Bafang BBSHD (1000 Watt Mid-drive Electric Bike Conversion)—First Impressions

Bafang BBSHD (1000 Watt Mid-drive Electric Bike Conversion)—First Impressions.

Bigger cooling fins and the best electronics they have offered are just a few of the features this new mid-drive from Bafang has on-board.

Through the years mid-drive motors have been just a little unwieldy and complicated. Bafang helped to change all that with a slide-in unit that fits many bikes. Offered in a variety of power levels, it seems they were never enough. For me, 500 pulsing watts can handle every riding situation, 750 is fun, but overkill. Do we need 1000? We must, because that is what is coming out soon. I was lucky enough to get my hands on a prototype fresh from Interbike just last week and put it to the 24 hour test.

So you know as we proceed, I am not the biggest fan of mid-drive electric bikes. Sure I’ve ridden plenty, and even decided to use one on my latest project, the ULTIMATE COMMUTER E-BIKE BUILD. I will be sure to offer my 2 cents on the subject on these pages soon, and I think we have all seen many don’t share my feelings when it comes to electric bike power units. Just wandering the halls at Interbike tells you that the makers of conversions and ready-to-ride E-bikes are ramping up the mid-drive options at a 1000 watt pace. We must want them, or they wouldn’t make them.

I guess this is how you mount your battery when you are all out of duct tape and gorilla snot.

The test unit I got was already mounted-up on a unfamiliar (to me) fat-tire street / mountain bike. The sad truth here is that whoever did the install was either in a big hurry or lacked a attention to detail that is needed for any conversion, much less a high-powered one. It was a Interbike demo bike that many had ridden there and must have worked ok, but it wouldn’t run when I picked it up. That was a simple fix, and I took care of the enough issues to do the test, yet there were several I left unattended. The video I posted turned into a “Don’t be this guy” when you do a conversion. The one thing I didn’t mention in it is how much I fight against non-flush cut tie straps (the link to the video is below).

You want performance info first, I want to talk about the programming instead. It was set different than most I ride, and for this unit I thought it was good. Normal settings you can deal with involve wheel size, mph / kph choice, and max speed limitations. If you go deeper there is much more at hand. I ridden ones with 9 pas power level settings (too many) and most (like this one) are set to 5. You can chose if the throttle gets full juice regardless of the pas level, or to match the pas power level. This was set the opposite, where the throttle would get double the power than available in any pas level.

With plenty of info, don’t be looking to see it on the display when you mash the throttle. You might want to watch the road instead.

One thing I thought was interesting but probably wrong was the max speed of the motor. There are internal reduction gears, yet this power unit can really spin some revs. Maybe hard to explain, I will do my best. On the whole, the best way to keep the heat of one of this mid-drives in check under heavy loads (climbing) is to keep the bike in the lowest gear possible so you are spinning the pedals at your max speed. Here is what I found in this respect on level ground.

I set the bike in low gear and found that my pedal speed matched about ⅓ throttle. From there if I powered up to full, the bike would maybe triple that speed with some crazy rpms. In fact I do believe the power and speed of the motor was taking the bike to the 20 mph (limit?). BTW, the speed pick-up in 1st gear was eye-opening. Seeing that this bike could do all you need in 1st gear, I think you can get a feel for what happens when you use the others. The speedo was set to kph and I could tell the fat-tires were throwing off the readings anyway, but here is what I experienced at the display’s number board.

Better photos would have been nice. My mistake.

I powered up and down the big hill (about ½ the grade of the steepest hills I’ve seen) by my house several times. I am going as much by what I felt as by the numbers, I saw 65 on the clock going down (and it was still accelerating). If the speedo was right, that would be about 40. It felt like 45 and was probably more judging by the speedo check I did with a couple other bikes I have. Coming back up with fairly easy pedaling I was at about 30 ( I felt). Compared to other bikes I’ve ridden, the acceleration and speed match what you would expect from a 1000 watt 48 volt mid-drive.

The wheel speed sensor is an important part. I had to do some patch-up to keep it in place and out of the spokes.

In some ways I felt this Bafang was overpowering what this bike should be handling. I could feel flex in the rear end and found no loose spokes or fasteners. Part of that could be the tires themselves, it was hard to tell. What is true, for this bike and many like it, it wasn’t designed for the kind of power and speed you will experience with this 1000 watt conversion or ones like it. That is just the way it is, and if you are thinking big power, keep that in mind.

Although there are many that offer Bafang products, I am of the mind that when it comes to the Bafang mid-drive, you are best to go with the eRAD version from Lectric Cycles. They have worked directly with the factory to get these perfected and to match America’s needs. The stories of issues with straight from China units flow like water and if you get one that way you have no one to help you with any problems, accesories, or the install. Plus they have the gear sensor to offer a throttle interrupt, something you will definitely need with this much power going through your drivetrain. Lectric Cycles has a pair of running demo bikes you can try if you are in their part of town. (In fact I am sure they will be bringing one to my next E-bike seminar).

It is said that only 6 of these units are in existence world-wide (at the moment). I was way lucky to get my hands on this one.

The noise level of this electric bike conversion motor was on par with the other Bafang mid-drives I have ridden. Not silent of course, yet not objectionable either. The install should be easy, but make sure to put it on a quality and strong donor bike. If the programming it had is the default, go with it. It did help to tame the power well. And make sure to match it up with a battery that can handle the needed flow of amps, you’ll need it.

Going mid-drive? Here is one worth looking into. Remember, you will have to wait a couple months though. Turbo Bob.

“Bicycles are as almost as good as guitars for meeting girls’”—Bob Weir, Grateful Dead.

The walkaround video

The riding video

A small group ride video

Posted in Bike accessories, E-bike general interest | Leave a comment

Interbike 2015—A Video Diary

Interbike 2015—A Video Diary.

Some reporters post photos, some text.   I’ve found that a video library of the week works for me. This is quite an undertaking so I hope it helps you get a feel for the event.   I was already set to do no riding, as the amount of bikes, the venue and the time allotted doesn’t give me a chance to really get a full feel for them.

I did have two favorites and in time you will see them closer.   For now let’s just say they had NuVinci Harmony drivetrains matched with mid-drive motors.   Let’s see if you can spot them.

If you click on the link below, that will take you to the last video I took at Interbike.   From there it should autoplay through all 112 of them (basically backwards).   If that doesn’t do the trick, just root around on my video site for the ones that interest you.   Enjoy, Turbo Bob.

Posted in E-bike general interest, General bike stories | Leave a comment

Invite to “Introduction to Electric Bicycles”—Fall 2015

Invite to “Introduction to Electric Bicycles”—Fall 2105.

E-bike flyer fall 2015Twice a year I host this free public service event here in San Diego. I have found there is no other E-bike teaching and riding seminar like it anywhere. Part of the reason is my no sales, no pressure vibe that I have stipulated from the beginning. That way all the shops and companies that come to show their bikes work to sell a lifestyle, not the actual bikes on the premises. The last couple have filled the house with 200 people and 60+ E-bikes to try out.

Hope to see you there. If not, check out the videos I will post, and those posted from previous events. I have looked into doing this in other areas, and would love to see others try to do this in their own communities.

Here is the text that will give you the needed info to get involved. I include this with the flyer on social media and printed media. Sometimes I get a chance to promote this on radio and TV.   Help get out the word.

Turbo Bob.

Please consider coming to this free public service event.
“Introduction to Electric Bicycles”. It will take place on the evening of Tuesday October 13th, 2015, here in San Diego.
It is held at the SDG&E Energy Innovation Center in Clairemont from 5 pm to 8:30 pm. (4760 Clairemont Mesa Blvd, San Diego, CA–92117).
You will learn about E-bikes, and get a chance to try any of the 60+ E-bikes on hand.
This is a no-sales, no pressure event, with free door prizes and a full catered hot meal (make sure to pre-register so there is enough dinner for everyone) (even with 170 spots, the event was filled the last two times, with some not able to attend, so registration is important).

Electric bikes can be a great way for people to have fun, improve their health, save money, help the environment and relieve road congestion (among many other reasons).
Check the flyer—-hope to see you, family and friends there.
Please share this on your own pages and with email blasts if you can.
This is a direct link for registration
Thanks, Turbo Bob.

Posted in E-bike general interest | Leave a comment



#246   Ultimate   side 1This part of the build could be the simplest ever, or you can go deeper like I did. If your host bike is riding fine, has good tires and brakes, and is all shined up, you can skip this part. Then again, if it has some miles and years on it, then some pre-E-conversion prep is in order. Even new bikes could benefit from some serious TLC, and that what this part of the build is all about. Plus for what I have intended for this bike, some cool accessories are needed.

Even though the Terrano hybrid I am using only got a year of riding time, it is over 12 years old.   Even new bikes can sometimes have poorly greased and adjusted bearings, and ones with miles on them will for sure need to be torn-down for inspection and fresh grease. I also like to really clean and shine even the hard-to-get areas of the bikes I rework. Seeing that I have big plans for this E-bike conversion, a full one-over was important to me.

#246   Ultimate   rearI started by inspecting the bike closely for frame and component damage before the purchase. Then when I got it home I made some needed adjustments, checked it even closer and then rode it quite a bit. Once I was happy with the condition, I tore it down into pieces. During this time I paid close attention to each part for possible issues. I was happy to find it in great shape and the project was given my mental ok to proceed.

I started by cleaning and waxing the frame, fork and other painted parts. At this point I could really see closely if there were any cracks or damage. Then one-by-one I shined the other parts and started reassembly. I planned on doing some videos of this process, but once I get going, it just goes. I did replace some of the service items and worked most of the new accessories into place as I went. I had already envisioned some of the changes needed to reach the goals I have set for this E-bike.

Although servicing the bearings in the wheels and headset isn’t all that difficult, if you don’t have the skills and tools, this might need to be outsourced. Normally I would also do the ones in the BB (bottom bracket, the pedal crank bearings), but seeing that that part of the bike is replaced by the eRAD conversion, I left them out and set them aside for the future when the bike might be restored back to non-electric.

#246   Ultimate   saddleThe rims took the most time. After the teardown, the steps to make them right were in this order. First I oiled the spoke and nipple threads and made sure they were turning freely. With cleaners and wax (old toothbrushes too), I shined them up pretty good. I sometimes spend even more time on this step, but figured they will get dirty anyway. Having them waxed will make cleaning them easier down the road.   At this point I cleaned the bearings and races well.

Lately I have been using the poly grease from Park Tools. It seems very high quality, but a tub of regular wheel bearing grease is ok, and costs less. I like the Park grease as it comes in a tube, where a tub of grease could easily get debris in it that would compromise the bearing life. Make sure to get the grease fully in the bearing cages if they have them. Use plenty, but not too much.

#246   Ultimate   frontGetting them adjusted well is the trick. You want them not to have any free-play, but not too tight. I have my long time tricks for this procedure, and probably should share with a video at some point. Once I am happy with the adjustment, the extra grease is wiped from the outside (something you do a few more times after the bike is riding). Next it is on to truing the rims and torqueing the loose spokes.

I too have my tricks to this, as I don’t have a trueing stand. I do them in the frame and they come out as close to perfect as can be. This step once again might be a job for your local bike pro. Even a new bike might need this step, but if it does then I would be concerned if it was a nice enough bike for this project. Once I am happy with the rims, there is one more step before the tires and tubes are installed. Seeing that this bike uses rim brakes, the rim sides need to have any bit of wax or grease cleaned from where the pads contact them.

#246   Ultimate   side 2Just to note, use the same greasing and adjustment rules for the headset and BB. This particular bike has simplest of bearings (old-school) and servicing procedures. As bikes become more modern, you will find sealed bearings on some. Also the way they are dealt with gets tougher too. On this bike I didn’t have to deal with the BB, and on some modern bikes they have complete inserts for the BB that need no service other than to be correctly replaced when worn out.

When I Slime the tubes (brand-new thorn-resistant), I knead them a lot to make sure the Slime is fully in contact with all the surfaces inside the tube. Real pros install their tires so the label is in line with the valve stem. Real riders install the tires with the inflation specs inline with the valve stem, and that’s the way I do in it. Make sure if the tires have a specific rotation direction, you get them on right. After they are inflated, watch them during rotation to make sure the bead is seated correctly and they spin true. Deflate and rework them until they do if needed.

This bike has brakes that are not quite V brakes and nor quite cantilever. I planned on upgrading them to some modern V brakes but those didn’t fit. No problem though. I shined up all the pieces and greased the pivots. New Serfas pads are in place and I will finish the adjustments when I install the eRAD conversion kit, as it comes with new brake levers with motor cut-off switches in them.

#246   Ultimate   barsI will document all the accessories in upcoming articles. Some needed a little more than just bolting on. I am sure I passed over many details, those too I will try to point out in the text and the included videos.
The build is getting closer. The eRAD will be here this week so the action will roll on until the wheels actually roll on the street. Even then there will be fine-tuning and changes until I am fully satisfied with the bike.

More coming soon, make sure to check the videos, Turbo Bob.

“You never have the wind with you—either it is against you or you’re are having a good day.”—Daniel Behrman, The Man Who Loved Bicycles.

The latest video—there are others too.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

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.

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

Posted in E-bike test reviews | 1 Comment



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.

Links to find Electric Bike Central

Looking for Lectric Cycles?   This will help.

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