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


Fidlock Water Bottle Fails in Implementation

Mounting a water bottle on an e-bike can be challenging. Many e-bikes mount their battery on or inside of the down tube making it impossible to mount a water bottle there, as is the case with my wife’s Trek e-bike. Instead, Trek placed the water bottle mount under the top tube making it awkward to remove and replace a water bottle in a standard cage. Fortunately my Cannondale e-bike has a water bottle mount on the down tube on top of the battery and another on the seat tube. However, if a water bottle cage is mounted on the seat tube, there isn’t sufficient room to remove the battery. I guess Trek and Cannondale don’t use their bikes or they would have recognized these shortcomings.

Struggling to find a solutions for our water bottle dilemma, I found the Fidlock water bottle system. While it seemed insanely expensive, it looked liked the perfect solution to your problem. So I paid the premium price for the system and one purchase one for each of our e-bikes. about $80. Boy did I make a mistake!

The Fidlock water bottle system is an example of creative innovation that failed upon implementation.

Fidlock Water Bottle System

The Fidlock water bottle will only release from one side, so when it’s mounted on the down tube it is righthanded and releases with a twist to the right. When it’s mounted under the top tube or on the seat post it’s lefthanded and releases with a twist to the left, as pictured on their website. Since I am righthanded, it is unnatural for me to reach down with my left hand and twist a bottle to the left to remove it from my seat tube. Compounding the problem for me is drinking from a bottle in my left hand and returning it to the holder with my left hand. Cycling is dangerous enough, without trying to become ambidextrous while grappling with a water bottle on my bicycle.

Bottom line: I cannot recommend the Fidlock Water Bottle.

Ken Whittaker


The Trick to Using Stan’s Darts on Tubeless Tires

Tire plugged with Stan’s Dart

Sooner or later I knew it would happen. I’d get a puncture in my tubeless tire that couldn’t be repaired by the sealant alone. Since I use Stan’s sealant in my tubeless tires, I carry a Stan’s Dart tool to repair large punctures. Admittedly, I was a bit concerned about using the Stan’s Dart tool because I read several negative online reviews were users where breaking the tool or the dart during repairs. I can see how some users could break the tool or the dart if used incorrectly.

Here is how to repair the puncture without breaking the dart or tool.

Stan’s Dart Inside Tire
  • Stan’s Darts have a pointed plastic tip for easy insertion. However, as counterintuitive as this may sound, in some cases I had to make the puncture bigger to accommodate the dart’s plastic tip. Trying to push a larger plastic tip through a much smaller hole could break the tool or dart. The solution is to simply make the puncture just large enough so that the dart’s tip can be pushed through the tire.
  • A Stan’s Dart has a barbed tip to keep the plug from pulling out. Unlike a bacon strip, you DO NOT twist the dart like you would a bacon strip type plug. The dart goes straight in and is pulled straight back up. Twisting the dart during installation could break the tool or the dart.

Fortunately, using these two simple tricks when plugging a tire with a Stan’s Darts tool has always worked GREAT on my road tires. In fact, repairing the puncture couldn’t be easier. Simply position the tire so the puncture is at the top of the tire and with the tool perpendicular to the tire, pushed the dart straight down into the puncture until it can’t go any further, then pull it straight back up and you are back on the road. It’s that simple!

Ken Whittaker


Garmin Edge Speed and Cadence Sensor Alternatives

Speed & Cadence Sensors

When I purchased my Garmin Edge 1030 I didn’t think much about the sensors. However I have several bikes, and it isn’t practical for me to move the sensors from bike to bike. At $69.99 for a pair of speed and cadence sensors it can get a bit costly for me to equip my other bikes with sensors.

Luckily, there are cost effective alternatives to Garmin’s speed and cadence sensors. In fact, after one of my Garmin sensors failed, I purchased a pair of Magene S3 Speed Cadence/Sensors for about the same price I would have paid for just one Garmin sensor. Although I only needed one, I bought a pair because the Magene sensors can be used as a speed or cadence sensor. Now if another speed or cadence sensor fails, I have a replacement readily available.

Worried about the quality of the much less expensive sensors compared to OEM Garmin sensors? If customer reviews are any indication, as of the date this was published, the Magene S3+ Cycling Speed/Cadence Sensor got 4.3 out of 5 stars from customers on Amazon and the Garmin bundle got 4.6 out of 5. I would say they are of comparable quality.

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


How to Eliminate Broken Spokes

I don’t want to jinx myself, but I’ve never broken a spoke. Never, not even while cycling coast to coast across America on light weight 16 spoke wheels over some of the worst roads I’ve ever seen. I can’t say for sure to what I owe my good fortune, but I believe it has a lot to do with  maintaining properly tensioned spokes.

While nothing will last for ever, properly tensioned spokes are critical for strong reliable wheels and reducing broken spokes.  I’ve found that just because a wheel is true, it doesn’t mean the spokes are properly tensioned.  To illustrate, my Cannondale Synapse Neo 1 came new from the bike shop with a  spoke so loose that I could barely get a tension reading on it with my spoke tension meter. 

Even a true wheel can have spokes that are overly tight while others can be extremely loose.  Consequently, it is important to check spoke tension even on a true round wheel.  In my home shop I use a Park Tool TM-1 Spoke Tension Meter to check spoke tension.  However, if you are on a tight budget you can find low cost spoke tension meters online at sites like aliexpress.com.

But how do you check spoke tension while touring? Unless you are tone deaf, plucking the spokes is a quick and easy method to determine if the spokes’ tensions are  significantly different. I simply pluck all the spokes on the same side of the wheel. Similarly tensioned spokes will be close in pitch. However, if a spoke has a much higher pitch, it is much tighter than the rest. If it has a much lower pitch it is much looser. Therefore, it is easy to hear an unevenly tensioned wheel and correct the problem before you break a spoke.

Ken Whittaker


How to Perfectly Align Bicycle Disc Brake Pads in Just Seconds

Disc Brake Pad Alignment Tool

Almost every time I remove the wheel from my bicycle, I struggle to realign the disc pads with the rotor when I reinstall the wheel. Even with thru axles, sometimes the disc brakes can be slightly out of alignment. As a result, I used to spend a considerable amount of time trying to tweak the alignment by eye.

But, not anymore. In less than a minute I can have the rotor spinning smoothly and the pads perfectly aligned.

Here is how:

    • Simply place the disc brake alignment tool over the rotor,
    • loosen the brake mounting bolts,
    • rotate the rotor until the alignment tool is positioned between the rotor and the pads,
    • squeezing the brake lever,
    • and retighten the brake mounting bolts.

That’s all there is to it. Everything is in perfect alignment.

While a common hack is to use a folded business card to do the same thing, it doesn’t make sense not to have this little gadget handy in your tool kit. You can find the tool online for about 50¢ at sites like aliexpress.com or spend a bit more and get it the next day from Amazon.com. Either way, it is a valuable addition to your tool kit. Also, I prefer an alignment tool with the hole (as pictured). I can slip a pin through the hole in the tool and a hole in the rotor if necessary to hold the tool in place as I rotate the alignment tool between the pads. Works like a charm ever time.

Ken Whittaker


How to Remove Tubeless Tires from the Rim

Installing and removing tubeless tires from a bicycle rim has become a whole new skill set for me. Tubeless tires are designed to fit very tightly in the bicycle rim. So tight that they can be inflated and ridden without sealant and still hold the tire pressure. Needless to say, when it comes time to break the bead to remove the tire from the rim, it can be a bit of a struggle.

Park Tool PTS-1 Tire Seater

Surprisingly, I’ve found that the Park Tool PTS-1 Tire Seater works very well at doing just the opposite of its intended use. While it sat in my tool box unused in the days of riding tube tires, the Tire Seater has become my go to tool for unseating tubeless tires. The narrow curved jaws slide in close to the rim and the pliers allow me to apply significant pressure on the tire to break the bead from the rim.

Unfortunately, the Park Tool PTS-1 Tire Seater is not the type of tool that you can throw in your seat bag and take with you on a ride. However, I’ve been riding tubeless tires on my road bikes for several years and I’ve never had to remove a tubeless tire along the roadside yet. Let the Luddites with tubes stop and fix their flats along the roadside. The sealant fixes my punctures while I’m still riding.

Take note Park Tool, there is a BIG opportunity here.

Ken Whittaker


Ten Reasons To Go Tubeless

#10. New Technology. I’m not saying new technology is always better. But tube tires are ancient technology developed in the 1800s. The auto industry successfully re-engineered the tube tire in the 1950’s and found an alternative method to eliminate the tube without sacrificing functionality. So why has it taking the cycling industry so long to adapt the tubeless tire?

#9. No Tubes. Of course the most obvious reason for tubeless tires is that tubes are no longer needed and have been replaced with sealant that is more effective, lighter, environmentally friendly, and reliable.

#8. Less waste. Tubes can’t be patched forever and sooner or later will outlive their useful life and end up in the landfill. Going tubeless means fewer tubes will make it to the landfill.

#7. Can Still Use Existing Tubes. Going tubeless doesn’t mean you have to trash your tubes. While tubeless tires are very reliable, most cyclists still carry a tube as a last resort if sealant and plugs can’t repair a puncture.

#6 No More Pinch Flats. Without tubes, pinch flats are eliminated. Pinch flats happen when a tube is pinched between the tire and rim causing a puncture that looks like a snake bite with two holes side by side on the tube. Without a tube, pinch flats can’t happen.

#5. More Comfort. Without the chance of a pinch flats, tires can be run at much lower tire pressures giving a more comfortable ride.

#4. More Traction. When needed, tire pressure can be reduced to give the sides of the tires more bite to improve traction.

#3. Less Weight. In the world of cycling lighter is always perceived as better. Removing the tube and replacing it with sealant makes wheels lighter and reduces rotational weight.

#2. Better Performance. In general, tube tires have a higher rolling resistance than tubeless. After replacing my tube tires with tubeless tires, I’ve gained a noticeable improvement in performance. In my case it was about a 10% improvement.

#1. Fewer flats. The biggest reason for going tubeless is that they are self repairing. While fixing a flat quickly and effectively is a highly coveted skill, it can’t compete with tires that can repair punctures themselves on the fly before a flat happens. You won’t get less punctures with tubeless tires, but you will get less flats. In most cases, I don’t even know I’ve had a puncture until the end of the ride when I find dried sealant that has been sprayed on the back of my seat post from the sealant repairing a puncture.

Ken Whittaker