Bafang Chainline Fix

Back in December 2020 I wrote a short post about my Bafang Chainline Problem and how I fixed my chain from dropping off the front chainring. It was a simple solution. I reinstalled the front derailleur and adjusted the derailleur limiter screws to perfectly align the front derailleur with the chainring. The derailleur served as a chain drop guard to keep the chain from falling off the chainring.  While this solution cured the chain drop problem and I was able to use all the gears on my rear cluster, I was getting an annoying chain rub on the front derailleur on my top (highest) and bottom (lowest) gears.

Derailleur Limiter Screws Adjustment

Although I could live with the chain rub on short rides, on longer rides it was becoming unbearable and I avoided using the top and bottom gears. With the Bafang Monster Bike Build I wanted to solve this problem. I was hoping I could adjust the Shimano XT indexed triple chainring front shifter to micro adjust the front derailleur just enough for a top, middle, and bottom gear range shift. However, the index shifter cable pull was too long because the derailleur limiter screws were significantly limiting the derailleur movement to stop the chain drop.

SunRace SLM10 Friction Thumb Shifter

To solve the problem, I used an old school SunRace SLM10 Friction Thumb Shifter, approximately $15 for a set. Now when I hear the chain rubbing on the front derailleur, I just give the thumb shifter a little nudge to make a micro adjustment on the front derailleur to eliminate the noise. And I don’t have to worry about the chain dropping off the front chainring because the front derailleur limiter screws will not let the derailleur move far enough to drop the chain. I can use all nine gears on the rear cluster with no chain drops and no chain rub on the front derailleur. Problem solved!

For detail on the original e-bike build see Bafang E-bike Conversion.

Ken Whittaker


Bafang Monster Bike Build

Cannondale E-bike conversion

I haven’t posted for a few weeks because I’ve been focused on a new bicycle project.  A few years ago, I outlined my step-by-step build of an e-bike using a Bafang 750W BBS02 mid drive motor kit and a Cannondale road bike,  You can see the details of the build here at “Bafang E-bike Conversion”.  I’ve been extremely happy with the bike since, and I’ve ridden it more than a thousand miles without a problem. 

Although I really enjoy riding the Bafang, my Bafang and Cannondale Synapse Neo 1 e-bikes are very similar bikes (see “BUILD OR BUY AN E-BIKE”), so I felt it was time to diversify my e-bikes.  Since I enjoy Rail Trail riding, and the trails I ride can get very slippery after it rains, I decided to move the bafang motor off the road bike with narrow tires and onto a Cannondale mountain bike with the widest tires I could fit on the bike.  I also added racks so the e-bike could be used on multi-day touring rides.  

After a few more test rides to work out any problems with the build and to determine the range of the bike and battery, I plan to give it the ultimate test by riding the C&O (Chesapeake & Ohio Canal National Historical Park) and the GAP (Great Allegheny Passage), a 334.5-mile ride from Washington, DC to Pittsburg PA (COGAP). I have ridden this wonderful traffic-free route approximately 12 times in the past, but never on an e-bike. 

It’s always an adventure that I would highly recommend to cyclists of all skill levels.  Here is my planned itinerary.  So, stay tuned to hear how I make out on the e-bike. Or even better, join me on the ride.

Ken Whittaker


The Hidden Cost of a Bosch E-bike

If you’ve read my post “BUILD OR BUY AN E-BIKE?” you know that I purchased a ready to ride Bosch e-bike and also converted one of my old bikes to a Bafang powered e-bike. After a year of riding both bikes about 1,000 miles (1.6K KM) each, which system do you think cost more to maintain?

The Bosch system was by far the most expensive to maintain. While neither the Bosch nor the Bafang systems had any mechanical or electrical problems, the Bosch system had to go to my local bike shop twice for service and the Bafang system never needed service.

Let me say that again.

While the Bosch never had a mechanical or electrical problem in the last year, it had to go into the local bike shop twice for service.

So why does a bike that has no mechanical or electrical problems need to go to the bike shop twice in 1,000 miles? Because Bosch designed their system so that a maintenance required indicator comes on every 500 miles (see wrench icon in bottom right corner of image). Once the icon comes on, it can only be reset by an authorized Bosch dealer using Bosch diagnostics software.

The joke among e-bike riders is that Bosch should change the maintenance icon (wrench) to dollar signs ($$$) because that’s what the icon really means. The bike doesn’t need service every 500 miles, the rider just has to pay to have it turned off. Perhaps it’s just an attempt by Bosch to bring revenue in to the local bike shops to help them pay for their expensive Bosch’s dongle and diagnostic software.

The maintenance of my Bosch e-bike is the most expensive of any bike that I’ve every owned. I don’t know if I would buy a Bosch system again knowing that Bosch intentionally created recurring hidden costs in their product that have no added value to the customer.

Ken Whittaker


Cannondale Neo 1 E-bike Creaking

After pedaling my Cannondale Neo 1 more than a thousand miles I developed a very annoying creaking. It was driving me crazy. I was sure the bottom bracket or motor mounting bolts were causing the creak because it seemed to correspond to each rotation of the pedals. However, after servicing both the creaking continued.

Not to be defeated by the problem, I moved on to the other common causes of creaking. I checked the seat post, pedals, handlebars and even spoke tension. Yet the creaking continued. I was baffled. So I just started grabbing, twisting and jiggling every part on the bike. When I grabbed and jiggled the battery I heard the dreaded creak. When I moved down to the motor housing I heard more creaking. The plastic parts rubbing on each other was the cause of my creaking.

Silicone Lubricating Grease

Clearly, lubricating the parts would be my best defense to eliminate the creaking. However, a petroleum based lubricant could decay the rubber and plastic components. Instead, I used a silicone lubricating grease with PTFE (polytetrafluoroethylene) that not only eliminated the creaking but also helps to repel water and stop grit and grime from getting between the parts.

Ken Whittaker


Shame on Thule for Neglecting Safety

Thule Bicycle Carrier Tail Light Mod

If you’ve read my posts Dress Boldly Conspicuous, Tiny Changes Can Produce Big Results or Be Eye-catching Flashy you know that I’m an advocate of being highly visible when I’m riding my bike. So it will not come as a surprise that I am just as passionate about safety when my bike is riding on the back of my vehicle in the bike carrier.

I’ve used Thule racks for years. They proved to be a reliable product for me, especially when it comes to transporting my heavier e-bikes. Unfortunately, while Thule has focused their attention on carrying bikes they’ve neglected safety. With my bikes in the carrier my tail lights are blocked by the bikes. As you can see from the picture, although the tail lights on my vehicle are lit they are barely visible. However, Thule has woefully neglected this safety issue in North America.

To correct this safety shortfall I felt it was necessary to add supplemental lights to my Thule carrier. Now in low light situations or inclement weather I feel more confident that tail lights can be seen. If you would like to see a post on the details of this do it yourself project please leave a comment below.

Ken Whittaker


Bafang E-bike Conversion Kit Design Deficiency

Its been about a year since I built my Bafang conversion e-bike and I still enjoy riding the bike. I am impressed with how powerful the 750 watt motor is and the range the 840wh battery provides. However, the Bafang conversion is missing one key feature that I’ve become very used to on my Bosch e-bike. That is a continuous range estimate on the control display. Without a range estimate provided by the e-bike system, you have to guess the range left in the battery based on your experience.

So it finally happened. I ran out of juice while riding the Bafang. I must admit it came as a surprise. I started the ride with 3 out of 5 bars displayed on the battery indicator. Three out of 5 bars means I should have somewhere between 40-60% of the battery’s charge left. However, after about a mile into my ride the battery dropped to 2 out of 5 bars meaning I had a 40% charge. Still, I wasn’t worried sine I was planning an out and back ride. I simply planned to turn around when, or before, I reached 1 bar. My plan was to use 1 bar going out and 1 bar to return. However things didn’t go as planned.

To my surprise, about 10 miles (16 km) out while climbing a hill the battery dropped to 1 bar. Only 10 miles (16km) on 1 bar? That was unusual. Still I wasn’t worried. I just turned around and headed home. If I used 1 bar going out the remaining bar should get me home. Right? Wrong! Only a few miles more while climbing a short steep hill the battery indicator started flashing empty. No way! I should get more than 15 miles (24 km) on a battery that was at least 40% charged when I started. Was the Battery Management System saving power to protect the battery from completely discharging? There was no way to tell. Not willing to take a chance on damaging my battery, I shut off the power and started pedaling my dead e-bike home unassisted. Luckily it wasn’t as hard as I expected. The motor didn’t add much drag and the additional weight was only noticeable on climbs. About half way home I turned on the system again. What was happening? The display showed 1 bar again and I was able to make it home on assistance level 1. In my opinion, not having a continuous range estimate is a BIG DESIGN DEFICIENCY in the Bafang system, especially when for some unknown reason the first half of a charged battery provides a lot more miles than the last half of the charge.

Ken Whittaker


7 Reasons Why You Don’t Want a Carbon Fiber E-bike

It is a bit of a paradigm shift when it comes to thinking about e-bike frames. It’s true that high quality carbon fiber bicycle frames are known for being light weight with lateral stiffness and vertically compliance. But, you have to ask yourself if that is important when it comes to an electric bicycle. In my case I wanted all those feature on my non-electric bike, but when it came to purchasing an electric I didn’t need or want to pay for these features.

Here’s why:

  1. Light Weight: The difference in bicycle frame weight is highly overrated. Since the difference in weight only accounts for about one or two watts of additional power, the reason bike riders lust for the lightest carbon fiber bicycle possible is to lighten the load when climbing hills. Similarly, the number one reason most people give for buying an electric bike is to make hills easier. Although you may need the lightest possible bicycle you can afford or an electric bike to make it up hills easier, you don’t need both. The lightest e-bike with a carbon fiber frame isn’t necessary when it comes to hills because the weight savings just isn’t significant when a rider is being assisted by an electric motor.
  2. Lateral Stiffness: In theory a stiffer frame is more efficient as less energy is lost to the frame flexing. This is most important when pounding the pedals because it can create energy robbing flex. However, since the rider is being assisted by an electric motor there isn’t a need to pound the pedals. As a result, there isn’t a significant energy loss by the rider due to frame flex.
  3. Vertical Compliance: When I think of compliance, I think of comfort. But handling is also a part of compliance. I find that tire size and pressure make a more significant contribution to compliance than frame materials. A wider tire with more air volume and lower tire pressure gives me a sure footed and comfortable ride. Therefore, a frame with tire clearance that will accommodate wider tires is much more important than having a carbon fiber frame.
  4. Durable: All other bicycle frame materials such as steel, aluminum, and titanium are more durable than carbon fiber. A significant scratch in a carbon fiber frame can ruin the frame, whereas a scratch in the other frame materials just adds character and to the story of the frame.
  5. Precision Engineering: Steel, aluminum and titanium are easier to precision engineer than laying up carbon fiber.
  6. Recyclable: Carbon fiber is not recyclable while the other bicycle frame materials can and should be recycled.
  7. Reduced cost: Carbon fiber frames are expensive to make and, as illustrated above, offer no significant advantage over other frame materials when it comes to e-bikes. The savings could be used for better components or just more money in your pocket.

The bottom line? Ask yourself if there are any real advantages to a carbon fiber e-bike. After careful consideration, I think you will agree that a carbon fiber e-bike is not worth the additional expense over other frame materials.

Ken Whittaker


How to program the Bafang BBS02 Controller

As I mentioned in my post Thumbs Up to Bafang!, one of the outstanding features of the Banfang BBS02 conversion kit is that it’s configurable by the user. Many changes like configuring the bike as a class 1, 2, or 3 and other basic features of the bike can easily be configured from the display.  However, with a laptop computer, a special USB programing cable and the Bafang Configuration Tool Software the Bafang motor controller can also be reprogramed by the user  to  improve the usability and performance of the e-bike.

My goal here is to only make you aware of the possibility of reprogramming capabilities of the Bafang controller.  Detailed instructions can  be found from other sources below:

  • However, be warned that reprogramming your Bafang system is not without risk. You can destroy the controller if done incorrectly.  So, read the guides  and do not attempt to customize your settings if you don’t fully understand what you are doing.  Proceed at your own risk.

Ken Whittaker


E-bike Range Test

Have you ever wondered how accurate e-bike range estimates are? To find out, I put my Bosch equipped Cannondale Synapse Neo 1 to the test. Assuming the initial estimate is based on nearly ideal conditions with a relatively flat terrain, I chose an out and back route along the Torrey C. Brown Rail Trail, MD and Heritage Rail Trail, PA with a 1,237 foot elevation gain for my test.

Elevation on Range Test

With a fully charged battery and the assistance level set at Eco (lowest assist level) the Bosch system estimated that it could provide assistance for 126 miles (see photo on lower left). While I wanted to believe Bosch’s estimate, my route was only 80 miles, giving me a good margin for error. Hopefully, if Bosch’s estimate turned out to be overly optimistic, the shorter route would save me from pedaling a dead e-bike back to my starting point.

The Results? I was pleasantly surprised. After nearly 80 miles (78.60 miles to be exact), I had 3 out of 5 bars (40-60%) left on the battery and an estimated 49 miles remaining (see photo lower right) slightly exceeding the initial estimate.

In the final analysis, the initial estimate was very accurate. In fact, I have to wonder, with about 50% of the battery left, why I didn’t have another 80 miles of assistance remaining. My guess is that Bosch has built in a safety margin to keep the rider from running the battery until it’s completely dead.

Ken Whittaker


Build or Buy an E-bike?

Have you every wonder if it would be better to buy or build an e-bike? I have. So I built an e-bike using an old Cannondale road bike and a Bafang conversion kit. After I was done building the conversion bike, I used the lessons I learned to buy the most cost effective high quality e-bike that I could find at the time. Here are the results.

Cannondale Road Bike Conversion to E-bike with Bafang Kit

Conversion Kit

Motor: Bafang 750 watts

Class: Configurable as a class 1, 2, or 3

Battery: 840Watt Hour

Chainring: 1X 52T

Display: Bafang C961 LCD Display

Cost: $1,100 + Cost of Bicycle

Pros:

Prices – A Bafang conversion is a fraction of the cost even if a new bike is purchased for the conversion

Configurability – The Bafang can be configured as a class 1, 2, or 3 e-bike.

Power: The Bafang has a much larger motor and battery.

Factory Built Cannondale Synapse Neo 1 E-bike with Bosch Motor and Battery

Factory Built

Motor: Bosch Active Line Plus 350W

Class: Class 3 e-bike

Battery: 500Watt Hour Bosch PowerTube

Chainring: 2X 50/34T

Display: Bosch Purion

Cost: $3,799 – MSRP $4,725

Pros:

Gearing – The 2X Chainring with a 50/34T is a game changer for me. It gives a wide range of gears like my traditional bicycle.

Quality – The bike is designed as a system and fits seamlessly together.

Appearance – Likes likes a traditional bike.

Final Analysis: I’ve put hundreds of mile on both bikes and both are great e-bikes. So let your budget be your guide. The Bafang kit is very affordable but does need a little tinkering once in a while. The Cannondale Synapse Neo 1 with its Bosch system is a quality e-bike but considerably more expensive. In retrospect I should have used a bike with wider tires and disc brakes for the Bafang build considering its power, weight and speed.

Ken Whittaker