Bill's Blog

Update: Sunnyside Neighborhood Sign

March 17th, 2013 by Bill

While Stites Design works primarily in the electrohuman powered transportation world, there are sometimes opportunities to stretch the working field and express designs in a fresh medium.

Here are some photos and updates on how the Sunnyside Neighborhood sign has progressed. It is designed to present a kinetic effect with it’s rotating sunflower. The visual effect of the counter-rotating spirals is hoped to provide a mesmerizing outward radiation of the light passing through the sunflower.  And it will be rain driven, not wind driven.

This sign will be sited in Portland, OR.; on the southwest corner of SE Stark Street and 33rd Ave., on the property of Laurelhurst Village.

A gracious thank you goes out to Valerie Garrett, who has hand-painted this sign.  With her color talents, and my work in metal and construction, we are a great team from Sunnyside.



Partial Sign with Steel Banner for lettering

We placed a couple of small lamps behind “Sunnyside Neighborhood” to show the cutout letters.  When the sign is installed, natural light will provide the background illumination.


Laser cut steel flower – approx. 36″ diameter

This front portion of the flower will be mounted on a central bearing to allow easy rotation.



Fixed Steel Spiral – with rotating flower laid down

The fixed spiral in the background will be bolted to the painted wood portion.  Note the water cups on the rotating portion that is laid down in the foreground.




Laser cut steel flower over spiral background

Here the flower parts are juxtaposed as they’ll be mounted.  The Rotating Flower is hoped to be rain powered.  The water cups on the back of each petal will generate force to gently rotate the front spiral clockwise.




Laser cut steel sunflower, with 36 water cups welded on

We’re trying to catch enough water to slowly spin when it’s raining.  There will be a rain catchment system along the top edge of the sign, then funneling water into the cups … that’s the theory anyway.




Close up of water cups, one on the back of each petal

The water cups are made from 1 x 2 rectangular tube that has been chopped into 1″ pieces.  The ‘bottoms’ of the cups are rectangular plates welded at the four corners.  Each cup is then welded onto each petal – all 36.




Sneak Preview – with steel banner and flower

This is probably the closest approximation to the final look we could assemble.  The flower parts will be green in front, and purple or yellow behind – which do you think?

There will also be a steel trim around the whole wood portion, and this trim – along with the ‘steel banner with lettering’ – will be allowed to rust and take on an earthy brown color.  This should bring it all together and ‘ground’ the sign.

The big question is when will it be finished?  We are hoping for a May opening, but still plead for ‘artist privelege’ on timing.

Thanks to everyone in the ‘hood for their patience.  I recently moved my shop out of the neighborhood, and we are still in transition.

I still live in Sunnyside, and really looking forward to taking walks past the sign … especially when it’s raining.


Truck Trike v2 – update 17 jan 2012

January 17th, 2012 by Bill
A large cargo trike with a payload capacity of 600 lbs. creates some formidable stresses on the frame.  With a front frame that provides step-through access, the driver inadvertently applies lots of twisting and torsion loads on the front end.
This is due in part to the rigid 3-wheeled chassis, that doesn’t have the side-to-side freedom that a bicycle has. 
Among many improvements we learned from the prototype, going from 1 x 1  to  2 x 2 square steel tubes in the front frame has yielded a much stiffer and stronger frame.
We also added side plates to create a box beam.
Beast of a front frame

Beast of a front frame


The box beam is well anchored to the rear flat-bed frame.  Step-through frame is essential for easy mount/dismount.  The frames have now been powdercoated.
Front Frame, left side

Front Frame, left side


SHIFT Urban Cargo Delivery  in Vancouver, BC  is getting the blue, and orange is our default color.  Note that just the front frames are color; the rest of the vehicle is black, including the front fork.  This affords a nice contrast, and provides companies with an opportunity to use branding colors.
Front Frames, and misc.
Front Frames, and misc.


On this version of the Truck Trike, we decided to create bolt-on dropouts for mounting the rear wheels.  This renders them replaceable, as we wish to be able to fit different hub motors for research purposes.  In this way we can test many different wheel/motor combinations, and only the dropout is changed – no cutting or welding needs to be done.

We’ll be using the same motorcycle level hydraulic brakes, Italian-made Grimeca brand, as when we upgraded the original prototype.

Rear Wheel, with Hi Torque Hub Motor

Rear Wheel, with Hi Torque Hub Motor

Besides general component assembly, installation of wiring and the rear hydraulic brakes are the last big tasks.

Progress on Truck Trike v2

November 20th, 2011 by Bill

We are busily working on the next two Truck Trike frames, of the new v2 design.  Here’s a few photos to show the new frame, with the unique “connector plates”.   There are still lots of pieces to attach to the frames, such as tabs for wiring, tabs for lighting, filler plates, name plates, … even the wheel wells need to be added, as they are first built in a sub-assembly.

The “Connector Plates” connect the Front Frame to the Rear Frame.  They are welded to the Front Frame, and bolted to the Rear Frame.  Thus, the Truck Trike provides the possibility of a myriad of modular options, and can be disassembled for shipping.

Connector Plates for attaching vertical front frame to horizontal rear frame

Connector Plates


Connector Plates poised on rear frame

Connector Plates on rear frame


The Front Frames were redesigned with larger tubing to enhance performance and strength.  Additionally, now there’s room to run the wiring internally, nice!

Front/side view of Front Frames v2

Front/side view of two Front Frames v2


Note the laser cut detail in the Head Tubes.

First two Front Frames of v2

Big Bad Brakes

August 6th, 2011 by Bill

Real world testing has shown that the Truck Trike really isn’t like anything that has come before in the bike world.  While it is a “hybrid” relative to its power sources [human + electric], it also can be described as a hybrid in its overall configuration.

The front end is easily recognizable as a bike.  But the rear end – with its 600+ lb. capacity – is more like a truck.  While we have tried to stay on the level of bicycle components for ease of availability and maintenance, it became clear that there were no bicycle brakes – even downhill hydraulics – that were up to the task of stopping upwards of 1/2 ton of mass [vehicle+driver+payload].

Thus, we are now specifying motorcycle-level hydraulic brakes for the rear section.  Such technology is well-proven, and readily available.  The new system provides full confidence in the ability to stop a fully loaded Truck Trike.

The photo shows the old bicycle rotor on the left, and the new motorcycle rotor on the right.  We designed and machined a custom adaptor to mount the monster rotor on a bike hub’s standard 6-bolt pattern.

old and new disc brake rotors

Old and new disc brake rotors.



Golden Ratio for Truck Trike = about .25 !!

July 9th, 2010 by Bill

There is a golden ratio for vehicular efficiency, that is, vehicle weight / cargo weight.  A typical truck that weighs 8000 lbs., and often carries 2000 lbs. of cargo around town, comes in at “4”.  That’s obese!  One wants to get the ratio below “1”, where the cargo weighs MORE than the vehicle.  Who’s the king of the golden ratio?  the cargo bicycle, the cargo trike, or maybe the electric cargo trike??

Honoring the ‘golden ratio’, we can achieve high levels of efficiency.  The Truck Trike is coming in around 215 lbs.  That’s just where we wanted to be, in the 200 – 250 range.  And there’s the ambitious cargo load – 800 lbs.  Then there’s the rider’s weight, and batteries.  If we include the batteries in the vehicular weight, and the rider in the overall payload, we could easily see 250 / 1000.  That’s 1/4 or .25   Excellent.

Bringing in electric assist allows the rider to move these heavy loads at a reasonable pace.  Using dual electric drive motors, with the right gearing, allows us to power total vehicle weight that can top 1,000 pounds – yeah, that’s a 1/2 ton!

So, the flip side of the power coin, is stopping all this mass.  We have spec’d some new motorcycle/scooter level hydraulic disc brakes on the rear, and I am presently working on the custom hardware to mount these components.

Time to get started

June 28th, 2010 by Bill

Well, Social networking is certainly feeling very established now.  While I’ve resisted blogging, twitter, and facebook [almost there], it’s pretty clear that the communication potential is far reaching.  Seems everyone is flowing on board, like we’ve reached a critical mass.   Time to join in on the conversation and engage.

And there’s the very practical side of website updating – it must be easy or it won’t get done.

I’ll start with a link to another blog, , where a recent story on the Truck Trike was published.

Bear in mind this trike is heavy duty, as we are trying for 800 lbs. cargo.  I’ll be the first to admit this needs to be tested and proven – that’s a lot of weight.  But I’m not concerned about the structure of the steel frame and flat bed; it seems the wheels will most often be the limiting factor, since all the load stress needs to course through them.

January update

January 27th, 2010 by Bill

It is amazing how much work and detail there is when creating a new vehicle for the first time.  The R&D going into the new Truck Trike has been extensive, as this is a new vehicle class.  It is an electrohuman hybrid that weighs over 200 lbs. but less than 300 lbs.  What shall we call this new class?