A tour on an e-biked Crank Forward Bike - Touring on an electrified Crank Forward bike - CycleBlaze

July 9, 2021

A tour on an e-biked Crank Forward Bike

Very experienced tourist at 75 doing him first e-biked tour

I'll be starting my first tour on an e-bike and my first tour on a CF bike in two days. I have done close to 100,000 touring miles on regular bikes, split between upright and recumbent and between North America and Europe so it is exciting to be starting a new kind of touring on a new kind of bike. The facts that I am now 75 years and, because of COVID, haven't toured in almost two years are definitely factor in my choosing  to electrify my touring bikes. 

My CF bike is my third touring bike I've converted into an e-bike, so bear with me as I introduce most of my readers  to what a Crank Forward bike is and why you might want to try touring on one as well as how relatively easy it is to convert a bike into an e-bike that is great fun to ride even for those of us who are old. The weather forecast for the start of this tour is quite wet and potentially stormy which is not ideal, but will I'm hoping that I can avoid getting caught in the storms by shortening my riding days and, when possible, taking shelter when I can find it. Since I'll be touring in TN, KY, and IN, the chances of being able to finding shelter during the day are much better than they would be much farther west.

My bike, a 2007 RANS Fusion that I'm the third owner of, after I'd put it back together for my first test ride
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Everything shown here came with the bike except for the rear rack bag. I ended up replacing both wheels and tires - the original wheels had single wall  rims and 26x1.5 tires  and the rear hub was a freewheel hub in very bad shape. Note the great fenders and kickstand. Also note how low the seat is and the fact that it is designed for pedaling with an almost recumbent like pedal stroke.  

I got my new, to me, 2007 Fusion CF bike on Friday, the last day in April 2021. I'd bought it from a nice fellow in Colorado Springs at the beginning of April and he'd immediately taken it to the nice recumbent bike shop in Colorado Springs where he originally bought it to have it packed and shipped to me. That process ended up taking a LOT longer than I expected and cost over twice as much as I was quoted by the bike shop before I bought it. The shop did a excellent job of packing it and, except for needing an allen wrench that I didn't have despite having put together all of my bikes from frames since the 1990s. I, with the help of my local bike shop which tightening that bolt for me, got it on the road Saturday and took it for a real ride Sunday.

That ride included the first steep riding I've done since late 2018 that wasn't e-assisted. It was a little less than 20 miles, mostly flat with less than 1000 total feet of climbing. The steepest sustained grade was 10% for about .1 mile.

The bike had a 22-32-44 triple in the front and a 11-34 8 speed freewheel on the back. I was pleased that I was able to make that ride without needing to push the bike on the steepest hill which was 15 miles into the ride. The fact that I could still do that, at 75 years old, on a kind of bike that I had never ridden before, was a credit to my keeping in shape with seriously hilly daily rides on both recumbent and upright touring bikes, and to the RANS CF bike design.

After I got home from that ride, I made a few adjustments. The biggest adjustment was raising the handlebars a few inches. I have short legs and a long torso. When I initially set up the bike, I put the handlebars in the lowest position. In that position my arms were fully extended when my body was vertical. That worked really well for steep climbing - more on that later - but made it dangerous to ride with only one hand on the handlebar. Since I enjoy greeting people with a hand wave when I'm riding, that was a real problem on my ride which included a very popular bike path. Raising the bars will mean riding with my arms bent which, when I tested it yesterday by leaning forward while riding, made one hand riding safer.

One of the things I had to give up with the e-bike conversion was the granny ring.  Functionally, the assist from the e-bike motor  replaces the granny ring.  I can now climb sustained 20% grades using the 32/34 ring/cog combo at 4 - 5 mph. Actually, I could now do it much faster than that, but I would be pushing the limits of the motor's ability to get rid of heat and running the battery down much faster than necessary. Instead of doing that, I use my legs to generate roughly half the power that climbing requires.  That means that, climbing 20% at 4 mph, I am still pushing my body's limits. I used to be able do that without assist, but I can no longer sustain that kind of power output.

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The front setup now has 32 tooth and 44 tooth rings. The chain is shifted between them by a  derailleur mounted on a short frame tube since the other  frame tubes are not at the right angle for mounting the shifter. This is just like the way the front derailleur is mounted on a recumbent bike. 

The crank is mounted on the TSDZ2 right front crank square shaft. The rings are mounted on the part of the motor/controller assembly that can be driven by the motor and also by the crank. There is a freewheel that allows them to turn at different speeds so that each can power the bike or both can. The extra space required for the motor/crank interface means that the rings are farther out than on a normal bike so the front derailleur must be mounted on a special mount and the chain line in the lowest gears isn't great.

The TSDZ2 has  a torque sensor that measure how much torque is being applied by the rider pushing on the pedals and then makes the motor supply a torque that is proportional  to the torque the rider is supplying. 

 There are buttons on the display (and the remote) that allow the rider to change that proportion so that the rider does all of the work, roughly two thirds of the work, roughly half of the work,  or much less than half. The throttle control overrides the torque sensing and, as you would expect, allows the motor to supply power when the rider is not pedaling. 

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The rear setup is now a 12-32 9 speed cogset with a  standard derailleur. I set this up with a simple indexed twist shifter. 

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This image shows how the TZSD2 motor/controller is mounted in place of the BB and the motor hangs below the BB.

CF bikes have very long chain stays because the crank needs to be mounted well in front of the rear wheel. The chain is roughly twice as long on as the chain on a regular bicycle. This is good for mid-motor e-bike conversions because  it minimizes the effect of having to move the chain rings out to fit the motor- chain ring interface between the rings and the frame. Mid-motor mounting with torque sensing keeps the bike feeling like a regular bike and makes the rider feel like he has bionic legs!

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This image shows the recumbent like seat which is made possible by moving the crank forward, Since the pedal stroke is now much more like on a recumbent, the rider no longer needs to sit in a narrow seat and the result is, for most people a much more comfortable bike. 

Standard bike related issues for most older men are related to a bent over riding position - neck problems - and to having to support most of our body weight  on a narrow seat so we can press down on pedals that are mounted below the seat. The CF design eliminates both of those problems.  I sit upright on my butt, not my crotch, and I pedal with my legs extended in front of me .

On one of my recent recreational rides I spoke with a woman who teaches yoga. She complimented me on my ergonomic riding position. I hadn't thought of it that way,  but that is a good description for sitting the way a CF bike lets me sit. 

Interestingly, even after I have pushed hard to enhance my ability to generate power on this bike by climbing mile long 4 to 5% grades in its lowest - 32/36 - gear without any assist, my bad knee - the one that hasn't had knee surgery  ;-}-did not get sore even when I was doing that climbing with cranks that were slightly too long. 

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The Fusion CF bike has a very low top tube which means there is not much room to mount the battery. I had to remove the waterbottle cage - you can see the its mounting bolts in the image above - in order to be able to mount the battery. Yes, I could have mounted it behind the seat but putting weight back there would change the handling of the bicycle. With the battery and the motor assembly mounted low and centered, I noticed no change in the feel of the bike after I e-biked it.

I'll be doing this tour with my stuff, including camping but not cooking equipment, carried in two Ortlieb back roller panniers and the rack top bag you've seen on these pages. Adding food and water will bring my load up to about 30 lbs. Total bike weight, including about 25 lbs for the e-bike conversion and the 30 lb   Fusion bike weight,  will be less than the 100 lbs my 4 pannier and a handlebar bag touring rigs weighed back in the 90's.

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Steve Miller/GrampiesMark, I went to your Profile and from there to your web site, landing randomly on Tour 05 Day 44, in which you discuss anti-semitism in Poland and racism in the U.S. Interesting!
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2 months ago
Bill ShaneyfeltMark, I'm looking forward to hearing how this horse rides!
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2 months ago
Mark BoydTo Bill ShaneyfeltSo far, I'm finding that it rides very well. I'll know more after a few weeks on the road.
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2 months ago
Mark BoydTo Steve Miller/GrampiesI'm a Jew who has spent a lot of time riding in Poland and, even now when it has gone off the deep right wing politically, still loves riding there because of the polish people. I also grew up in a deeply racist US which has improved a lot by 2005 but now, like Poland, seems to be going backwards.

I don't remember what I wrote in 2005 but I'm glad you found it interesting.
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2 months ago
Kelly IniguezMark - can you tell us about the two different seats and why you like the one you like?

Don't forget a photo of the bike with bags on it!

Kelly
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2 months ago
Mark BoydTo Kelly IniguezI have those images so I'll try to remember to add one to my journal.

As for the two different seats, I had/have NO interest in the one that RANs seems to be offering as an alternative now. It looks like an overstuffed regular bike seat and that only makes sense if you don't understand why the Fusion should have a recumbent like seat. It is definitely a 'comfort' bike seat and I understand why folk looking for a comfort bike might buy it, but that wasn't what I was looking for.
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2 months ago
Kelly IniguezTo Mark BoydThe bike in Maryland that Linda is looking at also has two seats. Perhaps confirming your opinion?
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2 months ago
Mark BoydTo Kelly IniguezI would not be surprised if many folk who haven't 'adapted' to CF bikes buy the 'new' seat thinking it might help. Maybe it does help some people, but it contradicts the basic design of the bike.
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2 months ago