We've had an electric bike for a couple of years, but since making the cargo trailer for it, my other half has got more interested in riding on the rough tracks in the forest, and the limitations of the one we already had soon became apparent.
First, it had no suspension, which means a very bumpy, bone-shaking ride. Plus, with his nearly-eighty-year-old muscles, he wanted one with a twist grip rather than just a pedal assist so he doesn't have to pedal all the time except on hills. We'd also found that without a twist grip or many gears, steep hills can be a problem as unless you can pedal at a reasonable speed the motor will cut out, which is a bit self-defeating. So, we decided to invest in a new bike more suited to his needs.
Here she is!
She's front wheel drive, so it's a bit like two-wheel drive when you pedal. We chose one with as low a seat as possible so we can get our feet firmly on the floor when we want to rather than balancing precariously up in the air like the experts seem to do, and we bought her a nice comfortable seat. She has front suspension to take the worst of the impact from the bumps, and she has five levels of power assist, all of which can be over-ridden by the twist grip if you need a quick boost, constant help up a hill, or just want a break.
Ready for a test.
Yes he did have to pedal up the hill, but the twist grip meant that hill starts are easy, and there's enough gears so he could easily keep pedaling.
How do I persuade him to do that strap up on the helmet?
I'm really enjoying riding this one. It's made the ride down to the olive grove to check the progress of the secret garden and do the weekly watering much less of a chore and more of a pleasure, even in the heat of August, and she's nippy enough to be a pleasure to ride on paved roads, too.
I think the best thing about electric bikes is the way they literally level the field - riding when you're old or too heavy or unfit or with health issues becomes not only possible but pleasurable, and despite fears that we'd end up using the twist grip to 'cheat' all the time, what we actually seem to do is to constantly challenge ourselves to try using one less gear than last time.
Plus there's that USB port on the battery. Maybe I could disappear for a day and hide out in the secret garden with the laptop...
Well, we've had a strange twist of fate, which doesn't really surprise me because I've discovered that life is always throwing curve-balls at me and I'm learning to roll with them. Two weeks before the guarantee on the original B'Twin electric bike ended, the motor packed in. The Decathlon store is only about ten miles away and the service there has always been excellent and they were super helpful about trying to put everything right. Unfortunately they've changed the design of all their electric bikes so much that it wasn't economical for them to repair my Binky, as he was affectionately known, so they offered to either replace him with the current model, or allow me to pay the difference in value and upgrade to another model of my choice.
So, um, Flip has arrived.
He's a hybrid, not a full mountain bike, but he does have most of the features I felt were lacking. He has full, adjustable suspension, 21 gears, and whilst he doesn't have a twist grip, he does have a 'boost' button to help with hill starts. The tyres are also chunkier and the frame is aluminium rather than steel, the battery is now 36 volts and a slightly different shape (complete with a button to press so you can check the charge level - it seems that modern bikes need to have built in flashy lights...), and they've changed the sensor set up quite drastically. With the old bike I would have to do two complete rotations of the pedals before the motor kicked in, with this one half a rotation is enough. And the sensor itself is now positioned more sensibly so that if the chain falls off the front cog it's not going to get mashed up. The motor seems perkier and quieter. The only disappointment was that despite all the extra gears, they seem to be go-faster gears rather than get-me-up-that-hill gears, which for someone of my weight and fitness levels would have been very welcome.
The Decathlon staff were amazingly helpful, spent a while setting the new bike up perfectly for me, swapped their saddle for my wide, comfy one (sorry guys, but my seat-bones are further apart than the width of that saddle you supplied!) and charged the battery up for me so I could ride him home. He brought me home in record speed and was amazingly comfortable.
We'll be figuring out how to attach the trailer to him soon and will report in due course.
So, how do the two new bikes compare?
The Pedalease bike was cheaper, both in price and build quality, and didn't come with the same guarantee. She's smaller and nippier, more like a teenager's bike - absolute fun to ride but I expect her to need a lot of maintenance. She'd be great for someone who likes tinkering, wants to 'play' and needs the twist grip.
The B'Twin is more of a long-term work horse. The build quality is fantastic, there's a two year guarantee on everything, and lifetime guarantee on the frame. From my experience with the Decathlon, the service is excellent and they are always happy to help you sort things out, and are great about exchanging stuff and honouring guarantees.
Now, how to persuade them to produce a version with a twist grip and let me test it for them...
Thank you for this interesting thread.
Reliable assisted bikes with solar charge and pull capacity are my quest.
I am attempting to help a poor farmer group in Zambia from my Virginia easy chair.
They lack even an ordinary bicycle.
Getting crops to market and town purchases to home in the country is now a two day affair for some who walk the distances with large loads on their heads!
Sadly, most of your photos do not show on my computer.
What I look for is durable easy to maintain solutions easily maintained by starving farmers who have never used a pair of pliers!
Their harsh climate of sub tropical cycle means a three month heavy rain season and nine months of no rain attended with fierce sun and strong winds.
Water catchment systems breed mosquitoes and kill many infants and inflict misery.
Life expectancy in the nation is 56 but in rural areas is 41.
So... permaculture principles are quite a challenge when the belly is so empty and the children are not well
I hope to come back to this thread to see your photos.
Revisiting Eden... A creationist considering the earth, and the little spot I own.
Dan, for your intended use, electric cargo bikes might be something to look at as they are designed to carry goods in or on them. Or just regular cargo bikes if charging the E bikes might cause problems. While solar charging for a bike might sound like a good option, it adds complexity and it might be better and longer lasting to just provide a human powered bike. I say this only because you describe the intended bikes to go to farmers who have never used pliers, so simpler might be better. The first link has some convenient searching for their site, and you can actually choose Electric cargo bikes to look exclusively at those. You can find pretty much any of the electric cargo bikes in a non electric form if you end op opting for no power. A google search of cargo bikes would turn up a lot of results.
"Where will you drive your own picket stake? Where will you choose to make your stand? Give me a threshold, a specific point at which you will finally stop running, at which you will finally fight back." (Derrick Jensen)
I'm a big fan of cargo bikes. I bought mine used for under $400 (I don't recall what we settled on). It's an old Trek mountain bike with an Xtracycle freeradical (Xtracycle no longer makes the Freeradical kits, which is unfortunate). It's not electric, but it's got kind gearing. I ride it nine miles each way to work (twice a week--I work from home the other 3 days), and there are plenty of hills both directions. When my kids were younger, I took them both to preschool on the back. Now, I just take the 5 y.o. and the second grader rides her own bike. I can fit two kids and four to six bags of groceries. I haven't hauled lumber yet , but I've carried plenty of other hardware (e.g., 6 ft pvc).
We just watched a video by Kirsten Dirksen about the ELF electric bike from Organic Transit. While not a true off road machine, it may help someone out who visits this thread. If nothing else, it's a different spin for those DIY'ers needing a project.
Grant Holle wrote:(Xtracycle no longer makes the Freeradical kits, which is unfortunate).
It's not unfortunate, it was a poor design that hung on too long through sheer popularity. Any first year engineering student would hopefully grasp multiple reasons for that assertion. I broke 3 of them, after the first, no warranty support, no surprise. Always cracks right behind or in front of the dropouts, where there is no strength in the design. If you come by one used, you should have it modified immediately along the lines of this photo: https://goo.gl/images/fZ4hkC Weight-bearing members need triangles...
On the bright side, I can tell you from 3x experience, they never fail catastrophically. I even rode the 10 year old a couple blocks home the last time, even though it was even more like riding a wiggly fish than ever!
My two cents on the actual ebike thing, if you at all can, build your own. Em3ev.com and Luna Cycles and California E-bike all have stellar reputations for their kits, I have 3 of them, a front-hub, a rear-hub and a mid-drive. Quite fond of the triangle battery packs, they put that weight right in the center of the bike. above the pedals, nice balance.
I would no longer recommend a mid-drive motor, the wear on the drivetrain is insane! You will want to buy chains & cassettes in bulk. They are a somewhat better choice for a light mountain bike with low gears than a city commuter/cargo with speed gears. MMV.
I also like the rear hub motor for a cargo bike specifically, as they use huge 13G spokes (on the Em3EV version at least), and I have ruined several normal rear wheels with regular spokes on our cargo rig from carrying big loads with kids.
I have a fair bit of experience with electric bikes. The main problem is that most of them are cheaply-made from no-name factories in China, with very little support from the manufacturer. If you want high quality the costs become prohibitive. If money is not a limiting factor (haha!) and you want highest quality, then check out https://optibike.com/ (not at all set up for farm work--it's a high-end mountain bike). The power on one of them is amazing--makes you feel like a super hero! A less-expensive option I have been impressed with is http://www.evelo.com/. Another cool option to consider if you really want to rock the trails is a recumbent electric tricycle. It may not sound like much, but take a look: