Friday, August 17, 2012

E-Bike Rack Fail

Apparently my bike felt left out, and wanted to get in the game of things that are failing.  Riding home from downtown last night, very late, hit a sewer cover pretty hard (it was hard to tell how uneven it was at night) and busted my battery rack.  It was not a catastrophic failure, but the rack lowered down to the tire and started dragging.  Enough that I had to stop and figure it out.  So I was sitting on the ground in the parking lot of the Jolly, with the bike almost completely disassembled.

Bike rack, sans busted lower brackets.

Busted aluminum lower brackets.
The bottom part of the rack attaches to the frame via a tapped tab, and an L shaped, aluminum bracket with graduated tapped holes.  The aluminum obviously saw quite a bit of impact load when the 30 lbs. battery came slamming down.

This is the second rack I've bought, and I'm really not interested in spending more money to deal with this issue.  (But I probably will have to).  Wondering if maybe I can make a custom, tougher piece to clamp the rack right where I want it.  If I only had a welder...  Or a lighter battery.

Galaxy Nexus Tales of Woe

One of my ongoing battles with my Gnex is the charging port.  In the past, it has stopped working, and after lots of Google searches, I found out that a common issue is the little inner tab not making contact with the cable (fixed by bending it up slightly).

After a recent vacation, I found once again that my phone wouldn't charge.  This time, it seemed that the charging port was somehow mutilated, and the cord didn't seem to go in correctly.  The contacts were bent inside the phone.  I don't have the insurance, and I'm kind of used to being on my own warranty after rooting, ROMing, etc.  After researching, I promptly ordered this replacement USB flex board, for about $50 w/ shipping, and replaced the board following this iFixit how-to.

The procedure was a little tricky, but not too bad. In general everything felt like it went smoothly, and I expected no issues.   However, after putting the phone back together, the phone still wouldn't charge.  I disassembled the phone again, double-checked all my connections, and tried multiple cables.  It's a very curious (and frustrating) issue.

After some more thorough testing, the situation seems to be as follows:

  • The microphone and notification light, also part of the replacement board, are working (ruling out a missed connector or a completely non-functional replacement part).
  • The phone WILL charge off a wall AC adaptor, at the fast rate.
  • The phone WON'T charge off my 12V lighter charger, which used to charge at the fast rate.
  • The phone WON'T charge, or acknowledge a connection in any way, to a computer.  It's like it's not even plugged in, to both the computer and the phone.
So that rules out pretty much everything as I understand how the port works.  I could see maybe some of the pins not working in the port, but the 12V charger and the wall charger should be using the exact same pins, so I can't see how only the wall charger would work.  And above all, I don't see how a brand new replacement part, with such a straightforward replacement process, would fail to work in any way.

Not really sure what I'm going to do.  The temptation is to buy a used replacement off eBay, they seem to be selling for around $250-$300.  

Thursday, August 16, 2012

E-Bike for your (mental) health

The first time I rode an e-bike was probably about 7-8 years ago.  I thought it was pretty cool, but I'll be honest, at the time I wasn't really grabbed by the idea (it probably didn't help that, at the time, they were more expensive, heavy, and had very limited range).

At some point this year, I started to pay attention to e-bikes.  After watching countless YouTube videos of people doing their own builds, I finally took the leap.  I wanted a bike that was reasonably "stealthy" (could easily be mistaken for a normal bike), powerful enough to be on moped terms, yet still able to be operated like a bicycle.  Originally I intended to buy a conversion kit, and spent about a month researching reviews to figure out which of the many options I should pursue.  The process was suddenly abbreviated when I found a Craigslist ad for an already-converted bike.  It was 48V, 1000W, right in the area I was looking for.

E-Bike purchased from Craigslist.
My trusty old steel frame mountain bike.
Upon getting the bike home, I determined that beyond the motor, controller, and battery, there wasn't much of the bicycle itself that was worth keeping.  The pedals were stripped, the crankset was cheap plastic and wobbled, the disc brakes would not adjust, and some other problems.   Even on the electrical side, the battery management system had had some kind of fire, and there were melted leads, connectors, cheap fuse holders, and other issues.
Cannibalized frame.  Anyone want a Chinese mountain bike?
I had my trusty old bike who I had just decommissioned in favor of a lighter bike (which was to remain conventional).  The Univega Rover 303, known for being very rugged (albeit heavy), steel framed bike.  It was the perfect candidate.  In about 3 hours I had swapped the motor, controller, throttle, rack/battery, etc. over to my bike.  Ran into a few snags, but nothing too bad.  I had to slightly widen the frame at the rear axle, and the throttle wouldn't easily fit with my gear shift.  I then rewired and installed serious connectors, fuses, and made everything safe and reliable.  Presto, the whole thing is now ready to go.

Converted!  The small bag in the center is the controller, and the panniers hold the battery. 

It does 30 MPH, range is somewhere around 40 miles.  Since the build, I have taking daily rides, and getting familiar with it, and ironing out the little details.   Things like getting a kickstand that can support the extra weight, a serious bike lock that stows away, a powerful headlight, better seat, gloves, etc.  These things all matter 10x as much when you are going fast and far.

Most of the trips I have done are between 20-30 miles round trip.  Just exploring the area around Shelburne, Hinesburg, Williston, and thereabouts.  Eventually, I'm planning one long trip out to my folks house, which will be about 50-60 miles round trip (charging required).  I'll try to post some recaps of some trips and what I learn/experience.  All-in-all, e-biking is incredibly fun.