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Help choosing a mid-drive bike for gravel hills

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Help choosing a mid-drive bike for gravel hills

Old 06-25-20, 04:16 PM
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mudkraut
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Question Help choosing a mid-drive bike for gravel hills

Hello,

I live in Chimacum, WA, which is south of Port Townsend, across the water from Seattle. It's wet, hilly, and I live in a rural area of farms and forest land where things are far apart, and there are many logging roads, gravel roads, and steep hills.

I am currently borrowing a real wheel/ hub drive from a friend and I love having an e-bike to ride, though, I don't like the way it handles or how heavy the bike is.
I was able to test drive a mid-drive/ crank drive and I love the way those handle. Like a bike!


There are two e-bike stores near here, one that only services Bosc and offers Bosc updates and maintenance, and one that is willing to work with other companies and set ups. I also have a couple techy bike friends that like to tinker with odd setups or build ebikes of their own design. I'm not that techy, though, I think I need something reliable and less finicky.

I am looking for a bike that can haul stuff, and kids.

I have never biked with a cargo bike before. I like them in theory, but I worry they're awkward to handle.

Traffic out here is very light, I live in a very rural area, so my main concern is handling the bike itself with ease. I weigh 115 lbs at 5'4".


For kids, probably best to plan on using either of these two options:
* any bike I choose + burley trailer
* or an xtracycle style bike

So far my research on cargo bikes have landed me at:

* Xtracycle Swoop

* Tern GSD S10
and though reading other posts on this forum I just became aware of ....
* Eco-cycles cargo bike
My main routes at this time include gravel roads, logging roads, paved roads, <- a big hill on each of these, and a paved bike path. I think a trailer could handle all of that?

I have received above and beyond customer service from Xtracycle in thinking about which model of theirs would be best for me if I went with them....

I'm sure there's even more options, and I'm open to hearing more, but the vast ocean of internet has been too overwhelming.
How come the Ecocycles bike is so inexpensive compared to the Tern & Xtracycle? Is the Aluminum frame that much cheaper than steel, and without integrated lights? Is it just that they haven't had to think hard about the design?

Mostly, mountain bike trails are just fun to use as shortcuts, and wouldn't be necessary terrain, although, it would be nice if I had a light load (only panniers) to be able to go on trails without having to have a whole other bike. Nothing for sport, just for variety.

As I've been doing more research into motors, however, I have been coming across the Brose S Mag as something very powerful, and quiet. I am very sensitive to sound and that is appealing to me. I've been borrowing a friend's hub-drive RadPower and I don't like the noise from the motor (though riding the bike is, of course, fun). The Radpower I'm borrowing puts out maximum powder in the highest level of assist at 750W up the hill and I'm still in... oh... usually 2nd-3rd gear, pedeling fairly hard, it's a very steep large chunky "gravel" rock logging road, and the motor stresses to help me up it, and that's WITHOUT a load. I want to set myself up with the best assist I can for tackling that hill with kids and cargo. Maybe it's because the hub drive on that bike isn't made for high torque and the CX motor will be better?

But....I actually wonder if whatever eMountain bike had the most powerful motor available for climbing hills is what I need....?? And I could always pull a trailer instead of going with the cargo bike???? I am a hauler of stuff most days.



On Using Trailers to Haul:

My friend made a very large lightweight trailer of bent aluminum piping, oh, about eight years ago. I've used it on my old road bike and it can haul a lot of weight. I've never measured or tried to test its limits, but easily hundreds of pounds. I've loaded building materials, firewood, groceries, tools. So, for very large loads, I can continue to use this one and stick to the main roads, though the commute may be longer in miles that way. The only modification I had to make to it to fit the ebike I've been borrowing is drill a wider hole in the trailer hitch because the axle on the ebike was bigger than my old road bike axle.



Using logging roads --- which are definitely bumpy terrain, but at least the roads are wide --- are sort of necessary, or I start to really add miles. And there's no way to avoid gravel roads, a lot of long neighborhood driveways around here are gravel, mine is gravel, my friends', the parking lot where I work.... but I've gone up and down them on the ebike I've been borrowing and it handles it all quite well. I haven't tried the ebike with this trailer yet but my land mate did just cut a wide path through the woods to give it a try.

It's sounding to me from only a tiny bit of research, and consulting with friends, that hauling kids in a smaller trailer would be the way to go if I didn't go with the xtracycle or a style like it. So I could keep this trailer for very large loads, and have another one for hauling kiddos.

I like the Cargo Bike Option because it keeps the weight over the wheel, and it's ready to go to haul plenty of groceries etc. without a trailer.... but again, my concern is ease of handling, and that big ol' hill. I want as much torque as is available on the market right now.



Thanks for listening and offering your wisdom!
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Old 06-25-20, 06:54 PM
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Interesting choices. Will like to see what you decide.

Good choice on wanting a mid drive and not a hub drive. Mid drives give a torque advantage from the gearing, useful if you plan on hauling loads up hills.

Googling your 3 options quickly they all weigh 60-65 pounds, definitely not light bikes. I think the first two are so much more expensive in large part due to the Bosch motor. Bosch commands a premium price. The first two seem to have higher end components like hydraulic brakes. They also have fairly small batteries and a low torque motor.

The Eco bike doesn’t specify the manufacturer of their motor, so would imagine some Chinese brand. It does have a fairly good-sized battery when compared to the other two.

They all have torque sensing controllers, something I would like to try.

The Bosch motor is well regarded but underpowered. For some odd reason they rate it by torque (65 nm) vs power (250 watts). Most of Europe limits ebikes to 250 watts. The US classifies and ebike as 750 watts or less. The eco bike says it is 500-750 watts, considerably more power than the Bosch unit.

If you are hauling loads up hills you will benefit from a torquey motor. Running at any power level for any length of time means you will quickly drain a small battery. At that point you will be pedaling 65 pounds of bike plus cargo manually.

Having just converted an old mountain bike to an ebike I will tell you 500 watts is not much power when tackling hills. The motor I have can hit 1800 watts and 160 mn of torque, 7 times the power and almost 3 times as much torque as the Bosch bikes.

For the way you want to ride it you might be better served with a more powerful bike.
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Old 06-25-20, 07:07 PM
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Originally Posted by Pop N Wood View Post
The Bosch motor is well regarded but underpowered. For some odd reason they rate it by torque (65 nm) vs power (250 watts). Most of Europe limits ebikes to 250 watts. The US classifies and ebike as 750 watts or less. The eco bike says it is 500-750 watts, considerably more power than the Bosch unit.

If you are hauling loads up hills you will benefit from a torquey motor. Running at any power level for any length of time means you will quickly drain a small battery. At that point you will be pedaling 65 pounds of bike plus cargo manually.

For the way you want to ride it you might be better served with a more powerful bike.

Thank you, I have been really confused about this as I have been doing research. LectricCycles offers a 1000w motor, it says up to 1400w of assist maximum. I don't know why these expensive bikes with integrated motors are so heavy and don't have more powerful motors on them, I don't get it, when more powerful motors are being built, and lighter bike frames, for that matter. There must be reasons I don't know, not being on the inside of the industry. I do want a stable, sturdy bike... but... I was pretty happy with my lightweight road bike for a lot of years, hauled a lot with a panier rack and a trailer, but.... hills and commutes, I stopped biking years ago when I moved to the countryside and I having an ebike to try out now has been a game changer. I love biking and I feel like it's back in my hands again, which is very liberating.

How do I go about finding a bike with a higher power motor that is still good for hauling stuff and kids? My research on this has all pointed back to the Xtracycle style models.

I'm not a very techy person, and I'm pretty intimidated about the prospect of needing to build a custom bike to fit my needs.... it seems like it shouldn't be that uncommon to tackle hills with a load.

I don't understand it, but the customer service folks with both the Tern and the Xtracycle say that because the higher torque motor in the Bosc compared to the hub drive, it will go up the hill easily, and sometimes having more power in W doesn't necessarily translate to higher power (because of the torque factor).

I feel like I've opened a can of worms, not sure what to do next.

Originally Posted by Pop N Wood View Post
Having just converted an old mountain bike to an ebike I will tell you 500 watts is not much power when tackling hills. The motor I have can hit 1800 watts and 160 mn of torque, 7 times the power and almost 3 times as much torque as the Bosch bikes.
What kind of motor did you choose?

Last edited by mudkraut; 06-25-20 at 07:11 PM.
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Old 06-25-20, 09:51 PM
  #4  
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I bought a BBSHD.

https://ebikechoices.com/bafang-bbs02-vs-bbshd/

I hear you on "game changer". I still ride my human powered bikes for the sheer enjoyment and exercise, but the ebike makes urban exploring so much more enjoyable. I'm thinking commuter.

As for feeling overwhelmed, just don't try to do it all at once. keep reading and collecting ideas, ride a few bikes.

Also hear you on not wanting to build or maintain your own kit. Although the BBSHD kit did turn out to be pretty easy to install.

Hub drives don't have the benefit of gearing to help you power up hills at a slow speed. Electric motors like to spin fairly fast, gears lets the motor spin (just like a car). Just down shift as needed to keep your pedal cadence up and the motor will thank you.

As for why the premade bikes are power limited part of it is I'm sure expense/reliability, but for the most part I truly believe it is due to laws limiting ebikes. Once the power level or max speed goes above some limit it is no longer a bike but a motor vehicle requiring license, insurance, turn signal, horn, whole bunch of stuff.

As for power levels my bike has a watt meter on the display, so easy to tell how much work the motor is doing. I can adjust the assist level and compare the motor push to the power level. Anything much under 100W and I can't really feel the assist. 150-200 W is very noticeable, letting me cruise at a good speed on level ground or into a slight head wind. 500-750 watts powers up most hills at a reasonable speed. 1200 W and up is silly time. That sort of power allows riding a steady 30+ MPH. It also drains the battery pretty quickly.

For reference the bike with me on it is over 300#, so probably as much as you could ever expect to hit hauling a trailer full of watermelons, LOL.

Keep in mind I converted the bike just a few weeks ago and have never ridden another ebike so I am far from an expert. I did do a lot of reading when researching kits so think I made an informed decision. I also have a couple of engineering degrees and was a trained reactor operator so I like reading technical details.
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Old 06-26-20, 10:18 AM
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Also Yuba. They were the most impressive cargo bikes IMO at Interbike a million years ago. You can look at electricbikereview for information on some aspects of the bikes. Take the information with a proverbial grain of salt since the site charges to perform the "reviews". Also, either Yuba or Tern (AIR) recently introduced an "off road" cargo bike. If it's feasible economically considering your size, it would seem advisable to consider an OEM system.

Last edited by 2old; 06-27-20 at 09:52 AM.
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Old 06-26-20, 10:41 AM
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this guy seems to be on the high end of the spectrum when it comes to ebike motor power. Language is pretty crude, but he seems to be quite experienced


https://electricbike-blog.com/2016/1...thing-awesome/

The guy did have this to say

Bafang is a Chinese company so they don’t really have to worry about American lawsuits that happen with accidents from ebikes equipped with their drivetrains. This leaves the ebike dealers who sell ebikes with the Bafang motors on them to have to deal with the liability of selling a motor for ‘street legal’ use that is really not street legal. Why am I even talking about this at all? Because more power is the direction that all the other ebike manufacturers need to move in if they want to start actually selling any real number of ebikes in the US. The biggest threat that faces these dealers is accident liability.
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Old 06-26-20, 08:25 PM
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Thanks you all. Someone I spoke with at the bike shop was trying to tell me that their experience with these Chinese manufacturers is that they actually don't measure the Wattage accurately. I don't know how true that is. The research I've seen on the 20 mph limits seems so match up with these.

Right, Yuba does make a nice cargo electric. They're sold out to buy from directly but I could look into dealers.
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Old 06-26-20, 08:45 PM
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I started looking at the motor kits on Luna Cycle...
One of my local bike shops only services Bosc, the other I will have to call and see if they will service other kinds. They did say they service Hilltopper. I'll have to call them again and ask about the Bafang.
I have found a couple used Xtracycle's on craigslist that currently have no motor, I could hook it up with a strong one after market. I'm a bit concerned about ended up with a system that will be very finicky, there's a certain appeal to "retrail ready" for its reliability and serviceability, so I have much to consider now that the worms are out.
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Old 06-27-20, 09:58 AM
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If it's any help and you decide to go DIY, my BBS02 has been trouble-free for five+ years of off road riding and my wife's for the time she's had it. I ride mine a couple of times a week on pretty nasty trails and don't even think about problems anymore.
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Old 06-28-20, 11:54 AM
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Cool

Originally Posted by mudkraut View Post
Hello,

I live in Chimacum, WA, which is south of Port Townsend, across the water from Seattle. It's wet, hilly, and I live in a rural area of farms and forest land where things are far apart, and there are many logging roads, gravel roads, and steep hills.

I am currently borrowing a real wheel/ hub drive from a friend and I love having an e-bike to ride, though, I don't like the way it handles or how heavy the bike is.
I was able to test drive a mid-drive/ crank drive and I love the way those handle. Like a bike!


There are two e-bike stores near here, one that only services Bosc and offers Bosc updates and maintenance, and one that is willing to work with other companies and set ups. I also have a couple techy bike friends that like to tinker with odd setups or build ebikes of their own design. I'm not that techy, though, I think I need something reliable and less finicky.

I am looking for a bike that can haul stuff, and kids.

I have never biked with a cargo bike before. I like them in theory, but I worry they're awkward to handle.

Traffic out here is very light, I live in a very rural area, so my main concern is handling the bike itself with ease. I weigh 115 lbs at 5'4".


For kids, probably best to plan on using either of these two options:
* any bike I choose + burley trailer
* or an xtracycle style bike

So far my research on cargo bikes have landed me at:

* Xtracycle Swoop

* Tern GSD S10
and though reading other posts on this forum I just became aware of ....
* Eco-cycles cargo bike
My main routes at this time include gravel roads, logging roads, paved roads, <- a big hill on each of these, and a paved bike path. I think a trailer could handle all of that?

I have received above and beyond customer service from Xtracycle in thinking about which model of theirs would be best for me if I went with them....

I'm sure there's even more options, and I'm open to hearing more, but the vast ocean of internet has been too overwhelming.
How come the Ecocycles bike is so inexpensive compared to the Tern & Xtracycle? Is the Aluminum frame that much cheaper than steel, and without integrated lights? Is it just that they haven't had to think hard about the design?

Mostly, mountain bike trails are just fun to use as shortcuts, and wouldn't be necessary terrain, although, it would be nice if I had a light load (only panniers) to be able to go on trails without having to have a whole other bike. Nothing for sport, just for variety.

As I've been doing more research into motors, however, I have been coming across the Brose S Mag as something very powerful, and quiet. I am very sensitive to sound and that is appealing to me. I've been borrowing a friend's hub-drive RadPower and I don't like the noise from the motor (though riding the bike is, of course, fun). The Radpower I'm borrowing puts out maximum powder in the highest level of assist at 750W up the hill and I'm still in... oh... usually 2nd-3rd gear, pedeling fairly hard, it's a very steep large chunky "gravel" rock logging road, and the motor stresses to help me up it, and that's WITHOUT a load. I want to set myself up with the best assist I can for tackling that hill with kids and cargo. Maybe it's because the hub drive on that bike isn't made for high torque and the CX motor will be better?

But....I actually wonder if whatever eMountain bike had the most powerful motor available for climbing hills is what I need....?? And I could always pull a trailer instead of going with the cargo bike???? I am a hauler of stuff most days.



On Using Trailers to Haul:

My friend made a very large lightweight trailer of bent aluminum piping, oh, about eight years ago. I've used it on my old road bike and it can haul a lot of weight. I've never measured or tried to test its limits, but easily hundreds of pounds. I've loaded building materials, firewood, groceries, tools. So, for very large loads, I can continue to use this one and stick to the main roads, though the commute may be longer in miles that way. The only modification I had to make to it to fit the ebike I've been borrowing is drill a wider hole in the trailer hitch because the axle on the ebike was bigger than my old road bike axle.



Using logging roads --- which are definitely bumpy terrain, but at least the roads are wide --- are sort of necessary, or I start to really add miles. And there's no way to avoid gravel roads, a lot of long neighborhood driveways around here are gravel, mine is gravel, my friends', the parking lot where I work.... but I've gone up and down them on the ebike I've been borrowing and it handles it all quite well. I haven't tried the ebike with this trailer yet but my land mate did just cut a wide path through the woods to give it a try.

It's sounding to me from only a tiny bit of research, and consulting with friends, that hauling kids in a smaller trailer would be the way to go if I didn't go with the xtracycle or a style like it. So I could keep this trailer for very large loads, and have another one for hauling kiddos.

I like the Cargo Bike Option because it keeps the weight over the wheel, and it's ready to go to haul plenty of groceries etc. without a trailer.... but again, my concern is ease of handling, and that big ol' hill. I want as much torque as is available on the market right now.



Thanks for listening and offering your wisdom!
Local Bike Shop does Mid drive conversions of existing bikes adding about $1600 to cost of bike Base cost more watts power from motor, more money..
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Old 06-28-20, 12:01 PM
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Cool You say, Cargo?

Larry vs Harry bikes ? Larry vs Harry - Bullitt cargo bike seem to use the Shimano STEPS motor,
you can get a variety of rear hubs & drive-trains. Alfine 11 & Gates belt perhaps?
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