Best Bike Hacks: Use a 29″ Tube in Any Size Tire
On your next ride, carry a spare 29″ tube—and use this ingenious technique from MTB pro Eric Porter to help any rider, on any size wheel (27.5″, 26″, 24″, 20″ or other), get back on the trail.
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A Box Of Bits Becomes An Electric Bike
Swytch sell their kits via crowdfunding rounds, so I’d been on a waiting list for a while and got an early-bird price on my kit. It took quite a while to arrive, much longer than the expected time in mid-2020 because of the pandemic, finally being delivered some time in February last year. It came in a modestly-sized cardboard carton which would be an easy carry on the Brompton’s luggage rack, containing neatly packed a new front wheel with motor, as well as the battery and all sundry parts.
Fitting the kit shouldn’t stretch the capabilities of a Hackaday reader, with probably the trickiest part being the positioning of a Hall-effect sensor near the crank. The kit works by providing a motor assist when you pedal, so part of it is a set of magnets on a plastic disk with various attachments for different cranks and pedal sets. The Brompton front wheel is removed and its tyre and tube transferred to the Swytch one, which is then put on the bike. Once the magnet disk and Hall sensor are attached, the cables follow the existing ones and emerge at the handlebars where a sturdy bracket for the battery box is fitted.
The Swytch Kit First Impressions
The battery also contains the electronics and motor driver, and provisions for brake sensors and a hand throttle, which I had not ordered. My kit is painfully UK road legal with a pedal sensor, software-limited 250 W power, and around 15 mph top speed. I could have ordered it with no limits and all the extra toys to make it more like a small electric motorcycle, but even though I can remove the software limit I can’t negate the risk of a roadside inspection and fine if I did so.
Swytch offer two battery packs in 30 km and 50 km range sizes, and of those I bought the larger one. After charging it up, I turned it on and clipped it in the bracket. Ready to test a new toy on the concrete apron behind my hackerspace!
The Swytch battery pack comes with some controls on the top, the main function of which is to vary the amount of electrical assistance. This is best described in terms of who’s in charge; at maximum assistance it’s the bike that’s doing the pulling and all you need to do is move the pedals, while at the minimum it’s a handy aid that smooths out the effort and makes cycling a less strenuous exercise while leaving you definitely in control.
There’s one minor snag: in some conditions the motor vibrates instead of starting smoothly. From my experience with AC motors for Hacky Racers and other machines I am guessing that this stems from the motor feedback to the controller being via back EMF sensing rather than Hall effect devices, so what I’m seeing is a temporary loss of that feedback. It’s usually quickly cured by stopping pedaling and restarting after the motor has cut out, something that doesn’t significantly impede progress.
I’ve used the bike a lot for general riding, but I’ve also set out to work out the real-world achievable range with a few longer cross-country test rides with it on low power mode to assist rather than replace my cycling. As expected, I never managed to crack 50 km, but I came pretty close.
My routes weren’t ideal with a few inclines and on one of them some stiff headwinds on the day I did it, but even so I achieved between 40 km and 45 km, which I count to be not too bad for a 50 km battery. Once the power is exhausted, there’s a perceptible drag from the motor, but it doesn’t render the bike unrideable.
So What’s An Electric Bike Like To Use?
The description of a Swytch kit aside, it’s time for some more general impressions about electric bikes based on a while using an electric Brompton as daily transport. There’s even a handling angle, as the bike is now an all-wheel-drive vehicle. How does it change the riding experience?
The first impression of an electric daily rider might seem obvious in that it’s now much faster. I could reach the mid-teens speeds before but only with some effort, now they’re within reach any time I want. This is great for getting from A to B, but I’m also acutely aware that I can get into trouble a lot more quickly. Oddly I have found myself riding much more cautiously, particularly in town where there are pedestrians and traffic.
With electric power at the front and pedal power at the rear, the bike is now a two-wheel-drive vehicle. Two-wheel-drive motorcycles are so vanishingly rare as to be restricted to a very few small-production models, but courtesy of my friend Russ’s electric minimoto conversion I was given the rare opportunity to ride one at EMF 2018.
It was notably sure-footed on the gravel roads of the EMF campsite, but suffered from a pants-filling moment on start-up as the front wheel would spin while the rear had traction. By contrast, the momentary delay afforded by the Swytch pedal sensor system was enough to ensure that the Brompton was moving before power came to the front wheel, ensuring that even on loose surfaces there was never any unexpected wheelspin.
The resulting two-wheel drive makes a noticeable difference on surfaces such as grass and loose gravel that would normally challenge the Brompton, and when giving it a spirited ride on tarmac the extra traction can get me out of trouble. It’s dangerous to become addicted to fast tight turns with rear wheel slide, though, because when the inevitable happens and the front wheel lacks the purchase to pull me out of it, I can see that the results could be painful. The sight of a middle-aged woman exorcising her teenage BMX dreams on a folding commuter bike must be amusing to watch, but at least I was having fun.
So, should you go electric with your bicycle, or is it all a bit pointless? After all it’s not entirely cheap, and you have to pay for a bike on top. The answer is that if you’re fit or only ever riding short distances, then perhaps it’s not essential. But if you ride medium distances, and perhaps most importantly if you ride to places for which it’s important not to arrive a sweaty mess, then the electric bike is a worthwhile upgrade. The Brompton’s not my main bike, so I use it for trips where I need to take it on a train or in a car, and I value the Swytch kit for the extra range it gives me while keeping me from looking over-exerted.
Oddly there’s a use case for which an electric bike would be unsuitable, namely longer distance riding. The thought of riding for more than a short distance against the extra drag of the motor isn’t appealing, so the Brompton’s now a bike with an effective 50 km maximum range. I frequently use my everyday bike for longer trips, but for your only bike it’s worth bearing in mind.
Electric bikes aren’t for everyone, but perhaps is 2022 the time to give them a try?
Posted in Featured, Reviews, Slider, Transportation Hacks Tagged Brompton, electric bike, review, swytch
thoughts on “ Converting Your Bike To Electric: Why You Should, And When You Shouldn’t ”
I still just can’t get over that 15MPH top speed. When I rode more often I used to exceed that all the time without any assist. Are you not allowed to pedal faster than that or is it only a limitation for powered vehicles? Or is London too crowded for this to be a real issue there? I did my cycling on suburban and/or country roads.
On a folding bike with tiny wheels, 25 km/h is already quite a lot. Did you ever feel like needing assist when you were cruising 30 km/h in nice weather on flat road? For me, the biggest point in electric assist is making the climbs and headwind more tolerable, which are not conditions where you would easily exceed the speed limit.
I believe that if the power assist works when over 15mph or when you’re not pedalling then it’s classed as a motorcycle and needs insurance, etc. The power assist should just cut out if you’re over 15mph – whether by your own effort or gravity – and back in again once you’re moving a bit slower. It’s normally easy enough to disable this “feature” if you want to accept the risk of getting stopped by the police. As you’re now on a motorcycle I suspect you could have your driving licence endorsed, so not just a fine.
I think a bigger problem for the police would be catching someone on a fast e-bike. In a city, the bike can probably go as fast as any police car, whilst also going down alleyways that the police can only follow on foot. I’ve seen a few in use around here, and they look like a fat mountain bike at first glance, until they rocket up to 30mph.
AIUI the power assistance cuts out above 15MPH, but you’re free to go faster than that by pedalling or when riding downhill.
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Frame 100% Surly Chromoly Steel, Natch tubing, double-butted main triangle, TIG welded, E.D. coated Fork 100% Surly Chromoly Steel, Natch tubing, double-butted tapered fork blades, TIG welded, E.D. coated Seatpost Clamp Surly Stainless 30.0
Headset Cane Creek Brakes Avid BB5 Brake Levers Tektro FR5 Rotors 160F/160R Shifters Microshift SL-M9605 Trail Pro Stem Kalloy 31.8 Handlebar Salsa Bend Grip/Tape Velo Black Saddle WTB Volt Seatpost ProMax 27.2×300
Crankset SRAM NX 32t Bottom Bracket SRAM Powerspline Front Derailleur N/A Rear Derailleur Microshift RD-M6205 with Clutch Cog or cogset OE 10-spd 11-48t Chain KMC X10
Front Hub Novatec 9×100 QR, 6-bolt disc Rear Hub Novatec 12×142 QR, 6-bolt disc Rims WTB i29 Tires Surly ExtraTerrestrial 29×2.5 60tpi, Tubeless Ready
Complete bike spec subject to change
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The Best Electric Dirt Bikes of 2023
Remarkably, only one of them went for the Dirt-E joke.
The motoring world is going electric. And it’s not just fancy, 1,000-horsepower, six-figure electric trucks. Electric motorcycle options have been increasing over the past few years. And even the relatively humble and underpowered dirt bike segment now offers a proliferation of emissions-free options — and we’re here to help you separate the battery-powered wheat from the chaff.
Why You Should Get an Electric Dirt Bike
Helps Save the Planet: Smaller motorcycles are far from the most fuel-thirsty vehicles. But electric dirt bikes still reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and every little bit helps.
Less Maintenance: Electric motors require far fewer moving parts. That means more time riding and less time (and money) replacing parts. You also don’t need to buy things like oil.
Less Noise: Electric dirt bikes do make some noise, but they make less than internal-combustion dirt bikes — noise that can diminish the enjoyment of being in nature for riders and those nearby.
Accessible to New Riders: Like electric cars, electric dirt bikes do not need a manual transmission. This may disappoint some riders looking for a traditional feel. But it’s also way easier to manage while off-road.
Torque: Electric dirt bikes tend to have a lot of torque, and it comes on instantly. This helps them accelerate rapidly and feel quick in everyday riding.
What to Look For
Street Legality: Like combustion dirt bikes, many of them will not be street-legal. And you may live in a municipality that will confiscate and crush them if you try to use them for that — electric or not. There are dual-sport electric dirt bikes (lighter than adventure motorcycles), which can also be used as commuter bikes. But make sure you clarify that before buying.
Battery Range: Range is a significant drawback to any electric vehicle. You want to ensure you have enough range to do the amount of riding you’re planning. expensive electric dirt bikes will have range that can exceed what most drives can handle physically. But that may be costly.
Battery Charging: A nother important factor beyond range is how long it takes to charge the battery. Shorter is better. Manufacturers may offer accessories that improve charging speed. Some dirt bikes can instantly swap in a newly charged battery and return to the trail.
How We Tested
Gear Patrol writers and editors are continually testing the best electric dirt bikes on a variety of terrains to update this guide looking at features like comfort, ease of use and riding characteristics. Our testers have spent time riding the Zero XF and the Cake Kalk INK so far; however, we’ll be updating this guide as we continue to test more models.
Zero’s FX isn’t a one-trick pony; it’s good at a little bit of everything. It’s fast but torque-heavy up front. For comparison, it’s nimble but still about 50 pounds heavier than KTM’s 350EXC-F. And it’s quiet, which anyone who’s ridden a dual sport before knows has distinct advantages and downsides. (Upsides include not disturbing nature as you ride through and saving your eardrums; cons include being unable to announce yourself to other riders on the trail or cars on the street.)
The FX’s ride is very smooth — from city streets to rutted-out trails and even completely off-road in the ungroomed wild. The tires grip well on city streets, even after a light rain. The FX can reach a top speed of 85, but I rarely found myself pushing it above 65 — this is a great cruising bike built for the trails as much as it is for the road. The acceleration feels torque-y until you get the hang of the feeling; I’d recommend starting in Eco until you get a feel for how the bike handles, experienced rider or not.
The profile is lean and mean, just as advertised. Your tester is 5’4” and weigh 110 pounds, and she could handle and maneuver this bike with relative ease, although she did make sure to get comfortable on the bike on uncrowded trails before taking it to the streets. Zero says the charging time is 1.3 hours, but I found it to be much longer than that. the bike was delivered to me with an 80 percent charge, and it took more than two hours to get it full. The range is 91 miles which is a solid day’s ride, but unless you have the means to give the bike a good overnight charge, you’ll be SOL the next day. And that 91-mile range is in the city — if you’re riding on the highway at 70 mph without starting and stopping, it drops to 39 miles per charge.
We’ve been fans of Swedish manufacturer Cake — and Stefan Ytterborn’s helmet/eyewear/apparel brand, POC — for years. Founded in 2016, Cake has consistently put out smooth, innovative electric bikes that offer both gorgeous looks and purpose-built function.
The Kalk class of offroaders, however, is much more about play than work. The street-legal Kalk INK picks up quick thanks to 252Nm of electric torque, while reliable suspension (200mm of travel) and beefy dual-sport motorcycle tires help you keep the shiny side up from the road to the trails.
- Removable battery charges from 0 to 80 percent in two hours, 0 to 100 percent in three
- Three ride modes and three braking modes adapt to your style and environment
- Not exactly the cushiest seat on the planet (or this page)
- You must come to a full stop to adjust ride and braking modes
What’s the best way to increase speed on an Electric Bike?
An electric bike is one of the most efficient forms of transportation on the planet today.
Despite its efficiency and zero carbon emissions levels, it is not as quick as a vehicle running on fossil fuel.
Fortunately for you, it is possible to increase your bike speed. The best way to increase the speed of your electric bike speed is to use a battery with a higher voltage or purchase a motor with a higher KV rating. You could also strip your bike of unnecessary parts to reduce drag.
There are many other cost-effective solutions to increase bike speed.
But you need to understand the main components of your bike and how they are responsible for making your bike go quick.
Components For Speed
Your electric bike has three major components that are responsible for how fast it goes.
The motor is simply the engine of your bike. It is the heart of your electric bike and is responsible for providing motion.
Electric bikes have three distinct types of motors. These are the front and rear hubs, as well as the mid-drive. You can observe the amount of electrical power your motor can handle through the wattage.
If the motor is the heart of your bike, then the battery is the blood.
Your battery produces the juice, which provides the energy for the motor to convert into motion. An older battery will, therefore, produce lesser power in comparison to a new one.
The LCD is the brain of your bike. It also acts as the control panel.
Apart from monitoring bike performance, the LCD is responsible for extracting the appropriate amount of power from the battery to the motor.
Now you know the critical parts responsible for making your bike go quick; its time to learn how to increase the speed.
How to Increase your E-Bike speed
Before you go any further, it is advisable to consult the services of a highly trained professional.
Although some of the tips provided below are simple, a few of them are highly technical.
Do not tamper with electrical components you know nothing about as this could void the warranty of your bike or cause you grave injury. Follow the tips below to increase your bike speed:
Adjust your LCD settings
72V e-bikes are generally not considered within the range of a typical electric bike due to its power differential. You can increase the speed of your bike by using a battery with a higher voltage. Before you do so, make sure your motor can handle the extra power.
Hire an electrician to help you install the replacement to prevent you from frying the control panel or burning down the motor.
Replace the Motor
When it comes to e-bikes, bigger is faster.
Replacing your motor with a more significant spec engine could improve the top speed of your bike by an extra 10km/h or more. A bigger motor means a higher RPM or KV rating and a quicker bike.
Replace your tires
Although the tide of opinion is changing, it is not for nothing elite bikers use thin tires.
A slimmer tire allows your bike to go quick with less effort. If you have thick tires, you should consider trading them for thin ones.
However, it is essential to note the tires on a mountain bike are designed to give your bike grip and stability on the road. If you go ahead to replace your thick tires for thinner versions, you would be sacrificing traction on the altar of speed – which may not seem like a good idea.
There is a reason why electric bikes have speed limiters.
Limiters are put in place to make sure an electric bicycle travels at the legal speed limit. In other words, when you increase the speed of your bike, you could end up breaking the law.
Less cycling distance
The quicker your e-bike pace, the faster your energy consumption.
Your battery will drain at a faster rate, thereby reducing the cycling range.
Faster battery drain
Cycling at an increased speed will reduce the lifespan of your battery and make you replace it on a more regular basis.
The electric motor will also come under a lot of stress and make it wear out faster than as prescribed by the manufacturer.
Higher energy consumption
If you have your limiter in place and still want to travel at a faster speed, you will have to power your e-bike like a conventional bike.
Pedaling your bike without pedal-assistance is a double-edged sword. On the one hand, you will gas out quickly with muscle fatigue. On the other hand, you will burn more calories, which in the long run, is healthy for you.