Taking a Ride on Pedal-Powered Machine(s)

100805_matthew_250.jpgI had a lot of fun riding several different bikes today.

I went nowhere.

But they did a lot of work!

Matthew Corson-Finnerty gave us a grand tour and demonstration of his human-powered machines. A bicycle-powered water pump. An electricity generator. A food blender. A grain mill. A straw-chopper (for earthen cob building material).

Matthew told us that viewing “The End of Suburbia” in his senior year at university changed his life. Eventually moving through debilitating fear, he pursued what brought him joy. Life led him to Maya Pedal in Guatemala, where he spent several months learning from bicycle wizards who used bike parts to make simple machinery to make peoples’ lives easier. Like human-powered mills to shuck and grind corn. Or pump water.

Now back in the states, he has spent the last year as a Researcher in Residence at Aprovecho Center, designing and producing the machines I got to try out today. My hands-down favorite is the grain mill. It uses a flywheel from a 70’s era exercise bike. It’s pedaled as a recumbent (where you’re sitting comfortably in a chair, legs stretched in front of you to pedal). I found it actually quite enjoyable and not tiring to pedal. Matthew says it grinds grain faster than their electric grain mill.

We’ve thought of using pedal power to charge our off-grid electrical batteries in winter while getting some good exercise on those rainy days. Now we know who can create the pedal-powered machinery when he comes our way. Okay, fans, we’re on the lookout for one of those 70’s era exercise bikes for parts!

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