The solar-powered e-bike project SunPedal Ride makes a pit stop in Chicago

The SunPedal Ride heads downtown on the Lakefront Trail.
The SunPedal Ride heads downtown on the Lakefront Trail.

Streetsblog Chicago co-editor John Greenfield spotted a tweet from Sushil Reddy, whose handle is @SunPedal_Ride, stating that he’s traveling across the country and would be in Chicago soon. As his username suggests, Reddy is riding a bike with a solar powered electric assist. He started the Sun Pedal Ride project to raise awareness of solar energy and sustainable mobility options like e-bikes.

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Sushil Reddy and Luis Fourzan. Photo: Courtney Cobbs

Reddy is no stranger to lengthy solar-powered rides. In 2016 he made the Guinness Book of World Records for the longest journey on an electric bicycle. The 2016 ride with three other individuals was  a little over 4,600 miles through India. Reddy has since done a few other sun-powered rides. There’s been the 2017 SunPedal Ride California, the 2017 SunPedal Ride France, the 2018 SunPedal Ride Iceland, the 2018 SunPedal Ride Bengaluru, and the 2019 SunPedal Ride India in a solar-electric tuk tuk. I met up with Reddy and his riding partner Luis Fourzan to learn about their journey.

Courtney Cobbs: What inspired you to take this ride?

Sushil Reddy: I have an engineering background in solar energy. I wanted to raise awareness on the need for collective efforts to combat climate change. The SunPedal Ride project is an attempt to inspire people to change their individual lifestyle to adopt a more sustainable one.

CC: Very cool. Can you tell me about the set-up of your bike?

SR: I have a long-tail Yuba cargo bike with two 50-watt solar panels. The solar panels add about seventeen pounds. The solar panels provided about thirty miles worth of assistance to the batteries that power the all-Axle Front Hub Motor. The bike has a pedal-assist and throttle function. If the weather is really cloudy, I can always use a wall-charger for the batteries.

Sushil's solar-powered e-bike. The batteries for the bike are inside the triangle-shaped bag in the middle. Photo: Courtney Cobbs
Reddy’s solar-powered e-bike. The batteries for the bike are inside the triangle-shaped bag in the middle. Photo: Courtney Cobbs

CC: How many miles have you ridden so far?

SR: We’d have to calculate all our Strava miles, but I think we’re somewhere around 1,400 miles.

CC: What’s the plan for the ride?

SR: We’ve planned 115 days. Right now we’re close to a month; it will be a month on the 15th. We average around sixty five miles a day. We’re resting for a night here in Chicago and then we’re headed to Minneapolis. Our final destination is Dallas, Texas.

Asked what their experiences have been like on the road, both Reddy and Fourzan stated that there have been lots of helpful people. Fourzan discussed a moment when there was a gearing issue with one of the bikes and a driver with a rack offered to drive them to their destination which was about twenty miles away. In another instance of kindness, a motorist pulled over to help them fix a flat. Hotels have been accommodating when it comes to the storage of their bikes and the panels. It doesn’t hurt that Reddy was able to obtain hotel sponsorship for some of their accommodations.

Reddy and Fourzan outside of a downtown Chicago hotel with their e-bikes. Photo: Courtney Cobbs
Reddy and Fourzan outside of a downtown Chicago hotel with their e-bikes. Photo: Courtney Cobbs

It’s not everyday you come across a set-up like Reddy’s. Hopefully the Sun Pedal ride will inspire some folks to swap some of their car journeys for two wheels. 

If you’d like to keep up with Reddy and Fourzan’s ride, check out the SunPedal Ride website or follow Reddy on Twitter,

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