Advice on eAssist touring bike? - CycleBlaze

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Advice on eAssist touring bike?

Keith Adams

I have a frien in her early 70s who is considering getting a new touring bike.  She's interested in the possibility of an e-assisted setup, but not a full-on bike.  

I'm aware of some here who have similar setups, where the assist comes in the form of a gizmo that monitors the torque being applied to the crank and gently applies additional force as needed.

Can you advise me on your experiences if you have such a thing?  Pros and cons, complexity, reliability, etc. are what I'm after, as well as info on OEM vs. a retrofit.

She's also wanting something with electronic shifting.  Although I don't know of any reason they would be incompatible with an e-assist unit I have no experience with either technology so if you do I'm eager to learn from you.

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2 weeks ago
Steve Miller/GrampiesTo Keith Adams

Dodie here. I just saw this post and will show it to Steve when he returns from some outside chores.  To further answer better what country is your friend in and where would she plan on touring?

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2 weeks ago
Steve Miller/GrampiesTo Keith Adams

Steve here now, in from cutting some moderate logs with my electric chain saw.  Your question evokes some of the standard choices in the e-bike world: mid drive vs hub drive, cadence sensor vs torque sensor, derailleur vs internal hub, throttle vs no throttle, battery size 300/400/500/ 600 wH, low step frame design vs slanted cross bar, battery on a rear rack vs on the seat tube vs built in to the down tube, and finally motor power - from weak city bike, to touring, to mountain bike torque. I feel I could go through the details on each of these topics, but another way would be to identify what we would take to be a "good" bike and also to spec out a not good  one. 

It's a matter of opinion, of course, but this is where Dodie's point about what country are we talking about takes on relevance. If the country is "Europe", then I would venture to say that the majority of cycle tourists have landed on what would be a standard good touring bike.  Going through the features I mentioned above, the Europeans choose mid drive, torque sensor, derailleur, no throttle, 500 wH frame mount battery, low step, and medium to higher power motor , like Bosch Performance CX. A bike like this costs about 3000 euros, though that might bring a slightly weaker motor. A good example is this: https://www.victoria-bikes.com/en/e-bikes-more/e-bikes/trekkingtour/etrekking/02975597-victoria-etrekking-7.4-wave-2022/?number=02975597   The web site is a good one, illustrating many ebike types.

However, if the country is the U.S. then I feel one is more likely to run into hub drive, cadence sensor, derailleur, throttle, 600 wh, slant tube. Retrofits will often take on some of these characteristics as well. It's all part of a lower cost, unsophisticated, approach that we turn our noses up at. "Radpower" is a large American brand, that we associate with this ethic. Our local shop, even here in Canada, will not allow one of these in the place. That's kind of extreme, and their latest models do have some decent features. In Canada, it's about $2700, or 50% cheaper than the European spec. See here: https://radpowerbikes.ca/collections/electric-city-commuter-bikes/products/radster-road-electric-commuter-bike

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2 weeks ago
Steve Miller/GrampiesTo Keith Adams

p.s. re-reading your question, it seems like the lady is considering a retrofit. This would create a level way lower than even Radpower, and we would not recommend it for touring.  We retrofitted our Bike Fridays and ran into hard to conceal or route wiring, improper weather sealing of electronics, inconvenient placement of batteries, no mechanic in Europe who could repair or program the system, only one that we know of in our Province that can do it, and a cost about the same as a Radpower. In our specific case, we did in exchange get the ability to travel by air with the bikes.

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2 weeks ago
Keith AdamsTo Steve Miller/Grampies

Thanks for the wealth of information Steve.  There's a lot there to consider and digest.

To Dodie's question: my friend lives and rides in the U.S.  I doubt she'd ever want to fly with the bike, so the issue of flying with lithium batteries is probably moot.

Steve: she's looking for a new bike rather than a retrofit of one she already has; I had been thinking that perhaps she could start with a good purpose-built tourer and add the e-assist (so, still retrofitting) but it sounds like your experiences would indicate that's a less-than-optimal way to go about it.

My exceedingly desultory and shallow web search didn't turn up much that I thought would be suitable for her but I need to go back and look more extensively then review the results more critically.

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2 weeks ago
Kathleen JonesTo Keith Adams

There are lots of good options for ebikes in the US, the trouble is winnowing them down. Electronic shifting is something that usually comes with an internal gear hub. Look at Enviolo and their Automatiq. I’ve seen that offered for trikes but see no reason it can’t be on 2 wheelers. Putting on an IGH and electronic shifting will help with the winnowing down I think.

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2 weeks ago
Keith AdamsTo Kathleen Jones

Thanks Kathleen.

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2 weeks ago
Larry MitchellTo Keith Adams

Keith,

I will put my vote in for a hub motor versus a mid-drive having experienced both methods on my recumbent trikes.  An initial advantage is your friend could simply add a hub drive to her existing touring bike outfitted to her needs.  If she did run out of battery, a freewheel hub motor continues to work as a standard freewheel and one can keep going.  I currently have 18,000 miles on one trike and a little over 3,000 miles on the other.  I have experienced no issues even with the cold winter riding I do in the winter.  The wires, etc. follow the path of other cables and my setup is not obvious unless really looks.  I use a small 250 watt motor and usually carry anywhere from 400 - 600 ah of batteries.  When transitioning from a non-powered trike, I went with Grin Technologies out of Vancouver, explained what I was wanting, and simply too their advice on the package.  I have now updated 4 trikes in a similar manner as my wife and I both have our “at home” trikes and our “travel” trikes.

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2 weeks ago
Keith AdamsTo Larry Mitchell

Thanks Larry.  More grist for the decision mill... :)

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2 weeks ago