Converting to eBike


I have been seriously riding bicycles for most of my local transportation since 2007. This was part choice and part necessity as I began to have problems with my knee in 2006. The purchase of my first Trek Navigator was in April of 2007. Since I was told by my doctor that walking would be a challenge and bicycling would be a good alternative…I took it.

I have many pages and posts about my bicycling on this website, but I felt like this deserved a post of its own. There was a real struggle in my brain over the idea of an eBike. In some ways it just feels like cheating. This bicycle, in particular has been my choice of transportation when I go visiting to cities and riding to baseball games. A recent visit to San Diego basically prompted this change. I rode up a hill…and it was a modest hill according to Google…and I was so out of breath that I began to get concerned for my health. Although I did catch my breath and enjoy breakfast and the ride back to my hotel…downhill…I knew that San Francisco at the end of the month would be even more of a challenge.

The additional challenge is that I have been interested in getting my wife to join me for rides for many years now. She has even bought her own bicycles and gone through a Townie, Trek FX, Trek FX+, and finally a Pedgo eBike. Her constant complaint is that she had to ride behind me and therefore couldn’t enjoy the rides because I outpaced her. So, I bought a Trek T900 Tandem bicycle so I couldn’t outpace her. She didn’t enjoy the ride staring at my backside and feeling out of control. I attempted to add a front wheel drive to the Trek FX and when that failed I purchased an identical size FX+ which incorporated a Bionx battery system and it failed within two weeks and they are out of business and now I can’t get it fixed.

She is very happy with the Pedego eBike and recently I got the experience of what it is like to ride significantly behind another person who is “better equipped” to do the hills. I finally decided that one of my two bikes would become an eBike as I had been exploring power conversion for some time. I took the plunge…notwithstanding the anxiety I had over previous failures.

I had bad experiences with both front and rear hub drive motors so I settled on a mid drive conversion kit. The knock on these kits is that they are very complicated to install. Still, it seemed like the best fit because I could keep my wheels and the replacement cost would be minimal for the wheels. As a matter of fact, if you look in the picture, the bicycle has a different wheel on the conversion because I encountered a busted spoke close to the conclusion of the install. I simply swapped out the wheel with an extra wheel that I had in my garage and I was off to the races in a matter of speaking.

Early in the removal process of the pedals…step one in the conversion process…I struggled mightily. In recent years I would have taken my bicycle to Joel’s bicycle shop. This was one of those places where the aspiring do it yourself-er could visit and get help when they found that they couldn’t do everything themselves. Sadly, Joel died and the business closed. The remaining employees recommended another local bicycle store with a shop and I went there and here is where I heard those Rocky bells. I explained what I was attempting to do and he responded with a snarky “I’m sorry to hear that” comment. From that moment on whatever he said was not helpful. I left without a purchase and an increased determination to do it myself. It took me five days and several additional Amazon orders, but I did it myself.

The cost of my wife’s new Pedego bicycle was over $4000.00. I’ve paid less for cars. The cost of my eBike conversion so far is just a little over $800.00. The process allowed me to understand every aspect of my bicycle. I had never worked on the pedals before and now, with the kit, came complimentary tools and I could now take off any pedals in my fleet of bicycles. Coincidentally, on our way to church on Sunday when I was riding my unpowered bicycle, my wife crashed her bicycle into a pole and then the bicycle dropped to her feet. She told me that her brakes were not grabbing in the rear. They were disc brakes and since I had not ever worked on them before, I stopped by the Pedego shop earlier this week and the mechanic told me to drop by and she would check it. She indicated that they were hydrolic brakes and she would take care of fixing it.

My argument for bicycles is that they are relatively simple. They can be fixed by anyone who just studies YouTube videos and has a few special tools. They are great transportation alternatives particularly when you are just transporting yourself and few things. You can park them just about anywhere. They will get you around cities a lot more efficiently. You don’t have to pay tolls. It is great exercise. The idea that you might have to top off fluids on your bicycle is just a little disquieting.

The person who dismissed my choice and my project worked at a store that is part rental fleet of eBikes, part sales of eBikes and regular bikes, part coffee shop, part bar, part restaurant. I suppose the diversification might lead to a mechanic who is conflicted. Why would I want to help you with your bicycle problem if i could instead, sell you something new that would require servicing from the store that sold it to you.

In conclusion, after my first actual commuting ride on my new eBike, it is safe to say that I gave up very little. I no longer have gears on the front to help with hills but that is what the motor is for. I no longer have a light weight bike but with all the extra things that I put on my bicycle it was never that light. I have a more complicated ride now and it may be more of a target for theft. Still, I have been able to keep my lobster lock on the frame with an additional U-Lock on the frame, my original bicycle computer that had the non eBike mileage on it and now the new odometer related to the motor. I kept my flats kit on the back and my handlebar bag on the front which helps conceal all of the wires.

I am now in the process of reducing my bicycle fleet. I have two great Trek FX 15 inch bicycles. I took the wheel off of the FX+ and replaced it with a Bontrager Racing wheel and the bicycle is super light now. I also have a Trek T900 Tandem for sale. Let me know if you want any of these bicycles.

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