Trike-ing my way to work.

(Mrs DT Recumbents dips her toe into the world of recumbent cycle commuting)

It’s been nearly 35 years since I was a cycling commuter.

Back then I was an active teenager whose only reliable means of transport was the bike.  I rode an inherited, fixed gear Malvern Star upright lady’s bike. As soon as I got a car, the bike pretty much got the flick.

Over the intervening years, hubby got me onto its successor, a Giant MTB, but I was never comfortable riding it. My neck and wrists hurt, my butt went numb, and when a kamikaze Magpie gave me such a fright that I fell off, that was pretty-much the end of my cycling, except for brief forays with my young kids.

Spring 2019 and I’m still quite active and have just hit the half century. Running and walking have been my primary choice in exercise for ages, but I’m about to go back to my summer job, 8km away, as a School Swimming Teacher. I won’t get time to run before work – I am NOT an early-morning person!  How to keep fit????

The Trike

Since we started DT Recumbents 2 years ago, I have tried a few of the recumbent bikes and trikes that have come through our business. While I can ride the Bacchetta Giro bike (the Bella didn’t adjust enough for my short legs), it wasn’t quite me.  I took the Performer Trike E and JC20 for a few longer spins, but they weren’t quite right either.

And then a friend left an older Greenspeed GT3 trike with us. Small size frame, 16” wheels, fixed seat and no head rest.

It was wonderful! Greenspeed GTS trike

Sporty looks, very efficient and agile performance and best of all, very comfortable to ride.  A bit of playing around with different length cranks and changing to a 2 speed front crank-set and I am now on the most comfortable cycle I have ever ridden. I will now voluntarily head off on a ride.

Getting Moving

The final block to making riding to work feasible for me, fell at just the right time. A new back road opened, meaning I could avoid the busy major road with unfriendly cycling allowances, and the major hill associated with it.

I did a weekend test run to the school pool and back. 25 mins each way! And on my sporty little trike I was able to do the 50 min/16 km test loop without being a total wreck at the end.  This would work!!

I got myself organised.   I made a couple of long sleeve cycle jerseys to go with my tights (sun protection for riding home at midday, late spring in sunny QLD); stole hubby’s old pannier bags; found a pair of cycle shoes, and I was all set to go.

The Trip

I thoroughly enjoyed the cycle commute (except for 1 day with 40-60kph head winds on the way home, and 1 idiot driver who decided that giving way didn’t apply to cycles.).  The majority of my trip was on either cycle lanes or footpath, with a couple of back roads here and there. Moreton Bay Regional Council have been slowly improving the cycle ways around Redcliffe, particularly near the waterfront.

Michelle on GT3 front viewAfter 6 weeks of riding 3-4 days/week, my legs were no longer shaking at the end of the steep hill leading up to the school. I had increased my average speed 1-2 kph, and did the whole term on less than 1 tank of petrol (vs filling up every 9 days or so).

The trike behaved beautifully. Uphill was sometimes a bit of a slog, but downhill I got up to 48 kph (I was never game to go that fast on an upright) and on the flats I could cruise at 25-27 kph.  Not bad for a 50 year old woman who had never been an avid cyclist.

Now the challenge is to keep that cycling fitness, which I discovered is really different to running/jogging fitness – those triathletes are really fit!!

Maybe a weekly trip to the café near school for a cuppa? A regular run along the Kippa Ring to Petrie rail-trail?

I’ll think of some excuse.

E-Kit Installation on GT20

Electric assist for bicycles is a growing market, but there are limited options for the recumbent cyclist.  There are few original equipment manufacturers (OEM) fitting e-assist to trikes, and the problems with importing the batteries (and in-country support) makes the OEM fit problematic in Australia.

Essentially we are left with the do-it-yourself option, whether a dealer does it or it is truly DIY!

The choice between a hub motor (a motor built into a wheel) or mid-drive (motor built into the bottom bracket and crankset) is a bit personal, though finding a hub motor with the right width for the trike’s rear wheel spacing and gear options can be a challenge.

E-Kit driveFor this fitment, we have chosen the Bafang BBS02 mid-drive, a well known brand with a number of re-sellers in Australia.  The BBS** series are available in a range of powers, from 250 watt to over 1 kilowatt.

Talking of power, a quick word on the legals is called for.  Electric Assist bicycles in Australia are limited to 200 watt power, unless the bike complies with European directive EN15194 and is certified as complying.  (Commonly termed a Pedelec, 250 watt max.)  Queensland is further limited to 25kmh with power assistance.  This rules out any DIY kit from complying with the 250 watt requirement as the certification applies to the whole bike….

We have chosen a 350watt version, and will be de-rating it via the software options available.  Why 350 watt?  Apparently the internal wiring is somewhat heavier than the 250 watt unit.

Bafang E-kitSo what’s in a kit?

The drive unit, display/controller, e-brake levers, speed sensor, and wiring harness.  We added a gear change sensor, separate brake switches in case we wanted to keep the OEM levers, a 130mm BCD chain ring adapter, and some extension cables.  Plus a 36 volt 10 amp hour battery.

Our installation is on the popular Greenspeed GT20 Recumbent Trike.  Note this is not a factory supported option.

Fitment is straight forward. The existing bottom crankset and bracket is removed and the BBS02 installed in their place. Brake levers are replaced, and the display and controller mounted.  By far the most time was spent on mounting the controller and display, followed by tidying up the wiring.

The e-kit added approximately 8kg to the weight of the trike.

E-kit Controller

One of the beauties of the Bafang kit is the ability to configure the software, one of the downsides is the ability to configure the software….  Some of the settings are not that intuitive, and it would be possible to fry the electronics within.

In case you’re wondering, no we did not 😊.

We’ve spent some time selecting values to optimise how the boost applies, levels, how it cuts out at the speed limit, and how it cuts power when pedaling stops.

E-kit drive right view

On the road the kit works quietly away providing a smooth and steady assistance.  Some of this is because of the 200 watt limit we’ve applied, but also the software settings selected.  The motor can be more or less aggressive in its response if desired.  Note too that the BBS** series are not torque sensing – they don’t care how hard you’re pedaling, just that the pedals are turning.  Pedals turning = boost applied.

Best results are gained by using the gears to keep pedaling in the 60 – 70 RPM range.  (At 90rpm you’re pedaling faster than the no load motor speed, and you probably don’t need e-assist!)

Electric assist is (another) subject that divides cyclists.  In my view, if the assist makes cycling possible/practical/enjoyable, then why not!

Links:

Qld legislation: https://www.legislation.qld.gov.au/view/html/inforce/current/sl-2009-0194#sec.353B353BPower-assisted bicycles—Act, sch 4, definition power-assisted bicycle

https://electricbike-blog.com/2015/06/26/a-hackers-guide-to-programming-the-bbs02/

Welcome!

Welcome to our blog!

In this we hope to encourage some discussion, thoughts, provide a little technical information, and of course let you know what we are doing.

Rough & Ready!!

Our (my?) journey into recumbents started 10 years ago – although it really began 25 years ago when I saw an advertisement for a Greenspeed trike – but that seed lay dormant until I accepted that upright bikes were getting uncomfortable.  The wonders of the internet opened my eyes to the various recumbent types, but being unable to find one locally to try I cut metal and created a bike.  Rough and ready, but hey, it worked.

Riding Performer
Performer High Racer

A purchase of a Performer bike followed, and the relegation of the upright bike to the back shed completed the transition to a recumbent cyclist.  Cycle commuting was the next progression, together with the inevitable purchase of another ‘bent.

A change in work circumstance and DT Recumbents was born.  Dragging my better half along with me, we soon had a selection of trikes and bikes for test rides, a website, and all manner of interesting people calling in to try this alternative way of cycling.

We’ll be writing about our recumbent experiences, as riders, fixers, sellers and probably spectators, with thoughts on the bikes and technology that cross our path.  With luck someone will find it interesting and useful.

First ride of rough bike
The start…
James M5
My current wheels
M5 Carbon High Racer.