Friday, December 26, 2014

Electric conversion - part 4

In the last post I left finished up staring blankly at the strange (to me) bottom bracket fittings, like these.

So I had a look through my tools for anything that could possibly fit into a ~40mm disc with semi-circular notches.  I found the following, which I have no idea whether it is the right tool or not, but after using a screw-driver and hammer to tap them loose, I was able with some effort to use said mystery tool to get them the rest of the way off.

The information I had suggested putting the pedal sensor on the right-hand side.  However, that would involve heavy modification to the chain case.  I figured it would just be easier to install the sensor on the left-hand side, where there was nothing to obstruct it.  Installation of the sensor was pretty easy.

Then it was time to put the little wheel of magnets that the sensor uses, and refit the crank.  Again, all fairly painless.

Now that I had the pedal sensor and the electric motor fitted, it was time to turn to the spaghetti of wiring and hook everything up. This largely boils down to matching colours and sizes of connectors.  The only mystery was the purple and black connector, which turns out to be for a brake sensor if you want to immediately cut power when brakes are applied.  This isn't really necessary with a 250W motor and 180mm hydraulic disc brake on the front!

I then attached the controller onto the bottom of the rack where it goes, and fed all the cables through the appropriate feed-holes.

The controller slots in under two tabs, and then a tab is screwed on at the other end, as shown here (sorry for the fuzzy shot):

Then I attached the U-shaped thing that connects to the frame, and slots through a couple of adjustable holes in the rack. 

I already knew that these arms would be too long, so I measured up the length I needed, and cut the first one.  I also gave my rear fender a bit of a clean while it was easy to do with no rack on the back:

After cutting the 2nd arm, and a little fiddling, I had the rack installed on the back:

Here you can see the trimmed arm from the side:

And closer again:

Finally the back wheel could go back in, and the bike was starting to look more or less back together again:

Well, except for the mess of wiring that still had to be routed through:

So I installed the display and power control interfaces onto the handle bars:

Connected the wiring to the motor:

Put the battery into the rack:

Now the backend was looking pretty much right:

But I did notice a minor issue:  Like August Gorman in Superman 3, I realised I now have two keys in separate locations that both need to be in the on position.  Fortunately, I won't need to resort to the same convoluted method as him, but I might need to get one of those retractable key fob things to hang the battery pack key on so that I don't need two key rings.

With everything hooked up, I turned the power on, and was very happy to see that it all seemed to be working:

However, I soon discovered that the motor would only run when I pedalled backwards.  The solution was to flip the wheel of magnets around the other way, as the polarity of the magnets is used to detect the direction of rotation.  Now the motor kicks in when pedalling forwards, but not backwards.

So now it is all working, and a quick test ride confirmed that it is going to be very effective.  The result is that I have a factory-like electric assist install on the bakfiets, and confidence that it will all work well, and that it will be well supported.  Indeed, Dutch Cargo Bikes have been great answering all my questions as I have proceeded through installing this kit over the last couple of days, including emailing photos of bits and pieces of the factory-fitted electric bakfiets they have there to help me work out what goes where.

The only frustration now is that I need to wait before going on any serious rides with it while I wait for the charger to arrive (it was supposed to be in the box, but didn't make it for some reason), and also I need to get a new lower crown race for the new forks, which was never part of the kit.  Both are very minor things, and I hope to be all set by New Years Eve.

Thursday, December 25, 2014

Electric Conversion - part 3

So this is the part where I basically disassemble the entire rear-end of the bike, just to replace the rear-rack and install the pedal sensor that tells the controller when to run the motor.

First step is to get the back wheel off the ground so that I can remove it:

The reason that the wheel has to come out is so that I can take the mud-guard off, so that I can get to the two little lock-nuts between the mudguard and AXA lock.  Here is the bolt heads for these, which are easy to get to.  The hard to get to bit is also hard to take a picture of!

Dropping the back wheel out is something that I have done before, and didn't pose too many problems.  Once you have done it once or twice you realise how not-too-hard it is -- it's just a bit more complex than on "regular" bikes.

Here is the inside of the mud guard, and the little lock nut that holds it on.  This needs to come off, so that the mud-guard can come out, so that I can get to those really important lock-nuts that hold the old rack on:

Of course, to do that, I need to hold the top of the bolt that holds the mud-guard on still, so that it doesn't just spin with the lock nut.  This is in the same nasty little nook as the two lock-nuts I am trying to get out.

To get better access to that bolt head, I had to undo the arms that hold the mud-guard in position.  These needed to come out, anyway.

With that out the way, it turned out that I could get to those two nasty bolt-heads as well, so no need to actually remove the mud-guard.

A few minutes later I had the rear rack off the bike, and could start working on getting the right crank-arm off.  This just requires a 14mm socket and crank-puller.

Soon I was at this point, with the magnets (black wheel with shiny spots on ground), and the sensor itself (silver ring with red sensor part and wires on the ground).

Now I need to figure out exactly how they go on, as there doesn't seem to be any obvious way that the red sensor attaches.

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Electric Conversion - part 2

Christmas afternoon is a nice time to relax at home this year, so I have been pottering with the electric conversion.

First step, detach the steering linkage on the old wheel:

Then remove the head-stem nuts so that the old wheel can come out:

The linkage arm was sort of hanging about, and I was concerned that this might put stress on the rear end of the linkage, so I put the bike "up on blocks":

Then it was time to take the front wheel out.  The weight of the bike is being supported by the stand and rear-wheel.

Here is my super-helper as I set about transferring the mud-guard from the old wheel to the new one:

The easy part was removing the mud-guard from the old wheel:

More challenging was getting it attached to the new wheel, because the disc-brake mount is right in the way of where the mud-guard supporting arms go:

This really wasn't going to work at all:

You can see in the profile view here how the brake mount (on the right) is right in the way between the mud-guard support arm at the top, and the bracket it needs to be bolted to lower down:

After some creative rearrangement of the mud-guard, I managed to make it work:

It now passes very close, but just clears one of the bolts of the brake mounting:

Now that the disc-brake and electric wheel are on the front, the next step was to replace the brake-lever.  Here it is after removing the old one, and before threading everything back on.  I apparently forgot to take a picture with it all back on.

The next challenge is replacing the rear carrier rack with the one that contains the electronics.  This has some rather fascinating fitting problems of its own which I will get to in another post.

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Electric conversion - part 1

Around the middle of the year when I started riding about 120km/week, I realised that it probably made sense to get an electric assist for the bakfiets.

I spoke to the guys at where I bought the bakfiets from about ordering a genuine Azor/ e-bike kit so that the end result would be the same as if I had bought it electric from the factory.

That was back in July, fast forward now to December, and the kit has arrived in the post just in time for the Christmas holidays to get it all installed and working.

Everything arrived in this nice big box.  There was some problems with the courier, which is why the box is looking a bit battered.

Fortunately the contents are all okay:

I wanted a comprehensive kit, and that it is.  Not only is the motor there, but it is part of a complete new front wheel.  There is also a complete hydraulic front disc-brake (to help stop a speedy fully loaded 1/4 tonne bakfiets combination), new front-fork with the disc-brake fittings, all the little screws and washers and things, the crank-sensors that make this a pedel-elec rather than throttle kit, a new rear pack that looks very solidly built, and into which the battery pack fits.  The battery pack itself has the rear-light built in.  There is also the electronic controller, and display for the handle bars and all the other bits to fit it together.

The only thing that I can't find is the mains power adapter.  I do vaguely recall discussing something about it, and that maybe it would be a separate item, but that was a long time ago. I have left a message with Dutch Cargo Bike to remind me what the story is there, or find out if it was left out by mistake.

I'll aim to write a series of posts as I go about building it all up over the coming weeks.  The next post will likely be about the front-wheel assembly and installation, since I have already made some head-way on that.

Friday, December 12, 2014

Riding is faster than driving in Adelaide, too.

Cars often give the false impression of being faster than riding, because their maximum speed is higher.

However, this hides the slow and stationary time spent in a car which can often be avoided on a bike.
Cycling cultures like in Holland and Denmark realise this, and it contributes to the number of people who cycle to work.

However, I think it is fair to say that in Australia, and in Adelaide in particular, we tend to think that you need more congested traffic for bikes to beat cars.  However, my experience in the past ten years is that this is no longer the case in peak hour, and hasn't been for a decade or so.

But until today, that was only a hunch, with no evidence to back it up.

Today, the Royal Automobile Association (the RAA) released the results of a small-scale experiment they conducted where they found that for three of four routes into the city, that bicycle was the fastest way to get there.  You can read a little about it here.  If someone finds a link to the original RAA report, let me know and I will link to it.

What makes this a particularly interesting development is that the RAA seems to be broadening its base from only motorists to include other forms of transport. Just recently they announced that people driving mobility scooters, or "gophers" as we call them in South Australia, would now be covered for breakdowns, primarily flat batteries and tyres, if they hold normal RAA coverage.

They have also called on the government to spend more on cycling infrastructure, and generally encouraging people to ride their bikes.  This makes sense, since it helps traffic flow better if there are fewer cars on the road, and the RAA is all about helping people get where they want with as little hassle and wasted time as possible.  It just happens that historically the car was arguably the best way to do that.

It would be encouraging to see the RAA extend their coverage again to cover flat tyres on bicycles, and supporting people on electric bikes, which are really just gophers with fewer and larger wheels.

The RAA are very well respected in South Australia, and if they continue to promote cycling as a viable, it might just help to redefine the car/bicycle dialogue in South Australia that has been so unnecessarily adversarial recently.