Specialized ROLL Hub Conversion - Q&A

Browneye

Well-Known Member
In another thread here - Turning Your bike into an Electric Bike - I posted a lot of detail and got a ton of questions answered in making this conversion. And I often get inquiries and comments, and it seems there are others doing the same to this or similar pedal bikes, so let's have a thread just for this - I'll post what I learned, and some pics and then we can have a Q&A place for this project for any newcomers.

I had a lot of questions when contemplating this conversion and @stanmiller and @Thomas Jaszewski and @harryS were a great wealth of information. And due to Stan's success with importing from China from the same company, it gave me the confidence to jump into it.

The Roll is a particularly good candidate for a conversion due to it's relaxed ergos, balloon tires, disc brakes, and it's a really solid bike. Plus the Bafang geared hub and wheel assembly simply drops right in without any modifications or challenges.

I got this kit: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B07P736XGM/ref=ppx_yo_dt_b_asin_title_o05_s00?ie=UTF8&th=1&psc=1
Just to fill in details for when or if it becomes unavailable, this is a Bafang 500w geared hub, the larger housing - 170mm overall diameter. There are a lot of kits out there with the smaller 158mm hub. My thought was the bigger hub would have bigger gears and over all more heavy duty, so more appealing. I don't know for sure or not, but seemed logical. My assumption is this larger hub is the same one they use for their 750w offering. Hailong 11.8ah battery with Panasonic cells, C961 display, 27.5" wheelset with Freewheel cassette.

This amazon/ebay/aliexpress seller - Greenergy whom is a distributor for Bluenergy products. The latter sells on AliExpress. The advantage with the former is they have a warehouse/office and support line in Las Vegas, so state-side, but no one is clear if they actually answer the phone and/or can provide actual assistance or warranty coverage. Seems like a good idea though, lends confidence.

They also purport to spec Panasonic cells in their batteries which lends confidence to usability and performance. So far we're more than thrilled with our setup. We got the Hailong ('tube') battery in the 12ah size - seems to be good for about 40-50 miles or so. If you're looking for longest range the 17ah battery is a good option and relatively inexpensive when spec'ing it up front. The Hailong case bolts right up to the bottle carrier bosses on the downtube on the Roll - easy-peasy. The rear rack battery is another option, but frankly the way the Hailong sets up on the downtube I would recommend it. The Hailong case has been updated with better battery connection contacts, and a more sturdy metal mounting plate.

I opted for the plain-jane C961 display, it's the cheap one, and really, it works just fine. Some of the fancy color displays are over-kill in my opinion - all you really need is your charge level and a quick look at your assist level, and then speedo and odo - they all do this. The trends are actually moving away from a fancy display - kind of overkill for an ebike. In any case, choose which one you think you would like for your kit. The Hailong case does have a USB port for charging your phone on your ride.

The Roll has a 7-gear Freewheel cassette, so if you're spec'ing another kit keep this in mind. The one linked above has a Shimano cassette in the box - you simply screw it on to your geared hub, and change the disc from your stock hub to the new hub-drive. They provide different (shorter) screws - use those as the stock ones are too long. If you get a hub without a cassette you'll need a chain-hold tool and freewheel socket tool to remove your stock one and install on the new hub. I liked the idea of a complete wheel and gear assembly so if something happened to the hub drive I could simply just swap the whole thing back to stock.

It is pretty well accepted that disc brakes are a necessity for an ebike, so the Roll models with either cable or hydraulic discs is recommended. If you have hydraulic brakes, or integrated shifter/brake lever units, you'll want to specify 'brake sensor cables' in lieu of bafang brake handles. They work fine, easy to install - as soon as you grab for either brake it kills the motor assist.

I have one setup that way because our Roll has integrated shifter/brake all in one. I did remove the left shifter and used the bafang brake handle, sourced a single-chain crankset - it simplified the bar setup, got rid of the clutter at the crank. In our case the wife never shifted the front deraileur anyway, and now with assist it's a foregone conclusion. I can provide a link for that if you're interested - several options for about $50 for a nice single-ring crank set with 170mm arms (stock length). Otherwise setting it up with the stock gearing is just fine - the elite and sport models come with 28-38-48 chain rings - I opted for a 42T single and it's perfect for her. If you like a little more speed then a 44 or 46 makes sense. She's happy with about 20mph, mostly cruising about 16-18. I have also ordered a seperate Shimano 7spd trigger-shifter so I can use the other brake handle from the kit - ours has cable actuated discs. For hydraulic brakes you'll want the magnetic sensors for sure.

You'll also need a bottom-bracket tool so you can remove the crank, the crank arms and the actual crank, so you can install the pedal sensor - either will work once you get it apart, but really I think the metal ring sandwiched in the bottom bracket bearing set is a really clean setup. And it works really well. There are two tools - one removes the crank arms, the other the bearing rings in the bottom-bracket. I was able to tap loose the set rings without the spline tool, shade-tree mechanic style. The tools are pretty cheap and makes the job cleaner and easier. You could also have your LBS remove these for you for a fee. Same for removing a freewheel cassette.

The rim they provide is pretty narrow - so setting the balloon 2.3" rear tire up on it is a bit of a trick, but do-able and works fine once it's aired up. Also the spokes are black with bright nipples, whereas the stock (front) spokes are bright SS. Oh well, only YOU will notice it.

The whole hub and wheel assembly is a drop-in fit, right into the chain-stay axle tabs. Use the little keeper washers with the tabs to lock the new hub axle into the frame slots. Unfortunately you lose your quick-release skewers on the rear, so be sure to carry a 17mm wrench should you need to remove the assembly to replace or repair a flat.

I also sourced a smaller controller box and installed it on the seat-post tube - a suggestion from StanMiller. The one that comes with it is fine, but more bulky, and you end up filling in your step-thru space quite a bit. It still works, just a bit higher step. For a non-step-thru Roll this is a non-issue.

As far as performance, it's amazing, and very quiet. You can limit the top speed to whatever you want - I have hers set at 22mph max, which is plenty fast for her - she walks away from my Giant Explore, a Class 1 mid-drive. But you can set it all the way to 32mph max. 30mph on a Roll is mind-boggling LOL, but it will do it!

The only caveat so far is that when you turn it on it defaults to PAS level 1, which is about 10mph. So if you leave it there, as soon as you start pedaling it takes off. And I mean it TAKES OFF!! This is a common complaint with bafang hub drives, like the Aventon Pace bikes, so I have taught her to set it to '0', start pedaling, and then switch the control button to PAS 1. It only took her a few miles to get it down. You basically use the PAS level setting like a gear-shifter - the higher it is from 1 to 5 the faster it goes. Level 3 is about 15-18, level 5 is full power.

We've only put a few hundred miles on our bikes, but so far it works just dandy. A 25 mile ride with some pedaling uses about 40% of the battery. We have not run it all the way down. We used to ride about 10-12 miles with our pedal-only bikes, now easily doubling our range ability with assist. Just fantastic!

Shipping can take about 3-4 weeks out of China for these kits. The battery ships separately and they say can take longer, but we got our battery first, then waited another week for the kit. It comes nicely packaged with everything foam-packed. They really do a nice job on these.

The ROLL is such a great little bike, and this is a really clean install. Every bike shop we've been to, they have been really impressed with my install, and surprised it was a DIY conversion.
 
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Browneye

Well-Known Member
I thought I would bump this back up in case there are new members thinking of doing a conversion on their own bike.

We get out most weekends and probly have about 500 miles on this one. So far it's been just great. Recently on a group ride she thought she was having trouble keeping up so asked me to raise the speed limit a little, so I bumped it to 24mph. It takes a few seconds to get up to that speed but it will sure do it. I'm just not sure how prudent it is at those speeds on this kind of bike. LOL As long as it's open road with room to stop and no giant pot holes and such. It just feels really fast on this bike with zero suspension.

Since the test-ride vid our little Pom Gracie has passed, she was 17. We were heartbroken. Still trying to decide if we're going to get another. When she was younger we had 3 of them, but they don't last forever.

EDIT: A few weeks ago I was doing some chain maintenance on both bikes and thought I would check spoke tension - sure enough there were a lot of semi-loose spokes on this hub-wheel assembly. Seems this is a common malady as there is some seating in after riding, especially with rider weight over 150lbs. I use the sounding method for spoke tension - went thru them all and tightened the dead-sounding ones. Rim is true, spokes are tight, we've had no other issues with the conversion parts.
 

Dewey

Well-Known Member
Nice job Browneye! Great detailed write-up. The Norco Scene is a pre-built ebike with a mid-drive similar to the Roll but maybe twice the price of your conversion? Be interesting to test ride the two side by side.
 

Browneye

Well-Known Member
Thanks!
And, yes, that's really similar isnt' it? I have less than $1500 in this one.

Shimano Steps on the NORCO though - and the really small one with 50nm of torque. That may well be enough as the smaller bosch unit in the Trek Verve+ is also similar in assist torque, and I liked how it rode pretty well.

I think the rider interface with a mid-drive is more natural feeling, but the vast majority of buyers choose a hub-drive. I think mostly for cost considerations as they're generally some to a lot less. Shimano gets high marks for ride-ability.

I've heard very good reports on Norco as a brand - their mountain bikes get high marks. I think there was a high-end eMTB at my local dealer recently. Very nice product, if not a little spendy.
 

Browneye

Well-Known Member
Well, big long hill today, she left it in pas3 in 7th gear and blew it up. Had to push it the last mile. She was not happy. 🙃

I’ll have to tear it down and see, but I’m pretty sure it munched the reduction gears.
 

Browneye

Well-Known Member
Okay, gears are fine, controller is fried - error code 9 is something about 'phase line' but all the wires are still like new as are the connectors. Elsewhere I found a couple of forum threads on the same code with the same drive and it was the controller. Due to how it failed my bet is it fried the controller. When it would power up all I would get is a clunk, so the hub and battery are fine, it's the controller not switching.

I also bet I can order the same controller, maybe even get a replacement under warranty, but I would just as soon upgrade it to something better.
@Thomas Jaszewski - you out there?? Any suggestions?

Here's the controller label:

 

Browneye

Well-Known Member
The original seller - Greenergia - does have these on ebay for $42. Before I order one - going to take 3 weeks, or with coronavirus - never, is there a upgrade replacement for it?
 

Thomas Jaszewski

Well-Known Member
I'd consider one of the Grin controllers. Higher priced but cob=vering a range of battery voltages.

I'm converting one bike to their Baserunner, a wide range controller that fits up into a Hailong battery case.
A bit on the high priced side, but pretty cool.

You will likely need to mess with connectors but, that's pretty easy IME.

I may have a spare Lyen controller I'm out of commision after eye surgery until Tuesday.




Screen Shot 2020-02-16 at 11.29.09 AM.png
 

Thomas Jaszewski

Well-Known Member
Thank you Thomas. Sorry to hear about your eye. What's the prognosis?
More on Tuesday after the surgeons' review. For now, Tommy One-Eye! Left eye is healing but there's a cloud, a gray mist that lenses won't help. BTW my friends and acquaintances call me Tom. Feel free!
 

Browneye

Well-Known Member
Well wishes for your complete recovery Tom. 👍

In an effort to not have to rewire the bike and all of it's connectors I ordered one of the original controllers from the same source - they're $42 shipped on ebay.
I found another one nearly identical but rated at 22ah. So if everything plugs in to it I'll try it first. Hopefully the slightly higher capacity would keep it from blowing.

The connectors look the same and everything is rated the same, but 22ah max rating, so I'm hoping it will work. $35 shipped from China.

Now I just have to hope and wait to see if stuff still ships from there in a reasonable amount of time, what with all the goings on.

I also emailed the original seller on Amazon - Greenergia - explaining that it had failed and if I could get a warranty replacement. It's been 4 months. They responded right away and said they would send a new one if I paid $25 for shipping. :rolleyes: I replied that was fine so maybe I'll have a handful of these as back up. LOL

In the meantime maybe I'll pickup a new bike for her. Sam at Fullterton Electric Bikes has sold his business and blowing stuff out. Maybe I can get something similar for cheap-cheap. He had a Aventon Pace 350 on the floor if I recall - under a grand. This way we would have an extra. I really like the new Ride1Up but they're backordered 'till April. RadPower City are available - I think it would also work well for her.

You think this controller will work?

 

stanmiller

Active Member
Okay, gears are fine, controller is fried - error code 9 is something about 'phase line' but all the wires are still like new as are the connectors. Elsewhere I found a couple of forum threads on the same code with the same drive and it was the controller. Due to how it failed my bet is it fried the controller. When it would power up all I would get is a clunk, so the hub and battery are fine, it's the controller not switching.

I also bet I can order the same controller, maybe even get a replacement under warranty, but I would just as soon upgrade it to something better.
@Thomas Jaszewski - you out there?? Any suggestions?

Here's the controller label:


If you disconnect the controller-to-motor cable you'll also get an error 9. When you opened the motor did you look at the copper coils? They can melt when the motor overheats under hill climbing duress.

Burning out Bafang hub motors

Do you have links to other threads discussing the error 9 glitch? The SW102 display manual describes the error as a problem in the motor.

45798

If the delay is too much, I have a spare controller as shown in your post and could ship straight away. We could coordinate a shipping label (etc.) via PM. And then return when you get your new lot. Also, you could send me your bad controller and I could test against my bike.

Bummer on the downtime and passing of Ms Gracie.
 
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Browneye

Well-Known Member
Here's the endless-sphere thread on error code 9: https://endless-sphere.com/forums/viewtopic.php?t=96470

Not the same display or drive, but it is bafang and it was the controller.
The C961 display manual has the same description for error code 9 as Tom has on his support site: Phase Line Abnormality.
Elsewhere it says to "check motor controller".

I just hooked it all back up again just to see, it powers on fine on the display, but no motor when you turn the crank, but if you hit the throttle the motor rattles for a second then the display shows 'error 9'. Sometimes I'll get a '13', but have not found anywhere that has that error, and that is not in the C961 manual either.

What is a 'phase wire?'

Well, it surely could be the motor.

UPDATE: Now I think it's the motor. I just tried walk mode and it makes the same chattering sound in the hub - that is mosfets or phase wiring, right? Replace the motor unit, windings?
 
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stanmiller

Active Member
Here's the endless-sphere thread on error code 9: https://endless-sphere.com/forums/viewtopic.php?t=96470

Not the same display or drive, but it is bafang and it was the controller.
The C961 display manual has the same description for error code 9 as Tom has on his support site: Phase Line Abnormality.
Elsewhere it says to "check motor controller".

I just hooked it all back up again just to see, it powers on fine on the display, but no motor when you turn the crank, but if you hit the throttle the motor rattles for a second then the display shows 'error 9'. Sometimes I'll get a '13', but have not found anywhere that has that error, and that is not in the C961 manual either.

What is a 'phase wire?'

Well, it surely could be the motor.

UPDATE: Now I think it's the motor. I just tried walk mode and it makes the same chattering sound in the hub - that is mosfets or phase wiring, right? Replace the motor unit, windings?

The kit linked through the endless-sphere thread is a Voilamart.

"Kit bought here: https://www.ebay.co.uk/itm/Voilamart-26 ... 4902.l9144 "

The SW900 error codes also don't line up with Bafang errors.

SW900 error table

45833

SW102 error table

45834

Can't help with the motor tech. But there are others here who can or at ES.
 
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Browneye

Well-Known Member
I took it apart again and the motor is super clean inside, does not show any overheating.
I confirmed continuity with a multi-meter on all of the power wires - I assume those are 'phase wires'. They are heavier gauge than the sensor wires, and confirmed that those connect to the windings - blue, green, and yellow. And I confirmed continuity through the wiring harness. The only thing I wasn't sure about was that there is continuity between those three wires at the motor plug - each three is connected to themselves down inside the motor. Can anyone confirm or deny this is correct?

It would seem that in a brushless motor your controller sends power in sequence to the three phases thereby making the motor turn. So if power was sent to any one of the three it would connect to all three. Does that sound like a windings failure inside the motor? It is starting to look like that to me, but I'm not sure exactly how these things work in the first place.

One thing that does concern me is that the pedal sensor led does not light up, and I know it is supposed to when you pedal. I got both kinds of sensors, so I hooked up the other one, powered it up and turned the sensor and it just throws the code 9 error.

I am going to try to have the motor tested tomorrow at a ebike shop.
 

Browneye

Well-Known Member
So @stanmiller was kind enough to send me a tested-good spare controller for testing. Unfortunately it produces the same result.
At least I'm getting some communcation from the Greenergy people, they've asked for a video, which I have posted below.

This is what I've sent them by email:

What has been tested:
  • Alternate controller is the same part number and specification data, only different date is all – produces same result.
  • All wires disconnected and reconnected – same result
  • Try alternate Pas sensor – same result
  • Disconnect brake switches and throttle, just use crank pas sensor – same result – Er 13 or Er9 on display
  • Connect controller directly to wheel/hub without wire extension – same result.
  • Display startup normal – wheel start to move then chatter clunk and Er 9 or Er 13
  • Throttle engage same result – chatter or clunk
Frankly I think it's a failed hall sensor in the motor internals. Is there a way to test or replace them?

Here's a video I made of what it's doing:

 

Dewey

Well-Known Member
I think it's a failed hall sensor in the motor internals. Is there a way to test or replace them?

Procedure for testing Hall Sensors on a Direct Drive motor https://www.ebikes.ca/documents/HallSensorTestingFinal.pdf
There's a ton of good troubleshooting videos on Justin's site https://www.ebikes.ca/learn/troubleshooting.html
If there's something specific to geared hub motors try the ebike technical sub-forum of Endless Sphere https://endless-sphere.com/forums/viewforum.php?f=2&sid=65ad5abbe04dcfd4a0340dc0f7f3f019
 
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Browneye

Well-Known Member
Thanks!
Even if I can determine that one of them is bad, how would I go about replacing it? The board is tied onto the windings on the hubmotor.

I've done a bit of board soldering before - solder extraction and install new stepper motors for an instrument panel. I just don't even know where to look on this thing.