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Author Topic: Misaventures in e-biking, not a typo.  (Read 249 times)

Jason Knight

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Misaventures in e-biking, not a typo.
« on: 29 Sep 2021, 04:54:51 pm »
Just thought I'd share my recent medium article on the six months of BS I've gone through just trying to get an e-bike. From companies up and disappearing, to two defective bikes in a row, to a third and final company who's tech support is basically nonexistent.

https://deathshadow.medium.com/misadventures-in-buying-and-customizing-an-e-bike-4876b66e3172

For those up against the free read limits, here's the pictures from the article showing my various customization.

What it's comes looking like vs. what I've done.


Details on my changes to the drivetrain. upped from 46 tooth chainring to 52, replaced plastic 13 tooth derailleur pulleys with 12 tooth red anodized giving it actual ball bearings instead of sleeve, and freeing up room for smoother shifting. The red of course going with my overall theme. Can also see where I covered the bike name / hideous canary yellow stripe with red reflective tape. Visibility good.



It came with straight bars, those hurt both my shoulder and back with that stupid leaning forward "crotch rocket" stance. So I took these old bars from the back of my garage that were rusted solid, hit them with steel wool and rust remover, power wash, scotch brite and pine sol, power wash, filler putty and primer, sand, prime again, 2 coats of satin black. I know it's just a set of bars, but I'm proud of 'em. Likewise I went over the top logo/stripe with candy apple red, changing the hideos yellow to red with the stripe/logo showing through. Custom headset spacers, swapped out to paddle grips, etc, etc.



From the front we get a better view of the new light replacing the weaksauce it came with, sticky-fingers on the brakes... fun times.



Shame it came broken and Aventon's support is basically nonexistent, so I had to DIY fix myself, which is fun as I've never dealt with hydraulic brake systems so... tiny.

Today I'm fixing the rear rack/pannier mounts so that it can be level, doing the candy coat on the silver part of the rear rack, and adding spoke reflector "sticks".
« Last Edit: 29 Sep 2021, 04:56:32 pm by Jason Knight »
I'll fix every flaw, I'll break every law, I'll tear up the rulebook if that's what it takes. You will see, I will crush this cold machine.

Jason Knight

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Re: Misaventures in e-biking, not a typo.
« Reply #1 on: 24 Jul 2022, 07:55:32 am »
Just thought since today is my "day off from web dev" day I'd post some updates on my bike, since I've made a lot of changes to it the past two months.

The first big change was swapping out the conventional suspension fork for a double-shoulder model, that I was able to adjust to be an inch and a half longer. It just "felt' like the bike didn't have enough rake on the front or height from the ground -- despite the 26"x4" fat tires.



The stock fork only had 80mm of travel and I was constantly bottoming it out on normal terrain. Even just going from different types of pavement was going "ch-chunk". This one goes to 120mm, seems a lot stiffer which means I'm not bottoming it out. So far the highest the little measuring ring has gone is 100-105mm, and that's with some light off-roading in the mix.

The double-shoulder design is nice as it opens the door to hanging bags from the upper shoulders instead of the bars, so it doesn't interfere with the stuff you need there on an e-bike.

I also swapped out the heavy Kenda Juggernaut tires that felt a lot... stiffer riding than I had expected for fat tires. Whilst these are just cheap WD/Wanda's, the rubber feels nicer, more pliant, and there's a definite improvement in ride quality.



And the whitewalls are snazzy as hell. I also added some dorky spoke reflectors, as well as a lighter aluminum hub brake rotor. Matches the colour scheme, knocks a few grams off, and improved the front brake behavior a lot. Though I think I'm gonna swap calipers to a better brand at some point.



One of the biggest changes I did to the bike when I first got it was changing out the 46 tooth chainring for a 53. I did this because the low felt too low -- pedaling like a maniac without going anywhere... and the High felt like I had a lot more "power" in me than the bike was letting me get to. Sometimes it even felt like instead of "assisting" my pedaling the bike was "racing out from under me".

This worked on the high end as intended, but I goofed on the low end as I didn't take into account how heavy the bike is unpowered. First time I screwed up, got lost, and ran the battery dry, the 53:32 gear ratio was NOT a pleasant ride home. The solution of course was a larger cog on the back for the lowest gear, and I figured whilst at it I'd go with a smaller high gear as well. Thankfully cheap but well made 11..36 cog cassettes don't even run you twenty bucks off Amazon.



53:36 is only a hair away from the stock 46:32 meaning power off it's not unmanageable. You're not going fast, but it's nowhere near the struggle 53:32 was from a dead stop. With 53:11 on the high end, I can now in the highest power mode reach 35mph and still have the feel of the pedals pushing back on me slightly. That's 3mph faster. I do think the motor doesn't like it though as it almost feels like when you break past 34mph the motor starts pushing back acting like a brake. I wonder if I'm reaching the point where the motor becomes a generator instead of a motor, with nowhere to put that power. Resistive braking, one step removed from regenerative.

I haven't enlarged the chain yet, but it was "fun" dialing in the derailleur. It only really needs about three more links, but is entirely functional as-is.



I'm not a fan of derailleurs, even back 25 years ago when I was doing bike stuff regular I had a ... distrust of the technology. To that end I wasn't that well versed with dialing them in. I mean I knew what the screws do, but not really how to adjust it properly. I tried guessing like a moron, and only made things worse.

So I went to Youtube. Big shout-out to Park Tools (one of the most trustworthy brands I've ever dealt with) for their instructional video that let me dial it in PERFECT.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UkZxPIZ1ngY&t=725s

Set the lower limit, adjust the cable to be taught, back off the lower limit to use the cable adjuster to dial it in perfect, put the lower limit back correct, shift up making cable adjustments as you go, then at the highest gear adjust in the high limit screw. So simple, and it's the first time I've ever come across instructions that made sense. And thankfully it's a 1x8 so no front derailleur to screw with things. As someone who spent the past 14 years riding a cruiser with a 3 speed internal hub, 8 speeds is absurd overkill for me. My cup doth runneth over.

The only real thing that was fighting me was that the Shimano Acera derailleur the bike came with is only rated to 34 teeth. That two extra chain-links of diameter isn't massive, and just driving in the B-Screw adjustment all the way made it shift smooth. Though I think that I had previously swapped out the 13 tooth plastic cogs it came with for 11 tooth aluminum ones helped a lot.

I do have derailleur hanger extensions in my spare parts box that would fit (despite their age. Good to see some things are the same) if I wanted to go larger, but I wanted to avoid that as it's just more possible points of failure. I might go to a 40 or even 44 tooth as the largest next year, because I'm considering making a camper trailer for the bike.

I might even crowdfund that and make videos of me "seeing 'Murica" on my e-bike. I'm currently really pissed at a landlord who I think is trying to harrass me into moving, and on the whole with rents where they are I'm... yeah. Seriously considering selling off 90%+ of my junk, putting the stuff I want to keep in a storage area, and moving into a 3' x 6.5' homemade bicycle camper... with 12v 300ah worth of battery that I can fast-charge anywhere an EV can charge. I already have a Level 2 EV charger to 220AC adapter. Just need a 220v to 12v charge controller, three LiFEPo4 packs, and a 12v to 110v inverter.

I did have an interesting "problem" three weeks ago. The brake levers have hall effect sensors in them so that when you brake power is cut off to the motor, and it also turns on the brake light. One of those sensors... well...



NONE of the electrical connections have strain reliefs on them! Worse, see the thread -- or LACK OF THREAD -- on the retaining nut? The bolts on the blooding things aren't the same thread as the hole in the bloody handles! As I had a spare handles from them sending me a replacement and my having gotten my own as well, I had a spare working sensor so it was an easy swap, but pulling the nut on the other one showed the same completely stripped threading. I ended up having to bore out the handle, sand down the nut, hammer it in as a compression fitting, and then put a small bead of epoxy around the lip for good measure. Quality!

I re-arranged where things are on the bars to better fit, and you can see a new problem I had.



The new fork being taller made the brake hose barely long enough to reach! I ended up "fixing" this by using a spare rear hose. It's about a foot too long, but that's easy enough to hide. I also swapped out the cable management wrap for some "Cad Bane breathing hose" conduit. Just as effective, but easier to deal with when you want to add/remove/move your cables and hoses.

Moving the display off center let me angle it down more reducing glare. I'm probably going to make a foam or even fiberglass hood for the display to further enhance legibility in sunlight. Moving the display also let me put the control pad back out at "thumb's reach" to the left handle.

You never should have given up your armor...

As much as the bike initially cost me, for the most part these are all changes I planned on making anyways. It something about bikes that if you're going to ride any real distances -- like the 20-30 miles a day I do normally and the 50-60 I put in on days like today -- you need to dial it in for your own size, power, stance, and comfort. I don't care how expensive the bike, adjustments like chainring, cassette range, seat, handlebars, etm. all need to be customized or you're going to be in pain.

Like my choosing a "comfort seat" that would make most pro bikers who love their butt floss seats groan. And it would hurt -- in the stance they ride. Aka the crotch rocket lean way the hell forwards with straight bars as far over the front wheel as possible with the seat up higher than the bars. In that stance those narrow seats make sense.

I ride upright like most European "normal bikers". Thus the cruiser bars meaning I don't lean forward at all. Way easier on my back, but changes where your weight is being distributed. In the upright stance those butt floss seats become exactly that, directing all force on your tailbone. Which is why I could barely walk after a couple miles on the seat the bike came with once I swapped out the straight bars.

I never understood those narrow seats until I rode with straight bars. Problem is leaning forwards like that? My body wants nothing to do with it. Moment I put on bars that let me sit upright, that seat was a complete no-go. I think it's why so many riders who try "comfort seats" have nothing good to say about them, they're still in the straight-bar stance.

Also I cannot sing the praises of suspension seat-posts enough. Being the bike is a hardtail having an air-dampened seat post really gives your ass a lot less of a pounding. Combined with the comfy seat, softer fat tires (that I'm running at 15psi for road), and better front fork, it has to be the smoothest riding bike I've ever tried.

Oh, and that ugly little top tube bag that looks like it's falling off? That's gone. I replaced it with something better, and I'll probably take some pics today of it whilst I'm out and about.

I've also got a body cam for my Ulefone Armor 13 coming that I'm going to use to document some of my rides. I do my "'murica tour" with a camper I'll probably need to pick up a couple "go pro", a better laptop than my ten year old MSI for video editing, etc. Going to be interesting to see how much crap I can pack into a 3'x6'x5' space. I'm already playing with the frame design on graph paper before I start plugging stuff into 3ds max.

Oh, I also managed to pick up a second battery, so double the range. Thus my probably going 50+ miles in a couple hours with 20% power reserve left on each battery for good measure. Thinking I might go to Brattleboro VT from here in Keene, NH and back by way of Incestor and Hinsdale. NOT going to try and take the bike over Cheshire Hill via Rt 9. Screw that.

Sometime I want to try going out 101 all the way to Manchester or Nashua, but that's a risky ride and some hills I'm not sure the motor wouldn't burn out trying to climb.
« Last Edit: 24 Jul 2022, 08:12:57 am by Jason Knight »
I'll fix every flaw, I'll break every law, I'll tear up the rulebook if that's what it takes. You will see, I will crush this cold machine.

GrumpyYoungMan

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Re: Misaventures in e-biking, not a typo.
« Reply #2 on: 26 Jul 2022, 01:58:00 am »
Looking good!

What kind of distance would that be? If you broke down on the ride? Could you be picked up?
Trying to learn a new trick to prove old dogs can learn new ones...

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coothead

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Re: Misaventures in e-biking, not a typo.
« Reply #3 on: 26 Jul 2022, 04:23:41 am »
Quote from: GrumpyYoungMan
Could you be picked up?

For sure someone would, but the problem is they would
most probably be toting the latest version of an iPhone,  ;D

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Jason Knight

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Re: Misaventures in e-biking, not a typo.
« Reply #4 on: 26 Jul 2022, 08:02:52 am »
What kind of distance would that be? If you broke down on the ride? Could you be picked up?
Manchester is 55-65 miles away depending on the route. You're not allowed to take bikes on interstate highways -- and many state highways -- in most states, so you have to plot out your route accordingly. That's the edge of what both batteries would provide for range, so I'd have to find a place to charge up there. Charging takes about four and a half hours since my charger is only 48v 3amp aka 144 watts, for a 13.5ah 48v battery. It's mostly the charge time now that's limiting my range until I can build my camper.

I'm not as worried about breaking down since I carry a spare tube, I'm on fat tires, they're filled with "flatout", and I have the tools with me to repair most anything else on the bike. Pedaling without power on the 70+ pound bike sucks, but it's not unmanageable. Or at least it's not as bad now that I have the low ratio at 53:36.

I might be writing an article today or tomorrow on Medium about bike gear ratios and dialing in that and "comfort". There's a lot of disinformation and cultism -- much less egos and "big man syndrome" -- about things like gearing, bars, and seats. Nothing at all like the web development I normally write about.

Just did morning shopping, now I get to hook up my cheap trailer to do laundry. Got a cheap trailer for larger tasks like that, and it'll be handy for bringing home stuff like lumber for building the trailer.

Was considering PVC, and may still do that for the top, but I think 2x4, 1x4, and 1x1's for the framing is a smarter move. I do know most of the upper and skin is going to be insulating foam sheeting covered in my own formulation of "poor man's fiberglass".

I use the fiberglass 'screen door' material with shellac as the binder because I'm allergic to epoxy and it's easier / cleaner to work with (I mean it re-melts in alcohol). For the shellac I use BIN primer which is just shellac with white paint pigment in it, and then as a final coat any decent outdoor paint will do since shellac is water permeable.

It'll be a fun project, probably won't be able to 'really work on it" until next year, even though I'm slowly picking up the parts every month. All goes well I might have the base frame done by the end of august, maybe get it skinned come september.

Got to hire some people next month to haul off a bunch of crap from my garage I'm discarding. Mostly boxes and pieces of broken pack furniture like my old crappy bed. And an old single mattress that belonged to my ex.

Need to sell off some garbage too, like my broken and likely unable to be ressurrected cheaply Sun Blade 2000, and a bunch of rackmount LCD/keyboard trays leftover from when I had my own hosting business. (20+ years old now, not even worth the cost of shipping)
I'll fix every flaw, I'll break every law, I'll tear up the rulebook if that's what it takes. You will see, I will crush this cold machine.

Jason Knight

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Re: Misaventures in e-biking, not a typo.
« Reply #5 on: 30 Jul 2022, 05:27:24 am »
New pics of its current state.

Side-by-side stock vs. what I've done:


Higher resolution of that same profile:


Good 3/4 view. Looks so much nicer with a real bag in the front and those crappy cheap top tube bags nixed.


A shot of where I added a red stripe to the front fender along with my badge. Two coats of simple gloss red spray. Badge is held on with contact cement, solid enough to stay on when riding even the roughest terrain, soft enough I can remove it if I change my mind. No the fender is not out of whack, that's the camera angle. And no everything isn't scratched up, that's just the camera over-exposing pollen and road dust.


View of the much wider bars. This gives a decent look at where I went over the yellow stripe with candy red, letting the logo show through. Even with the swirlies from the clear-coat reacting with the candy (dumbass didn't do a test swatch) I'm a bit proud of that.


I took a picture where I put the stock bars on top of the new ones, to show the difference.


Gives an idea the difference in "stance" the bar change affords me.
« Last Edit: 30 Jul 2022, 05:35:24 am by Jason Knight »
I'll fix every flaw, I'll break every law, I'll tear up the rulebook if that's what it takes. You will see, I will crush this cold machine.

Jason Knight

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Re: Misaventures in e-biking, not a typo.
« Reply #6 on: 2 Aug 2022, 05:03:03 pm »
Yesterday was NOT a good biking day.

Last week while riding the battery just fell out the side. I didn't think too much of it, figuring I just had it in wrong or something, but on yesterday's ride it fell out twice. What's interesting is that every time it falls out, it's when I come to a stop.

After I put it back in the final time, it died about a mile down the road. Will not power on. Thankfully I had my spare with me, but it still sucks since my range is now cut in half.

Righr after putting the spare in, I hit a bump and my rear rack's front support arms slid clean off. Despite being dogged down as tight as the bolts go, despite use of threadlock, despite a bead of epoxy reinforcement, STILL slid out of what's basically a glorified friction fit.

This problem is not uncommon. I didn't get the rack the vendor provides because it's a known problem. Issue is, it's a problem for almost EVERY adjustable rear rack thanks to the dumbass design.

See this guy's "fix" video for the stock rack where I guarantee in a few months he'll be back to it coming off again.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SutYVWyW5ms

So what was I to do? Thankfully I had enough bungee cords to secure the rack enough to get it home, then after removing it I went to Home Depot and gathered up some parts.

The stock piece that mounts the arm to the bike uses a 1/4" 20tpi thread, so I figured if that was strong enough to hold it there, it's strong enough for the whole thing so why not get some 1/4" 20tpi threaded rod, cut to fit, and use joiners at both ends?

I got there, and was just browsing parts when I came across some turnbuckles where the non-reverse threaded end was the same size. Rather than getting rod that's too long and cutting it down, why not by 12" of rod and use a turnbuckle to make it adjustable?

The eye-hooks from the left-handed end could then get bolted to P-clamps on the rack itself. Best of all it meant I could ditch the front p-clamps and use the actual mounting holes on the frame!

And thus we have:


That was supposed to be a test fit... I'm arguing with myself over if I should keep it that way, or take them off and paint them. I kind of like the bare metal look, and they are a mix of stainless and zinc plated parts so it's not like they're gonna rust out immediately. And when/if they do I can always just acid bath and paint 'em later.

Liberal amounts of red "permanent" threadlock was applied.

Shot from the other side:



Had a lot of people comment how "professional" it looks, like it's not something that looks cobbled together by an old man with a parkinsonism.

I'm actually surprised how simple a solution it is, how sturdy it seems to be compared to stock options, and so forth.

Whilst I was in there I also ripped the cheaper panniers off and swapped in the more durable ones off my old cruiser bike. Which is sad  when the "Bell" brand is more durable and reliable.

Of course now comes the real test. I'm going to go to Walmart and buy 16 liters of soda to test some "real weight' in the panniers. Probably also swing through harbor freight for a bunch more bungee cords since I used every last one I keep in that rear bag to make it home when things broke. Be nice to have a surplus with me just in case.
« Last Edit: 2 Aug 2022, 05:06:15 pm by Jason Knight »
I'll fix every flaw, I'll break every law, I'll tear up the rulebook if that's what it takes. You will see, I will crush this cold machine.

 

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