E-cargo Part 2

Cargo bikes are great for transporting much more than conventional bicycles and with that advantage, of course, there is a downside – they are bigger and therefore heavier to pedal. For several years, I have been happy to do the extra work required in exchange for that benefit and have done most of my short distance grocery and other shopping trips with my cargo bike, but have not used the bike as much as I would have liked for longer trips.

In December,  2014, a new bike, the Biktrix Juggernaut, was introduced to Saskatoon, featuring an electric mid-drive. It was the mid-drive system used on that bicycle that caught my interest and the following summer, I contacted Biktrix owner, Roshan Thomas, and arranged to go for a test spin on a bike equipped with the Bafang system.

Wow – what a hoot that was, and it got me thinking about its application on a cargo bike. While short distance shopping trips are not difficult on a cargo bike, longer distances can be quite daunting due to the extra weight of a heavier bike plus its cargo. As one of my friends commented, electric assist changes a cargo bike into a regular bike when considering the effort involved. I decided to give the idea a try on the new bike that I was building.

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The Bafang mid-drive system has been on the market a relatively short period of time but has already received a lot of consumer attention and mainly good reviews. It is available in several models – after discussions with Roshan, I chose the mid range BBS02 36 volt 500 watt unit, and coupled it with a Panasonic 36 volt 14.5Ah lithium battery pack for my new cargo bike.

Installing the conversion is not difficult. Bearings, bearing shells and crank are all removed from the bottom bracket and the drive unit slides in. Controls include throttle, on/off/power level selector and brake levers that cut power when  brakes are applied. A large readout panel displays speed, distance travelled, power level selected and battery level. The unit is programmed to engage when the crank is pedalled forward or when the throttle is used. Other programming options are available.

Unlike rear hub electric motors, mid-drive systems retain the advantage of whatever range of gearing that  a bike may have. They can be coupled with rear derailleur systems or with internal geared hubs. Derailleur systems are inexpensive but require more attention in shifting when using electric assist, and can result in jerky and stressed gear changes. Internal hubs eliminate that concern and I chose another newcomer on the market, the Nuvinci N360 continually variable hub – it represents the latest in technology.

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This is what the new drive system and rear hub looked like on the new bike.

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The battery is mounted on a rear carrier, over top of the drive wheel. The Bafang unit is not obtrusive – rather it looks like it belongs where it is.

This is the view from the cockpit. The Bafang read-out is large and easy to read. The NuVinci twist-grip shifter displays speed settings as a gradient.

So, how does it work? It is a bit early for a full assessment but so far, I am very pleased with the results. The Bafang powers the bike very well and the NuVinci hub makes changing speeds a breeze. After  more than 30 kilometres, the battery is still at 80% charge. I have been out for several short distance shopping trips and have travelled in record time. The bike moves along easily at 25 km/hr, even with a load of groceries on board. I have not tried for a top speed but have been over 30 km/hr, which for a cargo bike. is moving right along!

More photos to follow in the next post, and a follow-up after the bike has logged a few miles and done some work to earn its keep. Cheers.

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E-Cargo – Part 1

Good ideas are meant to be improved upon, right? And so my first long john cargo bike led to the second “improved” version. And from there it followed, there had to be yet another “improved” one.

As it turned out, the donor bike for  the next long john cargo bike to come out of Village Cycleworks was the Nishiki bike pictured in the last photo from a previous post – a bike that had been abandoned in a nearby back alley long enough that grass had grown up among its severely bent front forks. I brought it home on long john cargo bike #2 in 2014.

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Work began in April, 2016 to transform the Nishiki mountain bicycle into a working cargo bike. Design and size followed much of what was done to build Bike #2, with a few changes. For one, instead of using the forks from a bicycle to brace the steering tube.EMT conduit was used. With the use of a borrowed pipe bender, 3/4 inch conduit was bent into gentle curves and then  3/4 inch flat bars were welded into place to provide a location to attach bottle cages later.

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I have always appreciated the X style step through bars that John Lucas of Cycletrucks uses on his bad-ass cargo bikes and so once again I shamelessly copied him and kept that feature.

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Components for my projects are a combination of new and salvaged items. The 1 1/2 inch square 16 gauge tubing used as cross pieces for the cargo deck were once the frame of a discarded piece of exercise equipment. The 1 1/2 inch round tubing with the nice bends were once roof members of a temporary tarpaulin shelter, also discarded.

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The most important change to the structure of this bike is the use of a heavy duty BMX threadless fork with incorporated V-brake mounts, sized to accommodate a 48 spoke, double wall, 20 inch front wheel and its heavy 14 mm axle. BMX bikes do not conventionally feature fenders and since I wanted fenders on this bike, I had to weld on provisions for that.

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Steering stops have been a challenge, and after messing around with an attempt at adjustable ones that did not work, I reverted to the KISS (keep it simple, stupid) approach, with pieces of flat stock formed and welded to the frame and the fork. Size and location was determined by trial and error, enabling a tighter turning circle than on the previous model.

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The double kickstand went together with relative ease, copying the one done on the previous bike.

Long bikes present unexpected challenges, such as  very long brake cables. With a wheel span of eight feet, the long john requires an unusually long cable to reach the front brake. Tandem bike cables are not long enough, and the cost of a custom made brake cable is prohibitive. On Bike #2 I came up with my own solution, which I used again in Bike #3. From a growing pile on my shop floor of cheap calliper brakes taken from salvaged bikes, I cut off threaded ends along with the barrel adjusters and then welded them in place on the underside of the cargo crossbeams.  Cable clamps, available at any hardware store, are used to extend the length of a regular brake cable. They may not look pretty but they do the job and they are out  of sight under the cargo box.

With the frame completed, it was time to put some temporary wheels on the beast and see how it was emerging.

After a quick spin around the block, it appeared that the new bike was going to work. Back into the workshop for some final touches. On previous bikes brake and derailleur cables were kept in place with zip ties. The zip ties are an easy solution to the issue of keeping cables in an orderly way but they are not particularly aesthetic. Using 3/8 inch round pipe, I fashioned cable leads, some single and where required, some double, and welded them in place.  I also installed some rivet-nuts in several locations to attach home made cable clamps for the electrical cables associated with the electric mid-drive.

 

Stay tuned for the big innovations to follow.

 

 

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A story of Canadian financial failures – all in one bike!

IMG_0716 Yup, I know – it doesn’t look like much, and I almost left it where I found it – awaiting a metal crusher so that it could be turned into rebar at the Stelco plant in Regina (or wherever they send the mass of metal that is gathered up from the many  municipal transfer sites in the province. But if you know me, you will know that I just could not leave that bicycle there for such an ignominious end. I brought it home, and only after starting to clean it up, a realization about the bike came to me. It is a reminder of two now-defunct icons of retail in Canada. The emblem on the front fork displays the name T. Eaton Company, founded in 1869 by Timothy Eaton, closed to bankruptcy in 1999. IMG_1652 And, partially hidden behind the chain guard ring, another well-known trade name – CCM. The Canada Cycle and Motor Company Limited was founded in 1899 and went bankrupt in 1983. IMG_1655 Fortunately, the original CCM built quality bicycles, and after some elbow grease and attention to detail, this Stallion will be ridden again. IMG_0727 IMG_1654 IMG_1653

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Grocery cargo…

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Winter has been with us for a while and my “new” cargo bike has been safely stowed away while waiting for  a return to spring. This one was built in early summer 2014 when unusually rainy weather made it unsuitable for sailing. As this year comes to a close it is time to post some photos before a newer “new” version replaces it, hopefully with some more improvements. Photos tell the story of this build better than words.

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The cro moly donor frame – with damaged forks and a badly rusted in seat post

 

 

 

 

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To make it easier to line up the various sections of the bike, I built some stands to hold them at the correct level.

 

 

 

 

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Solid central kickstands are essential on long john cargo bikes. When surfing the net one day I came across some photos of an approach that I liked. Unfortunately I have not been able to find that site again so that I could credit the builder!! I am certainly grateful to him for sharing – if he should ever happen upon this post, I want him to know my appreciation. These pictures show the bike upside down on the bench.

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After adding paint and some components, this was what came out of the workshop:

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The cargo area has been built to be used either as a flat bed, or with box sides sized to hold two grocery baskets.

 

 

There are some marvellous builders that are building cargo bikes. I would like to acknowledge one in particular, John Lucas, of Cycle Trucks based in West Sacramento, California. He makes some great cycles – check them out. I like his X-style step through frames – this is my attempt.

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This bike has been a lot of fun – folks often comment on it when I am out shopping. I added a lot of features to it, but of course, there are always ways of improving. With that in mind, could this be the donor frame for the next one?

Next donor?

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Lemons and Grapes – Rhonda’s new makeover bike

One of last year’s projects has spawned the latest effort from Village Cycleworks. In 2013, a pair of rather ordinary “mountain bikes” were refurbished and given a facelift. The result was the Jack & Jill Makeover. Well, Jack & Jill are finding a new home this spring – they have been purchased and will be travelling to southern Manitoba as Mother’s Day/Father’s day gifts. Soon they will be taking their new owners on country rides for coffee with the nearby neighbours. After picking up Jack & Jill from the Village Cycleworks shop, our customer called back with an inquiry – could we put together a bike for herself? She had some requests: she preferred the purple paint used on Jack and Jill; she also liked the fenders; and she would like a basket.

Well it happened that there was a suitable bike on hand that had the potential to fulfill those requirements. It was a “made in Canada” bike sold by the large tire-selling Canadian hardware chain.

Rhonda's bike - the before shot

As with many (most?) bikes that make their way to a landfill site, on the surface it did not look too promising, with deflated tires and bent wheels, rusty cables and cable housing, scratches and rust spots on the paint. It did have the important ingredient required for a successful make-over – a solid and true frame with bosses for mounting cantilever brakes.

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Paint scratches and peeling decals are really nothing to worry about – they are just surface blemishes.

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So the bike was dismantled and, after a bit of elbow grease, sent to the “paint booth”.

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A new paint job deserves a custom touch.

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After a few days to allow the paint to cure, it was time to re-assemble everything, making sure to grease and reset bearings and true up wheels. Serviceable components were salvaged from other donor bikes. A few new components were added, including, as requested, polycarbonate full wrap around fenders and an aluminum front rack with a wooden deck. Here, after 40 hours or so of work, is the result, proving the old adage “Never judge a book by it’s cover”, or in this application “Never judge a bike by its scratches and rust!”

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Moustachio – the transformation is complete

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Once the components were chosen, assembly could take place. Wheels were greased and trued. Duro Sierra tires were selected – puncture resistant, with reflective sidewalls. Derailleurs were installed – the front one original and the rear one new – a Shimano Alivio RD-M410. Cabling was configured for derailleurs and brakes.  Wrap-around fenders and a sturdy rear carrier were included in the mix, adding functionality and style. My Lion Bellworks bell was transferred from the Expediter light duty cargo bike to the new city bike.

Then for a new experience – wrapping the moustache handlebars. Before tackling the job, I went online and discovered that there are as many experts on the topic as there ways to wrap handlebars. By combining the ideas and approaches that seemed to make the most sense to me, the job was completed and the results very satisfying.

Next up – a test ride, followed by a photo shoot. The test ride proved exhilarating – the light frame and narrow tires coupled with the ability to “get down” on the moustache bars produces a fun ride that turns heads when you stop long enough for folks to appreciate it. Great fun.

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Moustachio – the ingredients for a transformation

Well, in the last post, it was clear that some there was still a lot of work to get that old Norco bicycle looking presentable. It required removing ALL of the paint, including the original very nice two tone job, and in addition, all of the decals and stickers. I will spare you the details – suffice it to say that it took time, elbow power and several sheets of sandpaper. Once the bike was “clean to the bone”, it was time for the “paint booth/bike shed” and the metallic Pearl Glow paint that had been selected. Here we are, just hanging around, waiting for paint to dry…

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Next? the fun part – after cleaning old components that were to be recycled, it was time to select and find the new ones that would make the transformation. You may recall that I mentioned something in the last post about moustache handlebars… Let me tell you the story of the origin of this style. It goes back to the 70’s in Japan when school children fell in love with the drop down handlebars of racing bikes. For some reason, school authorities felt that these bars were too, well, too riske!! and they banned the use of them by school children. But the kids found a way around that by modifying the original style. Perhaps it is the wanna-be-rebel side of me then that is drawn to this style of handlebar… :o)

So, lets have a look at those “rebels”. Here they are, resting nicely in a stem that I picked up a year ago, originally used on a lowrider bike that had been trashed. Yes, those bars may not look like much yet, but take time to wait for the outcome.

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I knew that the Shimano quick shift combination levers that were originally used on the Norco bike could not be used with these handlebars. Bar end shifters are in common use with moustache handlebars and it is easy to see why. However, I did not have these and I did not want to spend the money to buy them but there was an alternative that I was certain would work…

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Yes, something ‘old school’ – Shimano shifter levers from a road bike from the 70’s, attached to the stem. There were a collection of these shifter levers in a coffee tin in the “parts” department of my workshop  and by mixing and matching and searching through a pile of old road bikes that were destined for the recycle melting pot, I was able to put together a set that looked good and worked well.

Next – brake levers… My research had disclosed that non-aero brake levers were the best choice when using moustache bars and while going through that pile of old road bikes, I found a possible candidate set. I was not completely satisfied because the hoods on them were long gone. About the time that I found these, serendipity stepped in. An ad appeared on Kijiji for a “mint condition vintage drop bar shimano brake lever set”. The ad described them as coming from “a 1978 Miele road bike, the drop bar is a “Sakae Custom Road Champion”  in near perfect condition minus wear from original install…  The brake lever set is Shimano, both levers come with hoods which are in good shape”. I inquired to see if the levers could be purchased separately but was told that they would only go as a set. An hour later, the vendor messaged me back to tell me that someone wanted to buy the handlebars only, and so I quickly went to pick up the levers and hoods – here they are…

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As you know, it takes a bit more than handlebars, shift and brake levers to make a bicycle but in this instance, these were the most interesting components. With these now on hand and with the paint finally cured, check out the next post to see the final outcome of this transformation.

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Moustachio – potential for another transformation

A year ago, I rescued a bike that was destined to be collected, along with a lot of other discarded steel products, and then be melted down and recast into rebar, or some other useful but uninteresting product. Like many bikes that are being discarded, the cables were rusted and non-operative and tires were flat. Brake pads were worn out, and one wheel was badly bent. The bike wasn’t very attractive – someone had done a very poor spray paint job over much of the bike in green, followed by an equally poor brush job done in an unappealing grey. It was barely possible to make out that the bike was a NORCO product, a chrome-moly frame originally built as a mountain bike. It was clear that this bike had had a hard life and was going to need a lot of attention to make it into anything that anyone would want. It was set aside, until this year – I was introduced to moustache handlebars and this was the perfect bike on which to try them out.

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Here are some shots of the bike, after a partial disassembly and after most of the initial re-paint had been removed. By this point, the bike had been mostly disassembledIMG_8170

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Yes, not a pretty picture, but if you know what to look for, you can see the potential. Stay tuned – next post will offer some options and hope for better times.

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The Jack and Jill makeover – the RESULTS

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These are the parts that go into a bicycle and this is the pile that was left after “Jill” was taken apart. Now lets see the results after  a manicure and some new “duds”. First the paint:

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Remember those rusty, rough looking bikes that we began with? Already looking different, right? Next its time for the nuts and bolts basics – cleaning and greasing and adjusting bearings, and running new cables to make sure that brakes work and gears change. All the important but boring stuff – it needs to get done to make the best out of any bicycle. After thats done, we can get to the fun part – let’s see what else we can do….

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Let’s start at the top, with new Velo anatomic comfort grips. Along with the grips, aluminum Tektro linear pull brake levers, designed for four finger ergonomics.

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New tires and tubes start us on the road with CST Commuter street tires – smooth rolling with a continuous central band lined by water runners and triangular shoulders to enhance traction. Braking is important on a bicycle and dual colour brake pads were installed. These pads are designed with channels to guide excess water and grime off of the braking surface. For those days when a rider might be caught by a sudden rain, full coverage fenders were added front and back, constructed of light weight but strong polycarbonate and installed using stainless steel hardware.

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KMC Rustbuster chains were installed to provide long lasting trouble free service. The LU-214 City Pedals from Wellgo were selected – they are made of one piece aluminum with a Kraton rubber gripping surface and Cro-Mo machined spindles. Light weight aluminum bottle cages as well as convenient kickstands were added.

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Classic alloy rear racks were also added to make it easier to carry “stuff”.  And to ensure a comfortable shock absorbing ride, a Rhyno Comfort Web Spring saddle was chosen, with thick foam top, coil springs at the rails and a web spring.

So how did we do when all comes together?

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There you have it – the Jack and Jill Makeover. Available for you at Village Cycleworks. Time to dig those bikes out of the garage, bring them on over, and get the NEW LOOK. Turn those dusty, rusty, trusty “mountain” bikes into modern, city loving, commuter friendly, exercise ready Prairie Cruisers!! Why buy something new when what you have is still very serviceable and only needs some new additions and improvements to bring it back to life? Give me a call and lets talk!!

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Working Cargo – for sale

 

 

Yes, that hard working lime green beauty is for sale. Summer is closing in – another cargo bike is taking shape on the jig in the shop and so room has to be made for the newcomer.

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That bike and I have had some good times this summer – picking up groceries for the evening meal and propane gas to cook it.

RecyclingWe have taken cans and bottles to the recycling depot.

To the recycle depot

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We have replenished our supply of cans also. By the way, for anyone needing supplies for a party, the cargo deck will hold 6 dozen cans in one layer, twelve dozen if you double it… :o)A beer run

 

One of the unexpected advantages of a cargo bike came one day when we stopped for a coffee at one of our favourite spots, The Roastery at Five Corners. There were no tables left in the shade so we pulled the bike under a tree, and parked ourselves on the cargo bay – instant park bench!!IMG_5302_2

 

 

 

 

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For fun we have carried lumber home from the lumberyard, – just to see if we could do it!!

Recently we used the bike to get us to a picnic on the river, carrying the chilled wine and our contribution to the feast along with our folding chairs – good times!

Heading to a picnicYes, good times for the next owner also. Who will it be? See the ad on Kijiji, or send me a note if you want to be the one.

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