Chatham E-bike by Fifield—American Gem

Chatham E-bike by Fifield—American Gem.

As you read my review, you will see that good looks are just a part of what the Chatham delivers.

When I first reviewed the Jetty by Fifield, I was taken by the online images of their flagship electric bike, the Chatham. With an in-house created chrome moly frame, a belt-drive matched to a mid-drive motor, and some sweet looks, its style and technical advancements had me dreaming of a long fun ride with all it offers. That time has come (and is still happening). There is so much to gush about on this E-bike, but I will try to get it all in this one post.

I guess I’ll start with the looks and the feel. I am all about upright roadster type bikes (I call them college bikes). They match my needs more than any low-bar road bike, cruiser or mountain bike. When it comes to classy bikes through the decades, this is the style that pops in most everyone’s mind. I am so over E-bikes that look clunky and those with lots of extra clumsy body work. I like those that look like bikes, just like this Chatham. Even though it does have an English theme going, this baby is all American.

Not your dream color?—Then just chose one that is.

Sure you will find some pieces from other countries, like the 11 speed rear geared hub, but the heart and soul comes from American minds and hands. Many of the pieces are local too, like those fantastic hammered French style aluminum fenders and the leather saddle from Velo Orange. So many of the individual parts on this bike speak quality and ooze a fit and finish that is hard to find in the E-bike world (regular bike world too). Fifield has some cool colors on the books, yet this one is in a custom painted green. From what I hear, yours can be any fantastic color you can dream up.

Riding the bike is a special treat. Smooth and sleek, you can feel the combination of great components with each push on the pedals. Knowing it looks incredible can make your ride more fun, yet with eyes forward you can still absorb the stand-out appearance of the Chatham. Even though it might have the look of 40’s Europe, all the modern tech brings you into today’s era. Strong (yet not too strong) hydraulic disc brakes slow you with nary a care, while the CenterTrack belt drive calmly gets you back up to speed.

Have hills to climb? Then you want one of these.

The mid-drive motor adds electric assist when you are ready, but this lightweight gem glides so easily, you don’t have to lean on it much. Although the specs show it as a 400 watt unit, I think (judging by the power and max watt readout on the display) it is really more like a 250 or 300 watt power plant. Not to worry though, as most commercial mid-drives are rated the same and unless you are a speed demon, this beauty will get you all the climbing and motive power you desire.

You probably know that the mid-drive runs its power through the drivetrain, allowing the bikes gearing to give flexibility to the motor’s torque and horsepower. So for a given amount of power, it is increased in pull or speed depending on the gear ratio used at any given time. It does require more attention to being in the correct gear at the correct time (as opposed to a hub-motored E-bike). Also, it is important not to shift under power, although the geared hub won’t change gears until the power of the motor is reduced or stopped.

Belts are the future of bikes. Or the present, if you ride a Fifield Chatham.

I have to admit I found that 11 gears is more than this E-bike needs. Most every time I changed 2 gears at a time (whether shifting up or down). When not using the assist, the extra gears were helpful, yet under power not really needed. The thumb shifter works great and has an indicator to tell you which gear is selected. The belt-drive is sleek, clean, maintenance-free, and quiet as can be. I do expect as the years flow, we will be seeing belts on more and more bikes. For now, enjoy what it has to offer on this high-end E-bike from Fifield.

What a sweet sight.

This is a dual control E-bike, meaning you can get the electric-assist (in 5 levels) automatically when you pedal, or by use of the thumb throttle (mounted on the left side of the bars). I did suggest to them a minor programming change (that should be on their bikes by now, I hope), that allows the throttle to give full power regardless of the assist level chosen. This bike limits that power to the level the display is set to, when you add full throttle. I like it to be able to get full juice from the throttle no matter what, in intersections and when the need for some extra scoot arises. Sometimes you don’t have time to toggle the switches, so I think this change will be a good one.

You may have seen my recent article on how much I like the saddle they have chosen to spec on the Chatham. Comfort goes a long way to increasing the enjoyment of a bike ride, so with a bike this nice, having the right saddle is important. I think Fifield used this thinking as they picked out all the pieces that make up the Chatham, as nowhere is to be seen a junky or sour looking part of the bike. Just check out that wonderful chain guard if you are wondering what I mean.

I figure this front hub dynamo is to power the optional lighting package listed on the Fifield website.

I can pretty much guarantee you won’t see any basic penny-counters riding a Chatham. When you compile such nice pieces and wrap them up in a custom in-house frame, you are bound to jump to a higher price point. This is a special E-bike for discerning riders. With all its high-tech features and smooth riding qualities, I do think many who wanted to lowball their way into E-biking, will reconsider and move up the ladder to this sleek and fancy machine. There is so much here to love, even as you look past the glowing beauty, you will find a ride that is hard to equal.

I should have written this review much sooner, but I have been enjoying riding the Chatham so much, time seemed to fly. It was kind of their mistake though, as since they are on the opposite side of the country from me, they shipped me the bike for this extended test. Many times my reviews come from as little as 4 hours with a E-bike, some from a couple days to a week. When I can have a bike this long (well over a month by now), I really get the whole effect, and my reviews mirror that (good or bad). It has been my go-to bike for all that time, and giving it up will be tough. It will happen soon, yet for now I am still turning the pedals.

What a great ride its been.

There just isn’t one angle to view this bike from that doesn’t please, no matter if you are in the saddle or on the sidelines. It might push your plastic a little harder than some to get one in your driveway, yet remember that saying about the cake. This baby is as sweet as can be, and is worth every indulgence you might need to sacrifice to hop on board. Oh my, sweet Chatham, you will want a second helping of this American goodness at every opportunity.

Why wait? Get what makes you happy, Turbo Bob.

“Have fun, be active. Ride a bike instead of driving a car, for example”.—Dan Buettner.

You can find Fifield on their website—and of course they have a Facebook page.

http://www.fifieldebikes.com/

Here is a walkaround video of the Chatham. I might soon add a riding one.

Posted in E-bike test reviews | 3 Comments

My Bicycle Trailer—Reworked for Smart Traveling

My Bicycle Trailer—Reworked for Smart Traveling.

My trailer is no beauty, yet it is in top shape for the long rides.

Even as cargo bikes gain massive popularity, bike trailers have been around for years. Many use them to haul the kids or pets, yet just about anything can be moved with them. There are many styles, long or short, narrow or wide, covered or open, 2 or 1 wheeled. Mine is older and a very low-end one, in fact I actually got it for free. It was a Craigslist find from many years ago. The owner threw in the bike that was hooked to it, which in turn I sold for the asked price of the trailer.

I have used it now and then through the years with some of our bikes, yet realized a long time ago that pulling it with an E-bike was the best way to go. When I did my ULTIMATE project I finally got to start using it on a steady basis. I did some basic reworking then, but this month I finished it up to what I had envisioned. It is short on looks (in the daytime at least), but way long on usefulness. Last year I nicknamed it “My Rig”, and that name that goes even further now.

I had to do some minor mods to get the hitch to fit my new E-bike.

I have been tempted many times to hook it to the parade of E-bikes that seem to come and go, yet I was resistant to enlarging the axle mounting hole on the hitch to fit them. That is a reason it matched well with the ULTIMATE, that was a regular bike converted to E-power, with a (more or less) standard sized axle diameter. After winning my new Pedego E-bike last month, I knew the time had come to grind the hole bigger with my Dremel tool and fit it to this cool E-bike. What a perfect combo.

This is one of those big-box store trailers that is of OK quality. The newer ones of this brand have plastic (?) rims and I am sure have more modern features. It was in kind of sorry shape, but the tires held air and all the pieces were included. After returning the eRAD kit from the ULTIMATE to Lectric Cycles I thought maybe my trailer convenience was done, so I hung it back in the garage rafters. I had used it for group rides and Costco shopping (my biggest thrill to date, as we live on the mesa and the store is closer to sea level). I was so glad to get it back down and once again in service.

Having the tall flag is just part of the visibility changes I made to my trailer.

Although I can’t do much for the looks and faded fabric, I took care of the mechanical issues and spruced it up some. Cleaning and regreasing the wheel bearings was combined with truing and tensioning the spokes. The rims and spokes are kind of rusty, but no problem I guess. A pair of thorn-resistant tubes and 2 HD (E-bike specific) tires got levered on. I added some Velcro on the top panel to replace the damaged and rusted snap grommets, and replaced a couple nylon straps for the seats (yes I can sew, in fact I was a sewing machine technician for 20 years). I purchased an antenna pole and flag to add some extra safety on the road. And of course I gave it a one-over to make sure all the fasters were tight and it is ready for the long rides.

Nighttime safety took a major jump with the addition of LightMeUp Safety Lights in each corner, on the sides and on the wheels. Not only do they make sure you are seen, they garner tons of hoots and hollers from most anyone that see us ride by. They are mostly red, white and blue so when we rode the busy coastline this 4th before the fireworks started, hundreds of people took photos and cheered us on. You kind of need to check the photos and video to really see how much these inexpensive LED lights add to the trailer.

When the sun goes down this trailer really shines.

I did some custom work with these. I soldered a couple strings together on the wheels to allow them all to run from one battery pack. I did the same with the strip lights I put on the heavy steel frame. I sewed the light strings on the side panels as I saw no other alternative there. I wrapped a set on the antenna pole too. I added some bright front and rear lights from Serfas to round out visibility at night (I use those in the daytime too). All-in-all, this is the most lit up trailer I have seen to date.

In the trailer I have a canvas bag that holds some basics. It has a spare tube, tire changing tools, and a tube repair kit. Some bike tools are in there. A few maps and a roll of t/p make sense to have along during a ride. I keep a few bucks and spare change in there too. There is a spare hitch clip that I doubt I’ll need, but it came with the trailer so why not? A flashlight and tire pump could come in handy, so I keep those in the bag with the other stuff.

You can spend hundreds on a new bike trailer. Some mount like mine to the wheel’s axle, some to the rear bike frame, and others to the seat post. Each type of trailer has its own special features and uses, yet with a little imagination they can really be versatile. Just to add to this, the couple RideKick trailers I have tested have a full electric motor conversion built-in, so they convert your regular bike to E-assist with no modifications (and carry your gear). You can spend a lot or a little (like I did) as you explore your bike trailer needs.

Here is my whole rig with the lights ablaze.

Another goal I have with this, is to take my electric R/C model planes to the local flying field (at sea level) for a great morning. It is about a 15 mile round-trip (down and then up the mesa) so I normally just drive. Now with all the mods and my new E-bike pulling the trailer, I expect to add this use on a steady basis. There are so many plans I have for my new rig. A couple times this last month we packed cold drinks, snacks, and our two folding chairs to a outdoor movie and couple free outdoor concerts. Such biking excitement, I can barely contain myself.

I know many that use their bike trailers quite a bit on their regular (non E-bike) bikes and they love them. Our local bike coalition recently moved to a new office spot, and used bikes to move everything. Online I see so much more. If your bike won’t haul what you need on its own, then a bike trailer could be perfect for you. Mate your bicycle with a trailer, it makes so much sense.

Haul that load, Turbo Bob.

“I’m lazy. But it’s the lazy people who invented the wheel and the bicycle because they didn’t like walking or carrying things.”—Lech Walesa.

Here are a few related videos I have posted on my You-Tube site.

Here is a link to the LightMeUp Safety Lights.

http://www.lightmeupsafetylights.com/

You can find the Serfas lights here.

https://www.serfas.com/

And while we are at it, check out the RideKick E-trailer.

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Posted in Bike accessories, Bike maintenance, General bike stories, My Bikes, Opinion | 3 Comments

Velo Orange Model 8 Saddle—My New Favorite

Velo Orange Model 8 Saddle—My New Favorite.

Feeling and looking good, this saddle from Velo Orange might be just what the doctor ordered.

Facing the facts, with each new bicycle purchase, the seat is the first upgrade. So many bikes come with rear-end wrenching saddles that just need to go away. If you already know which ones you like, the choice is easy, most people aren’t so lucky. When I got the Chatham E-bike (for testing and a review) from Fifield, I was quite impressed with much about it (and still am). When I took it for its first run, it was the saddle that stood out with gold stars and major comfort. I am hooked.

As I looked deeper on the Velo Orange website to find out more, I was surprised to see a great selection of elegant and quality bike accessories anyone could love. This includes some cool French inspired fenders that are also speced on the Chatham. You will see so much there, even some fancy frames and parts available nowhere else. What else I spied was these Model 8 saddles are listed at a price that will make you want to get one for each bike in your stable.

The contours seem to make for the best fit.

So why does this saddle feel so good? First off, I think it is just the slightly wider stance for a good fit. They recommend this one for the more upright bike and riding position (although they have the narrow racy ones too). Being made out of the best leather, you should expect it to contour to you even better as the miles roll on. Three colors grace this beauty, the one I am riding now is in the matte look black that compliments the Fifield very nicely.

The well chromed springs at the back of this seat do more than bring out your sunglasses. They help smooth out the ruts and bumps that can’t easily be avoided. Of course ones without springs can be had if the minor weight penalty gets you uptight, yet I will gladly choose comfort over a few ounces anyway. Nestled along those springs are some bag loops with an equal shine. That’s pretty much the story here, if it isn’t well finished leather, then it is bright beyond belief chrome from stem to stern.

Lots of chrome and a set of rails that will fit most bikes are just a couple of the cool features.

One day I was talking excitedly to a neighbor about how much I was enjoying this saddle I hadn’t heard of before. He smiled, climbed off his bike, and low and behold, his bike had a well worn version of the same one. I hadn’t noticed it before, and his talk went to the tons of miles of love he had with his Velo Orange Model 8. Just one more testimonial of how having the right gear can make such a difference.

Midway on the saddle is a leather tie to prevent it from widening, and adding a bit of a classic look too. There is also a adjustment mech at the front to allow the Model 8 to keep its fit for a long time. Although it is such a simple part of the bike, great lengths have been taken to make sure you are smiling and your smile lasts for years to come. On top of all the tech and comfort, this saddle from Velo Orange looks fantastic, that is when you are off the bike, which may not happen often when riding is so comfortable.

Put a little spring in your bike ride.

Feeling good on your bike has so many factors, yet I think we can all agree if your saddle and you are not at odds with each other, the rides will be longer and more enjoyable. That is the way I feel each time mount the Chatham. It is a sweet E-bike with a ton of cool features, yet a major pain here would ruin the whole effect. In a return thought, even a sub-standard bike can be brought to a new level, with just the right seat. That is the reason a new saddle is most often the first upgrade on any new or used bike you acquire. They usually come with one that is too wide, too narrow, or cheap as can be (to keep the overall bike price lower). You owe it to yourself to find and install a dream platform of contentment.

I ride a lot of different bikes, some coming with saddles that make me cringe. I always wonder why some nice bikes come with rock-hard narrow racing saddles. Even though the real wide ones on cruisers seem comfy at first, after maybe 3-5 miles you realize too wide and soft doesn’t make for a good ride either. This Velo Orange Model 8 is pretty hard, it is the contour that is really what makes it such a good fit.

It is hard to say just how much I like this saddle from Velo Orange.

Most good bike shops will allow you to try a few of their saddles to see how you like them. Problem here is a short ride doesn’t always tell the tale of your contentment. Plus, as much as they want you to get the right one, they don’t really have the time and selection to follow through sometimes. A few might even allow you to do a return swap if the one you buy isn’t right for you. Same story here, they aren’t going to do it with every saddle on the shelf.

Thanks to Fifield for allowing me to review their Chatham (coming very soon) and to get a chance to try out this wonderful bike saddle.

A little investigation will sure help you narrow down the choices (that’s why you are reading my review I would guess). Ordering one through the mail or online can be a touch risky, yet I am pretty convinced this saddle will make you happy. Every body is different, every saddle is different, and a person’s needs have those differences too. No matter what, make sure your bike seat makes you happy or riding won’t be fun. It is up to you to find the dream mount. Don’t give up until you do.

Well anyway, get a saddle that fits you. This one would be a great place to start, Turbo Bob.

“It would not be at all strange if history came to the conclusion that the perfection of the bicycle was the greatest incident of the nineteenth century”.—Author Unknown.

Look for Velo Orange on their website and their easy to find Facebook page.

http://www.velo-orange.com/

Check out Fifield while you are at it.

http://www.fifieldebikes.com/

I just posted this video showing the Model 8 just a bit better.

Posted in Bike accessories | Leave a comment

Be Part of a Guinness World Record E-bike Group Ride Attempt

Be Part of a Guinness World Record E-bike Group Ride Attempt.

13221584_10154098970869360_3916445426489847985_nThis June 18th (2016), you have the opportunity to help set the world record for the largest electric bike parade. And just as important, to join in on the fun and the party for the grand opening of the new Pedego headquarters in Fountain Valley, CA. It will be a E-bike super event, with all invited to be part of the excitement. The pre-registered number of riders is already close to the 250+ needed to set a new world record, so consider making the scene with family and friends. Any type or brand of electric bicycle is eligible, so borrow or rent an E-bike, or bring your everyday rider. The more the merrier.

With E-bikes becoming increasing popular in this country (and many), I have seen several electric bike companies moving into bigger facilities as sales boom. Pedego is no different, and their already large headquarters in nearby Irvine just wasn’t giving them the room they needed for expansion. And in typical Pedego fashion, they want you to be part of their success by sharing the day in many ways. This is a day to be part of.

The highlights will be many, with the day ending in two people winning brand-new Pedego electric bikes in an exciting drawing (don’t forget, you must be present to win!). Things will start at 11 am as they do a ribbon cutting with local dignitaries in attendance. From there the riders for the record attempt will make sure they are signed in and counted. The Guinness World Record attempt ride will start at 1:30 pm or 2 pm. (more about the ride in a minute).

There is a link below for pre-registration (and waiver signing) to make things go quicker, as so many will be chomping at the bit to help make E-bike history. Food and cold drinks will be flowing, and a tour or the new facility can be on your list of reasons to come. After the ride, it seems celebratory drinks and a karaoke party are on the agenda. I am no singer, yet I have a special song or two for that part of the event, don’t miss experiencing that. Get your video cameras ready, as I embarrass myself to help Pedego christen their new headquarters.

The planned ride will be down the large bike trail (along the river) to Huntington Beach and back. An easy 12 mile cruise with 250+ people will be quite a site, and aerial videos will help to document the record. The ride will start at around 1:30 or 2 pm, taking maybe an hour to complete. Once done and the record is in the books, we can all do a group back-patting and party some more—then the give-away will happen—who wouldn’t want to win one of the two new Pedego E-bikes on the chopping block?

Also of note is, as the plans for the day came together, the gathering of the Pedego board members decided that none other than Turbo Bob (that’s me) should lead the record ride. Who was I to deny them? I have agreed to be at the head of this Guinness World Record E-bike parade ride, with a smile and a borrowed Pedego. My wife will be at my side on her City Commuter to help me lead this large group of potential record setters. We are both looking forward to making history together (on Pedego electric bikes no less).

So, polish your bikes, charge your batteries, prime your record making skills, and come to the E-bike event of the year (one that will be talked about for years to come). I expect to see E-bike riders coming from out-of-state and out-of-country to join with the Orange County locals for this incredible chance to set a record and win a bike—and just have a blast. Make your travel plans now. See you there for the fun.

Let’s make some history, Turbo Bob.

Follow this link to register

http://www.pedegoparty.com/event/Pedego-HQ-Grand-Opening

The location is—Pedego Headquarters—11310 Slater Ave—Fountain Valley, CA 92807

The day is June 18, 2016.

The time is from 11 am to 5 pm.

 

 

 

 

 

Posted in E-bike general interest, Out-of-town bike rides | 1 Comment

Spira Electric Enclosed Motorcycle—Spira4U

Spira Electric Enclosed Motorcycle—Spira4U.

Electric car or motorcycle? The Spira.

We can all see this is not an electric-assist bicycle. And, it isn’t an electric car either, yet when driving it, that is the feeling you get. My take is that it is an electric enclosed motorcycle. It is classified as a motorcycle, yet there is no helmet or motorcycle specific driver’s license needed (in California at least). The Spira could be called many things, but I think I will just call it an EV (Electric Vehicle). What it is, is smart, fun, and economical. This is the Spira4U, a brand-new EV that is getting ready to take you on the ride of a lifetime.

Two local brothers came together to design, develop and produce this modern take on transportation. With a chassis made of a special honeycomb core board and surrounded by foam, it cradles you in a soft and stylish body that has proven to add a level of safety not offered by other EVs. Using lithium batteries and electric motors for its motive power (there is a 150cc gas version too, yet that is pretty much off my radar), it scoots you down the road with a zip you have to experience to believe.

Room for two—as long as you are special friends.

It is primarily designed for a single rider (driver?), yet two cozy people can easily sit side-by-side for each run, something my wife and I did many times. Things were a tad tight this way, although the extra weight didn’t seem to affect the drive or performance in a noticeable way. There are a pair of seat belts and that way we got to share the fun of electric motoring together. Spira is even experimenting with a four seater version, something I got to see the prototype of. A futuristic EV like this has so many possibilities.

The powertrain is basically made up of already existing electric motorcycle components. Each back wheel has a brushless hub motor, and all three wheels (two in back, one in front) have hydraulic disc brakes (which BTW, worked strong and smoothly). It uses a tiller steering that only takes just a block or two to become comfortable with. Some of the controls are on the two motorcycle like grips you use for steering. You have your choice of using the floor throttle pedal or the twist one on the grips, me finding the motorcycle like one more natural to use.

Two of these powerful electric motorcycle motors power the Spira down the road.

From the spec chart we see these numbers. 620 lbs total weight. 440 lbs carrying capacity. 70 or 140 mile battery range (depending on which lithium battery is installed). 70 mph top speed. Two 10Kw 72 volt motors. Installed 15 amp battery charger that will work on 110-220 AC household current. 9 ft tall, 5 ft wide, 4 ft tall overall dimensions. 14” motorcycle tires. 4 ft of foam in front and 4 inches of foam on each side. It has full lighting, windshield wipers, defroster, and plenty of instrumentation.

Acceleration is brisk and the fastest I went (two up) was about 62 mph, going up a small grade on a local highway (and a quick twist of the throttle showed more speed was definitely available). The Spira I had didn’t have the production battery, but one said to get about a 100 mile range under optimum conditions on the cruise. My best was close to 80 miles on one charge, yet much of that was with both of us aboard and many signals to deal with. I drove it a total of 175 miles in that week and used 228 Ah to make the distance. That relates to less than 2 dollars (rough estimate here) of electricity added to my monthly power bill.

One of out jaunts was downtown to watch the kids race their Soapbox Derby cars. Everyone there loved the Spira—which lead to this cool image.

On top of the fun and excitement, dealing with the interested onlookers was a constant task. I can’t even guess how many cell phone photos were snapped as we drove and when we were parked. At each stop, up to a dozen people at a time surrounded the Spira and pounded us with questions. There was ½ a box of business cards under the seat and I managed to hand them all out to people that realized this EV has some serious potential. Right after picking up the Spira, we stopped at a relative’s house so he could give it a try, and within a minute he showed us a photo on his phone of this EV that a friend had sent him just 3 hours earlier (he spotted it in a parking lot near the designer’s house).

I did let many take some time behind the tiller to feel it out and get their impressions. Each loved it, yet a few criticisms did get mentioned. They were the same I had, and many have already been dealt with on the next shipment of these EVs from China. Yes, they were dreamt up and designed here, but the assembly line is overseas, not all that uncommon in today’s world. I spent a lot of time with the maker of this EV, getting a chance to learn more, and discuss the upgrades already in progress.

All the controls are close at hand—and the view out the windows was fantastic.

Some creature comforts will be improved, the very firm ride will be softened somewhat, the steering geometry has been changed for a better feel, and other changes are in the works. I think the feedback I gave will help, and it is always nice to see a company strive for modifications of an early product to give a better end-user experience. If any product will survive, it needs a strong and smart team behind it, and this is the impression I got with my sit-down time with one of the brothers behind this cool new 3-wheeled EV.

Due to the construction materials and the electric power, one problem I had was that it didn’t always trigger the sensors that change the traffic signals. In normal traffic this was never an issue, yet a few times it was. Also, I do want to mention that even though the battery charger is onboard, it needs a HD extension cord and a household outlet that can easily handle the 15 amps the charger draws. Charging took place in just 4-7 hours, yet the cord I used (a weed eater outdoor type) did get a bit warm. Get a good one if you decide to start driving your own Spira.

It was great to be able to haul the E-Brompton to a local ride. The Spira does have a pretty large trunk.

Riding the Spira is a blast. You sit low and using the controls and instrumentation is a unique experience. The firm ride has you avoiding the rough spots, not the easiest thing to do with all three wheels. It is small compared to the vehicles around you, yet I never felt unsafe or un-noticed. Part of the theme with this EV is that the foam cradles you if an incident does happen, and the maker’s tests have be proven with high marks and low rider G forces in impacts. Although it is a 3-wheeler, it seemed as solid on the road as could be, with no tendency to lift a wheel or become unstable. I did notice some buffeting from cross-winds, yet it was all easily controlled with the steering tiller. Forward and side visibility is great, with the side mirrors and a full-time reverse camera filling in the gaps to the rear.

I was promised a chance to re-visit the Spira in the near future, so watch for that. Follow the link below to the Spira website for some videos that show that it floats, impact testing and other cool stuff. I posted three videos myself that you can see with the push of a button. If the norm doesn’t always fit your needs when it comes to fun and transportation, then this Spira EV could be what you are looking for. They are here and you are ready. Spira4U? Give it a test ride and some consideration. Just maybe this will be your new norm.

Looking for something different? Try looking at the Spira, Turbo Bob.

“Yes, my grandfather worked with Thomas Edison on the electric car, and he sold electric cars at the 1900 World’s Fair in Paris.”—Al Jardine.

You can get all the info on the Spira4U website and Facebook page.

http://www.spira4u.com/

https://www.facebook.com/Spira4u-107519002609432/?fref=ts

Check these videos of my fun with the Spira.

 

Posted in E-bike test reviews | 2 Comments

Surface 604 Boar E350—Fat-Tire Filly

Surface 604 Boar E-350—Fat-Tire Filly.

Looking good—feeling good.

Fat-tire E-bikes have been sprouting up like crazy lately, here is one that has been around for a while. My first in person sighting was a couple years ago at Interbike. They have been trying to get me a bike for review, but when one showed up at my E-bike seminar last month, I knew my time had come. San Diego Electric Bike is their newest dealer here in So Cal and it made it so easy to get my hands on the Boar E350. Yesterday I rode the Spira electric enclosed motorcycle I have been testing the 15 miles to Solana Beach, so I could give this fatty a ride.

Fat-tire bikes skim over sand and snow, are good for trailing, and can be used on any street just like a regular bike. Those big tires are a eye-catcher to be sure, so many just ride them for the wow factor. If there is one drawback, it is the extra work it takes to pedal them (mostly in the soft stuff), so an electric-assist fatty just makes sense. This Surface 604 E-bike seems to have the style, juice and feel that could satisfy any rider.

This motor is from the #1 maker of E-bike motors.

They come in 3 colors, 2 frame sizes, and with 2 motor options (this was the 350 watt, the other is 250). Although my test bike didn’t have it all installed, they also come with front and rear racks and fenders. They offer a great display unit and use a torque based control system (no hand throttle though). The aluminum frame has a great look and can be matched up to a quality front suspension fork if that is your desire. Let’s go for a ride to see how this all comes together.

Some might balk at a true pedelec (no hand throttle), yet the automatic pedelec is so responsive I never missed the need to power-up without pedaling. They really programmed it nicely so the power is smooth and ready when you are. I found the 2nd (of 5) power level to be perfect for tooling around, and when set to level 5, the excitement ramped up as you would expect. There is a button panel right at hand (left side) where the change is easily made. The power is more than sufficient for most any kind of riding you have in mind.

No one will have any difficulty seeing which E-bike fatty you are riding.

The large capacity lithium battery (36 volts—13 Ah) is tucked into the frame for a balanced ride and cool look. It has an USB power output and a charge jack that can be used on or off the bike. It boasts the good stuff inside, and Surface 604 backs up their bikes, so it should be a strong and long-lived battery that can take you through many miles and years as you hit the back trails. Bold graphics on the frame just below the battery let the world know just what you are riding.

Some good advancements have been made in fat-tire bike’s frame geometry, so the heavy feeling steering is all but gone nowadays. This one was light and precise, so my riding was fun and worry free. These big tires have a wide tire pressure range, allowing you to soften them up for banging through the sand and snow. I could feel these were on the higher side, so the street riding I did was just right. I didn’t get a chance to hit any loose packed surfaces, so I can’t respond to how that might be on the Boar.

Want strong, solid, and safe brakes?—The Boar E350 from Surface 604 has you covered.

Just as you would expect on a E-bike like this, the cockpit is wide open with a slightly bent over stance. The saddle is a racy one, yet I was comfortable with that and the angles my body held as I rode. The bars are not so wide as to throw you off your game, yet just right for a sporty and fun filled adventure. When it comes to electric fatty bikes, this one was a joy to ride and push the limits just a touch.

Strong brakes are part of the package, and I was glad to see they speced the 2 finger levers that make them work smart and safe. Those discs cut my speed quickly, adding to the confidence I had when pushing the Boar E350 closer to its limits. As I scanned the Surface 604 website I was impressed with all the pieces they use, not just the brake selection. I suggest you take a look to see for yourself (link below).

Not really mentioned in my text is this great working 1 X 10 drivetrain.

I had the crew over at San Diego Electric Bike clip off the price tag for the photos and the ride, but I did take a peek at it. I can say you get a lot for a little, as it seems Surface 604 got their suppliers to help make sure it is a fun bike to ride and purchase. I try not to let the bottom line on any bike influence my review on them, so it is up to you to do the investigation there (as always here on my bike blog).

I just rode and smiled, something I do on most any E-bike I test. The Boar E350 was willing to please with each turn of the pedals. I don’t think everyone who is in the E-bike market wants a fat-tire bike, yet if you do, make sure to try this one out. I would have loved to see how that rear rack looked on there, and the guys at the shop said they had a bit of trouble fitting the fenders, so I didn’t get to experience those either. I do think it is cool they are part of the package though.

E-bikes at the beach—I love it.

I took the bike up and down some local hills, pushed it hard on the tight side streets in the neighborhood, and generally just enjoyed feeling the power rush in the max setting on the electronic control system. Like I said before, the instantaneous feel of the motor control was to my liking, just adding to the great feel I had during the riding. I also like the sleek lines and appearance. It is not the most stealthy E-bike out there, yet with the battery kind of hidden, it is close.

What wasn’t stealthy is the overall look and way you will be riding. This bike stands out, so don’t be surprised if you turn some heads. They may need to turn quickly, as you probably will be moving along at a decent pace. Whether you are hitting the rough stuff or the bike paths, the Surface 604 had what it takes for me.

Here’s sand in your eye,   Turbo Bob.

“I got up to 40 minutes on the exercise bike—next time I am going to try turning the pedals.”—Random bike quote.

Look for Surface 604 on their website and Facebook pages.

https://www.surface604.com/

https://www.facebook.com/surface604/?fref=ts&ref=br_tf&qsefr=1

You can find San Diego Electric Bike the same way.

http://sdelectricbike.com/

https://www.facebook.com/sdebike/?fref=ts

Videos? You got them here.

 

Posted in E-bike test reviews | Leave a comment

Add-e Electric Bike Conversion Kit—Lightweight Power

Add-e Electric Bike Conversion Kit—Lightweight Power.

Tucked way down out the way, the Add-e motor and controller are almost out of sight.

The very first E-bike I rode had friction drive. That was over 20 years ago and it was quite primitive, slow and heavy. The Add-e uses that old technology, yet brings it to date with a modern style battery and control system. Rather than the motor being part of the wheel, or transferring its power through a chain or belt, it sends the power right to the tire tread with a rough sandpaper like friction wheel (the outer casing of the out-runner motor). This has its benefits and drawbacks.

The benefits are many, one being the entire conversion kit weighs just over 5 lbs. The next useful feature is when the assist is not in use, it offers exactly zero drag to the bike it is converting. It is very easy to install, although depending on the bike and control method, it can be a touch more difficult. I opted for the easy route, which also allowed me what I felt was the better choice of motor control. And to be sure, this is a very powerful unit and drives the bike with decent assist. Before I go deeper into my findings and the whole story, let’s discuss the drawbacks.

Everything you need is all in this small box.

Each of the things I didn’t like about the Add-e might matter to you in varied levels of importance, so here they are in no particular order. This is a noisy little beast. The motor itself is as silent as can be, yet when it is in contact with the tire, it sounds off very noticeably. It isn’t too bad at the lower level settings. At full song, it is howling with gusto. I got used to it (mostly) but one the whole I didn’t like it that much. My first E-bike had noisy internal reduction gears, yet not at this decibel level.

It would have taken a lot more testing to see how much it was wearing out the tire tread, but it did have black rubber dust on the unit when I removed it when the test was over. I would have liked them to add some kind of battery charge level lights or gauge (it has neither), so I had a touch of warning when the power was ready to fade. I could feel the power weakening some before it just fully turned off, leaving me to pedal unassisted (not that bad though because the bike was still lightweight and not encumbered with extra drag).

Other than the hand throttle, the whole system is visible in this shot.

It does have a small capacity lithium battery (which weighs close to nothing), but the range is the loser here. Many will be happy with this, depending on their needs and travel distance. I got only 8 miles on one of my charge sessions, yet I was at full power the whole time, used it a lot and took on some steep local grades. On another charge cycle I did 16 miles and felt like the battery was only half discharged. That time I was using the power when needed and did your basic hill and dale riding without too much steepness.

One more thing here before I go on about how much I liked it, that tiny motor got pretty hot on the hill climbs. Not once did it seem to affect the performance, yet after a particularly long (not real steep, yet steep) run, my heat gun read out at 250 degrees (F) on the motor housing. That is getting up there. The motor hangs down in the breeze and has large vent holes so it cooled back down pretty quick, yet it getting that hot, and what that have been doing to my tire, did concern me some.

You can get a feel from this angle how the add-e friction wheel (motor) drives the back tire.

Past all that, the Add-e never skipped a beat and was able to power my hybrid bike to maybe 23 mph on level ground. For such a small system it was surprising to see it rated at 600 watts. It did get-up and go almost as good as some powerful 500 watt hub motor E-bikes I have ridden. Never once was I wanting more drive, as this featherweight itty bitty conversion kit packs a mean punch. The battery is rated at 24 volts and 7.2 Ah (this adds up to about 173 watt hours—not that much compared to all the other E-bikes out there). It must be pretty efficient to get the performance it does. BTW, the battery has a one hour recharge time.

The motor is attached to the small ECU (control unit) with a hinging mechanism. Gravity keeps the friction wheel away from the tire when not powered up. The force of the motor starting pulls it in contact with the tire when in use. Once engaged, it transfers the turning energy to the tire with friction (some of that heat is a result of this). There are adjustments on the unit to make it work just right. Very ingenious and consistent I must say.

This is everything I used to convert the bike—there were still a few pieces in the box I didn’t use.

It mounts to the bike either to the kickstand bracket (meaning no kickstand unless you have or purchase a rear mounted one), or under the bottom bracket bearing race and retaining nut (with included brackets). It should fit most modern bikes, yet I couldn’t get it to mount to my vintage bikes (but I bet I could with some fancy maneuvering). The sensor for the automatic pedelec function also mounts in this way (under the BB race and nut).

I decided to take the easy route and use the hand throttle it comes with, (actually 2, thumb or half-twist—I used the thumb). I felt I could control the power better this way—it made for an easier install—and felt like the best way to go. The knob on the top of the bottle battery (which mounts just like any bottle cage) is the power level control actuator. Off is fully counter-clockwise and each click the other way (6 in all I think) giving more power, with full available when turned all the way clockwise.

Looking much like any bike out there, most would be hard pressed to tell it has an electric-assist.

Unlike most E-bikes with a hand throttle, this one works more like an on-off switch, with your power level being chosen with the battery knob. This made sense to me as it is replacing the on-off function of the bottom bracket sensor. One thing to note, the battery knob does not shut down the system completely, so even turning it off leaves the basic system powered up. When not in use, I would just lift the bottle battery slightly out of its cage so the contacts in the bottom would be disconnected. Otherwise it will run the battery charge down while sitting idle. The battery has a fairly tight friction fit, that and gravity were all that holds it in, this was never an issue during the entire test.

With so much to like, I think many could easily overlook the few failings (maybe not the correct word). The Add-e conversion is very stealthy and light. It is powerful too. Being made in Austria you know the quality is strong (as is the price). When you compare it to complete E-bikes and other kits, the buy in is not too bad, and it does seem to be a one-of-a-kind unit, with very unique features some are looking for. Maybe the Add-e is that one you have been looking for,

E-biking can be so easy and fun, Turbo Bob.

“I am afraid it is a non-starter. I cannot even use a bicycle pump (let alone a computer).”—Judi Dench.

Look for Add-e on their site or Facebook.

http://www.add-e.de/en/

https://www.facebook.com/www.adde.at/

Thanks to ELV Motors for letting me test an Add-e kit off the shelf.

https://www.facebook.com/elvmotorsinc/?fref=ts

I took some videos of the Add-e (of course), Here they are.

 

Posted in Bike accessories, E-bike test reviews | 2 Comments