Our ride through France 2019

Watch an automatic Powerpoint presentation about our 2019 ride from home to Portsmouth then through France to the Mediterranean then on to Toulouse. This was created for a presentation in Germany, so the brief captions are in English and German.

Hase Pino freewheel removal

It’s a few years since I last serviced the freewheel on the Pino, and it felt like it could do with some fresh grease in the bearings: Tools needed are the Park Tool FR-6 and 1″ socket or spanner to fit, a bolt and washers to clamp the tool in place, a vice, hammer and punch or drifter.

Park Tool FR-6 with bolt and washers/spacer for clamping it in place.
The crank with freewheel removed from the bike and chainring removed. (Not my photo)

Locate the tool into the slots on the freewheel then clamp in place with a bolt. Place the crank into a covered vice then use a 1″ socket or spanner to loosen the freewheel anti-clockwise. An extension to the socket or spanner may be necessary for leverage.

Once loosened the freewheel can be removed. This sits inside a threaded sleeve within the crank, and in this case that too came off. The sleeve can remain in the freewheel or be removed and replaced within the crank.
Once the freewheel is removed, replace the tool and clamp to the freewheel, then clamp the tool in a vice. This makes drifting the faceplate on the freewheel much easier.

The tool clamped in place over the freewheel to allow the freewheel face plate to be drifted loose.
Drifting the faceplate loose on the freewheel. Again, it is anti-clockwise to remove.
The opened and freshly greased freewheel. There is a ball-race on each side and in between two opposing pawls held in place by a wire spring.
The complete freewheel. These are made in Taiwan and the only source I have found is JD Tandems.

Pino update

Adding a second battery

The International Tandem Rally this year (2022) is the first week in August, near Tecklenburg, South West of Osnabrück in Germany. We thought it would be good to ride from home, using the Stena Line Ferry from Harwich to the Hook of Holland. Once in the Netherlands the going would be mostly flat but between us and Harwich and in Germany there would be a fair amount of climbing.

The route from home to Harwich (North leg) and the return route (Southern leg), planned to collect BCQs along the way.
Hook of Holland near Rotterdam and the International Tandem Rally site near Osnabrück.

The 17.5Ah battery currently fitted to the Pino is good for at least 40 miles with reasonable use on the unloaded tandem, but I was a bit anxious that hauling the loaded bike and trailer would reduce the range as the motor would be needed more, especially in hilly terrain. With this in mind I looked at either obtaining a second ‘reserve’ battery or another to add to the bike.

The type of connector in the mounting bracket on the current 36 volt 17.5Ah (630Wh) battery, now 3 years old, which I bought from China has been changed and I thought it unlikely to be able to buy a second identical ‘spare’ to match the existing bracket, so I looked at connecting a second battery.

The logical choice was a rack mounted battery. I wanted a system that would allow me to use just one or both. Two batteries for a shortish local ride would be overkill and unnecessary weight. However, on a longer ride, in much hillier terrain or on a fully loaded tour, the ability to have both batteries providing power would drastically increase our range. An advantage to using both batteries at the same time rather than one then the other, is that at maximum draw by the motor, each battery is only providing 50% of the power, so the batteries are not stressed nearly as much as a single battery providing all the power.

Looking for more information on the web, I came across ‘Area 13 e-bikes‘ and some useful videos on battery care and how to add a second battery to an e-bike. With the advice from this video I ordered the Dual Battery Parallel Connector. This would allow me to safely use the two 36 volt batteries of different capacity on the same system, or either battery individually. Something similar is available in the UK, but costs a lot more. Delivery from the ‘States took a little over a week. I ordered some XT90 connectors to match the ones on the Dual Battery Parallel Connector. Because the original battery did not have an isolating switch, I also bought an inline on/off switch so I could isolate the exposed connector on the down-tube battery bracket when we were using the bike without that battery fitted. Without the switch I am pretty sure the connector would be live and very prone to shorting out if it got wet.

The Dual Battery Parallel Connector with XT90 connectors, bought from Area 13 e-bikes in the USA.
The down-tube mounted battery and bracket, showing the exposed connector which would be live without an isolating switch if we were just using the rack-mounted battery.
The end result… The Pino with the original down-tube mounted 17.5Ah battery and the new rack-mounted 22.5Ah battery, giving a total of 40Ah or 1440Wh.
The waterproof rocker switch behind the seat-tube, which allows me to isolate the down-tube battery, as that didn’t have a switch. The rack battery has a switch and USB outlet, plus a rear light.
A rather distorted view. The Dual Battery Parallel Connector is tucked between the rack struts and rear mudguard, covered with some old inner tube which I cut along and opened out. It works a bit like extra wide bar-tape and is held fast with some velcro.

The beauty of this system is that either both batteries or just one can be used, without the other being on the bike. The large capacity rack mount battery weighs 5.8kg (12.7lb) and the down-tube battery weighs 3.5kg (7.7lb).

A long weekend with the Nutty Tandemers

Late June 2021 we put the Pino in the car and headed for Callander on the edge of the Trossachs National Park. We arrived on Wednesday 23rd and so did Jane and John. Colin and Diane would be joining us Friday evening.

Day 1

Thursday was our first ride and Jane and John had bought their Pino along too. Like us they had e-assist but their’s is the official version from Hase, with a Shimano Steps system. For this first ride the weather was good and we decided to head West, out along the south side of Loch Venacher, much of it along tracks beside the Loch. At the far end we continued around Loch Achray then headed for the ferry terminal and café at the end of Loch Katrine.

After lunch in the café we took the road back along the Northern shores of the Loch to arrive back at Callander. In the evening John and Jane came over to our chalet for nibbles and drinks.

Day 2

On our second day we again headed West, retracing the return leg of the previous day, but once past Loch Achray we turned South and climbed Duke’s Pass. The long, flowing and winding descent was definitely the highlight of the day! (3:35 in the video)

In Aberfoyle we stopped at the first café we spotted for lunch then carried on, past the only ‘Lake’ in Scotland, the Lake of Menteith. Back in Callander, after some food, we enjoyed drinks and nibbles in our chalet again, but this time we were joined by Colin and Diane who had arrived late that afternoon.

Day 3

Day 3’s ride was led by Colin and Diane. This time we headed north alongside Loch Lubnaig, following the course of an old rail track for the most part. We stopped off at the Broch Café near Strathyre for coffee and cake then continued towards Lochearnhead. Here we picked up the trail that runs up Glen Ogle, crossing the Glen Ogle Viaduct. A stint on the A827 delivered us to Killin where we parked up behind the Falls of Dochart Inn to sit outside the Falls of Dochart Smokehouse and enjoy a lunch of smoked salmon washed down with some very nice bubbly.

Karon and I took our leave briefly, to head through the town to collect a BCQ, leaving the others to explore the falls of Dochart. I can’t say I enjoyed the climb out of Killin, as we retraced our outward leg back up to Glen Ogle. Once there, the remaining route was mostly downhill which was a relief!

In the evening we all headed into Callander town for a meal together in the Bistro Restaurant at the Roman Camp Hotel.

Day 4

Day 4 saw us retrace the first part of the previous day’s ride as far as Loch Earn, where we turned off to follow the Southern shore of the Loch. At St Fillans, at the far end of the Loch we stopped for a picnic ‘Prosecco’ lunch. Back on the bikes we continued along the north shore as far as Briar Cottage where we stopped for more Prosecco in a Lochside garden, hosted by friends of Colin and Di.

On the way back Karon and I took a detour to bag another BCQ while the others waited for us at Kinghouse…in the pub there. Our last day ended with us all sat on the decking of Colin and Di’s chalet enjoying nibbles and copious amounts of more prosecco!

A great end to a great weekend – Thanks Nutty Tandemers!

Catch-up Christmas 2021

February 2020 we were in Spain when Covid reared its ugly head and started its advance from China. Initially we had looked at finding some winter sun in Cuba and doing some cycling and painting there, but decided against flying anywhere. So we packed the Pino into the car and spent a few days driving down through France and Spain to arrive in Dénia. We had an apartment about 5km north of the town, right on the beach, but we were there to ride. In January there had been a terrific storm and much of the beach was washed inland so there was still a big clean-up going on during our stay.

Among the orange groves near Dénia.

Some of our cycling friends were staying in a hotel in the town and, as luck would have it, as we drove towards our apartment, we spotted them on the road, so pulled over for a quick chat and to arrange to meet in a couple of days to join them for a ride. So, over the next two weeks we had a mix of joining up some days, riding alone others, and on one day we drove north into the mountains to a small town to explore an abbey and do some painting.

Come the end of February we headed back home, spending another few days on the drive home… just in time for the first lock-down. With Karon being classed as vulnerable, neither of us wanted to mix and after one shopping trip to the local supermarket, where I queued for 3/4 hour to get in, I decided not to risk it again. We struggled for a few weeks to get onto any home delivery system and Holland did some shopping for us, dropping it off at the doorstep. Eventually Karon got onto Sainsbury’s home delivery and we were fine from then on.

I used the time to do a few things in the garden and clear out both sheds, I was also riding most days, on my own until things eased and Karon joined me. In the summer we put the Pino in the car and went a little further afield to break the monotony of repeated rides around local lanes.

A socially distanced garden get-together with Holland.
Riding further afield in Wiltshire.
On the South Downs on a roundabout ride to Eastbourne.

In the autumn, when things got a little worse again we stayed local and as it got colder we cycled less and stayed home more, doing the odd painting and reading etc. Christmas 2020 was a quiet affair but Cas and Holland spent the day with us and Cas stayed over that night.

In April 2021 I undertook a fundraising challenge to ride 56 miles. In fact I managed three 56 mile rides – West along the Kennet and Avon Canal and back, South to Winchester and back and a loop Eastwards towards Hartley Wintney, making use of the labyrinth of little lanes around us.

It was on one of these rides I had pretty serious problems with my pacemaker and had some bouts of atrial fibrillation. It wasn’t me but the pacemaker that wasn’t behaving. A few adjustments at pacing clinic sorted it and I’ve been fine ever since. With slightly warmer weather Karon and I started getting out more together, on the Pino which helped us get a bit more cycling fit for in June we headed North into Scotland to spend a long weekend in a chalet on a campsite in Callander, along with another two tandeming couples – one pair in their caravan and the other in another chalet. We went out for day rides and socialised in the evenings. Though it was only a short break, it was so good to get away – things almost felt normal!

Out and about in Scotland – Glen Ogle with the ‘Nutty Tandemers’

On the way back home we met up with friends in Galloway and Dumfries and called in to see my sister in Cumbria. In July we took part in another ten-mile time trial, even though I had said we would never again! We stayed in a B&B in Lyndhurst so it was another mini-break for us. It was wet on the TT but it really didn’t matter. At least this time, we weren’t last.

On the TT10 in the New Forest.

July we had an outdoor get-together at a friend’s house on the fringe of Odiham. AS the weather was good we cycled there on the Pino and carried our picnic and booze on the trailer.

Friends joint birthday/wedding anniversary celebration.

In August we were off again, to Nottingham for the National Tandem Rally. We stayed with a couple we knew, but had got to know better back in Spain. They had helped organise the rally and planned all the routes, so most days we rode with them – bigger distances than we were used to, but we survived the week. To top it off, we weren’t the only Pino pair…

A pride of Pinos? A pootle of Pinos?

We also hosted a Tandem Group ride from home and enjoyed tea and cake in the garden after. On a roll and with the weather on our side, we then spent a week in East Sussex and Kent collecting some BCQs (British Cycle Quest) and in doing so completed all the clues in the South East.

In a normal year, come October I, and maybe Cas and/or Holland would pop over to Lippstadt for Herbstwocke and meet up with some of my old Army buddies. Of course, with Covid this was not really feasible, so we decided to meet up in East London for a few drinks, a meal out and a walk around the East End… the ‘Ripper Tour’ to be precise. At the end of our walk we ended up in one of the oldest pubs in the city of London, which had survived the Great Fire of 1666.

Over the year I had been painting, though maybe not as much as I could have. Here’s a snapshot. The bird in the lower left and the lion and girl, lower right, are older, included just to complete the matrix.

2021 work.

Since October it’s been back to local lanes on nice days and staying in on bad. Christmas was a repeat of last year with Cas and Holland here for the day and now we are half-way through January already. I’m hoping we can get abroad at least a couple of times this year, more with luck!

Solo e-bike conversion

Fitting a Bafang to a solo ‘should’ be straightforward, but my Qubic steel framed MTB threw up a couple of issues.
I bought the motor and battery separately through AliExpress. There are dozens of suppliers, many based in China but a lot of sellers now have the option of buying from a distributor in the UK or EU, which makes delivery times a bit faster, though you will probably pay more for these options. I opted for a German source and it took about 10 days for delivery, but there was a German bank holiday at the time of order which delayed dispatch.

I chose a 15Ah battery with USB outlet and the 250W motor kit (UK street legal limit). As I have hydraulic brakes on the Qubic I also sourced brake sensors from Amazon. I used a UK supplier so they cost more but I wanted a faster delivery.

The hydraulic brake sensor consists of a small magnet that can be superglued or bonded to the lever and the sensor unit that attaches to the brake housing. They come with self adhesive pads, but I used Sugru ‘putty’ glue to ensure they stayed put.
The battery with on/off switch, recharging port, lock to prevent removal from bracket and the USB port. For a 15Ah battery, the housing is quite large – bigger than the 17.5Ah on the Pino.
A Bafang kit and battery – this one went onto my trike but the contents of the kit are the same.

First job is to remove the bottom bracket on the bike. I had a Shimano Hollowtech with external bearings, so this was very straightforward. The motor slides into the BB shell and is locked in place by a castellated lock-ring.

The motor in-situ. I had to add spacers to move the motor out further on the drive-side as fully pushed home it was contacting the chain stay. I used some spacers from the old BB on the drive side and a couple of spacers in the clamps on the non-drive side.
The spacers on the clamp to move the motor more to the drive side. There was still plenty of thread for the locking ring on the BB.

My other issue was that the bottle-cage fixings did not align with the battery bracket, so I bought three brackets from eBay. These elevated the bracket from the downtube and reduce the space for the battery. It’s a tight fit.

The kit and battery fitted onto the bike. The battery is large for a 15AH and only just fits in the available space. There’s a millimetre between the seat tube and the battery and just enough space below the cross bar to allow removal of the battery.
The battery mounting bracket in place. At some stage I will re-route the gear cables as the brackets are too close to the cable guides on the frame.
One of the three clamps used to fit the battery bracket. I had to drill a hole in the bracket to fit this in place. You can see the bottle cage mounts on the frame, which did not align with the mounting points on the bracket. I looped the excess control wire under the battery bracket to keep the job a bit tidier.
The thumb throttle and control pad. Strictly the throttle is illegal, as it can power the bike independently of pedalling but I find it very useful for pulling away at junctions or to get the bike moving on hill-starts.
The control display. Connections are pretty fool-proof as they are colour coded male-female type connectors. The display can be metric or imperial and shows typical trip computer information like odometer, trip distance, average and maximum speeds.

USB outlet for Pino battery

The Hailong battery on the Pino e-bike kit didn’t have a USB outlet and as I use my iPhone for navigating and tracking our rides, an outlet would be useful for keeping the phone charged, as GPS use tends to drain the phone battery pretty quickly.

The battery is a 36V 17.5 Ah Hailong.

There is a compartment towards the back of the battery mount that houses the connectors and wiring, accessible by removing the four cross-head screws, so that seemed to be the logical place to start.

My battery didn’t have a fuse or large connector, so there was more free space available.

The battery produces 36-39V and a USB phone charge lead needs only 5V at about 2-3 amps. A search on Amazon provided me with a suitable ‘step-down converter’. Input from 8V-50V and output at 5V 3A. It had a USB lead too so seemed perfect for the job.

I removed the battery mounting bracket cover and tapped into the positive and negative outlets on the power supply, then ran a USB lead from the socket up to the handlebars.

The box of tricks was too big to fit inside the mounting bracket, so I zip-tied it to the seat tube. It’s sealed with epoxy resin, so is waterproof. With everything in place, it worked…. for about a minute, then the charge died. Disconnecting it and reconnecting, the same thing happened. Faulty unit, so I got a refund and went looking for an alternative.

This one was cheaper but not sealed. However, it was small enough to fit into the compartment in the battery mounting bracket. I slipped a length of MTB inner tube over it to protect it and prevent any solder on the underside coming into contact with the metal base of the compartment. There’s a USB socket and wiring connectors, so it’s more flexible than the first type I tried and being housed within the mounting bracket makes the whole thing a lot tidier. Better still, it works….

…but not for long. Within a couple of rides it failed, so I have given up on the idea of adding a USB socket to the battery for now.

Christmas 2020

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.

Driving through the Pyrenees

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.

Peter, Ros, Colin and Rosie we know from the Tandem Club

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.

Cat the Captain and Raz the Stoker on the closing stage of their Global circumnavigation, speeding their way to Oxford and the finish line

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.

On the hunt for BCQs (British Cycle Quest)

When things tightened up again, we restricted our rides to all too familiar local lanes.

Taking a coffee break at Hartley Wintney

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.

Artillery vehicle drawings

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…

Some of the military badges I have drawn up
Some of my vehicle drawings

Swytch Bike kit

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.

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.

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 insides of the dropouts needed filing a little.

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 pedal sensor assembly.

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.

The battery mount.

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.

I kept the plastic caps that sit over the wheel nuts.
Looking down on the battery as you would see it on the bars. On the left is the ‘on/off’ toggle button and the up/down arrows to select one of five power levels. Holding the up arrow down will illuminate the logo on the front of the battery. Changing the setting with gloves may be tricky.

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.

The illuminated logo is probably ok for making the rider more noticeable but it doesn’t throw sufficient light to use in the dark.

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.

The bike still looks tidy with complete kit fitted, though all the weight is over the front of the bike, so steering is heavier but it doesn’t affect handling too much.

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.