A Chariot For Hailey

My friend Ron’s granddaughter is a precocious nine years old with a penchant for mechanical things. She conceived the e-Chariot to be a vehicle that would allow her family, including her 12-year-old physically challenged sister Hailey, to bicycle together. This necessitated some sort of sidecar design since Hailey is confined to a wheelchair and has very limited mobility. Ron and I had already converted a Mongoose Dolomite fat bike to an e-bike by adding a 36 Volt, 350-Watt rear hub motor, and decided that this was a good platform for the chariot.

We selected the Dolomite as a donor bike for the e-conversion because its steel frame could be cold set (bending the rear frame with a vise-like tool in order to reduce dropout width) from the fat bike rear standard of 190 mm to 135 mm. This was required since the advent of rear hub motors with wider axles for DIY fat-fabricators was a year or so away; also, aluminum is a poor choice when attempting frame modifications of this nature. The conversion was uneventful, and the only other changes that were necessary were spacers for the free wheel and disc brakes in order to accommodate the rear dropout reduction. Ron designed the sidecar and wrote the requisite CNC (Computer Numerical Control – automation of machine tools operated by programmed controls) programs to produce the parts, which were then anodized, and the unit was assembled.

Along the way, we learned many things, the way the sidecar would articulate when traversing uneven surfaces, the type of wheel(s) that would provide an optimal turning radius and other subjects related to the construction of the system. The carriage, which was affixed to the struts connecting it to the bike, has a rear flap that acts as a ramp when loading the wheelchair, then encapsulates the chair when it is closed and locked in place with pins. It is not necessary to tie the chair down after the flap is closed.

Finally, its maiden outing and the final product – although somewhat anemic with all the extra weight – rode very well. The family has enjoyed the experience of bicycling together for the first time. Several refinements are planned for the e-Chariot, including, but not limited to, a motor with much more torque, as well as a reverse gear and a method of attaching the “sidecar” to the bike, which will be more universal in nature allowing it to be added to other bikes. Hopefully Ron will initiate a crowd fund or some other method to provide this vehicle to families with similar situations.