CBP is blocking import of my e-bike parts?!

bombadero

Active Member
Yes, that's the audio incentive ;) . I also have a couple of 12V electric motorcycle horns, but it may take me a while to figure out the ideal way to wire them, as they typically go through a fuse box and I'm not very experienced or knowledgeable about electrical wiring--boning up though. There's also a Spurcycle bell on there, which is actually quite loud as well. So I've got 'brring, brring, ahem, excuse me pedestrians and cyclists'; 'Meeeep! I'm on the road too, cars, look out!'; and 'Whooomp! Get out of the damn way!'. We'll see how the Airzound goes, I've had two of them have a Schrader valve failure. When they work, I've managed to stop a charter bus in its tracks that was about to turn on a red directly in front of me.
 

JES2020

Active Member
Yes, that's the audio incentive ;) . I also have a couple of 12V electric motorcycle horns, but it may take me a while to figure out the ideal way to wire them, as they typically go through a fuse box and I'm not very experienced or knowledgeable about electrical wiring--boning up though. There's also a Spurcycle bell on there, which is actually quite loud as well. So I've got 'brring, brring, ahem, excuse me pedestrians and cyclists'; 'Meeeep! I'm on the road too, cars, look out!'; and 'Whooomp! Get out of the damn way!'. We'll see how the Airzound goes, I've had two of them have a Schrader valve failure. When they work, I've managed to stop a charter bus in its tracks that was about to turn on a red directly in front of me.
You can buy scooter horns in the voltage of your system...I have one in 48v and it plugs right into the battery.
Cars can easily hear me and I don't have to wire in a 12 converter.
 

bombadero

Active Member
I stripped the frame down completely in preparation for things like repairing the paint and removing the BB (I removed the non-drive-side BC, but going to have to take it into the LBS for the drive-side). I then mocked up what the battery layout might look like when the new fork arrives, which is about 6 inches longer in axle-to-crown. It looks like the lower battery will fit, but fitting a fender will be tight and I'll have to look into the seat tube angle, which looks a bit extreme.

20201103_204011.jpg
 

bombadero

Active Member
Alright, well I finally got my final package cleared. We'll see what shape it is in when it arrives, hopefully some time tomorrow. Grin I'm sad to say was less than helpful. After they 'took over' the process of handling the import of my package, which they should have done from the start, nearly two weeks went by with no movement. Basically the Fedex agent and Grin went back and forth with the agent saying "I need the composition of these wires" and Grin saying "The sheathing isn't aluminum but may contain aluminized material if that's the issue" and submitting yet another worksheet for the wire. Finally, I looked up the HTS code they provided on the worksheet, and sure enough it is very vague, and doesn't really mention composition at all. Since a number of cables in the other two shipments had already arrived, I went downstairs, grabbed a battery cable, pulled off the shrink wrap sleeve and read the side of the cable. I came up with the number E330104, which turns out to be a UL license belonging to the manufacturer of the cable, DONGGUAN JIAPENG INDUSTRIAL CO LTD, which I found on a site called iq.ul.com. Under that license they had two styles of cable listed, one was 1015, which is another number on the side of the cable I have. It conforms to a couple of standards, 2651 and the more relevant one, UL 758. UL 758 was inconclusive, as you need an ASTM number to determine composition, which these cables don't have printed on them. Style 1015 however turns out to be a UL style, so looked that up and found more than one manufacturer listing its composition as tinned copper. I verified this visually by inspecting the cables and doing an image search, finding that tinned copper appears coppery end-on but silvery when viewed from the side, and the cables I have look like that. I conveyed all of this to the Fedex agent and also that I don't have this information for the smaller cables in the shipment, but apparently that was sufficient to clear it for shipment. Hopefully the Tennessee CBP agents didn't piss in my statorade. Oh, and the total tariffs levied in the end? $0.00 (USD).

So what are the lessons learned? I guess one is that if you plan on ordering e-bike parts or kits from overseas, try to avoid Fedex, which imports into Memphis, TN, where the CBP officers seem to be particularly excited about prosecuting Trump's trade war against China, and they might hold up your shipment for weeks over a handful of cables or other small parts that might possibly contain aluminum. Also, if you can, I would try to order parts like that separately from your other parts like batteries and motors, which they don't seem to care about at all, surprisingly. If you are shipping a whole e-bike, that's apparently a different ball of yarn. They were excluded from tariffs under a special rule treating them as electric motorcycles up until a couple of months ago, but that rule has expired.

Also, the importer of record is not you, but the person you are buying from. So if you get an import delay like this, the vendor needs to clear it up. If they tell you it's on you because as the recipient of the package you are the 'importer', they don't know what they're talking about and you need to hound them until they deal with it. That is part of the perfect storm that happened here; a lower level Grin employee was ignorant of the actual way of doing things, and told me I had to deal with it, which I did for about 2 weeks until Rob finally got wind of it and jumped into it.

And if for some reason, as happened to me, you need to jump in and clear it up yourself in the end anyway, well, I don't know what to say about that, except that if your Google fu is strong, you will prevail eventually, but if not... good luck. Eventually maxes out at 35 days, because by then CBP is required by law to either release or seize the shipment. But I also learned that the laws really only apply if the CBP cares about them, so it depends entirely on what officers you get assigned, which is completely opaque. I never spoke with a CBP officer, only Fedex custom tracing agents. And of course all of this only applies to Fedex; I have no idea how the process goes with any other carrier and hope to never find out. I did learn a lot more about international importing and tariff standards and UL standards than I ever thought I would, and it was kind of interesting. I feel like I need to start my own e-bike part international drop-shipping company now :p.

Now the only thing delayed is my front fork.
 

JES2020

Active Member
Alright, well I finally got my final package cleared. We'll see what shape it is in when it arrives, hopefully some time tomorrow. Grin I'm sad to say was less than helpful. After they 'took over' the process of handling the import of my package, which they should have done from the start, nearly two weeks went by with no movement. Basically the Fedex agent and Grin went back and forth with the agent saying "I need the composition of these wires" and Grin saying "The sheathing isn't aluminum but may contain aluminized material if that's the issue" and submitting yet another worksheet for the wire. Finally, I looked up the HTS code they provided on the worksheet, and sure enough it is very vague, and doesn't really mention composition at all. Since a number of cables in the other two shipments had already arrived, I went downstairs, grabbed a battery cable, pulled off the shrink wrap sleeve and read the side of the cable. I came up with the number E330104, which turns out to be a UL license belonging to the manufacturer of the cable, DONGGUAN JIAPENG INDUSTRIAL CO LTD, which I found on a site called iq.ul.com. Under that license they had two styles of cable listed, one was 1015, which is another number on the side of the cable I have. It conforms to a couple of standards, 2651 and the more relevant one, UL 758. UL 758 was inconclusive, as you need an ASTM number to determine composition, which these cables don't have printed on them. Style 1015 however turns out to be a UL style, so looked that up and found more than one manufacturer listing its composition as tinned copper. I verified this visually by inspecting the cables and doing an image search, finding that tinned copper appears coppery end-on but silvery when viewed from the side, and the cables I have look like that. I conveyed all of this to the Fedex agent and also that I don't have this information for the smaller cables in the shipment, but apparently that was sufficient to clear it for shipment. Hopefully the Tennessee CBP agents didn't piss in my statorade. Oh, and the total tariffs levied in the end? $0.00 (USD).

So what are the lessons learned? I guess one is that if you plan on ordering e-bike parts or kits from overseas, try to avoid Fedex, which imports into Memphis, TN, where the CBP officers seem to be particularly excited about prosecuting Trump's trade war against China, and they might hold up your shipment for weeks over a handful of cables or other small parts that might possibly contain aluminum. Also, if you can, I would try to order parts like that separately from your other parts like batteries and motors, which they don't seem to care about at all, surprisingly. If you are shipping a whole e-bike, that's apparently a different ball of yarn. They were excluded from tariffs under a special rule treating them as electric motorcycles up until a couple of months ago, but that rule has expired.

Also, the importer of record is not you, but the person you are buying from. So if you get an import delay like this, the vendor needs to clear it up. If they tell you it's on you because as the recipient of the package you are the 'importer', they don't know what they're talking about and you need to hound them until they deal with it. That is part of the perfect storm that happened here; a lower level Grin employee was ignorant of the actual way of doing things, and told me I had to deal with it, which I did for about 2 weeks until Rob finally got wind of it and jumped into it.

And if for some reason, as happened to me, you need to jump in and clear it up yourself in the end anyway, well, I don't know what to say about that, except that if your Google fu is strong, you will prevail eventually, but if not... good luck. Eventually maxes out at 35 days, because by then CBP is required by law to either release or seize the shipment. But I also learned that the laws really only apply if the CBP cares about them, so it depends entirely on what officers you get assigned, which is completely opaque. I never spoke with a CBP officer, only Fedex custom tracing agents. And of course all of this only applies to Fedex; I have no idea how the process goes with any other carrier and hope to never find out. I did learn a lot more about international importing and tariff standards and UL standards than I ever thought I would, and it was kind of interesting. I feel like I need to start my own e-bike part international drop-shipping company now :p.

Now the only thing delayed is my front fork.
I would have canceled the order and got a refund from my credit card long ago. Problem solved.
 

kmccune

Active Member
Has anyone ever encountered something like this before?

Here's some quick background: I haul a lot of cargo with our R&M Homage GT Nuvinci, a Surly Ted trailer and a Burley Dlite trailer (sometimes all hooked together in a train!) in the hills of San Francisco. It's not for business or anything, but I've completely replaced all in-town trips by car, which is the vast majority of our car trips, for 3 years now. So that means big grocery runs, picking up packages from our PMB at the UPS store, picking up lumber, masonry or steel building materials for home improvement/DIY projects, et cetera. The R&M has been bombproof, but is a bit under-powered with heavier loads at the extreme limit of the Ted's cargo capacity of 300 lbs., and I've had some truly grueling trips home up the 600 ft. of elevation back to our house. People compare the R&M to a Porsche because of the expense and the quality components, but for cargo hauling it's more like a light-duty Toyota pick-up: you can put 500,000 miles on it and it never complains once, but it's a bit under-powered as I said. So for the past couple of years I've been contemplating rebuilding an old project bike, a 1990's stump jumper, into a more powerful DIY e-bike.

Skip ahead to now and after tons of research and back and forth with Grin Technologies in Vancouver, BC, I pulled the trigger on components for a bitchin' dual-motor cargo hauler build. It was split into 3 packages by Grin: Two packages with one motor each, laced into their respective rims, and additional parts, and one package with the dual batteries I purchased. The first two boxes with the front wheel motor and a few parts in one and the pair of massive, 52V/20Ah batteries and one motor controller in the other, sailed right through, no problems whatsoever. Shipped all 3 via Fedex, so despite Vancouver being a straight shot up the coast from San Francisco, all 3 packages routed through Memphis, TN, much to my surprise; I guess that's where Fedex processes international shipments.

The 3rd box, however, which is the most important box, with the rear motor wheel, the other motor controller, the Cycle Analyst, Satiator charger and the bulk of my wiring parts, got hung up on a customs delay in Memphis more than a week ago. This past week, I called into Fedex every day of the week. On Monday, I received from Fedex, and emailed back to them, a Form 5106, declaring my SSN, which was required by CBP to clear the delay. I thought that was all there was to it, as that was what was requested. The status of the Fedex tracking page reads:

Clearance delay - Import
Shipment requires importer's registration/identification number for clearance. (Examples include EIN, SSN, VAT, GST, RFC, etc.)

I called again Tuesday through Thursday and there was no progress. All I got out of Fedex, from one agent, was that it was possibly just a random customs delay, like a spot check. On Friday, I finally got in touch with the Fedex Customs Tracing Specialist working my case. She required me to fill out another form--this time not editable, so I had to print it out, fill it out manually, and scan it--called an Electric Motor and Generator Worksheet. I also had to explain every line item on Grin's invoice in detailed language. I had to provide the tariff # from Chapter 85 of the Harmonized Tariff Schedule. I even had to specify whether the motor was brushed or brushless, AC or DC and the nominal wattage. Easy enough to answer, but seems oddly and overly bureaucratic to simply receive a DIY e-bike kit from Canada.

The tracing agent referred to my SSN as an EIN when we spoke, so I get the impression the tracing agent and CBP think this is a business transaction, even though I have stated unequivocally many times that this is a business-to-consumer purchase and these parts are for personal use only. We'll see what happens on Monday, but as of now this shipment is in indefinite customs hell limbo, and my bike build is on indefinite hold.

Has anyone ever encountered something like this before, either specifically for e-bike parts, or generally for imported packages? I've ordered a lot of components from overseas lately, mainly UK, Germany, Italy and China, so one theory is that somehow got me on CBP's radar, although for what I have no idea. Maybe they think I'm running some sort of illegal importing business or something? Nothing I've imported is for business, it's all stuff in the 10's to 100's of dollars range, and none of it is contraband though, so that doesn't really make sense. Another theory I have is that the tariff # Grin supplied for the motor seems to be bogus, maybe it was a typo, but I couldn't find it in the Harmonized Tariff Schedule, and perhaps that triggered some sort of red flag. Or perhaps a CBP officer saw the invoice and thought he could pull some sort of seizure or civil forfeiture and get himself a free e-bike kit--though it won't do him much good without the batteries and some other parts, so he will still have to spend a good chunk of dough, and there is zero basis for a seizure. Or being in Tennessee, maybe the CBP officer is just a good old boy and thought he would screw over a liberal San Franciscan leading up to our very contentious election in November. Or possibly this has something to do with Trump's trade war and they think these parts are coming from China by way of Canada; the only thing I found along those lines though was a policy that expired in August exempting e-bikes from import duties by classifying them as motorcycles. Again, that policy expired in August and only affected whole e-bikes, not kits of parts, but maybe a CBP officer is confused about what is the current policy. Those are my 5 reigning theories.

Any helpful advice for how to clear this package through customs would be greatly appreciated. Even if you are a business importer of some kind with a small business, even though I am just a consumer, any procedural advice about how to navigate the customs system successfully is welcome.

I've included some photos below of the hauling antics I've gotten up to with the R&M justifying my new DIY build. I've also attached the bureaucratic paperwork I've had to sort through if anyone is curious. It's not too complicated, but amounts to far too many hoops to jump through for a simple online transaction.

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Be very careful hauling that steel like that, perhaps you need a "microtruck" for the bigger items, some of the prebuilt "cargo bikes" would certainly be a better option in my opinion, your plans seem mighty ambitious, the best of luck to you.
 

Explorer-1

Well-Known Member
Disappointing Grin was not able to untangle the mess quickly, seems like something they may have had to deal with in the past. Sounds like Fed-Ex also need to move their warehouse.
 

bombadero

Active Member
Be very careful hauling that steel like that, perhaps you need a "microtruck" for the bigger items, some of the prebuilt "cargo bikes" would certainly be a better option in my opinion, your plans seem mighty ambitious, the best of luck to you.
@kmccune a cargo bike would be no better at hauling plate steel, and actually worse, as there is no place for a 3'x5' piece of plate steel to fit and that would exceed the bike's GVW. Those cargo bikes also have the same Bosch Performance CX motor my bike does. As with cars and trucks, you can tow a lot more than you can haul directly in the vehicle. The cargo e-bikes are basically the crossover SUVs of e-bikes. Towing with a properly designed bike trailer is perfectly safe. Note that the photo was taken after I got home and removed the ratchet straps and kayak straps securing it and two other pieces of steel. It was not just resting on that wood frame like that, it would have slid off as soon as I started pedaling, plate steel is very slippery.

That said, I have to wave people off of my Gorilla Mode mad cyclist experiment. I had written a lengthy explanation, but my browser randomly closed and I don't have the heart to re-write the whole thing. Suffice to say, high center of gravity and independently turning front wheels are an issue.
 

bombadero

Active Member
Disappointing Grin was not able to untangle the mess quickly, seems like something they may have had to deal with in the past. Sounds like Fed-Ex also need to move their warehouse.
Yes, I'm disappointed as well. I don't think they had to face this exact situation, but they should have handled it.
 

drewberz

Active Member
USPS typically clears packages faster/easier than the private carriers (FedEx, UPS), or so I have heard. My personal, but anecdotal, experience bears this out.

Looks like a cool project! Glad things got settled.
 

bombadero

Active Member
USPS typically clears packages faster/easier than the private carriers (FedEx, UPS), or so I have heard. My personal, but anecdotal, experience bears this out.

Looks like a cool project! Glad things got settled.
Thanks. I actually haven't related the latest in the saga regarding my components. My fork has also been an issue. I ordered a Wren Sports inverted fat bike fork on October 8th. Most frames nowadays are tapered, so a straight steer tube fork is a special order for them with additional lead time. I figure they probably have plenty of tapered forks in stock and simply fabricate the straight tube forks on demand. Anyway, it got expedited initially because the owner, Kevin Wren, didn't check the order and emailed me saying it would be shipped out the next day, then had to apologize because he hadn't read that it was a straight tube fork. I was actually still pretty pleased, because it would nevertheless be arriving before the typical lead time of 45-60 days. But then the weeks dragged on... and on. Eventually, it came out from the factory that they had had a fire which set them back about 3 weeks. They had initially not told him about it because they thought they could make up the lost time with extra shifts. I told Kevin I hoped no one was seriously injured and no worries, I could wait; after all we're still in that 45-60 day window. Then a couple of days ago, he informed me that they can't fulfill the order until January and apologized. It sounds like the 3 week estimate was another damage control fib, and the fire has set the factory back a couple of months.

Anyway, I agreed to take receipt of a tapered fork and use a bottom cup adapter, which he paid for. He rushed the shipping a day ago and it's on track to arrive today. It's sort of the inverse of the Grin experience--the owner himself took responsibility, personally handled it, paid for the adapter and rushed shipping to offset customer disappointment. Two prime examples of how to, and not to, do customer service when the SHTF. I'm disappointed in Grin, but supportive of their business and ethos, and so still loyal, with the caveat that in the future I have to temper my expectations. Whereas with Wren, despite the delay, I couldn't be more pleased and am steadfastly loyal to the brand now and would recommend them to anyone in the market for a fork or any of the other components they sell. I probably won't need a new fork again for quite a while, but if I do, they will be my first choice.

Adding an adapter will add another 20mm or so to what already proves to be an extremely highly angled cockpit compared to the rear of the bike. Fortunately, I've "prototyped" a little with the new seatpost and my saddle and it can still make up the difference for a comfortable saddle angle.

I also had an issue, non-shipping related, with my rear disc rotor. The frame is old, so I knew I would need an adapter, which I purchased. Unfortunately, that adapter, which consists of a pair of plates that fit over the axle and surround the dropouts, couldn't work, because I hadn't taken into account that the space where the inner plate goes, which ordinarily just has a spacer over the axle, is occupied with a collar for the torque arm on a wheel with a motor in it. Derp. Fortunately, I already had on hand another, cheaper kind of adapter that clamps around the seat tube, which I had at one point intended to use on our trike to mount a disc rotor in the rear as a parking brake to replace the existing rim-brake parking brake. The geometry didn't allow a disc rotor to fit, so I still had the adapter lying around. Unfortunately, after mounting a 180mm rotor on the rear wheel and trying to fit it, I discovered I had the same issue on this old MTB frame. I had some old 160mm rotors left over from when I upgraded the trike to 180's in the front, so I tried one of those out, and it still didn't fit. However that did allow me to determine that a 140 will fit, the minimum size you can get most rotors in these days. You can get off-brand generic rotors in 120, but I wanted to stay with a trusted brand for rotors based on past experience (I prefer Trickstuff). So I ordered a Trickstuff UL 140mm rotor, but also ordered a cheap, generic, $8 rotor from Amazon, because shipments from Germany take forever nowadays, so I could test it out. The cheapo rotor arrived in a few days and I've verified that it fits. So I will have almost as extreme of a mismatch on front and rear rotors as possible--203mm in the front, 140mm in the rear. The only way it could be more extreme is if I put a 223 in front and a generic 120 scooter rotor on the rear. But it should still work fine. I'm already used to different rotor characteristics from the R&M, because I switched it to a 203 in front and left the rear at 180.

In the meantime I've been touching up the paint on the old frame, which has some serious chips out of it, using UV-cured nail polish. I've seen other people doing this on Youtube with regular nail polish. My wife recommended UV-cured polish because it is super tough, stronger than regular polish. I managed to match the color perfectly, so standing back at a distance in regular lighting you can't even tell. It unfortunately doesn't cure flat with the rest of the paint because it requires 3 coats, giving the places where you apply it a texture where the paint strokes overlap the original paint, which I'm not thrilled by, but considering it's a used frame anyway and I'm mainly doing it to protect from corrosion rather than for aesthetic purposes, I'm, okay with it. I bought a cheap nail curing lamp on ebay, and it works great. It's designed to fit a single hand under it, but the curved shape turns out to work great for curing polish onto round bike frame tubing as well. It's also pretty easy to get around into weird angles. I tried holding it in place with a Snake Clamp, but unfortunately it's easier to just hold it in place, so I just listen to podcasts while I apply and cure coats of polish.
 
Last edited:

FlatSix911

Well-Known Member
Region
USA
City
Silicon Valley
Thanks. I actually haven't related the latest in the saga regarding my components. My fork has also been an issue. I ordered a Wren Sports inverted fat bike fork on October 8th. Most frames nowadays are tapered, so a straight steer tube fork is a special order for them with additional lead time. I figure they probably have plenty of tapered forks in stock and simply fabricate the straight tube forks on demand. Anyway, it got expedited initially because the owner, Kevin Wren, didn't check the order and emailed me saying it would be shipped out the next day, then had to apologize because he hadn't read that it was a straight tube fork. I was actually still pretty pleased, because it would nevertheless be arriving before the typical lead time of 45-60 days. But then the weeks dragged on... and on. Eventually, it came out from the factory that they had had a fire which set them back about 3 weeks. They had initially not told him about it because they thought they could make up the lost time with extra shifts. I told Kevin I hoped no one was seriously injured and no worries, I could wait; after all we're still in that 45-60 day window. Then a couple of days ago, he informed me that they can't fulfill the order until January and apologized. It sounds like the 3 week estimate was another damage control fib, and the fire has set the factory back a couple of months.

Anyway, I agreed to take receipt of a tapered fork and use a bottom cup adapter, which he paid for. He rushed the shipping a day ago and it's on track to arrive today. It's sort of the inverse of the Grin experience--the owner himself took responsibility, personally handled it, paid for the adapter and rushed shipping to offset customer disappointment. Two prime examples of how to, and not to, do customer service when the SHTF. I'm disappointed in Grin, but supportive of their business and ethos, and so still loyal, with the caveat that in the future I have to temper my expectations. Whereas with Wren, despite the delay, I couldn't be more pleased and am steadfastly loyal to the brand now and would recommend them to anyone in the market for a fork or any of the other components they sell. I probably won't need a new fork again for quite a while, but if I do, they will be my first choice.

Adding an adapter will add another 20mm or so to what already proves to be an extremely highly angled cockpit compared to the rear of the bike. Fortunately, I've "prototyped" a little with the new seatpost and my saddle and it can still make up the difference for a comfortable saddle angle.

I also had an issue, non-shipping related, with my rear disc rotor. The frame is old, so I knew I would need an adapter, which I purchased. Unfortunately, that adapter, which consists of a pair of plates that fit over the axle and surround the dropouts, couldn't work, because I hadn't taken into account that the space where the inner plate goes, which ordinarily just has an spacer over the axle, is occupied with a color for the torque arm on a wheel with a motor in it. Derp. Fortunately, I already had on hand another, cheaper kind of adapter that clamps around the seat tube, which I had at one point intended to use on our trike to mount a disc rotor in the rear as a parking brake to replace the existing rim-brake parking brake. The geometry didn't allow a disc rotor to fit, so I still had the adapter lying around. Unfortunately, after mounting a 180mm rotor on the rear wheel and trying to fit it, I discovered I had the same issue on this old MTB frame. I had some old 160mm rotors left over from when I upgraded the trike to 180's in the front, so I tried one of those out, and it still didn't fit. However that did allow me to determine that a 140 will fit, the minimum size you can get most rotors in these days. You can get off-brand generic rotors in 120, but I wanted to stay with a trusted brand for rotors based on past experience (I prefer Trickstuff). So I ordered a Trickstuff UL 140mm rotor, but also ordered a cheap, generic, $8 rotor from Amazon, because shipments from Germany take forever nowadays, so I could test it out. The cheapo rotor arrived in a few days and I've verified that it fits. So I will have almost as extreme of a mismatch on front and rear rotors as possible--203mm in the front, 140mm in the rear. The only way it could be more extreme is if I put a 223 in front and a generic 120 scooter rotor on the rear. But it should still work fine. I'm already used to different rotor characteristics from the R&M, because I switched it to a 203 in front and left the rear at 180.

In the meantime I've been touching up the paint on the old frame, which has some serious chips out of it, using UV-cured nail polish. I've seen other people doing this on Youtube with regular nail polish. My wife recommended UV-cured polish because it is super tough, stronger than regular polish. I managed to match the color perfectly, so standing back at a distance in regular lighting you can't even tell. It unfortunately doesn't cure flat with the rest of the paint because it requires 3 coats, giving the places where you apply it a texture where the paint strokes overlap the original paint, which I'm not thrilled by, but considering it's a used frame anyway and I'm mainly doing it to protect from corrosion rather than for aesthetic purposes, I'm, okay with it. I bought a cheap nail curing lamp on ebay, and it works great. It's designed to fit a single hand under it, but the curved shape turns out to work great for curing polish onto round bike frame tubing as well. It's also pretty easy to get around into weird angles. I tried holding it in place with a Snake Clamp, but unfortunately it's easier to just hold it in place, so I just listen to podcasts while I apply and cure coats of polis
I just read your thread and see that you have planned a very cool build... please post more photos when you start assembly! ;)
 

matmat

New Member
Hey bombadero, I wanted to thank you for your series of posts describing your situation.

I ended up in the exact same circumstances and thanks to your posts, I called Grin right away and got on the phone with Robbie (with no wait at all). Next day, Robbie emailed FedEx the worksheet they required, I emailed FedEx a CBP 5106, and later that day, the package was released. Robbie said they'd had a few customers by now who ran into this problem.

A couple of notes for anyone in the US thinking of ordering from Grin.

1. Next time, I will ship stuff using CanadaPost and USPS. Although I live in Southern California, FedEx still sent my package to Memphis, TN for sorting and customs. Then, it sat there for almost 3 weeks before I heard from them.
2. The only reason we had to go through this rigmarole was the Phaserunner USB programming cable that I ordered. An $18 cable in an order that cost north of $1,000. If you don't want to risk this hassle, suggest you order that cable through a US-based distributor or ship using CanadaPost & USPS.
3. FedEx's email servers wouldn't accept email from my email server; perhaps they're very picky about potential spam hosts (which I am not). I had to fall back to a GMail account.
4. I ordered a custom wheelbuild with a GMAC and the torque arm was not included. I think they're having some issues bringing the new staff up to speed. You may want to call them up to ensure that the torque arm is included, if it's not explicitly on your order.
5. Grin packed my order super well. Everything arrived in great shape, including a second rim. (Still missing the torque arm, though.)

Alright, well I finally got my final package cleared. We'll see what shape it is in when it arrives, hopefully some time tomorrow. Grin I'm sad to say was less than helpful. After they 'took over' the process of handling the import of my package, which they should have done from the start, nearly two weeks went by with no movement. Basically the Fedex agent and Grin went back and forth with the agent saying "I need the composition of these wires" and Grin saying "The sheathing isn't aluminum but may contain aluminized material if that's the issue" and submitting yet another worksheet for the wire. Finally, I looked up the HTS code they provided on the worksheet, and sure enough it is very vague, and doesn't really mention composition at all. Since a number of cables in the other two shipments had already arrived, I went downstairs, grabbed a battery cable, pulled off the shrink wrap sleeve and read the side of the cable. I came up with the number E330104, which turns out to be a UL license belonging to the manufacturer of the cable, DONGGUAN JIAPENG INDUSTRIAL CO LTD, which I found on a site called iq.ul.com. Under that license they had two styles of cable listed, one was 1015, which is another number on the side of the cable I have. It conforms to a couple of standards, 2651 and the more relevant one, UL 758. UL 758 was inconclusive, as you need an ASTM number to determine composition, which these cables don't have printed on them. Style 1015 however turns out to be a UL style, so looked that up and found more than one manufacturer listing its composition as tinned copper. I verified this visually by inspecting the cables and doing an image search, finding that tinned copper appears coppery end-on but silvery when viewed from the side, and the cables I have look like that. I conveyed all of this to the Fedex agent and also that I don't have this information for the smaller cables in the shipment, but apparently that was sufficient to clear it for shipment. Hopefully the Tennessee CBP agents didn't piss in my statorade. Oh, and the total tariffs levied in the end? $0.00 (USD).

So what are the lessons learned? I guess one is that if you plan on ordering e-bike parts or kits from overseas, try to avoid Fedex, which imports into Memphis, TN, where the CBP officers seem to be particularly excited about prosecuting Trump's trade war against China, and they might hold up your shipment for weeks over a handful of cables or other small parts that might possibly contain aluminum. Also, if you can, I would try to order parts like that separately from your other parts like batteries and motors, which they don't seem to care about at all, surprisingly. If you are shipping a whole e-bike, that's apparently a different ball of yarn. They were excluded from tariffs under a special rule treating them as electric motorcycles up until a couple of months ago, but that rule has expired.

Also, the importer of record is not you, but the person you are buying from. So if you get an import delay like this, the vendor needs to clear it up. If they tell you it's on you because as the recipient of the package you are the 'importer', they don't know what they're talking about and you need to hound them until they deal with it. That is part of the perfect storm that happened here; a lower level Grin employee was ignorant of the actual way of doing things, and told me I had to deal with it, which I did for about 2 weeks until Rob finally got wind of it and jumped into it.

And if for some reason, as happened to me, you need to jump in and clear it up yourself in the end anyway, well, I don't know what to say about that, except that if your Google fu is strong, you will prevail eventually, but if not... good luck. Eventually maxes out at 35 days, because by then CBP is required by law to either release or seize the shipment. But I also learned that the laws really only apply if the CBP cares about them, so it depends entirely on what officers you get assigned, which is completely opaque. I never spoke with a CBP officer, only Fedex custom tracing agents. And of course all of this only applies to Fedex; I have no idea how the process goes with any other carrier and hope to never find out. I did learn a lot more about international importing and tariff standards and UL standards than I ever thought I would, and it was kind of interesting. I feel like I need to start my own e-bike part international drop-shipping company now :p.

Now the only thing delayed is my front fork.
 

FlatSix911

Well-Known Member
Region
USA
City
Silicon Valley
Hey bombadero, I wanted to thank you for your series of posts describing your situation.
I ended up in the exact same circumstances and thanks to your posts, I called Grin right away and got on the phone with Robbie (with no wait at all). Next day, Robbie emailed FedEx the worksheet they required, I emailed FedEx a CBP 5106, and later that day, the package was released. Robbie said they'd had a few customers by now who ran into this problem. A couple of notes for anyone in the US thinking of ordering from Grin.

1. Next time, I will ship stuff using CanadaPost and USPS. Although I live in Southern California, FedEx still sent my package to Memphis, TN for sorting and customs. Then, it sat there for almost 3 weeks before I heard from them.
2. The only reason we had to go through this rigmarole was the Phaserunner USB programming cable that I ordered. An $18 cable in an order that cost north of $1,000. If you don't want to risk this hassle, suggest you order that cable through a US-based distributor or ship using CanadaPost & USPS.
3. FedEx's email servers wouldn't accept email from my email server; perhaps they're very picky about potential spam hosts (which I am not). I had to fall back to a GMail account.
4. I ordered a custom wheelbuild with a GMAC and the torque arm was not included. I think they're having some issues bringing the new staff up to speed. You may want to call them up to ensure that the torque arm is included, if it's not explicitly on your order.
5. Grin packed my order super well. Everything arrived in great shape, including a second rim. (Still missing the torque arm, though.)
Good to know... thanks for posting.
 

bombadero

Active Member
Hey bombadero, I wanted to thank you for your series of posts describing your situation.

I ended up in the exact same circumstances and thanks to your posts, I called Grin right away and got on the phone with Robbie (with no wait at all). Next day, Robbie emailed FedEx the worksheet they required, I emailed FedEx a CBP 5106, and later that day, the package was released. Robbie said they'd had a few customers by now who ran into this problem.

A couple of notes for anyone in the US thinking of ordering from Grin.

1. Next time, I will ship stuff using CanadaPost and USPS. Although I live in Southern California, FedEx still sent my package to Memphis, TN for sorting and customs. Then, it sat there for almost 3 weeks before I heard from them.
2. The only reason we had to go through this rigmarole was the Phaserunner USB programming cable that I ordered. An $18 cable in an order that cost north of $1,000. If you don't want to risk this hassle, suggest you order that cable through a US-based distributor or ship using CanadaPost & USPS.
3. FedEx's email servers wouldn't accept email from my email server; perhaps they're very picky about potential spam hosts (which I am not). I had to fall back to a GMail account.
4. I ordered a custom wheelbuild with a GMAC and the torque arm was not included. I think they're having some issues bringing the new staff up to speed. You may want to call them up to ensure that the torque arm is included, if it's not explicitly on your order.
5. Grin packed my order super well. Everything arrived in great shape, including a second rim. (Still missing the torque arm, though.)
It's good to hear that they have improved their process. I agree about Canada Post. I ordered another $100 or so of cables, the thing that got one of my big orders in trouble, and it sailed right through customs. Having ordered it via Canada Post and being delivered to San Francisco, it went straight down the coast to SFO. I should note that they have told me they have to stick with Fedex for certain international orders, because Canada Post is not an international shipping provider. So if you live outside of North America or in the south, southeast or northeast, for instance, you might not be able to use Canada Post. If Fedex is the only option, you will likely route through Memphis.

To be clear, I still support Grin and plan to use them again when I someday rebuild my wife's trike, which is inevitable because GSD (the manufacturer of the factory standard kit for the trike) is being liquidated, the 250W motor is a bit underpowered for steep hill climbing with cargo, and being disabled they sometimes need a throttle when they temporarily lose motor control in one leg. I just feel a little burnt by the experience; glad it was a teachable moment for future orders though.

Another thing to add to your numbered list is that sometimes when they don't have small parts in stock, you can find them online from other stores. They also do business with other vendors who buy some of their smaller hardware in bulk for resale. I had to do that with the USB->TTL programming cable and some bottle bobs.
 
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bombadero

Active Member
Haven't added anything in a while; unfortunately the tapered fork wouldn't fit my frame. I misunderstood how the adapters worked; they are only tall enough to work with chamfered straight headtubes, not prefectly straight ones, so I had to RMA it and just have to wait until January for Wren's factory partner to come back online for forging straight steer tube forks, which I assume I won't get until some time late January or February, so the bikes is in pieces gathering dust until then. I have some other work I can do until then, but the fork kind of blocks most of the build, so I'm focusing on other things until then. I'll post progress pics when I have any.
 

bombadero

Active Member
Well I finally have some updates on my build. I've resolved most, but not all of my component sourcing issues and progress is occurring slowly. I finished repairing the paint on the frame using UV-cured, 3-coat nail polish. It's a bit thick, it certainly isn't a seamless finish, but seems to be very durable, the stuff is rock hard. I would have liked a more aesthetically pleasing result, but it's an old frame anyway, my main concern is corrosion resistance and being a two-motor, two battery build, it's not going to be very noticeable. I bought some Testor's model paint in gold flake and flat gray; I was going to use a liner brush to decorate it with little drawings of cool manly things like ravens and skulls and things, but it turned out to be very difficult to control the flow of the model paint on the slick bike paint, so I ended up just doing some abstract line patterns over the most obvious/largest splotches of nail polish. I applied helicopter tape to the stays, at the bottom back of the seat tube to prevent damage there from the bolt on the kickstand, on the bottom bit of the top of the down tube, and on the top of the top tube between the cable guides where it gets scratched up. I taped the ends of the chain stays with automotive wire loom tape, which I've found to be very durable and long-lasting for bicycle applications. It holds up very well under moisture and temperature extremes, is very thin, and adheres extremely well. I also threw a neoprene chain guard on the drive side chain stay.

Kevin Wren unfortunately just couldn't give me any sort of date on a straight steer tube fork, the factory he orders from is still buried under a backlog from their fire near the end of last year. I was unsure what I would do, until I started looking into downhill/XC/racing forks. These were mainly double-crown/triple tube forks, which had the AC height I required and mostly have straight steer tubes. There are only a couple, but there are some built to accommodate fat bike tires as well. Unfortunately, they are mostly built with 20mm axles and I have 15mm axle adapters on the front motor. This led me to discover DNM, and their USD-6 Fat fork, which is very similar to the Wren fork, although it is not a double-crown fork. It is USD like the Wren though, with almost the same dimensions. I got a full refund from Wren and plunked down for the DNM fork. The Wren is still better because it has keyed stanchions to prevent twisting, and longer adjustable travel. I can also order 20mm axle adapters from Grin in the future if need be, so if the DNM has issues I have the double-crown racing forks as a back-up option; and hopefully also the Wren, some day. I was talking to Kyle Bolton of Bolton e-bikes at one point because he has a fat bike fork he sells, but he didn't think it would work for my bike. However, he runs the DNM USD-6 Fat on a 6kW Bolton Blackbird, a personal bike, and hasn't had any issues with stanchion twisting.

I did have issues with the spacers for the front axle. The motor is spaced 100mm and the fork is 150mm, so I had to buy a spacer kit so it will fit properly. Unfortunately, the spacers have zero tolerance, so they don't slide onto the axle even when both are heavily greased. I got one wedged on the axle and had to go to town in a vice with a soft mallet, a screwdriver and pair of vice grips to get it back off. The one spacer is all gouged up now, so I plan to try to polish it back up on a bench grinder/with a Dremel, then use the Dremel to lightly remove some material from the inside of the spacers to allow them to slide onto the axle properly.

I finally got my Ursus double-kickstand mounted nicely, although it took a bit of work on the old frame. I had some issues with the rear fender; I had my previous SKS P65 and a couple of SKS Bluemels 65's and had to experiment to find the right fit. I ended up going with the P65 because the other two (one of which is custom built for R&M for the 2017 Homage GT Nuvinci) don't quite fit the geometry and mounting holes on my frame. I also did something stupid and tried to cut one of the v-stays to separate the stays on my metal chop saw and didn't really clamp it properly, so it just created a lot of noise and sparks and mangled the v-stay. Doh. I have more v-stays on order. I want to cut them to separate the stays so I can use some left over Bluemels 65 hardware to add a little extra height and adjustability to the stays, because the tolerance with the tire is pretty tight and I had rubbing issues on the old build with 26x2.1" tires. I also had to order a stronger pair of cutters, because my current cutters aren't up to cutting the stays (which is why I tried the chop saw).

I had a Surly Extraterrestrial 26x2.5" tire on the back, and it fits in the frame, but unfortunately I found that it rubs in several locations: the fender, left chainstay, neoprene chain guard and one other location I can't recall. Fortunately I also had the same tire in 26x46c, and swapped out for that. I have also ordered some Schwalbe Pick-Up 26x2.15" tires, a new cargo tire that can handle up to 155 kg load, and that will likely be my go-to in the future, as I have found the Surly tires really difficult to come by (and the Pick-Up is just an awesome, and frankly superior tire for this application).

I managed to get a rear disc brake adapter, IS-PM adapter and rear brake on, but I have serious problems there. I completely spaced out the Grin torque arm, which is massive rather than a little splined washer like other manufacturers use, and both adapters interfere with it. The A2Z DM-Uni on there now actually doesn't even fit properly on my stays even though it's supposed to be universal. Also, I have a 140mm Trickstuff rotor, and a 140mm Shimano IS-PM adapter, but for some reason the brake caliper (Magura MT-5E) looks like it is sitting about 10-20mm too high. So I've had to completely re-think that. I've settled on using a Chasertech adapter, which is the only one I could find that doesn't have any hardware inside the dropout. I will have to drill an additional hole in it, which I plan to use to mount it to the fender eyelet with the fender bolt. It has a huge, swiveling, stabilizing arm that is supposed to fit one end over the v-brake posts on old frames like mine. That doesn't work for me, because in addition to the disc brakes I'm using my old Paul Components rear cantis in conjunction with a friction shifter as a parking brake (a trick I learned from working on our recumbent trike). Worst case scenario, I can ditch that idea and use the post. I currently use cinchies that came with a Clickstand kickstand I bought to achieve the same thing on the R&M, but it's kind of cumbersome and I like the functionality of a convenient parking brake like on the trike. I ordered a second frame clamp, like the one that comes with the torque arm kit, from Grin. Rather than putting the far end of the stabilizer bar over the v-brake post, I will bolt it to the Grin frame clamp, which attaches to the stay with a couple of stainless pipe clamps. It should work perfectly, but we'll see. I also ordered a +0mm IS adapter from Paul Components to see if that solves the caliper depth issue. The worst case scenario is that it will now be too low, in which case I plan to just build it back up gradually with washers until it's optimal.

Oh, and the original CBP drama that started this post continues. Fedex is trying to charge me $85 in false tariffs and it's currently gone to collections. I refuse to pay the full amount because CBP changed the tariff codes from the manifest to maximize the tariff amount. I looked up each tariff code in the HTS, and they used an incorrect code, which doesn't apply to any of my parts, and cited the wrong country of origin, CN (China), when the parts in question are actually all identified as CA (Canada) on the original manifest. When you use the correct code and country of origin, all of those tariffs go from 20% to 0%. I wrote Fedex an email outlining everything but they ignored it and sent it to collections, so now I am planning on writing a letter and sending it via snail mail, with a check for the amount I legally owe, which is something like $14, which is mostly Fedex administrative fees, and a little under $2 in valid tariffs.

Some photos:

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