Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Do you carry electric bicycles?

"Do you carry electric bicycles?"

"Are you nuts? I can barely lift one."

A customer called to see if we had, or could get, 20X3-inch tires for a couple of electric bikes someone had given him. Scraped off on him would be a better term, but we didn't know the full extent of the annoyance for many weeks.

Just finding 20X3-inch tires that matched the ones on his bikes was a treasure hunt.
These things look like motorcycle tires. No one had them in stock on this side of the Atlantic. Maybe they didn't have them in the UK either. We didn't bother to follow up with those vendors. NYCewheels in NYC listed them, but told us they were unavailable indefinitely. They offered a substitution. Hey, whatever gets this guy's rims off the ground and his three-ton pieces of crap out of our basement.

These Ultramotor A2B bikes are the heaviest smokeless mopeds it has ever been my misfortune to try to lug around. Getting them into the shop from our basement storage area was easy enough: just wheel them around to the main door and through the shop with only a few stairs to negotiate. The main drawback to that approach is being seen in public with the thing as I walk around the building. I avoid eye contact and move as quickly as my shreds of dignity allow.

Getting the cursed hunks of scrap metal onto the work stand is another matter. Previous electric bikes, while grossly heavy and poorly balanced, have still been light enough for me to grunt them into position with a solid stance and a little luck. Bikes of a convenient height allow me to put one end on a footstool so I can pivot the other end up and clamp the seat post.

The A2B monstrosities defied such simple steps. I scanned the overhead for some place to rig some sort of cord system to lift them. In our old and heavily mutilated building, I did not see anything overhead that I would trust with the dangling weight of this ridiculous contraption.

Eventually I settled on using the stand itself, tying the lower end of the rig to a low point on the bike to try to get the seatpost up to the height of the clamp. But how to increase my mechanical advantage, which was the whole point of rigging a hoist?

Thanks to my father's taste in nautical widgetry, I had a fully functional Harken dinghy block on my key ring. I could have used a couple more, but it gave me something along with the high-friction upper end going over the work stand arm. I could at least lift the behemoth.

It was still an awkward wrestling match until Beth came through in the middle of it and brought the stability of a woman's touch.

"This must weigh a hundred pounds!" she said. "Why is it so heavy?"

In typical electric bike fashion, even a simple thing like a tire change turns into a twiddly fiddle with bullcrap. I had to trace the motor wiring back to detachable connectors, one of which had been heavily mummified with electrical tape, and then drop out the rear wheel, which weighs 19 pounds. The front wheel is pretty simple, with a normal hub and disc brakes. It still managed to hang up in the forks for no obvious reason. Maybe it just didn't want the rear wheel to get all the attention.

I disassembled the lifting tackle before I went home. The bike is still in the stand. I have more Harken blocks and other handy bits at home to make a smoother-running purchase for lowering this bike and lifting the other one.

I'm debating whether to leave a tackle system at the shop all the time, carry the pieces with me when I commute, or bring the parts each time the need arises. The shop should probably have a lift on hand in case some e-bike victim comes in for emergency repairs during the more active cycling season. As Baby Boomers age and younger generations who think electric things are cool come along, we will probably see more hefty two-wheelers on which the pedals are more decorative than useful.

The industry already offers lifts for heavy loads like this. They're not cheap, of course. If I can set a good anchor overhead, it will be cheaper and almost as easy to keep lifting tackle on hand, rather than lay out the coin for a fancy new work stand. There's added satisfaction in hoisting someone's electric monster like a dead animal carcass rather than investing in a fancy, high-tech lift that exalts it.


Matt Boulanger said...

LOL at "smokeless mopeds."

Mike March said...

As someone who has been riding electric bikes for years, I can tell you the first thing I've done to each DIY or purchased e-bike is make a quick disconnect wires from the controller to the motor. If I have to carry this bike somewhere, I bring the wheel and battery with on lift and then the rest with another lift. Example up some stairs, into the back of a van, etc... Having the bike break apart into different pieces is essential. I can't stand the bikes that have the battery integrated into the frame, where it cannot be removed.

I've yet found a manufactured bike that I wouldn't make modifications too.