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This feed is mostly personal interest; it's NOT my professional writing. There's tech here, yes, but also lots of general science and some politics and weird humor thrown in.

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

The second hundred miles (Fred's e-bike adventures continue)

I’ve done about 150 more miles on the e-bike since my first post (here), and I’m still pretty happy with it.



It hasn’t been entirely smooth sailing --- er, pedaling; I’ll detail some smallish glitches below. But on the whole, it’s a good purchase, and I’m glad I got it.

Seat issues

Evelo has what they call a “Perfect Seat Guarantee,” where they offer to reimburse you up to $40 if the bike’s OEM seat doesn’t work for you.

Well, after the first 100+ miles, my butt was killing me. The OEM seat isn’t terribly narrow, but it’s very stiffly sprung; in fact it has no real springs, but uses very firm elastomeric discs to provide a small measure of cushioning. For me, it wasn’t enough.

So I ordered a new third-party seat that’s much more comfortable --- a bit wider than the OEM, with a more padded top, and with real coil springs beneath. Evelo processed a refund within two days of my submitting my sales receipt for the new seat.

I’m saving the OEM seat, and will try it again when I acclimate more to riding. But in any case, seat comfort isn’t an issue now.

Adjusting for rider height, inseam, etc.

Along with seat type, there are issues of seat height, seat angle, handlebar height, handlebar angle, and the distance between the seat and the handlebars: These factors interplay off one another, and have a huge effect on rider comfort and pedaling efficiency.

Alas, the Evelo owner’s manual barely touches on these --- the set-up instructions tell you how to make adjustments, but with little guidance as to what the adjustments should be. After some initial, unsatisfying trial and mostly error, I resorted to third-party web sites, which have excellent, detailed info on custom-fitting your bike to your body.

Along with the new seat, these changes make riding much more comfortable --- and with much better pedaling efficiency.

Brakes

I had some squeaking from the front disc brake not only in stops, but even when riding along with the brakes nominally off. The Evelo manual warns of this, and suggests a break-in routine (basically, a long series of hard almost-stops) to cure the problem.

That didn’t help.

I ended up removing the wheel (a minor, tool-free operation) and adjusting the brake pull, the centering of the disc rotor, and the gap between the disc and the brake pads.

That worked, but there was almost no information on how to do this on the Evelo site: I again had to Google around on other web sites for how-to info, to make sure I was doing it right.

That leads to the next item.

Evelo’s web site and owner info

As you might guess from the above, Evelo could use a good content manager or web manager.

Their owner’s manuals and how-tos are good enough to get you going, but detailed information and updates are scattered across a variety of pages on Evelo’s site in pdfs, blogs, and web pages that you have to ferret out on your own. (I had to use Google custom searches to find a lot of the stuff.)

Some of Evelo’s informational material also appears to have been done at different times and for slightly different versions of the bike. (E.g. some minor bike control panel settings described on their site are not present on my bike’s control panel: I don’t know if they were in earlier versions but are now removed, or if they’re in upcoming versions.) This inconsistency means that once you’ve found the info you’re looking for, you have to adapt it to ensure it applies to your specific variant of the model in question.

And some essential information (for example: brake adjustments; optimal seat/handlebar set up; how to remove the rear wheel, with its extra push-pull cables for the CVT transmission…) seem to be wholly lacking --- at least, I couldn’t find it on the Evelo site. I had to dig info out of other web sites, and hope it applied correctly to my specific model.

A better content-management process would avoid this.

A minor battery repair

Boston’s streets can be more than a little rough, and after hitting one pothole too many, something came loose inside one of my battery packs. When I got home, I opened it up to see what was going on.

The battery case is a protective shell that encloses the actual batteries themselves; plus some wiring, plugs, sockets, and fuses. The actual batteries are glued to the bottom of the protective case with three strips of sticky-tape; and wedges with foam inserts to prevent side-to-side motion.

The sticky-tape had failed, so the batteries could bounce vertically inside the protective case. That was the noise I’d heard.

The batteries weren’t damaged in any way, but you don’t want LI-ion batteries bouncing around loose, so I re-secured them with a heavy application of silicone glue; letting it fully cure before I reassembled the protective shell.

There’s no more noise; the problem’s solved. But it probably shouldn’t have happened in the first place.

Fender/light assembly

The front fender has a front piece, a back piece, the light itself, and a mounting bracket. The whole assembly is held in place with one bolt, which has shown a tendency to work loose.

It’s a minor thing, but if Evelo had included a small tube of thread-lock, this small annoyance would be avoided.

Battery range/ “Mileage”

In my initial post about the bike, I commented that Evelo’s range predictions looked pretty accurate. After riding for a while, I think they were actually conservative --- the ranges I’m getting far exceed their predictions.

Part of it is that my legs have strengthened. Part is that the bike’s now set up better, so I can pedal more efficiently. I’ve also learned to use the CVT “gears” better.

The upshot is that I’m getting really great range from a charge.

For example, Evelo says that the charge in a standard battery pack will give you a range of 20-40 miles (32-65km).

But on the ride shown in the photo at the top of this page (ride details shown below), after some 24 miles, I’d used only about 20% of the battery charge --- less than half of Evelo’s best-case estimates. And much of that ride was in city traffic, with frequent stops at lights, and sprints through busy intersections.




This higher mileage also probably explains why other electric bike sites sometimes claim up to 100 miles (160km) per charge for battery packs with similar capacity to Evelo’s: It depends on your assumptions about how the bike is ridden.

But I’m glad Evelo is conservative in its estimates: I’d rather be pleasantly surprised by more range than expected, than to go the other way.

Bottom line

Most of my complaints are minor. As a whole, the bike seems well-made, and still is a blast to ride.

So far, so good.