The year that never was. We had so many plans for 2020 but only managed the first; our early year trip to Spain in search of some winter sun and pleasant riding on the Pino. It’s something we had been thinking about for a while, and I’d seen a programme on the area around Dénia, on the Mediterranean coast. It’s one of the sunniest places in Europe. When some cycling friends of ours said they were headed that way, it made our mind up.
A search on Booking.com for an apartment provided the perfect place for us. It was a few km out of the town, right next to the sea and a lot cheaper than many places in the area. It gave us the flexibility we needed for food as Karon’s diet is not well catered for in most hotels.
I planned a drive and pre-booked some overnight stops for the journey there and back – and that was February taken care of.
As we travelled back from Spain CV19 was spreading fast through Europe, so it was only a few days and we were into lockdown. With Karon listed as vulnerable, we had to be extra careful, but continued to ride a few times a week for exercise. On one outing in early March we met up with Cat and Raz of TandemWow! as they finished off their epic around the world record-breaking ride. They managed to catch the penultimate ferry out of France! Their route passed close to home, so we planted ourselves on route and tried to keep up and keep company as they headed through our patch.
From then on, our routine was pretty much the same. I had made one shopping trip the the local supermarket early on in lockdown, but decided not to risk any more. Holland, who was not furloughed did some shopping for us for a few weeks until Karon got Priority status for online shopping.
During the summer months, when things eased a bit, we put the bike in the car and went out to collect a few BCQs in East Sussex, Dorset, Wiltshire, Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire.
When things tightened up again, we restricted our rides to all too familiar local lanes.
Let’s hope 2021 sees us regain some form of normality when we can get back to travelling further afield with the Pino and cycling in Germany and France again, as well as more BCQ hunting here in the UK.
This is a kind of hobby. I spent six years in the Artillery back in the 70s and we had some impressive kit. At one time I managed a website for ex-members of my unit, as drew up some battle honour crests to put on the website. These generated some interest, so I took it a stage further and started drawing up the guns and support vehicles. Other requests followed…
Karon loves her Roberts bike but was rarely riding it, as her health issues made even the gentlest of uphill gradients very difficult for her. We had talked about adding an e-assist kit to the bike for a while, but she didn’t want whatever we chose to change the bike too much, or make it unwieldy. Big batteries and motors are heavy. In the end, I settled on a Swytch Bike kit. It’s a front wheel hub-drive kit with a smallish battery that fits to the handlebars rather that the rear rack or downtube.
The kit motor comes built into the wheel size you specify. You also receive the battery and cover (this version is the ‘Pro’ with more range), the battery handlebar mount and cover and pedal sensor along with plenty of zip ties and two instruction leaflets. Brake sensors and a throttle are shown on the Swytch website and there are connectors for both on the kit, but there doesn’t seem to be a way of buying them online without contacting Swytch.
Fitting the kit was straightforward and easy, though I did have to file out the paint from the dropouts on the bike so the axle would fit.
The pedal sensor assembly is very easy to fit as the magnet plate comes in two halves that fit together over the crank and are held firm by a metal ring, so there’s no need to remove the crank arm. The actual sensor is positioned close to the plate in line with the magnets with zip-ties and a sticky pad. I ran the wire up the underside of the down-tube, so it’s not too obtrusive.
The battery mount clamps to the bars close to the stem and has a strap to prevent the weight of the battery rotating the mount around the bars.
Once the dropouts had been filed, just a little, the wheel fitted well. The tire that came off the old wheel popped off the new rim but another 28mm 700c tire did fit and inflate without popping off the rim.
The ECO kit has a battery capacity of 5.2Ah (187Wh) and an expected range of 35km on medium power. The PRO kit has a battery capacity of 7Ah (252Wh) and an expected range of 50km on medium power.
There are five power levels and all will keep providing power until the maximum 25kmh/15.5mph legal (UK) limit is reached. This is different from other e-assist motors I have used, where each power level has a pre-determined speed cut-off, which increases with each power level increase, up to the maximum legal speed on the highest power level. Varying the speed cut-off to match the power level is more flexible in my opinion, and allows for easier power management and therefore more flexibility in optimising the range for each charge.
After trying the bike, Karon decided she wanted a throttle as hill starts were difficult in that you need to turn the pedals before the motor kicks in and on a steep hill, she would not necessarily be strong enough to get the bike started. It also makes pulling away at junctions safer, as you can get going and accelerate quickly.
The Swytch throttle is expensive and doesn’t come with the UK kit (as throttles are actually illegal in the UK). However, I bought one online which is essentially the same but a lot cheaper. I couldn’t use the connectors as they didn’t match so I trimmed the wires and soldered them together. There are only three wires and the colours used are similar in the kit and the third party throttle. I used a Minouri bar accessory bracket to position the thumb throttle in the best place.
We had obtained some inline brake sensors to cut power when braking, but in use Karon found she didn’t need them, so I put them on eBay. We also found that the motor/controller interfered with her wireless trip meter, so I moved the sensor for that to the rear wheel and positioned the display further back on the cross-bar.
For the power, the battery is quite large but I do like the way the controller is integrated into it. The kit is also very neat and it would be relatively easy to remove the battery and replace the motor wheel with the bike’s original, as there is a connector on the fork, near the hub. This would leave just the wiring and handlebar mount in place and quickly revert the bike back to almost its original state.
Compared to the 17.5Ah (630Wh) of the Hailong battery on our tandem, the 7Ah battery on the Swytch kit is pretty meagre. Our tandem covered 60 miles on full power before the Battery Management system started reducing power to the motor to protect the battery from draining completely. Using assist only on climbs when needed on the tandem gives us a range of at least 80 miles between charges, often more in ‘easy’ terrain.
With the Swytch kit, Karon estimates that each of the five battery ‘bars’ are good for about 4 miles, so the kit would deliver roughly 20 miles constant use. Obviously using it only on climbs will extend the range to the 30 mile figure quoted by Swytch.
In January 2017 I set about electrifying my HPV Scorpion FS20 recumbent trike. Trikes are great fun to ride, and comfortable too. A lower profile and recumbent position mean they are more aerodynamic, but the downside is their weight. For me, it makes any climb hard going, even pretty innocuous lumps can take some effort. Of course, you can grind away in an ultra-low gear and, with three wheels to keep you upright, you can go as slow as you need to.
After looking at the options of a wheel drive or crank drive, I opted for a crank drive. Wheel drive kits tend to be cheaper than crank drives, but I find the crank drive a more elegant solution. And, If I ever wanted to sell the trike, I could remove the kit, revert the trike and fit the kit to a different bike, regardless of wheel-size. A crank drive will only have a single chainring, but my trike had that already, so it meant I could retain all 27 gears – a 3-speed rear hub gear with a 9-speed cassette fitted.
A Bafang seemed to be the obvious choice. Buying from China, where they are made, is a lot cheaper than sourcing one in the UK or Europe – there are plenty of providers on Amazon but the disadvantage is delivery times are much longer. As I was a bit sceptical about buying direct, I ordered a kit including a 15Ah battery from Woosh Bikes in the UK.
The Bafang kit is very comprehensive and easy to install, thanks to the fool-proof connectors. Instructions are not really needed, which is probably a good thing, as there weren’t any. For those that are doubtful, there are plenty of videos on Youtube about how to install a Bafang…on an upright.
First job was the remove the current bottom bracket from the trike. And there I hit the only real problem I had. Even with the right tools, I could not loosen it, so took the bike up the road to my local bike shop, where they dealt with it straight away.
On my first ride out, the motor rotated within the bb shell, even though I thought I had it tight. That pulled on the cable and pulled the main connector apart, and I lost drive. It didn’t take long to sort out.
Since putting it together I’ve ridden several hundred miles without any real issues, though the connection (my extender) to the speed sensor became erratic because it had worked loose, so I soldered the joins rather than just wrapping them… something I should have done in the first place. For the larger cable extension I used plastic-housed screw connectors and wrapped all the connections in waterproof tape.
After coming back from a long tour of France I decided it was time to put a motor on the Pino. I had mulled it over for some time and, because a new ‘e-pino’ is horrendously expensive, I decided to fit a Bafang Crank Motor.
I bought the motor and battery together, from ‘Aliexpress.com’ and ordered it from China, as it’s cheaper than using a European supplier, but delivery times are longer. If you are in a hurry for the kit, a UK or European supplier will get it to you sooner.
The Hase crank has a square taper axle – in what I call a ‘square, square’ pattern. The Bafang cranks supplied in the kit are ‘square, diamond’ pattern, so, in order to retain the Hase freewheel, you need to source a ‘square, square’ right hand crank. These are available as a Tandem Captain’s crankset from SJS Cycles. You will have to buy the crankset, as they don’t sell individual R/H cranks.
This may all look a bit complicated, but I am no mechanic or engineer, and I have fitted two of these motors now. As I said at the start, the hardest part can be removing the old BB.
Two and a half years into retirement and we are coping well. We celebrated no more work with a month of tandeming in Germany, down the Rhine, a week with the International Tandem Rally in Oberhausen an der Nahe, then cycling up to Lippstadt for an Army reunion, after which we headed back to the Rhine and followed it downstream to the Hook of Holland and the ferry.
Last year it was Sweden, but a bit too far to cycle we thought, so we drove, stopping in each place for a couple of nights so we could have a day ride before moving on. Sweden was fun with unusually warm weather – which was good – and the island of Öland perfect for riding, though the headwinds were a bit grueling at times.
In December 2018 I was fitted with a pacemaker. After a few years of bradycardia and arrhythmia the docs decided it was time. It took a while to get right, but now it’s settled and I’ve got used to it, I forget it’s there most of the time.
In spring 2019 we headed back to Germany to join Tandemtreffen (TT) for a weekend of tandeming. This was our second TT and just as much fun as the first. We hope to go again in 2020, which will be in the area near the Mosel river.
In the summer of 2019 we set off from home on the 1st July for an epic tour of France, riding to the Mediterranean and on to Toulouse before picking up a car to carry on the the International Tandem Rally at Marciac. After an enjoyable week of cycling within sight of the Pyrenees, we drove back to Caen, dropped the car off and caught an overnight ferry home.
As winter takes a firm grip and Brexit looms, I wonder what will pan out for us in the next few years.