Monday, July 4, 2011

Weird Science

I love my cargo bike.

Damn, They're Heavy!

The usual weekend bicycle combo in the house is me on the Bat and James on La Baillena.

Schleppe Pair

Like all things we love, La Baillena has some quirks. One of these quirks is very strange. Perhaps someone out there can enlighten me as to its origin.

My cargo bike, at times, generates enough static electricity that it shocks me! If the conditions are right (and I am not completely sure of what all those conditions are) I get shocked through both hands and my inner thigh where it contacts the saddle (if I am wearing something short enough to allow any skin to touch it). The shock is enough to cause a lot of pain and for me to reflexively let go of the handlebars. It always happens when I ride down a particular hill and is worse if I have a significant load, so I know the brakes have something to do with it.

Leg Powered

This picture was taken just before the first time it happened. I tried to explain it to James, but he wasn't sure of what I meant. That is until it happened to him the other day. He came home from a quick trip to the market and told me he now knew exactly what I meant. That's when we came up with the possibility that it is static electricity that is the problem.

Has anyone out there ever experienced this? If so, what did you do about it?


  1. "Has anyone out there ever experienced this?"

    Not on a bicycle. It's quite common in cars.

    "what did you do about it?"

    Grounded it. Try spraying your saddle bag and any clothes with synthetic content with anti-static fabric softener as well.

  2. I would agree with grounding the bike. Maybe you could attach a piece of wire to the frame near the kickstand that drags on the ground. It'll look like there is a loose bit on your bike, but if it works who cares.

  3. is it belt drive? belts make static get a chain. Or change the metal brake pads to Kool stops organic this also helps the squeeking

  4. Or....possibly the tires?
    Different tire compounds are more prone to creating static, as i recall, and there's a bigger contact patch when the bike is loaded.
    As others have posted, a wire dragging on the ground will drain off the static. Or possibly some type of chain which might be more musical!

  5. Ha! This is a regular feature of my commute. I posted about it a couple of years ago here (
    In my case, it was a simple matter of making sure I was always in direct contact with the bike frame (rest your bare thumb on the metal of your handlebar or something like that). Keep riding!


  6. way to go to change your life

  7. Chain works, but might prove annoying, to others as well as yourself. Try a bit of fine wire with a metal bead on the end attached to a ribbon. At speed the ribbon will lift the bead off the road, dropping to ground the bike when you slow.

    Making sure you touch the frame often so it never builds up any significant charge works fine too, but is easier to do without it becoming an annoying ritual on a diamond frame (you just keep your knees close enough that they tend to brush the top tube on occasion).

  8. Static in a car is a result of airflow over the vehicle which is unlikely to be the case in your situation. probably due to rubber or fabric rubbing on metal somewhere. Check your fenders, tire alignment and don't wear baggy clothes (skirts):)

  9. Makes certain bike rides "a shocking experience" LOL.

    "I was shocked again on my ride home I saw... um well lets just say I was shocked"

    "Didn't know my Feist had shocks..."

    "Come pull my finger..."

    BTW if you look at lots of shopping carts they have a small chain dragging the floor, I had a cart that was missing one once. Unpleasant to say the least. When this happens on cars the cartalk guys always blame the tires. Dunno I am not a physics kind of guy.

  10. Thank you, everyone! I am happy to see it isn't just me : ). The funny thing is I am one of those people who can not wear a wind up watch because I magnetize them and cause them to run fast. I end up having to take them to the jewelers to be demagnetized once a month.

    I think I will be trying the hanging wire this weekend. It will be awhile before I know if it works or not as our humidity is high right now so the static will be down.

  11. As you've gathered, having something dragging and always touching the ground will fix it. Doesn't really matter what, probably would be more efficient if it's metal. Do you have problems with electronics (lighting, cyclecomputer etc) crapping out?
    Honestly, I can't imagine I'd live with it long if it was shocking my inner thighs! yikes:)

    Best wishes for a Static Free Future!

  12. Are you sure that this is static?
    Sometimes I have the same problems when (or after) moving under high-voltage electric wires crossing the road hanging very low above the cycling area....

  13. Is it possible the dynamo hub is sending some current to the frame?