Pedego Stretch E-cargo Bike—The Strong, Silent Type

Pedego Stretch E-cargo Bike—The Strong, Silent Type.

As delivered, I had yet to add the rear rack components or all the extra goodies. Still you can see how well equipped the Pedego Stretch is.

We all have that favorite movie actor who would be the best sidekick, tough, yet mild mannered on a daily basis.   The Pedego Stretch may not be a star (yet), but having one in your life could be awesome.   I was lucky enough to get one of the first run models of this brand-new electric-assist cargo bike.   I let it star in my own personal movie for several weeks.   I must say it was a great production that will stay in my mind like the best classic movies do.

Three colors can grace the extra strong aluminum frame (black, green or red).   Mine was in the brightest flame red you can imagine.   I think the color might have been part of why it drew so much attention, but much had to do with the appeal cargo bikes are getting nowadays.   Many are using them as car replacements, yet most of those had already abandoned their cars.   Either way, I like to think of them as lifestyle supplements.   A bike like this can give you so much help and happiness as the months go by.

Lurking out of sight is the strong, quiet motor and the gear train. The side skirts are there for your safety.

Cargo bikes are designed to carry a load, whether it be your kids, shopping or?   The more weight you load on-board, the harder it will be to pedal the bike, especially as you hit the hills.   That is why adding the electric-assist is so popular.   Pedego isn’t the first (or last) to do this, but they really hit the price point well and make a bike that is as smooth as silk.   The way E-bike control systems work is a big deal for me and I am happy to report this one is spot on (watch the video below).

There are many cool features you will find on the Stretch, like the powered USB port for your phone and audio.   The versatility of the racks and footboards is very well thought out.   It takes more than a couple minutes, but the different positions can really help tailor the bike to your specific needs. I got a chance to test this out when one of our friends came to a group ride planning on meeting us at our dinner destination by car.   Her knee was acting up so she had decided not to ride with the group.   No problem, a make-shift seat and backrest pad—and we were off for the best of times.

I was glad to get chance to try the Pedego Stretch in a way it was designed for.

Riding with her on the back took a bit more attention to bike control, but was fully doable.   I did lower the seat some so I had better stability at the stops, and while she was getting on and off.   The bike is listed at being able to handle 400 lbs.   We were still below that with room for more.   The 24” tires are big balloon types and the spokes are as beefy as they get.   The slightly smaller than normal tires help keep the rear deck height lower for better balance and more room for your load.

One drawback of the ultra-firm frame can be a stiff ride on the rough stuff.   You can lower the tire pressure some to smooth it out.   Make sure to not go too low, especially when you are loaded down quite a bit.   On most normal roads and pathways the bike rode really smooth, yet the big hits do catch your attention.   I am glad they kept the bike simple without front or rear suspension.   Although suspension can be nice, they can be weak and very maintenance needy.   I would rather count on the suspension seat post (and plush saddle) for some comfort, than have the risky and heavy suspension on the bike.

Even the handle style lends for total comfort.

The control panel on the handle bars is close at hand for safety when setting the pedelec power modes.   The bar height and angle is quickly adjusted with the strong multi adjustor mechanism.   The Pedego Stretch will fit a wide range of people as the saddle can go very high and low, with the bars matching that easily.   I enjoyed the very upright seating position, even with my over 6 foot frame.   The throttle is on the right near the shifter for the 7-speed drivetrain.   Backlighting on the LCD panel comes on with the front and rear lights, that get their power from the bike’s motor battery.   The lights work well for basic rides, yet out on the open road some add-ons are a good idea.

Can you see me coming? I’m a sensation—the bike that is.

Speaking of add-ons, I really went to town on this E-cargo bike.   I started out with the Pedego branded saddle bag and handlebar bag I had from a previous test.   My ABUS Bordo 6500 Plus lock was a given.   From there I added all kinds of cool lights on the bars, in the wheels and on the frame.   Even my ORP Smart Horn found a place on up front.   With each nighttime ride (and there were many), I was sure that I could see and was fully being seen.   Many commented “What a cool bike” because of the lights, yet had no real idea just how cool this Pedego Stretch E-cargo bike really is.

Big battery—big saddle—big fun—big convenience.

The bike I tested had the 17 Ah extended range battery.   With so many wanting to make sure they don’t run out of power on a ride, these larger capacity batteries continue to get more popular.   I cruised this downtown and beyond many a time.   For most, the battery will outlast your ride length desire a couple times over.   I did a couple 50 milers on one charge each with no problem.   With the weight of this particular bike, you do want to make sure to not outride the battery, as normal pedaling can be quite strenuous.   You do add maybe 50 percent of the power with your legs most of the time, but 100 percent would be worth avoiding if you can.   Not that the bike doesn’t ride ok without the power, it is just one beefy, heavy bike.

I do recommend watching the video I did explaining the power control system and its use.   I could go into details here, but won’t.   I will say the soft-start is wonderful.   On any E-bike you don’t want it to take off abruptly, but when your precious cargo is part of the journey (kids?), you want nothing but smooth.   Plenty of climbing power is another feature of the Pedego Stretch, although with their reputation, you probably figured that out for yourself.   And from stem to stern, you get a strong, silent ride anywhere you go.   What a great sidekick.

Yup, I liked it, maybe you will too,   Turbo Bob.

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

Pedego shops are around world-wide. You can find them on the web and Facebook.

https://www.pedegoelectricbikes.com/

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

Just some of the videos I posted on the Pedego Stretch.

Posted in E-bike test reviews | 1 Comment

ULTIMATE COMMUTER E-BIKE BUILD—Part #2—The Bike

ULTIMATE COMMUTER E-BIKE BUILD—Part #2—The Bike.

This little English hybrid is going to fit the bill well.

The build is well underway, yet I want to step back a bit and talk about my bike choice—and yours.   The word “ultimate” can mean many things, and to achieve it we must start with a bike we like, that fits us, and can handle the tasks in mind.   Most of our goals will only be met with the right bike to do this build, so it is up to you to start out on the right foot.   Like I said before I want this build to not necessarily be a bike to copy to the letter, but to help guide you towards your “ultimate”.

Choosing the right bike for your build is as important as how you acquire it.   This too is a subject for the article at hand.   And, what it might need to get it prepped for the electric-assist conversion before we can move forward will be discussed (I know mine needed more than a wipe-down).   So here we go, find your “ultimate” and start building.

It has old-school V brakes, yet they are powerful and simple.

As we know there are so many types and sizes of bikes out there.  What makes up a commuter bike is a lengthy subject with a different answer for all.   My mind set was for more of a townie bike, but not a cruiser.   I sure didn’t want a low-bar road bike or mountain bike.   I had some ideas in mind and one reason I thought about a townie is for the up-right cockpit and the beefy 26” tires they have.   That was more for the comfort and safety, but 700c tires roll easier and most would agree better suited for a commuter.   The bike I decided on is a hybrid.   This one a uni-sex (low-frame), devoid of any complicated suspension, with 700c tires.   They are the slightly beefier 700c tires, so that will help smooth things out a bit.

Part of this build revolves around keeping the cost reasonable.   That doesn’t mean the cheapest, or the most expensive either.   What it means is a good value for the money outlay.   Starting with a used bike can help trim the expense, as long as it is in good shape (and a good fit of course).   There are many sources of good used bikes and some bad ones.   Also with a used bike, it must be checked very closely for obvious defects and wear.  If you opt for a new bike it will come with a warrantee (although doing the electric conversion will most likely wipe that out).

Not the highest end equipment here. Still there is virtually no wear and that ultra low first gear will help on the hills.

If you go for new, keep in mind this doesn’t mean one from a big box store.   I would think any bike less than maybe $500 brand new isn’t the best candidate for our build (strength and quality control issues among others).   You could spend a whole lot more if you want. Getting one new should (but don’t count on it) mean it won’t need any repairs and reworking before we start.  I can’t count the number of newer bikes I have worked on that had too little grease on the bearings and had them adjusted way too tight.   The more you spend the less you should have to worry (or go though the bike 100% to be sure it was set up right).

As you shop for the bike, make sure it is right for the E-bike conversion kit (or components) you are planning on using.   In this case it is the eRAD mid-drive from Lectric Cycles.   It won’t fit every bike, although they continue to make more adaptors to cover most all.   You might be thinking of a front or rear hub motor conversion.   Once again, there are bikes that won’t work (mostly the vintage ones).   Battery mounting type and location needs to be considered, along with the general strength and quality of the bike itself.   The company that supplies your kit should be able to help you confirm compatibility.

The all in one brake lever / shifters are getting replaced. The eRAD comes with brake levers with motor safety cut-off switches. The front derailleur is headed out too, and I have a cool replacement shifter for the back gears.

One goal is bike security.   This as much for the bike itself as for the pieces on-board (lights, bags etc).   This build will have some pricey accessories, yet I have plans to keep them out of the hands of others.   We will discuss those, locking techniques, and bike locks as we go.   Part of the reason I bring this up here has to do with just how nice of a bike we start out with as our foundation.   If we go overboard here, it becomes that much more of a target.   A mechanically solid bike that looks terrible could be your best option, although I think we like clean and shiny.   Some might smudge the paint with primer and dulls to camouflage it, yet that is not my plan for this build.

30 lbs. of strong steel bike will be the foundation of this ULTIMATE COMMUTER E-BIKE BUILD.

In my case I decided to start with a used bike.   There are some bike shops that sell used bikes and reconditioned ones.   They can be hard to find as most will concentrate fully on new bikes for a few key reasons.   If you can get a good used bike from a bike shop you have the best chance of success (although not always).   So that leaves you with friends, the classifieds, eBay, swap meets, yard sales and Craig’s List.   Any and all of these can be risky.   How they acquired the bike in the first place, what it’s been through and how it’s been taken care of all figure in to the equation.   Plus the time needed to do the footwork has to be considered.

I do keep an eye on Craig’s List on occasion, so that is where I ended up for my hybrid.   I did get lucky as the people were for sure the original owners and kept the bike indoors since the purchase 12 years ago.   Plus this one has a different heritage than I expected, adding to my interest levels.   The company apparently wasn’t in business for long, hand-built the bike in England, and speced it out decently.   It fits my needs and is pretty rare too, although most of the pieces are fairly common.   The people bought it while living there, the wife rode it for maybe a year, and then brought it home to be kept indoors until I arrived on the scene.

This and the original sticker for the English bike shop that sold it are interesting.

With some reworking, up-dates and TLC, it will fit many of my goals nicely.   It is a simple bike to be sure.   With upright seating and decent parts it will be comfortable and reliable (with some added pieces of course).   It is easy to work on and has strong brakes, so the ease and safety goals will be filled.   It has a steel frame that will help the ride quality and make it last a long time, even with some overloading and heavy use.   I have fully torn it down to inspect, polish and rework every crevice.   It is mostly back together at this point, getting ready for all the great new pieces, including the eRAD mid-drive.

There is one last goal it meets well.   I normally don’t mention cost in all my reviews and the such.   I have promised to do so for this build, including my cost, your potential costs and list prices.   So to start out, let me say that although she didn’t want much for the bike in the first place, I did talk her down a bit because of the slightly cracked tires and torn handgrips (parts I planned on changing anyway).   So step one of this ULTIMATE COMMUTER E-BIKE BUILD has set me back $25.   Good start.

The teardown didn’t reveal any hidden surprises. This is how it sits as I write this. inspected, polished, full re-lubed, and ready to keep moving forward.

Next up, what I did to refurbish this bike and how you can do the same, Turbo Bob.

“My father is the Hollywood equivalent of a clean, fillet-brazed frame. My brother is like one of those fat-tubed aluminum Cannondales. I’m more like one of those Taiwanese Masis”.-–Emilio Estevez.

Here is a video of the bike when purchased.

Posted in Buying a used bike, E-bike general interest, General bike stories, My Bikes, Opinion | 2 Comments

Trike Safari at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park—If We Could Talk to the Animals

Trike Safari at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park—If We Could Talk to the Animals.

Our whole group of ‘Rhino Whisperers’ on the first stop.

Just imagine it, what a neat achievement that would be.   Dr. Dolittle may be a fictional character, yet the reality is that getting up close to some fantastic and exotic animals can be as easy as a visit to the Safari Park here in San Diego.   With their new Trike Safari, seeing (and talking to) them in what could be the closest setting to their natural environment is exciting and fun.   The electric-assist adult trikes will whisk you to areas that most will never experience, just outside of the large enclosures that house them.

This is a close-up of the popular eRAD electric bike conversion from Lectric Cycles. Electric Bike Central did a great job getting them all set-up. This is the same one I will use on the ULTIMATE COMMUTER E-BIKE BUILD.

My wife and I were so pleased to be in a position to take the safari.   Our group of 8 was escorted and enlightened by two of their courteous and wise guides.   There was room for two more guests as the fleet of trikes is ready for many takers.   They offer 4 one hour safaris every day, 5 depending on the season.   Count on being at least 12 years old to ride, and my sandals stayed behind as regular shoes are required for the safari.   Helmets and cool water were part of the included items, and they have shoes on-hand for the casual visitors like me.

A couple of my favorite shops were instrumental in helping the park put these trikes together.   Electric Bike Central in Little Italy did the work, mating the Sun adult three-wheeled trikes with the eRAD mid-drive systems from Lectric Cycles (Tempe AZ).   Their 350 watt motor is restricted to the lowest 3 power levels to give you just enough oomph for the rolling hills that surround the large habitats.   These are simple single-speed machines with a front V brake for stopping.   A large basket in the back handily holds your gear and an oversize saddle holds your ‘you know what’.

The fleet of eRAD powered trikes await our journey though the park.

The trikes maneuver easily enough as you work the dirt trails and gravel expanses, some with narrow paved cart paths in the middle.   Before you make it out with the animals, you get some riding instructions and a chance to prove your handling prowess on the shortest of obstacle courses in the meeting area.   With two guides handling the group, any issues or questions are worked out with you quickly, so enjoying the sights and sounds of the wild animals won’t be interrupted.   Some of the stops were on minor grades, making getting started again a minor chore until the automatic pedelec kicked in as the pedals turned a bit.

Austin made sure we could master the trikes before we ventured out into the wild.

On top of my known interest in reporting on E-bikes and E-bike tours (I think you know by now I will be a speaker at this year’s National Bicycle Tourism Conference on the subject of E-bike tours), I was truly intrigued by the unique perspective the Trike Safari offers of this incredible venue.   Way back they had rail car tours that really were great.   They switched to rubber-tired trams when the rail systems proved challenging to steady operations.   Some, me included, felt a better view of the park and animals were provided by the railcars and the paths they took though the park.

Still, the trams are a comfy and satisfying way to see the animals, and we did that tour just before our Trike Safari experience.   They encircle both the African Plains and Asian Savanna, and make stops for closer viewing and info sessions on just what the animals are all about.   There are other safaris too, including the chance to actually get inside the main enclosure to feed the giraffes.   The closest thing to the Trike Safari is the Cart Safari if you would rather be escorted in an oversize golf cart instead of having your own electric trike to enjoy.   The carts are the only other tour vehicles that visit the normally unseen parts deep in the park (and right along the enclosure’s fences).

At the lead of our group, our tour guide Breanne made sure we knew much about the giraffes we were watching.

The San Diego Zoo Safari Park tried some Segways before the trikes, but I can only imagine many of the reasons these trikes are a better experience.   I won’t say the paths we rode were steep or unduly rough, but did find the trikes handled our safari well.   The trikes and the Trike Safari are still morphing their way to perfection with minor changes as the weeks go by.   In the two months it has been active, it has proved very popular.   I was glad to offer them a few suggestions too, and could tell from the park’s response that they are genuinely interested in making sure that each Trike Safari guest gets the best experience possible.   BTW, if they decide to name the individual trikes with a popular animal’s name, you can thank me for that.

A beautiful day to be riding in the Asian and African wilderness.

Each Trike Safari will be different as the animals are on their own schedule.   The guides are keen to spot (and point out) the most interesting behaviors and animals closest to the boundaries on each tour they host.   Even though our visit was on a warm day, the beasts we came to see were very active.   There were a few that came to greet us, maybe thinking some snacks were in hand.   Stories of the rhinos getting restless with the trikes riding by were spoken of, yet today they seemed to accept our presence with just a mild interest.   Of course the electric trikes are quiet as can be, still not the kind of sights they got back home in the wild.

Part of the Trike Safari included areas not in the main habitats.   We rode close to the Cheetahs who were resting in the cool grass, and watched folks feeding the giraffes too.   At each chosen viewing site we parked our trusty trikes and got an earful of wisdom from the guides who have hands-on experience with many of the animals we came to interact with.   Although we weren’t really part of each animal’s live, it sure felt like it.   The stops were sometimes in the shade of trees from the homes of the animals we saw and that allowed for water breaks too.

Animals, trikes, water and shade—What a great experience.

So, do I recommend you take a Trike Safari, or for that matter, just make sure you visit the Zoo Safari Park?   By all means I do, as this is way more than just a first class operation.   It is the best of all worlds in viewing and learning about the creatures that roam our earth in faraway places.   Our Zoo in Balboa Park is really something to be sure, yet the way this park is set-up and run, it will grab the attention of anyone with even the mildest of interest levels for such things.

Climb aboard an electric trike, the animals are waiting to hear from you, Turbo Bob.

“Cyclers see considerable more of this beautiful world than any other class of citizens.  A good bicycle, well applied, will cure most ills this flesh is heir to.”—Dr. K. K. Doty

Look for the San Diego Zoo Safari Park on-line.

http://www.sdzsafaripark.org/

https://www.facebook.com/pages/San-Diego-Zoo-Safari-Park/140126389361451?fref=ts

Links to find Electric Bike Central

http://electricbikecentral.com/

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

Looking for Lectric Cycles?   This will help.

http://www.lectriccycles.com/

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

These videos I took on the Trike Safari will give you a basic feel what to expect on your visit.

Posted in E-bike general interest, General bike stories, Local bike rides, Opinion | 2 Comments

ULTIMATE COMMUTER E-BIKE BUILD—Part #1—The Goals

ULTIMATE COMMUTER E-BIKE BUILD—Part #1—The Goals.

Maybe not your idea of ultimate, yet I do feel this will work well to match my goals. Smooth rolling and comfortable, this hybrid bike will be a good base for my build.

This fun and useful E-bike build came to mind as I started moving towards an extended test on the eRAD mid-drive conversion from Lectric Cycles.   Although I considered using one of the bikes I already own, none really fit the bill.   That led me to a cool English-made hybrid I found on Craig’s List.   I decided to put together an E-bike that can fulfill many needs, yet it will concentrate on being a commuter bike.   I realize that everyone’s idea of ‘ultimate’ will differ, we aren’t going for the lightest, fastest or most expensive piece, yet one with some useful features and creative ideas.

In this introductory article on the ultimate commuter E-bike build, I will outline some of the goals I have chosen, many might be on your list too.   These will come here in no particular order, and I might add some additional ones before the build is completed and put to use.   For some, just buying a ready-to-ride E-bike might work better, either way there is bound to be some compromises.   We may save some money building it ourselves (and then again, maybe not), but we will have the ability to pick and choose the pieces and how they all come together.   So follow along with this multi-part series, and don’t forget to watch the videos too.

Comfort

The Body Float seat post is already proven to make riding a great experience.

This is a key goal, as we are planning on putting some serious time on the pedals.   It starts with getting the right bike as a platform, and moves though each piece we add.   The correct fit of the bike (and type), the saddle that fits you best, and the ease of use of the control system will all work towards this goal.   We might make some changes to our original items and adjustments, to get the fit and feel we strive for.   We won’t ride this bike if we aren’t happy with it.

Reliability

Of course we want this E-bike conversion to stand the test of time without letting us down.   The pieces we choose, the way they are installed, and the maintenance we give it are all working together for a good experience.   If for some reason you can’t do it yourself, enlist a friend or mechanic good with wrenches and an eye for detail.   Just as with any bike, an E-bike must get treated correctly to make each mile with no (or minimal) issues.

Ease of build

Advances with the eRAD mid-drive will allow great efficiency and climbing power.

I want to make this doable without major learning or sweating.   The conversion kit chosen will help.   Mid-drive E-bikes can be a bit more on the complicated side, yet the eRAD is geared for the DIYer.   We are talking the whole bike too, not just the electric-assist system.   This is just one of the reasons we don’t want front and rear suspension (at least I don’t).   There are other things that might speak ‘ultimate’ that we will avoid for this same reason.

Simplicity

In order to make this work and last, we will be passing on complicated items (like the above mentioned suspension).   Bikes can be the simplest of pleasures, or with too much effort become a bear of over engineering.   Each of the added pieces have the same ability to go overboard away from this goal.   You may find you want all that in your E-bike, but I strive to stay on the simple side when at all possible.

Safety

Serfas wants everyone to have the ultimate bike. These are just some of the parts from their catalog I will use.

Part of this will come with quality parts.   Figure the choice of types of parts will affect this goal (I have chosen Serfas for many of the up-grades and replacement parts).   Some will come with the quality of the workmanship.   Some will come with the bike chosen.   Don’t forget that some of this will come from the way you choose to ride it.   I will add great parts, great lighting, and try to melt them together in a commuter E-bike that will be as safe to ride as possible.

Looks

Personally I like an E-bike that looks as much like a regular bike as possible.   I am sure you have seen E-bikes with unusual looks, fairings and battery covers.   I plan on avoiding this at all costs.   The mid-drive motor of the eRAD is pretty stealthy, but the battery will be visible on the frame rails.   I am starting with a bike type that is a favorite of mine, what might be called a college bike.   You might want to go a different direction and by all means do follow your desires.

Range

This can be a tough one.   Generally the larger capacity batteries cost and weigh more (and take up more space on the bike).   The eRAD system is very efficient with the battery power when ridden correctly.   They do offer a longer range battery, as do many E-bike conversion kit companies.   We will use a 11.6 Ah one that tucks nicely into the frame.   I think the best way to increase your range if needed, is to purchase a second battery and keep it in the panniers or trailer (when used).   We will talk more about our range (and many other things of course) in the up-coming articles.

Security

With any commuting bike this is important.   I was lucky to be able to keep my commuting E-bike by my workbench (still locked of course), you might not be so fortunate,   I have some creative (and some not so creative) ideas on how we can get by this.   Not my first choice, but used by many, is to make you bike look like a rusted junker so no one would take it.   I’m not going that route, but will show you my plans.

Lights

You may not plan or riding at night, yet sometimes it is un-avoidable.   We will use them to light the way and create a safety buffer, even in the daytime.   I recommend you don’t scrimp on this part of the bike build.   And like the goal above, we will discuss how to keep them in your possession, not someone else’s.

Load carrying ability

You will probably need to take more than just a cup of coffee with you on your commute.   This subject concerns not only the weight of your bike and cargo, but also how to motivate it down the road.   Plus, one of the reasons we have the electric-assist isn’t just for the hills, but to haul that load, whether it be work needs, groceries or other stuff you want to take along.   Lectric Cycles recommended their 350 watt kit for this bike, yet I opted for the 500 watt unit to make sure we can conquer the hills with some extra cargo on-board.

Costs

These are parts I have purchased or had been using already. They too will bring this project to reality.

I normally don’t talk about this subject, but for this project I will.   I will list my out-of-pocket expenses, what it might cost you, and total list prices for the items used.   There will be different pieces you might want to use because of your own preferences or because of the money outlay.   My goal here is to get a good value, not make it the ultimately most costly bike, but not the cheapest either.

Follow along to the end

Many subjects will be covered as this happens.   What bike you choose, where you get it, and how you prep it will be first.   I hope the ideas here will be helpful as you move towards matching the goals you have set for yourself to create the ULTIMATE COMMUTER E-BIKE!   Turbo Bob.

“Melancholy is incompatible with bicycling”.—James E. Starrs.

Lectric Cycles will supply the conversion kit. Find them on the web and Facebook.

http://www.lectriccycles.com/

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

Serfas will have a big impact on this project. You can find them here.

https://www.serfas.com/

https://www.facebook.com/pages/Serfas/253715736950?fref=ts

The Body Float from Cirrus Cycles will provide much toward the comfort goal.

http://www.cirruscycles.com/

https://www.facebook.com/pages/Cirrus-Cycles-BodyFloat/692640780820300?fref=ts

LightMeUp Safety Lights  will be on-board too.

http://www.lightmeupsafetylights.com/

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

Here are the first three videos in this series.

Posted in Bike accessories, Bike maintenance, E-bike general interest, E-bike test reviews, My Bikes, Opinion | Leave a comment

Fifield Jetty Folding E-bike—Silver Sprinter

Fifield Jetty Folding E-bike—Silver Sprinter.

Fun in the sun with the Jetty by Fifield.

The more people I talk to about electric-assist bikes, the subject of folding E-bikes continually gets willingly meshed into the conversation. The two make a great team with most all the features many hope for in a bike. Each of the two categories have major pluses, so it only makes sense that a folding electric bike is going to shine. Fifield has put this one together and shine it does. Part of that is its new reflective silver paint job.

A couple other things they changed are adding the stout mag wheels and some internal routing of the wiring. What remains is an easy to fold, easy riding bike that will fit most all that want to have some fun. More than just the fun, is all that it can do to get you around in a clean and comfortable way. I have gone on before about all the benefits you get from this combo of bike genres, and the Jetty is all that and more.

The motor blends nicely into those rugged spoked mags.

One of the first things you might notice is the apparent lack of a battery. It is inside the aluminum frame, as is most the wiring and the ECU (motor controller). This adds some style and maximizes the stealth feel of the Jetty. Next up are those not so stealthy mag wheels. With no spokes to adjust or snap, they add more than just eye candy, and should hold more weight than other bikes in its class. Although this bike is much for the boat and RV crowd, don’t forget the people who need a compact, storable E-bike for many other reasons.

Not really designed to be a road warrior, I didn’t let this stop me from taking a bunch of great runs in the back country and on beach routes. I packed it along for an out-of-town extended weekend and even one of our local E-bike club road rides. I did expect it to be just a tag lighter than its 50 lbs, but adding all the creature comforts like fenders, lights and a rear rack can take its toll. Getting it in and out of the car wasn’t an issue, as when folded it is pretty easy to maneuver. It also has a handy carry handle as part of the frame.

Eye candy can be fully functional.

There were a couple things on their website spec sheet that seemed a bit optimistic. One has to do with the fact that my test bike had the speedometer slightly off in the calibration mode. Maybe that is why it really didn’t do 20 MPH, although the speedo said it was. With it set right, I think it would hit it, but can’t be sure right now. Also, like most E-bikes I test, the stated range was a tad on the high side (although battery range has to do with many factors). With its 7 AH battery (36 volt) and 250 watt motor, I calculated with my riding style, about a 16 mile range with some to spare. On one climbing, undulating long ride I was right. Luckily it has a full gear set and rides ok when un-powered.

The Jetty is lighting the way to smart transportation.

Fifield has their control system programmed to help you make the most of that small capacity lithium battery. The way it works wouldn’t be my first choice, yet I fully understand why it is as it is, and learned to use it the way they designed. Being a dual control system (hand throttle and pedelec), you have options on ways to add the electric-assist to your ride. I explained it all in a video (linked at the bottom of this review), but I will try to do so in words here too.

The pedelec has two ways it chooses the motor’s amount of power. One is to determine that the pedals are moving, the other to tell how fast they are moving. With 6 levels of assist you can set on the LCD control panel (including a 0 so you can ride unassisted and still have the panel info fired-up), each one sets the motor power according to the number (1 lowest–6 highest). Once you start pedaling the motor will come to that power level, except when the pedals are turning slower than a preset (in the ECU) RPM (cadence). And to add, when you turn on the bike’s power system, the assist level comes to #3 by default.

Lots of info is there with just a quick glance.

What that means is, in any particular gear, if you slow down and the pedals slow down too, the motor will reduce power assist. To regain that level of assist you can pedal faster or downshift. To me it seems backwards as if my pedal speed reduces (on a hill for instance), I would want more assist to make up for it. Like I said before though, this is one way the Jetty helps reduce battery use to save some for the longer rides. At that point to you can just use the hand throttle for the boost of power to get you back to the desired speed if wanted.

The throttle will add full power at any time although you need to activate the motor with the pedaling first. Once the throttle takes control, it stays active until you quit using it while not pedaling. So, the throttle only works once you pedal to start the motor. Watch the video if my words don’t explain this well. Once again it is set this way to try to get you to reduce your dependence on the battery and extend your rides, saving the battery for the grades and such.

Fully assembled and packed well, I was ready to go right away.

The built-in lighting system works better than many I try and it was a joy to have it. All the other added on goodies were welcome too, including the beefy kickstand and sturdy rack. I took advantage of the fenders more than once, rung the bell fanatically, and thought those large cross-section 20” tires handled the road well (some basic off-road too). The saddle and I became friends, and never once did the disc brakes fail to please. This well-rounded package became a sidekick of sorts, and shipping it back to Fifield won’t be my favorite day.

A good friend can be human—or electric powered.

In one of my videos I rode the Jetty past a jetty in Carlsbad. I thought that was appropriate, yet this bike has so much to offer, just pairing up with the water folks would be a shame. It is a cool name for a folding E-bike, but be creative on how it can work for you. Hill or dale, water or desert, this little folder can be your sidekick too.

BTW, when I first came upon the Fifield E-bike company, it was their in-house built, steel framed flagship E-bike that caught my eye. With style, class and steel, it really looks and sounds like my kind of E-bike. Check out all their bikes, yet the Jetty might be just your cup of tea.

Bring it on Fifield, Turbo Bob.

“You can’t buy happiness, but you can buy a bicycle and that’s pretty close.”—Anon.

Look for Fifield on their website and Facebook.

http://www.fifieldebikes.com/

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

Videos about the Jetty from my You-Tube channel

 

 

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

ThorFire Bike Lights—High-output & Low Buy-in

ThorFire Bike Lights—High-output & Low Buy-in.

This is everything that came in the packages—BL02 on the left, BL01 on the right.

I don’t know about you, but my head spins every time I see a person on a bike at night with no lights. Many just have the dimmest of taillights thinking that will keep them seen and light the way. Don’t think so. I’ll be the first to admit as a kid I rode countless night miles with nothing but an occasional moon to light my way (no reflectors either). Back then you had two choices (three if you count mine), a wheel turned generator set that barely glowed and taping a two-celled D flashlight to the handlebars. Things have really changed with bike light selections, road density and the lack of careful, observant drivers.

This BL02 from ThorFire packs a big punch. Well made too.

I’m not sure if money is a reason for those riders with no lights, but if it is, here is the solution. ThorFire lighting systems (I call it a system because they pack a cool laser taillight in the box at no additional cost) have put out an incredibly bright pair of headlights at a fee that anyone who can afford a bike in the first place can handle. The strong lithium battery is good for hours of riding time and all the needed goodies are in the box. There is no longer an excuse for riding dark.

The first thing I liked about these lights was that once I decided to try some, they were at my doorstep before the ’check’ cleared the bank. They are available on-line from a couple sources, including that big one that wants to start delivering with drones. I got mine by a truck that seemed to have the speed of a swooping, flying delivery machine. This company has many LED products for all kind of uses, yet the ones for bikes got to me. They will have more bicycle oriented items out very soon.

Just setting on the ground, the laser taillights cast an eerie pattern.

I got the single light (BL01) and double light (BL02) sets. These are complete with lithium battery & holder, wiring, charger, O-rings (to mount the lights) and a pretty good manual. Like I said before, you will find a free laser taillight in the box too, let’s talk about that first I guess. It runs on a pair of AAA batteries and is not the same quality level of their headlamps in a couple ways. These are more or less regular LED lights with a added twist. The laser part is called a safety zone light. These are two high-intensity focused LED lights that shoot red beams on each side of your bike.

The laser part is kind of a gimmick, but cool enough. The approaching cars won’t see it, but you and your riding friends will. The lights are all plastic and the taillight part is not nearly as bright as many I use. Still, with several blinking modes it will do the job (the laser lights can blink too). They hold to your bike with beefy O-rings and that is ok for these light-weight units. Unlike the modern electronics in the headlamps, to turn them off you need to toggle though all the modes, while the headlamps just require you to hold the button for a couple seconds.

Here you can see the small LED that does some big work. No focusing is involved—just lots of light. The BL01.

The headlamps are well built and made mostly of sturdy aluminum. The wiring appears well done too. They have 3 levels of brightness and include a blinking function too (way bright). The aluminum acts like a heat sink to keep things cool, yet when on high you don’t want to touch them until they cool after being shut-down. The switch on the back (remember I am talking about both headlights for most of this) is water sealed and has a good feel. Surrounding the switch is a light to tell you the charge left in the battery with different colors as the indicators.

The beam is un-focused and un-diffused. Not a big problem here as most LED headlamps are the same. Only two out of the many lights I have used (these were top-end European units) are focused with a flat beam on top, like cars and motorcycles. The beam the ThorFire lights project is fully round with most of the light in the center. It is up to you to aim the light in a way that works best for you and the surrounding world. At slower speeds point it down a fair amount, yet a bit higher as you speed up so you can see the road ahead well. When I use the flashing mode in the daytime, I set the light level to the ground so it really catches the eyes of all ahead of me.

The power button is on top, the back has a three color light to tell you how the charge level of the battery is doing.

When you first turn it on it goes to max output. The next push is for medium and then low. If you double toggle, that actuates the flashing beam (high-output only). When you hold the button it turns it off. This pretty much the norm for most good bike lights, and makes good sense as you use it. The run times are long with the high-capacity battery. We are talking 24 hours for the double and 57 for the single when set on low. Most likely you will use the medium beam and get 6 and 8 hours respectively. At high they are speced at 2 and 4 hours.

Lumen ratings———-BL01 (single)—–High (674)—–Medium (240)—-Low (85)

BL02 (double)—-High (1240)—-Medium (450)—-Low (150).

Weight (w/battery)—-BL01 (single)—12 oz.——BL02 (double)—14 oz.

The safety zone taillights are cool, but more for you and your riding friends, than the rest of the world.

There are a couple things to mention here. One is that the Velcro strap on the battery holder is designed well for large diameter bike frames and the such, but not so much for the smaller handlebars. You can modify it or add another strap of your own I guess. On several of the bikes I used them on I just put the battery in the front carry bag. The cord is long so the battery can fit anywhere that works. The charging unit supplied isn’t a smart charger. The instructions don’t cover it, but their tech squad told me about 5-6 hours is the correct time when the battery is flat of charge. Best to give them a 24 hour first charge, but only that time, don’t leave them plugged in more than that 6 hours if you can help it.

As far as when to charge, the built-in light (on the back of the headlight) will glow blue when all is well. It will go to yellow to tell you it is at maybe half capacity left, and when it hits red you are overdue for a recharge. There is an extra cord included to allow you to recharge one battery from another, which really doesn’t make to much sense to me, yet the option is there. Last up is the O-ring mounting. It just isn’t strong enough to hold the headlight solidly in place when you hit bumps in the road (making it tilt down). Two diameter sizes of O-rings come with each light. I am thinking about getting some beefier ones, yet in the meantime I just readjust the light every now and then. I also tried a cardboard shim under the O-ring that helped make it fit tighter.

It’s hard to photograph how bright they are. Check the videos I posted too.

These are very bright lights. The manual reminds you not to look directly into it. That includes the people and pets around you. As with any bright light, be responsible and smart. Turn it off or point it down when you feel it might harm others. Don’t touch it (or let others) if it has been on high for a while. These lights can save your skin, but keep in mind what else they can do that isn’t good.

Did I mention they are radically affordable? Turbo Bob.

“She who succeeds in gaining the master of the bicycle will gain the mastery of life.”—Frances E. Willard.

Just Google ThorFire for more info and ordering sites.

Here are the matching videos I posted.

 

Posted in Bike accessories | Leave a comment

E-Freedom E-bike from Green World Bike—Black Thunder

E-Freedom E-bike from Green World Bike—Black Thunder.

Looks aren’t everything, yet when matched with good performance, it sure doesn’t hurt.

Just recently up-graded to a 500 watt motor, this is one E-bike that really knows how to stretch its legs. Add the matte black paint, some sleek mag wheels and a plush fork, and you have a bike that aims to please with each rush of power. I was able to rack up some decent miles on this E-Freedom and had a lot of fun doing it. I felt like I was flying under the radar, as the lithium battery is hidden from view, and the sport feel it offers makes you want to push your excitement levels to high.

Unlike many rear hub motor E-bikes, this one has a more balanced ride, thanks to the battery being fairly low and in the center of the chassis. The power and speed talk 48 volts, yet it has the more common 36 volt system (10 Ah too). Pull and climbing ability have much more to do with a balanced electrical system than just voltage. When everything works in harmony you can expect a good experience.

The command center is lean and mean.

It has a premium display panel in the center of the bars. Much can be seen there, including the wattage the motor is pulling at any given moment. Of course speed, distance and the such are included, along with a readout of the level of assist you have set from the thumb close button panel. Being able to make your settings without taking your hand from the grip is a good thing indeed.

This E-Freedom uses a dual control layout that works in a way I like. The automatic pedelec system was responsive with a good range between the 5 levels. It too has an 0 (off) position that keeps the motor off during pedaling, yet allows the bike to stay on so all the display readings are visible. Another good thing is that the thumb throttle (right side) stays active in all the settings including 0. The only thing that I could see be improved here is having the throttle programmed to be a true override. It will increase the power during use, but doesn’t override the pedelec function to allow a lower power output when the pedelec level is set in high.

500 watts feels pretty nice.

The display parameters are adjustable in many ways. Such things as time delay of the pedelec when starting and stopping pedaling can be set. I got the (secret?) manual to show me all the settings, yet is was in poorly translated English, so I didn’t enter those menus to play with the settings. I am told they are working up a more understandable tutorial to make it easier to tailor the motor programming to each rider’s needs. The default settings the bike came with was fine for me though.

The sport feel of the cockpit on this Green World Bike will work for many. I’d rather sit more upright, but I do enjoy my time on bikes like this. The 7 speed shifter and button panel had good positions for easy use. The soft fake-o (?) leather hand grips felt good and the E-Freedom comes with a Velo saddle that might not need up-grading for most riders (just wide and soft enough for a nice feel). The small bell is built-into the left brake lever and a super solid kickstand is mounted on the aluminum frame. The headlamp works ok, is powered from the motor battery, and is switched from the button panel.

Derailleur protectors aren’t seen too often nowadays, don’t know why.

The E-freedom I got was extra fast. I am thinking the governor wasn’t set, as 24 mph was easy to attain. On the whole, the handling was acceptable, and the Suntour fork has good damping. It didn’t take long to find the right preload setting on the fork that worked well for my weight and riding preferences. The gearing was close enough to what I like, so no gripes there. Going thought the gears was fun, especially with all that assist power on tap. The cable operated disc bakes never failed to please during each phase of testing.

Right away I noticed some extra flex in the rear. I quickly found it is due to a lack of total rigidity in the mag wheels. This did hamper my confidence some and the extra aggressive tires sure didn’t help that when riding on the pavement. The tires do have a center raised rib for smoothness when going straight, yet when laid over in the turns it was hitting on the knobbies, so I decided not to get anywhere near my perceived limits. I loved the way the mags looked, but for my tastes, a good set of standard spoked rims and more street-worthy tires would be welcome. That, or having some better, beefed up mags would work to help.

Not only are they up-dating the battery latch, the white part will be changed to black.

The lithium battery fills the void in the frame well. It is easily removed with the included key, and that is a good thing as it does need to removed for each recharging. Like all the E-bikes I test, the E-Freedom comes with a smart charger that does the job as intended. The battery has a main power switch on the housing as well as a set of lights to show remaining charge capacity. The display also shows cleanly how your battery levels progress during your ride. It has a carry handle too. One thing though, when reinstalling the battery in the frame, make sure it solidly clicks in place. It does take a good firm push.

Right now Green World Bike has 3 US models. Their brochure shows some others including a fat-tire E-bike. I was told they are prepping to launch more models here, so I would think with the popularity of the sand and snow E-bikes, that will be one of them. I even see some E-scooters there, and a couple folding E-bikes, the smaller of the two will be my next test subject from this E-bike company. Plus, more up-grades are in the works for this bike, including better tires, a reworked battery latch, and a rear taillight among others. So keep an eye on their website and Facebook page to see what they will be offering next.

Feast your eyes on this.

Green World Bike had a great first showing at my last E-bike seminar. Many flocked to try them out and from what I saw the response was very positive. Their 16” wheeled easy fold E-Trolley (my next bike from them) was one of the many big hits of the event. They seem to have a company policy of great bikes and happy customers. The way the E-bike industry is growing, I think we all see the need to please is a key to success.

See if you can test out an E-Freedom, I did. Turbo Bob.

“The bicycle is the most civilized conveyance known to man. Other forms of transport grow daily more nightmarish. Only the bicycle remains pure in heart.”—Iris Murdoch, The Red and Green.

Find them on the web and Facebook.

The E-Freedom—Ready to roll.

http://www.greenworldbike.com/

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

Here is a walkaround video I posted on this E-bike.

 

Posted in E-bike test reviews | Leave a comment