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  I've been building electric bikes and riding them since 1999.  Following is an empirical base of knowledge from a cyclist / mechanic with fifty years of professional experience. 

I hold a Bachelor of Science degree in Art and Engineering.  In the past, I successfully raced motorcycles, crewed and fabricated for Formula Ford, Formula Continental, Super Vee, IMSA GP and GTU.  All the while, riding my bicycle, fascinated by it's efficiency.  Tests published in Scientific America result that a man riding a bicycle is more efficient than a swimming fish.  I am always loving the freedom and joy of negotiating through space on two wheels. 

These days I've "retired" into a sweet job, teaching ceramic sculpture and three dimensional design for the public school system.   Yes, my house is filled with bicycles.  I have a complete bike shop at my home, but am not open to the public.  My findings are honest and well formed, I'm sure that you'll find them helpful. 

For nearly a decade, I've observed many interpretations of electric bikes come and go.  Bikes like the Volocci, Merida, and Tidal Farce really missed the point, but got a lot of marketing.  Marketing is a powerful force, and I see fantastic claims that I know are impossible.  Electric bikes are wonderful methods of transport.  So, what's possible, what's true, what's real, what's fantasy?? 




THE TWENTY INCH MONGOOSE IS A FRONT DRIVE WINTER SNOWBIKE
What's fun about this bike is that it pulls through the ice and snow while you stabilize with your feet.  It has a top speed of about 12mph. The front tire has stainless steel studs.  Being a twenty inch wheel racing BMX bike keeps the center of gravity low, and you can pedal along to make it two wheel drive.  It has front suspension, and Brooks B-66 sprung saddle.  It's a gas on frozen lakes, and a safe ride to work in the Winter.  The 24 volt 5 amp nicad battery recharges in two hours.  Brushed and geared, 400 watt Heinzmann, of course.  I'm sure it'd dig an ice-fishing hole if needed.



 
YOUR FRAME:

ANY FULL SUSPENSION FRAME IS SUFFICIENT. WITH ELECTRIC ASSIST, YOUR AVERAGE SPEED WILL BE HIGH.  YOU WANT YOUR WHEELS ON THE GROUND.  Unified rear suspension (URT) is the term describing the configuration of the rear triangle that is most conducive to suspension singlespeed gearing.  Gary Fisher Joshua, Trek "Y", Klein Mantra, are some examples.  I like to modify the rear dropouts into a track-bike style rear fork  (The correct nomenclature for track style dropout is "rear fork").



You can buy aluminum or steel dropouts and rear track forks from frame builders or make your own.  Measure, then hacksaw and grind off the vertical drop, and TIG or MIG weld new ones on.



Sadly, I'm not a decendant of an Italian frame maker. I make my welding jigs from Honduran mahogany, because that's what good carpentry levels are made from.  It's incredibly accurate to set up using a bunch of clamps, strait edges and carpentry squares. 



If you don't weld, Any welding shop will work with you if you have your jig already made. 


GEARING:

The motor eliminates the need for a multitude of gearing.  Singlespeed affords clarity and freedom from dérailleurs and a dozen sprockets.  Calculate your gearing to be about comfortable...  70 rpm cadence at 15mph is good for me.  That's about 49 teeth on the chainring and 18 teeth on the freewheel.  Once in a while, near the top of a hill, I might have to get up off the seat for a few hard pumps, but not often.

We should talk about speed here...  If it is your fantasy to go thirty-five MPH on a bicycle (it was mine too at first), you might want a gasoline powered moped or scooter instead.  It just isn't safe, or legal for that matter. 

If speed's your thing, this Swiss made bicycle is pretty fast... 

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-vyOwvEKms8


THE LAW:

There is a Federal law about electric bikes.  Early in the days of the Iraq war a bill was slipped onto YOUR Presidents desk, and I guess he signed it without much thought (surprised??). 

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Electric_bicycle_laws#United_States

Generally, how I interpret it is as follows.  First of all, it has to have pedals.  It says...  You can have an electric bicycle with one horsepower (750 WATTS) on demand, that is limited to powering itself up to 20MPH.  You can pedal to make it go faster than 20MPH, it's just that the motor, by itself, isn't allowed to make it go over 20MPH.  The bike requires no license to operate (no points on your driver's license for rolling through a stop sign?), and needs not to be insured like a motorcycle (unless there is a state or local ordinance governing this).  It can be driven on any bike trail even when it says no motorized vehicles (and I stress BIKE TRAIL...PLEASE STAY OFF FOOTPATHS!!!). 

The rest of the world is in awe of this USA law and very jealous.  Many countries, Asia, Europe... are limited to 15mph and "pedelec" which is where you don't get any electric assist unless you are spinning the pedals.  The twist of the wrist, "on demand" power is infinitely better.

I'm not sure how your local gestapo will enforce this law.  On my way home from work, there's a long downhill run that I always pedal down furiously, tuck in tightly, and watch until my speedometer hits 35mph.  Then I sit up and take a hard left over the river bridge.  Kinda reminds me of my steel shoe half-mile racing days on my Bultaco.  The speed limit is 25mph, so this behavior attracts cops.  When I'm stopped and asked "Goin' a little fast there eh pal",  or "Do you know how fast you were going?"...  The cops never notice the hub motor or battery pak.  I politely listen to the safety lecture, agree with everything they say, assume a submissive posture, display remorse.....look them in the eye, and begin my explanation with  "Honestly, officer...".   These days, I find a psychological  approach more successful than my old ways of giving directions to the nearest donut shop.  Anyway, even if the oinkers could detect that you had a motor, they have no means of determining the wattage.  The law isn't clear about peak or continuous power.  Many bikes claim peak power numbers in their motor advertizing.  Wear a helmet.

20mph IS PLENTY FAST!!!   AND...YOU CAN'T GET ENOUGH TORQUE OUT OF ONE HORSEPOWER TO GO MUCH FASTER.

This reminds me... There's a moron somewhere out in California that surfaces on eBay from time to time, advertizing a 55mph electric bike.  He has some Brushless, Gearless, Chinese motor over-volted to 72 volts with an an array of NIMH cells strapped anywhere he can fit them all over his rigid framed aluminum bike.  You are encouraged (only by him), to buy this thing.  It might be an interesting way to die if you've been contemplating suicide.  Come to think, haven't seen his ad on eBay lately...
 
Keep it in perspective...
I use my bike to go to work, park at the bank, park at the post office, get a couple bags of groceries, visit friends, and cool down on a hot summer night.  Ann Arbor has big hills.  There's no sweat with electric assist, so you can ride in comfort to work on a hot, humid day. 



Sheldon Brown has a great gear calculator...
 http://sheldonbrown.com/gears/

Match the gear calculation with the 4QD roadspeed calculator...   
  http://www.4qd.co.uk/faq/roadspd.html


MOTOR:

I wouldn't use anything but Heinzmann.  You have a lot of options...
There's much hype about brushed vs brushless, and geared vs gearless.
I stand by brushed and geared.  The good stuff doesn't wear out and is repairable if it does.  Any damn fool can clean an armature and replace brushes.

I weigh 180lbs, my bike weighs 50lbs.  Performance wise, I can't tell much difference between a 400W and a 500W motor.  The 400Watt motor gets better mileage. 

There's a difference between continuous and peak power.  A 500W continuous is about 750W peak.  Electricity is a lot of fairly simple math.  I "overvolt" 24V 400W Heinzmann motors to 36 Volts with no overheating of motor.  It adds about 7MPH.  I don't stress it and am always pedaling with the motor (there's not much else to do on a bike but pedal along, and it increases your mileage).

Link to Heinzmann...
 http://www.heinzmann.de/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=215&Itemid=277&lang=de


The best English speaking Heinzmann site in the world is the Kinetics bike shop in Glasgow.  These guys have been very helpful, and I buy motors from them.  It's painfully expensive, but the service great, and it is worth the cost. 
http://www.kinetics.org.uk/html/heinzmann_kits.shtml


BATTERY:

AVOID LEAD.  ITS ONLY REDEEMING QUALITY IS THAT IT HAS A LOW INITIAL COST. 
IT'S WAY TOO HEAVY, TAKES FOREVER TO CHARGE, ALWAYS FAILS BEFORE ITS PROPORTED 300 CYCLES, CAN'T BE LEFT IN A DISCHARGED STATE WITHOUT DAMAGE, DOESN'T REALLY PERFORM AT ITS RATED AMPS (A 12 AMP LEAD BATTERY WILL ONLY HAVE ABOUT 7 USEABLE AMPS.  BEYOND THAT YOU'RE DOING DAMAGE)

I FAVOR NICADS.  THEY ARE THE BEST COMPROMISE.  MY EVERYDAY BIKE (MY DEMO), HAS A 36 VOLT ARRAY OF SANYO "D" CELLS.  THE BATTERY IS DATED NOVEMBER 1999 AND I CAN'T TELL IT FROM NEW.  IT WORKS JUST LIKE DAY ONE.  I CAN'T SAY FOR SURE HOW MANY TIMES I'VE CHARGED IT, OFTEN TWICE A DAY (a full recharge takes only two hours), BUT WAY OVER A THOUSAND TIMES FOR SURE.  I USE A $250 NICAD CHARGER.  That probably helps...



These fellas have lots to say and sell about battery cells and chargers...

http://www.powerstream.com/RW.htm







KLEIN MANTRA BUILD LIST:
400 WATT HEINZMANN HUB
MAGURA POTENTIOMETER TWISTGRIP
HEINZMANN 36 VOLT BATTERY AND CONTROLLER
THOMPSON STEM
THOMPSON SEATPOST
BROOKS PRO SADDLE
BROOKS LEATHER GRIPS
AVID BRAKES
SUN MAMMOTH RIMS
CONTINENTAL TIRES
PHIL MOUNTAIN SINGLESPEED REAR HUB
AC HEXMETRIC CRANK
DK IRON CROSS PEDALS

If you've never been on a Klein Mantra, try one. 
They are Soooo..... Smooooth







Often I'm asked "how much does it weigh?"
The ever classic answer is "Do you want to ride it or weigh it?" 

With todays technology, it's expensive to build an electric bike under 30 lbs.

Unless you'll be lifting your bike a lot, the actual weight is less of a factor, since the electric motor will be doing most of the work.

Remember the old Schwinn classic tenspeed called the "Varsity"?
I'm pretty sure it weighed in around 44 lbs.



 
FORTY POUND ELECTRIC BIKE

TREK Y-22 BUILD LIST
FACTORY "NUDE" COLOR
HEINZMANN 500 WATT MOTOR
CAMPAGNOLO RIMS
DT SWISS
BROOKS PROFESSIONAL
CHRIS KING HEADSET
HAYES DISC & SPOOL
ROCKSHOX SID FORK
FOX FLOAT
AC HEXMETRIC CRANK
HUTCH PEDALS

BATTERY IS THIRTY 5 AMP NIMH "C" CELLS
(I'LL FABRICATE AN ALUMINUM COVER FOR BATTERY, BUT EVERYONE LIKES THE STICKS OF DYNAMITE LOOK...THEY CALL IT A "TERRORIST BIKE")

INTRESTING TO NOTE THAT THE FRAME HAS A HARMONIC RESONANCE  THAT MIGHT BE WELL CONVERTED INTO A GUITAR



 

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