ULTIMATE COMMUTER E-BIKE BUILD—Part #1—The Goals.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Serfas will have a big impact on this project. You can find them here.
The Body Float from Cirrus Cycles will provide much toward the comfort goal.
LightMeUp Safety Lights will be on-board too.
Here are the first three videos in this series.