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