Electric bike becomes new research tool at Paint Rock

122072575 4453653491371340 6298023181030160752 n
Paint Rock researchers have been looking for ways to limit their footprint (and tire prints) at the preserve. (Paint Rock Forest Research Center)

The term “leave no footprint” is often more of a figurative way in the nature and conservation world of saying to leave a place the same way it was when you arrived. But this can also be literal, especially when we are talking about vehicles coming in and out of forests and woods and the like.

That’s why researchers at Paint Rock Forest Research Center are trying to leave as small of a footprint — or in this case, TIRE print — as they can. Here’s their solution:

Read more: Electric bike becomes new research tool at Paint Rock

Exploring Paint Rock on wheels

Ed Wilsons Trip to Paint Rock 021
Using motorized vehicle like UTVs can leave damaging imprints on nature. (Beth Maynor Finch)

Researchers at Paint Rock Forest Research Center said they chose that specific forest area because of its road system within the woods, but they also realized that they needed to find a way to leave as little evidence of their visits as possible.

Bill Finch with the Research Center said that in the past few years, he and his colleagues have tried to limit car and truck traffic in the forest, which require bigger roads and degrade those roads more quickly, and began moving around in slightly smaller 4-wheel-drive UTVs.

But even those vehicles were leaving “footprints” of their own. This is where rocket scientist Joe Ruf and cardiologist Dave Drenning — both avid cyclists — enter the picture. The two of them threw themselves into research, and came up with what will become a primary work tool in Paint Rock – one of the new generation electric cargo bikes.

‘Surly Skid Loader’

Joe Ruf and Electric bike 1233 2 1
The “Surly Skid Loader” can be seen (but not heard) at Paint Rock. (Paint Rock Forest Research Center)

Ruf and Denning have aptly named the new electric cargo bike “Surly Skid Loader,” which implies how rigged the bike is.

“We liked this bike because it was obviously designed to carry lots of gear, and we’ll probably be investing in a trailer to carry even more. You can carry a hundred extra pounds or more of research supplies without breaking a sweat. Joe’s huffing and puffing beside me on his non-motorized bike was a useful reminder of how much a boost even a novelist cyclist can get from the electric motor.”

Bill Finch, Paint Rock Research Center

The best part about Surly Skid Loader is its footprint — or lack thereof — which is a tiny fraction of any of the four-wheelers now in the forest. It uses no gas, has no exhaust fumes and virtually no noise. And that’s simply perfect.

“Thanks to Joe and Dave for starting us on a whole new way of seeing Paint Rock,” Finch said.

Want more info and updates on what’s happening in and around Huntsville? Follow Hville Blast on FacebookTikTok and Instagram, and be sure to subscribe to our newsletter.

Michael Seale
Michael Seale
Articles: 885