Every week we feature a clients eBike conversion

The Bike: Xtracycle


This bike is a 2013 Xtracycle Edgerunner.

When a bike arrives at our shop we do a general summation on the bike as to condition, suitability for conversion, and any additional cost we feel may be necessary to insure a safe bike. This bike we know is suitable for conversion because we have built them before. Because of the age of the bike we recommended replacing the tires with newer Schwalbe puncture proof eBike tires. Also, it was obvious the chain needed replacing. Other than that, we think this bike will be perfect for the Bafang Mid Motor.

Our client chose the Bafang BBSHD heavy duty 750 watt motor. A great choice for any cargo bike. 

Starting the Build


Yep, we strip the bike down to insure we see every last detail. One of the most important steps we take in a eBike conversion is removing everything on a bike. By doing this we are able to if there are cracks anywhere on the bike, missing bolts, loose bolts and screws, rust, inspections of brakes and derailleur, inspect dropouts and hanger, check spokes and hub bearings. The reason we do this is twofold: First, is safety. The power of the Bafang motor will exploit any deficiencies in the bike. Secondly, the performance of the Bafang mid drive system is dependent upon a fully functional bicycle platform! A bad chain, wheel, cassette or derailleur will cause the Bafang system to operate poorly. A healthy bike always means good performance.

Washing the Bike


As many know I started this company at my home. I would brings bikes I was working on in the house so my little dog could watch me work. My wife had one request, "No dirty bikes!" So, each bike I scrubbed and cleaned until they looked new. It was through that process I learned the value of cleaning EVERY bike before undergoing any work. Cleaning a bike will reveal ANY problem that it might have better than any inspection. Cleaning is "hands on" work and therefore anything one might not notice during an inspection they are sure to find while cleaning.

On this bike, I noticed too many loose and missing screws. These we will replace with stainless steel screws. 

The tires are old and need replacing even though the tread is still good. Never scrimp on tires. Good tires help to keep you safe.

Up Next: More Tear Down!


At this point we have the bike on the rack with the parts off. The derailleur, cassette, chain, are removed for cleaning. In this particular case the chain will be replaced. 

Always when we have a bike stripped we never use the existing cables and cable housing. This is the time for new cables, housing and brake pads.

Fitting the Motor


Establishing proper chainline is one of our most important tasks. We use Lekkie Chain rings, in many instances, but in addition we move the motor forward and aft with spacers to help get that chainline spot on. In the picture we mover the motor outboard by about 2mm.

Cleaning the Parts


We use an Ultrasonic Cleaner, using non toxic cleaner to clean parts into like new condition.  This device is used to clean chainsets, chains, derailleurs, cassettes, pedals, seatposts, to its original condition. Then all moving parts are lubricated with fresh high grade bicycle specific oil.

Xtracycle Cargo Bike Continued

Ultrasonic Cleaning


While this is not the actual cassette that came off our client's bike it is an example of how effective ultrasonic cleaning is at removing old grease and grim. Again, it does us little good to convert a bike into an electric bike unless all the rest of the bike is functioning properly. 

Battery Placement


This looks like a simple task but it is one of the hardest skills to learn. A battery base plate is flexible. It can twist from side to side and even up and down. For a battery to properly fit on the base plate that base plate has to be perfectly parallel to the battery and perfectly ridged with no undulations or twists!

How we accomplish this is we use 1/8" X 1 1/2" flat aluminum stock, cut to size, then attach to the base plate and then to the bike. Perfect! 

Waterproofing the Bike


Let's face it...nothing is "water proof." However, that does not provide shelter to those builders who make no attempt at building water resistance into the electrical components of your bike.

Notice the picture above; This the main connection between the battery and the motor. First, we join together the Anderson Powerpole connectors. Second, we install a locking clip. Third, we wrap the connection with friction tape. Fourth, we seal the connection with heat shrink. We do this with every connection on the bike. Is it water proof? No, but it is very water resistant! 

Testing the Bike


The bike goes through a number of different tests. Sizing chain length requires an experienced mechanic. A chain to0 short will cause a chain that bounces against the frame while in the highest gear. A chain to long will damage the derailleur. We custom make each chain and then test to insure they will give optimum performance. 

We test the shifting of the bikes. This very important as during the built a cable might be impaired. If a bike upshifts well but downshifts poorly then there is an obstruction.  This is one of the reasons we replace all cable housing while building the bike.

Other tests include: Throttle, pedal assist, chainline, brake cut off switch, display, obstruction of any cable, motor kill switch, turning radius of front fork, and recheck all bolts and any attachments.

A Word about Tires


On this bike we are replace both the front and rear tires with Schwalbe eBike tires. Any standard bike that is being converted into an electric should replace the tires with e-Bike rated tires. EBike tires have greater puncture resistance, and stronger sidewall. Ebikes are fast and powerful (at least ours are) and need robust tires! 

Generally speaking, when you purchase a new bike there are three items which nee upgrading. They are; the saddle, the pedals and the tires. Stock tires might be ok under human power where one seldom rides over 10-15 mph but on a eBike it is easy to attain speeds of 25 mph and beyond. 

Schwalbe eBike rated tires are a good investment in safety and should never be over looked. 

Test Ride


The finishing touches on any eBike conversion included going over every nut, bolt and screw. Check the quick releases, check electrical lines, check to insure battery is locked in and charged, tires properly filled.

And......do not forget the helmet!

Off I go.

Build of the Week-Dahon Folding

The Bike


This week we built two cargo bikes and two folding bikes. This folding bike is a Dahon Visc d18 with disc brakes. Every folding bike is a challenge to build. The reason for this is twofold. First, it has to fold. No matter how you do you wiring it has to be able to fold. On most bikes wiring is tight with no excess whatsoever. With folding bikes wiring has to be loose enough to fold the bike but not so loose it can catch on something. The second difficulty in converting a folding bike is battery placement! We use all kinds of methods on different kinds of bikes. On this bike, it took over 3 hours of testing to finally come up with the best solution. 

On the Rack


Our first big surprise on this bike was the bottom bracket. Bottom brackets on many bikes are very challenging to remove and it is best to leave it to a professional.

Over time we have come up with the best methods and the best tools for removing bottom brackets. A bottom bracket that does not come off with the first couple of attempts means that it will not come off without special tools. 

Bottom Bracket Surprise


This bottom bracket threaded locking nut is made of soft aluminum. Some of the softest we have encountered. Our first attempts to remove this part failed. As you can see from the picture our tool was stripping the soft medal and the bottom bracket was not moving. At this point we had a discussion of how to proceed. We decided out best option at this point is to use a set of channel locks. The bottom finally breaks free. 

Battery Placement


As mentioned, it took over 3 hours of testing different methods to finally determine how we were going to get a battery on a folding bike with limited space...very limited space.

Our standard battery could be made to fit this bike. No matter where we placed it it would impede the folding of the bike! Fortunately, we always carry in stock a "side load" battery. Side load batteries are made to fit in tight spaces. Perfect fit!

In order to insure a solid base for this battery we mill a 1-1/2" wide by 3/8" thick aluminum base plate and attach it to the top tube.

The Special Motor


This the motor no one knows even exists. We do not offer them for sale and only make them available to our clients.

This motor is a BBSHD heavy Duty 750 watt motor. It is not a "de-tuned" or "programed for street use," motor. Those motors are illegal. This motor is built from the factory as a 750 watt BBSHD, and is certified as such by the markings on the case. It is the only Bafang BBSHD that is legal for street use. 

It has tremendous power and will can climb the steepest and longest grades. 

Test Ride



Sunglasses (for coolness)...check

Battery on...check

Full speed ahead Scotty!

Awesome bike, awesome ride.

Build of the Week Mongoose Ruddy

The Bike: Mongoose Ruddy Comp


When this bike came into the shop the other day I thought "Perfect for a build." But, like my father used to say, "Never be fooled by a pretty face." This is a beautiful bike and everything about it lends itself to becoming an awesome eBike. And it will be once we clear a few hurdles.

As you can see there is limited space for a downtube battery. I discussed this with our client and we might be placing the battery on the bottom of the downtube, or perhaps a side open battery.

But, other than that everything else seems to be clear sailing. Or not as the case seems to be.

Scrub, Scrub, and Scrub


First we completely disassemble the bike. The rear cassette is disassembled and put in the ultrasonic cleaning machine. The rear derailleur is cleaned by hand. The frame is polished and the wheels are taken outside for cleaning the tires, axel and spokes.

I am often ask why I clean new bikes. The reason is there is no better way to examine every single moving part on a bicycle than to hold it in your hand and clean it. The same is true of the frame, fork, spokes, wheel, rims, tires, bars, stem, pedals, cranks, and anything else.

On this bike, everything is is perfect working order, no flaws nor damage.

Bottom Bracket Problem!


When bikes are built they weld the downtube, seat tube, and the chainstays to the bottom bracket. If the weld protrudes into the center of the bb there is not a problem...unless you try to put a Bafang Mid Drive motor in the bb shell. Now...we have a problem.

This problem seems to occur more frequently with small framed bikes as the welds are very close together.

To address this issue we use a small Dremel to to carefully  file the bb welds until the shell is free of all material. Time spent on the bottom bracket? Two hours. End result? Perfect! 

Installing the Motor


This bike is being fitted with a Bafang BBSHD 1000 watt motor. When installing mid drive motors you will use spacers to move the motor forward and aft. Spacers can be used on both the drive side and the none drive side. The first task is setting the motor so it does not come into contact with the chainstay. If you look closely you can see a slight gap. Perfect! IF you space it our too far then the chain will not line up between the chain ring and the cassette.

Installing the Battery


Whenever you see the letter "S" on a bicycle downtube be assured it does not stand for Superman. It stands for "small." If the bike is a size small frame then battery placement becomes an issue. Option One: Standard downtube battery - will not fit.

Option Two: Put battery on the bottom of the downtube - motor brace and cable guides block the area needed for attachment.

Option Three: Side load battery - Bingo!

We aways carry side load batteries in stock for this particular reason. A side load battery is smaller and does not need to move forard, then up in order to remove. A side load battery simply opens and closes from the side. 

Battery and Motor Installed


So far so good. Sometimes I am ask the question why I do not use triangle batteries. We do use triangle batteries but only when we  have to. Downtube is always our first choice. Triangle batteries are heavy and, in my opinion not very attractive. If, the side load battery could not be fitted to this bike I would call a custom battery manufacturer and have one designed.

Mongoose Continued

Chain Length


When converting a bicycle into a eBike establishing proper chain length is essential. If a chain is too long it will shift poorly and can fall off the chainring. If a chain is too short it can damage the rear derailleur. This s a picture of the derailleur on the Mongoose. As you can see the chain is too short and will most certainly damage the derailleur. A new chain is required.

How does this happen? Many mountain bikes have a small chainring. For example, the chainring on the Mongoose is a 36T. 36T is too small for an eBike as the top speed would be very low. Therefore we replaced the 36T chain ring with a 42T chainring. This larger chain ring will need a longer chain to work properly.

Chain Line


Proper chain line has to be established. Under human power the chain line can be off a fair bit before it becomes an issue but under the power of the Bafng mid drive even the slightest deviancy will be exploited the torque of the motor. Incorrect chain line will result in dropped chains. 

On the Mongoose we had no other choice than to use a Lekkie chain ring with a 16mm off set. All Lekkie chain rings have a wide/narrow tooth pattern which grips the chain in order to prevent chain drops. 

A Lekkie chain ring is around $90 but you cannot skip this step in order to save on the build. Some bikes work well with the stock chainring but it is an imperative to use a Lekkie if that is what it takes to establish a proper chain line. 

Test Ride


Riding this bike is  quite fun due to its "Plus Tires." A Plus Size tire is somewhere between a tire that is found on a Fat Bike and that of a standard mountain bike. These tires are 27.5X2.8 which makes for a safe and comfortable ride. 

The motor provided tremendous power as expected and the throttle worked well as I moved across the road and into traffic. We always use heavy duty throttles on all of our bikes as we feel the difference and reliability of the stock throttle is significant. 

This bike was was one of the more difficult ones to convert to an eBike. The motor installation, battery installation, and even the display installation were all challenging. But after three days the work was finished and the final product was a beautiful custom eBike.

The Finished eBike


In our shop one of the first things you learn is that every bike is unique and carries with it its own puzzles, obstacles, and surprises. That is what makes converting standard bikes into electric bikes such an interesting endeavor. Every single time someone wheels a bike into our shop and asks, "Do you think this bike can be converted into an electric bike?" I eagerly say, "Well, this put it on the stand and see what we have..."

Build of the Week- Specialized Pitch

Bike: 2020 Specialized Pitch


The picture of this bike does not do it justice. It is a beautiful Sage green. This a new 2020 Specialized Pitch with 27.5 wheels. We have built this same bike many times in the past but that does not mean that it will be a quick build with no surprises. Every year bike manufacturers make changes to their line of bikes. In my experience these changes are always to make a better bike. I have yet to see any change on a new model that downgrades a single item. 

One of the nice things about converting a new bike is that we do not have to go through the cleaning process that is standard on all our builds.

On the Stand


The bike, once out of the box goes on the stand. All bikes are put on the work stand, held by the seat post, drive side facing the mechanic, and there it will remain until the bike is complete. We have three work stands and a fourth one being custom built by EVT Tools in Oregon. 

Once in the stand we inspect all elements of this bike for any blemishes or any fault with the bike. We test the hydraulic brake system for pressure and to insure there no leaks. We are check the wheels to insure they are true and the rear hanger to insure it is straight. One would assume a new bike would have trued wheels and a straight hanger but that is not always the case. If a bike has a bent derailleur it will NEVER shift correctly. This bike passed all tests.

Motor Installation


In the above picture you will see a shift sensor installed on the chainstay. We install shift sensors on all of our bikes as it helps improves shifting and helps to preserve the drive train. After the shift sensor is installed the motor is put in place.

While we do not use a motor brace on all of our bikes, if we sense that one is needed to prevent movement of the motor in the future we considered mandatory to the build. New bikes often run shift, hydraulic lines, and brake cable internally and these cables exit right underneath the motor. If the motor shifts and impedes these cables both shifting and rear brakes will not function.

This bike required a motor brace as it sits atop both hydraulic and brake lines.

Battery Placement


It may not seem like much but if you look closely you will see a 1 1/2 inch by 3/8th inch aluminum bar. We cut and mill these in our shop and then mount the battery to the plate and the plate to the frame giving the battery a very strong strong connection to the bike. An electric bike battery has to be installed perfectly flat and perfectly rigid in order for the battery to slide on and off smoothly.

Making it Water Resistant


Every connection is sealed with heat shrink in order to prevent moisture intrusion. The connectors are Hilgo connectors which are very water resistant in their own right but we want these connections to be sealed for years to come. This week a person took possession if a Giant Expressway folding bike that we had build for her with the Bafang 750 watt motor. The next day she called and said she put the bike on front of the bus in order to commute to the City and then it began to rain. That eBike we built was on the front of a bus going 65 mph in the rain! When she retrieved the bike, it powered up and she continued her commute. Yup...the extra step of sealing each connection pays off.

Test Ride


After programing the motor and setting the display it is time to don the helmet and experience the fun part of building electric bikes. 

The bike performed as expected. Shifting is smooth, motor quiet, and power....lots of power! Again, this is a beautiful bike and I love the Sage green color

Specialized Pitch-Continued

Final Product


Specialized Pitch with 27.5 wheelset, hydraulic brakes, BBS02b 750 watt motor and a 52v 17.5 battery

A Special Note


After I called the client I examined the bike one last time and decided I did not like the chainline. So, back to work. I removed the motor and used a 1mm spacer and reinstalled the motor. I removed the stock Bafang chainring and replaced it with a Lekkie 46T 16mm offset chainring. Put on a new and longer chain. Contacted owner and explained why I had to use a Lekkie. He was very understanding. Dropped chains are very serious and always are the responsibility of the builder to insure that chain stays on the rings!

Chain Length


This is an example of a chain that is too short and why i removed the chain and used a longer one in its place. Proper chain length is a balance between what is too long and what is too short. We never guess but use a process of removing one link at a time until it is correct. A powered bike adds a new dynamic to chain sizing as what is acceptable under human power might be unacceptable under the power of a motor. It has to be very precise when a powerful motor like the Bafang mid drive is being incorporated into the drive system.

Jamis Nova Road Bike

Jamis Gets a Bath


Every bike get a scrub, The duties of all employees is to clean bikes. Including the CEO. Especially the CEO. The whole idea of cleaning is to allow us to inspect the bike in such a manner that it would be impossible to a miss a single flaw in the frame, fork, wheels, and components. Stress fractures are easy to miss when covered by dirt.

Cleaning a bikes involves hand cleaning with a towel, not pressure washing! By hand, gently. After cleaning the bike is disassembled and each individual part is inspected and cleaned once more.

Stress Fracture Example


This is part of a cargo bike where the rear chainstay, on both sides, cracked and broke. A person was on the back of the bike when it happened and fortunately no one was hurt. This is why we clean a bike as the above fracture would be discovered before it snapped.

In the Sonic Cleaner


The sonic cleaner does a fantastic job of through cleaning. In here went the rear cassette, chain, and the rear derailleur. Remember, anytime a derailleur is cleaned it must be lubricated before use.

Nice and Clean


It is pointless to install a motor in a bike and fail to tune the bike up and insure the chain, cassette, and derailleur are in like new working order. If one component in the drive train is under performing it will reflect on our product and work at Island City Bikes. So yes, a tune up, new cables and housing, are included. 

Servicing the Derailleur


Hard to see but here we are applying high grade oil to every moving part of the derailleur. Before ti is reinstalled we check to insure the hanger is not bent. We use a special tool for this. A bent hanger is common on many bikes and unless it is corrected the bike will never shift properly and reflect on the performance of our conversion.

Bottom Bracket Removal


This is a special tool we use for the removal of bottom brackets. Bottom bracket removal is one of the most dangerous tasks of installing the Bafang motor. The reason why it is dangerous is many attempt to remove the bottom bracket without the proper tools. A bottom bracket is often very tight in the shell and sometimes secured with Loctite. The splines on the bottom bracket are very shallow which can (and will) cause the socket to slip. When that occurs your hands can be severely injured if they come into contact with any part of the bike

Jamis Nova Continued

Bottom Bracket Removed


There you go, bottom bracket removed and all 10 fingers accounted for.

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