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Biker trove

Updated Wednesday 2nd December 2009

Would we make different decisions about energy use if it took an army of cyclists to power our house?

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In a list of five things I hate, early mornings and stationary bikes would be fighting for the top slot (followed by cucumber, roller-coasters and colours running in the wash!), but my love of doing things that “normal” people think are “crazy” is so far off the top of the Things I Hate scale that I didn’t even flinch before volunteering to be in the pedal-powered house experiment organised by Bang Goes The Theory.

The deal was to spend a whole weekend at the Bang studios pedalling a bike connected to a Heath Robinson-esque generator that had been fashioned from an electric scooter motor, which in turn was connected to a long cable that ran through a hole in the wall to a rather nice four-bedroom family home next door. In return we’d get lunch and a free T-shirt.

Cyclists preparing for the off. Copyrighted image Icon Copyright: Used with permission

Cyclists preparing for the off.

Thankfully, I wasn’t the only person who thought this offer almost too good to be true and on a bright Saturday morning in September, a crowd of cyclists gathered outside the Bang studio, without a bike in sight. Cyclists are funny about their bikes; bicycles are individually built after having spent hours drooling over component catalogues and there is a very intimate relationship between the two. You enjoy the sunshine together and you suffer the rain and snow, always working as a team. It’s like a marriage, you go through the ups and downs together, but most importantly you remain faithful. It’s polite to covet your neighbour’s bike but never, ever ride another bike, if yours finds out it will sulk and you’ll be lucky if your gears ever change smoothly again!

So, while our carbon steeds were hanging in the garage and missing out on their weekend outing, we would be on hybrid bikes on turbo trainers – hybrids, the shame of it! Luckily, with the studio being tucked away miles from anywhere, our bikes should never find out that we betrayed them.

It’s always interesting seeing TV programmes being made. You’ll see television shows in a new light when you realise the amount of time and number of people involved. There were over 150 people there all weekend – just to make a one hour show!

The technical guys had spent 5 days setting up the 79 bikes but Saturday was the first opportunity for proper testing which was done in between bits of rehearsal and filming. Every bike was tested individually and in groups. One person managed to pull a wheelie and fall off, luckily only damaging his pride!

On Saturday afternoon the big moment came – we were to test powering the house. Someone threw the switch and we felt the resistance increase, and then, gradually, more appliances were turned on in the house. The lights were on, and the TV, and we’d boiled the kettle – WOOO HOOO! And then the ultimate test, the power shower – a cheer went up – WE CAN DO IT – WE CAN POWER THE HOUSE!

But that was only 20 minutes... and the family will need power all day!

After a sizeable helping of food, rest and sleep we were back in the studio on Sunday morning, this time for the real thing. The peloton had swelled slightly and we were expecting reinforcements from London a couple of hours into the proceedings.

We could see inside the house via the cameras which were projected on a big screen. Luckily, the family had a bit of a lie in and a long breakfast meaning we had a gentle warm up powering just the fridge with a couple of sprints to boil the kettle and make toast. We got quite anxious when Mum picked up the shower gel, but luckily she put it down again. Soon though, it was quite clear Dad was about to have a shower (although I’m sure that bit of footage will be cut from the show!). Right on cue, our reinforcements arrived and with the additional fresh legs joining in we managed to sustain enough power for a 5 minute shower.

Unfortunately, I had to leave after lunch (but I had put in extra effort in the morning!) so I’ll have to wait for the show to be broadcast to find out how the rest of the day went. I was quite tired and I expect there were lots of sore legs on Monday morning!

Whilst the others were still pedalling, I put in a load of washing and then munched my way through a couple of bars of chocolate, made dinner and wrote up the blog.

Right, just time to hang out the washing… my free red T-shirt and - GRRRRR! - some now pink knickers! Bang gang – for the next series, please can you investigate why colours run in the wash - and how come the red dye will wash into the whites but not out again?

Behind the scenes images

Getting ready to go.

Getting ready to go.

Industrial surroundings. Copyrighted image Icon Copyright: Used with permission

Industrial surroundings.

All set up and ready to go nowhere.

All set up and ready to go nowhere.

Last minute adjustments. Copyrighted image Icon Copyright: Used with permission

Last minute adjustments.

Almost time to switch on the Human Power Station.

Almost time to switch on the Human Power Station.

Making electricity. Copyrighted image Icon Copyright: Used with permission

Making electricity.

This power station needs a tea break.

This power station needs a tea break.

Although the cycling was the main part, other jobs needed to be done too. Copyrighted image Icon Copyright: Used with permission

Although the cycling was the main part, other jobs needed to be done too.

This was where the generated electricity was supplied to the house.

This was where the generated electricity was supplied to the house.

A closer view of the wiring. Copyrighted image Icon Copyright: Used with permission

A closer view of the wiring.

Cyclists relaxing before they're recalled for duty.

Cyclists relaxing before they're recalled for duty.

Without this contraption, the family wouldn't have had any electricity. Copyrighted image Icon Copyright: BBC

Without this contraption, the family wouldn't have had any electricity.

The board showing how many cyclists it would take to run each device.

The board showing how many cyclists it would take to run each device.

 

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