Sunday, October 10, 2021

I'm Already Thinking About the Next Electric Bike

I've had the Nakto cargo bike for about a year, and frankly there was about a six-month period when I barely used it. But I'm back to using it again (about 40 miles this last week -- two trips to the movie theater, one to a medical appointment, etc.). And I'm already thinking about passing it on to my son (who recently got his first "cruiser" style non-electric bike and seems to like it) and upgrading. Not necessarily very soon, but someday.

I had some big plans for longer trips on the Nakto but haven't gotten around to them yet. So far, a round trip of 30 miles or so (human-powered as much as was comfortable at all to preserve battery life) has been my maximum, but I still want to go to Fort White and back to visit a friend and/or take in a music festival and/or camp (that would be about 80 miles round trip, and I'm assuming a battery recharge at the far end). That kind of thing.

My normal use of the bike is to travel to either Gainesville (five miles to the east) or Archer (five miles to the west), or distances short of that to the grocery store or whatever. If I'm going somewhere downtown in Gainesville, perhaps ten miles or so one-way. I've never run out of battery power, but then I've never tried to make an entire trip on battery power. My rough guess is that I could get 8-10 miles out of the battery maximum.

So let's call my normal range ten miles one-way, five if I am really lazy and just use the throttle.

I'd really like to get that range up to at least 25 miles one-way if I'm willing to do a bit of the work. The longer the better.

I'm seeing some e-bikes with "integrated batteries" inside the frame. I think that's a bad idea, assuming (as seems to be the case) that removing/replacing the battery would be a pain in the ass. I'd either have to bring the whole bike inside to recharge the battery, or run an extension cord out of the house. I couldn't just bring along a spare battery to swap in for long trips. And when the battery finally gives up the ghost, I'd probably have to have a shop install the new one. So, I want an externally mounted battery.

I'm currently running a 36-volt system with a 10 amp-hour battery and a 250-watt motor. I don't know that I want to go to a 48-volt system with a more powerful motor. I'm already 25 pounds lighter than when I got the Nakto, one of my goals is to never get any fatter again than I am now, and hopefully to lose at least another 20-25 pounds, and so far the Nakto -- which is a heavy bike -- has carried me and my gear with no problems.

What I want is a lighter bike with a removable a battery that stores more energy -- as many amp-hours as possible without being too bulky.

I'm thinking a 700c-wheel, 57cm "commuter" rather than 26-inch-wheel "cruiser" frame, with thinner tires. Not as comfortable, but I've done a 60-mile ride on a non-electric commuter/road frame and it was OK.

All things considered, I'd prefer a single-speed bicycle. I've been that way for a little while even with non-electric bikes. No derailleur system is just one thing less to go wrong. And with an electric bike, I can just use the throttle or assist on uphill grades instead of down-shifting to make pedaling easier, solving the only real down side of single speed on a non-electric bike.

I'm torn on the subject of brakes. The Nakto has plain vanilla bicycle pads on the front but disc brakes on the rear. I really like the way the disc brakes work and feel, but I'm not sure how hard they are to replace when they wear out. Old-style brakes are easy to mess with.

On a quick look, I'm not seeing much that fits all those specs, especially in a sub-$1,000 price range. The sub-$1,000 candidates at Amazon all seem to want to give me 21-speed Shimano gear action.

The Co-op Cycles CTY e.21 at REI Co-Op (not an affiliate link) isn't terribly far off what I might like, but it's $2,000. And if I went insane and spent $2,000 on a bicycle, I'd think I should be getting exactly what I want.

So my long-term plan remains: Tear my old 57cm Trek down to the frame and re-build it exactly as I'd like it -- single speed, old-style brakes, etc. -- with an electric bike conversion kit in the mix. I paid $100 for the bike, used, and got a lot of miles out of it. I suspect that for less than $1,000 (including a second battery), I could turn it into something I'd find as satisfactory as a $5k high-end stock model.


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