A tale of two bicycles—Vintage Schwinn 5-speed comparison with possible E-bike conversion—Part 8—E-bike consideration


You have just got to love the old Schwinns

Compatibility for E-bike conversion

If you have been following this series, you know how much I like these two bikes.   This is a reason to convert and not to convert either one of them to an E-bike.   I really don’t want to make any radical changes to them.   That doesn’t mean it won’t happen.   If I do make the decision to upgrade one to an E-bike, it will most likely be the World Tourist.   I am just too attached to the Collegiate to make the changes.

Another reason not to convert is that my wife and I already have E-bikes.   We have a pair of E-Zipps that I will cover in an upcoming article.

If I do make the conversion, I will cover it fully in the future.   I want to do it because it is fun to make changes, and because E-bikes are just great.

We have decided that the only possible problems are the lack of heavy-duty brakes.   With a low power, lightweight system, that is not a big issue.   The old style rims are another thing that is easily overcome.   The bikes have the strength and quality that is required for the conversion.   Let’s look at some of the options.

First thing is to choose a E-bike kit.   There are many on the market.   The prices and weights vary.   Also, the type of motor drive is important.   As far as a motor goes, pick a hub motor.   They have motors that mount on the frame to drive the rear tire or bottom bracket.   These type have a few advantages, but those are mostly overcome by the hub motor and it’s ease of installation and lack of extra attachments.   Hub motors come in brushed and brushless versions.   There are two type of brushless motors.   Everyone has a different opinion, but I would pick a brushless sensored motor.   It will never need maintenance (unless you break the internal gears), and will start from a dead stop without pedaling.   It will also have more torque at low speeds.   It does have a few extra wires, but that is ok.

Next, you get to decide if you want the motor in the front or rear wheel.   Once again, go with the simple option.   When it is mounted in the front, there is no changes to the free wheel, chain, and derailleur.   It is easier to fix flats on either end of the bike.   The wires will flex with the front wheel steering, but if you carefully route the wires and don’t make them so tight so they won’t flex easily, it should never be a problem.   To mount the motor up front, you will need to grind open the slots for the front axle a little bit, because the new axle is a larger diameter.   The instructions will spell this out and it is not hard.   If you don’t have the right tools or are worried about doing it yourself, you can get some professional help with this step.

When you get your motor, you have the choice of having it laced to a rim or getting the motor by itself.   The suppliers offer 26″ mountain bike rims and 700c road rims.   Other rims are available.   With these bikes, I would have to send them a spare rim to lace up to the motor, or take the bare motor to a local bike shop to have them mated.   I have the option of lacing it myself.   All I would have to do is purchase the correct length spokes, do the lacing, and true the rim.   Make sure the motor and rim use the same number of spokes.   There are a couple of different standards for this.

Another choice of your conversion kit  is the type of battery.   A good kit will come with a lithium battery.   They are more expensive, but are lighter, stronger, better for the environment, and have less charging issues.   Let’s talk about that last claim first.   The one issue they do have is the possibility of catching on fire if overheated during charging or dis-charging.   Also if it is heavily damaged.   Major advances in the technology of the batteries and chargers have almost fully eliminated this.   It is not a bad idea to charge the battery out of the bike and in a place that is not fire prone (on concrete in the middle of your garage or outside).   All in all, lithium is the best battery, and the one you want.

The other two types are SLA (sealed lead acid) and NiMH (nickel metal hydrate).   Each has good and bad features.   SLAs are heavier, can leak the acid, don’t perform as well in cold and hot extremes, and need to be recharged immediately after each use.   They are less expensive to purchase, but that is easily overcome by the lithium because of the amount of charge cycles the batteries can accept.   The NiMH batteries are the mid priced battery, but still don’t compare to the best.   They have been known to fail prematurely.   Each type of battery is made up of a group of cells, and if one fails, the pack won’t perform or charge.   The NiMH is particularly prone to problems in this area.   Choose the lithium.

The way the battery mounts to the bike is another concern.   Many kits will come with a rack that it will slide onto.   Some come with no rack and you are supposed to tie it to your own rack, or put it into a rack bag.   Some will mount to the frame with brackets.   Make sure it mounted so it will not come loose.   And be sure to be carefull with the wiring.   A short here can cause big problems.

The battery will also come with a charger.   It will be a smart charger.   That means it will not over-charge the battery and will have indicator lights to keep you abreast of the charging progress.   Take good care of it.   You might need to bring it with you when you ride, so you can charge at your destination.   You have the option of purchasing another to keep one at home and one at work.   They are priced at a range where this might not be an option.   Once again, your decision.

You will receive and need to mount the Control unit, throttle, and miscellaneous wiring and sensors.   The control unit accepts it signal from the throttle to send the correct amount of power to the motor.   The throttle can be a twist grip (like a motorcycle) or a thumb lever (like an ATV).   This is your choice.   There might be other items that need to be installed.   A safety switch in the brake lever, a sensor on the bottom bracket, or a handlebar display with information on the electrical parameters.

We will have to see if my bike makes it into the world of E-bikes.   They both have everything they need to make the grade.   The World Tourist will need an overall clean-up and to service all the bearings before a conversion is done.   Time will tell if I decide to convert.   If I do, you will be one of the first to know.   Stay tuned.

I will write a lot more about E-bikes in more articles, so if that is your interest, keep coming back to my blog for more.   E-bikes are the wave of the future and they are just plain fun.

Thanks for the support of my blog,   Turbo Bob

“Nothing compares with the simple pleasure of a bike ride”—-John F. Kennedy.

Shop E-bike kits at  http://www.nycewheels.com

Rent or buy an E-bike at  http://www.iselectricbikecenter.com

About Turbo Bob's Bicycle Blog

E-bike Enthusiast Vintage Bike Enthusiast
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