From the very beginning I purchased my Bionx PL350 as an enhancement for touring, so this short series of reports will be concentrating on the effectiveness of that motor/battery combination over distance: rather than commuting.
I am not an athlete - and don't pretend to be an athlete - so my ambitions for the motor are to help me during multi-day trips (around 50 miles per day) and to help me extend my range during long single day trips (to accomplish 60 and 70 mile rides).
Purchase and Installation
The mating of motor to bicycle was easy in my case ... since I paid someone else to do it. The Bionx kit was added to a Montague Paratrooper bicycle by my local Bionx dealer: Eco Moto, in Salt Lake City.
The Montague is a full size folding bicycle (www.montagueco.com) - giving me an advantage in eventually packing, or shipping, the folded frame to remote locations. It has a military look about it, which I thought was cool. And the Montague frame has its water bottle bolts in an unusual location: which allows the Bionx battery to be mounted in a very low position, almost dead center in the frame (front to back).
The primary disadvantage of the Paratrooper is that it is not really designed to carry a lot of stuff. Adding racks, fenders, and water-carrying capacity to that bicycle turned out to be a real exercise in improvisation. Although everything did finally fit.
The Maiden Voyage
The first long ride with the modified bicycle took place last weekend. It followed what I call the Misery Loop: about 18 miles of steady, steady, steady climbing up on the East Bench of Salt Lake ... with a white knuckle descent at the end.
My Reactions to the Bionx Unit (First Ride)
- The Surge. If this has been discussed on this forum, then I must have missed it. The sensor in the motor gives its biggest "push" in response to the biggest effort. So, from a standing start, there is a Surge of power (pretty exhilerating) ... and then a feeling of drag as pedaling effort decreases, and the motor stops pushing. Then another Surge ... and another feeling of drag. And so on. Since this is inherent in the design of the product, it seems that it is up to the user to understand how to manipulate the hardware to get the best result. This is something that I will have to work on in the future.
- Gearing vs Assist Combinations. Some of these combinations certainly work better than others. For this ride, the biggest transition was understanding that "spinning" meant that the motor would not be helping very much. On an unassisted bicycle, "spinning" is just second nature on a climb: to compensate for lack of leg strength and to reduce pressure on the knees. But the Bionx motor is measuring effort - so its effects during a climb seem to be more dramatic in higher gears. It seems to reward "mashing" much more than "spinning". (What effect this is going to have on my knees is yet to be seen).
- Raw Power (Lack Of). The idea that I could just relax and throttle up any hill has been effectively dismissed. For a rider/bicycle/motor combination around 275 pounds there were some grades that the motor just could not handle by itself. Since I hate to climb, this was a disappointment.
- Battery Life. I was heavy on the throttle the first time out, trying to see what the motor would do by itself ... so there were only 3 bars showing at the end of 18 miles. For someone looking forward to extended rides, this was very discouraging. Obviously, my future experiments will have to concentrate on getting more distance out of the battery.
The key question in the months to come is whether, or not, the weight of the battery/motor combination is justified by the performance boost I get from the electric assist. For the maiden voyage, I would estimate that the Bionx unit only helped me by a factor of about 20%. I was able to pass some other riders in an area where I normally would not be able to pass ... but the Misery Loop took about as long as it takes on an unassisted bicycle, and I felt only marginally less fatigued when I returned home.
So ... more experiments in store.
Thanks for your attention.