ULTIMATE COMMUTER E-BIKE BUILD—Part #7—How I Met My Goals.
This successful build made for a fun and interesting project bike. I truly felt I met all the goals I set for it, and this post will help explain it all. Commuting by E-bike makes so much sense in this modern world, and for so many reasons. Reducing personal stress, cutting costs, helping the world’s consumption issues, and just plain showing up refreshed and ready to go, are just the tip of the iceberg. I do hope you now bike commute or are giving it some serious thought.
We all know each one of us has our own idea of what the ultimate commuter bike might be, so my plan was not to have you follow my footsteps to a T. It was to give you some ideas of your own path to that goal. Whether you rebuild and convert a bike like I did, convert a new bike, or buy a ready-to-ride E-bike, many of my outlined thoughts here could help you. This project bike is back to normal now, having returned the eRAD kit back to Lectric Cycles. Keep in mind that a mid-drive or hub motor conversion kit from one of many suppliers could net very similar results.
There is one more post coming in this series. It will state each piece I used, the origin, and the price. It will give you options on each. Also included will be a listing of all the extras I carried along to make my commute easier and safer. I will add some info on my “rig” (an old bike trailer I’ve had for years, yet revamped for this project bike) that gave the bike increased carry capabilities that you may need for your fun and business rides.
I made sure to start out with a fairly upright comfort bike that fit me well. A well tuned, smooth riding bike is a given for this part of the equation. The Serfas tires I chose worked well on all the road surfaces I tried, yet there are many options out there. A big part here was the BodyFloat isolation seatpost from Cirrus Cycles, without it, this category would have been sorely lacking in success. My body contacted the bike on a RX saddle from Serfas, some great ergo grips from them, and near the end of the test, a couple Reflex pedals from Moto that made a big difference too.
Really, comfort on your bike (or E-bike) comes down to some simple factors. Having the right bike for your height and body contours is the most important. Having all the controls set right and close at hand play a big part. Getting your bars and saddle at the correct heights and angles takes some time, yet is another key to making your ride easy and pain-free. Work on all these factors for a bike that is pleasant to ride, and when you do, you will ride it more often and with a smile.
Having a quality bike and add-on pieces are as needed as good building and maintenance in this department. If any of this is beyond your ability, then enlist the best bike mechanic you can and relay all your goals to them. As you ride, let the feel and noises of the bike tell you its needs. Timely adjustments and tightening of all the fasteners are needed on any vehicle, so whether you do it yourself or have someone else do it, it is still your responsibility to make sure it happens.
The eRAD conversion kit I chose has a great track record, as do the makers I chose the other pieces from. Of course there are many other companies that can match this, so work with your favorites as you get your ride to match your personal needs. Like I just said above, as the miles rack up, keep on top of all your bike’s needs to never get stuck. Don’t forget a great pair of puncture-resistant tires, thorn-resistant tubes and some Slime—keep those wheel turning.
Ease of build
My build was quite a project, due to the used bike I started with. It will be much easier if you start with a new E-bike, or new bike to convert. Keep in mind that low-quality E-bikes and bikes will not be a good choice. Same with cheapo low-end E-bike conversion kits. The market is filled with some junky stuff, so count on spending some extra for the good pieces that will keep you rolling. A hub motor conversion can be a bit easier to install, yet the mid-drive eRAD wasn’t too complicated. All the extras I added increased the complexity some, yet fully added to completion of my other goals. You will need racks, lights and the such. Add what you need and nothing you don’t.
With the whole bike, I tried to keep things simple. Like having my lighting system working off one rechargeable battery. Bikes are generally simple, yet adding the electric conversion sure changes things some. Having a hub motor conversion would have been simpler, yet the mid-drive wasn’t too much more to deal with. I felt for this test it was worth it, and it added some versatility, with increased climbing ability and more efficiency (when ridden and shifted correctly). I did enjoy the simple dual-control of the eRAD system. Things can only be so simple when it comes to E-bikes, and some investigation on your part will help (that’s why you’re reading this right?).
What can I say here? I have never been a big fan of E-bikes that have a bunch of fancy body work or the scooter look-alikes. A clean bike-like look is my favorite. I think this project came out that way. Everyone has a different idea on this subject. On the whole, I was very pleased with the final product. I hope you too can be happy with your results.
I didn’t cover this topic in my first goals article, yet it is close to maybe #1 when it comes to bike commuting. I made sure this E-bike had strong brakes, yet avoid those hydraulic brakes with anything other than 2 finger brake levers. I had the strongest head and taillight, and some extra bright wheel lights too. Many of you rely on a skid lid for that final bit of safety. The Torch T2 lighted helmet added to this part of it all. It is lightweight, bright as can be, and helped with being seen night and day. Much of this category has to do with your riding habits, I hope they are smart and safe.
The eRAD conversion kit I used had the extra capacity battery. Rides of 25-35 miles between charges were easily accomplished. If your commute is longer, than recharging at work or carrying a second battery are firm options. Lectric Cycles has revamped their systems since I started this project bike last September. All their kits and batteries are now 48 volts. This can increase your power, yet decrease your range when that power is used heavily. Range can vary for so many reasons. Do your homework in this department, yet don’t believe all the claims. There are formulas that factor in motor numbers and battery numbers that are more truthful than range claims sometimes.
Having your bike and all the pieces at your ready when the work day ends is a necessity. Parking it inside or in a bike security enclosure would sure help, yet not an option for all. The Serfas Big City Chain and U-lock I used is the best I’ve ever seen. No one is getting past it, yet at 12 lbs. it was kind of a booger to haul around. I had another pair of locks from them that are lighter, one for the bike and one for the saddle and BodyFloat. I figured in where I was parked to decide which locks to use.
I was also concerned about the top-end Serfas lighting system (it is worth more than some bicycles alone). I took care of this by getting one of their frame bags. The battery stayed in it during use, and the lamp unit fit in it too so I could easily carry it with me when the bike was parked. Make sure to get the best lock you can afford and park your bike in the safest spot you can locate.
The 2500 lumen light from Serfas lit the road so well. It is so bright I normally used it on the lowest setting. I used their wired tail light (also way bright) so I could use just the one rechargeable battery for the whole system. I kept an extra headlamp and tail light in my saddle bag just in case my main light had an issue or the battery went dead unexpectedly. Adding to those lights were the great wheel lights from LightMeUp Safety Lights. We love these. Not only are they cool and get a lot of attention, they make sure people on the road see you from no matter what angle your bike might be at.
Load carrying ability
When commuting you never know what you might need to take along. The eRAD can handle the load, yet maybe the items you need to take are bulky. This where revamping my bike trailer came in quite handy. Stuff that didn’t fit on the rack or in the panniers, easily fit in the trailer. Once I started using it it was hard to stop. I ended up calling the whole thing my rig. There are many bike trailers on the market, so getting one might help your commute well.
This is where my next (and final) article on the ULTIMATE will come in handy. Anyway you look at it, an E-bike will pay for itself if you use it. It can be as pricey or inexpensive as you want it to be. There are truly rock-bottom E-bike conversion kits out there. I would suggest avoiding them for many reasons, yet they exist. This last installment will cover things I packed along for the ride, like spare change, maps, a tire pump and even a roll of TP. You never know what a ride to work will bring.
Build and ride your ULTIMATE! Turbo Bob.
“The bicycle is the most civilized conveyance known to man. Other forms of transport grow daily more nightmarish. Only the bicycle remains pure in heart.”—Iris Murdoch, The Red and the Green.
For your reference, here are links to the series parts 1 though 6
I posted many videos of the project on my You-Tube site. Here are a few. You can find them all in the “My Bikes” section.
You can find my project sponsors with these links.