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Front hub or mid drive for wife

Old 01-23-21, 06:57 PM
  #1  
jair101
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Front hub or mid drive for wife

Here is the situation. I would love to have longer bike rides with my wife, but I am much more seriously into cycling, she is kinda casual. Thus, my idea to compensate the difference between us with giving her some electric assistance via DIY kit. If everything was easy, I would probably get some nice mid-drive kit and be done with it...but its not easy. See, she also uses the bike to commute to work and her office is on second floor where she carries it by hand, so the additional permanent weight would probably cancel this option out. So I am thinking of forward hub motor, which will allow me to easily swap between the regular wheel and the electrified one. Here comes the questions:

1. Do you think this is a sound idea - to get a front wheel hub and switch the wheels regularly, lets say on a bi-weekly basis?
2. I am leaning towards 250w geared motor, do you think this should be good enough? As I will be riding unassisted, I feel like 250w extra power for her should be more than sufficient to cover her power deficiency even taking in to account the extra weight on her bike.
3. I want to do medium long rides, like 50-70 miles (100-120km). If she can do 30 miles on flat on her own, do you think we can cover the rest with the battery? Some light/medium hills are expected as well. I guess for even longer rides, we will have at least one stop, so we can carry a charger with us. Definitely not planning any daredevil speeds, I simply want to extend her range and give her easier climbing, speed is irrelevant.
4. Any technical challenges I am not aware of? The bike we will be equipping is Trek FX3, aluminum fork and disc brakes. I read some opinions that aluminum forks are really not recommended for front hub motors, but is it that bad with 250w motor?
5. Maybe I shouldn't give up on the mid-drive that easily, if it is easy to swap back to original cranks, lets say less than 30 minute work, maybe I can do that before/after our longer weekend rides?

Any ideas will be appreciated, I just want to boost her from being able to ride 30 miles flat to 50 with some climbs, but also allowing easy removal of the motor when she commutes to work. Hope its clear.

Last edited by jair101; 01-23-21 at 07:03 PM.
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Old 01-23-21, 10:43 PM
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A 250W hub motor [supposedly] should be acceptable even on an aluminum fork. That said, if her bike has fender eyelets, quick and easy insurance would be to mount a pair of Grin Tech TorqArm V2s to reinforce the fork’s dropouts.




Have no first hand experience with the Swytch light weight conversion kit but here’s a link to it

Only issue I can imagine is range, if you choose the lightest kit on the market. Have no idea what size battery she’d need for the rides you describe, am sure others here could offer advice on that subject.

Geared 250W hub motors have no drag when unpowered and don’t weigh very much so your wife might still be able to carry the bike up a flight of stairs without swapping out the front wheel if commuting without the battery. Long range batteries will be relatively heavy; LunaCycles offers high quality battery packs with convenient magnetic or Velcro mounts.

Last edited by andychrist; 01-23-21 at 11:08 PM.
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Old 01-23-21, 11:22 PM
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IMO, the requirements you've delineated would be satisfied best with a friction drive (light weight, easy on/off, aluminum front fork, good range, .....). linberl is very familiar with these systems, and hopefully will respond. Otherwise search for linberl's posts.
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Old 01-23-21, 11:50 PM
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BTW, does your wife have to carry the bike over her shoulder to get it up to the second floor, or is there enough room for her to walk it up? Because Bafangís better displays enable a walk mode (P). Simply hold down the - button in assist level 0 and the wheel will rotate at just a couple kph, without having to pedal or engage the throttle. So maybe that feature would allow her both to cover long rides with you as well as commute with assist to her job on the second floor. Honestly though I canít speak from personal experience how well a front hub drive can climb stairs, having only done that on my dual hub drive e-cumbent while powering both motors simultaneously.
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Old 01-24-21, 12:43 AM
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I wouldn't have my wife risk a front motor breaking the forks. If she is already commuting to work on a bike, let her keep that one. Get a third bike and put a mid motor or a small hubmotor on the rear. With a suitable battery, you can do 60 miles.
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Old 01-24-21, 06:54 AM
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What type of riding do you do? Hills? Flats? Does she need to pedal all the time?
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Old 01-24-21, 07:07 AM
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Still in the testing stages of the Swytch kit but here is what I like that may help. I have it installed on our road tandem.

The kit features a walk mode. It is lightweight, the motor weighs just a little more than the original rim. The battery clips on and off which makes transport really easy. I've seen no impact on riding with the hub vs. our original rim, it coasts downhill really nice and I don't really feel any difference when pedaling with the system off than before the conversion.

When using the assist it phases in, so there is never a whoosh or jumping feeling. Of course remember that if you go from a stop on a hill 😁

Range is a bit subjective because it is pulling two riders. I did 20 miles Friday and it dropped 2 bars out of 5. I had the power set at 4 out of 5. Like I said still playing around with settings, hate riding under 40 degrees. I too intend to add the assist for the wife, so same situation there. Still have to install my second kit.
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Old 01-24-21, 08:29 AM
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Originally Posted by Doc_Wui View Post
I wouldn't have my wife risk a front motor breaking the forks. If she is already commuting to work on a bike, let her keep that one. Get a third bike and put a mid motor or a small hubmotor on the rear. With a suitable battery, you can do 60 miles.
A 250 mid-drive is not a bad idea. Again, if your wife can walk the bike up to her work place under assist mode P, then she could use the same setup both for riding with you and commuting. If walking is not feasible, maybe she could just disconnect the battery and carry it up separately from the bike itself.

Advantage of mid drive over hub motor, don’t have the hassle of wrenching off the axle nut + torque arm and disconnecting the power cable when having to repair a flat or whatever. Mid-drives do tend to put more wear on the drive train but at only 250W that should not be significant. And KMC now offers e-bike chains built for such an arrangement.

Also, swapping out wheels on a regular basis could be a real PITA. Hub motors are most often a few mm wider than conventional hubs, so chances are that the disc rotor won’t align the same with the brake caliper and will require readjusting its position each time you change the wheel. Not to mention the increased hub width might cause rotor bolts to graze the inside of the fork, requiring additional 12mm ID spacers inside the dropouts and corresponding 12mm ID lock washers outside (to compensate for the lost fork “spring.”) With rear hub motors, the increased width could position the outermost sprocket too close to the chain stay, so that the chain grazes that when in the lowest gear. Again, solution is same as for front fork — spacers and lock washers.

Hope whatever option you eventually choose works out well for your wife and you, Jair.

Last edited by andychrist; 01-24-21 at 08:36 AM.
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Old 01-24-21, 09:49 AM
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Very cool solution. I wonder how much torque is at the wheel- in terms of being able to climb some hills. Been looking into a solution myself for those big ol Indiana mountains.
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Old 01-24-21, 12:31 PM
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In terms of torque I find it easiest to compare riding with assist on vs. off. My (admittedly short) tests showed that we could climb nearby hills without dropping down from our largest front ring (triple ring setup). Without assist we have to drop down to make the climb.

We have to pedal with effort but not dead leg feeling effort. There is no "pulling" ot torquey feeling, only thing I noticed is the hub sounds louder on the tougher slopes.

Have to imagine 250 is plenty on a single rider. We averaged 18mph on the 20 mile test route and that was clothed for winter (always ride slower in cold weather...maybe 15mph). Biggest difference along with the faster time is a lot less sweaty which is ideal in cold weather.
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Old 01-25-21, 03:11 AM
  #11  
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Yeah, the Swytch looks light and user-friendly enough. Still not widely available though and I am a bit hesitant towards overpromising startups.

Thank you all, very valuable feedback. Mid-drive would be out of question for now, but I am getting more convinced that light front hub drives are not that useless and will do the job.
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Old 01-25-21, 07:33 AM
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Front hub drive and two batteries. one battery for work cause she will probably really like the boost. and then a big battery for the long rides.

250 watts for someone that already rides is solid. heck 90 watts will more than take the edge off on a hill. the battery is most of the weight in that system the hub motor wont feel drastically different on a daily commute I would either do the two battery thing or just leave the battery at home for work days.
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Old 01-25-21, 09:02 AM
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My wife rode a hub drive unit for about six years and liked it OK . It was a rear hub drive bike with a mid mounted Lithium battery. It had a throttle that you could twist when you need the boost. I bought her an Electra Townie with the mid drive Bosch system and it does not have a throttle. It has presets that you can adjust up or down if you need extra boost or not. It is way better according to her and she goes up steep hills easily. It also has an internal Shimano 5 speed hub instead of a derailleur . I would not do a kit because I find that the battery mount on the factory bikes is usually more balanced to the bike instead of having it in a rack added on to a non ebike frame. I have seen some cool conversions like the Copenhagen wheel and I guess they would work but my wife really loves her Townie and feels very safe and can do 15-20 miles and still not even half of the battery life is used up. It only has a 400W battery but if she pedals with the assist they can , and do, go quite a ways without having to recharge.
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Old 01-25-21, 09:28 AM
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Originally Posted by jair101 View Post
Yeah, the Swytch looks light and user-friendly enough. Still not widely available though and I am a bit hesitant towards overpromising startups.

Thank you all, very valuable feedback. Mid-drive would be out of question for now, but I am getting more convinced that light front hub drives are not that useless and will do the job.
Mid drive out of the question due to weight, price, or difficulty of installation? Because a front hub drive if left in the bike for work will shift the balance forward, making it more difficult to carry if it canít be walked up in assist level P; whereas a mid drive will keep the extra weight centered. Bafangís 250W mid drive only weighs about 8lbs and you could get it with their 500C display for around $375, fast free shipping from their US warehouse.
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Old 01-25-21, 11:39 AM
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Originally Posted by andychrist View Post
Mid drive out of the question due to weight, price, or difficulty of installation? Because a front hub drive if left in the bike for work will shift the balance forward, making it more difficult to carry if it canít be walked up in assist level P; whereas a mid drive will keep the extra weight centered. Bafangís 250W mid drive only weighs about 8lbs and you could get it with their 500C display for around $375, fast free shipping from their US warehouse.
Mid drive out of question due to combination of weight+difficulty of installation. 8lbs is still a bit too much,so the idea is to get the front hub and swap the wheel regularly. I'll think a bit more.
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Old 01-25-21, 12:01 PM
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Originally Posted by jair101 View Post
Mid drive out of question due to combination of weight+difficulty of installation. 8lbs is still a bit too much,so the idea is to get the front hub and swap the wheel regularly. I'll think a bit more.
Well as I mentioned previously, swapping between wheels will be problematic since the disc rotors are unlikely to align the same inside the calipers. So youíll likely have to reposition both the calipers and brake pads each time. And it can be tricky and tedious to dial in the brakes perfectly, even if youíre a good mechanic.

Perhaps the friction drive recommended by 2old would be the best solution after all if your wife canít handle any additional weight on the bike when commuting.
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Old 01-25-21, 08:59 PM
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Just curious why you would want to switch the front wheels? The 250 watt hub motor is barely heavier than a regular rim...maybe 2 pounds more? Any detachable battery system should work for you, while leaving the hub intact.

Swytch will take up to 6 months to get at the best price, I just went through that process. But there are other kits that you can get a lot sooner, I went my route because it was all in one and my 1st conversion.
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Old 01-26-21, 01:45 AM
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Thanks all. I think I made my mind towards small front hub and we will try to keep it always on. If it doesn't work for her...well, I will equip it on my hybrid bike and have some fun myself instead
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