Road Bikes = Innovation Constipation

Let’s face it! Road cycling suffers from innovation constipation. Thank goodness for mountain biking. If it weren’t for them we wouldn’t have tubeless tires, thru axles, disc brakes, more compliant bikes frames etc. in road cycling. So why is road cycling so slow to adopt innovation?

I think it is because bicycle manufacturers and shops use road racing as their model for marketing road bikes. How misguided is that? That’s like car manufacturers and dealers saying every driver wants a NASCAR race car, while in reality most drivers want utility, work, economy or luxury vehicles. Fortunately, the auto industry realizes that performance cars are only a small portion of the market.

Let’s take it a step further. What do you think of when you think of a road racing cyclist? I think of digging in and enduring pain to gain a competitive edge. In fact, many racing cyclists call their indoor training area “pain caves.” Who thinks that’s fun? It’s just what you have to do to be competitive. So why is the industry using racing type bikes to draw people into cycling?

Come on! While the industry is incestuous, with many former racers drawn into the bicycle industry, not all buyers are wanabee racers so don’t view them like they are. There is a resurgence in cycling now and the new buyers aren’t inspired by racing. Don’t blow it! Cycling needs to be fun and exciting. So sponsor fun and exciting events for everyone rather than mostly competitive ones. Sponsor rail trail openings, community rides, e-bike events and even endurance events that offer cycling opportunities to former noncyclists. Get innovative in your product and marketing. Look at Zwift.com for example, and find more cycling events to interest Americans in cycling rather than new forms of cycle racing. Or die a slow and painful death.

Ken Whittaker


Ignorance is Bliss

A lot has changed since I posted “How I Eliminated Bicycle Flat Tires Forever!” While the methods I outlined in that post still work well today, there have been a lot of improvements in technology since then. Mavic’s introduction of the road Universal System Tubeless (UST) is perhaps the most important.

I remember eagerly buying a set of Shimano Ultegra wheels that used the UST standard when they were first released. Sadly, the wheelset sat unused in my basement for years because I couldn’t find suitable UST road tires to use with them. Luckily, a lot has changed since then. Now there are dozens of high quality, fast rolling tubeless ready tires for road riders.

Today, ignorance is bliss when it comes to punctures. I never even know I got a puncture until I get home and see signs of sealant on the outside of my tire. In addition, tubeless tires have eliminated the low pressure snake bite type flat. This is great news for touring bike riders. Now when I encounter bad roads or rough chip seal surfaces I can drop the tire pressure and ride in comfort. While upgrading to tubeless wheels and tires may be a bit costly, it is a good investment in reliability, comfort and performance.

Ken Whittaker


You Who Are on the Road

While sharing our most significant life events with an old class mate I hadn’t seen in 50 years, I learned that we had both cycled across America. Yet, our experiences couldn’t have been more different. While I spent two months on the road cycling the 3,000 miles with 50 other cyclists and a support staff, she spent 18 months on the road cycling mostly solo.

She told me that she had also written a book about her experience, and added “A slight spoiler, it’s not a travel log kind of book.” I knew I had to read her book. I think the best cycling books aren’t about miles or location. They are about the self examination and personal growth along the way. While my first attempt to ride self-supported across America ended unsuccessfully with a crash in Hazard, KY, it was a huge success in the sense that I learned so much about myself and the people along the way.

If you are interested in a cycling book about a young female rider’s self examination and personal growth while riding solo across America, you can find “You Who Are on the Road” by Karen Bauer (Author) on Amazon or by clicking here.

Ken Whittaker


Can You Get a Workout on an E-bike?

With the start of the new year generally come new resolutions to get more exercise and to lose some weight. But, can you do that on an e-bike? If you are more active with an e-bike than without, you should see some benefit. However, the question in my mind is it a worthwhile workout?  Unfortunately, that answer isn’t as clear because an e-bike can offer such a wide range of assistance. For example, at level 1 on my e-bike I’m doing most of the work and the motor providing about the same assistance as a good tailwind. However, at level 9 it is like riding an electric motorcycle with the motor doing most of the work.

Perhaps the best tip I can offer for maintaining or improving fitness with an e-bike is to use a heart rate monitor. Without a heart rate monitor it is very difficult to judge the intensity of the workout. Using a heart rate monitor I found that  I was getting a lot of aerobic exercise on my e-bike.  In fact, I was getting more aerobic exercise simply because I enjoyed the e-bike so much that I was riding my bike more. 

On the other hand, I also found that I wasn’t getting any anaerobic exercise on the e-bike because I was dialing up the assistance and zipping up the hills without putting in much effort.  To get a meaningful workout I have to calculate the heart rate and my intervals I want to maintain and adjust my e-bike assistance to get the workout I want.

If you are new to judging the intensity of your workout, here is an article by the Mayo Clinic,  Exercise intensity: How to measure it, that might help.

Ken Whittaker


Thumbs Up to Bafang!

One of the BIG advantages of the Bafang Conversion Kit is that it is configurable by the user, unlike my Bosch powered e-bike that can only be configured by an authorized dealer. As I’ve mentioned earlier, my current Bafang configuration is not compliant with the U.S. bike manufacturers’ and suppliers’ three e-bike classes. That said, I can easily reconfigure my bike to be completely compliant with a class 1, 2, or 3 bike.

For example, I live near the Torrey C. Brown Rail Trail that only allows Class 1 e-bikes on the trail. No problem, I can unplug and / or remove my throttle from my bike and limit the speed to 20 mph in the controller and I have a class 1 bike.

Similarly, I also ride my bike long distances on the road in traffic where I sometimes feel much safer riding at the 28 mph limit for e-bikes . Again, with the throttle unplugged and / or removed, I can set the maximum speed in the controller to 28 mph and I have a class 3 bike.

Finally, if I want a Class 2 bike I can install the throttle, limit the speed to 20 mph in the controller and use only the throttle without pedaling and I would have a class 2 bike.

In my opinion, this is a big thumbs up for Bafang and a big thumbs down for manufacturers like Bosch. Manufacturers should not treat e-bike riders like children. Users should be free to configure their bikes to fit their needs and within the laws and regulations of the areas they ride. Otherwise, people will only find ways around needless restrictions with products like SPEEDBOX 3.0 for Bosch e-bikes or buy e-bikes from manufacturers that don’t impose unnecessary restrictions.

Ken Whittaker


Choosing an E-bike Battery

I want to tour with my e-bike so the range the battery will provide is a very important factor for me. Unfortunately, e-bike batteries can be the most confusing component of the bike. For example, my battery is a 48 Volt, 840Watt Hour, 17.5 Amp Hour battery. But what does that mean? While Bafang USA Direct states that it provides, “Up to 840-watt hours for an incredibly long range,” that really isn’t much help.

E-bike manufacturers tend to focus on watt hours. However, range cannot be determined by simply dividing a battery’s watt hours by the watts of the motor. Range will vary widely based on many factors including type of bicycle, rider posture, total weight, tires, riding speed, pedal assist level, terrain, riding surface, prevailing winds etc. So while my battery might provide power for an hour running full blast on throttle, it may also provide assistance for 100 miles or more on assist level 1. Only experience will tell the true range of my bike and battery.

However, I have found a very useful tool for estimating the range of a motor and battery combination. While the site is Bosch specific, it can provide an idea of what range a motor and battery can provide under various conditions. Check it out at https://www.bosch-ebike.com/us/service/range-assistant/ or click here.

Ken Whittaker


Moving the Bafang Battery

As I posted earlier, I had to mount the battery on the rear rack because if I mounted it on the down tube I would have to give up both water bottle cages on my frame.  Since I couldn’t find an e-bike specific battery rack that would fit my battery, I need to fabricate my own. The battery is the most expensive component of my conversion kit. So, I wanted it to be super securely mounted on my rear rack.   

Initially, I bought the Wolf Tooth B-RAD 4 Mounting Base for this purpose. The B-RAD 4 is Wolf Tooth’s longest base with 9 threaded holes for ultimate flexibility.  While my original idea of using the B-RAD 4 on the rear rack worked well, I realized that the B-RAD Base would also give me the ability to precisely position the battery on the downtube.

Now, with the B-RAD 4 I’m able to move the battery to the downtube and still save the seat tube bottle cage.  In addition, my rather large 840WH battery is safely tucked inside the bicycle frame and approximately 9 lbs. of weigh was moved lower and more centered on the bike for improved handling.

Ken Whittaker


Bafang Integrated Lights

For enhanced safety I ride with my bike lights lit day and night. I notice that drivers are more likely to notice me and the speed that I’m traveling when I’m using lights. So I was delighted that Bafang integrated a 6 volt DC connection for lights on their motor – and that the lights can be turned on and off through the Bafang control display.

On the downside, the bafangusadirect website only offers a headlight and no taillight. Consequently, I had to find my lights elsewhere. This seems a bit short sighted of Bafang to ignore the road bike market needs by not offering a taillight. Hopefully Bafang will consider a taillight in future offerings.

A word of caution when considering e-bike lights. E-bike lights and dynamo lights are not the same. Unfortunately, I couldn’t find e-bike lights with a flashing option. I think that flashing lights are better for getting a driver’s attention during the day. If you know of any e-bike flashing lights, please let me know by leaving a comment below.

Ken Whittaker


Loose Bafang Motor

Another Bafang design flaw is the motor has a tendency to come loose. I experienced this problem several times within the first few hundred miles of riding. Bafang must be aware of the problem.  A google search on “bafang motor coming loose” will illustrate examples of the problem and offer many solutions.  

Caution fixing the problem. Initially, I simply tightened the fixing plate bolts to remedy the problem. Unfortunately, I didn’t use a torque wrench and the bolts have a specified torque of 10 newton meters. I over tightened the bolts and stripped the threads in the aluminum alloy motor casing. Needless to say now my repair became a much bigger job because I had to install a Helicoil in the motor casing to repair the damaged threads.

Left: Bafang Fixing Plate
Right: Stabilizer Bar

The best solution I found to fix the loose motor problem was to install a BSBF-1 Stabilizer Bar as an alternative to the Bafang fixing plate. The 3rd party Stabilizer Bar attaches to the chain stay of the bike with a hose clamp holding the motor solidly in place. However, I did rotate the stabilizer bar and clamped it to the seat tube to position the motor higher. For an nice clean installation, an M6 Rivnut and bolt can be used in place of the hose clamp.

Come on Bafang! If you see third parties fixing your design flaws to make your product workable, why not strive to make an outstanding product and fix the problem yourself?

Ken Whittaker


Bafang Chainline Problem

While I was having a blast riding my e-bike, I was also dropping my chain at least once on every ride.  After my 1st hundred miles of riding this problem became very annoying.  The chain drop was caused by the chainline.  Ideally, the front chain ring and the rear sprockets should be parallel to the centerline of the bike and angled as little as possible, see illustration below.  But, when the chainline is mismatched there is a sideward stress on the chain that causes the chain to drop off the front chainring. 

Ideal Chainline configuration

It seems a bit short sighted for Bafang to ignore this design issue on a bicycle conversion kit.  They must be aware of the problem.  A google search on “Bafang Chainline” will illustrate countless examples of the problem as well as offer numerous solutions to this issue.  Simple design changes like placing the Bafang Motor Controller on the non-drive side of the motor or adding chainring spaces to better position the chainring would have greatly reduced the chainline angle.  

My solution didn’t address the chainline but it did eliminate the chain drops.  Since I already had a front derailleur, I simply reinstalled it and adjusted the limiter screws to perfectly align the front derailleur to act as a chain guard to keep the chain from falling off the chainring.  While I do get some chain rub on the front derailleur in my lowest gears, the problem is solved at no additional cost.

Ken Whittaker