We're pretty excited about what 2018 has in store for the ebike space, and one of the events this year that has us most pumped is the 2018 Sun Trip solar ebike challenge.
For those of you who haven't seen it yet, the Sun Trip is an annual competition run by some (obviously crazy) Frenchmen that challenges people to tour ebikes across great distances, with solar power as their only allowable charging source. It started off in 2013 with a 7500km ride from France to Kazakhstan, and has run most years since then with with trips of varying length and upwards of 30-40 participants. What makes 2018 ride special is that it will be the the most epic challenge yet, covering a full 12,000 km from Lyon, France, to Canton, China.
We've helped out many teams build solar ebike vehicles for Sun Trips in the past and have always had great admiration for this event from across the water. But now it time to join in the fray!
2018 marks the 10 year anniversary of Justin's first cross-Canada ebike tour and he's itching for another adventure, and what could better fit the bill. Grin will be participating in this amazing ride, both as a competitor on the ground and as a formal sponsor helping with their technical logging requirements. Many of the announcements and product roll-outs you see in the coming months will relate in some way to this Sun Trip.
And if you're just reading about it for the first time now thinking wow, I'd love to do that, the event registration formally closed in December. However, the organizers are keen to see more participation from North America, so if you have the right kind of aptitude and attitude to pull off building and riding a solar ebike on a 12000km trip like this, send the Sun Trip people your plea, they'll maybe make an exception :-).
In any case, a happy start of 2018 to everyone.
More good Holiday news, not quite in the form of "free" hubs but cassette freehubs at least. We've now got two new rear motor options available that shed the threaded freewheel for a cassette freehub system, allowing you to take full advantage of modern drivechain components and the increasingly common 9, 10, and 11 speed gearsets.
The first of these is the tiny Bafang G310 geared motor. This is a small lower power hub like the G01 but with an impressive 11:1 internal gear reduction giving an even better torque to weight ratio. And best of all it uses a spiral sun gear that makes an almost completely silent and silky smooth motor when paired with our sinewave Grinfineon controller. Other features include a side cable exit, easy disassembly for service, integral anti-rotation washers, and excellent waterproofing.
The second freehub motor is a rear direct drive hub from MXUS. This one has a 30mm wide stator, so slighly more powerful than the 9C+ and a bit less powerful than the Crysatlyte 'H'. It has the same Grin customizations that you'd expect, with side axle cable exit, 0.35mm laminations for low rolling drag, internal temperature sensor, and fully sealed side plates with a statorade injection port.
Both motors are available in fast and standard winding speeds, fit inside standard 135mm dropout spacings, have disk brake compatibility, and are fully modeled on our simulator (See the G310's and MX3005/6). The MXUS motor also been thermally modeled with Statorade and Hubsinks options too.
We've got a limited number of each motor on hand now and we expect our large sea freight orders to be here in mid-January once these sell out.
It's end of year housecleaning time, and this can mean some excellent holiday savings for you!
We gave a solid go at offering turn-key cargo ebikes from our new Powell St. shop space this past year, but in the end came to the realization that our resources are best kept focus on conversion kits and the development of new Grin products. So we wrapping that up and clearing out our remaining inventory of eZee Expedir cargo ebikes at a stunning 40% discount.
These ebikes were a good value at their normal price, with a large capacity 19Ah battery pack, high torque eZee motor drive, Magura hydraulic brakes, and other high-end components, and with the additional 40% off they are a steal. It's like buying a kit and getting the bike for free. We've got limited numbers left in red, green, and black colours in time to fit under the Christmas tree. If you've been on the fence about getting a cargo ebike for you or your family, this could be an opportunity not to miss.
Direct Drive Motors Too
We're also clearing out all of our remaining 9C+ 2706 and 2705 rear motors at a 40% discount to make room for new motor series that uses cassette freehubs rather than screw-on freewheels. These have the same low-drag 0.35mm laminations and statorade compatibility that you expect from Grin's offering, but as with all the nine continent motors the construction quality is very much "made for China" grade. They're great value if you want an awesome motor performance but aren't fussy about fitment details.
There are a number of information pages that we were working on this year but only now with the relative calm of the winter season have we had the time to wrap them up. So for your fireside reading pleasure, we offer you
- Grin's Ebike Connector Guide: A summary of the various standard connector types encountered in ebike conversions and our take on them from the DIY user perspective. For those dizzied by the wide assortment of connectors out there hopefully this page can help you make sense of some of it.
- Our take on the Merits of Hub Motors: In our travels this summer to meet with other ebike businesses, one recurring theme was that most of them felt hub motors have been subject to a lot of misleading marketing in recent years by mid-drive companies. We've played with many mid-drives as well since our founding days, and while they have a few advantages in some situations our feeling has always been that hub motors are a better overall solution for the needs of 80-90% of ebike users. Even with the popular proliferation of BBSXX type drives, that viewpoint hasn't changed at all. To see why, read here.
- How many watts is that motor?: This is a question that makes Justin's blood boil a little. If there is one thing that is most often misunderstood about ebike technology it's the topic of motor power ratings. Did you know that the european Bosch ebikes will draw 700-800 watts of power form the battery even though they are, you know, supposedly 250 watt systems? It's true. We've always avoided giving specific power ratings on our motors because the number you choose is rather arbitrary, and this more technical article explains why.
- From the past: We also found the draft documents from an old article we wrote in 2010 on the role of the DIY ebike scene at that point, and we thought would be nice to dust off and make available online again.
We've got two new Grin items hot off our milling machine that should help overcome difficulties in electric conversions.
The Handle Bob
The first idea actually comes courtesy of our customer Bob. Bob you see has a Grin All-Axle bike conversion and ran into the familiar situation of having handlebars that didn't lend themselves to sliding on a throttle. This happens all the time with curved drop bars, oversized handlebar tubing and whatnot. His solution with a piece of 22mm OD tube cut and drilled to secure at right angles with a pair of cable ties was so elegant and simple that we had to make this into a product.
So in his honor we introduce the Handle Bob, allowing you to easily attach a small bobbin to handebars on which you can affix a thumb throttle, CA aux input, headlight button or other small device without needing to remove your grips or anything else. It's the simplest and lowest tech product that we've ever manufactured in our little machine shop, but one that just might have a big impact for many builds.
The Bottle Bob
The 2nd item helps when installing downtube and waterbottle batteries on bike frames that don't have properly located waterbottle braze-ons. We're calling these our Bottle Bobs, and they let you add a solid M5 threaded attachment point anywhere on your bike tubing with the security of a stainless steel hoseclamp.
In fact, these attachments are stronger and more secure than many of the riv-nut frame eyelets which can occasionally tear out of the frame tubing with heavy batteries, and allow you the security of having 3 or 4 attachment points to the battery base plate rather than just the 2 when you use the frame's bottle mounts.
And of course, you can also use them to attach more waterbottle cages to your bike!
At the VEVA electric vehicle show this summer we showed up with two electrified penny farthing bicycles, thinking that we could stage electric high-wheeler races around the mini test track. The racing didn't happen but the fun of riding these around Vancouver hasn't abated. There haven't been too many accidents and the reaction on the streets is pretty amazing if you like making people crack a smile. Aaron and some of the new staff at Grin made a nice video from an afternoon spin:
More specific details on how these were built are shown on the endless-sphere build thread: https://endless-sphere.com/forums/viewtopic.php?p=1309060#p1309060
Anyways it turns out that there are a couple dozen more replica high wheel bikes from this source in a storage locker looking for a home, and we wonder if there is a case to sell them electrified with small hubs in the rear wheel. The bikes are available in wheel sizes ranging from 36" to 54", and they have a custom machined freewheeling front hub so you can coast without pedaling. If owning a piece of 19th century bike technology merged with 21st century electronics like this tickles your fancy, then send us an email and we'll see if there's enough interest to convert a batch! Price would depend on the specific conversion options but can expected between $1500-$2000.
It's high time to formally introduce our Battery Grinspector, a device that converts a Version 2 Cycle Analyst into a full computer controlled battery test station. Here is a nice video that Bruno made while we had a prototype to show at the Taipei Cycle Show earlier this year:
This is our first foray into products aimed at shops and businesses that have to maintain and service electric bicycles rather than to ebike end users. As more and more ebike shops open up, there's an increasing need for ebike specific diagnostic and repair tools. We hope it finds a small but growing audience!
A little background
Over the years we've built all kinds of custom battery discharge testing rigs for the troubleshooting, QC, and R&D needs of our operation. But each has been very much a one-off project, rather than something designed with the idea that we could manufacture it as a product. The one on the left is Justin's very first battery charge/discharge machine built for conditioning and testing salvaged NiMH batteries for his first ebike project at university, while on the right was a comprehensive labview controlled solution that would cycle test 8 packs at a time.
Commercial equipment available on the market for testing batteries tends to be bulky and expensive, made for laboratory or industrial use and wholly out of place in a bike shop. As a result, we noticed many of our dealers have setup simple improvised rigs using a Cycle Analyst and load resistor to do a simple battery capacity test.
The Grinspector station builds on this concept, allowing allowing shops to use their familiar Cycle Analyst while a computer is able to control the charging and discharging of the battery, with real time discharge graphs as well as a final printable QC report. Everytime someone purchases a battery from us, they get a printout of the battery discharge curve showing actual capacity and other test data. That's our own bank of Grinspectors at work, and we hope to empower other shops to do the same.
Over the last few months we've quietly slipped a number of other small improvements to our website. For instance, from the spoke calculator page you can now directly add spokes to your cart from the calculator, no need to write down lengths and navigate back to the online store.
Similarly, when you are shopping for the conversion kits, the simulator link on the bottom will launch the motor simulator page with the correct motor, controller, wheel size etc. already pre-selected.
And if you have individual motors, controllers, batteries etc. in your shopping cart, then you can launch a local instance of the simulator tool from inside the cart to see exactly the performance of these items and how they work together.
Additional Simulator Updates
The simulator improvements have only kept continuing since the September update. There's now the ability to model custom motors, to set a controller for a torque or amps throttle, and to have the throttle automatically adjust itself based on where you click the graph. Read the updated FAQ section and have fun.
Much of this work and the associated tools for motor thermal analysis was possible with the help of our summer software coop students from SFU and UBC; Stefan, Gary, and Adam. It's long overdue we gave them a big public thanks for their fine contributions.
Hope that everyone is having a great labour day long weekend. This past month we've wrapped up signficicant batch of upgrades and new features to our online hub motor simulator. This list includes
- Addition of human power to set default cursor calculation
- Ability to vary motor core temperature and see the effects on performance
- A KV adjustment slider to simulate faster or slower windings of same motor type
- The inclusion of wind speed (tailwind or headwind) to the vehicle load simulation
- The addition of motor phase current limiting to controller parameters.
- 2 independant cursors for comparing results of System A and System B
- Ability to add output of two motors systems in a single vehicle for dual drive simulation
- A much more comprehensive thermal model of motor heating, with predicted steady state temp
- A unique URL for each simulation result that you can copy and paste
One of the common sources of fitting issues with conversion kits is interference between the throttle and existing lever shifters on the bike. We have two new throttle options that help things on this front. The T-Lever throttle fits equally well on both the left and right side of the handlebar for maximum install flexibility and is ~2mm smaller in diameter than our previous thumb throttles. And the T-HTwist_Slim throttle is a split grip throttle with an impressive 36 mm max diameter (vs 45-50mm with other common models), allowing it to replace almost any right side grip without concern for shift lever interference. It has a standard handlebar grip diameter right to the end.
We've similarly upgraded our basic mechanical ebrake option to a sturdier model with a longer black lever arm and rubber grip in the front. Both this and our previous silver model are all metal construction, but the new black one is better suited to the quality standards that we'd like associated with our offerings. Our remaining stock of the previous model of ebrakes and throttles are available for sale on our new sale/clearance page.