A couple of weeks ago I decided to purchase a ebike kit for my short commute from home to the manly ferry wharf. Its only around 4km but does include a couple of pretty stiff climbs and I often also drop my son to daycare which means I have an extra 17kg of kid on the back as well his daycare bag & my work bag…. not easy to do if you don’t want to require a shower when you get to work!
Initially I was going to purchase an ebike which runs to around $3000 AUD for a decent crank-drive but I was concerned about theft and also wasn’t that keen to outlay that much money initially.
I found a kit (Aklo A-Kit) from ebikery on sale which looked like it might be a fairly easy front wheel hub motor conversion and decided to give it a go.
The Donor bike
I had planned on fitting it to an hybrid bike but read a lot of bad things about alloy forks, suspension and torque motors. Even tho this kit is pretty low powered the idea of shearing the front alloys and wiping out on a road whilst carrying my son didn’t really sit well so instead I decided to modify my clunky old reid cycles vintage ferry bike (which had the advantage of having mudguards and a kids bike seat already fitted).
The reid vintage mens bike is steel frame, no alloy to be found anywhere, heavy as hell and pretty sturdy but did have a few challenges.
First up – if you’ve got a bottle cage this will go a lot easier… my donor bike didn’t. Queue much swearing and use of a power drill whilst drilling a couple of holes to stick in some rivet nuts. Now I could mount the bottle battery which was the hardest part.
Get the bike wheel – swap the innertube & tyre over and then fix to the forks. You want to be careful with the placement of washers here – you want a washer on the inside of the fork & then the wheel has a ‘drop out’ which should seat securely. On my other bike I would have needed to purchase c-washers to get things to sit properly – you really want to make sure this is done properly or you’re going to damage the motor-hub or your forks.
The rest of the kit is pretty straightforward, zip tie up the loose cables and then connect the PAS sensor (this detects when the pedals are moving and magnets trigger the motor to kick in). The PAS sensor is a legal requirement for NSW although the kit does come with a throttle (illegal).
When I first tried this out nothing happened at all and after contacting ebikery who were pretty good about customer support I discovered I had a PAS sensor that was ‘reversed’ (i.e. it worked when you pedalled backward which wasn’t helpful). Ebikery sent me out a new one and all sorted.
This thing is way too heavy fully loaded for me to use but the addition of the motor is amazing. On all of the gentle hills & flats you absolutely zip along and with the power setting on ‘maximum’ you have a lot of good acceleration and plenty of power. On the really steep hills you have to put in a bit of work on the easiest gear but its not excessive and the motor is strong enough to get me, 4 year old & bags up all the hills without working up a sweat. On the way home (sans kid) its really quite fun and only a 30% incline causes any real slow down at all. Its turned my commute into something much easier to do and I no longer need a change of clothes in the middle of summer which is great. Its also kinda convenient to have a bike with full mudguards so unless its absolutely hammering with rain the bike gets used every day.
The range is ‘ok’ – on maximum power assist and with a total load of around 100kg or so I would estimate I’d get 25k of range out the bike. I’m sure its more like 35 if I use low but at this price I’m ok with charging it up each night in the garage.
The last thing that I’d note is that the brakes are very under-powered relative to the speed/weight you can pick up so you do have to scan ahead and ride a lot more defensively than without a motor.
Overall I’m pretty impressed – for now this is perfect for the commute and I’ll definitely consider getting a mid-drive for potentially commuting the 18k each way to work in the future.
Would recommend dealing with ebikery as well – they were very helpful in questions about how to install the bike and then troubleshooting a faulty PAS sensor.