The Ultimate Do-It-Yourself E-bike Guide, by Micah Toll—Book Review.
Fresh on the digital bookshelf is this informative book on E-bike conversions. Well organized and illustrated, author Micah Toll has drawn on his years on experience and offered it to the many who want to take on this task. With hundreds of electric-assist bike conversions under his belt, he seems quite able to extend his acquired knowledge on the subject into the printed words that can make the difference in your project’s success.
Micah was very generous in supplying me a copy of his book for any input I could add. I’ve had a chance to read it over a few times, and thought a review and some insight to his work would be fitting. I have spent a lot of time on E-bikes and dealing with the inner workings, yet he has much more experience in the conversions than do I. Let’s look deep into the pages of this book to see how it might help you.
In the first chapter he dives into the history of the E-bike, working from their start in the 1800’s and onto the modern day. Some reasons that buying a pre-made production E-bike might not be your best option are discussed. Some of the legal aspects of what constitutes an E-bike are lightly covered too. This last subject is something that you should spend some time investigating for your locale.
Next up is a planning section. Cost, speed and range are covered, along with weight and charging information. Choosing the bike you will convert and if it fits your needs and body are a vital piece of the puzzle, so much mention of these variables are covered. In the accessories section I don’t fully agree with all he has presented, yet much of what he puts forward should be followed. One point he makes in this chapter is your freedom to make the decisions that will ultimately make you happy with the resulting E-bike you have built.
A detailed run-down of deciding on each part of your new E-bike, covers the bike itself and every component needed. He explains nicely the options you will be looking at for every piece. Some simple formulas are presented to help you understand how to make everything match your expectations. I like this as a few other E-bike conversion books I’ve read were too heavy on the math and too light on making you understand it all. This book was just recently written and takes much of the advances in electric bicycle technology into account.
Types of motors, where and how they mount and how they work with the controller need to be understood. Micah does a great job of working through these challenges in an understandable way. As he explains the batteries, I personally hope you will concentrate on the lithium section and leave the old-school SLA (sealed lead acid) batteries on the dealer’s shelf. Still, many are using them and this book explains each battery type and their connections in fairly good detail.
Another subject that is laid out in a understandable way is motor wattage ratings. I spend much time explaining this to people and it isn’t the easiest thing to convey. I have a few exceptions to his presentation of this, but all-in-all, Micah hit a home run on this words concerning compatibility of the important E-bike components. The story here is making sure your motor, controller and battery will work together as a team with each one pulling their own weight and not drawing each other down.
This chapter is a long one with so much to understand. I have my own ideas about each and every piece he describes, and what he’s helping you to do is to get your own ideas. In order to build an E-bike of your own, it is up to you to choose exactly what you want and how to bring it all together. Bringing up the rear in this section is a great list of your resources for purchasing all your parts. He has really done his homework here and obviously has much experience you can lean on.
Next up is the actual buying of your parts. Me personally I would opt for buying a complete conversion kit from one supplier that is fully matched and warranted. This is his recommendation also, yet if it isn’t an option or you are wanting a higher performing machine, he has the answers. This chapter alone could be worth the price of admission for many of you. Once you had gathered all the conversion parts we move into the installation.
This can all happen in less than half a day if things go smoothly. Most everything you might come across is covered quite well. There are some things I have run into at this point the doesn’t mention, but Micah wrote the book not me. One thing that doesn’t come up is spreading the frame or fork wider to fit the motor. I wish he had just to tell you don’t do it. I see this as part of the instructions on conversion kits and I want to emphasize—don’t do it. Make sure your bike will fit the width of the motor you are installing.
The install chapter is another long one and it covers the process in detail. Different options are pointed out well. After all the components are on the bike he moves onto wiring them all together. This can be easy or hard depending on the pieces you’ve chosen. It will go quite quickly if a complete kit was purchased, but he explains the procedure if not. The part about the sensor wires from the motor is a little drawn out and might not be an issue. Many bikes I have dealt with run sensor less (about 30 to 40 percent from what I’ve seen).
A brushless motor has three phase wires (generally the larger gauge ones) and some also have five sensor wires. Most will run from just the phase wires alone. I might go into this whole subject in the future, but Micah doesn’t fully explain this part of the motor system. Do some Google research of your own here (EndlessSphere.com is a good place to start), but know that there are options other than the ones listed in the book. Hooking up the sensor wires will be a breeze if you bought a complete kit, but he does explain exactly how to do it if not.
As the book winds down it brings your whole project together. He adds the stories of three sample builds that help you understand much of the book’s descriptions. A lot of this final information can be very helpful to your project. Plus, the basic bike info presented will be paramount to building a fun and safe E-bike. Remember to read all the chapters many times before you start your E-bike conversion. Absorb everything, from picking the bike and components, all the way to the last connection. If you want to build your own E-bike, this book is the first step.
Not everyone is capable of doing their own E-bike conversion, or basic bike maintenance for that matter. Yet it isn’t all that hard if you have the desire and some words to guide you. This can be that guide, Turbo Bob.
“When riding, the mind should precede the rider by one bike length. Figuratively speaking.”—William Nealy, Mountain Bike!
This is a link to the website for the book. They have offered a small discount to fans and followers of Turbo Bob’s Bicycle Guide for a limited time. Just type in ‘TurboBob’ inside the discount code box to see if they can trim the bottom line during your order.
They also have a Facebook page. Make sure to ‘like’ it.
Micah highly recommends the Endless Sphere Forum page for the questions that are bound to come up during and E-bike conversion. Here is that link.