Monday, 27 July 2015

DIY Long Tail EBike - Chapter 1

DIY Long Tail EBike - Chapter 1- Intro

It has been a few year now since I built my first DIY Long Tail Cargo Bike, and it has been very handy for the right sort of trip. (Skip to Chapter 2?)

A long tail cargo bike is excellent for transporting large bulky items that are light in weight think planks of wood, big boxes and christmas trees. But although I regularly use it for transporting my two children on short journeys (combined load of 40 kg), carrying a heavy load really reduces range.

The main problem is that I live in a hilly area, and any journey involves lots of hills, and lots of sweating. Anything over 15 mils carrying two kids means you will want a day or two off, there is also the the problem of gearing, as typical MTB gears just aren't low enough to pedal up the steepest hills, and pushing a heavily loaded bike is no fun (its actually more strenuous than pedaling). 

The Result

So . . . an electrified long tail will enable me to carry kids around in hilly terrain, for useful distances, more quickly, and if I need some exercise I can always hop back on my "analog" bicycle.

As with all by builds I like to keep budget way low, so I am starting off with bits I have in the garage. Which is a BMX frame!

DIY Long Tail EBike - Chapter 1- Why Use a BMX Frame?

So why use a BMX frame?

  1. Smaller Wheels = Low Center of Gravity
  2. I happen to have a BMX frame spare.
  3. BMX parts are cheap.
  4. Small Wheels equal lower gearing (motors are typically for 26" wheels).
  5. Many have 14mm axles for heavy loads
Humble Beginnings - A Mission "Grave Digger" Frame

DIY Long Tail EBike - Chapter 1-  Getting Started

You will need a welder and a hacksaw a a minimum. Do not be put off by welding, it is very easy. I would recommend a gas less MIG welder for the how user it is cheap and simple.  One can be had on ebay for less than £100, and they are handy for all sorts of things.

Before you start draw a scale drawing of you proposed bike on a sheet of graph paper, a 1 to 10 scale is good and will allow you to use a normal ruler to draw  and scale off with. 1cm = 10cm. So a BMX wheel at 50cm diameter will be 5cm.

A Scale Drawing can help you decide on dimensions and order enough steel.

A rear deck length of  As well as all the normal considerations you will need to leave spaces in the frame adequate for batteries and motors.

To preserve the bottom bracket height measure the gap between the base of the shell and the floor, after you have welded everything back together this will have to be the same as when you stared.

Draw a Line on the floor to help line things up.

Cut the frame (wear gloves) to separate the rear triangle, this frame has wish bone stays which is ideal and saves much faffing. To help get everything lined up draw a line on the floor using a straight edge, this can be used to line everything up. Once welded, it is hard to get everything apart again. 

Again you can see the line on the floor is useful for lining things up. To check for uprightness, hold a spirit level against the bottom bracket shell. There are not many points on the bike were you can put a spirit level without getting a false reading.

Here she is with the lower strut welded in place. Next up is to check that the bottom bracket is at the right height. I will need a front wheel to do that which is in the post!

We are a fair way from mounting the motor and batteries! That's for sure, but you should have already have an idea of what to use so as to leave room for them in you design.

The frame starts to come together in Chapter 2. . . 

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Friday, 17 July 2015

"Where does the urge come from? Feeling's believing."

"Where does the urge come from? Feeling's believing."

This is a quote from a BBC documentary which I first saw in April 2015. The documentary tells the story of Captain "Winkle" Brown, a Pilot, Test Pilot and Naval Officer, who started off flying bi-planes and finished up flying cold war nuclear bombers.

In the documentary there is a black and white news outtake from the 2nd World War era where Captain Winkle Brown Lands a "Vampire" Jet on an Aircraft Carrier.

The pictures show the flight crew of the carrier crowding around the plane after the successful landing, at which point the narrator explains what has been done, points out the pilot, and asks:

"Where does the urge come from? Feeling's believing."

Now I don't know why but this short sentence struck a bit of a chord with me, which is why I have bothered to make a note of its origin here.

Three cheers for Captain Brown and pilots of his generation. Inspirational.

Video of clip from program:

Monday, 13 July 2015

Wide Slick Tires for MTB (559)

Wide Slick Tires for MTB (559) 26"

Here is list of wide slick tires for 559 size (MTB), they are all over 2.3" (60mm).


  • Michelin Pilot Sport 26×2.3 Tires (Discontinued)
  • Try-All 26 x 2.35 (Discontinued)
  • Schwalbe Big Apple 26 x 2.35
  • Schwalbe Fat Frank 26 x 2.35
  • Schwalbe Super Moto 26 x 2.35
  • CST Cyclcops 26 x 2.4
  • Duro 26x2.30 Slick Beach Cruiser Mountain Bicycle Tires
  • Duro 26" x 3.0" DB1012 Beach Bum Black Tires
  • 26” x 2.45 BOA-G TIRE
  • 2PAK Sunlite Vee Crusher 26"x 3.5"
  • Maxxis 26" x 2.5" Hookworm
  • Hutchinson Low Rider Rigid Tyre 26x2.35
  • Kenda Kiniption 26-Inch Wire TyreTyre - 26x2.3
  •  DMR Supermoto 26-Inch Wire Tyre - Black/Black , 26x2.2
  •  Vittoria Booze Light 26-Inch MTB Folding Tyre - Black , 26x2.3
  •  Vittoria AKA 26 x2.2
  •  Vittoria Tattoo 26 x 2.3

Thursday, 9 July 2015

Top 5 Schwalbe 26" (559) Commuter Tires

My preference for tires is a wide, comfortable,  puncture resistant tire. And the below list reflects that.  . .

Top 5 Schwalbe 26" (559) Commuter Tires - Number 5 - Marathon Mondial 

These suckers are a little knobbly for an all tarmac / asphalt commute. They do come with "double" defence puncture protection as an option, which will mean you will hardly ever get a puncture. Life span for these tires is very high, and they will likley last for 12,000 kms.

These tires and there predecessor get very good long term reviews.

Marathon Mondial - Good on Tow-paths, Fire Trails and Dirt

Top 5 Schwalbe 26" (559) Commuter Tires - Number 4 - Marathon

The "classic" marathon tread is available in lots of different sizes, and different grades. For every day value look for the marathon green guard, or for biog spenders there is the marathon deluxe, with double defence puncture protection. Green guard is very good, and I have ridden these for 100's of miles with no punctures.

 Marathon "Green Guard"- Low Rolling resistance and a little tread for the rough stuff.

Top 5 Schwalbe 26" (559) Commuter Tires - Number 3 - Citizen

These tires can be had very cheaply and although they are not as puncture resistant as the previous two offerings I would not hesitate to buy a pair if you are on a budget.

These come in thinner sizes and so perhaps are not ideal if you are a heavy rider or carry a lot of weight in bags etc.
Citizen - Nearly Slick but not quite, very good value.

Top 5 Schwalbe 26" (559) Commuter Tires - Number 2 - Energizer

These tires are made to go on e-bikes, and for some reason this discourages people from putting them on normal bikes. In fact they are fine, they come in a pro version and a plus version. Plus as usual means extra puncture protection.

Energizer - E-bike . . . ANY bike.

Top 5 Schwalbe 26" (559) Commuter Tires - Number 1 - Big Apple (or Fat Frank)

Despite an effective downgrade in the new big apple, they are still a great tire for commuting, you may also wish to consider the Fat Frank. The big apple comes in variety of width sizes, and has "race guard" puncture protection which is the tire's only down side. Which is why you may want to consider Fat franks for the 2.35" size as they are "Kevlar Guard" and in my humble opinion a fair bit more puncture resistant.

If you fancy 26 x 2.15 size. . .  Lucky you, there is a "Plus" option with green guard.

Big Apple - Fat (or Phat) Rolls Lovely and Very Comfy

Top 5 Schwalbe 26" (559) Commuter Tires - Conclusion

Any of the above tires will give you many miles of puncture free commuting, the big apple is such a nice tire to ride on, I am slightly miffed that schwalbe do not offer the 2,35" in a higher spec, but there we are. If you are looking for a 2" (50mm) tire then choose one of the few available with "double defence", as they offer very good puncture resistance with little compromise on performance.

Let me know your thoughts.

Illustrator Devon

Energy Strategy

Using a PC Cooling Fan for Ventilation - How To

Using a PC Cooling Fan for Ventilation - Intro

If you are wondering whether you can use a PC Cooling / Case Fan for Ventilation the the answer is YES.

In fact a PC Cooling Fan offer many advantages over the normal domestic offerings:

  • Quiter
  • 12v System
  • Easily Mounted

Using a PC Cooling Fan for Ventilation -  Kit List

So what do you need to set this up?

  • A 80mm or 120mm pc cooling fan.
  • A power source. 12V DC 1A adaptor.
  • Wood screws(40mm)
  • Jig Saw
  • Screwdriver
  • Sandpaper
Optional Extras
  • Wall timer
  •  Fan speed controller
Using a PC Cooling Fan for Ventilation - How To

A picture tells a thousand words:

PC Fan for Ventilation - Overview of setup.

PC Fan for Ventilation - Use a Molex to 3 Pin Connector to avoid cutting wires.

PC Fan for Ventilation - Check fan for voltage and amps required.

PC Fan for Ventilation - Add a second fan if you require more air.

PC Fan for Ventilation - Use a wall timer to automate the on and off times. 

Using a PC Cooling Fan for Ventilation - Handy Tips

  • After cutting the hole, sand the edges to make sure no bit come in to contact with fan blades.
  • If you are using a power full fan 0.4A for example buy a fan speed controller, as they can be noisey when running at full speed.
  • Arctic Cooling PWM fans can be connected in-line with no splicing required. 
  • Avoid cutting fan wires by buy a cheap molex to 3 pin adaptor.

Obviously this system could burn your house down if connected up incorrectly, and any cutting of wires will void any warranties. Do all of the above at your own risk. After all I have just written about what I am doing, it is your choice if you decide to do any of the above.

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Schwalbe Marathon Mondial 26 x 2.15 (55-559) Review

Schwalbe Mondial 26 x 2.15 (55-559) Review - Intro

I mourn the loss of kevlar guard on the 26 x 2.35 big apples, why did schwalbe down grade the puncture protection level on this their most practical of commuter tires? The new big apple with "race guard" is not as good, and so after 8 puncture in around a years cycling, I have started to look for alternatives.

Marathon Mondial - A wide tire, shown here with 65mm mud guards.

After much google-alisation I arrived at the Schwalbe Marathon Mondial 26 x 2.15, a high end touring tire, which is wide and has a very high level of puncture protection.

The tread on these Schwalbe Marathon Mondial 26 x 2.15's is more off road-ish than I am used to much I figured I would give them a go after getting some for around £50 for the pair.

Schwalbe Mondial 26 x 2.15 Review - Out of the Box

It important to realise that these mondials come in two flavours, folding and non folding. There is no benefit in buying the non-folding varierty over other marathons, apart from the width. The folding mondials have Schwalbe's premium puncture protection system "double defence" which consists of a high density ceramic fibre guard to protect the tread area, and a strengthened "snake skin" side walls.

The tires have a reflective strip as is the case with most Schwalbe tires and are extremely well made.

Marathon Mondial - Side lugs for grip in wetter conditions

Marathon Mondial - Reflective Side Wall

Marathon Mondial - Quality Construction

Schwalbe Mondial 26 x 2.15 Review - Fitting

Easy enough even of wide Mavic EX 325 rims.

Schwalbe Mondial 26 x 2.15 Review - On and Off the Road

Off the road these tires are very good, although the center blocks could be better connected to provide easier rolling whilst on the road. When pedalling on smooth tarmac up hill, they is significant "squirm" as the tire does not grip overly well.

Expect hum. This is an off road tire.

Marathon Mondial - An off-road tire

Marathon Mondial - Gaps between centre blocks are quite large.

Off road the tire grips well. On hard packed gravel the tire comes alive, and I must presume this is what it was designed for.

Run at 5 Bar ( 75 psi) the tire is fairly unpleasant to ride, although the option to run the tire at this pressure is handy for load luggers. At 4 Bar (60 psi) the tire still feels hard, and a drop to 3 Bar (45 psi) results in a good compromise between comfort and rolling resistance.

Schwalbe Mondial 26 x 2.15 Review -Life Span

From what I have read else where they last a very long time.

Pedalling to Nowhere = 12,000 - 16,000 km

Dave McCraw - "Many thousands of Miles"

So a very long time.

Schwalbe Mondial 26 x 2.15 Review - Conclusion

If you are after a fattish tire with very high levels of puncture protection, and lowish rolling resistance then the Marathon Mondial 26 x 2.15 is a fine choice.

EDIT 2017: Having looked in to rolling resistance, I can confirm that it is high for this tire. At 26.7W when tested. This compared to the Marathon Almotion at 17.1W.

However, you could cosider the Fat Frank* or Big Apple (or Big Apple Plus) tires as for the on road commuter use the mondial is still quite knobbly. Kevlar guard has been dropped from the big apple, but the fat frank still has it, these are by next port of call .

If you drop to a 26 x 2.0" tire size then double defence is available on 2 other tires, such as marathon deluxe, and marathon dureme, both of which are worthy choices, and more likely to fit within existing mudguards and frames.

Update: 21/09/2015

The Fat Frank is not actually any easier in rolling than these Mondials,the Fat frank is a low grade rubber compound and with kevlar guard is a little more spongy to pedal, infact the Mondial roles better than the Fat Frank.

With hedge trimming season here again and the roads littered with thorns I have reverted to these Mondial tires having suffered dual simulation punctures in front a rear fat frank tires, second time around they did not seem too bad at all rolling better to than fat franks. I will be using them through out the winter.

Update 21/09/2017

Again the big apple race guards are succumbing to thorns, and so I have switched back to these. It is like pedalling through treacle!

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