A year ago Brett Keane made the news after suffering a heart attack while shopping at Mangawhai village.
Now hale and hearty, and with his pacemaker keeping accurate time, Brett has returned to his tinkering – after all, every man needs a project.
The epitome of Kiwi ingenuity – or should that be engine-uity – farmer, mechanic and general tinkerer, Brett set about to make cycling just that little bit easier by building an electric bicycle.
One aim was keeping it under the 300 watts of power threshold, and avoiding the necessity of vehicle registration and licensing that comes with upgrading to moped status.
“This is prototype number 4B,” announced Brett, proudly exuding all the knowledge of a (not so nutty) professor.
With my limited engineering knowledge I felt it better not to show my ignorance by asking just what 4B alluded to, but he explained: “Sounds technical but actually 4B refers to the Honda weedeater motor on the back.”
It’s not pretty but prototypes seldom are. What’s important is that prototype 4B works and works admirably.
As with all inventors, Brett has made several versions of his beast but now feels he is on the right track with the rear-mounted driving force. He is now undergoing several variations and changes of sprockets to his six-speed ratchet gearing system. He refers to it as a two-wheeled Zimmer frame but it beats pedalling and “the principle works OK.”
“It has a twelve-to-one reduction in the gearbox. Running on a generator and throttle system it can reach thirty to thirty-five kilometres an hour,” he continues “and though lithium batteries would give a better performance the present two twelve-amp acid batteries will give fifteen kilometres on a single charge. More than enough for tootling around the village.”
In time the cardboard and duct tape will go, to be replaced by structured conduit lines and wired in with a regulator to maintain constant battery charging.
Under petrol drive Brett estimates it will run 70 kilometres on a litre of fuel and the modified gearing will even take you up and over the Brynderwyns without too much trouble – and that’s a fair sort of climb.
“The most difficult job is keeping it under wraps from major companies,” he says with characteristic humour.
Brett is not trying to re-invent the wheel and as he says, mopeds have been around for years, but he’s having a load of fun tweaking each model.
Needless to say, for a local keen on biking the 4B (or it’s following model) will get you out in the fresh air to cruise the village, the Heads or the beaches with minimum exertion.
By Rob Pooley