Stokemonkey sales & marketing pause

[Note: Stokemonkey became available again 17 November 2008. See the Stokemonkey site for info.]

Stokemonkey sales are on hold until further notice. We expect resumed sales in early 2008. We will announce availability here when we are ready to ship, not a day before. The primary issue is the low stock levels of necessary components. A more complete status picture is in the comments below.

Why have stock levels fallen so low, and can’t we just order up more parts? Because we’re continually improving Stokemonkey, and the design and test process has taken far longer than anticipated. We can’t order parts in volume because their new design is not completely stable.

Late last year we identified a safety liability with Stokemonkey. We have since tested several potential fixes, and rejected most as unreliable. The process has led to a complete redesign of Stokemonkey’s controller by the manufacturer to fix this problem decisively, and to incorporate several other improvements. Meanwhile, we have received one more report of the dangerous stuck-throttle problem (for a total of two incidents), so we won’t consider ordering more of the older-generation controllers as a stopgap.

Clever Cycles plans to sell and support Stokemonkey not exclusively as a mail-order, do-it-yourself retrofit kit, but as something you can buy as part of a complete vehicle, from us or other bike shops. This exposes us to greater liability than before. Specifically, our insurance likely won’t protect us in the event of claims if the vehicle doesn’t conform to federal Consumer Product Safety Commission regulations pertinent to electric bicycles. These regulations stipulate a powered speed limit of 20 MPH. Stokemonkey’s top speed to date has been essentially unregulated; people installing the kit have had the option to limit the bike’s high gearing to impose arbitrary top speeds as their jurisdictions (or personal judgment) may require. But now, as hinted previously, we must assure that the federal limit will be observed whenever the product is installed as directed. Without making the product, or your bicycle, suck. We’ve got all the basics in place; now it’s a matter of getting the various parties involved to coordinate certain details, get the components into production, and deliver.

We know that Stokemonkey and cargo bikes together are a great concept with enormous potential to help bicyclists “cut the cord” of car dependency, even if they live in places designed to cement such dependence. We ask your understanding and patience as we proceed cautiously toward rolling it out on a grander scale.

81 thoughts on “Stokemonkey sales & marketing pause”

  • graham

    Todd, where does that leave potential customers outside USA? The speed limits are a little higher in this neck of the woods. I am quite happy to take all responsibility for maintaining legality etc.and give a written release to you for such.

  • Todd

    The speed limiting mechanism will be programmable. If you figure out how to program it for above the legal limit, or otherwise contrive to defeat it, it will be due demonstrably to your deliberate intervention and not to our negligence. Honestly I think 20 MPH is generous for true cargo applications -- that's amazing uphill. The braking systems, tire purchase, and structural integrity of many bicycles make much higher speeds truly sketchy. The useful application that may suffer most is the "high speed commuter" one where not much cargo is involved. Lobby your elected representatives? It shouldn't be illegal to use vehicles that are lighter than what they carry at speeds achievable on human power alone. Give it a decade or two more of fossil fuel depletion and associated cost hikes for the screws to turn.

  • Graham

    Thats OK, 20mph isn't much off the limit here anyway. I was more concerned about the possibility of you not shipping outside USA, that, and I don't like unnecessary complications in electronics. Plus, I assume the price goes up? I followed the link to your China trip, it is interesting to see the "global cottage industry" aspect.

    Do you really think it will take decades?

  • Ken Wetherell
    Ken Wetherell June 14, 2007 at 8:03 am

    Todd,
    I can scarcely imagine how little reading time you must have these days (Clever Cycles looks awesome!), but have you read the book I gave you, "Lean Thinking"? I would be very curious to know, if after reading the book, you still viewed your challenge in fulfilling Stokemonkey orders as primarily related to stock levels. You certainly know your manufacturing issues better than I, and I would not presume to tell you how to manage your business, but I hope the book will provide you some hope and ideas for manufacturing with maximum value and minimal waste and inventory.

    I bet two things you'd like to eliminate are that long wait for the boat ride from China and the diesel it burns. I know, cost is a huge factor here!

    Admittedly, this note comes from a position of complete selfishness on my part since Stokemonkey is an important piece of the puzzle for me in my plans to promote sustainable transportation options and bike-enabled commerce.

  • Jim Garrett

    Todd, I spoke with you a month or so ago about a stokemonkey for a Townee Electra. Do you foresee making any of these in the near future. I have an electric motor assist built into the front wheel of my Townee and probably get at least 20 mph with it. I live in Kansas so I don't have to climb many hills. Will the stokemonkey with the speed limiting mechanism give me much that I don't have now? The stokemonkey's range is probably more than I have now (about 20 miles), but that's plenty for my needs.

  • Todd

    Jim, we don't intend to support Stokemonkey for non-cargo/passenger applications such as a normal Electra Townie. Stokemonkey probably accelerates better than the hub motor you have now, but a plain hub motor is hard to beat on cost-effectiveness grounds for merely personal transport in flattish areas. Actually we think plain bikes are usually best for that unless you have health or socio-cultural challenges (such as intolerance for honest summer sweat). I suggest you look into products like BionX or Cyclone if you're not satisfied with simple hub motors: http://bionx.ca/ ; http://www.cyclone-usa.com/ . I have some beefs with these, but they're worth consideration.

  • Todd

    A number of happy Stokemonkey customers have asked me for replacement parts, not out of need, but out of fear that Stokemonkey is going out of production. This is completely false. In fact, there are more than twice as many Stokemonkey component sets in the production pipeline as there are Stokemonkeys on the road.

  • Steve Bachtel
    Steve Bachtel June 23, 2007 at 2:37 pm

    I've been telling friends about Stokemonkey for over a year now. We're finally moving closer to town and selling one of the cars. I was surfing eBay for a used Karate Monkey and I'm all ready to put the Stokemonkey/monkey in the garage and now I can't! You've got to grow your base! We're talking about evangelists here! I guess I'll keep checking back.

  • Mike

    Todd -

    Well done with CleverCycles! Congrats.
    I'm anxiously awaiting your return to Stokemonkey operations. In addition to the little one we have in the oven, my wife and I have a slightly used Bakfiet on the way and I really hope to mount a Stokemonkey for hauling large loads.

    Keep us all posted, and keep up the good work!

    Mike

  • Jay

    You're killing me here. No sooner did I reach my Stokemonkey budget point, you go on a sales sabbatical.
    Ah, well, no wine before its time, I suppose. Please give those of us who already have an Xtracycle a head start on the Big Dummy sales rush.

    Thanks

    Jay

  • Jonathan

    And you've taken down the order form on your web page so now I cant even register my desire. Bugger!

    I really hope Clevercyles is a success for you. The post you wrote on your blog announcing its formation was a really poignant piece.

    Good luck
    Jonathan

  • Rob Darbyshire

    Hello,

    Do you have an update on when sales may resume? I have been holding on for a couple of months now! Very eager but a scooter is starting to look appealing! If you can just give us a clue, september, october, etc.

    Thanks,

    ROb

  • Todd

    Rob (and others): I'll announce publicly when I have a reliable shipping date. I won't give unreliable dates lest I lose further time, and cause further annoyance, revising those dates down the line in dozens of disappointing email responses to eager queries. That said, it's unlikely to be shipping again before October, late. Please don't ask again in October, or even January if it comes to that. Don't get the wrong idea: I work on it every day, and there are more units in production than ever in the past.

    I'd say if you're considering a scooter, get a scooter!

  • Evan

    Is there a way that we can get an email when you have a date, or should we just check back periodically?

  • Jay

    Will the stokemonkey be compatible with the new Kona Ute cargo bike? Seems like this give one more option to folks that aren't the do-it-yourself types.

    This 'sales pause' is really killing me!

  • Todd

    I don't know anything about the Kona Ute other than what's public. As it is not an Xtracycle, though, it will take some doing.

  • Anne

    I don't know whether you were expecting this or not, but there's a sizeable article on your system in the current Make magazine. I'm here because I did a search on Stokemonkey after reading the article. You might consider rigging a splash page with the current status and a sign-up list to handle article hits.

  • mikalo

    An Xtracycle + a stokemonkey would go well with the end of year turkey diner.

  • Todd (admin)

    Stokemonkey also got good press in issue 26 of Velo Vision magazine, and our patent was issued recently, as well. We continue to experience small setbacks in the (re)development and inventory-building processes, but don't worry, Stokemonkey's not going away. As in the past, we will prioritize order fulfillment when the time comes to people who already ride Xtracycles.

  • Kurt

    Thanks for pointing me here Todd, I didn't realize there were replies to this blog entry.

    for the record, I'm riding an xtra now and will be buying a big dummy as soom as possible. Put me up high on the list..... :-)

  • Paul from Chicago
    Paul from Chicago September 22, 2007 at 5:06 am

    I just want you to know that I'd be ready to buy stock in your company. (No I'm not in Forbes...). I do believe in your product, and look forward to when they will be available. Please send word when your are back in biz. And as Studs Terkle, a fellow Chicagoan says: "Take it easy...but take it."
    Thanks

  • John

    Hello, will you have a booth at Interbike?
    Thanks

  • Todd (admin)

    No, John. I'll be in attendance 1.5 days though, probably often hanging near the Xtracycle booth.

  • Bruce Wilson

    Surley says that the Big Dummy will be out in January.

    I'm beginning to feel like Alice in Wonderland, when the White Queen offered her a job as her maid, with jam every other day--"Jam yesterday, jam tomorrow, but NEVER JAM TODAY."

  • Kathy Sherman

    I'm trying to decide whether to make up my own bike with the xtracycle in anticipation of your resuming Stokemonkey sales or waiting for the Big Dummy to come out and buying a complete bike.. Do you think you'll be resuming sales and filling orders before January? (Do I sound anxious or what??)

  • Alan Braggins

    http://yubaride.com/ looks interesting as a cargo bike, but probably not as easy to fit a Stokemonkey to as an Xtracycle (or Xtracycle style longbike).

  • EAlves

    I have seen the Surly Big Dummy recently in Eurobike and had the oportunity to shortly test the Yuba Mundo. The Dummy prototype has an excellent quality but seems to be a very expensive bike due to the high quality of most components. The Yuba is a much simpler and affordable bike although quite resistant for a tough usage. I think you could compare both the same way as you would compare a Toyota Land Cruiser and a Land Rover Defender. I vote for the Yuba (and yes, I believe it would not be difficult to adapt the Stokemonkey to it or any other [pardon me Clever people] electrical motor)

  • Andrew

    I know your on a stokemonkey hiatus but I've got a future planning question.

    Will the new Stokemonkey work with a Electra Townie Xtracycle SUB?

    I was looking at getting a Surly Big Dummy when they were released but comments on your blog about the geometry have me concerned. I made switched to an Electra Townie from an MTB for comfort reasons and love it. I'm a bit concerned about heading back to back pain with the Big Dummy. So now I'm thinking of using the Xtracycle SUB conversions kit on my Townie and getting a stokemonkey when they're available. Is this possible?

  • Todd (admin)

    like this? http://www.flickr.com/photos/cleverchimp/448424227/

    not yet determined.

  • andrew

    Guess I'll have to hold off on the SUB conversion. :-(

  • Jim Garrett

    Andrew, I bought a Townie in April and fit it with an xtracycle free radical. At that time, I planned to add a stokemonkey but Todd informed me that a stokemonkey would not fit the Townie. He did say that he was working on a bracket that would fit the seat post of the Townie. I'm sure that's not done yet and probably won't be anytime soon. I bought a wheel hub motor that is working just fine (I live in Kansas where it's pretty flat). It cost about $500 which is considerably cheaper than a stokemonkey. The battery fit perfectly right behind the seat. Never give up, there's more than one way to skin a cat. Jim

  • ERS

    The car is listed for sale, the rans crank forward with xtracycle conversion is ongoing, hopefully santa will be able to bring me a stokemonkey!

  • Paul

    Hey Todd,

    I check the blog occasionally to see if there is an updated timeline on Stokemonkey production. We're at that time of year when I'm thinking, "do I keep that money in the bank for the Stokemonkey, or do I buy some firewood?" If you're not going to be back up and running until late spring, I could go ahead and buy more firewood and keep that NG furnace turned off for another month or so.

  • Todd (admin)

    Several years ago, before I began work on Stokemonkey, there were a great many really interesting electric bike products being promised "real soon now." I watched availability dates keep getting pushed forward, and each time the alleged manufacturers would lose a bit more credibility and good will, until finally, for the most part, they just disappeared. I resolved that I wouldn't fall into the same trap of announcing availability dates in advance of actual availability, of purveying vaporware. I'm still not going to estimate a date, though I have a loose one in my head. Fact is, when I finally get the last of the stuff I need to resume shipping, it might have problems. It has happened before. That's why I won't say until I'm actually ready to ship. Sorry.

    Curious? The main delay at this point is batteries. Specifically NiMH packs. They were manufactured in Tianjin in May. They've been sitting there ever since because apparently no sea carrier will accept them. The manufacturer wants to send them by air. That will really blow my costs sky-high. Nickel has shot up in price dramatically in the last year, too, so I'm starting out from a high cost. Why won't sea carriers take them, when they have in the past? Because the International Maritime Dangerous Goods Code is being revised, or has recently been revised, and there is some question as to whether my battery packs should properly be classed as Dangerous Goods. In July of this year, Germany proposed special restrictions/packaging requirements on NiMH cells following a boiler-related fire at sea in 2005: http://72.14.253.104/search?q=cache:5gUSH-f-al0J:www.prba.org/File.aspx%3FPath%3D%255CPublic%255CGermany%2520Proposal%2520on%2520Ni-MH%2520Batteries%2520-%2520July%25202007.pdf

    We could hire a Hazardous Materials consultant to a$$e$$ the current state of the Code and make a determination about what transport methods are allowable. Or I could arrange to have the packs consolidated with other elements of the product awaiting shipment in China. Why does that matter? Because if the batteries are considered a component of a manufactured product, rather than as bulk/loose items, then the restrictions are much relaxed. But to have the batteries forwarded to another party in China means that the battery factory will lose their hefty incentive from the Chinese government for *direct* export. Do I want to compensate the battery factory for their loss? These are rhetorical questions. We've moved on. I relate it here so you understand the kind of obstacles I've been negotiating. We've hired two logistics management companies (and fired one) to help us. The second hasn't been all that helpful either but they are at least responsive.

    Big Dummy has been pushed out to February. That's a little breathing room, not that I've forgotten about you and other regular Xtracycle people, Paul.

  • Bruce Wilson

    Oh, Todd, I feel for you. When I took business information services I got some taste of what people in your position have to go through.

    The Stokemonkey is a wonderful idea, and I really hope you get the kinks worked out and get it back on the market. If/when I replace my Fuji Monterray X-conversion with a Big Dummy, I want it to have a Stokemonkey for the steep hills around here.

  • Michael Kohne

    I think it's very good of you to NOT issue dates you can't be sure you'll meet. I wish some of the companies I've worked for would do the same. Thanks and good luck!

  • Kathy Sherman

    Hi Todd - I read with interest your battery supply difficulties. Forgive me if I'm repeating information you already know, but by the time you get your NiMH cells, and get into production, NiMH may no longer be a competitive choice. I have been following the rise of Lithium Iron Phosphate cells (may have messed up the name). These are significantly lighter than NiMH (about 1/2 the weight), offer higher capacity, and can be recharged 2x to 4x as many times as NiMH. They should not be confused with Li-Ion cells, which occasionally catch fire in laptops. They are considered much safer in spite of the fact that they put out larger current than Li-Ion. They also are not "vapor ware" and are in production in power tools now sold by Dewalt and Black & Decker. There are several makers of these batteries, but one U.S. company is called A123 in Watertown, MA. (I have no connection to these guys - but I work on battery chargers so I have been following them)

    I know how production goes and that the last thing you want to do is mess with a working design, but given your supply problems, you might consider this change. I don't doubt that these cells are more expensive than NiMH, but since none of these bike conversions can be called "cheap" anyway, I'd be willing to bet that the preformance boost would be appreciated by customers, even at an additional cost.

    But even if you (understandibly) stick with NiMH, would you consider selling Stoke Monkey packages sans batteries and charger? It seems that the ideal system could use one or two Dewalt Li-Iton-Phophate batteries and fit sockets on the bike (often done by hacking up flashlights - cheapest way to get a battery socket). There is a growing pool of info on the Web regarding these sorts of hacks.

    I've always wondered why more small makers of rechargeable products did not "piggy back" on the power tool infrastructure of reliable batteries and chargers. This is the weak in link in so many products, and the big tool companies have already done the hard work.

    Anyway - That's my 2 cents. Best of Luck.

  • Todd (admin)

    Kathy (or husband Len?) -- I have been following lithium battery technology for years, and tested several flavors. LiFePo is indeed intriguing, but packs suitable for electric bike use are still at the hobbyist/enthusiast level in terms of necessary assembly skill and/or cost. I do sell Stokemonkey sans battery and charger, in principle, but I have balked in the past when I ask what alternatives people propose to use, and I hear things like hooking up banks of car batteries in the poor freeloaders, or various other poorly-thought-through schemes (including buying >$1K of Dewalt packs and raiding them for their cells) that I know will draw me into support issues beyond my willingness or ability to handle. How can I provide a satisfaction guarantee and warranty support if I don't know the whole system? One thing is certain: Stokemonkey won't perform better than its power source will allow. That said, I am on the brink of ordering a 7Ah 36V LiFePo pack for evaluation that would still retail for much more than NiMH of equivalent capacity.

  • [...] Anne the kids and I had the good fortune to stop for a visit in late August at the end of a week on the Oregon coast. Owner (co-owner?), Todd Fahrner of Xtracycle Stokemonkey fame, was super gracious with his time, stories and charm. The shop is a beaut - these folks could teach most to the retail world a thing or two about “merchandising” — but still let (encouraged!) my kids cruise around the place on the like-a-bikes while giving us a preview of the new space and a lowdown on the Stokemonkey situation. [...]

  • graham

    Ugh!

    I understand the kind of hassles importing stuff brings with it, and it gets worse by the day.

    I worked for a company importing stuff on a regular basis not long ago and we went through a period when every shipment over an 18 month period went wrong. Every 6 weeks it was something new, the first occasion was a call to say the truck to the airport ( that one was a rush air shipment ) had overturned on a wet highway and the goods were ruined. The last one was to say the factory had been shut down for 2 days because they had found an unexploded WWII bomb while excavating the factory extension! In between we went through so many customs screw ups and misunderstandings. I feel your pain.

  • Ian Hopper

    Todd, you mentioned some of the battery obtainment issues when I came by the shop earlier this month, but reading them again makes me almost weep. There are so many people who will benefit from the stokemonkey: I almost feel guilty for the fact that I have one and other's can't get one... yet. I assume that you'll solve these issues eventually though because you managed to bring Stokemonkey to market once already. Keep at em! For the record: I may me buying a testing a <a href="https://2339072343.monstercommercesites.com/index.asp?PageAction=VIEWPROD&ProdID=3326" rel="nofollow">10Ah Battery Pack</a> to try out with my stokemonkey, as my stock large battery weighs about 26lbs with it's enclosure.

  • Ian Hopper

    Apologies for my atrocious grammar on that last entry... the shame!

  • Todd Hamilton

    <del datetime="2007-11-28T18:16:29+00:00">Such a decision. September '06 saw my xtracycled instigator finally marry with the long awaited S/M. Loved it but I just didn't find the need for the utility it offered. My job soon moved within walking distance and the remaining errands are within my physical biking limits. I've logged 250 miles with stokemonkey in use. To know someone is using this unit to full potential would relieve some guilt. The 9 Ah battery is kept on its charger and holds charge as well as ever but I will deduct its value from the selling price and a discount for usage and light scratches would only seem fair. Happy to send pix if interested.</del>

    p(tb). [Admin edit: the used kit is SOLD. I am moderating comments in this thread pretty heavily because many people are subscribed to it awaiting actual news of Stokemonkey availability. If your comment does not appear, either I have forwarded it to the appropriate recipient or it is redundant; e.g., "gee I hope Stokemonkey ships soon; when will it? where is my big dummy? should i buy a scooter instead?" etc.]

  • Ted

    Todd, I'm looking at a major interstate shutdown (in St. Louis) in another week and face a commute that's just long enough and just hilly enough to not be fun on my bike. Knowing what things were like a week ago, with minimal shutdowns and holiday shoppers, got me to thinking about the article on Stokemonkey in this Fall's Make. When I saw that they were not currently for sale I, well, you want a poorly thought out scheme? I was seriously considering tracking down a motor with specs similar to the one you are using and starting from scratch.

    While I appreciate your desire to not be the guy who keeps saying, "any day now" could you at least be talked into making a "where things stand" kinds of comment every few weeks? From a customer relations standpoint it would be like your trip to Madison story only with less engineering and more maritime law.

  • Todd (admin)

    Fair enough, Ted. Where things stand:
    * All necessary materials from China have been consolidated and are in queue to be shipped, by sea. My contact there is reliable but tends not to respond to status queries until the news is good. I haven't heard anything from him for close to 2 weeks.
    * All locally made components are either complete or can be completed in very short order. One key component is available only in rather small batches, however, so it might prove a bottleneck to fulfilling pent-up demand.

    When we do receive the new materials, we must assemble and test each unit, which can take significant time. An early order of business will be to replace older-generation controllers in the field with the new generation that address the "stuck throttle" problem we identified last year. We'll need also to re-vamp the product's documentation, photos, etc. We'll review the accounting and possibly re-set prices. We will announce availability when we are confident that we have enough assembled and tested units ready to ship in order to stay on top of orders.

    O, and OK, here are some of the design changes/new features:

    * Stokemonkey will be bundled with a specially-programmed version of CycleAnalyst (formerly DrainBrain), a piece of electronics that in addition to typical cyclocomputer functions displays electrical system details like state of charge, real-time wattage, watt-hours-per-mile, number of charge cycles, etc. CycleAnalyst will also provide speed limiting, gently ramping down the throttle signal as a set speed is approached, and gently ramping up as speed falls off. It will come capped to 20mph; you enter the wheel size as with any other cyclocomputer for accurate computation of speed, odometer functions, etc. CycleAnalyst will also defeat the throttle signal whenever the wheel speed is 0, as a safety measure (fewer "surprise" starts) and to discourage the practice of using Stokemonkey as a substitute for downshifting before starting from a stop. In addition to these safety and legality features, having the information generated by CycleAnalyst available should greatly help with troubleshooting, lowering support costs.
    * The new controllers should prove more reliable and are noticeably smoother especially at low RPMs. The "stuck throttle" condition is dealt with by logic that cuts power if any throttle signal is detected at power-on; which is when the problem was most likely to present itself, and most dangerous.
    * We're phasing out high- and low- motor modes. They'll come wired "high" with any desired power limiting being implemented electronically in CycleAnalyst. The next generation of motors will be more powerful than ever with some level of power limiting being desirable for most applications.
    * The new throttle default style is left-thumb. The thumb style is less likely than the twist to be engaged accidentally by one's body weight in braking (this is why ATVs have thumb-style throttles now), and is the most compact for broadest compatibility. The left mounting is the natural best choice for noninterference with the dominant right-mount shifters.
    * There's a new pinch-guard to help keep your pants or skirts or shoelaces out of the drive chain. Still no substitute for proper attire like a leg band, but a help for the forgetful.
    * Motor axle and mount interface made symmetrical left-right for more flexibility in experimental installations.
    * All-new controller bag design is more flexible and won't drag on tire or press on fender as previous wedge-shaped bag had a tendency to do.

  • Cara Lin Bridgman
    Cara Lin Bridgman December 30, 2007 at 7:45 pm

    Hi Todd,

    The new developments sound great! Almost makes me wish I had waited to get my StokeMonkey.

    Current one is working great and keeps me working. And I do try to remember to always shift down before coming to a stop!

  • Bill Manewal

    Sounds good, Todd. I love the DrainBrain on my Stokemonkey bike, so bundling it really makes sense to me. And using it limit output is clever.

    I have had a few situations where one of the new features MAY not have been useful:
    With the bike heavily loaded, I have had to push it up steep embankments when venturing off road, up steep sidewalks in San Francisco, and up some stairs. It's been a boon to have the bike in the lowest gear and gently roll on the throttle to help me get things going.

    If the throttle is disabled at zero wheel rpm, perhaps this maneuver could not be accomplished? In other words, how fast does the wheel have to turn before the motor's torque is available?

    OTOH, I've only had a couple of "surprise" starts and these have been without consequence, as my reflexive move to get off the throttle has been quite quickly effective.

    But, I suppose, legal liability concerns shall prevail.

    Also, if I read you correctly, the stuck throttle cure only works at power-on. It would seem that it should be possible to tweak the controller's logic to detect when the output voltage to the motor exceeds the throttle input setting, thus preventing a stuck condition at any time during operation, not just at power-on.

  • Todd (admin)

    Bill, tapping the button on the CycleAnalyst will override the throttle lockout for several seconds, so you'll still be able to get a heavy load through an uphill intersection quickly, walk the laden bike up stairs, etc. The reality is that in spite of warnings many people leave the powered system unattended, because the silence is deceptive; the intent is mainly to protect people from harm -- like children -- who like to twist throttles. The throttle lockout also serves as an adjunct to the throttle-fault-at-startup logic to handle the case where the system is on when the fault occurs. If the fault occurs while the vehicle is in motion (which has never happened to my knowledge), the brakes would be a generally effective remedy.

  • Lisa-Maria

    Todd, thank you so much for that "Where things stand." Makes the waiting more bearable.
    After combing through your whole website, I am still unclear on one thing. Will you support the new Stokemonkey in Bakfiets applications, or is it strictly for Xtras?
    I've seen the Stoked Baks on your website, but after reading comments regarding Stokemonkey on the Ute and the Yuba (both of which look much more similar to an X than a Bakfiets), I am unsure of whether or not the Bakfiets and the Stokemonkey will go together.
    I'm not in great shape to begin with, but a very "in shape" dad in our neighborhood tells me that he doesn't take his two small children out in their Bakfiets much because the neighborhood is just too hilly. With my own 3 little ones (ages 5, 3, and 1), and living at the top of a steep hill here in Boston, I really think that a Stoked Baks is the only thing that is going to allow us to give up the car.
    We're very excited that the Dutch Bicylce Company will be moving up here to our neck of the woods, but it's all moot to me without the help of a Stokemonkey.
    -Thanks, and good luck.

  • Todd (admin)

    Thanks for your patience, Lisa-Maria and others.

    We do not currently plan to support Stokemonkey for bakfietsen. I suppose I should stop posting teaser photos of mine, then. Mine is an experiment. And the results of the experiment are that while it certainly makes a bakfiets more useful in hilly areas -- great, great concept -- it introduces safety issues that are bigger than we can ignore.

    Ridden heavily loaded at the modest speeds and in the kinds of modest hills most riders are likely to attempt on their own power, a bakfiets handles beautifully and brakes fine. Ridden at motor-boosted speeds and especially down the very steep hills Stokemonkey will get a bakfiets and passengers up, you can get in trouble quick. Safe stopping distance gets very long. Lay on the brakes too hard and you can lock a wheel, skid, and likely crash. This has happened to me more than once, and I suppose that I'm more experienced with riding loaded than >98% of our customers. Nobody was harmed; these bikes crash beautifully, but still. When I think of a less experienced parent approaching a controlled intersection at the bottom of a steep hill with the kids on board, using a motor we sold that made getting up that hill thoughtlessly easy, well, I freak out. The ability to climb steep hills with big loads must be balanced with the ability to stop safely down those hills. Liability waivers won't fix hurt kids.

    The problem isn't the brakes per se (though they can fade on extended descents), but the small amount of rubber on the road relative to the potential load and speed, the unfamiliar weight distribution across the wheels, and to some extent the compromised brake modulation over the very long control cable runs. These problems are integral to the design of the bakfiets, and can't be addressed comprehensively with component swaps or even basic frame modifications. It's also, ironically, how sweetly a bakfiets hides the sensation of weight: it handles big loads so well at modest speeds you can be deceived into going faster than is really prudent. Keeping it human powered introduces riders to these facts at a slow, forgiving rate.

    All that said, we have considered offering SM to bakfiets owners who have ridden their bike for 6 months, as a way to assure familiarity with the braking characteristics at speed, and equally to avoid depriving people of the *secret joy* of learning how much more they can handle on their own power than they might believe at first.

    These issues are present to a lesser extent with Xtracycle-type longtails, too: http://cleverchimp.com/products/stokemonkey/warnings/ . It goes beyond technological differences, though: having to sweat such things is alien to the admirably casual Dutch biking sensibilities embodied in a bakfiets.

    p(tb). Lisa-Maria: does the "in-shape" dad in your neighborhood have a 22T cog on the hub, as we would recommend for easiest climbing, or is it the stock 17T they'd use in flat Holland? He might not know. It's worth checking. We spec 19T by default for Portland's mostly easy hills.

  • Bruce A. Wilson
    Bruce A. Wilson January 4, 2008 at 7:03 am

    Lisa-Maria, I don't know Boston all that well, but I live in Charleston, WV. We have hills here steep enough that cars have trouble going up them, let alone bikes. If I were to get a bak I definately would want another bike for the hills.

    Todd has stated, I believe, that the Stokemonkeyed Bak was a one-off, and that the SM was just for Xtracycles (either a built-up one or a Big Dummy.)

  • Bill Manewal

    Knowing that Todd has done lots of riding in San Francisco, I still thought I'd chime in with my experience. I ride a SM/XC on a very heavy bike with fairly heavy routine loads. I estimate the gross vehicle weight at a somewhat gross 300 lbs of which my person comprises 180 gross lbs.

    I use hydraulic disc brakes front and back. Hydraulic lines should pretty much remove the problems with long control cables. The front brake is a Hope Ti6; rear is a Magura Gustav. Both received good reviews from the downhill racing crowd... I couldn't decide which to buy, so got one of each.

    Under almost all circumstances, I've found these brakes to perform exceptionally well. For instance, there's a long 2-lane downhill run to a left turn light that I make each night on my way home in South San Francisco. Traffic is moving 30-40 mph down the hill. At the top of the hill, from a stop sign, I take the left lane to set myself up for the left turn lane. I usually top out at about 40 mph and the brakes always feel very solid as they bring me to a sure stop at the light.

    However I HAVE experienced certain portions of my anatomy puckering more than a little on some VERY steep hills in San Francisco.

    According to the City Bureau of Engineering, the steepest hills in the city are 22nd St. between Church and Vicksburg & Filbert between Leavenworth & Hyde, both at 31.5 percent grade. Eight more hills fall (no pun) in the 24 to 29% range.

    Frankly I try to avoid these, but when I have found myself confronted with them a couple of times, I slowly eeked my way down, alternating between the front and rear brake to allow cooling and applying both when needed to control speed. By the time I get to the controlled intersection at the bottom, the front rotor smells like an iron skillet left on the stove. Some fade noted, and lots of worry about total failure.

    I can't imagine trying anything like this on a bakfiets, loaded or unloaded (the bike, that is!).

    As for the Dutch having admirably casual biking sensibilities, I'd be admirably casual in a FLAT COUNTRY too :-)

    In short, I think Todd' position, despite my being a huge SM fan, is spot on. IMHO, if considering ANY substantial weights (not to mention children!) coming down ANY substantial hills, one ought to be designing with motorcycle braking capabilities in mind. AFAIK, the very best of bicycle brakes are marginal under these conditions.

  • Bruce A. Wilson
    Bruce A. Wilson January 5, 2008 at 4:23 am

    If, despite these caveats, you decide to get a bak, there are other electric assist options besides the Stokemonkey. I'm not sure of the details, but with a little research you could find out.

    As for the breaks issue, the bak can't (I understand) be upgraded to disc brakes, but Human Powered Machines' Long Hauler (http://www.catoregon.org/hpm/longhaul.htm) is built along the same lines, and it CAN be fitted with disc brakes.

  • Samuel Gamester
    Samuel Gamester January 5, 2008 at 7:57 am

    I can't see any parent sensible enough to buy a bakfiets being foolish enough to descend a hill at dangerous speeds with kids on board. From photos i have seen (never seen one in the flesh) it looks like it ought to be possible to retrofit hydraulic discs and fairly fat tyres to improve stopping distances.

    a stoke monkey powered bakfiets-esque vehicle could revolutionise human transport worldwide...don't give up!

    looking forward to ordering my first stokemonkey, thanks and good luck, Samuel.

  • Todd (admin)

    Bruce, to my knowledge there are no readily fit-able electric assist systems appropriate to a Van Andel bakfiets. The HPM Long Hauls are semi-custom, built-to-order bikes so in theory could be designed to accommodate an assist. Whether Jan would support this idea isn't for me to guess. Brakes with more bite will degrade overall safety if it means you'll lock wheels that much faster, though.

    Samuel, it is not especially feasible to retrofit either rim or disc brakes to a Van Andel bakfiets, nor to fit significantly fatter tires. I gather from your email address that you are from the UK. I hear that people in your part of the world are more reserved when it comes to bringing lawsuits against product manufacturers than Americans. Alas.

    Of course, if you can work metal you can do a lot of things. This is in the "if you have to ask, you can't do it" category.

  • Samuel Gamester
    Samuel Gamester January 5, 2008 at 8:21 pm

    Thanks Todd,

    although i fear that USA-style litigation culture is imminent if not already here in the UK. I was thinking maybe just that one could replace the forks on the bakfiets with one (custom made)with necessary strength, shape and braze-ons to have a hydraulic front disc brake and 50mm+ tyre, also one could have braze ons for a rear v-brake fitted to act as a drag brake. I know that all warranties would then be void, but i think for many people that would be a sacrifice worth making. Maybe bakfiets should work on a new model ready equipped for stokemonkey, hydraulics front and rear and 65mm tyres. I would buy two.
    I have a small diesel engined car that i use to drive 9 miles to and from work. sometimes very early in the morning, in all weathers and sometimes on call at short notice. I also have health issues around sleep which mean sometimes physical effort especially in the morning can be very challenging. I would love to be able to sell this car and buy a stokemonkey'd big dummy. At the moment i feel my commute is really not suitable for a regular bike, at least not all the time. Call me a wus if you like!

  • Todd (admin)

    Many, many people are subscribed to this thread awaiting email notification of renewed Stokemonkey availability. I am moderating many off-topic comments to avoid cluttering their inboxes. Please consider this before submitting comments about matters such as other electric bikes, bakfiets physics, US law, etc. May I suggest the <a href="http://www.bikeforums.net/forumdisplay.php?f=261" rel="nofollow">Utility Cycling</a> forum at bikeforums.net as a more suitable place for discussion unrelated to Stokemonkey's availability?

  • Joel

    Hi Todd,
    I'm quite happy to wait for the Stokemonkey as long as it takes you (maybe longer, we'll see). However, I've begun to collect parts for a Big Dummy and I will need a crankset. Now, the typical Stokemonkey kit includes a crankset, right? (I can't tell right now 'cause you've taken down the order form.) But I'd like to avoid having a used crankset on my hands when the SM becomes available.
    One of the parts I've already bought is a Rohloff disc hub, so I won't be using a front derailleur. Can I buy a SM crankset with a 40t sprocket on the RH drive side, and whatever size you recommend for SM use on the left? Thanks, that would be great ;-)
    p.s. I tried to subscribe to this thread back around Jan 3 or so, and I haven't gotten any notification of new comments since then. Are you sure that thing is working?

  • Maxwell

    Any more "where things stand" type information? I'm eagerly waiting for a stoked Big Dummy to join my bike fleet.

  • Todd (admin)

    Maxwell, all attempts to have the battery packs shipped by sea have faltered. I've given instructions to have them flown in, which will cost me dearly. All other contingencies are pretty well resolved, which is not to say we're ready to ship. If you do get a Big Dummy built up, once they're available, I do hope you'll ride it unstoked for a time at least!

  • Bruce A. Wilson

    Some good news, at least!

  • [...] assist.More: Visit Surly Blog. Read discussion about the Stokemonkey (which Clever Cycles currently does not ship). To buy a Big Dummy, visit the Surly Dealer page. Surly is a brand of the big bike distributor [...]

  • Brock Wiley

    Is the new version of the stokemonkey hybrid system upgradeable to the last version, with respect to the top speed? If it can not be modified what will the new versions top speed be? I presume the new stokemonkey will be compatible with the Big Dummy frame from Surly, correct?

    I ask because I am searching for a new home that is roughly 30 to 40 mi. from my current job and would like to be able to get to work in a timely manner with the ablitiy to carry extra wieght as eco friendly as possible. Also Please notify me of when the stokemonkey will be available again for purchasing.

  • Todd (admin)

    Brock, as <a href="http://clevercycles.com/blog/?p=188#comment-64526" rel="nofollow">stated above</a>, Stokemonkey will ship with a 20mph limiter. Please understand that we can't discuss circumventing this.

  • Samuel Gamester
    Samuel Gamester March 18, 2008 at 5:57 am

    If people don't like the speed limiter they don't have to buy the stokemonkey! Buy an electric moped or car instead if you need to go faster! If i was bringing a product like this to market I would want to ensure it was safe, servicable and reliable first. I would also want to make sure my exposure was minimised regarding any risk to the consumer. Its just common sense!

  • William Safranek
    William Safranek March 18, 2008 at 8:18 am

    I don't think that we should give up on the Stokemonkey and buy an electric moped, car, or jet. People decide to modify their cars and bikes all the time but the manufacturer can not support it due to liability. There are, or will be other forums for modifications and circumventions of the Stokemonkey and other electric assist products. Todd is right, this is not the place and he won't even be able to link to it. Hopefully someone will make it easily googable though! };-)>

  • maxwell

    Even on a highly unlikely 40 mile trip with minimal stops and no hills, you'd probably only save 15 minutes off a two hour commute with the unlimted vs. limited stokemonkey. Add in stops and hills, you're doing a lot less time at 20mph+, as well as downhill sections where you'll be braking anyway. So you're probably talking five or ten minutes. I'd say move closer, get something like a vespa size electric scooter that'll do 45 mph, or just take your time at 20, I know I'm looking forward to going as fast I usually cruise on my road bike while cruising around loaded. I really wouldn't want to ride an xtra too much faster loaded.

    My only application where I might want to turn off that limit would be motorpacing on the velodrome :)


    And Todd, to answer you're earlier concern, I am planning on plenty of touring, maybe some other fun rides on the Big Dummy unstoked, to get the experience of riding it without help. For day to day riding, I'm hoping to get electrified as soon as possible, and am fairly confident in my ability to handle the thing. I ride a tandem, a fixed gear, and a tall-bike, in addition to a couple less unusual bikes.

    My main use for my car before it broke was transportation to cycling events. The stokemonkey should greatly expand the kind of things I can ride to, be the perfect warm up along the way, and let me get nice recovery in on the way home and on off days. I'm looking forward to loading my track bike on it, getting to the velodrome pefrfectly warmed up (rather than a little worn down from a hilly fixed ride), and with my bike ready for the track, no swapping tires, taking my brake off, etc. Same kind of idea for mountain biking, might even throw the road bike on there if the event is far enough away.

  • Todd (admin)

    My lack of status updates on Stokemonkey has led some people to speculate in various forums that it is not coming back, with my silence being read as evidence that it must be true. Well, it isn't true. I'm not going to get into great depth of detail because frankly it's boring and business-sensitive at the same time, but:

    * We've received new motor and controller stock. Literally tons. Both have problems that will require re-work of a few weeks minimum to correct.
    * Batteries are still in China, at a sea freight forwarder in Hong Kong. "Next vessel." Yes, I said above that I had given instructions for the packs to be flown. That was met with the suggestion that there might be one more way, out of Hong Kong... we accepted, but the manufacturer insisted on doing another recharging and QA pass on the packs before forwarding, as they don't like being stored so long without recharge. This caused us to miss the scheduled vessel.

    Setbacks like this are regrettably normal. There may be more. That's why we won't announce a shipping date until it is upon us. We have far, far too much invested here to even think of letting Stokemonkey just fade away as some rumors have it.

  • Andy B from Jersey
    Andy B from Jersey April 1, 2008 at 3:59 am

    Makes you start wondering if all this offshore production is worth it. Unfortunately I don't even think we have the industry left in the US to do half of what Todd needs and never mind doing it cost competitively.

  • Todd (admin)

    Today we received thousands of pounds of batteries, and the last of the remaining re-worked or re-done materials are due within 10 days or so. This does not mean that Stokemonkey will ship in a week, or two. Please don't make us put you at the back of the imaginary list by flooding our voice/email boxes with offers of cash or contraband for a Stokemonkey in advance of our eventual availability announcement. We have several weeks of assembly, quality control, documentation revision, staff training and so on ahead, with more possible pitfalls along the way, all while running a busy bike shop entering the first warmth of Spring. But it is progress.

  • Evan

    Do you have all the materials now? If so, that's a landmark worth celebrating!

  • [...] needed to put in some extended test miles on new production elements of Stokemonkey, our elusive electric assist system specific to longtails, and this sounded like a good [...]

  • Dean in Austin

    Have you decided whether to set-up Stokemonkey dealers, or will you continue to market & support direct?

  • Todd (admin)

    Dean, we will do both. We are in discussion with prospective dealers now. Dealer candidates are Xtracycle-savvy full-service bicycle shops (i.e., those who sell human-powered vehicles either exclusively or primarily) with possible exceptions for those who can source and support their own high quality battery/charger packages.

  • Kevin

    A dealer network would totally rock. Don't suppose you have anyone in mind near Boston? My wife and I have been following Stokemonkey and are finally ready to pull the trigger on a purchase. We only await their availability. Would it be possible to tell beforehand if it would work on our Del Sol Lowboy Xtracycle? It's similar to an Electra Townie, but I'm not entirely certain about the available space in the rear triangle. If I need to get a new frame for the Xtra, I'd like to start looking now.

  • Todd (admin)

    Stokemonkey is awaiting some reprogramming of the electronics that are part of this product revision. We discovered these issues on our <a href="http://clevercycles.com/blog/?p=238" rel="nofollow">vacation trip</a>. The problems relate more to usability and configurability than to performance, so the changes should not require extensive re-testing, as fun as that might be. The engineer who programs the electronics is completing a <a href="http://endless-sphere.com/forums/viewtopic.php?f=2&t=5652&st=0&sk=t&sd=a " rel="nofollow">ride across Canada</a> on an assisted Xtracycle on a few dollars worth of electricity. He should be back at the end of September, putting late October, realistically, as the earliest possible shipping date for new Stokemonkey systems.

    Meanwhile, we are shipping certain updated components to current Stokemonkey owners to improve their safety and reliability. Surly Big Dummy mounting hardware is available for those wanting to transfer their kits over to these new bikes. Stokemonkey replacement battery packs are again available, too (large now, small very soon).

    Also, I am continually deluged in requests for "updates" on availability, such that I spend much more time filtering through them than actually advancing the availability date! I don't suspect this will help much, but please: I won't estimate availability in advance. And I will publicize availability. It is not helpful to keep asking. I am keeping no secrets, but I don't feel it is productive to "update" which wires were stripped or which bolts greased on a weekly basis, nor indeed ever.

    I am also frequently asked questions about Stokemonkey that are answered in the Stokemonkey FAQ and compatibility sections: http://cleverchimp.com/products/stokemonkey/faq/ ; http://cleverchimp.com/products/stokemonkey/compatibility/ . While these documents are in need of minor revision, it is still true that Stokemonkey is intended solely for Xtracycle-standard longbikes. It does not make sense as merely a personal transport option like other electric bikes, but as a cargo/passenger solution for hilly areas. If you don't intend to haul major weight up major grades, there is very likely a better solution on the market, and we will dissuade you from pursuing a Stokemonkey when they are again available.

  • Mike C

    <i>I am continually deluged in requests for “updates” on availability, such that I spend much more time filtering through them than actually advancing the availability date!</i>

    So mightn't it be a worthwhile investment of time, then, to spend a few minutes per week giving even a brief status update like the one above? And in a more visible place, either on the CC or SM main pages? (You could open every one with "Today is <i>date</i> and we <b>do not</b> have a ship date." :-)

    I'm sure you'd still get <b>some</b> inquiries, but more-frequent and more-visible updates might reduce the noise enough to be a net time gain overall.

    Just sayin'...

  • Arjun D.

    "it is still true that Stokemonkey is intended solely for Xtracycle-standard longbikes. It does not make sense as merely a personal transport option like other electric bikes, but as a cargo/passenger solution for hilly areas. If you don’t intend to haul major weight up major grades, there is very likely a better solution on the market, and we will dissuade you from pursuing a Stokemonkey when they are again available."

    I wanted to find out if this statement was was directed towards people who do not have an xtracycle yet.

  • Todd (admin)

    Arjun, it is not a hard requirement to own an Xtracycle first, but it is a very good idea. Buying a Stokemonkey without owning an Xtracycle first would be like buying solid platinum ice cube trays before owning a freezer or knowing all the things they can unmelt, with or without these most awesome trays. We want to be confident that you understand the compatibility requirements, and are already comfortable biking with cargo and/or passengers.

    The last thing we want is to sell systems to people who'd be happiest and healthiest without motor assistance, if only they'd try it for a few hundred miles.... Regarding the Xtracycle as merely a motor mounting point instead of as something you'd want on your bike in any case is a warning sign. I'm not assuming this is you, Arjun.

    I apologize if I seem grumpy in some of the above. It is true that I may be losing the forest of a great market full of happy potential customers for the trees of a few very persistent characters and a cast of hundreds of innocently casual inquirers who don't seem to get what Stokemonkey's about anyway. And I apologize deeply to the many patient souls who do get it for the long, long delays. I'm spread thin: I admit it. I hope y'all understand that what's happening here in Portland with ordinary practical biking is much bigger and frankly more necessary than Stokemonkey.

    In the spirit of more frequent updates, the guy programming the electronics has completed his historic <a href="http://endless-sphere.com/forums/viewtopic.php?f=2&t=5652&st=0&sk=t&sd=a" rel="nofollow">ride across Canada</a> and will be programming on the train back home. And no, he is not the bottleneck.

  • Todd (admin)

    We have received a new test sample of Stokemonkey's reprogrammed electronics. Installed it today; no problems noted yet. If this checks out, we'll give thumbs up within a few days to go into production. They will likely arrive in lots of 20 or so every couple weeks, and that is the rate at which new Stokemonkey kits will become available.

  • Todd (admin)

    We are pleased to announce renewed availability of Stokemonkey kits. Please see http://cleverchimp.com/products/stokemonkey/ for updated product information and ordering form.

    This thread is now closed for comments. We're working on installing forum software for Stokemonkey discussion and support.