Friday 21 June 2013

The wheel arrives!

I ordered it on April 22, so it's taken about nine weeks.

And it is very pretty. The first thing I did, was weigh it. The old wheel was 8 3/4 pounds, the new wheel is 13 1/4, that's 4 1/2 pounds more. Ouch!  Especially when lifting over obstacles. The inner tube and tire adds another 3 pounds (I use very think inner tubes to reduce punctures, and kevlar-reinforced tires). And the 10 AH, 24v batteries I use are 7 1/4 pounds, for longish routes I also carry a spare in my saddlebags.

So I stripped the inner tube and tire off the non-working wheel, and put them on the new wheel. Then I put the wheel on the bike, and found that it wouldn't freewheel. That's a disaster, it means that if I run out of battery, I won't be able to use it as a pedal bike! But after I'd connected everything up, it freewheeled just fine - I don't know why it wouldn't at first. I then connected up the controller and various cables, switched on and applied power. The front wheel spun.


So I took it out again, and installed it the other way round. This means that the cables are all on the left, whereas before they were on the right. No problem.

Then I installed the bag that all the gubbins goes in, and discovered that one of the connectors was slightly too big to fit through the hole in the bag. So I disconnected the cables from that connector, threaded the cables through the hole and reconnected the connector.

I used the male plug from the defunct system to connect to the battery (wyhich is female), and wired everything to that, including the wattmeter that I'd got for this. To do this, my usual soldering iron didn't have enough power, so I got out my BIG soldering iron for the first time in many years, found it didn't work, found that the problem was there was no fuse in the plug, installed a 5 amp fuse, and it worked. And after tightening things, and checking things, I was ready for the first road trial, up and down the road outside my house.

I discovered a few problems. There was a purring noise even when I was freewheeling; I tracked that down eventually to one of the cables rubbing against the tire, easy to fix. And I needed to adjust the front brake, I think this rim is a bit wider than the old one.

A worse problem was that if I applied full power from a standing start, everything would shut down, and I had to unplug the battery and reconnect it to get power back. I solved that by adding a "reboot" switch near the battery bag, where I can reach it without having to open everything up, or even without getting off the bike. The switch was salvaged from a non-working PC power supply. But to make that work, I had to remove the wattmeter. Oh well. I'm not convinced that the wattmeter is really useful.

Then the throttle stopped working. After a bit of a struggle, I managed to take it apart, and I could see where the return spring had come adrift. It took me a while to coax it back into place, but now that's working fine. I don't trust it though, and it could stop working when I'm in the middle of nowhere. I have a cunning plan, however - the problem is the return spring, and I can use a rubber band as a throttle return until I get back to the car, so I won't get stranded.

There's a headlight that comes as standard, which includes the 5-LED battery condition display and a horn. Yes, a horn! It beeps delightfully, so I've taken the bell off. And I was able to install my PDA carrier at the front too.

My overall impression is that the new wheel has given the bike a new lease of life. The way that the battery bag attaches to the bike is that it rests on the back carrier and is held down by an elastic strap, so it's a bit less solid than the previous method, where everything was tightly controlled and couldn't wobble. And I don't like the extra 4 1/2 pounds of weight. But it's nice to have the beeper, the power display is much better and the headlight will be slightly useful in winter (not enormously useful though, because I'll still use my head torch).

The proof of the pudding will, of course, be in the biking. I'm not going to take it out just yet, I want to ride around locally a bit more first.

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