Electric Bikes - Bike Selection: IGH and Electric investigation
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04-11-12, 12:19 PM
I'm looking at getting a bike, and I'll post my observations here.
Here's my background:
I'm a fairly thin guy (6`, 150 lbs) who gets varying amounts of exercise.
I play competitive ultimate over the summers (city leagues, as well as tournaments within 200 miles).
Winters I am much less active, averaging perhaps 3k steps a day.
I grew up around bikes, but I used them primarily as transportation.
I'm comfortable doing basic maintenance, but the less I have to muck around with things the better.
Initial setup isn't a big worry as I'd have great support in the form of my brothers who are avid bikers.
I don't want to get to work sweaty (8 miles, slight uphill).
I'm a singer and I don't want to get to school at all out of breath, but I still want to make good time.
Unique bike trouble I've had:
I've bent at least one crankshaft by putting too much force against it. The bend was small, but enough to cause the front derailleur to rub regardless of its alignment.
So, a combination of 3 things seems most tempting:
Single front chainring (no front derailleur to worry about).
Internally geared hubs for lower maintenance.
Ebike to allow me to let me arrive in good time without side effects.
04-11-12, 12:20 PM
3 IGH experiences in chronological order:
1 - Shimano (Alfine? Nexus?) 7/8 speed. This was on a street cruiser at a LBS. Tried it because it was the first I'd seen. Shifting was weird. It didn't shift well under load at all, and was not a pleasant experience. Rode it perhaps 6 blocks total.
2 - Shimano 7 speed on a Hebb Electro Cruiser 700. Unlike the first experience, shifting was smooth and had absolutely no issues responding. I may have gone easier on the shifting system, than I did with my first experience. Shifting was generally fast, perhaps a little faster than a derailleur. At least once it stayed in the previous gear for a second before shifting. A few times it didn't shift from one gear to the next, but this seemed to be a slight alignment issue. Rode it 3 blocks or so.
3 - NuVinci n360 on a Jamis Commuter 4. Interesting experience, but I didn't ride it enough to get a good feel for its real use (small parking lot ride only). The shifter felt gritty for some reason. It also had a little bit of play where nothing would happen (when changing from shifting up to down or vice versa). This could have been an alignment issue. The ratio would only change 1/3rd of the way before it needed to be pedalled.
I'm not opposed to the idea of having an IGH system, but given these experiences I'll definitely want to test the specific system before I go for it. I'm kind of confused on all the different types of Shimano IGHs and which ones are robust. I'm interested in seeing NuVinci's Harmony system in action.
I usually like going as fast as I can given the path, my physical shape, and what condition I want to arrive in. In general IGHs seem best for people who are a little more laid-back than I am.
04-11-12, 12:21 PM
ebike experiences in chronological order:
1 - Trek Transport+ 2010?.
Uses BionX system.
Has an older, weird controller (not G1 or G2). Should be compatible with G1 or G2 controllers based on the year it was released (but Trek has special firmware, which may reduce compatibility).
The electric assist kicked in after a fraction of a second of pedalling in a fairly smooth -though definitely noticeable- way. It was enough to make it move as if the bike wasn't there. With the assist I felt no need to leave the highest gear.
The brake regen seemed to be at a fixed level. After a certain amount of braking the BionX regen would come on full force.
After riding it I took it inside. In the process I went to lift it without thinking and was definitely surprised by how heavy it was, as well as the weight distribution.
Experience: good sized parking lot ride.
2 - Trek FX+ 2011?.
Uses (slightly customized?) BionX system.
Has a BionX G1 controller and no throttle. The G1 controller was difficult to read with polarized glasses, but this may be improved by removing the protective clear sticker. (I've not checked polarization issues with other displays)
The electric assist kicked in about the same as the Transport+.
The braking regen kicks in over time, and its max seems partially based on how fast you're going. At first I thought the regen wasn't even working until I watched the controller display.
You can set the electric system at 9 levels: permanent regen 4-1, off, and permanent assist 1-4.
I took this up a fairly steep hill at the highest support level and I could stay in high gear without too much difficulty. My speed was about 14 mph going up the hill, and on a flat it was easy to go 20 mph with minimal assistance. (Self-directed ride on roads heading up a mountain)
Fits in my car, but is terribly unwieldy. The weight distribution makes putting it in/getting it out single-handedly a bear. The front wheel is quick release, the rear wheel isn't. This makes sense considering how tight BionX recommends you tighten your rear wheel.
Experience: multiple rides < 1 mile, up fairly steep hills.
3 - Hebb Electro Cruiser 700.
Ezee 350W motor on the front wheel.
Throttle only. It's easy to hit 20 w/ the throttle. The throttle had a few different speeds iirc. I realized I don't want a throttle-based system.
The bike is heavy, but ok (not great) to pedal.
Experience: up and down a street with a slight incline a few times.
4 - Igo Titan.
Cheap Chinese bike, multiple brandings.
250W mid direct drive system.
Has a throttle and pedal assist switch. The motor is on or off, with no variance in power. Pedal assist kicks in after pedalling for ~ 1/3rd of a second, and turns off after about ~1/3rd of a second of not pedalling. You don't even have to provide any power for the pedal assist to kick in - just slowly turn the pedals.
Experience: up and down a street with a slight incline a few times.
I'll be testing a Kalkhoff (and revisiting the FX+) within the next week.
5 - Kalkhoff Pro Connect Sport 250 (2009).
250W motor assist. The assist is smooth and unobtrusive. If you rest much weight on the pedal at a stop (brakes engaged), the assist will try to come on.
Good quality bike all around.
The weight distribution is much nicer than the FX+, though it's not light.
The lights work very well and are very convenient.
The controls seem to have been updated in newer revisions (this comes with the black 3-button controller), but given the relative maturity of the product I don't know how much it would change the characteristics of the bike.
It came with a fully set up Sigma 1606 L cycle computer (even with the correct time zone). It is hard to see at night, even with its backlight.
When the assist actually assists, there is a 15-16khz whine that is very noticeable to me, but I don't notice it when I'm
biking faster than 15mph (wind helps cover the sound)
not next to solid structures (less strong reflections)
not looking down (high pitched noises are very directional).
TBH, this is enough of a deterrent for me to not use the assist unless I have a specific goal in mind, which I can see as beneficial. However, I would not want to bike /next/ to someone with this bike, as points b and c would no longer apply.
Kalkhoff USA provides as good of service as is possible over the internet. I also loved the included Haribo gummy bears.
I haven't yet checked whether it fits in my car. The seat isn't quick release, but both tires are. The battery extends the frame length by about 4", but being able to pop off the rear wheel may counter this. The mud guards may complicate matters.
Experience: Work commute, total of 45 miles so far (with some hills that are fairly tough to bike up). Also, up the same hill as the Trek FX+.
04-11-12, 12:32 PM
The guy selling the Hebb and iGo is partially disabled, and I can see that the throttle systems are great in those circumstances. However, that doesn't fit me. The bikes are too heavy to want to ride them as regular bikes and they don't support partial assistance, which I much prefer.
Pedal assist seems to have a sort of 'whoosh' feel. I think it's from the sub-second delay before the assist kicks in (on both the BionX and the Panasonic system). There is a slightly longer delay on the BionX, possibly due to it reading torque at the hub instead of the crankshaft. The BionX also has a higher % assist, which probably contributes to it's more 'whooshy' feel than the Panasonic.
I tested the FX+ and the Pro Connect against a steep hill, and the FX+ was actually easier at the same speed. Without too much effort, I could climb at 14-15 mph on the FX+ vs. 11-12 mph on the Pro Connect. This is probably due to its 300% assist vs. the Pro Connect's 130% assist. Against regular hills I hardly notice the difference (I can go ~18mph on the Pro Connect up a solid hill without breaking a sweat).
I have some concerns about Trek's BionX system being somewhat non-standard. IDK what would happen if a standard BionX battery unit were used with the Trek. There could be some firmware incompatibility. I know that replacement BionX batteries are much more expensive than others. This helps offset the higher cost of the Kalkhoff (A LBS has the FX+ for 2k even - and I think it's been on sale for as little as 1.8k).
The Kalkhoff is good quality all around, but the electric whine is annoying. Besides that point, I prefer it to the other options. I still need to test putting it in my car, but I'm definitely leaning towards keeping it.
04-11-12, 07:43 PM
IGH doesn't like to be shifted while under load. Go to mtn bike forums for durability on IGH. There may even be a forum for it.
04-11-12, 08:07 PM
Are you interested in building or buying?
If you are willing to build, I would recommend the cyclone (http://www.cyclone-usa.com/) motor couple with a Nu Vinci (http://fallbrooktechnologies.com/08_Bicycle_home.asp) rear hub.The Nu Vinci hub should get around one of the major complaints about the Cyclone system; which are the problems with the derailleur and changing gears. However, before considering this route, look at the Cyclone web page and see if it will work with your bike, clearance may be an issue.
There are many other options in building. There is not that much on the market right now, compared to standard pushbike varieties, for buying turn-key products. It will change; but it is a developing market, not a mature one.
04-12-12, 08:34 AM
That does look quite interesting, but having tried the Treks I am enamored with the idea of proportional pedal assist.
This does add some complications; in addition to having the torque sensor, developing a good-feeling assist could be pretty tricky and would likely take a while to get right.
04-16-12, 03:07 PM
I've reorganized stuff and added information relating to my experience with the Kalkhoff.
04-22-12, 11:05 PM
Well, I was a little curious so I entered the kalkhoff's gear ratio here (http://www.gear-calculator.com/#KB=41&RZ=11,12,14,16,18,21,24,28,32&GR=DERS&TF=80&UF=2200&SL=2).
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