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Moriash Moreau: My Second Life
Sunday, September 24, 2006
Virtual Bicycle
I have taken the obligatory first step in integrating my exercise bike into SL. I now have a fully functioning pedal-powered ground vehicle!

Okay, at this point it's simply a shiny black cylinder, but as a proof of concept it works. I suppose I'll get around to building a bicycle-type vehicle that actually looks like a bicycle but, honestly, I'm not in any great hurry. Between the physics glitches, the obstructions, the security orbs (why are people still using these at ground level?!), and the pervasive no-entry bars, ground-level driving is just not a lot of fun. Worse, many of these issues require me to dismount and go to my keyboard in order to deal with them. Vexing. I'll probably do a few more tests, perhaps in designated vehicle sims, but I think I'm going to just move on to the original human-powered aircraft concept. Most of the problems disappear when you're several hundred meters above ground.

In any case, here is phase one of the project: the ground interface. As with the VR interfaced treadmill (which I've been using almost daily for over a month now), I went with a reed switch for the main movement signal. (I even used another wooden domino as a spacer for the switch. I feel vindicated for keeping useless crap like a partial set of dominoes around now.) You can see the white wire leading to it at bottom center.

I used four small magnets to trigger the reed switch. They're taped directly onto the wheel using double-sided foam and fiber packing tape (the shiny white bundle on the wheel next to the reed switch). I ended up having to add multiple magnets in order to persuade the reed switch to fire reliably at high speeds. Otherwise, the magnet passed too quickly to close the switch. The huge mass of packing tape is probably overkill, but I kept imagining the magnets flying loose under centrifugal force and destroying something I want, well, undestroyed. You know, television, monitor, window, wall, shin, patella, things like that.

As you can see, I created my own custom set of handlebars using galvanized water pipe. This wasn't strictly necessary for the project, but I didn't like the racing style handlebars that came with the exercise bike. They required the rider to lean over in approved racing style, and even a couple minutes using them was hard on my lower back. I kind of like the way the new handlebars look, anyway.

The handlebars are loose in the bicycle frame, allowing them to be turned left and right. The vertical portion has a small cam/protrusion clamped onto it, positioned such that it pushes one of two simple switches (the metal straps screwed onto the wood scrap) closed when turned. Extremely crude and, frankly, ugly. But it seems to work. I'll probably come back and redo this part if it turns out that I use these controls frequently. Right now, my tentative control scheme for the flying bike involves leaning into turns, and thus probably won't require turning the handlebars at all. We'll see how it turns out, I guess.

More to come as things develop.
Can't you just stick the magnets inside the tyre? It would look neat and tidy and the would be no chance of them going intercontinental.
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