How using an E-Bike changes you

As you no doubt know, I’ve had an electric bike for over two years now, and it’s left a fantastic impression on me physically and mentally too.

About me, I’m 47 years old, I’ve smoked for over 30 years, I live in Halifax West Yorkshire (a VERY hilly town), I also suffer with depression and have done for 20 years. I bought this bike because I’d started cycling again the year before I tore my knee cartilage, and I struggled getting any power through my knees.

A few months after buying the Carrera Crossfire-E I had my knees fixed, and soon after I was back to normal.

So now you know I’m a prime candidate for using an e-bike, and so far I’ve done 2,000 miles on it. But how has it changed me?

  1. I now get out of the house more than ever and it’s all cycling,
  2. I have lost a significant amount of weight, and it’s stayed off (mostly),
  3. My mood improves every time I go out, and I look forward to going out too,
  4. Instead of getting in the car to go to town or Asda for a few bits, I jump on the bike,
  5. I can also keep up and even beat the wanna-be pro’s, especially uphill,
  6. If I did have a job I’d almost certainly commute,
  7. Hills are not an issue anymore.
  8. If you ride instead of driving then you get all this and save money on fuel too.

There’s also the issue of distance. Previously when I owned a non E-Bike (Specialized Myka) I could manage 15 miles and only with nearly a full year of prep, now I can manage as much as 45 miles. That is what e-biking is about, freedom, it’s this that makes such a positive change from driving the car, all the benefits of cycling without the stress and strain of normal bike riding.

You don’t need to be like me to benefit from an e-bike, anyone can and will benefit from using an electric bike, even commuting to and from work would be an improvement, both in speed and sweat. If you already commute on a bike then an e-bike would be faster and a lot less sweaty.

So if it’s something you’ve considered and would like to try, then pop into a local bike shop and try one out.

 

(True story). I went to PedalSport https://pedalsportshop.com/ for a new bike light and a few bits just after buying the Crossfire-E, and while they did sell me what I wanted they scoffed at the thought of an e-bike and one person even laughed in my face. I haven’t since been back and never will because of the sheer snobbery and arrogance of the staff. But look at them now.

Tektro Vela Replacing the brake pads

I’m in desperate need of new (front especially) brake pads, and seeing as this is the first time I’ve ever done it, I thought I’d better get some pointers from Youtube.

This is a job that requires you to remove the wheel(s). But it looks dead easy and can be done in just a couple of minutes.

The brakes for the Carrera Crossfire-E are Tektro Vela. The second video is replacing the brake fluid.

 

My next 2 areas of maintenance are brake fluid replacement and a new chain.

Finally some good weather and Telemetry data

The last good day was way back in January, and while I did go for a ride, it was just to discharge the battery for the upcoming cold months, I didn’t want it sat there with a full charge, after all, that kills Lithium Ion batteries fast!

I’ve also got a new camera, a Garmin Virb X, this records 1080p and GPS data from a ride, so I can now show you my speed, distance, pitch, roll, g-force, gradient and a whole hell of a lot more.

The layout I’ve used is…

  1. Bottom left = Distance traveled
  2. Middle = Pace in minutes per mile
  3. Time taken
  4. And oviously speed

The camera is not the best, the video is captured at 1080P, but it’s very poor quality and suffers from a lot of compression, then the video editor compresses it further and finally youtube does it’s thing too, so the final output is crap compared to a gopro. But at least I now have telemetry data to show you. Personally I’d have gone for the Virb X Ultra 4K, but that was too rich for my blood. Though I might get a Hero 5 Session and use that video instead. To save on youtube’s compression I’ve uploaded it locally.

 

The dreaded crossfire-e power cut – FIXED!

I’ve held off updating the blog with the fix for the power cut-out on the Carrera Crossfire-E, I wanted to be sure that I wasn’t just fooling myself and to make sure it stays fixed. 300 miles later and I’ve had zero cut outs.  

Way way back in April 2016 when I got this bike and experienced my first power cut I noticed that a zip-tie was around the cable and the frame. But just before going on my holiday to Fort William I gave my baby a damn good clean and service. During the service I removed the rear wheel and chain for a really deep clean, then reattached everything and put on a new zip-tie, a green one.

Continue reading

Thank you Halfords

Just before my holiday to Fort William I emailed SR Suntour and asked if they have an update for 2016 and earlier bikes, to swap the display from KM to Miles, they didn’t and stopped working on updating the firmware some time ago. They did suggest that I contact Halfords and ask if they’ll swap the display to a 2017 model for me as it’s compatible with earlier bikes.

So I went to my local store and they didn’t hesitate to order one, unfortunately they only ordered the display and not the control button too, and while the display arrived in time for my hols, the buttons didn’t.

But by the time I came back they had arrived and I’ve not got the display and buttons for a 2017 bike and they work perfectly, man it’s so nice to have miles per hour and miles total instead of KM.

So a big thank you to Halfords (Halifax)  for sorting this out for me, and free of charge too.

 

Crossfire-E Will it go 45 Miles with one charge?

Last week I had my first ever holiday on my own and my first holiday in nearly 3 years, my first day off, my first lie in and my first holiday with my E-Bike. Before I set off I planned a trip around Loch Linnhe and Loch Eil with Google Maps.

The maximum assist I used was 25%

Just in case the map doesn’t work properly, here’s a link to the proper route.

The total distance I rode was just a little over google’s estimate as I detoured around Inverlochy looking for a bike shop that sells waterproof pants and gloves. Thanks to Nevis Cycles for the gear and for taking my hard earned cash off me (with a small discount too 🙂 ). I set off with the intention of just riding down to the Corran ferry and retracing my route back, but the weather was glorious, I had my snacks with me, plenty to drink and almost zero traffic, so what the hell right!

To be honest, there are only few minor hills on this route, the highest climb I think was around 30 meters, so not too tough at all. Most of the riding is smooth and flat… Nirvana 🙂

I also brought with me a new gadget… Zhiyun Smooth Q, it’s a gimbal for use with smart phones and apart from me swapping hands the video is silky smooth and wobble free. It’s also a short video, my phone battery wouldn’t last for the 3 hour duration and nor would the storage, the 45 minute video used 14GB of space though it is shot at 4K.

The bike battery did technically last the full ride, dropping down to 2% at the end, I was impressed, it’s now an 18 month old battery and it’s done 1,500 miles in Yorkshire and all it’s hills. What I didn’t know however, the last 5% seriously reduces the power output to short pulses to conserve the remaining energy and get you home. But by the time I get to the shore opposite Linnhe Lochside Holidays I was knackered, and riding the bike one handed and filming meant I asked more of the battery too, and that showed signs that it couldn’t get me back on full power, I’d have a fair bit of work to do with little assistance. But I didn’t know that just yet. One other thing of note… the weather at this point changed and it utterly pissed it down the rest of the way… but at least I had my new waterproofs 🙂

I was now miserable, knackered, cold, and I still had around 15 miles to go. Of course I made it back I had no choice, and this isn’t a ghost writing this blog post, though I’ve warmed up since then 🙂

Like I said, this isn’t the full video, the battery and storage wouldn’t last for a 3 hour ride, but I am surprised I did it in 3 hours when Google Maps recons on a 4 hour ride. So Yay for me 🙂

So can it do the 60 miles Halfords advertise? Like I said in my initial review, Yes it can, with a flat ride, and a fit and competent rider it could. Had I not been recording I think it would have made all the difference, also had I stopped for more than a minute to munch a banana and a packet of crisps and had a 10-20 minute rest, I think I could have made it back sooner and with more power left in the battery. But I was left with enough anxiety after the ride that I didn’t attempt it again that week.

Anyway, enjoy the video, the Highlands are gorgeous, even when it rains.

 

Other rides I did that week:

https://connect.garmin.com/modern/activity/1975982607

https://connect.garmin.com/modern/activity/1979232456

https://connect.garmin.com/modern/activity/1973350700

https://connect.garmin.com/modern/activity/1971566684

 

 

Carrera Crossfire-E 2,000 miles later

One person (there are many more) who looked at my reviews bought the Crossfire-E and he rides it a hell of a lot more than I do, that person is Drewpyfz6, he’s just made a video of a commute and he’s achieved over 2,000 miles in 6 months. Not too shabby m8e 🙂

My last ride (yesterday) was 15 miles in 60 minutes (an average of exactly 15mph of course), and I loved it, and I’d only used 45% of the battery, so I’m getting a bit fitter, faster (my previous average was 13mph) and thanks to the new additions to my bike, comfier too.

I’ll get a video up of all my gadgets and toys for my bike pretty soon, but for now here’s Drewpyfz6 on a commute on his 2,000+ mile bike.

 

Carrera Crossfire-E 12 month re-review

Further reading:

 

Video re-review at the bottom of the page.

It’s been 12 months and 1,000 miles since my last review and to be honest the bike is still going strong and with little or no degradation of battery pack either. I’ve had only 2 issues with the bike, the obligatory cut out and the power button on the LCD broke.

The power cut out is for the most part just a minor inconvenience, the fix is easy enough. Get off the bike and on the back rear left there’s a neoprene patch, take it off, expose the connector, disconnect and reconnect, re-attach the neoprene and you should be good for another 100 miles or so. All in all this takes about 30 seconds. Suntour and Halfords are constantly improving and this should be fixed with this years model. I’d be very surprised if it isn’t.

The plastic switch on the LCD broke on mine leaving me unable to turn on the bike, I did manage for a few weeks to stick a pin into the socket and hit the micro switch. The problem came when I told Halfords and sadly Halfords didn’t have a supplier setup to replace the part. I waited 4 weeks before getting more serious with my complaint and a few days later Halfords ordered a new bike and used the new part to replace mine. They swapped the entire LCD assembly and cables. Job sorted.

Other than these two issues I’ve had nothing but joy with the bike, though I’ve read on the comments section on youtube that some people have had to return and replace their bikes because of the power cut problem. Personally I’m happy with it, it’s a bike built to a tight budget, and while there are more expensive bikes around that don’t have budgetary constraints like this one, I know a couple of people with theses more expensive bikes and even these bikes have minor issues too. So throwing money at the problem isn’t the solution. I say minor, some people have reported constant cut outs, I don’t, so to me it’s very minor.

As far as I’m aware I’m the only person to have a problem with the power switch falling out.

So what’s it like to ride?

This is a question I get asked a lot especially when I’m cycling in busy urban areas at pedestrian speeds. I have to say it’s utterly brilliant and heartily recommended for anyone who’s unfit or carrying an injury. I’m both, I’m overweight, a 30 year smoker, I had torn cartilage in both knees and had my right knee surgically repaired, and riding is now a breeze.

When I started riding again last year I did struggle with some hills, and around here in Yorkshire they’re not to be sniffed at, some climbs just go on for miles and some are tough for cars in anything but second gear. But even these, while challenging at first, do get easier the more you ride. I’d say my biggest issue is breathing, and that’s entirely my own fault being a smoker, and if it was easy I’d have given it up years ago… but it isn’t easy to give up, that’s why I’m still a smoker 🙁 this is my biggest hurdle to overcome, in time even my lungs started to open up much better and easier making these climbs less of a challenge.

But this is where an e-bike really flatters you and makes the job so much easier, it gives you up to 400watts of extra power to climb these monsters, and if you’re in any doubt about that validity, try a big hill without an e-bike and then with an e-bike if at all possible. But that’s only part of the job of the bike, mostly it’s even terrain and while it’s fun going up and then going down, it’s probably more satisfying riding at a fair pace even if the motor isn’t helping you (the motor is governed by the EU and must stop assisting you at 15mph). I find the motor really helps get you up to speed and then your cadence and gears get you up to 30mph, especially on the flat. Momentum is key, once you have it it’s easier to keep going and gain more. This to me is the most enjoyable part of riding, eating up the miles.

How far can you go on a single charge?

Another common question and the answer is very difficult to quantify.

I’ve had 35 miles of riding on a single charge and there was still 12% charge left in the battery, so I could probably manage 40 miles in total. Yes I know the Halfords website says up to 60 miles, but this is Yorkshire, I’m unfit, and a smoker as I’ve already stated, so I’m happy that 40 miles is the bikes maximum range for me. Ride around London or some other flat(ish) landscape and I’ll bet 60 miles is easily doable. The fitter you are, the flatter the landscape, the further you’ll go.

How much does it cost to charge up?

To be honest I’ve never calculated it, but even a rough estimate puts it in the range of pennies per charge. 36V 12Ahrs x cost per watt. The charger is 42v @ 2amps. This gives a total of 84 watts. P = 2A × 42V = 84W

840Watts is ten hours of charging (it takes 5-6 hours from flat) and I’m paying 16pence per kilo watt hour (1000watts), so less than 10p per charge.

Courtesy of RapidTables

 

How much power does it deliver?

The maximum watts is 400w with 250w average, torque is 50 newton metres. This is all gibberish to me too, lets just say it gets me up a 2 mile climb faster than a regular road bike, and by a large margin too.

The selector has 4 settings, 25% – 50% – 75% – 100% though even at 100% you’re still getting a workout, look at the 100% as though it’s max power, it’s 100% of the power the motor can give out, not 100% and all you do is sit and ride. Again EU legislation comes in and all EU e-bikes have to be pedal-assist and are not allowed to have a throttle, so at all times the rider needs to input some power too. While you can buy conversion kits that do have this throttle control, they’re actually classed as mopeds (motorcycles) and require said licence most likely. All retail bikes must be pedal-assist only, so at least you’re always getting some sort of workout.

If you have any question you’d like to ask me, then please do so in the comment section below. I’ll always try to answer as best I can.

I do use the bike a lot more than I would a non-pedal-assisted bike, I use it to go to town or go to my local supermarket where I’d normally use the car. I carry my fairly large and dayglow yellow rucksack to store my shopping. Obviously a full weeks shopping is out of the question, but for most things you only need one carrier bag for, then it’s perfectly fine. So aside from utility it’s also damn good fun just just hop on and ride.

The accessories I have are front and rear cameras, knog rear LED flashing and pulsing light and Lezyne front light. I also have some simple but effective mudguards front and rear. Lastly I have a gel seat cover. This at least means I’m visible, I have cameras for security and safety and the gel seat for comfort, though I’d love a proper seat post suspension setup, maybe a thudbuster will be coming soon.

Last year I dreaded the start of the cycling season (yes I’m a fair weather bike I know! I know!), this year I’m really looking forward to it, and that’s what an e-bike is doing for me. It’s giving me something to look forward to, some new challenges that I’ve set myself is riding 10 miles every day, but mostly the pure joy of just getting out and about, it not costing the earth and me getting fit again into the bargain. For a near 50 year old who still smokes that’s a rare thing indeed.

 

15 Mile ride to Oxenhope and back home

This is an early video from my collection, and also it was just a few weeks after buying the Carrera Crossfire-E so I was still unfit and struggling with the hills.

You’ll see some gorgeous Yorkshire countryside and me having a hard time of it. There are a few serious hills to climb and one downhill that requires a LOT of breaking, there is one that is so steep and long it requires me to alternate front and rear breaking otherwise I get break fade and could crash if not done properly.

Please note, this video has been downloaded from 3D Gamer so the quality isn’t as good as it could be, it was downloaded and uploaded again, this doubles the compression.

I will no longer be using this channel to upload bike rides, I’ll now be using my new bike riding channel (The Bionic Cyclist).

Carrera Crossfire-E Electric Bike Review

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Further reading:

 

(Carrera Crossfire-E Electric Bike Review)

A few weeks ago I started looking at electric bikes as an alternative to a regular bike, I had a specialized myka in excellent condition, but this year I was dreading the start of the season. Last year I only managed a handful of rides and didn’t really get a chance to get going and get fit again.

So this year was going to be a real challenge, I’ve added a few extra stones to my weight, and I’m not light to start with. At nearly 6 feet tall and a normal weight of 15st, I now weigh 18st. I am a big guy anyway! I also smoke and have done for 30 years, I know if I could quit smoking then riding would be a doddle. But you don’t smoke for 30 years because it’s easy to quit.

I also tore the cartilage in my right knee in October 2015, and as a result I limp heavily on my left leg, so my left leg is very unhappy and my right knee hurts a lot. The good news is that I will be having the operation to repair the knee in just a few weeks, and the doctor and physiotherapist both agree that cycling is an excellent way to recover as there’s no impact causing new damage like any kind of running would cause.

So that’s me, someone in need of some good exercise, non-impact, and good cardio exercise at that. Cycling does give me all that, but here in Yorkshire we also have some impressive hills. Combine all of the above with our hills and you can understand why I was reluctant to get the bike out.

I looked for an electric bike, preferably a hybrid, a road and mountain bike, something that did all this and still manages to cover a lot of ground. I watched a lot of videos on youtube from a user called

http://www.ElectricBikeReview.com

https://www.youtube.com/user/ElectricBikeReview


Sadly all their bikes are for the USA market, but the requirements and specifications all still apply, I just have to find a UK bike.

Which I did, I found the Carrera Crossfire-E Electric bike on the Halfords website, so I put my money down and waited a few days for it to arrive. It was delivered to my local store and was built and checked by Niles and Callum at the store. They did an excellent job too. I part-exchanged my specialized myka and also got £100 to spend in store. My old bike will be serviced and shipped to Africa where it will hopefully help someone carry water, or a medic get to a patient miles away.

I took my old bike in my car, and the plan was to return the crossfire-e electric bike in the car too, but the Crossfire-E is a damned big bike and would not fit in the car. So a trial by fire it would be, a 5 mile ride home would help me get used to the bike and see what we could do together.

Initially the ride starts out with a fairly steep but short drop down hill and about half a mile level riding, but from then on it’s all uphill.

If you know anything about electric bikes then you’ll know they are controlled 3 different ways.

  • Power assist modes, these add anything from 25% extra to 75% and even a 100% boost for really steep climbs
  • Throttle control, this works just like you’d imagine, add a little throttle for a little boost, add a lot for big hills
  • A combination of the two, put the assist in say 25% mode and add throttle as and when it’s needed.

The Carrera Crossfire-E electric bike only has peddle assist and no throttle.

  • Eco mode: 25% assist up to 15MPH then it turns off the assist.
  • City: 50% power assistance to 10MPH, then reducing progressively to 30% assistance at 15MPH
  • Race: 75% power assistance; the optimum setting for riding at speed
  • climb: 100% assistance for those really big hills.

The more you ask of it the fewer miles you’ll go on a charge, the site says up to 60 miles, and I suppose a 10st rider on flat ground and who’s already pretty damned fit will manage this. I’m not 10st, I’m certainly not fit, and by God Yorkshire is not flat.

So the ride home, it was actually a lot easier than I imagined, and I imagined it’d be fairly easy to start with. I was really pleasantly surprised, I did have to work, it’s not a free ride, I did have to work a bit, but I never felt that I couldn’t manage the ride home. On level ground the Eco mode was really enough to keep me going and the bike just ate up the road so effortlessly, City mode was obviously easier for the slight hill and longer hills, and the one really nasty hill. I hit Climb and I was at the top before I even knew it. A 5 mile ride with a near 4 mile, near constant climb, and I was home in less than 20 minutes, only 10 minutes longer than driving.

I was very impressed. But now I had to go back and collect my car.

I got home, made some tea, did some chores, and set off again for a 10 mile round trip.

 

This is a bit of a challenge to be honest. Some long steep hills, some level riding, and then some fantastic downhill speeds at 35MPH.
Even with a stop at the supermarket cash machine I did the whole ride in 30 minutes. Other than this one stop, not once did I need to rest and take a breather, but like I said earlier, it’s not a free ride and I still had to put some good effort in, and while I did start to lose momentum at the halfway point, I didn’t feel like I had to stop and rest once.

Again I was left very impressed with the bikes ability and mine, I know this bike flatters you, but it felt really good to get a pretty decent workout without feeling utterly pummelled, and still having some juice left in the tank, but it’s juice you’ll need. Once you get home you have to store the bike and this is no light-weight at 55lbs. But you can’t have all this extra help and no downside.

The cons are few and far between, there is no where to put a water bottle or a pump. It’s heavy, and at high speed ass off the saddle it’s very wobbly. Ass on and it’s fine. The handlebars are tapered, while it’s not a big issue, some fittings like after market lights need a bigger bracket to fit, luckily my lights are really good and I have this bracket. The supplied tyres are a cross between road and off road, but primarily road. So be careful going on any muddy tracks, or change the tyres first. For cons that really is about it.

To remedy these issues you could buy a camel back for £15, though you really need to spend time washing it thoroughly first for about 30 minutes with bicarbonate too. A small pump will fit inside this camel back. Get good lights or look for a bigger bracket or adapter.

As far as mileage goes I really haven’t spent enough time with the bike pushing the battery limits, I intend to go for a long ride when the weather becomes more predictable, but I think I should manage 25 to 30 miles, sure it’s not the advertised 60, but I’m not average either.

The asking price is £999 and this is pretty damned steep, when you can easily get a conversion kit for sub £200 it certainly sounds expensive, but these kits don’t include batteries, and they can set you back £600, then you also need the donor bike too.

Overall it’s good value, it’s good fun that will see you smiling all the time you use it, you won’t huff and puff all day long either, but you will still sweat a little, and that’s a good thing. Fun exercise isn’t exercise.

I don’t like giving scores as they are subjective based on my opinion and I don’t have a tonne of experience of owning bikes.
But I’ll try.

Frame: 9, there is space for a water bottle, just about! This really needed to be added, but it’s a missed opportunity to sell some extras with the bike. The handlebar taper could mess things up, but it didn’t for me. I just managed.

Brakes: 10. Hydraulic brakes are a must for overweight riders and a heavy bike to boot, and these work brilliantly.

Tyres: 9, again these are road tyres with some minor knobbly bits, so don’t expect to ride down mountain tracks. They do however have reflective side walls. A huge bonus for anyone out late.

Motor: Hmm. The legal limit in the EU is 15MPH, a trigger could over ride that in small doses. It’s not Halfords fault nor is it suntours fault. With that in mind I’ll still score the motor 9 for a torquey 50 newtons, good pull and good acceleration

Battery: 9, TBH I’d prefer a slightly bigger battery, something like 15Ah as opposed to the 11Ah supplied, there is space, but it would also make the complete package more expensive too. But it’s pretty good non the less.

LCD: 9, there’s no way to change KMh to MPh, suntour are working on a fix for this but it might mean a change to a different LCD though a flash upgrade is in the works. HUGE BONUS! There’s a USB port on the front of the LCD display, so you can power any USB device from the battery pack, Excellent work suntour. Most e-bikes have this on the battery and you could easily break it with you knee as you pedal. So good idea putting it on the LCD

The motor, battery and electronics are made by suntour:

http://www.srsuntour-cycling.com/e-bike … or-system/
This is the latest video review, 2,000 miles, and 2+ years later:


This is a partial video of my 45 mile ride around Loch Linnhe and Loch Eil from last September.