DIY eBike – 4500km Update (October 2018)

If you haven’t read “My DIY eBike – 1000km Update (April 2018)” yet, check that out to see how this all started. There aren’t any spoilers as this isn’t a “story” but a report on how things are going with the eBike build.

To get the full bicycling culture experience, on September 15th, 2018 I moved from London, Ontario to Montreal, Quebec – and oh man there’s SUCH a difference! Biking in Montreal is a treat and it makes me think everyone can bike everywhere across in Canada.

The Numbers (actually cool to see)

Ok, first up: some really cool numbers. Everyone loves looking at numbers! At least, I do. I never really liked math in school, but seeing real-world numbers and seeing what they mean is kinda interesting in my opinion. I’ve worked everything out so you don’t actually have to do any of your own math – don’t worry!

Here is the link to my overly detailed and totally up-to-date spreadsheet of every single piece of data, down to the smallest of units, since the bike got turned on for the first time on February 8, 2018.

  • I’ve traveled 4552 km (2828.48 Miles) so far.
  • It’s been 260 days (around 7.6 months) since starting.
  • I’ve made 434 trips
  • The battery has been charged 368 times.
  • I’ve been on my bike for 191 hours (which is 7.96 days), enjoying every minute of it.
  • I’ve ridden 44 minutes per day.
  • That means I average 17.51 km per day.
  • My average distance traveled per trip is 10.84 km.
  • My average speed is 25.77 km/h (much faster than all the gridlocked traffic I pass).
  • That means my average time per trip is 26 minutes, 24 seconds.
  • I’ve spent $1,990.65 in total, but technically I accidentally bought a second hub motor when I didn’t need one (for $328.46 + 34.40 of duties) and haven’t returned it (because I might make a second eBike for my girlfriend’s 15 KM commute) so I have a spare one sitting around now. I’ve also included the $50 trailer build costs in that so… “necessary” spending has actually been closer to $1577.79 in total. Here’s the full breakdown: 

ALL EXPENSES (from 1240KM to 4552KM)

Costs + TaxCost Desc.
$58New tires for the spring
$12.42Thread-lock (for my stripped bottom bracket on my horrible aluminum bike frame)
$5Screw extractor for a bolt that broke off in the frame (LOL)
$58.89Hybrid Fenders
$362.86Accidental second hub motor purchase (but I used the new controller from it anyway)
$20Replacement lower bracket (done at London’s bicycle co-op)
$50Whole bike trailer & its repairs
$14.268 OZ Slime Tube & SC Rubber Patch (wouldn’t suggest this, didn’t really work)

ALL EXPENSES (from the first moment to 1240KM)

Costs + TaxCost Desc.
$54.00MIRRYCLE handlebar bike mirror & brake system replacement 
$70.00new front fork (because the last one was falling apart haha)
$1.41Three 2032 Batteries from Dollarama (for front bike light that I got before the super bright Amazon ones)
$2.00Two brand new tire tubes off of Kijiji
$6.532 tube patch kits from Canadian Tire
$14.00Brake pads from Canadian Tire
$7.00Spare Tube
$27.0026″ Bike Tire (hybrid’ish) for the front
$9.99WD-40 Bike, Wet Lube
$8.9926″ Tire Tube
$20Gas for the route – trip in the car
$90.85CBSA / ASFC Blue Water Bridge TAX
10.59Bay Brokerage
$7.86US/Canada Border Bridge Tolls
$60.85Initial “fixing of the bike” at the Cyclepath
$264.09Motor (from eBay.ca)
$753.06Battery + Charger + Torque Arm (from LunaCycle)

Typical Usage

When I tell my friends that I ride this thing everywhere all the time, they’re doubtful (part of the reason I log every trip). 
“Ben, you can’t do everything on a bike. Sometimes you need a car.” and my response is “yeah, but I only need a car about 5 times per year (how many wedding videography gigs I had booked for 2018). For those times, renting is more than enough and still a lot less than owning a vehicle. For all the other times that renting doesn’t work, carpooling with friends and making it worth their while by paying for their gas and wear and tear on their vehicle works.

Put simply, my typical usage of this eBike is almost every day, from grocery runs with two panniers (bike bags) filled to the brim with fresh produce to “leisurely” rides where I whip past traffic during rush hour (I love doing that waaaay much).

Charging Habits

Seeing as I’m tracking every single eBike ride and charge detail on my publicly available Google Spreadsheet, you can kind of see my usage in detail, however so you don’t need to go analyse it line-by-line, I’ll summarize it here. 

Happy Battery, Happy Rides

When I was researching before purchasing the bike components, I found out about healthy charging habits for Lithium-Ion batteries. So now, I rarely charge my batteries for either my bike or phone past 80%, except on occasion when I know I’ll need the range or time. 

For me, with a 48V battery which show 54.6V when fully charged, that means that I don’t often go past 51.8V of charge, as that is what my smart charger deems to be 80% of this battery’s capacity. I also don’t try to run the battery to the ground because that’s horrible for Lithium Ion batteries as well. For testing purposes, I wore the battery down as much as I could once – so now I know that 44.0V is almost entirely dead and useless to me. 46V is still pretty weak so that’s what I classify as “0%” in my mind.

I know that in Montreal, I typically need a bit more of a charge in the battery because of all the hills and the stop-and-go nature of stop signs and traffic lights whereas in the flatter London, I can get away with less. I also know that if it’s a windy day, I’ll use more power fighting the wind (just like cars do, you just notice it less) so I can charge it up another volt or so before leaving just in case. 

Charging Speed

I may or may not have had to re-solder some components of the charger…

This is where I kinda stop caring: because I use this bike so much, I occasionally bring the smart charger with me to charge at destinations. This LUNA CHARGER 48V ADVANCED 300W EBIKE CHARGER is able to charge at a speed of 1, 2, 3, 4, and 5A (amps) and limit the charge to 80%, 90%, and 100% of the battery’s full capacity… Sooo, I’ve found myself whipping the charger out, turning the dials to 80% and 4A or 5A and charging up for a few minutes. I did this a lot more in London and generally just charge up at 1A for 9/10 rides since coming to Montreal. 

More recently though, I’ve just been doing what most normal people do though and just charging it to 90% or similar just so I don’t have to carry the charger or worry about the whole charging process. Though the LunaCycle.com site does say that these batteries have a life span of “400-1000 charges”… so I’m actually coming up on 400 charge cycles and have (just counted this right now) only charged the battery passed its 80% charge capacity around 22 times. The other 346 charges were all under 80% charge.

Average Trip Lengths

Before I go on and explain how long my average trip distance is, think of this stat from a study conducted in 2009: almost 10% of all 748,918 recorded individual car trips were shorter than a mile. Yes, this was almost 10 years ago now, but I don’t think this is too far off. You only have to look as far as your own driving habits to see that things probably haven’t changed all that much). 


DISCLAIMER: all the data between the two horizontal lines in the “Average Trip Lengths” section of this blog post is from this article, which is an awesome article that goes over the practicability of Electric Vehicles and if they can “actually be a legitimate replacement for Internal Combustion Engine vehicles for the average household. 

The graph below shows a histogram with 1-mile bins for distance. There is some inaccuracy in the graph, since it appears that participants tend to round up their reported distance to 5 mile increments.

Individual trip distance distribution from 748,918 car trips recorded in the 2009 NHTS. Each trip is weighted with variable ‘WTTRDFIN’.
[SOURCE]
Cumulative distribution of driven miles per trip from 748,918 car trips recorded in the 2009 NHTS.
[SOURCE]

The graph shows that 95% of trips are shorter than 30 miles, and 99% is below 70 miles. AND THIS RIGHT HERE IS MY KEY CHERRY-PICKED POINT: The weighted average trip distance is 9.4 miles. Vehicles owned by urban households averaged 8.5 miles and rural vehicles averaged 12.1 miles.

That’s right, “Vehicles owned by urban households averaged 8.5 miles”!! BAM, NUMBER SCIENCE.


So this average means at minimum, a metric shit ton of the trips being made everyday by automobiles could easily be made on bicycles instead. As ridiculous as that may sounds, there are places in the world where that idea is embraced and people who “don’t bike” are the exception. And with health problems on the rise, why are people even trying to resist this alternative means of transportation? Don’t you get that sense of yearning when a cyclist zooms past you while you sit in traffic, breathing in the fumes and waiting for the gridlock to crawl forward? That’s just depressing. Get out and bike once a week – it doesn’t even need to be everyday, just occasionally!

My average distance travelled per trip is 10.84 km, measured over the last 434 rides. I also carry a lot of weight sometimes (camera gear and/or groceries), so having the electric motor is quite a nice aid. 

How & When I Use The Electric Motor

Ok, so a lot of people think of the next image when they think “ebike”: 

And that’s not even what shows up anymore if you search up “ebike”. This is what shows up on an Incognito session of Google Search for the term “ebike”: 

I see ONE old-fashioned “ebike” in that mix. ONE! Times are changing! GET WITH IT!

Now there are always those who won’t want to or physically cannot pedal because of health problems, but I’m not one of those people. I often get a full workout and show up panting to the places I go… I just happen to show up at destinations waaaaay sooner than either cars or normal cyclists (in urban settings*) because of the mixture of pedal and electric power. 

My Personal Throttle Strategy

To walk you through how I ride this beast, I’ll first let you know that I haven’t installed any cadence or torque sensors onto my eBike and instead, I’m fully throttle-based.

So, what people don’t often realize about throttle-based eBikes is that you don’t have to “choose” which one to use (pedalling power or electric power) because it’s not a binary thing. You can combine the two – and it’s recommended that you do.

Basically, if you think of me going up a steep hill on my eBike, you can think of me “flattening out” the hill with my motor and I pedal whatever there is “left” of the hill. Depending on if I want to sweat a lot and get a good workout in or show up to my destination without a spot of sweat on me, I can go anywhere from full pedal power to full electric power (very rare) and anywhere in the middle. The majority of the time, I’m right in the middle with the motor on 1/2 power and my legs doing the rest. This helps with your battery’s range too, so that’s incentive to not be lazy either. 

Conclusion

Bikes and eBikes can be used instead of driving for the majority of the drives that the average person does. Not all journeys, just some. You don’t need to strap overly large objects to the back of your bike for transport like I do either, instead you could easily just go grocery shopping or commute on your bike. No need for anything crazy! It’s more of a game of “what can I do with this bike?” for me anyway. 

Anyway, I think that’s it for now. It’s been nearly 8 months since building my eBike aaaaaaand it’s been great! I hope this helps anyone who’s been asking questions of myself, other people, and the internet in general. If you have any questions, let me know in the comments below!

Cheers, 
Ben Durham
9:36 AM – Friday, October 26, 2018
Montreal, Canada

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ben in red shorts on a yellow ebike in a snow storm with a bright yellow jacket on, laughing

Ben Durham

ebike enthusiast &
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Just a regular bicycle warrior who’s super into ebikes, infrastructure, personal finance, and efficiency!

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