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  1. #1
    Senior Member chicbicyclist's Avatar
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    In this thread, we discuss about Electric/Power Assist for bikes!

    Well, I 've been hogging the discussion space of some threads, especially the commuter bike pic thread in Commuting, since quite a bit of people are quite curious about my set-up.

    I thought this would be an appropriate place to post this since electric assist afforded me to use my bike more, and I find myself not using the car most of the time ever since, I'm just very happy(its showing, isnt it?) with the system and well, too happy in fact that I would love nothing more than have more people using them, especially those who are too reluctant to bike for whatever excuse or reason you can think of.

    Here's a bit of an introduction about electric assist(cross posted from another thread):
    How does this electric assist work? Where is the battery? In the bag on the rack? Isn't it heavy reducing somewhat the gains from extra power?
    Sorry for the late reply. The battery pack is located in the army surplus bag(thats mine, its not the stock bag), on the rear rack. You can basically use anything(topeak bags and rack, duct tape, empty plastic containers, anuything) where the battery will fit. The motor already comes mounted on the rim, and you just install that on your front fork. Install the throttle, wire the whole thing up(connect the motor to the controller, and the controller to the battery pack) and you're ready to go(the batteries already come pre-wired in my case).

    The kit works like this: You have to pedal first to activate the motor, to about 3-5 mph. you can stop pedalling if you choose to do so, but the system works better in conjunction with human power. Variable speed via the throttle. Can go about 18 mph assisted, more or less. Range with the battery that I have(three 12V/12 amp per hour sealed lead acids) which is about 30 lbs is about 25 or so miles with moderate pedalling. I can climb hills up to about 9% grade for at least half a mile continously, and the motor doesnt feel hot to the touch at all(motor temperature is one of the limiting factors of efficiency and range).

    You can always spend more money on lighter battery technology. NiMh of the same energy capacity weighs about 15lbs but can cost about $300(lead acids cost about $100-120). I've seen systems that can go 40 miles using lighter niMh and Im planning on using them once my lead acids die out in about 10 months of regular use or so.

    The whole system is deffinitely not light(especially if you're using lead acids, like I do), so acceleration suffers from a dead stop(you can always buy systems that starts from a dead stop without pedalling, unlike mine). The motor is more than efficient to handle the extra load of the system itself. At cruising speeds on flat ground , you won't even notice a difference and you can turn the motor off and pedal instead, riding on the momentum. You will deffinitely notice the big difference when climbing hills(much, much easier), and I almost always run out of gears on my mtb style comfort bike at full speed(flat ground). Time to shop fot a better crankset and gears for me. My whole system weighs in at about 75 or so lbs., including the bike. The kit weighs in at 45 lbs(30 lbs battery and 15 lbs front hub motor), so thats comparable to a fully loaded touring bike. But again, you have a motor, they don't. Use it.

    Electric assist is probably not for everyone, especially weight weenies, but it addresses many reasons people give out when asked "why don't you use your bicycle for errands/commuting/etc", like hills(San Francisco...San Diego...), sweating, headwinds and well, it's just damn hard!

    Okay, I have typed in alot of words and I'll stop because I'm getting hungry. Time for dinner! Hope all that diatribe helped you understand electric assist much better!
    Feel free to ask questions, discuss, or even "come out" of the closet if you own one of these systems in this thread.
    Last edited by chicbicyclist; 04-21-06 at 06:11 PM.

  2. #2
    Senior Member attercoppe's Avatar
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    Hey there chic, I posted a sort-of-snarky comment in your commute log pic thread to the effect that motors are for wusses. Of course I'm teasing, but then again, I can't see myself using an assist on my bike - I don't think it would be useful enough to me to be worth the extra weight, maintenance, etc. Do you find that's the case, that people are either "I'd never have one" or "I'd never ride without one"?

    A question on how it functions - do you have to plug the batteries in to charge them, or do they recharge from pedalling or just from the wheel turning?

  3. #3
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    What you sould now do in this thread is link a source where someone could buy an electric assist. Or at least know how much they cost.

  4. #4
    BikeForums Founder Joe Gardner's Avatar
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    Can you tell us more about your bike? I love the idea of electric assist, and your bike looks great. I'd love to hear more about it.

  5. #5
    Senior Member kf5nd's Avatar
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    I wouldn't want to pedal around the dead-weight after the battery went out!!! I have long rides.

  6. #6
    = cyclist's tan rat_factory's Avatar
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    okay so just how much assist is there? top speed is ~18mph? i was thinking you assist could boost your speed to 25 or so to keep up with traffic. i was thinking it was more simlilar to an lbs employee i knew that had two hub generators and chain driven(?) assist. more info on drive type and effort differences compared to a regular bike please.
    '82 Miyata 310, '87 Scott Boulder, '87 Schwinn Le Tour, '91 Cannondale SM500, '96 Schwinn Clear Creek, '99 Schwinn MesaGS, '05 Rockhopper

    ich bin

  7. #7
    Senior Member chicbicyclist's Avatar
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    Hey there chic, I posted a sort-of-snarky comment in your commute log pic thread to the effect that motors are for wusses. Of course I'm teasing, but then again, I can't see myself using an assist on my bike - I don't think it would be useful enough to me to be worth the extra weight, maintenance, etc. Do you find that's the case, that people are either "I'd never have one" or "I'd never ride without one"?

    A question on how it functions - do you have to plug the batteries in to charge them, or do they recharge from pedalling or just from the wheel turning?
    Most people find it cool. I'm not sure what they actually think of it, and I cant really answer that question because I dont know anybody who uses them. Alot of people do ask where to get it, and I also tell them that they are perfect for hills in San Diego. My bike shop absolutely loves it, dont know if they'll get it themselves, but said it was a really good idea if it makes more people cycle.

    You actually plug it into your normal electrict outlet. The same one where you plug your tv, laptop, fridge, etc.

    What you sould now do in this thread is link a source where someone could buy an electric assist. Or at least know how much they cost.
    Here's a pretty good one top start.

    http://www.electric-bikes.com/

    It doesnt have all the kits available, but that gives you a pretty good idea on pricing. I dont really recommend the pre-built bikes, because I think kits allows you more freedom, and they more often than not emphasize the synergy of human and electric motor power. Plus, they are eaiser to make lighter, customize, maintain and repair because you are limited by manufacturer specific components apart(especially the batteries).

    Can you tell us more about your bike? I love the idea of electric assist, and your bike looks great. I'd love to hear more about it.
    Well, let me see, it is a Raleigh SC30, I think either a 2000, or 20001 model(I'm leaning towards 2000 because I googled the color and forest green only showed up for the 2000 model). It is a "comfort" bike. I was initially looking for european utility kind of bikes, where you sit upright and does not look sporty at all. Well, this came along craigslist, and at the time, I was using a really crappy walmart bike that I got last year when I got interested in cycling as transportation ever since we moved into this more dense area and urban, two miles from downtown.

    I thought, "I could always replace that, and $60 isnt a whole lot, and Raleigh is deffinitely better than walmart bikes!".

    I started riding(on my walmart bike then the SC30) for errands, groceries, recreation and limited myself to 1-3 miles from home. Hills severely limited where I can, and can't go. The short ones were okay, but if I want to go to downtown on my bike, I have to contend with a very long, but not that steep hill because i live on a mesa. Even the people who work at the bikeshop said thats one of the limiting factor on why people in San Diego probably will not be biking like people in Amsterdam and Copenhagen. Then theres the steeper hills(still long!) from Mission Valley back home. Grade 8%-9% and the shortest route was half a mile long! I'm not an athelete and I doubt alot of people will subject themselves to that kind of torture, especially if they have easy access to cars(like I do).

    Then I discovered electric assist. Good idea, but how good is it. Hill climbing was the most important, then range. Read more about it and its sounding better and better. Found Wilderness Energy. The cheapest kits online. I read reviews and they seem more than adequate. Ah, jackpot. They have a kit on sale! from $370 down to $210 for the refurbished unit. I ordered it right the next day after more considerations(meaning I had to find a way to squeeze an unexpected $230 spending). Now we wait.

    The next three days passed by, and on the day it was supposed to be delivered, nobody was home, and i didnt know a signature was required. Good thing i have the day off the next day. Oh the anticipation.

    The next day, it arrived and I spent about tow hours installing the unit. The ugly battery bag on my cheap planet bike rack, and the front hub motor in front. It fits!!!!! Allelujah. I spent the entire few days waiting for the kit to arrive wondering it will fit on my front fork(I think you can even search for my thread in Mechanics asking if it will fit or not, rather wordy, like this one). It fits perfectly.

    So now I'm excited to test it out, but i have to make sure eveything is in place, the bolts tight. I dont want to nose dive on this untested system!

    The first time i tried it was really awesome. I remember I had that huge grin while going uphill without pedalling, and some people who realized it had that funny look to them. Almost immediately, I find myself biking more, and alot farther(going to places 10 miles away on hilly terrain is not unuusal anymore) and well, i ended up riding my bike more. The weight was kinda unusual at first but you get used to it. Like I said, acceleration suffered from a dead stop, but again, I'm not a racer, I'm a utility cyclist. And I have a motor!

    As for the bike itself, I decided that I will not be replacing it anymore. Its actually perfect for the electric assist. It has steel fork, cromoly steel frame, thicker tubes and can withstand more abuse with the added weight. I also replaced the handlebar for more comfort and better looks from a flat bar to an Albatross Nitto Handlebar(from rivendell), upgraded to a better topeak rack that doesnt flex too much, bought walds folding basket because my battery pack was taking space from my cargo rack, replaced the ugly battery bag and used an army surplus bag that was once used as a toolbag, bought bar end shifters for easier shifting(and looks), bought a brooks for aestethic then comfort reasons, and now, I just bought yellow cloth bar tape from Sheldon Brown, and I'll be shellacing it to match my honey Brooks saddle.

    Okay, this is starting to bocome too long and I'll jsut say that the bottom line is, I ride more now and I enjoy it. I'm not a "hardcore" cyclist, just somebody trying to make a difference by using the car less. I'm also lazy(but not FAT!) living in a relatively hilly terrain that is not exactly friendly to utility cycling.

    I wouldn't want to pedal around the dead-weight after the battery went out!!! I have long rides.
    I dont thikn this system is desinged for racing/touring cyclists in mind. It's supposed to be an alternative form of transportation, and possibly, recreation. But you'll be surprised how light you can make this sytem. Here's a new hub motor I discovered two days ago: http://www.electricwheelscompany.co.uk/

    That motor looks like an ordinary drumbrake or something similar! Probably not as good as fullsized hub motors, but if you couple that motor with a very lightweight battery system, I cant see why you cant have a 20 lbs system instead of the usual 40-50 lbs.
    Last edited by chicbicyclist; 04-20-06 at 06:07 PM.

  8. #8
    Senior Member chicbicyclist's Avatar
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    okay so just how much assist is there? top speed is ~18mph? i was thinking you assist could boost your speed to 25 or so to keep up with traffic. i was thinking it was more simlilar to an lbs employee i knew that had two hub generators and chain driven(?) assist. more info on drive type and effort differences compared to a regular bike please.
    Well, the system is rated to go a maximum of 20 mph, unassisted. I say 18mph because manufacturers tend to exxagerate a bit. 20 mph is the legal limit for an electric bike to be still conmsidered a "bicycle" in the eyes of the law. Any faster than that and its a "moped". With added pedal power, my kit is noticeably faster.

    My system is direct drive hub motor. It doesnt go trhough your gearing system like the stoke monkey. Noticeably faster, with less effort compared to unassisted cycling.

    With the motor off, the weight is noticeable on inclines, especially going uphill. On completely flat ground, you will notcie it at acceleration, but hardly notice it at cruisng speed(my trick is to help me get to my curising speed then turn the motor off).

    Like I said before, I regularly overtake cyclist looking people(helmet, non-walmart bike, facy gears) and leave them in the dust except in very, very few exceptions on flat ground. Downhill, well, I dont use my motor then. Uphill, I will deffinitley have the advantage.
    Last edited by chicbicyclist; 04-20-06 at 05:11 PM.

  9. #9
    ... thelung's Avatar
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    Personally, I find great satisfaction (and great exercise) in getting from A to B without using fossil fuels or any energy source other than myself. Fossil fuels are still powering this bike unless you charge with alternative energy but the people with the ability to do that are few and far between.

    With that said, it is much better than other motorized vehicles in terms of efficiency I would imagine. It seems like a great solution for those who are not fit enough to cycle on their own, or who live in adverse conditions such as mountains that would prevent them from being car-free.

    Just my two cents.

  10. #10
    Southern Gentleman sabaka's Avatar
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    That is a very cool bike, chic! I like the idea if it makes more people (especially in hilly areas such as yourself) ride their bikes. My area is nowhere near hilly enough to justify it, but I do like it!

  11. #11
    Senior Member donrhummy's Avatar
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    I agree with sabaka. While I would never used that (it defeats my purpose of riding a bike), I would MUCH prefer people riding short distances on that instead of a polluting car or motorcycle. If it makes more people leave behind polluting machines, then I say it's great!

  12. #12
    Senior Member chicbicyclist's Avatar
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    (it defeats my purpose of riding a bike)
    Maybe if you're riding a bike for exercise and fitness, yes, but not for me, because I use it for transportation.

  13. #13
    done with civilization
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    chichbicyclist - i know EXACTLY what you mean about San Diego.

    I used to live there. I think your right, not as many people would bike because of the hills. I didn't get as into utility bicycling there as I am now in Tucson, AZ. So, I don't have the experience biking as much there... but I do remember the hills were somewhat of a deterrent...

    In Tucson, its completely flat. So I just power my xtracycle myself. But yeah I mean, if your going places farther, then I think its probably a good thing...

    You should really get an xtracycle, you wouldn't imagine how you ever lived without one, seriously. With the xtra and the electric assist, you would be golden.

    Oh, and I'm considering soon to get a house. I think I'll have solar cells power it. How cool would it be to just plug your bike into that solar energy everyday. If I ever start seeing a need for a electric-assist, if I need to go really far or whatnot, then maybe I'll do that. It would be pretty neat.

  14. #14
    Senior Member chicbicyclist's Avatar
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    I've been actually looking and reading about xtracycles. It would be really nice to have my battery pack at a lower gravity, and possibly cooler looking(I just love the wood panel). The only problem is that I'm on a buget right now and the cycle of upgrade on my current bicycle is not over! I want to replace my tires and fenders, soon and possibly, get better looking cantilever brakes. With that said, I will probably buy an xtracycle within a year or so.

    Regarding the solar cell, I've actually seen a company that sells these electric assists sell a small solar panel as an auxiliary to keep the battery at level volts within each other(for the OCD electronic types, something about trickling power, or whatever). I guess it is possible to get a slightly bigger solar panel that folds and use that to charge you're battries out in the open if you're touring, or if you're that concerned about where you're electricity comes from.

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