E-bike for a VERY extended trip...

Mark Troup

New Member
I recently completed a long cross country trek on foot. Started in Santa Monica, CA and backpacked to Myrtle Beach, SC. It was an eight month hike carrying 50+ lbs, camping the whole way. It was simultaneously the best and worst time of my life. It got to a point where I just dreaded putting on that heavy pack each morning. I cannot wait to do another long trip like this but I don't think I want to go on foot this time. I think it would be a lot more fun with wheels and panniers, and have been looking at e-bikes. I'm planning on staying out somewhere between 18-24 months and covering about 6000 miles, possibly more.

I've been looking at all categories of e-bikes, but keep coming back to fat bikes as I'm planning to do a lot more trail riding than road riding. And "trail" may be a fairly generous term--a lot of the ridingwill be on stuff you could barely consider a trail. There will be a lot of poorly maintained service roads out west, along with sections of open desert. I don't expect to be riding through a ton of wet weather or snow, but I'll probably face both at one time or another. I'll be carrying a second battery for extra range.

My big questions are how to pull this off with the fewest hiccups. A mid-drive seems to make sense for the extra torque and less maintenance, as well as ease of maintenance of flats, etc. but the mids seem soooo much more expensive than the geared hub motors. I could just burn through three Sand Vipers for the price of a Felt Outfitter!

I'm also not opposed to a mountain bike (as opposed to fat bike) or doing a custom build myself with components. Anyway, I thought I'd throw the idea out here and see what you guys think, and what obvious problems I'm completely overlooking. I don't think charging will be a problem. I had to charge different electronics on my backpacking trip and was always able to get by, although it goes without saying that I'd rather spend 3.5 hours charging a battery than 6 hours. Thanks for any advice.
 

Mark Troup

New Member
Just wanted to add that I would prefer to have the option of throttle on demand as opposed to just a pedal assist system.
 

George S.

Well-Known Member
The value mid-drive is the Bafang (8Fun) BBS02 or HD (coming soon).

You need a lot of solar to recharge, like a 100w panel. The electronics are a little complicated.

You should ride mountain bikes and fat bikes, either of which can be converted with a kit. You might want to carry parts for the motor so, again, a kit motor is a good choice.

This site discusses performance fat bikes using the Bafang mid-drive

http://electric-fatbike.com/
 

Mark Troup

New Member
I think a conversion may be the way to go. Those Bafang conversions are pretty sweet. Not planning on using solar for recharging though. There's a lot of places on the road where you can plug in for free.
 

David1

Active Member
Justin from Grin Technologies based out of Vancover B.C. just rode 4K across N. America. Not on what you will ride, he will be a great fount of of knowledge to ask advice. Get ready with your questions, there is probably no one better to speak with on e-bikes. Congrats on your trek ,awesome,!
 

J.R.

Well-Known Member
A mid-drive seems to make sense for the extra torque and less maintenance, as well as ease of maintenance of flats, etc.
I don't have experience with a mid-drive other than having ridden a few, but I did put more than 6000 miles on an ebike in the past 12 months and I wouldn't consider a mid-drive as less maintenance than a hub drive. Easier to fix a flat but any failure with any of the bike's drive components like bottom bracket, cranks, chain, chain ring, derailleur, etc... will leave you walking, but with a direct drive hub and throttle you still ride. Fixing a flat with a hub drive isn't difficult, it just takes a little more time. For simplicity and ease of maintenance you can't beat a direct drive hub.
 

Mark Troup

New Member
My specs: this trip is still two years away so I'll be 49 years young when I depart. I weigh about 140-150 and I'll be carrying about 70 lbs of gear, that's a high estimate, and it will vary a bit depending on how much water I'm hauling around. I'm less concerned about speed than range and hills. The trip will be trying to hit most of the National Parks in the Lower 48, and possibly a couple of the Alaskan parks so I can swing by Whitehorse and visit my brother. So there will be some fairly steep grades along the way.

I could carry a lot less gear if I had to, but I'm expecting the bike to make the heavier load possible.
 

Mark Troup

New Member
I don't have experience with a mid-drive other than having ridden a few, but I did put more than 6000 miles on an ebike in the past 12 months and I wouldn't consider a mid-drive as less maintenance than a hub drive. Easier to fix a flat but any failure with any of the bike's drive components like bottom bracket, cranks, chain, chain ring, derailleur, etc... will leave you walking, but with a direct drive hub and throttle you still ride. Fixing a flat with a hub drive isn't difficult, it just takes a little more time. For simplicity and ease of maintenance you can't beat a direct drive hub.
Thanks! This is exactly the kind of info I needed to know. :)
 

one4torque

Active Member
Logistics - I would have friend or family member keep spares for you at home-base, and just have them fed-exed to an upcoming stopping point on your trip, rather than carry all spares.
I'm very interested in your trip. I would love to do something similar.
If you don't mind sharing your route...... I might duplicate part of it someday.
 

Mark Troup

New Member
Logistics - I would have friend or family member keep spares for you at home-base, and just have them fed-exed to an upcoming stopping point on your trip, rather than carry all spares.
I'm very interested in your trip. I would love to do something similar.
If you don't mind sharing your route...... I might duplicate part of it someday.
I'm still working the route out. The trickiest part is trying to match the route with the weather. I'm trying to keep away from the heavy winter stuff so I can stick with three-season gear. A long solo trek is an incredible experience whether on foot or on bike. You find out a lot of stuff about yourself. On my cross country hike I met a Brit named Andrew who was on the final leg of his around-the-world bike tour: Europe-Asia-Australia-NZ-Fiji-US. I was terribly jealous of his 80-mile days while I struggled to log 20 miles a day.
 

J.R.

Well-Known Member
I met a guy last spring on our local rail trail that bikes 100 miles a day on average. He told me he summered 2014 in the Canadian Rockies and wintered in Texas, when I met him in Pennsylvania he was on his way to summer in Maine. Very jealous of his travels and a little embarrassed of my normal 34+/- miles daily by ebike when he did 100 by regular bike:eek: It didn't help he was roughly the same age (50 something):confused:

You should look at the rail-trails in North America for your trip. A lot of history to see there and grades are gentle.
 

flymeaway

Well-Known Member
I weigh about 140-150 and I'll be carrying about 70 lbs of gear

OK...so you'll be riding a 50+, probably 60+ lb. bike. Did you consider the 2nd battery in your calculation of 70 lbs.? You'll be pushing 280 lbs. over rugged terrain and grades at slow speed. IMO the biggest concern is the right bike for the job, and at low speeds, high torque, I'd only consider a mid-drive. The reason I'd only consider a MD is load and heat. At slow speed with high loads a hub drive is inefficient and will draw a lot of amperage, turning slowly which will create a lot of heat. At low speeds and the proper gearing, a MD motor will be running at a higher speed requiring less amperage and generating less heat. Give a lot of consideration to the gear ratios you'll want for climbing and flat terrain cruising. The hub motor would be a good choice if you were not going to encounter any significant terrain or steep long grades. The drawback to the hub motor for you, is the fact that it rotates at the speed of the rear wheel. A geared hub will be turning faster then a direct drive hub, but both will be turning slower then the mid-drive. The mid-drive turns at the speed of the crank, which you can optimize based on gear ratios for whatever conditions you anticipate. The trade-off will be speed on flats versus powering up difficult terrain and grades with less effort (you and the motor).

You should also make certain that whatever system you use is waterproof, or as close to waterproof as you can get. You're going to need a good battery that fits on the down-tube so you can free up space in back for a good set of panniers. I would consider not taking a second battery. Instead, I'd spend the money for a battery box and large capacity battery (custom made if necessary), 20AH @ 48V.

Court J.
 

Mark Troup

New Member
OK...so you'll be riding a 50+, probably 60+ lb. bike. Did you consider the 2nd battery in your calculation of 70 lbs.? You'll be pushing 280 lbs. over rugged terrain and grades at slow speed. IMO the biggest concern is the right bike for the job, and at low speeds, high torque, I'd only consider a mid-drive. The reason I'd only consider a MD is load and heat. At slow speed with high loads a hub drive is inefficient and will draw a lot of amperage, turning slowly which will create a lot of heat. At low speeds and the proper gearing, a MD motor will be running at a higher speed requiring less amperage and generating less heat. Give a lot of consideration to the gear ratios you'll want for climbing and flat terrain cruising. The hub motor would be a good choice if you were not going to encounter any significant terrain or steep long grades. The drawback to the hub motor for you, is the fact that it rotates at the speed of the rear wheel. A geared hub will be turning faster then a direct drive hub, but both will be turning slower then the mid-drive. The mid-drive turns at the speed of the crank, which you can optimize based on gear ratios for whatever conditions you anticipate. The trade-off will be speed on flats versus powering up difficult terrain and grades with less effort (you and the motor).

You should also make certain that whatever system you use is waterproof, or as close to waterproof as you can get. You're going to need a good battery that fits on the down-tube so you can free up space in back for a good set of panniers. I would consider not taking a second battery. Instead, I'd spend the money for a battery box and large capacity battery (custom made if necessary), 20AH @ 48V.

Court J.
Thanks, lots of good food for thought there. The 70 lb estimate was including 10 for extra battery and another 5 for bike tools and maintenance. I'm definitely going to need to take a long look at the tradeoffs and make a few hard decisions.
 

George S.

Well-Known Member
Hi Mark,

This vendor (Paul in Hong Kong) offers some battery packs that you can charge very fast. I think he lists these packs as 12A. The cells are quite commonly used, but he has a great rep. Most chargers are 2-5A. If you can find spots to charge it makes it a lot simpler. You may want to dig around for chargers, and double check on charge rates, but I can see roughly what you want. Even if you had two chargers and fully charged two batteries, it would only be 15 cents worth of power.

http://em3ev.com/store/index.php?route=product/product&path=35&product_id=128

Fascinating stuff. Hope we can help.
 

JoePah

Well-Known Member
@Mark Troup you must have been in phenomenal shape! Congratulations to you.

You and your next grand adventure are the least likely to want or need an electric bicycle.

I've taken shorter trips on bicycles with my buddies and no support van or anyone ready to bail us out, and can tell you simplicity and quality is the key.. Anything and everything can fail during your trip, usually at night and in the rain.. You want a bike YOU can fix and one where spare parts are easy to find.

Elecgtric bikes are very heavy, 50-60 lbs just for the bike plus your stuff.. not good for someone who may be hoofing it over rough trails.
Electric bikes do not like to be banged around and soaked on a daily basis.. something likely during a cross country trip
Electric bikes are very difficult to repair on the road, and it's not likely that some small town with some small LBS will have that Bosch part you need.
Electric bikes will only last a few hours then you need to find a electric source to charge for 3 hours.. something not likely during a trip you describe.

IMO, given your level of fitness a high quality folding bike would be nice.

The Montague Military Paratrooper is designed for people like you, and people swear by them. When you want to hop on a bus or train getting around will be much easier.

http://www.montaguebikes.com/demo-for-folding-bike.html

And if that's not your style then looking into hardtails from Specialized or Santa Cruz etc... FS bike tend to be higher maintenance so I'd avoid them.
I would also avoid hydraulic brakes.. which can be tough to fix on the road.. many fine mechanical brakes are around like the Avid BB7.

I'd also avoid fat bikes for tough trails.. They don't handle nearly as well as a DH or one track mountain bike.

Have fun planning.

Do you have a trip course yet?
 

Mark Troup

New Member
@Mark Troup you must have been in phenomenal shape! Congratulations to you.

You and your next grand adventure are the least likely to want or need an electric bicycle.

I've taken shorter trips on bicycles with my buddies and no support van or anyone ready to bail us out, and can tell you simplicity and quality is the key.. Anything and everything can fail during your trip, usually at night and in the rain.. You want a bike YOU can fix and one where spare parts are easy to find.

Elecgtric bikes are very heavy, 50-60 lbs just for the bike plus your stuff.. not good for someone who may be hoofing it over rough trails.
Electric bikes do not like to be banged around and soaked on a daily basis.. something likely during a cross country trip
Electric bikes are very difficult to repair on the road, and it's not likely that some small town with some small LBS will have that Bosch part you need.
Electric bikes will only last a few hours then you need to find a electric source to charge for 3 hours.. something not likely during a trip you describe.

IMO, given your level of fitness a high quality folding bike would be nice.

The Montague Military Paratrooper is designed for people like you, and people swear by them. When you want to hop on a bus or train getting around will be much easier.

http://www.montaguebikes.com/demo-for-folding-bike.html

And if that's not your style then looking into hardtails from Specialized or Santa Cruz etc... FS bike tend to be higher maintenance so I'd avoid them.
I would also avoid hydraulic brakes.. which can be tough to fix on the road.. many fine mechanical brakes are around like the Avid BB7.

I'd also avoid fat bikes for tough trails.. They don't handle nearly as well as a DH or one track mountain bike.

Have fun planning.

Do you have a trip course yet?
Thanks for the input , Joe. I took a look at a bunch of non-electric options after seeing your post and pretty quickly fell in lust with the Surly ECR, a 29+ mid-fat that seems to be purpose built for exactly (almost) what I have in mind. I was originally thinking that an electric bike would allow me to really load up on gear and let me be a pack rat with regard to what I could bring on the trip. The Surly ECR will definitely require more of an ultralight set of camping gear than I originally had in mind, but I think the ability to handle my own trail maintenance (and the accompanying peace of mind) will probably make the tradeoff worthwhile. There is a site specifically dedicated to the kind of hybrid rugged biking-backpacking that I had in mind called bikepacking.com, and I'm finding it to be an excellent resource.

I'm still a fan of e-bikes in general, but I think in my specific case you may be right. I may need to scratch that itch with a Pedego Stretch at some point in the future. ;)
 

JoePah

Well-Known Member
Oh eBikes are great for running around town. You can live without a car for those 15 mile trips. Just buy something inexpensive, plenty to choose from.

Surly ECR looks like a great choice, 4140 chrome moly steel frame mech brakes, solid suspension... Don't like the handlebar position, but that is a matter of comfort.

Also, you could buy an eBike kit to use on your Surly.. And drop it when you make your trip.

http://www.ebay.com