Posts Tagged ‘electric bike’

Finished

April 6, 2010

It’s done! Well it’s never done and I do intend to keep up the odd post here and there as I experience riding and repairing things, but its on the road so time for a bit of summing up. It’s been a long project from conception last October to completion now. Most of this time was taken up with research and decision making. I didn’t keep track of all the time the construction took but I guess about 14 nights, 3 or 4 hours per nights so maybe 40 or 50 hours for the basic build (not counting tinkering adjustments and brake problems) but remember I have been in no hurry and had to learn a lot about running brake cables and tuning gears along the way, so you might not take as long.

I am thrilled with the bike and the reaction it gets from others (too much reaction at times, makes it difficult to get where i’m going!), and due the the Mundo’s well designed frame and the high spec components, it is the best bike I have ever ridden. I think I’m pedaling more than I would have liked so a bigger hub motor would be a more pleasant ride but I’m limited to the Australian 200wat legal limit and I’m sure the eLation is making the best of this limit. You may ask why not just get a more powerful motor as the police wont be able to tell anyway. As Allan at Elation explained, it is not getting picked up, it is being involved in an incident/accident when you will be required to prove that the motor is legal. Allan tells me this has happened to an Elation owner already, thankfully he had the 200watt option.

I have really enjoyed “making” my own bike (well assembling anyway) and I think this experience will pay off when i need to maintain or upgrade things. Money wise I have certainly not gone down the cheapest path with little change out of $4000 aust dollars. My budget was about $3000 but upgraditis seemed to take hold at every turn!

If your considering doing what I’ve done I think you could easily knock $1000 off my spend with different wheels and lower spec components, but personally I wouldn’t change a thing on my bike. Cheaper faster and likely better would be to buy a complete bike like the Surley Big Dummy, or even a complete Mundo, but again I’ve enjoyed the process so much that my next bike will be made this way too.

In the end the bike does what I wanted it to do; it stops me driving a car. It is also a statement, a very loud bright orange statement, about what is possible on a bike and that personal transport is a series of options not just choice between crowded public transport or driving in congested traffic.

That’s kind of why, when I could, I went for aesthetically appealing or matching colours. It’s a more convincing statement if it looks cool. And yes I am up myself…a bit.

Regrets I have a few…but may I say….

Frame

The Mundo frame is a well designed but not very well constructed piece of gear, but by all accounts the V3 is far superior to previous versions and I guess if I boil it down I only had a few niggles like over-sprayed paint and brake compatibility, and the already known dropout issue. However from a business goodwill point of view, I don’t think Yuba are doing themselves any favors selling this as a frame to end users unless they can sort out the quality and comparability issues. Mine came shipped direct from China which means checking on quality must be difficult for the Yuba guys. It will lead to many, like myself at times during this blog, underselling what is really a very good design.

I really don’t need the capacity of the Mundo, I’ll likely only ever have 60-70Kgs of cargo and passengers so a lighter better made bike might have worked just as well if not better. But the  Mundo frame is great to ride and it still needs to be in the shortlist of any serious cargo bike buyer.

Wheels

The Spinergys are great, light and stiff but only time will tell if the rear takes the weight. I rode about 1k the other night with my wife and 2 young boys and bags etc aboard and the wheel still runs perfectly true so so far so good! I’m sure the light freewheeling feel the bike delivers is due, at least in part, to the low weight of these wheels. I should have gotten a wheel with a wider rim to suit the fat balloon tyres, but they ride fine with 60psi.

Brakes

The big discs look great and eventually work fine but are likely overkill, 160mm front and V rears would work just as well. I am still having front shudder so if further adjustment can’t sort it out I guess I’ll be looking for a new set of forks.

eLation Kit

The other bits and pieces on the bike are pretty good stuff but the eLation cranks and front cogs are not as good, thankfully the front cogs are upgradable when i feel the need, and with the motor helping I really don’t change the front cogs much anyway.

Overall the eLation kit is great.  It will pull and give good assist at any speed, providing your in the right gear. It will cruise on 30Ks with no problems at all and can in the right conditions sit on 36ks or so for considerable periods (all this of course with moderate pedaling).  It is noisier and not as pretty as a hub system but until hubs get some kind of gearing it is the best way to take full advantage of the 200Watt Aussie limit.

Deflopulator

Hmm maybe its just me but I still got the flop.

Stand

The side stand I salvaged off my old cheap mountain bike was working great until I put any load on the bike then it just plain failed! I bought a cheap centre stand (from Morouya Bikes), seemed good but fouled the chain when folded up and in a low gear.

Eventual solution? Pletscher kickstand, the 2 legged stand that folds up on one side, very neat. Expensive and not able to cope with really any cargo loading but better than finding somewhere to lean the bike all the time! Thanks again to Cheeky Transport for this and a their generally interested and helpful service.

Azonic Pedals

Look good, cheap ($20- I think), went well until the first time caught in the rain now they are making the most awful groaning noises ever. Marked for upgrading. ****UPDATE*** These pedals have stopped groaning (after I lubed them up a bit more) and are still going strong 600+ks later! I do like the grip pegs, very secure, but they are ruining my work shoes.

Go Getter Bag – Yuba

Big – great, you can take anything with you with this bag. It’s an on bike bag,  it could be carried around at a pinch but if this is required just strap on a backpack instead.

Soft spot seats – Yuba

Good solid comfortable but for short trips sitting on a wooden board would be just a good! Easy to steal off the bike too.

Alligator Bullet Proof Brake and Gear Cables

Look good seem to work well, until I went to fit last bit of the rear brake cable when I discovered the last bit of cable was kinked.  Couldn’t really remove the whole kit from the bike now in little bits and return them. Mismatching cable now but not the end of the world.

Thanks to all for you views (over 1000 hits in 3 months or so) and to all for your helpful comments and encouragement.

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Elated 2

February 13, 2010

I finished fitting the Elation Kit. It was pretty quick (quicker than fitting mudguards anyway!) of course there were a couple of small hiccups.

The main strap mounts are great and seem very secure. There is also an adjustable “torque” bolt on the left side designed to run from the plate up to the seatpost to aid in keeping the motor from slipping. It is one of those adjustable double threaded rods you find holding the mast of a sailing boat up or on wire ballistrading.

I could not get it to fit right (without bending the torque bolt) to attach to the clamp on the seatpost so I ran it further back to a bar behind the seatpost and attached it with the smaller clamp (needed to shim the smaller clamp with a bit of old inner tube). Seems secure.

Elation Torque Bolt not fitting

Elation Torque Bolt fitting!

My problem with the battery mounts was that the plastic plate didn’t have holes drilled. I drilled some as Allan at Elation suggested I could, but the bolts were too loose so I just used some other nuts and bolts I had hanging around (you guessed it, more skateboard stuff!) and it fits fine.

So I fitted everything up, hand grips, accelerator, zip tied everything securely and went for a ride….a short ride.  I broke the main bike chain (not the motor drive chain) about 1k from home. Bugger…my fault I guess, Im not too experienced at breaking and rejoining chains and I guess one of my links was poor and a side plate had slipped loose.

While it went, it went great. I can’t give you any speed data as it was the middle of the night and I couldn’t see my speedo!  I have a lot of steep short hills near my place and it climbed well, I did need to pedal to do it at any speed of course, but for 200 Watts it went great.

My first impression, having come from a bike with a hub motor, was that it did lack the simple elegance and smoothness of a hub system.

The most difficult thing was changing gears, or should I say sensing when a gear change was needed. The motor takes away that sensitivity you get through the pedals to sense when to change up and down. I was more like driving a car listening to the note of the motor or just noticing how fast you were pedaling to pick the changing point, rather than feeling that change in effort through your legs.

It was also a lot noisier than the hub motor. With the hub lots of people would look curiously then ask if I had a motor. I’ll get no questions about the motor with this one, you can see and hear, it clearly has a motor! I’m not talking about a 2 stroke offensive kind of sound, just an obvious whirring noise.

All up an Ok first experience, but I’m keen to get out again when the chain is mended.

Not much let to do now I need to tension the threaded headset (any hints on how I could do this without buying another tool would be most welcome). Finish making the wooden boards, and sort the rear brake out (still waiting on this from Yuba, they say it was sent 11 days ago). Then I need to fit some stoker bars for my passengers.

The life electric

February 11, 2010

For those of you tuning in for the electric bit of this blog I guess this is feeling like an episode of “Lost” where all the twists and turns don’t give you the payoff you want.

Well I’m pretty close to finishing the Elation kit now. I just wanted to get the basic bike up and running before adding the motor. In the next few days hopefully. In the meantime I though I would like to review my experiences with electric bikes thus far. If you want more details on electric bikes in general check http://endless-sphere.com/forums/.

About 2 years ago I moved into inner west Sydney about 3-4ks from the city after 6 years living 20ks to the south west. Living out there I used the train as much as I could but the location of my boys school, near the city, made this option difficult so I ended but driving a lot, and sitting in heavy traffic on the M5 freeway a lot too, bikes were really not a good option for transport other than maybe the local shops. So the new house is about 2ks from my boys school which is a fine walk but that then leaves me at the mercy of public transport to carry on to my work in nearby suburbs. So even with only 2ks to school I again ended up driving a lot more than I wanted to.

I tried riding a skateboard for a while and combined with public transport this works pretty well. Also a normal bike without electric motors could work too. But I work in a medical office environment with no showers etc in my workplace and lets be honest once you have tasted the convenience of stepping out of you cool clean car into work, riding to work and needing a shower at the other end in order to function in polite company, leaves a bit to be desired.

I think climate change really is an inconvenient truth and that 80% of people will not sacrifice their own comfort even if they understand all the risks climate change poses. People need to be convinced on other grounds like their own hip pocket and their own convenience.  I suppose, to be honest, I’m no different and need more motivation than moral superiority to do the right thing

So a couple of test rides to work on my old cheap Kmart style Malvern Star bike proved the principle (albeit with a few cans of deoderant!) and the search was on for an electric bike. I considered the Elation kit at the time but I didn’t have a suitable bike to put it on. So after a bit of research I decided to purchase a” Greenewheels” bike through ebay. Its hard to trace the origins of these bikes other than all coming from China however it is very similar to a Whisper brand bike with a Bafang geared hub motor. It has a 36volt system and is a neat and tidy looking ebike.

The purchase went smoothly and the bike arrived in good condition just needing pedals etc fitted. Charged it up and it was great! The motor on the flat with no pedaling would sit on a solid 28-29kph. It was a dream. My son would ride on the cross bar in front, which I padded, and we could chat and joke, and I was at work in no time after a not so sweat inducing ride.

No license no insurance no traffic jams plus I’m getting a little exercise everyday. I would have paid 3 times what I did for this thing….except then it began to break down and no one wanted to know.

First it was little things like quickly worn break pads, no problem I upgraded these. Then some broken spokes which were of a particular size, got em eventually from the original supplier and worn bottom bracket bearings, the originals were very poor quality.  In the process I went to at least 6 different bike shops who varied in their reaction from just can’t help to almost open hostility when they found out the bike had an electric boost.

Business wise this just confused me. OK, I didn’t buy a bike from them but that’s not to say I wouldn’t at some future time if they tried to help me with this.  Sometimes they did help, a bit, but the attitude was tough to take. The least attitude I got was from Cheeky Transport in Newtown, whom I have used for parts of the latest, many thanks to Nick.

Overall I think bike shops must have it too easy or something because they sure don’t seem to want my money.

OK so now the big problems began. The Hall effect sensor wiring on the motor melted and I needed a new motor (can be corrected with a sensorless controller too)  and about 10 months later the battery needs replacing. To be honest I think I cooked the battery by running it too low for the first few charges, shortening it’s life. But for me this just shows that owning an ebike is not as straight forward as a car or motorbike. At the time I just didn’t realize this could be a problem.

Anyway these are all things that with help from the net (endlesssphere.com) I was capable of fixing myself but if I didn’t develop these skills then the bike would now be junk with no local repair option.

Why did I persevere at all? Ebikes are great to ride, simple as that.  People who make negative comments most likely haven’t ridden one.

But unless like me you like staring into an electronic abyss of melted wiring, spending hours on the net sourcing obscure parts and repair information, then I can’t recommend them, at this point, to the average commuter. I hope this changes sometime soon with local shops embracing ebikes as a new sales stream rather than turning up their nose at them.

Its not all bad this bloke seems to have had much better luck with his almost identical bike. http://blog2.zog.net.au/category/electric-bikes/greenewheels/