Archives for category: Bike Tech

Before starting there is an need to make a distinction. There are really two kinds of e-bike on the market: there is a bicycle with an electric engine, and then there is an electric scooter with pedals.

Type 1 is a bicycle equipped with an electric assist – or an electric stoker as a nod to the back-end charlie on a tandem bicycle. This is really the machine that has been causing me profound difficulties of late. Before continuing however I want to make clear my position of type 2: electric scooters.

The proper term for the eBike of type 2 is Scooter. These are Vespa like machines with little actual need for the pedals they sport. The pedals are vestigial features which in many jurisdictions allow them to be used as unlicensed machines. They are also – in my jurisdiction – allowed to use bicycle lanes.

Neither the licensing nor lane use actually bothers me except that I’ve been witness to more than a few instances of blatant abuse. Scooter drivers weaving between bike lane and car lanes or lane splitting. The drivers often ignore their increased weight and width when careening past bicycles. One such moron – and they are morons – did this in front of me yesterday. I was led to the conclusion that this fellow must have lost his driving license not because he wasn’t in a car, but because of his inability to steer straight and when I caught him a few blocks later it was because he was riding his machine onto the sidewalk before dismounting to go into a bar. Literally a DUI car surrogate. No these machines are a menace outright because they are serving as entitlement extensions for those who – in spite of legal sanction – remain intransigent vis-a-vis their own bad behaviour.

Having said all that let’s go back to type 1:

The idea is that a standard bicycle (if you’ll forgive the conceit of the use of the word “standard”) is inadequate for certain tasks for the average rider: long distance, hilly terrain, heavy loads, what have you.

Alright, I can see that, but here’s the thing that makes me grumble, I have yet to see an electric assist which would reward the user for carrying its extra weight  in exchange for its occasional merit.

What do I mean? Well, batteries are heavy. Engines are heavy. Even if you place the unit low in the frame to minimize its impact on center of gravity, it is, at its least offensive, still an extra bit of weight to carry. Why not simply offer lower gearing?

Cargo cycling is a different kettle of fish. Depending on the terrain in which you ride, there may be a large gain to be had from a little stoker. 10-20lbs is going to make nearly no difference when compared to the weight of a bike that’s carrying between 2 and 400 lbs of cargo. This I understand. What I don’t understand is something like this:

Whiskey Foxtrot Tango?

How is this a good idea for a mountain bike? I’m seeing mechanical failings, environmental failings and basic fitness failings that would make this machine excessive. If you have any insights into this phenomenon please share in the comments.


DorkyThorpy Blog is comparing gear efficiency and the results are utterly fascinating.

The bigger range of a 7 speed internal seems to be 4% less efficient than a derailleur or 3 speed internal.

But the 3 speed internal has a VERY slim edge over a 27 speed shimano derailleur.

Anyhow see all the number crunching at the link after the jump.

dorkythorpy: Hub Gear Efficiency vs Derailleur Gear Efficiency

I don’t feature cars on this blog but this is an interesting idea which points out two things:

1. How much the Auto industry is addicted to unsustainable expansion and

2. How much we’re addicted to the idea of performance in terms of raw Horse Power

Below is a car with a 75hp engine (as a point of reference I produce between .25 and .75 hp when cycling) and it could have probably been fast-enough for driving anywhere. In traffic speeds average aproximately 15kph when you take other traffic into account.


Porsche Built A Very Slow Car That Could Last Forever

POPSCI has a neat look at Obree’s world beating machine. This is precisely the kind of tinkering I love.

via The Fastest Face-Down, Head-First, Human-Powered Vehicle | Popular Science

I was reviewing an old post and comments about Cleland Cycles and decided to do an updated search. I came across Graham Wallace’s original posting on the Cleland bicycle and an update! It seems Geoff Apps is maintaining a blog here on wordpress about his latest project. So without further ado I refer you to the following: Building a Cleland.

So I’ve been shuttling around on my Alex Rims 26″ front wheel which I had built around a Sturmey Archer X-FD 70mm hub with drum brake. I crossed the 1000 kilometer mark earlier this month so it seems appropriate to write a review of the Hub. What I noticed immediately from the moment it came out of the box was its heft. This is not a brake for the weight conscious. The other feature I liked was the huge diameter of the flange. As a big guy, the shorter the spoke length the better, in my experience.

Once the wheel was built another aspect of the hub became apparent – the need for more clamp options. I use big fat tubular forks from a 1990s mountain bike. The tiny reaction arm clamp SA provides with the X-FD is only suitable for skinny forks. I have it in mind to find a big clamp but for now I’m using galvanized hose clamps to good effect. I had a commentator tell me I needed something more kosher, but 1000 Kms in with 1 snapped clamp and I’m not so sure. The clamp that failed did so because I hadn’t tightened it down hard enough. The reaction arm gradually beat it to the point of failure over the course of nearly 300 kms. I’ve been riding with the replacement clamp since Kilometer 300 and frankly it hasn’t failed or shown signs of coming near since. I use two clamps to hold the arm for added security. So when the first failed I could still use the brake.


The first ride came in February 2013 and the first day was a doozey. We had 5 cm of slush/frozen rain on the ground. The brake was confident and responded smartly to my adjustments while my back brake ( a Shimano V-brake ) struggled with the icing conditions on the rim. Road salt and slush makes for hard packed ice on bike rims once the stuff starts to freeze. So safe to say that after that first experience I was sold on the merits of a hub-brake. As I rode the brake in over the next month there is one minor grumble – the damned thing squeals when the weather is slightly humid but cold. I’m thinking I may have some moisture in the drum. I am due to open it up to service before the winter so the problem may resolve itself.

Finally braking power. I’m 300lbs. Add a decent commuting load and the bike easily weights 360lbs when I’m bombing along the streets of Toronto. The brake has had no trouble bringing me to a stop safely in a couple of dicey moments over the past year. The diciest came in September when I had a week of not one but three near doorings. By now I had also installed an S80 on my back wheel so I had two hub brakes working. A car door swung open about 15 meters ahead and I was able to stop within 10 meters giving me about a meter of play (my reaction time ate up a couple of meters. I should add that the driver’s head was just at level with the top of my front wheel. So had I not stopped they would have eaten my tyre. That was a fully loaded kind of day. I had my hands gripping so tight I actually locked up the S80 but the X-FD kept turning in ever slower rotations. Calm. Unflappable. True. Those are the only words that really fit my 1000 kilometers of X-FD love.

Out of loss comes opportunity. So I reported the loss of my Airzounds to theft earlier in the week. My family bought me a Hornit to replace the lost horn. As a result I will provide a comparative review some time in the coming months. In the meantime:

I friggin want one of these:

I actually don’t care who or what I have to sell to get one.

Product | Vrachtfiets

Sometimes humans amaze me. Take this bicycle designed to let the blind ride solo. I’ve seen tandem set ups, but this is the first single-rider machine I’ve laid eyes on.

Steve Levine’s Personal Website


Offered with no further comment.

Paul Brodie and The Whippet