The process of converting standard bikes to electric bikes

Everyday we are busy converting standard bikes to electric. We keep a pictorial record of every bike we build along with notes. Often we are building several bikes at the same time and it becomes impossible to display all of them on this page.  We do our best to post as many bikes as possible on this website with as much details as possible.

When writing up these bikes we try to be as honest as possible because it is helpful too many of those who are interested in bikes, electric bikes, those who are building their own electric bikes, and those of whom the bike belongs. We hope we never say anything that would cause one to take offense for certainly that is not our intent. Bikes have always been a subject of keen interest for the many and I think they will continue to do so far into the future. 

Let us begin with our builds....

Bike Friday Air Glide

Day One: Receiving the bike


Very interesting bike. It appears to have been in storage, dusty, flat tires,  a few cobwebs. First off, this is a very expensive bike. It has a titanium top bar, Sram twist shifter with a Sram Dual Drive 3 speed hub and a 9 speed cassette and derailleur (rare), great wheelset, and a well made frameset. Can it be converted into an electric bike? Not sure. It is not that easy to make a guess and sometimes there is no way to tell until you slide the motor into the bottom bracket shell. So, in this case our first step is to remove the bottom bracket and see if the motor will fit. If it does not, we clean the bike, reassemble the bike, give it a tune up, adjust the brakes and return the bike to its owner at no charge. 

Self extracting cranks


Self extracting cranks are great...sometimes. The first thing you do to remove a self extracting crank is to tighten the retaining cap. Many make the mistake of removing the retaining cap as that is what you would do with standard crank arm bolts. With self extracting cranks you tighten the cap all the way in as tight as possible.  Failure to do this will result in stripping the threads in the crank arm resulting in having to resorting to cutting it off with a grinder. I tighten the cap then I begin to remove the is on very tight. I stop and think: I cannot strip this crankset as I do not know for certain of the motor will fit. If I continue, strip the threads, cut the crank arm off and the motor does not fit, then I will have to buy the owner a new crankset. I decide to continue. Remember, tighten the cap clockwise then turn the 8mm crank arm bolt counterclockwise.



and there you go...

We have stripped these self extracting crank arms the past but it was always on bikes we knew we could convert. This bike, has an odd shaped frame, and a small brass bolt that may or may not restrict the motor so we could not say with a 100% certainty a motor would fit.

Now that we have successfully removed the bottom bracket we use our dummy motor to test and measure. Eureka. Nice fit. Now that we know we can convert the bike off it goes for the standard cleaning and inspection.

Cleaning and inspection


This is the first of 3 cleanings every bike goes through. Every part is cleaned and inspected including spokes and rim tape. A electric powered bicycle is like a low powered motorcycle. Therefore, all bikes being converted to electric have to be in top shape and kept in top shape. 

Tires and rim tape


This is an example, from another bike, of rim tape that must be replaced. The rim tape on this bike is very high quality and is fine. Old rim tape, like above, if not replaced will result in a blow out. On an electric bike a blow out can cause a high speed crash. This is why everything gets inspected.

Tires and brake pads


Tires need replacing. Old tires get hard and even deform if left in the same position for a long period. Ask anyone who has an RV and they can tell you stories about tires with a lot of tread left but in fact are years old having sat unused in storage. Break pads also become hard and loose their ability to safely slow and stop a bike. 

Giant Liv Sedona

Giant Liv Sedona


This is a very nice bike by Giant Bikes. Giant Bikes is the largest manufacturer of bicycles in the world. They have manufacturing plants in China,  Viet Nam and Taiwan. Liv bikes is a brand of Giant bikes and it is a bike designed for women  by women. Everything about the bike is built with a  female rider in mind.  The step through model is very popular for both men and women. Today we will begin the process of converting this beautiful bike to electric. 

First challenge, Bottom bracket


Bottom bracket (bb) removal is sometimes near impossible without damage to the bike. This bike is near new and when we began to remove the bb we found it to be as tight as those that are rusted to the frame. We do not see this too often but we do see it at least 4-5 times a month. What causes this to happen in a new bike? Sometimes we notice a failure to grease the threads prior to installation, over-tightening, and even cross threading. We use special tools to remove the recalcitrant bb along with a few tricks we have learned along the way. You have to be very careful as it is easy to strip the threads on the bb.

Second challenge, Battery


We have very limited space for a battery on this bike. The downtube is shaped like a "U"  so the battery base plate cannot sit flat. In the machine shop we will make a custom base plate base that we will use to allow a full sized battery. In this picture we are setting three Rivnuts. Notice the black marks. Measure, measure, and measure again as modifying a frame for Rivnuts is a ONE CHANCE operation. I have seen the work of other builders who have drilled several holes in a frame to get the right fit. No...that weakens the frame. It takes a lot of experience to work with Rivnuts and we all know that it requires precise measurements and patience. 

Battery installed


looks easy...its not. A battery base plate is flat and the downtube is "U" shaped. After the rivnuts are installed we have to come up with a method of attachment that will be firm and keep the base plate level. First, we cut  a 6 inch x 3/8 inch aluminum plate and place it on the bottom of the battery  base plate. Second we cut three 1"X1" squares of the same material, then 2  three inch aluminum plates. Second we place a hard rubber material between the base plate and the bike frame and then thread 3 stainless steel bolts into the Rivnuts. Looks great and fits perfect. Battery placement, chain alignment, cable management, and securing the motor and the main elements of building electric bikes. Sometimes placing the battery is the most difficult. However...mission accomplished on this build.

Motor installation


Look closely...see the motor touching the shift and brake cables? That cannot happen. A brake cable has a coiled shell that is very tough and can take some contact. A shift cable has parallel wires and provide no crush protection. If we drop a piece of shift cable to the floor and someone steps on it we throw it out. Motor s that are not firmly locked in place will eventually roll against these cables and restrict shifting and braking. To prevent this we mill a spacer between the motor and the frame prior to locking the motor in place. We use a method of locking motors in place that does not use the motor brace. We are so confident in our method that we give a lifetime guarantee the motor will stay exactly where we placed it.  

Ready for the cables


Here we transferred the bike to another work station to install cables, speed sensor, shift sensor and display. 

Finished ready for test ride


We finished later in the evening and did not get a chance to test the bike. The rear rack looks a little tilted as moved it further from the saddle to allow a little more carry room. While we were working on this bike an electrical engineer from Google stopped by and commented on this bike. He said he was pleased not only with how we wired the components but that we use Anderson Powerpole connectors. An affirmative word from an electrical engineer is always welcome. 

Test ride


The test ride of this bike was a pleasure. First, I took it out and rode around the area then returned and handed it to an employee and said, "tell me what you think." After she returned we compared notes. The bike rides very well. The combination of the compression seat post and soft saddle made it very comfortable over bumps. We both liked the compression seatpost. Sometimes these types of seatposts do very little but this one works well. Electric bikes are a little heavier and go faster so small things like this seatpost can make for a more pleasant ride.

Final thoughts


Step through bikes should be ubiquitous. The only reason every bike is not a step through design is because in the Victorian Era women could not step over a bicycle in a dress so they eliminated the top tube. From that time on a bicycle with no top tube, is called a "Woman's bike." During the off season we build our own bikes to keep the mechanics busy. The most popular bike we build is the Specialized Roll Easy Entry. Both men and women love the bike as it is so easy to on and off. No, a bike is not a "girl's bike" because it is a step through model in fact it is the smartest design for any bike. 

1997 Bontrager Privateer



This is a very interesting bike. At first glance I see rust in several places, a headset that looks as if it will be seized, one bald tire, brakes that may need replacing, and a bike that looks its age. Then I looked a little closer. This bike has quality parts, wheels, frame, fork and even a  great pedigree. How often we are fooled by older bikes. I have seen many newer bikes with poor components and terrible welds and I have seen many older bikes that are very well built and will last a very long time.

Rusty headset


This is the headset. I told the owner that I am certain this will be frozen. In other words the stem will be rusted onto the fork steering tube. I informed him that I would attempt to break it free as it could be so corroded on the inside it would be dangerous to ride. Sometimes, the stem will snap off in the steering tube which would pretty much end the life of the bike. 

First, I soaked the area with an anti seize compound. After a few hours I took two headset opened wrenches and slowly worked the locking nuts until they finally gave way. Yay!

Bearing Race


We removed the fork and the bearings and cleaned the races with a cleaning compound and now...ready for the bearings. Look at the conditions of the race, not perfect but very clean. We will polish it some more the apply grease and the the bearings. 

Headset bearings


After cleaning in our ultrasonic tub take a look at those bearings. Incredible. The reason why the races and bearings are in such good shape is because the Bontrager headset was first rate and did a great job of keeping out the contaminates all of the years. 

The frame rust


This is not as bad as it looks. What we did to day is take a small drill and drill out the cable end caps and then uses a small grinder to remove all the rust from the cable stops and the frame. Tomorrow we will put a coat of flat black on the frame, in this area, to prevent any further rusting. 

Cable housing


This is why we routinely replace old cable housing. With cable housing that is rusty it becomes impossible to tune the bike for proper shifting. Cable housing is inexpensive and will last a long time. It really does not serve any of us well to build a great electric bike that shifts poorly.

Removing the bottom bracket


Removing a bottom bracket can be a difficult job. It requires special tools and the knowledge of their use. First, clean out the area where the bottom bracket socket will engage the contact points. After it is clean we take a bottom bracket socket and attach it to spindle then use a large wrench and push towards the front of the bike. If the bottom bracket is frozen then the simplest method is to take it to you local bike shop. We were fortunate the bottom bracket came out without too much difficulty but it did show  quite a bit of rust. Another year perhaps,  it might have become seized.

Bottom bracket attachment tool


We take the bottom bracket socket, place it over the spindle, then the tool above is threaded into the axle to hold the socket in place so it does not slip out or damage the threads. This is the only way we remove bottom brackets. We use this methods because it is safe and effective.

***Be aware that a bike frame can be permanently damaged when a bottom bracket is frozen to the frame. Even professional mechanics with the proper tools will encounter bottom brackets that have become welded to the frame and cannot be removed without damaging the frame.

Motor installed


At this point we have sanded off the rust and applied a black primer. On the downtube we also cleaned and prepped around the water bottle bosses. This is important as it will be covered up by the battery base plate and if the rust was not removed it would continue until the threaded water bottle bosses become weakened and eventually fail. The motor assembly went well, requiring only a 2mm spacer to move it outboard in order to clear the chainstay. The drive side motor housing must not contact the chainstay. 

Battery installation and cabling


We have the battery plate installed. Cables and cable housing measured, cut and in place. New brake pads installed. Almost finished and ready to go. Do you have an old mountain bike in the garage? Do not assume it is not worth anything because of its age and a bit of rust. Many of the early mountain bikes were built with the best components and wheelsets available. Today we finish the bike and take it for a spin.

Test ride


We finished the bike and took it for its initial test ride. Our Sacramento manager came down from Sacramento with a delivery and the first thing he said was "Where is the rusty bike?" Jeff was impressed how the bike looked. He said he was surprised I accepted a bike with so much rust. I told him I have seem many older bikes with rust that were far better bikes than newer bikes with no rust. It all comes down to the quality of the original build. Never throw out your older bike because it has some rust. 

The test ride was as smooth as silk. I put two new tires on this bike and the stability shows. The first generation mountain bikes had much shorter bars than their newer counterparts. It took me a bit to get the feel of the shorter bars. Other than that this bike, as predicted, made foe a great conversion.

Final thoughts


The twist shifter on this bike was unlike any I have ever seen. At first I thought...needs to be replaced. Then I began to click it up and down. Seemed to work fine. We removed the shifter, disassembled and cleaned, reinstalled and wow...very impressive. That is the point of this whole write up on this bike: Old sometimes is just better. As we all know not all change is for the better and sometimes we just need to accept that some products just need to be left as they change necessary. Twist shifters have become so complicated, in some cases, that a cable cannot be replaced without the help of a professional bike mechanic with 10 years experience. Ok, that was a hyperbole but you understand my meaning.  

Trek FX 7.1

Arrival of the bike


This an older Trek FX 7.1 but the bike model is still in production. This bike was first produced in 2006 and this looks to around 2008. At first glance it looks like it will need tires, brakes, cables, housing, chain, and maybe new derailleur.  That sounds like a lot of expense but it isn't as all of the parts are older but still available. One thing we noticed right away was the condition of the wheels. Trek bikes have always held to a very high standard and the condition of these wheels attest to that fact. Both wheels run straight and true and the bearings are as good as anything made today. The same can be said of the headset bearings. All in all, this bike is in great shape given its age. 

On the work stand


The motor was not a problem at all with this bike as it slipped right in without any adjustments. However, whenever you have cables running underneath the motor it is imperative the motor does not restrict the cables. If the motor compresses the cable even slightly it will effect shifting. 

Setting the motor


After determining how we are going to run the cables we then begin the process of setting the motor. The most common mistake we see among those who install their own motor is using a method that does not securely hold the motor in place. At least once a week we either have someone bring their bike in with a loose motor and need our help to secure it, or we receive a phone call from people seeking help. To properly secure a Bafng motor requires special tools and experience. We do not use the most common method of crushing the fixing plate into the bottom bracket shell. We use a system devised by our consulting engineer that works better than any method we know of.  

Setting the battery base plate


Here we are preparing for the installation of an Rivnut. The two water bottle bosses are too far down the downtube and the span is not long enough for the battery base plate. We add a third Rivnut then we take a file and file the two existing Rivnuts until it is a flat plane. A battery base plate must be 100% horizontal to the downtube. If the battery base plate is twisted or has any high or low points you will not be able to slide on the battery.

Finishing the bike


This bike came out wonderful. When it first arrived it looked a bit rough but we knew that it could be resurrected and make a great electric bike. Any bike that was well made in the beginning can be transformed into an electric bike. This bike has a solid frameset, great wheelset, and even the rear derailleur work surprisingly well given its age. 

Final thoughts


I have to give it to the Trek brand as they seem to be very consistent in the quality of their bikes. The wheelset on this bike impressed me the most. Many cup and cone wheelsets are not very well made and tend to wear out after a few years. These wheels are very good examples of how cup and cone wheelsets can be made that will last many years and in some ways are better than the newer wheels with cartridge bearings. 

IZip E3 Dash

IZip E3 dash


This is a bike that has a hub motor and was a well made bike. I know a bit about the bike as I sold it to its original owner a few years back. The owner was involved in an accident and the bike never ran well afterwards. Upon inspection I found the motor insulation was burnt in enough places that it had reached the end of its usefulness. Instead of buying a new bike the owner opted to install the Bafang mid drive motor system. This made sense as the bike fit him well and he liked the bike. We will install a new motor, new battery, and just about everything we can think of to make this bike like it was off the showroom floor. 

Fried hub motor


These black wires should be gold in color. The motor would run off and on then finally it would not run at all. When I would manually move wires around you can hear the cracking occur. Every time you hit a bump these wire would crack and cause a short causing the motor to cut out. 

Disassemble and cleaning


Cleaning means inspection. It is impossible to inspect any bike with layers of dirt and grime. THis bike was very clean and the owner took good care of the bike. Nevertheless, we still need to take a look to insure everything is fit for the transformation into a powerful electric mid drive bike.

Broken spoke


Here we found a broken spoke. This is why we check every spoke on every wheel. Broken spokes, at times, are not obvious. You have to squeeze each spoke to see if it is broken at the hub or the nipple. One broken spoke will lead to another and will continue until the entire wheel fails.

On the work stand


Here we begin our work in earnest. Chain, derailleur, and cassette are removed and placed into the ultrasonic cleaner. After cleaning they are inspected for wear or damaged. The derailleur is lubricated and set aside. Next comes checking the derailleur hanger to insure it is straight then the derailleur is reinstalled.

Battery placement


It was much easier to place a battery on this bike than others as the frame was built as an electric bike frame.  The difference is there are three attachments points set at a distance that allows equal weight distribution and for a very ridged attachment. 

Motor installation


We use blank Bafang motors for measurements. A Bafang 750 watt motor weighs eight pounds and to hold that in one hand for measuring purposes can be very tiring by the end of the day. We also use empty battery cases for the same purpose. Here, we find the motor will not fit all the way through the bottom bracket shell. This is very common and we see it on about  20% of all bikes. The best solution is to take a 1/2 round file and patiently smooth our any obstructions. There are some power tools that can be used such as reamers and grinders but we prefer to remove as little of the shell as possible and the file gives us better control.

Almost finished


The bike was finished today and was taken out for a test ride. First, when the wheel arrived we took measurements to insure it was the proper size. Then we took cloth rim tape and ran it around the rim. We prefer cloth tape over the plastic tape because cloth rim tape will stay in place. We have seen plastic tape shift leaving spoke holes exposed. Exposed spoke holes in a rim will result in a blow out....always. Next, we put the rotor on, calibrated the rear disc brakes, attached the chain, calibrated shifting, tightened all bolts and then it came of the stand...ready to test.

Finished bike and test ride


Remember, this was a IZip Dash E3 electric bike with a 500 watt hub motor. Now it is a IZip Dash conversion with a Bafang 750 watt motor and a battery that is greater in capacity than the original battery. On the test ride I expected this bike to perform well due to its large tires, and front suspension. I was not disappointed. The ride was smooth and powerful. The shifting on this bike is excellent due to the quality of the rear derailleur and shifter. The frame on this bike is aluminum that is a bit thicker than a standard aluminum bike. The reason for the thicker aluminum is so they could make large holes in the frame in order to run all the cables internally. We used the existing holes to run our cables resulting in a nice clean look. 5 star build!

Giant Liv Tempt



Upon arrival this bike appears to be in very good condition and well maintained. The owner is a very knowledgeable individual in battery technology and is easy to speak with in terms of electric bikes. Our first decision was where to place the battery. We use a small, yet powerful, behind the saddle battery for builds such as these. These are custom built batteries and the provide incredible power and distance.

First cleaning and inspection


Here, we separate the wheels from the bike and clean the parts independently. At this point everything seems to be in order and we expect a conversion without any problems.

On the work stand


Here on the work stand we get our first clear picture. Everything is in order but we notice both brake levers are coated in oil. Whenever you see any "oil" on or near hydraulic brake levers you need to check for leaks in the hydraulic systems. 

Hydraulic brake lever leak


After this bike was thoroughly cleaned this was found on the bottom of both brake levers. This is hydraulic fluid. First we clean the area, inspect for leaks, and having found none we insure all bolts are tightened. The levers work with plenty brake pull available. Because we found no leaks it is possible a former mechanic repaired the leaks but did not clean the levers. Leaks are uncommon but this year while building brand new bikes fresh out of the box we have had three with leaking brake levers. 

Cleaning the derailleur


This is the way all derailleurs should look for those of us who ride our bikes. Derailleurs become dirty by default. They are at the back of a bike, they come in constant contact with a lubricated chain, they spin very fast and are a magnet for dust, grime, oil, threads, hair, and anything else one can imagine. The two small wheels on a derailleur are called "jockey wheels," or "pulley wheels." In cleaning a derailleur we often have to dissemble these small wheels in order to remove hair and string.

Cable housing


The cables on this bike a made of stainless steel. They are very good cables. However, the cable housing is not the same grade as the cable and because of that they have rusted. The owner of this bike has a profound knowledge of things of this matter and could provide a much clearer explanation of rust comprises metal. Rust is not just unsightly, it weakens metal. Shift cables have to run smoothly through these cables in order to downshift. In order to keep prices down, bike companies are notorious for cutting costs in areas such as tires, saddles, pedals, and cable housing. 

Giant Liv Tempt

Behind the saddle battery


Last year we used this small battery on eight bikes. We had a battery engineer design this for us using Samsung 30Q cells. The final result was a 52V battery that weighed 3 pounds and can fit in a bicycle tool bag. This is a very powerful battery that provides incredible range. There are some bike where a standard battery will not fit. This battery allows us to convert those bikes that otherwise would not be possible. 

Test ride is scheduled for today


Sunny finished...and away we go. Fantastic ride. Bikes like this one always ride very well. The front suspension and big wide tires provide for a very comfortable ride. This bike pedals well and throttles well. I was not uncomfortable taking it up to max speed. This is a small bike and sometimes when when a tall person tests a small bike it gets a bit unnerving. Not so with this bike. Very comfortable, smooth and powerful electric bike.

Final thoughts


The battery on this bike is located behind the saddle in a standard bike tool bag. The battery may be small but it is very powerful. It is a 52 volt battery with Samsung 30Q cells. It is not only powerful but also provides incredible range. It was a perfect fit for this bike and I hope the owner will enjoy it as much as we did building it and testing it. 

Litespeed Classic



This is a beauty and will make a great electric bike. The owner is no novice as she cycles all over the world. She brought in two very nice bikes and said "choose the one you think will make for the best conversion." We immediately knew the titanium framed Litespeed would be more difficult to build than the aluminum framed Specialized but without question the Litespeed will make a stellar eBike. We based our decision on the quality of the components, wheelset, frame material, frame geometry, and esthetics.  

On the work stand


After the bike has been throughly cleaned the process of disassembly begins. People always ask, "Why do you dissemble the bike?" In our opinion, no bike should be converted to an electric bike unless it has been through a thorough inspection. It is not possible to throughly inspect a bike without cleaning the bike, the components, and the wheels. After cleaning comes servicing the derailleur, the chainset, brakes, wheels, and anything else that needs attention. No one benefits from a bike conversion that is certain to fail as soon as it leaves our shop. 

Polish and clean


Why polish and clean? Why not? Think about does not take that much time, our clients love the look of their bike, it is dissembled and therefore easy to reach all the areas that need cleaning, and it installs a sense of pride in our final end product.

One of our helps to cleaning a bike is the use of baby wipes. These are handy as we use them as floss to get into some frames with elaborate cutouts. 

Brake shoes


Brake shoes can last a very long time but the caveat is the older they are the harder they get and the harder they get the poorer the performance. New brake pads that have never been used for period of 3 years need replacing just as if they were used. Soft brake pads is what provides a bike stopping power. 

New pads compared with old


On the left is a new brake shoe and next to it is the worn shoe. As you can see, there is quite a difference. It is not that the new shoe will perform better because it has more braking will perform better because it is newer and therefore softer. 

Replace rust bolts


There is no reason whatsoever to justify working on a bike an ignoring rusty bolts for two reasons. First, when the bike is dissembled most of the bolts are accessible. Second, all mechanics have a lot of nuts and bolts that are take off parts from other bikes and did not cost even a penny. It is a matter of making a bike look better. However, if a bolt is inaccessible, or is frozen in place then it might have to be left as it is. 

Litespeed Classic Continued

Motor Installation


When it comes to motor installation there are a lot of things involved. First, we machine adaptors to fit certain bottom bracket standards. Second, we clear the bottom bracket shell of any obstacles. Third, we lock the motor in place using a proprietary system. Lastly, we secure the motor with a lock nut using a heavy duty torque wrench set at 60NM. We guarantee that any motor we secure in a bike will not come loose for the life of the bike. 

Motor installed


Working with titanium can be difficult. In this case I called a friend of mine who is an engineer and a professor at the University of California and we discussed the different grades of titanium and the tools required to work with this very hard material. In the end everything worked as planned. The first (or close to it) bicycle frame made of titanium was the Litespeed. Today there are hundreds of companies making titanium bike frames. In my opinion, there is no better material to construct a bike frame than titanium.   

Almost finished...


Here we moved the bike from the heavy lift stand to the Park Tool stand for the cabling. Here it will go through and another close inspection. This bike will be ready for its test ride sometimes today. The weather is good, the bike ready...looking forward to this test.

Test Ride


While finishing this bike we decided to make some changes. We are going to install a new front fork. The current front fork will not allow a tire larger than a 28mm. The fork we are installing can accommodate a tire as large as 2 inches. Working with the owner of this bike we will be designing a bike that can be provide both comfort and safety. I have written much about tires on this website and continue to believe that wide, puncture protected tires are the most important part of any electric bicycle. Electric bikes give us the ability to ride at speeds many are unaccustomed. 

Finished bike and test ride


This bike has been quite an adventure. We wanted to install larger tires but we were restricted by the size and type of the frame and fork. The largest tire we could fit on the rear was a Continental Grand Prix 5000 28mm. We had to replace the front fork to allow any tire larger than a 25mm. We finished the bike with a 35C tire on the front which allows a much safer and comfortable ride.

The two mechanics that rode the bike both agreed it rides fantastic and is ready to go.

Final thoughts


Each bike is different, each rider is different, even the use of the bike varies. Some will use their eBike on flat roads others on long steep climbs. Before we convert a bike we find out as much as we can about how the bike will be used. There is not standard that we use for all conversions. This conversion was for an elderly woman who is an highly experienced rider and continues to ride throughout the world. Each build we do is a custom build as each person we meet will always be unique in many way. 

Bike Friday Haul A Day



This is a very interesting bike and you may remember we converted one just like it a couple of months back. Battery placement was difficult but we able to flat mount a full sized battery aft of the seatpost. This is not a folding bike. This is a collapsible bike in that the top tube is in two sections and the foremost section slides into rear section making the bike shorter. Clever design. This bike already has eBike tires and it has been professionally maintained. 

On the workstand


As predicted, everything on tis bike is in top order. The last time we converted a Bike Friday Haul A Day it was filled with surprises. Motor placement was difficult, battery placement was difficult, and even the cabling was difficult. Fortunately we keep records of all of our builds so we will have a roadmap to guide us through the process. However, that does not mean we do not make changes as we are always looking for new ways to improve on the previous build.

Let's start with the battery


First, insure the motor will fit and then move to the battery. Just because you think a battery will fit does not mean it will fit. A woman brought a bike in for conversion the other day, I took a quick glance and thought ...battery will fit. After she left I took a battery case we use for measurements, and found it will not fit. That means a custom battery that we cannot charge the client. As my mother use to say, "Sometimes Alvin, you are not as smart as you think you are." My plan for today is have this bike ready for the test ride by tomorrow morning. 

Battery mount


Batteries must always be installed on a flat surface. If there is no flat surface you have to create one. In this case we take 3/8 in aluminum and make three plates. We then use stainless steel screws with special iodized washers to attach the battery base plate. This process take a lot of measurements and trial and error until completed. We have built this same bike in the past but that does not mean we are not always looking for a better approach to the build. For example, those small green washers are not your average washer. We tested these washers in salt water for two weeks before we decided these are the ones we will use. Converting standard bikes to electric involves creativity, mechanical and electrical skills, and a lot of patience.  

Motor installed


Our original plan was to have this bike finished yesterday. It was Michael Tyson who said "Everyone has a plan until they get punched in the face." Our plan certainly went out the window. The motor placement went well but we did some custom work in the machine shop in order to insure this motor will stay in place for as long as the bike lasts. The battery is perfect, the cabling will defiantly take some planning. At the end of the day the bike is still on the stand and we are sure it will be finished tomorrow. 

Speed sensor: IMPORTANT


When installing a speed sensor it is very important that it be placed in a location where the least amount of extension is used on the speed sensor. The speed sensor adjusts by sliding out or telescoping. It is mounted on the chainstay and then telescopes out to meet a magnet that is attached to a spoke. Do not extend the sensor out more than a few millimeters. A speed sensor that is fully extended can snap off when removing the wheel. On bikes where the spokes of the rear wheel are to far from the chainstay we opt to put the sensor on the front of the bike. The above is a picture of the speed sensor mounted upside down on the front fork of the Bike Friday. Why upside down? By mounting it upside down it changes the angle of the sensor allowing it to fit in a tight space.

Bike Friday Haul A Day Continued

Final wiring and cabling


Cabling a folding bike takes a lot of planning. If a bike's dimensions change then it stands the reason all cables must be able to accommodate the change. We see this on full suspension bikes, folding bikes, and telescoping bikes such as the Bike Friday. One of the methods we use is to attach our cables to the existing cables. We know the routing of the shift and brake cable are correct because it had been done by the engineers of Bike Friday Haul A Day. However, that does not mean we slavishly follow the established cables. We are always looking for a more esthetic  way to route cables on every build.

Test ride


This bike came out beautiful. We were able to mount a full sized battery in a relatively small place. Sometimes, the area where we place a battery i so restricted the battery cannot be removed and has to be charged on the bike. The motor is fully locked into place and will be trouble free for years to come. 

Test ride was postponed due to rain...

Final thoughts


Mmmmm. Says here that dogs are smarter than humans. Duh!

Yuba Boda Boda



This bike came in the other day accompanied by a very nice young man and his father. This bike is to be used to transport children as well as cargo. Every bike we convert to electric is throughly inspected to insure it will be a safe mode of transportation when completed. If a bike is used to carry children the inspection is more intensive. Our promise to those who carry their children and grandchildren on their electric bikes is that it will never leave our shop until it is a safe mode of transportation. 

Washing and first inspection


This is how we begin every conversion...with a thorough wash and initial inspection. One of the things I noticed on this bike was the tape over the bars. I wondered what was its purpose. Whatever its purpose I was already planning an improvement. Also, there is a kink in the shift cable that would need to be eliminated. Tires are stock tires. Stock tires are always inadequate for an electric cargo bike. Stock tires have thin sidewalls and absolutely no puncture protection. Everything else appeared in order.

Ready for the work stand


Now we can clearly inspect and evaluate this bike. Wheels we evaluate independently of the bike. The wheels are in great shape. The rim strips are of good quality and will present no problem in the future. Brake pads are new but the "noodles" need replacing. Seat post moves freely, headset and bearings inspected and are like new condition with ample grease intact. Laminate on the decks are in good condition. I noticed a couple of missing bolts that need replacing. 

Missing bolt


Actually a missing nut. The pliers are pointing out a bolt with a missing nut. Seems like something insignificant but any time a bike is dissembled and you ignore missing bolts, nuts, screws, or any other attachments then you should not be working on bikes. Every bike mechanic has a bin of nuts and bolts and it does not cost anything to replace a missing bolt or nut. 

Tightening all bolts


Connecting bolts always come loose in time. Heat and cold causes bolts to expand and contract which causes them to loosen. It only takes a minute to go over the entire bike and tighten every nut and bolt. This is especially true for cargo bikes as the assembly of the aluminum tubes always seem to be loose.

On the work stand


The chain, derailleur and the cassette are in the ultra sonic cleaner tank and the tires have been removed. The rear derailleur is questionable but we will see what we can do with it. So far so good.

Yuba Boda Boda Continued

Mystery solved


When we removed the tape we saw the tubes were actually electrical conduit pipe. After removing the tubes we found the answer. The original aluminum tubes were cut in order to shorten the overall length of the Yuba "Monkey Bars." In our opinion, clever and well done. To keep them from spinning freely we will secure them with small machine screws and wrap in rim tape. 

Rear Derailleur


After a very thorough cleaning, it is clear that this Sram derailleur has "given up the ghost." When pulley wheels are fouled we dissemble them and clean them of debris. However, as you can see in the picture above, the pulley wheels are pressed on and therefore cannot be repaired. The Sram X3 derailleur is very inexpensive and was not expected to last any longer than it has. 

Coming together


While it may not look like it, this bike is nearly finished. We knew the battery would be difficult but we able to fit a full sized battery on the downtube. The motor went in with only a few modifications. The speed sensor will not work on the rear chainstay so we had to use two extensions to get it up to the front fork. Here, the speed sensors will work fine.

Note: A speed sensor is mounted on the chainstay and a magnet on the spokes. The speed sensor can be adjusted out in order to reach the magnet. Do not extend the sensor out any more than a 1/4 inch. A fully extended sensor makes it difficult to remove the rear wheel without snapping off the sensor.

Brake Suprise


When calibrating brakes or derailleurs and they do not respond to proper adjustments then begin to look for something that is worn, bent, or broken. In this case it is the pin that goes into the brake boss. Also, the tension spring is bent out of proportion. The pin, and the spring, is what causes the brake arm to open after being applied. If only one side opens the other will rub continuously on the braking surface.

Finished and test ride


While i was working on this bike a neighbor walked in and said, "You still working on that bike?" I said "Brakes are off," and continued to work. He said, "Alvin, you think every bike you work on is your bike." Good point. Every mechanic knows every shortcut but no mechanic takes a shortcut on his or her bike. The question is...would I put my grandchildren on the back of this bike? Yes...I would. This bike is finished.

Final thoughts


This was a build that ran way over schedule but we knew that when we began. It was not that it was a difficult conversion. There is a balance between budget and what it will take  to make a bike a safe, reliable means of transportation. A builder has to be willing to share his profit with the client to insure the goal is met. In good faith a client brings a bike in for conversion and a price is given. If the builder, in the course of the conversion, finds many things in need of correction and goes well over the stated price he/she cannot expect the client pay any more than was quoted. Nor, can the builder ignore all those things on the build that must be replaced or repaired. Therefore, the builder, in the interest of building a safe, reliable electric bike, must be willing to assume some if not all the additional cost. 

Surly Crosscheck



We have converted quite a few Surly bikes to electric and we have yet to see one that is not a great candidate. Surly bikes are well made bikes with a steel frame that will last many trouble free years. One of the things we like best about the Surly brand is their ability to accept wide tires. As mentioned before, wide tires are a big plus on any electric bike as they provide a element of safety and comfort.

First cleaning


This is where we begin our inspection...initial cleaning. Hands on the bike, washing and cleaning, looking for any obvious problems that might make a conversion to an electric bike unfeasible. It is at this time we find broken spokes (if any), bad wheels, cracked frames, and missing parts. We do a mental inventory of what it will take to prepare the bike for conversion to electric. We know the Surly brand and do not expect to find any flaws but that does not stop us from a through examination. This is the first of three cleanings and inspection. The second cleaning occurs on the workstand and that allows a more accurate inspection.

Restoring components


We use an ultrasonic tank to clean parts of all debris and contaminants. A chain and derailleur can be restored to new condition through this process. Derailleurs are magnets for sticky grime. Rarely are derailleurs removed for cleaning and through the years they become clogged with grease and grime. After cleaning the derailleur each moving part is lubricated and then is set aside until ready to install. The chain is also cleaned in the tank. If a chain is rusty we cannot use it on an electric bike. The ultrasonic cleaner clears a chain of all grease but does not remove rust. Rust is a warning sign that the chain has been going through a process of degradation. 

On the work stand


Everything on this build is progressing well. Motor and battery have been installed without any issues. Today we will tackle the cabling, chain, chainline, chainring, another inspection, and then get it ready for the test ride.

Note: When we evaluate a chain there are three things we consider. First, is the chain worn. We take a tool and measure the chain to see if it is worn to the point it needs replacement. Second, we look at the condition of the chain. Does it show any sign that it has been compromised by rust or previous repair. Lastly, we look at the quality of the chain. Sometimes we see chains that show no signs of wear or rust but nevertheless need to be replaced because the chain is poorly made and cannot stand up to the rigors of an electric motor. 

Test ride


The test ride came to an abrupt halt as the the rear wheel was pulled from the rear dropouts. The dropout used on the Surly Crosscheck is similar to a track forkend but is facing forward. Some bikes that use a forward facing dropout use 1/4" axels and are bolted to the frame to prevent movement. The wheel being pulled from the Surly Crosscheck is a common problem among very strong riders. First, we were going to machine a part that would fix the wheel in place then we thought we would call Surly to see if they had addressed this problem. It turns out they have and the part is called the Surly Hurdy Gurdy. For those of you who remember the 60's, "Hurdy Gurdy Man" was a song written by Donavan while in India studying Transcendental Mediation by the Beatles. 

Test rides and final thoughts


One this part was installed on the bike an adjusted the bike was ready to ride. The bike rode very well, shifts were smooth, tire wide enough for a comfortable ride, and plenty of power. When the owner of the bike arrived to pick up the bike we discussed why Surly Bikes would make a bike that would require a special $40 part in order for it to function. It is not just the powerful Bafang motor pulling the wheel out of the horizontal drops it seems any strong rider can do the same. I am not sure why Surly Bikes continue to use a forward facing horizontal drop outs when there so many far better choices. 

Salsa Fargo



This is a very impressive bike. Salsa makes some beautiful steel bikes and this is a fine example. Our plan is to install wider tires, flat bars with a 26 degree rise and a 30 degree sweepback, the Bafang BBS02 and a 48v 13 battery. We did notice a slight abrasion on the rear derailleur. When we see that we automatically flag it for hanger alignment.

Derailleur hanger


This is a picture of a derailleur hanger. Almost all bikes have this part. It is made of very soft material and is made to bend if your bikes falls and hits the derailleur. It is sacrificial and is meant to protect the derailleur and frame from damage. If this is even slightly bent it will effect shifting. 

Checking for alignment


While the wheels is held in one position you check alignment at the 12 o'clock, 6 o'clock, 9 o'clock and the 3 o'clock positions. We start at the 12:00 o'clock position and set the rod against the rim. We then move the rod down to the bottom of the wheel and it should sit in the same place...against the rim.....

Derailleur hanger alignment


We were correct in that the hanger is slightly bent and needs to be adjusted. Bent hanger are very common and we even see them on new bikes. When we have a bike that is not shifting well after we have installed the motor we go directly to the hanger as it is often the culprit. 

Ready to begin


This is how we start with our conversions. We do not toss a motor on, slap a battery in place and off you go. All of the bikes we convert to electric is a custom build. Nothing escapes our notice and every safety issue is addressed. 

Cleaning parts


This is the cassette and chain in a "before cleaning" We have a large ultrasonic take we use for cleaning chains, cassettes, and derailleurs. After cleaning, new lubricant is applied to the derailleur and chain.