Stephen Rees's blog

Thoughts about the relationships between transport and the urban area it serves

Posts Tagged ‘electric assist bike

The Bicycle Diaries: Episode 13

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UrbanX-wheel-full

I know that this wheel is no longer being sold under the name UrbanX – or even UrbaNext – but that does not mean transactions are not continuing. The company which sold two to me has evaporated. Leaving me one wheel which simply does not work. And another that continues to frustrate me. However there are still plenty of pages available on the internet from websites which seem to have simply accepted the claims made by its makers untested. So my purpose in writing this is simply to re-issue warnings that I have made to an earlier diary entry which I keep updating but is maybe not being noticed as much as a new post.

Yesterday I took the bike out on the Greenway. It has been sitting in the locker for the winter, but the weather was so nice, and my partner was quite happy to ride her bike now that its electric wheel has been removed. I was quite surprised to find that the battery had held its charge all this time. I first did a short test along Valley, just to make sure everything was working properly. As expected the control started working once I reached 5 km/hr (based on the reading on the app) but kept on working even if the speed dropped below that provided that I did not come to a complete stop. I was even able to get the speed control on the app to work in motion and there is a real difference between the three “gears”. But it isn’t easy to hold the control down and change the bike’s gears. On the level that doesn’t matter. On a hill – such as the one up from Valley to Arbutus along King Edward Ave – it matters a lot. Once again I found myself getting off the bike and pushing. Even when the wheel is turned off it acts like a brake. The bike is much heavier with the wheel and its battery and that is all on front axle. That isn’t a good place to add weight. Pushing that bike up the hill was not fun!

If an electric assist bike is going to be useful, getting moving from rest on a hill must be the most important task. This wheel won’t do that.

On the return downhill ride on King Ed the app speed read 12 km/hr – even though I was keeping up with traffic which must have been much faster. The wheel under power does not hold back as it does when turned off. But it also doesn’t regenerate either if you did want a decellerator. It does happily bring me home on the flat Valley Drive – no pedalling, and I did not even press the throttle. But the wheel does get hot. It is impossible to pull the battery out from its housing when it is hot. So I left it in overnight. I still cannot budge it this morning. You have to hold down two tabs on the top of the battery while pulling back evenly. The battery case is smooth and there is nothing to get a grip on. You also need to have the wheel secured against something so you are not pulling the wheel over too. It is a lousy design ergonomically.

My conclusion is that while an electric assist bike is a worthwhile idea, the reality needs more than can be provided by purchasing over the internet from a Chinese company. It is cheap for a reason, and its very cheapness ought to be warning. Most ebikes and conversions come out to be more than the ~$500 I spent on each wheel. Buying from an established retailer a bike made (or adapted from) a reputable manufacturer is a lot better bet than KickStarter or IndieGoGo.

UPDATE  September 12, 2018

I removed the wheel from the bike today. The battery is still in place in the wheel: it is immovable and therefore impossible to charge. So it is utterly useless. I have put on a regular wheel and will get someone to reinstall the suspension forks I had to get taken off to use the electric wheel.

I am going to do some more research about ebikes available locally but I am not going to be in a hurry.

 

Written by Stephen Rees

May 7, 2018 at 12:27 pm