I came into this business by a circuitous route. I began by building and selling custom bikes intended for racing. It was inevitable that I would encounter a new type of bike called an eBike. After riding an electric bike for the first time, I knew this would be a true paradigm shift in the cycling world.
I began by selling electric bikes that were made by companies whose name I had never heard. These were new companies that were ordering electric bike from overseas, putting their brand name on the bike and selling them. In my opinion, all of these bikes were terrible. They had limited range, very poor hub motors, and the worst components available. At that time there were over 1,500 companies importing these bike to sell in the US. I looked at the bikes I was selling and said..."I can build a better bike."
"The best electric bike in the world is sitting in your garage" is our way of pointing out a simple truth. The only difference between a standard bike and an electric bike is a motor and battery. Most likely, the bike in your garage is a known name brand, it fits you and is comfortable, the components are ones you may have chosen when you purchased the bike, and most importantly it is a bike you are familiar with, making it a much safer bike.
Most likely your current bike is one of these brands: Specialized, Giant, Trek, Cannondale, Raleigh, Diamondback, Schwinn, Bianchi, and other well established brands. The point being, all of these bikes have a long history of well documented research, testing, and field testing of their bikes for purpose of reliability and quality. Of the 1,500 new electric bike companies, none of them have any history of quality because they have no history. In addition, many of these new electric bike companies disappear almost as quickly as they appear only to be replaced by another company willing to ship bikes from Asia and put their brand on the bike.
Almost four years ago I began converting standard bikes to electric and I was right...the best electric bike in the world is sitting in your garage...it only lacks a motor, battery, and an experienced team of technicians and mechanics to make it happen.
The following is description of the process of conversion and while it is not comprehensive, as we do much more, it will give you an idea of the process.
When a bike arrives in our shop for conversion to an electric bike we view it far more than an exchange of services and goods for financial compensation. We view it as a responsibility and a trusted relationship. I do not say that as a matter of marketing babble but in sincerity. When you place your bicycle in our hands the unspoken message is, "I trust you to transform my bike into a safe, reliable method of transportation for years to come." Every build is personal. We never let any bike leave the workshop that cannot be defined as a "safe, reliable method of transportation for years to come."
Our work does not end when we return your bike to you fully built into a powerful electric mode of transportation. The relationship of trust and responsibility that began at our first meeting will extend into the future. We stand behind our craftsmanship and our product and will always be here if you need us.
Below are some, not all, of the steps a bike will go through to convert your bike to electric. Every bike we convert to electric we test on the roads of San Leandro. Because we ride every bike we build we know the single most important part of any bike (car or motorcycle), is the tires. The only contact you have with the road is a very small "contact patch" of the tire. It is our professional opinion that all electric bikes should have, for the purpose of safety and comfort, the largest tires within reason. Electric bikes move at higher sustained speeds than a standard bike. These higher speeds require tires with air volume sufficient to absorb the shock from road debris, and obstacles seen and unseen. In addition, tires must be large enough to provide adequate traction for all surface types and conditions.
When a bike arrives at the shop it undergoes a general evaluation for to insure the bike is suitable for conversion. What we are looking for is the condition of the frame, forks, wheels, and any possible corrosion that may lead to failure. Rust on a bike is not necessarily a deal breaker because it depends on on how deep the rust has penetrated the frame. Surface rust on a steel bike is common and presents no harm to the integrity of the frame.
We also look at frame geometry. Frame geometry will determine what type of battery we will use and where the battery will be placed.
Then, we look at the area around the bottom bracket. We are looking for any obstructions that may come into contact with the motor. Most obstructions can be removed (bash guards, chain keepers, chain guards). Also, we measure the bottom bracket shell to determine length. Some shells will be 68mm, 73mm, 100mm, and 120mm.
NOTE: Do not be concerned if your bike is dirty! We will clean your bike thoroughly when it is in our possession.
The bike is perfect...the client not so much.
When a client walks into our shop we encourage them to ask as many questions as they would like. While they are interviewing us...we are interviewing them. There are some it is best not to have as a client. For example, anyone who is demanding, angry, has unrealistic expectations, ignores our masking policy, uses racist or demeaning language (not funny and not welcome), or any other sense they might not like the finished product before we even begin, we prefer not to have them as a client.
Of our 800 clients only one was a problem. He told us he thought the warranty was too short (one year warranty) and he going to ride the bike hard as he could in order to burn up the motor in the 12 month warranty period. The other 799 clients are wonderful people whom we feel privileged they have trusted us to convert their bike in to an electric bike.
What became of the man who was going to burn up the motor intentionally? Never heard from him again.
While writing this, one of our employees said, "You cannot put that on your website!" So, I gave it a lot of thought and decided I can and I should. Owning a business is not all about the money, it is about all the people we meet along the way. We teach our sons and daughters about avoiding bad relationships then we forget everything we taught them in order to make a sell.
When you bring a bike to us for conversion we view it as a lifetime relationship between client and provider to make sure your bike will always be a safe mode of transportation and enjoyment.
For example, last night after work I drove 40 miles to pick up a bike from a woman who had no means of transportation to bring the bike to us. It is a bike we built for her, she is one of our clients and the cost of the pick up...nothing. The value of having her as a client...priceless.
I doubt you will ever find anyone whose head is so filled with bikes than mine. But never have I lost sight of the fact that is always "People first, bikes second."
It is not possible to inspect a bike without cleaning a bike. No bike should ever be converted to electric without a thorough inspection, and an inspection is not possible without a detailed cleaning. Cleaning a bike is hard and dirty work but it is part of the process of conversion and cannot be eliminated.
Every employee of Island City Bikes (except office staff) are informed at the time of employment they will be involved in cleaning of bikes. We are out cleaning bikes in the hot sun and in the pouring rain, but in the end...there is nothing about your bike we do not know.
Yesterday, I ask one of our mechanics if she enjoyed cleaning bikes and she said, "Yes, because I like to see a bike restored to its original beauty."
We do not see a dirty bike as a reflection of its owner. A dirty bike is a bike that is being used and enjoyed. As a result, it becomes covered in dirt, grime, mud, and other contaminates.
This material was found inside a tire. What is it? It appears to be a tire liner that crumpled with age. Of course, this material would grind the tube until there is a sudden blow out.
How did we find this material? We found this because we removed the tire in order to inspect the rim tape. Rim tape is a cloth (my favorite) or plastic strip that sits over the spoke holes on a rim. Rim tape must cover all the hole lest the tube extend into the hole causing a blowout.
Some of the items we have found while cleaning a bike include; cracked frames, broken derailleur pulleys, tubes with multiple patches, damaged rim tape, broken spokes, bent axles, out of round wheels, worn bearings, cracked tires, missing parts, worn brake pads, chains that are seriously worn, parts assembled incorrectly, broken stems, cracked stem faceplates, broken saddle rails, recalled front forks and recalled rear suspension.
All of the above can go unnoticed unless a bike is thoroughly cleaned and inspected.
This is an example of rim tape that needs replacing. That small hole will get larger and when it does the tube will expand into that hole and the tire blows out.
Electric bikes can ride at sustained speeds of over 25mph. A blowout at that speed can have serious consequences. Rim tape does not last forever and will need replacing at some point. Fortunately, rim tape is not expensive and simple to install.
Yesterday, a child's bike came in for repair. Normally, we do not work on any bikes other than our clients. We make exception to this rule if it is a child's bike. On this bike it was a flat tire in need of repair. I pulled the tire off for inspection and the first thing I noticed was the absolutely terrible rim tape that was installed. It was twisted and third of the spoke nipples were visible. These exposed nipples will cut the tube over and over. Difficult to believe someone, somewhere thought it appropriate to do such poor work on a child's bike.
Rim tape on all bikes needs to be periodically inspected.
This is a picture of rim tape that has moved. As a tire flexes it can catch on the rim tape and move it to one side or the other. As you can see, this rim tape provides no protection at all and is subject to a blowout at any given time.
If you have read much about the way we build bikes you will know we are very tire centered. Tires are the most important part of any bike as it is the only part that comes into contact with the riding surface. Tires must be of good quality as must the tube and...the rim tape, If the rim tape fails to protect the tube then it does not matter how thorn proof your tire is, you will still get a flat, or worse a blow out.
This cog has a broken tooth. We found it because we remove the cassette, separate all the cogs and clean each one independently. Why did the rider of this bike not notice the broken cog? Under human power you might notice poor shifting performance but it would be tolerable. An electric bike is quite different. If there is a broken part on a bike it will be quickly discovered when the bike is ridden under power.
We also use a Rolo Cassette tool to check a cassette to see if it is worn beyond use. If a cassette is worn out it will skip while under power. It will be a loud clacking noise. Frontally, cassettes are not that expensive.
A bit hard to see...the shift cable housing on this bike is rusty and needs replacing.
Shift cables and shift cable housing are integral to the shifting of your bike. Brake cables and brake cable housing are essential to stopping your bike. It is our job to insure every bike we convert to electric has sufficient braking capabilities and can shift between gears smoothly. In order to do this the bike has to have good cables with clean cable housing. We have seen many bikes where the cables have been replaced but never the cable housing. Using new cables in old housing may not solve shifting problems. We inspect each cable and cable housing alike to determine if it needs replacement.
There have been a number of improvements to cable housing over the years, such as plastic liners, and the cost for new housing is minimal. We also look for poor routing, rust, or kinks in the housing. It matters little how new a cable is, if it is being run through housing that is not up to the task. Any kink or bend in a shift housing is removed and replaced. Shifting up a cassette is easy...it is the downshift that is affected by poor cable housing. We want your bike to shift smoothly both up the cassette and back down.
This shift cable would have broke in short order leaving the rider stranded. Can a snapped shift cable pose a danger? Yes it can. When a derailleur cable snaps the chain immediately falls into the lowest cog on the cassette. If you are climbing a hill when this happens you will most likely will fall off the bike. In addition, if the "limit screw" on the derailleur is not properly set the chain will wedge itself between the frame and the wheel. If that happens it is very hard to correct.
If, your bike has a "Rapid Rise" rear derailleur then the chain will go to the largest cog on the cassette. That is fine except for the fact if the low limit set screw is improperly set the derailleur will go into the spokes and a crash is imminent.
We always check cables, cable housing, and limit set screws on every bike.
The slanted valve stem is a problem that needs to be addressed, not ignored. This Schrader valve stem is being pulled against the sharp edge of the rim and eventually it will cut the stem resulting in a flat tire.
A flat tie is not just an inconvenience...it can also be hazardous. Tires rarely go flat while they are sitting at home. Tires can go flat while riding in the rain or in the summer heat. Tires can go flat while we are riding trying to beat the setting sun, and sometimes a flat tire can occur along a road with fast moving traffic. A tilted valve stem is broadcasting the fact that this tire will go flat and in order to prevent that certainty remove the tire, and correct the problem. HINT: Remove tire, rub talcum powder in tire and remount. The talcum powder keeps the tube from catching the inside of the tire and being pulled crooked.
There is nothing more important on any electric bike (or any bike for that matter) than the tires. In order to inspect a tire it has to be removed from the bike. A inflated tire can conceal many flaws. In the picture above we see a split in the tire. Of course that tire needs replacement and was easy to see. Other flaws in tires are more difficult to see. iF a bike is 5 years old and it has stock tires, they need to be replaced. In the first place stock tires on most bikes are pretty poor tires when they are brand new. In the second place, all tires age wether you use them or not.
Tires...the bigger the better (within reason) on electric bikes. When you increase the size of the tire you increase the contact patch of the tire. The larger the contact patch the greater stopping power of the bike.
Bike frames are made of steel, aluminum, titanium, and carbon fiber. Each of these materials come in different grades and thickness. With metal frames we pay close attention to the welds (brazing) of the frames to insure there are no cracks. We are also looking for any previous repairs that may not be up to snuff. We have a frame builder on call to evaluate any frame we think might be a problem. Carbon fiber frames are extremely strong despite being very light. With these frames we are looking for any cracks in the frame paying close attention to the seat tube and the chainstays.
This inspection is part of our cleaning process as it is not possible to inspect a frame for small hairline cracks when it is hidden by road grime.
The one component we see on recall lists more than any other is the front suspension fork. While cleaning the bike we inspect the fork to insure it is working properly then we check the recall lists to see if it is a recalled fork. Last year we found four front suspension forks that were on a recall list, one was a "imminent danger of failure" recall. In each case we helped our client file for a claim for new forks.
When a factory recall occurs, all dealers are notified. The dealer is supposed to contact all those whom he/she sold the product and notify them of the recall. Sometimes that does not happen. Other times, the bike is sold to another party and they do not know there was a recall in effect.
A bit of research on our part helps our clients have a safer bike for a safer ride.
First, we look at the rim tape. Does it cover all the holes, or the spoke ends? Is it poor grade that will eventually fail? Has it slidden out of place? Does it impede the valve stem? All of these factors will effect the life of the tube.
Second, we clean and inspect every spoke. We look at the point where the spoke enters the rim. It is here where we find cracks as the tension of the spoke tries to pull it through the rim. Then we move to the hub. It is at the hub where spokes ten to brake. We hand squeeze each spoke to see if any ore loose, or even broken.
Third, we look at the bearings...does the wheel spin smoothly on the bearing? Does the wheels wobble? If a wheel wobbles we put it on a stand and correct the bearing tension. If a wheel spins in a irregular fashion (difficult to explain) then the bearings need to be loosened (if cone and cup) or replaced.
We use a parts cleaning take to remove the thick grease that is found on derailleurs and cassettes. We lightly spray the components with a biodegradable solvent and brush with a cleaning brush. This process removes all of the heavy debris and readies the component for ultrasonic cleaning
This is a commercial grade ultrasonic cleaner. Ultrasonic cleaners use high pressure sound waves to create minute cavitation bubbles that force contaminates from objects placed in the tank. We use a biodegradable cleaner in conjunction with the ultrasonic cleaning tank. Nothing can clean a chain, derailleur or cassette better than ultrasound cleaning. It is through the use of ultrasonic cleaning that enables us to find small things such as cracked pulley wheels in the derailleurs.
After we finish the ultrasonic cleaning we inspect and remove any strings from the pulley wheels. Pulley wheels are magnets to string and hair and they have to be cleared for them to spin smoothly.
Now we lubricate each pivot point of the derailleur. It is almost impossible to correctly lubricate a derailleur while it is on the frame.
The chain we do not lubricate until it is on the bike.
Dirty, greasy bicycle chains are...normal. They simply cannot be avoid when you keep your chain lubricated. Chains that are lubricated attract dust and grime. We clean these chains for a couple of reasons. First, we do not like to work with dirty chains. Second, it is poor form to put a dirty chain on a new bike. Every bike we convert to electric has either a new chain or the original chain that has been cleaned and lubricated.
Yes, this is what some pulleys look like on a heavily contaminated derailleur. This is why we use a prewash before we use ultrasonic cleaning. Sometimes we will replace the pulley wheels if they are damaged. However, if these are not cleaned and then inspected one would never know they need replacing. Any bike that has pulley wheels that need replacing will never shift smoothly.
This is not a new cassette...this is a cassette that was covered in grease and grime. We disassemble each cassette, separating the cogs and spacers and then put them in the ultrasonic tank. After 6 minutes they are removed and hand dried then inspected. While the cassette is off the bike we clean the cassette freewheel body that is on the wheel. After cleaning the cassette is resembled and placed on the wheel.
Why do we dissemble the bike? In the San Francisco Bay Area, new bikes are assembled by contract workers who are paid on average $18 per bike. Not per hour...per bike. Therefore we never take for granted a bike has been assembled correctly. Things we find are threads that are not greased, cross threaded bolts, parts reversed, backward chains, overtightened and under tightened bolts. Many bikes today are purchased online and are assembled by the owners who may not be very knowledgeable about the building of a bicycle. Also, we see many cargo bikes where additional features have been added by the owner incorrectly.
We never assume any bike has been correctly assembled.
In order to install the Bafang mid drive we ned to remove the crankarms, crankset, and the bottom bracket.
There are different types of crankarms. There is the square tapered spindle. This crankarm requires a 8mm hex wrench and you turn it counter clockwise on the left side of the bike and clockwise on the right side of the bike. Sometimes they will be frozen to the spindle and they can be very difficult to remove. The picture above is a self extracting crankarm. These were made to make their removal simple. The problem is around 70% are very difficult to remove. If one is not careful the extracting bolt can be stripped.
To remove a self extracting crankarm it is important to tighten the locking nut as tight as possible, turning clockwise. Then, turn the inner nut counterclockwise until it forces the crank arm off the spindle. It can take a lot of force to break free the self extracting crankarm.
This crankset is one that fits a square tapered spindle. After the cover is removed we use a thread chaser to clean the threads then use a special crankset puller to remove the crankset. When using the puller it is very important it is threaded all the way into the crank. If it is not fully threaded it will pull free and strip the threads. Once the threads are stripped the crankset needs to be cut away from the spindle using a cutting tool.
Removing a crankset can be a very difficult task, especially if it has been on for a long time. It is important that you watch your hands as you apply force to the wrench. Take special care to insure that when the component finally breaks free your hand does not come into contact with any part of the bike.
This is a bottom bracket removal tool. The bottom bracket has to be removed because the bottom bracket shell is where the Bafang mid drive motor is going to be installed.
It is very easy to strip the threads in a bottom bracket. In order to prevent that from happening we insert the socket into the bottom bracket spines then we use a tool to lock the socket tight against the splines. Then we can apply as much force as necessary to remove the bottom bracket.
Bottom brackets can be frozen into the bottom bracket shell. We see this in both old bikes and new bikes and they are very difficult to remove. We use several methods including heat, chemical solutions, counter force, overnight soaking, and so far we have yet been defeated. If a bottom bracket cannot be removed it cannot be converted so one way or the other...it has to go.
Almost all bikes have a derailleur hanger. A derailleur hanger is a detachable hanger that holds the derailleur. It is made of softer metal than the frame. If the bike falls, or crashes on the derailleur side of the bike instead of damaging the frame it bends or snaps off the hanger. A derailleur hanger costs $15-$20 whereas a damaged frame can cost over thousands. This part is called a sacrificial hanger because it is sacrificed to protect the frame.
90% of all bikes that we see have a bent derailleur hanger. Anytime a bike is loaded into a vehicle and lays on the derailleur side it can bend the hanger. They bend easily as they should to protect the frame.
We check every hanger with the park Tool Dag 2.2 Alignment tool.
Everything is apart and accessible for inspection and repair. Everything is clean and we can see any hidden flaws. At this time we also do a second cleaning of the bike.
People ask sometimes why I stress safety. I spent many years as a Army Chaplain, Hospital Chaplain, and was the CEO of three mortuaries...I have seen many injuries, and worse, from preventable accidents. Many accidents and subsequence injuries can be prevented if we slow down, focus on what we are doing, and just use good old common sense.
The Bafang color is known throughout the world. When you attend a Trade Show you look for the big orange sign and you know you have found the Bafang booth.
The Bafang company sells over 1,000,000 motors a year and is the largest manufacturer of electric bike motors in the world. It might be noted that Bafang was first named 8Fun motors and that is why you still see the word "8Fun" stamped on some crankarms, and chainring covers. 8Fun is an odd name to the ears of Westerners. The number eight has always been the number of good luck, or good fortune and the word "fun" is a reference to direction and when used together it means: Good fortune in eight (many) directions. Makes sense when you think about it. Wherever this motor takes you, may it bring you good fortune.
Easy question. If anyone can show me a better motor at any price point I will switch to the other motor. Still waiting....sound of crickets....
We have converted over 700 bikes to electric at the time of this writing and we have seen only two motors burn out and it was not the fault of the motor...it was the fault of the riders. Both times it was a rider climbing a hill using the throttle in the highest gear.
These motors are simple and yet very powerful. Believe it or not, there is only around 20 parts to this motor. It is very simple in design and because of this simplicity there is not a lot that can go wrong. Simplicity always trumps complexity and that can be applied to just about everything.
The Bafang mid drive is so powerful we constantly have to adjust the power to the rider. The motor is so reliable we offer a one year no fault warranty. It is a safe bet for us because we know the exact failure rate of these motors and it is zero.
This is a Bafang BBS02b 750 watt motor.
Weight: 8 pounds
System voltage: 48v
Power output: 750 watts nominal
Power output Peak: 1150 watts
Maximum current: 25 amps
Throttle and peddle assist
electric brake equipped
Shift sensor equipped
NOTE: This motor weighs 8 pounds and a hub motor with similar output will weigh over 50 pounds.
The Bafang BBS02b 750 watt motor will fit the riding needs of 90% of riders. Remember, the maximum size motor allowed in Europe is 250 watts and in Canada it is 500 watts. A 750 watt motor is triple that allowed in Europe and if that does not supply the necessary power for an electric bike, then nothing will. Remember, anything over 750 watts is illegal for use on any public road in America.
This is the Bafang BBSHD 1000 watt motor. The "HD" designation means heavy duty.
Weight: 12 pounds
System voltage: 48v
Power output: 1000 watts nominal
Power output Peak: 1500 watts
Maximum current: 30 amps
Throttle and peddle assist
electric brake equipped
Shift sensor equipped
The Bafang BBSHD 1000 watt is a heavy duty motor for off road use. This motor sheds heat better than the BBS02 750 watt motor but is also heavy, slower, and more expensive than the BBS02 750 watt motor. We always recommend the BBS02 because it is lighter, cost less, and is legal for road use.
Dang...nothing to do with this motor.
People always ask what kind of maintenance they need to do on their Bafang mid drive motor and the answer is...nothing. There is nothing you can do other than ride the bike and enjoy the power and simplicity of this motor.
Some like to open the case of the motor and add grease to the gears but that is not necessary. Also, there are some who replace the nylon gears with metal gears thinking it will make the motor last longer. It will not make the motor last longer...it will just make it noisier.
For those who like to tear down their motors and replace the parts it is a fairly simple process. They are not like combustible engines, they are electric motors and every part can be replaced at some point.
Competition for some is the the only driving force behind innovation. Other companies stay so far ahead of the competition that it matters little. To the best of my knowledge, at the time of this writing, there is no electric bike motor manufacturer that is remotely close to producing a better motor than the Bafang BBS02b and the BBSHD 1000.
This powerful, lightweight and maintenance free motor is relatively inexpensive because the Bafang factories (more than one) produce over 1,000,000 units a year.
Personally, I do not think there will be a challenger to the Bafang motor for a long time to come. Its versatility, availability of parts (worldwide), cost and simplicity make it a very tough motor to challenge for its market share.
The answer to this question lay within as to what type of riding do you plan to use the bike. If you intend to use your bike off road, then you can use either the Bafang BBSHD 1000w or the BBS02 750 watt. If, you plan to use you electric bike on public roads and bike paths then we strongly suggest the BBS02 750 as that is your only legal option. However, it is your bike and your choice...we can only inform and advise as to the laws that regulate the use of electric bikes.
We have found the 750 watt motor meets the needs of 90% of all riders. We base that on the input we receive from all of our clients that are on bikes we built with the 750ww motor.
We have installed the Bafang 750 on many heavy cargo bikes and yet to have a single motor fail. These are heavy bikes and often are used to carry children and yet the Bafang 750 is up to the task.
It simply is not true that the Bafang BBSHD is a better motor than the BBS02. The only people I know who make such a claim are those who sell the BBSHD. Yes, power comes from the motor but a mid drive motor climbs not with just brute force but through the combination of front chainring and rear cogset. For example a 750w motor with a 42T (or 36T) chainring and a 12x36 rear cassette will out climb any BBSHD.
The other day I was talking with a Bafang reseller and I ask, "Selling many HD'S?" He looked at me and replied, "The HD is my number one seller." Think about that for a moment...The Bafang BBSHD is illegal in all 50 States for road use, is used by no eBike manufacturer, is heavier, slower and is more expensive than the BBS02 750 but it is still the number one seller. The reason for this is it is promoted by all resellers of Bafang motors as a better motor. It isn't. We have built hundreds of bikes...we know what is the best motor from hard data of actual bikes on the roads....no marketing, no opinions, no guessing...we know what works and what does not work.
All electric bikes are regulated by Federal and State law. There are three classes of electric bikes and when we convert your bike to electric we give you the opportunity to choose which class of bike you would like.
Class I: This is a bike that does not have a throttle and the motor assist cuts off when it reaches 20mph.
Class II: This is a bike that has a throttle and the motor assist cuts off at 20mph.
Class III: This is a bike that does not have a throttle and the motor assist cuts off when it reaches 28mph.
It is your bike and it is your choice what type of electric bike you would like us to build. You can change your bike at any time as the process of converting from one class to another is as simple as reprogramming the controller of the motor.
We have a number of batteries to choose from. The standard battery that comes with our electric bike conversion is a 48v 13 downtube battery. This can be upgraded to a 48v 17.5Ah or a 52v 17.5Ah battery. The larger the battery the greater the range. Most of the bikes we convert use the 48v 13Ah battery and it seems to provide sufficient range. We know this because only two people have returned and requested a larger battery.
Note: Sometimes a client does not get to choose the battery if the frame geometry dictates the shape/size of the battery. When we work with full suspension bikes often (not always) the only battery that will fit is our 48v 10.5 side release battery.
This is the side release battery and it is our favorite battery. The cell group is Samsung 35E and it makes for a great long range, light weight battery. It weighs significantly less than most downtube batteries and yet still is very powerful because of the Samsung 35e cells.
The design of this battery allows it to fit in tight places. Most downtube batteries slide from the top down and this requires a distance on the top tube to be greater than the battery base plate. Whereas on a side release battery, if the base plate fits the battery will fit. We also like to use the side release battery when we are placing the battery on top of the top tube because it is much lighter than the 48v 13Ah battery.
We build a fair number of electric bikes with 52 volt batteries but that is because it is what our clients request. However, if you wish for your motor to provide years of trouble years service then we always recommend 48v batteries.
It is true that a 52v volt battery will make an electric bike faster and will increase range but the downside is that it can prematurely wear our the motor and the drivetrain of the bike.
Every Bafang mid drive motor is rated as a 48v system. That is the way it was designed by the engineers at Bafang . To stay within the design parameters set by the engineers of Bafang will provide you with years of trouble free riding.
While searching for a battery company we would order from vendors from battery suppliers in the US and abroad. When they would arrive we would open the battery to see the types of cells used, the BMS system, and how the battery was assembled. Some of the batteries were so poorly made they would be too dangerous to charge in an enclosed space.
Many bikes come to our shop that have batteries from eBike builders. We do not open the case of the battery but we do look for any identifying marks indicating who made the battery. This is how we tell if a battery is made by the person selling the motors and the batteries, or in fact is made by a lithium ion battery company.
Does it matter who made the battery? Absolutely! A lithium battery is a Class 9 hazardous material and can catch fire under certain conditions. Once a lithium battery begins to burn, it accelerates very quickly and is difficult to extinguish.
It is my opinion all electric bike batteries that are sold to anyone should only come from Lithium Ion battery companies who have adequate testing facilities to insure the safety of the consumer.
I know some who build electric bike batteries and sell them to the general public and never mention the fact it was built by themselves in their garage. The problem with this is the end user does not know if the person who built the battery is qualified to do so, what types of cells are used, and what type of (if any) BMS card is used. In fact, the trusting consumer never things to ask..."Who built this battery you are selling to me with no labels on it?" Of course, there is a label that says "Opening this battery case violates the warranty." The last thing they want is for you see what is in the battery case.
To be fair, I know of some very good lithium battery builders and they are highly qualified for building electric bike batteries. On the other hand, it should be disclosed to the buyer that the seller of the battery is the one who built the battery. With that disclosure, the buy can now decide if he/she wishes to put their personal safety and that of their family in the hands of a person they have never met before who is selling them a battery that may catch fire during charging.
The most important question you can ask regarding an electric bike battery is:"Who built this battery?"
Upp is listed as one of the largest, fastest growing electric bike battery manufacturer in the world. We exclusively use their batteries because we know that when we sell a battery to a customer it will not be faulty. UPP spends hundreds of thousands of dollars on testing equipment to insure every battery is perfect. In addition, they have to undergo constant inspections in order to gain certification for their batteries.
A electric bike battery is expensive so make sure you get what you pay for. Ask the question, "Who made this battery?" Make sure it has been made by an electric battery manufacturing company and not someone build a few dozen a year.
For some, they may take a chance on a battery built in someones garage if it was sold at a discount. That is never the case. As of this writing, every battery that I know of that is bing built by the seller is being sold at the same price as UPP or other battery manufacturers.
A lithium Ion battery for your electric bike is an investment. Make sure you are buying one from a major lithium ion battery manufacturer and you your investment will pay off.
I know some very good sellers of Bafang motors and electric bike batteries and I know they buy their batteries from very good, well established lithium ion battery manufacturers. Yet, nowhere on their marketing do they disclose where they purchase their batteries. Why would this be regarded as proprietary information?
The reason is, they do not wish the purchaser to see what the battery might cost from an online source. Sometimes a buyer can buy a battery online for less than they were going to pay the local seller of batteries.
It is perfectly acceptable to purchase your battery anywhere you like. We buy all of batteries from UPP and you can do the same. We pay less because we purchase in large quantiles.
However....always remember if you purchase a lithium battery online they cannot be returned. Returning a lithium battery requires the services of a Hazardous Materials Shipper and that would cost far more than the worth of the battery.
That is a very good question! Sometimes our batteries have UPP on the side of the batteries and other times there are no markings of the company. For the most part US resellers of the UPP battery request there be no company decals, just voltage and amp label. Again, resellers do not want you to know these same batteries are available from UPP to the general buying public...sometimes at a better price.
This is one of several types of batteries we use. Each battery has a different base plate. The challenge is to take a rigid, flat base plate and attach it to a rigid round (or irregular) tube in such a manner that it will be a firm connection. We have developed several techniques that have allowed us to attach any battery to any frame material of any shape and it will be a solid connection.
One method we use is to take 3/4 inch threaded rubber hose, split it down the middle and use a leather punch to create a 5mm hole. This material we run the length of the battery base plate. This hard rubber not only provides a very good connection of the battery to the frame, it also eliminates rattle, and allows us to tension the for and aft of the base plate.
Under the best circumstances, it can be a difficult process to attach a battery to a frame. There are many things to consider. First, we measure to see what type of battery will fit the downtube of the bike. Sometimes no battery will fit the downtube so we have to find an alternate location. It it will fir the downtube we see which battery might align with the water bottle inserts. If the battery will not line up with the inserts then we will create our won inserts using Rivnuts.
A Rivnut is a insert that goes into the frame and become a very strong attahment point for the battery base plate. Rivnuts are used in aviation, automotive manufacturing, and boat building.
The installation of insert requires special tools and should only be done by those who are trained in their use.
This picture above is of a Triangle battery. We have used these in the past but no longer use them on any of our conversions. Our reasons are simple:They look terrible, are very heavy, make the bike unstable, and most often do not fit the bike without putting them in a canvas bag and strapping it to the frame. A bike with the battery in a bag tends to swing back and forth while riding.
As a cyclist for many years, I understand how important it is that our bikes look fabulous. In Racing we had a saying, "Only race what you can afford to replace." We all ignored that saying and raced the finest bikes we could buy. Our bikes looked as great as they performed. Bikes are a reflection of their owner. Therefore...how they look will always be important.
Our first choice is to place the battery in the triangle of the bike.The above picture is one where we have attached the battery on the downtube. As you can see, it is a very tight fit on this bike. The battery we used on this bike is a side release battery. A standard battery, that releases from the top would never fit this bike.
Yes, we can mount a battery on top of the top tube and we have done it many times when it was called for. However, it is important that a lightweight battery is used. The side release battery is our favorite battery as it only weighs 6 pounds and yet still is a very powerful battery. It makes up for it small size by the use of Samsung 35000 cells.
It takes a skilled mechanic to install a battery on top of the top tube. The reason for this is Rivnuts must be installed and they have to absolutely straight. When measuring for the installation of Rivnuts on the top tube you get one chance to get it correct. If they are misaligned, the battery will sit crooked on the frame. Not a good look.
The three most difficult steps of any electric bike conversion, is battery placement, setting the motor, and establishing a correct chainline. Batteries can be heavy and it is our job to insure the battery be attached to the bike in such manner it will never come loose, never damage the frame, and allow for simple removal for charging.
Every bike we convert to electric we encourage the buyer to bring the bike in after 6 months for inspection. We examine the battery base plate, tension the screws, look for any parts showing rust, and closely examine the battery base plate to insure it is in perfect condition. If we see evidence of any cracking we replace the baseplate and install new flexible washers.
Here you can see the crankset has been removed. It looks very simple to slide the motor in and tighten it up and off you go. There are many things that can make this job very difficult. First, the bottom bracket might have an occlusion that will block the axle of the motor from being inserted. When that is the case we take pneumatic grinder and slowly remove any material that may be blocking the motor. Sometimes this can take over two hours. Why so long? Because we do not wish to damage the threads on the shell just in case the owner of the bike wishes to return the bike to non electric.
The inside diameter and length of a bottom bracket shell vary fro bike to bike. The width of the bb shell may be a 68mm, 73mm, 100mm, or 120mm. If it is a 100-120mm shell, then it will require a special motor. We keep these special motors in stock at all times so we will be ready to build when we see these oversized shells.
The inside diameter of the bb shell is also very important. The inside diameter has to be at least 34.75mm to accommodate a Bafang mid drive motor. If it is over 34.75mm then a special adaptor has to be used. Some of these adaptors can be ordered online but we prefer to mill our own.
Once the motor is in place we install the fixing plate. The fixing plate has raised ribs on one side. These ribs face the bb shell. Two M6 bolts are installed but are not tightened. This fixing plate has to be tighten to the degree those small ribs are forced into the bottom bracket shell. Sounds easy? No...
Every week people call us about their motors coming loose...not our motors, but those built by themselves or other builders. When we install a motor it has a lifetime guarantee of never coming loose.
This is a M33 locknut and locking cap. The locknut is the most important part of the motor when it comes to securing the motor. This nut must be tightened to the degree it forces the fixing plate into the bottom bracket shell. If It is not tightened sufficiently...the motor will come loose.
We have developed certain techniques of securing the motor to the frame that will last the life of the bike. Our motors do not come loose...period.
Some say, "Bafang motors come loose...avoid them." Time for some clarification. First, a poorly installed Bafang mid drive will work itself loose. These motors are the most powerful motors of their class. It is no secret ( well...may it is a secret) that some bike manufacturers reduce the amps of their motor in order to keep them in place. Bikes are commonly sold with 250 and 500 watt motors that behave in a civilized fashion but the problem is that there is not enough power for the hills, large riders, or heavy loads.
What good is an electric motor if it can only be ridden on flat surfaces? There are thousands of miles of beautiful hills to enjoy so have a motor that can exploit every foot of available terrain.
We have a number of methods we use to secure a motor and they all depend on the type of bike, frame material, size of the motor, geometry of the bike, and type of use. There is no "one size fits all." It was an imperative for us to develop a dependable method of securing the motor as we need to warrant the motor against movement for the life of the bike. By developing these methods we are able to make use of the full 750 watts, or 1000 watts of the Bafang mid drive.
There are some instances where we may be working w/exotic frame material or custom frame geometry that will require de-tuning of the motor in order to decrease the torque.
Out of all the motors we have installed, they are still exactly where we placed them and they will stay in place the the lifting of the bike.
Cable management is an art. In order to make an electric bike work requires cables and in these cables are very small wires. We do not have the luxury of cutting the cables and soldering each wire together in order to get a custom fit. Therefore we take the existing cables and figure out the most esthetically pleasing, yet functional method of routing. We do not...just take cables and wind them around the seat tube (as we often see on bikes brought to us).
When we cable a bike we first search for the natural lines of the bike and then we follow the path that the designers of the frame envisioned for their cables. We often marry our cables to the existing cables of the bike. When we are finished the cables look as if they were integral to the bike.
This is a bike similar to the bike I raced. After every race I would take the bike apart all the way to the frameset and clean every part in preparation for the next race. No matter how long we ride or what we ride, the one thing that seems to be common among all of us is that style matters. What our bike looks like is a reflection of who we are as riders. Sometimes a bike comes into our shop covered with stickers of political affiliation, habits and hobbies and they all tell us something about the rider.
Because esthetics matter to all of us, we are diligent to cable each bike in such a manner it adds to the look of the bike, not detract from it. In addition, because the frame of a bike will vary from one to the other, there is no set pattern. We have to figure it out and sometimes it can take hours to get it right.
"Embellishments can only produce surface delight; deep delight can only be achieved in functional, reliable, and usable interfaces."
That is the bottom line...an electric bike must be evaluated on usability...it has to work and it has to work well. It does not matter how well the cabling is done, or the power of the motor or the number of watts or amps...or even what one paid for the bike, what matters is how well the finished product performs. Everything else is meaningless.
There is nothing more disappointing than an electric bike than cannot climb hills, or battery range that is insufficient, or support after the bike is purchased is non existent. I am often ask why I only build with the Bafang mid drive motor and I always say "show me a better motor and I will switch." Why do I spend so much time cabling a bike...because it matters. But...all of this is secondary to the actual functioning of the bike.
Miss this guy (girl?).
While there are many things we do in the course of our work that I failed to mention, I hope I have included enough for you to gain an understanding of the process of conversion. Each bike is different and requires a different approach, different tools, and different methods of building. So far, we have been able to convert every bike that has been brought to us for conversion except one. Although, there are bikes we will not convert to electric due to frame configuration or exotic frame materials. We have pretty much seen every kind of bicycle and if it can be converted to electric then we are the one that can get the job done.