Author Topic: Convenient & Enjoyable, the e-bike kit -or- should I get a bedpan with that?  (Read 4901 times)

catccc

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I am pretty close to set on getting an electric bike kit for my hybrid that I very occasionally ride to the grocery store, and have attempted to take to work on a partial commute.  I live in an extremely hilly area (in fact, I know riders that live 40 minutes away and the drive to my neck of the woods to train on hills) and I just do not have the power to move that bike up those hills.  Nor do I have hours to train to work up to it.

I was feeling all good about getting an e-bike kit to "flatten" out those hills and enable more bike commuting.  12-ish miles doesn't sound like that much until you come to terms with the fact that your toyota matrix can struggles on the hills, so it's no wonder that within 2 miles of commute, you need to dismount 3 times to walk your bike.  Really, it's just hard, and I'm not that strong, and it takes too long to walk up those hills.  And it's just sad to have to not bike so much when you are trying to bike to work.  Taking into account all the walks, my average speed is slower than my run.  And I'm not a fast runner.  I do a 10 minute mile.  Isn't that depressing?!

Like I was saying, I was all set on the purchase as a good decision, when today I re-read this article, then I was second guessing my decision:
http://www.mrmoneymustache.com/2012/09/18/is-it-convenient-would-i-enjoy-it-wrong-question/

So am I a lazy-ass wastrel, or is this e-bike kit a mustachian move?  Obviously it will save $ in the long run by reducing gas usage and wear and tear on the car, ROI is about 10 weeks if I ride 4x week, very roughly calculated.


Argyle

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It sounds mustachian to me.  Assuming you're sure you would bike and not leave the whole thing languishing in your garage.

amha

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Alternatively, are you sure your bike has low enough gearing to make hills possible? I go up steep hills all the time on my bike, and though I go about four miles per hour, I have low enough gearing to make that possible (I can still spin at 70-80rpm). It's not FAST, but neither is it DIFFICULT.

Do you have a "granny gear" on your bike (the tiny, third gear in front, rather than having just two gears up front)?

Also you might want to check this out for more info on gearing (full disclosure---I made it): http://andrusia.com/gearseer/

But, as with Argyle, if it's either an e-bike or a car... go with the e-bike.

_JT

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You're using technology to augment your human-powered transport, which increases your effective commuting range. If you can afford it without it impacting your finances I say it's awesome.

somepissedoffman

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I wouldn't necessarily trash the e-bike idea, but I know that when I started riding, I was WAY out of shape, and the big hills on my commute just wrecked me at first, but I got used to them pretty quick.  It was worth sticking with it, because I could now kill an elephant with my quads.
A few things you could try:
Road bike: I personally find having my torso weight over my legs really helpful for climbing.  Will probably be a lot lighter than your hybrid also.
Clipless pedals:  second set of legs.
+1 for dropping the gearing. high force/low RPM is miserable.

HumanAfterAll

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I've put 7500 commuting miles on my electric bike over the last 3 years.  I love it!  My commute is long (23 mi each way) and mostly flat, and I carpool most of the way to work in the morning, then ride the last 8 miles to work and all the way home.

For your hilly terrain, I'd recommend a geared rear hub motor, not a direct drive motor and not a front hub motor.  You probably want 500 watts or more.  A 250 watt motor may not go appreciably faster up the hill than a regular bike because of the extra weight of the batteries.

gooki

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I ebike to work on a 10km commute each way, in a flat city. I do it for two reasons:
- to get to work and back home quicker so I can spend more time with my family. It's significantly faster than driving to work.
- because it's a fun hobby.

Be very careful of what kit you buy. If you have long steep hills, a lot of kits will conk out, and end up as dead weight.

Either a low RPM geared rear hub motor, or a crank drive motor would get my vote. Either way see if you can try before you buy.

Cooperd0g

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I had no idea that front wheel kits were even made. I just looked them up. I currently do a 3 mile commute so I use my 15 year old full suspension mountain bike. But I'm moving to a new state soon and my new commute will be 10 miles. I was going to get a dedicated road/commuter bike to be faster for that longer commute, but maybe one of these kits is a better way to go. Would it be convenient and enjoyable? Sure, but I think the real question if using it for commuting is: would it make you more likely to commute on the bike than take the car? Or will it make you more efficient?
« Last Edit: December 12, 2013, 03:16:13 PM by Cooperd0g »

catccc

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Alternatively, are you sure your bike has low enough gearing to make hills possible? I go up steep hills all the time on my bike, and though I go about four miles per hour, I have low enough gearing to make that possible (I can still spin at 70-80rpm). It's not FAST, but neither is it DIFFICULT.

Do you have a "granny gear" on your bike (the tiny, third gear in front, rather than having just two gears up front)?

Also you might want to check this out for more info on gearing (full disclosure---I made it): http://andrusia.com/gearseer/

But, as with Argyle, if it's either an e-bike or a car... go with the e-bike.

I checked out your link and clearly there is a lot about bicycles that I do not know because it looks like it is in another language... of numbers... that I don't understand.  No need to get into a detailed explanation, though.

I have a 2006 or 2007 Giant Cypress, and it has 24 gears, so that's 3 on the front and 8 on the back.  I will admit that sometimes going up a hill, I am out of juice before I am even in the lowest gear, but I cannot change to the lower gear because I just cannot pedal another stroke.  So certainly there are efficiencies to be gained by learning proper timing of shifting and how to properly climb hills.  I really am a biking novice.

catccc

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I wouldn't necessarily trash the e-bike idea, but I know that when I started riding, I was WAY out of shape, and the big hills on my commute just wrecked me at first, but I got used to them pretty quick.  It was worth sticking with it, because I could now kill an elephant with my quads.
A few things you could try:
Road bike: I personally find having my torso weight over my legs really helpful for climbing.  Will probably be a lot lighter than your hybrid also.
Clipless pedals:  second set of legs.
+1 for dropping the gearing. high force/low RPM is miserable.

What's this about clipless pedals?  I don't see any clips on my pedals.  Tell me more...

catccc

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Would it be convenient and enjoyable? Sure, but I think the real question if using it for commuting is: would it make you more likely to commute on the bike than take the car? Or will it make you more efficient?

Right, I think you and some others here hit the nail on the head.  As it is I do not take the bike to work that often because (even the partial commute) is super hard.  And I wish I could just ride the whole way, but I am restricted by both time and my energy/strength.  I want to get home to my family, like gooki.  I also want to get home before it's dark.  And I'm no physical powerhouse.  I sometimes think that my stature would mean less weight to move, but I suppose my strength is likely proportioned to move my body, and the bike is the same weight whether I'm 150 pounds or under 100 pounds.  (I'm the latter.)

I also fantasize that I get the ebike kit, and try to use it's oomph less and less as I ride more and more, and get to be a better and better rider.  But the motivation of riding the bike to work is saving $ and gas, not really working out.  The exercise is just a bonus.

turboseize

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No mountain (where there is a road) is to steep to cycle. If it seems to be, you're either a) nearly dead, b) shifting too late, or c) your bicycle is geared to high.

Quote
I have a 2006 or 2007 Giant Cypress, and it has 24 gears, so that's 3 on the front and 8 on the back.  I will admit that sometimes going up a hill, I am out of juice before I am even in the lowest gear, but I cannot change to the lower gear because I just cannot pedal another stroke.

Now, here we have it...

Aim for a cadence of at least 80 rpm. If you cannot maintain that, shift down. If you're in the lowest gear and still can't maintain that speed, get out the saddle!

Edit:
A lot of beginners have their saddle too low. This will severely impair the amount of force you can transmit, and it will greatly enhance fatigue. Make sure your saddle is at the correct height.

- - - - - -

What's this about clipless pedals?  I don't see any clips on my pedals.  Tell me more...


Well, in the old times, your biking shoes would have a kind of leather wedge on your sole, that would grip the metal bars of the pedals. Pedals would also have a hook ( the "clip") in front, that held and positioned the foot. You would then strap tight a leather belt, firmly securing your foot on the pedal.
With your feet firmly fastened to the pedal, you could apply force not only when pushing the pedal downwards, but you could also actively pull the pedal upwards during the other half of the pedal cycle. Transitions beetween the phases of the pedal cycle are also much smoother. And you could apply absurd force on the downward phase of the stroke, as you need not fear to slip off the pedal.
On the other hand, before coming to a standstill or getting of the bike, you would have to bend down while riding and loosen the leather belt - otherwise you would not be able to get your feet off the pedal!

Then came technological progress. Enter the clipless pedal.
These "clipless" pedals have a mechanism that locks to a wedge / potruding thing on the underside of your cycling shoes. Twisting your foot sideways unlocks it. This takes some practice (whenever I restart cycling after a longer pause I set myself against a lamp post and practice unlocking over and over, else I'll fall on the first stop...) - still it's much safer than the old fiddling with leather belts.
These come in different styles, some with bulky wedges (look system), some smaller. For everyday cycling, I'd suggest the Shimano system, as ther mechanics are small enough to fit inside the sole of a shoe - so with a mountain bike shoe, you can walk rather normally (cycling shoes have stiff soles, so walking is rather uncomfortable, but definitely better than with road racing shoes).

However, in the stage you're in, I would not recommend them yet. You still have to learn shifting, you seem to have to learn how to be comfortable on the bike, if you add "holy, shit, I can't get my foot of the pedal at the traffic light *PANIC!!!!*" now, that would simply be too much.
You could, however, add old-fashioned clips without leather straps. They would guid your feet, making sure you rfeet are positioned in the right space - something a lot of new riders make wrong. (You want the pedal to be under the balls of the foot, not under your middle foot).
example: http://www.bike-mailorder.de/Bike-Teile/Pedale/Pedal-Haken/MKS-Half-Clip-Pedalhaken-silber.html
« Last Edit: December 13, 2013, 04:55:28 AM by turboseize »

fodder69

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Quote
I was going to get a dedicated road/commuter bike to be faster for that longer commute, but maybe one of these kits is a better way to go. Would it be convenient and enjoyable?

A thousand times yes on this question, a road, touring or even good hybrid will be a heck of a lot faster and less tiring for your commute.

To the OP, don't worry about clipless pedals but you do need to start using those lower gears and getting a good position on a bike. Bicyclists I know love to help people out who are starting. So this may sound wacky but if you see guys out training in your area or at a coffee shop in the morning and you are on your bike, stop and ask for advice on your position! Or a friend who would be willing to ride with you to give you tips? You'd be amazed how much stronger you can feel in a good position. A bike shop would be good too, but may want to charge you for a "fitting" which is way overkill for you. Maybe if you go in and buy some little thing you could ask the guy to give you some tips (just don't buy anything you don't need!).

For gearing, shift way before you are tired, you know the hills you are riding and accept that you aren't going to just power over them so shift to an easy gear early and slow down.

All that said, an e-bike would be nice I would think, because frankly some hills are just too steep to want to do on a regular basis. Although you'll be surprised.what the tips above can do and won't cost money so work on those.

Quote
No mountain (where there is a road) is to steep to cycle. If it seems to be, you're either a) nearly dead, b) shifting too late, or c) your bicycle is geared to high.

As a competitive cyclist who has won lots of races, I will beg to differ! I did a race earlier this year where I got off a walked a lot of the earlier, steepest hills and barely went slower than guys riding it (finished 14th out of 175)!