The Green Hills Are Back, and So is My Trek

Up until last week we were woefully short on rain, less than 3 inches so far this season (dating back to October). But we had a really good week of several storms in a row. Officially Morgan hill got 6 inches of rain last week, though my rain gauge read 7. This puts us close to being on schedule for the season. The Sierra snowpack, which we depend on for water all over the state when it melts in the spring, was also improved a lot last week.

The local hills have already responded by turning a lush green. I enjoyed this very much on today’s ride. I also enjoyed that is=t was on my Trek DS 8.6 hybrid bike, that was resurrected by the mechanic at my local bike shop.

My Trek fitted with e-bike kit

I had fit an e-bike kit on this bike. I enjoyed that for about 2 years, it helped extend my range and go faster. But it developed a really annoying creak when pedaling, which I couldn’t get rid of. This kit, from Bafang, has a design flaw that is well-known on the internet. The torque from the motor wants to work the locknut on the bottom bracket. I tried all the suggestions I could find, including bracing the motor against the seat tube with hose clamps, but the creak kept returning. I finally decided to take the kit off and restore the bike to it’s former non-assisted glory. But I found out that the kit had damaged the threads on the bottom bracket shell. If this can’t be fixed the frame is useless.

Local bike shop to the rescue. He was able to use a tool to “chase out” the damage from the threads and restore it. I just go it back a couple of days ago and have been really loving riding it. I’d forgotten how light and nimble it is (for a hybrid). It weighs 28 pounds, but the e-kit added 17 pounds to that. Even though that allowed me to go further and faster, it did make the handling feel klunky.

Electric Assist: Pros, Cons, and advice

There are many advantages of electric assist. One is allowing you to go farther without getting tired. Another is allowing you to go faster, which can shorten a commute or allow you to keep up on a group ride. There are riders in their late 70s and 80s in my group, who could ride my butt into the ground 15 years ago, but are now slowing down a tad. Problem solved by electric assist. I’m sure I’ll be in that situation in the future.

The cons are the aforementioned klunkiness due to the added weight. And they make a simple machine more complicated. I can readily do a lot of the basic maintenance on a bike, and only have to go to the shop for more involved malfunctions. I found myself out of my depth with the e-bike kit more often. And since I bought it from a dealer an hour’s drive away, and the local bike shop will only fix e-bikes of brands they carry, going to the shop was not at all convenient. So I don’t recommend buying an electric bike or e-bike kit unless there is someone to work on it is close by. Also factory build electric bikes are cleaner and nicer looking. Contrast my trek with kit, above, with a factory made Trek Alliant 8s:

The nicest and lightest factory-built e-bike I’ve seen is the one my friend owns, from Orbea:

Orbea Gain D50

This is a more expensive solution of course, but probably worth it in the long run. A final thing to look for is whether the electric assist has a cadence sensor or a torque sensor. I had the former on my e-bike kit, and it is not as smooth. If you put the bike in high assist level, then start pedaling, it has a jerky feel, You have to remember to start at low assist then add higher assist when you are spinning the pedals at a good clip. Torque sensors make their output proportional to how much force you’re applying to the pedals, which feels smoother and more natural.

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