Challenge:  Recumbent Bike Life
Challenger:  Marina Libro
University Partner:  Virginia Commonwealth University
Student Team:  Isabella Evans-Reister, Andrew Abell, Gery Terazas, Baizeed Khan, and Sarah Gibson
Faculty Advisors:  Anthea Pepperl and Jessika Rohjas
QL+ Program Manager: Janet Papazis

Project Summary:

The recumbent bike lift assistance project is being executed in accordance with the Quality of Life Plus (QL+) Program and the VCU School of Engineering. The project is designed for Retired Master Sergeant Marina Libro. For Marina, recumbent biking is a form of physical therapy as well as part of maintaining a healthy lifestyle. She currently uses a manual hitch or a ramp system to lift her bike onto her truck. She suffers from severe tendon damage in her hands that have required multiple surgeries, limiting her dexterity and grip strength. She also maintains titanium rods in her back that limits her mobility and compromise her ability to bend at the waist due to spinal fixation. Due to these injuries, Marina is not able to lift her heavy bike into the truck bed or onto the ramp to get it into the truck bed, especially after she is fatigued from biking. The lift will provide Marina the independence to go biking with either her 2001 Ford Ranger or her 2019 Honda Ridgeline truck.

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Through a detailed brainstorming, concept selection, and prototyping process, as well as several major design changes, the team chose a final design consisting of a multi-link steel “crane” featuring easy connect and disconnect joints that can attach to the hitch of the truck. The bike is lifted through three points of contact, two in the front to avoid damaging the gears and one above the seat. A winch is mounted on the top link that is capable of retracting and lifting the bike where it can then be swiveled and positioned into the truck bed.  This design accomplishes both objectives as an independent lift system and a cost-effective solution for Marina to load and unload her bike and ultimately providing the independence she desires. 

After testing and evaluating the final device through analysis of the total weight of the mechanism as well as ease of installation and overall cost. The force analysis, done at a force of 1000N to produce a factor of safety of 6, revealed a maximum displacement of 9 mm as well as a max strain of 0.0004N. These analyses reveal a lift that can sustain multiple uses and variable weather conditions. Due to COVID restrictions, the lift components will be ordered post-quarantine. The lift will then be constructed and installed for Marina once restrictions have been lifted and the group can meet in person once again. This will likely be during the fall 2020 semester.