recognized by the State of Illinois will require an additional $100.  If you add this to the cost of any review material you might want, getting licensed is about a $600 to $1000 investment (ever so slightly higher if you factor in the cost of an engineering education at an ABET school too, I suppose.).

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SRAM i-Motion 9

I have acquired a new SRAM i-Motion 9 internally geared multi-speed hub.  As my cargo tricycle is not yet completed I have not been able to try out the hub but I am excited about the new range of gears this offers me as compared to the old Sturmey-Archer 3-speed that I had been planning on using.  The SA3 proved a 177% ratio and the i-Motion 9 allows nearly double — 340%.

My daily commuter bicycle is a Schwinn World Sport that I stripped down to a single speed with a rear freewheel.  I have a 52t chain ring and a 13t sprocket and 27” wheels (108 gear inches).  The cargo tricycle has a 42t chain ring with a 18t sprocket and 26” wheels (61 gear inches).  This means my lowest gear on my cargo tricycle will be a comfortable 18 gear inches and I should be able to climb decent hill while hauling a decent load, though obviously at a very, very slow speed

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Taking the PE and FE in the same weekend

After completing my review, I felt confident that I could take whatever the exams had to offer.  The PE exam is open book and you can bring in almost any reference book you would like.  I put together a small stack of the books that I used most during my review and my practice exams:

  • Mechanical Engineering Design by Shigley and Mischke
  • The Standard Handbook of Machine Design by Shigley
  • Machinery’s Handbook
  • The Mechanical Engineering Reference Manual
  • Compact edition of ASME Steam Tables
 Of this small stack I only used three of the books.  My exam neighbors, however, went crazy with what they brought in as reference.  The average number of books was probably around ten.  The most I saw was around thirty.  People say the less prepared you are for the exam, the more books you bring so I would say a lot of people did not review at all.
The PE went by very quickly and the FE was even easier.  The PE is supposed to be harder than the FE so this did make sense, but the FE does not allow you to bring any reference material.  The proctors do provide to each examinee a book that, if you are somewhat familiar with the material, contains the answer to almost every problem.  Nice and easy.
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Getting ready for the PE

About a year ago I decided to pursue my Professional Engineering License.  The typical path for getting licensed involves getting a four-year engineering degree, passing the eight-hour Fundamental of Engineering Exam, working for four years as a Engineer In Training, and then passing the eight-hour Principles and Practice of Engineering Exam.

When I graduated with my BS in Mechanical Engineering and my BS in Materials Science I had every intention of going to graduate school — a PE license is a bit pointless in academia.  I changed my mind about going to graduate school towards the end of my final year of my undergraduate program and it was more important for me to find a job than to prepare to take the FE exam.  Fast forward three years and I here I was thinking about the PE and wondering how I could make it happen as soon as possible.  My first thought was that I needed to pass the FE and then wait four more years before taking the PE exam.  Fortunately, as a resident of the State of Illinois, I have the benefit of being under the jurisdiction of the Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation and the IDFPR permits engineers to take the FE and PE in the same weekend.  The IDFPR also reduces the experience required to licensing from four years to three years if you happen to have completed an approve co-op work/study program.

I had about seven to eight months before the weekend of the exams.  Friday was the PE and Saturday was the FE — a solid sixteen hours of engineering calculations and test questions covering everything an engineer is supposed to have learned in school and everything a competent engineer should know in order to safely serve the public.  I ordered a few review books and let a few months cruise by before plunging into review mode.  I reviewed a wide breadth of topics to prepare:

  • trigonometry
  • calculus
  • differential equations
  • chemistry
  • physics
  • materials science
  • circuit design
  • computer science
  • statics
  • dynamics
  • strength of materials
  • thermodynamics
  • heat and mass transfer
  • design and analysis of machine elements
  • HVAC
  • refrigeration
  • design of thermal systems
  • controls
  • manufacturing methods
  • economics
  • engineering ethics

It felt great to review all the information and to complete practice problems.  I took a few practice exams and I was ready for the big weekend.

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This bike rack is brilliant.  It is functional and it is educational.  At this time of the year not too many people in Chicago are thinking about ditching their cars and hopping on their bicycles — I took a survey of the bike room in my building and over 80% of the 250 or so bicycles being stored there had flat tires.  But just maybe if a few of these popped up around town (maybe not in a fully usable parking space as that might make a driver or two slightly irate) a few more people might make the jump to cycling.  The weather does allow for it right now; it was 56 degrees Fahrenheit yesterday!

The rack comes complete with a tire pump that I am hoping has some strong bones — that irate motorist might take out their parking frustrations on this rather colorful rack and the pump looks like a ripe target. 

This bike rack is brilliant.  It is functional and it is educational.  At this time of the year not too many people in Chicago are thinking about ditching their cars and hopping on their bicycles — I took a survey of the bike room in my building and over 80% of the 250 or so bicycles being stored there had flat tires.  But just maybe if a few of these popped up around town (maybe not in a fully usable parking space as that might make a driver or two slightly irate) a few more people might make the jump to cycling.  The weather does allow for it right now; it was 56 degrees Fahrenheit yesterday!

The rack comes complete with a tire pump that I am hoping has some strong bones — that irate motorist might take out their parking frustrations on this rather colorful rack and the pump looks like a ripe target. 

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Masterworks Wood and Design of San Jose, CA source local wood from urban forests — most recovered from urban trees in the San Francisco Bay area.  The bicycles are fully functional wood masterpieces that are handmade and sealed with low VOC rosewood oil.

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