Thursday, May 21, 2015

Are these exhaust pipes? No, they are DIY pannier guards!

These "exhaust pipes" will hold your panniers back AND give you 5 extra horsepower! 
As many others seem to have (according to posts I've read in forums), I've been plagued by the issue of my pannier bags curling inward and getting hung up in the spokes.  This seriously almost drove me insane, slowly over the course of two seasons.  It would be fine until I hit a bump, and then it would be mayhem.  Eventually I followed the popular advice and got myself a different rack with a "dogleg", or put more simply, a sweeping member that extends far enough back and down that it holds the panniers away from the wheel.

Well I was back to square one earlier this year when I installed the Blackburn EX-1 rear rack.  This is a very popular rear rack, but unfortunately is not compatible with my panniers.  The reason I am using this rack is that it is the only one compatible with the Copilot Limo child bike seat.

Copilot Limo Child seat, and test child
Incidentally, it is a great system.  The seat sits very low maintaining a stable feel, while being comfortable and protective - both behind and to the sides.  The seat is installed and removed very quickly, which makes impromptu bike rides possible.

Unfortunately, since the bike seat was one of three total rear attachments (panniers and milk crate being the others), I now had to figure out what to do about my panniers, and getting a different rack was not an option.  Some people suggested lining the inside of the panniers with something hard, but I already tried that and it made no difference (in fact it probably just made it worse).  Here's what I finally came up with:
It's just 1/2" pvc pipe and zip ties. I used an elbow piece to keep them from sliding out of the zip ties. Each pipe is attached in two places: a leg of the bike rack, and the seat stay.  This prevents it from moving up or down, backwards or forwards.  They stay put, out of the way of everything, and can even be slid out easily if you don't need them.  They work VERY effectively, cheap, and easy to do.  Hit all the points on my checklist.  If appearance is an issue, they could be painted to match the rack (or hey, put "chrome tips" on them if you want to go full hot rod!)

Hopefully this will help someone who is going through what I did.

60 mile trip on my electric bike

Early on a beautiful Sunday morning, I packed up and headed out on a 60 mile trip.  It was a personal range record.  I planned it carefully (perhaps more so than necessary), making sure I had calculated my energy budget and arranged for basic contingencies. Tools, Spare tube, charger, good nav, etc. I rode on the amazing Champlain Bikeway down to the Basin Harbor Club.

View from Greenbush Road, looking east across Charlotte at Mt. Philo

Although it was somewhat chilly when I left, by 10am it had warmed to the mid-70's, and continued to heat up throughout the day. Besides being a little overdressed,  everything worked perfectly.  I was maintaining a very steady 17 mph, and lightly pedaling about half the time.  This resulted in an average of about 18 watt-hours/per mile, which was very conservative.  At the halfway point, I had used about 40% of my ~1300 wh battery pack.
At the 30 mile half-way point, the bike and I rested comfortably beach-side at the Basin Harbor Club.

When I arrived at the Basin Harbor Club's beach, two enthusiastic young staff members ogled my bike, and we talked at length about the build. As luck would have it, they had recently taken delivery of 10 fleet electric bicycles for the purpose of rentals for the guests. I got to check them out - they were Evelo Auroras; 250 watt mid-drive models with NuVinci hubs. I was really impressed - lightweight, versatile, and an excellent choice for the uninitiated electric bike user.  Plenty of torque, and a top speed of 25 miles an hour (with pedaling).

On my way home, I stopped for lunch and chatted with a few diehard hard road-bike folks. Fully outfitted in their exercise gear, they commented that I "must be hot in that jacket and long pants".  I tried to explain to them that it was useful for higher speeds, in terms of safety and staying warm, but I'll be honest - it was difficult to explain.

Continuing, on I stopped at my friend Steve's place, the ADV garage, and got to do some cool work on a BMW motorcycle project that he had going. Finally, I was on my way back home.
Throughout the trip I did quite a bit of pedaling, in fact much more so than I really needed to. By the time I got home, even though my 52v battery pack was just under 47 volts, I still had almost full power at wide open throttle. It's difficult to determine how much further I could have gone, but I was definitely not out of energy by any stretch.

Cycle Analyst after the trip was completed (no load)
There were some slight differences in the report from B.iCycle, my Android app for GPS tracking:
Trip time:03:51:54
TripDistance:59.0 mi
Trip calories:4260 kcal
Average speed:15.2 mi/h
Maximum speed:29 mi/h
Climbed altitude:2875 ft
Bike type:Mountain bike

This trip taught me a few lessons, including the following: 
  • Wind and terrain make a huge difference in how much energy you will use in a trip. If there is wind or hills, it will reduce your efficiency - either on the way there, or on the way back.  Regen braking and/or a tail wind can help, but they will never fully compensate for the efficiency losses in the other direction.
  • Also, the most limiting factors in the practicality of a long trip actually come down to things that are not technical at all - Mainly, saddle soreness and chaffing. By the time I got home, I wasn't laughing at those road bike guys' outfits at all.

Saturday, May 16, 2015

Electric bike run up Mt. Philo

Over the last few months I have significantly upgraded my E-bike.  Replaced the old battery (along with its horrible, self-sabotaging BMS), and more recently, upgraded to an Infineon controller, and added a Cycle Analyst.  Sometime I will give a full rundown of the bike's configuration, etc., but that will be another post.  For now, here are the specs:

EM3EV 48V triangle battery, 25AH, Samsung 29E Cells
Infineon 4110 9 Fet Controller w/ regen
Generic Direct-Drive Brushless Motor off eBay
Cycle Analyst v2

E-Bike sitting high atop one of the Mt. Philo lookouts

It was a good day for a ride, and I'd been planning to do this for a while.  Mt. Philo is located in Charlotte, VT and has a car road that is a 968 vertical climb to the top.  My father-in-law's place is right nearby, so I had a convenient way-point for recharging as well as s place to work on something if I had a failure.

Track from my GPS as I rode up, and then down the Mt. Philo motor road.

I headed out in the morning, and rode about 11 miles (using 9AH, just under half of my battery charge) to my Father-In-Law's place.  After charging for about 2 hours, I headed up the mountain.

The ride was, overall, pretty smooth. There was one trip up at a notably steep portion, wherein I ran out of steam and didn't have time to downshift.  You can see me stop the bike in order to get it into the right gear.  I would say about 1/3 of the climb was only possible with my pedaling.  The weakness in the setup was definitely the direct-drive hub motor, as that is not designed for serious hill-climbing.  It was still fun to put it to the test.

The controller and wiring was (expectedly) pretty warm, but everything was in good shape.  No blown fuses.  Used about 2.6 AH  (2.4 after regen from braking on the way back down).  Hub motor was hot, but didn't burn up.

Here's the trip back down, doing lots of regen!  Seriously, I would NOT have wanted to attempt this before I had regen, solely due to the amount of brake pad wear that would have been involved.  With the regen, I barely had to use my brake pads at all.  It was also somewhat more comforting knowing that I had two separate braking methods.

And the stats from the Cycle Analyst after it was over: