ULTIMATE COMMUTER E-BIKE BUILD—Part #4—The E-conversion.
I’ve got both the bike and you prepped for this part of the build. Keep in mind this isn’t the final installment of this build article, as riding, performance and long-term aspects are still headed your way. If I haven’t already, I need to thank Lectric Cycles, Serfas, BodyFloat, Torch and LightMeUp Safety Lights for getting 100% involved with letting me move on this fun and informative project. Also too, I may have mentioned that coping my bike to the tee isn’t my plan for you, but it is geared more to give you some big ideas on possible options for your own E-bike build.
Last seen, I had reworked the bike completely, waiting only for the final brake set-up and the installation of the Bafang 500 watt BBS02 mid-drive conversion kit. This low-mileage hybrid proved to be in great shape and responded wonderfully to the cleaners, wax and grease products I used. The replacement and upgrade parts slid in place with style, helping not only the looks, but the performance and smoothness too. I don’t know about you, but I was fully jazzed to get to this point.
The brakes took some real detail work to get them better than new. Being just a little old school, yet with a touch of the more modern, the massaging paid off. Getting everything symmetrical and moving in sync correctly made them grab just right for perfect and solid braking. I am still out on the disc brakes when these can stop and skid with the best of them. There are two drawbacks I see, one is possible heat buildup on the long grades. The other is more of a mountain bike thing, seeing that disc brakes can still work ok when you do a minor rim taco (not an issue on this bike). Figure in too that the hydraulic disc brakes in use on many E-bikes are way too powerful, causing their own safety issues during riding.
I am tempted to share some of my long known tricks for rim brake adjustments, yet this might not be the time and place for it. I did an article way back on side-pull rim brake repair and adjustments, but these are different in many ways. Lets just say that the correct amount of pad toe in, the angles of the brake arms and the pad contact to the rim placement can make or break how well they work. Don’t be surprised to see an in-depth post on this subject, for now you can Google it for other people’s techniques if needed.
Now for the eRAD BBS02 install story. I’ve read online that some can whip this out in an hour, more power to them, yet I suggest you take your time with your eyes in wide-open mode. There was a big hole in the frame where the cranks and axle were before, at the end of my last installment. That is where the Bafang just slides in—oh wait, 1st issue unfurls (yet easy to get past). Under the BB housing on my bike is a guide for the shifter cable, held in by a small bolt. Well, it (the bolt) extended too far into the cavity, so I was easily able to shorten it for a flush internal fit in the housing
Lectric Cycles has a awesome install video on their site and I do think watching it several times is worthwhile. The unit slips in, the nuts and bolts are secured in the correct order to proper tightening specs while holding the drive motor up in the front. Now it is in and you can move to installing the cranks, pedals and drive gear (with pants guard). Reinstalling the chain is next, and in most cases a fresh one is the best choice. Mine is like new, needing only a good cleaning and lube (I use White Lightning wax lube). I found that shortening the chain one link (two if you know what I mean) would of been a good idea, and I will in the future when I install one of Lectric Cycles’ cool aluminum front sprockets.
I had already done the derailleur pre-adjustments, leaving the fine tuning for after the bike was up and running. Next up is all the handlebar pieces. Part of the reason the brakes weren’t set yet is I needed to install the included (with the eRAD kit) brake levers (with motor safety cut-out switches). Also mount the LCD display and switch panel. Take some time to find the optimal places for each and they way they orientate to each other. My bars are kind of narrow, one of the reasons I opted for the short lock-on handgrips from Serfas. Having the narrow bars allowed the switch panel to mount right under my left thumb without an extension cable. I used the left side half twist throttle, you may want one of the other options. I have found thumb throttles can cause fatigue, and I wanted the throttle on the left side so it wouldn’t interfere with the gear shifter on the right.
I am happy with my bar set-up, yet the place for my headlamp isn’t perfect, just one of the final details I am working on right now. All the controls fit nicely, the angles match my needs, and I do like the switch panel close at hand. On some of these conversions you find them right next to the display. That works, but I would rather not take my hands from the grips to use the switches. Keep in mind this part of the install can be modified any time, if you come up with better placements.
I am also planning on changing the mounting of the rear wheel magnet sensor before I am done. It works great and is just the way the instructions suggest, yet I feel I might move it by accident when using the kickstand. So I will mount it higher rather than lower on the frame chainstay to protect its position against movement. I also used more tie straps than suggested to get a solid mount so it won’t get into the spokes by mistake.
Like so often it seems on my projects through the years, my bike and the normal mounting of the gear shift sensor didn’t jive. The sensor allows the motor to hold back its power for an instant during your shift, and is part of what makes the eRAD so sweet of a bike conversion. The sensor is designed to fit inline on the cable outer housing, but my bike had just the inner cable exposed from the front of the frame to the rear. No problem, I found a spot where the cable and the frame allowed good alignment, and used a couple pieces of double sided adhesive foam tape and some tie straps to mount it for perfect operation.
Next up I mounted the battery holder solid as can be. I was extra lucky to get a slim-line 630 watt-hour (36 volt) battery from Lectric Cycles. To my knowledge this battery won’t be on their sales floor for a month or two. It really matches this frame perfectly and the extra capacity will be just what I wanted. My first rides have already shown this battery was the right choice. My cable routing for the whole install came out good, but I do plan on cleaning them up just a bit.
Make sure to secure the cables well, leave room for flex, and keep them out of the wind (so they don’t get caught on obstructions) and moving parts. Also I am a big talker on cutting the ends of the tie straps fully flush (with a flush cutter or sharp blade) so they don’t tear your clothes or spill your blood. It is amazing how many people, shops and companies I have to remind of this, I see those sharp edges all the time.
Much more coming soon, for now I just want to say how pleased I am with the smoothness, power and quiet operation of this 500 watt power plant (ease of installation too) . Lectric Cycles wanted me to go with their 350 watt eRAD, but I wanted some extra hill climbing power on hand. Did I tell you I revamped my bike trailer for some major shopping runs at the Costco down the hill? I did now. Also too, I did have to wait for the conversion kit just a bit as I was able to get the newest one available. It has the upgraded electronics and couple other things. It was worth the wait.
Let’s pull that load up the hill together, Turbo Bob.
“Learn to ride a bicycle. You will not regret it if you live,”—Mark Twain.
The latest video on this bike. There are older ones in the same section.
Lectric Cycles on the web and Facebook
Serfas on the web and Facebook
BodyFloat on the web and Facebook
Torch Apparel on the web and Facebook
LightMeUp Safety Lights on the web and Facebook