Final Preparations

A project log for Electric Touring Bicycle

A kit built touring ebike for long term travel. Tech upgrades for comfort and convenience.

dustinDustin 06/04/2024 at 14:321 Comment

I Leave tomorrow at 5am for my first journey away from home on this bike. It's as scary as it is exciting. I've made a few changes to the bike that I'd like to cover here, before the adventure begins and I forget, and write out some thoughts and updates. I'll try to keep this page all about the bike itself. I've got a blog for the actual adventure stuff.

The first major change I made was to put my old seat back on. I've run a Serfas RX men's split saddle since 2017. I was finding it very difficult to get comfortable on the gigantic padded Cloud9 cruiser seat I had on for a little while. The pressure it puts on sensitive areas was too much for me. It's also insanely heavy. I was still uncomfortable on my old seat until I made another change.

The next major change was to flip the handlebar stem around backwards. This brought the handlebars far closer to me, allowing me to ride even more upright. Not ideal, but it would seem that I'm between frame sizes for this bike. I have short legs, short arms, and a long torso. Finding a bicycle that actually fits me is nearly impossible. I went with the medium frame, instead of the small, since it's easier to adjust for that. I can now very comfortable reach the bars. With my ebike display mounted where it is, standing over the frame is very right. There isn't much room between the bars and the front of the seat. I can work with it though. This looks very strange now, but it does work. I'm still not entirely comfortable, but I can get comfortable for once, so I know I'm on the right track. I need to raise the seat and tilt it backwards. I might need to slide it forward a bit as well. Once all those adjustments are done, I should be good to go. I can do them on the road.

I'd like to replace the adjustable stem with a very short fixed stem at some point. It's not in the budget right now, so I'll have to wait. The adjustable stem is great for figuring things out, but it has far too much play in it. It's wobbly. Before I narrowed down my gear and removed a ton of weight from the bike, it was quite hard to ride. The front end just wobbled too much for comfort. This was never a problem until I flipped the stem. I can get used to it and ride safely like that, but it is a problem worth solving as quickly as I can.

I've been thinking about charging my bike lately and how dependent I am on that motor and battery. I really don't like that at all. I'd rather have no motor or battery, ultralight gear, and a small solar panel. The truth of the matter is that my old knee injuries likely would not be able to handle bicycle touring without the assistance. Instead of being upset or sad over that fact, I built an overpowered touring ebike. They simply did not exist in the configuration that I wanted, so I built this thing. It has carried me happily along for 2,700 miles now. Only a few minor problems, and many little upgrades.

My favorite change to the system has to be the backpack on the rear rack. It's a special National Geographic edition Eagle Creek weatherproof bag. I got it new at a discount store for $35. It's sat unused for about a year. I decided I wanted a nice bag for off bike use, and tried for months to fit this into my trip. I eventually realized I could move the rear top bag to the front rack and put the backpack on top of the rear rack. It actually fits very nicely and blends right in. I just wrap the straps around each other and clip them together to keep them out of the way, lay the bag upside down on the rack, and strap it down to the top. That bag holds all of my clothes, hygiene kit, card games, camera tripod, tiny fishing pole, and other important stuff. I can take it somewhwre with me and have everything I need to get cleaned up or stay the night in a room somewhere.

Not too long ago, I went for a ride and found that my pedal assist function has stopped working. Luckily I have a thumb throttle to run the motor. This bike CAN be ridden without the motor, but it's a proper chore to do so. I remembered that the left pedal has slid to the left on its shaft a little and introduced a little play into the whole assembly. I hadn't had the time to adjust it that morning, so I just set off. That pedal is where the ring of magnets for the pedal assist sensor sits, and it was being pulled out of range of the sensor. I loosened the two bolts holding the left pedal on, slid it back into place, then tightened them back down. Everything is working once more. I've only had a few minor things like this pop up after over 2,700 miles of very hard commuting and training. I've been very impressed with this bike so far. I can safely recommend the Trek FX3 for everything up to ebike touring. I've overloaded and abused it for about 2 years now and it's been lovely.

It would seem both of my tail lights have burned out...I tried to charge the nice Bontrager one, and it wouldn't charge. I tried to turn on my cheap backup and it wouldn't turn on. I'll try charging the backup. I might just leave it plugged into the main battery to run it when needed. I really want a hardwired light, turn signals, horn, and brake lights on this bike. I've got plenty of battery power for such things.

I've got a big and fun announcement to make: If they hold the event next summer, I will be an exhibitor at Open Sauce. It's a science and technology convention in California for people to get together and geek out over all sorts of wild stuff. Adam Savage was a headline speaker last year and should be again this year. The plan is to make all of the tech upgrades I want to this bike and then show people what's possible and how ebike touring works. This bike is a giant experiment, afterall. I started this, knowing that I'd be doing things most cyclists would likely never do. It's been tons of fun so far. I'm in a better proposition to take such risks than most people, and have a very odd skill set that transfers nicely to ebike touring. The way I see it, I might as well be the one to try all the new things and see what works, and report back.

Here are some of my goals for the bike before I exhibit it at Open Sauce:

These are just a few of my goals, and some are very expensive and difficult. I don't expect to meet them all in a year, but it is possible. At the very least I want to get the safety upgrades done: turn signals, lights, and horn. As much as I hate it, I rode in very heavy traffic regularly. Being able to keep both hands on the handlebars to signal would be great. I've gotten away from programming microcontrollers, but could pick it back up if needed. I think I'll just use off the shelf automotive components, like a turn signal flasher and some relays. Simple is best. I've already got a 12 volt DC system that can handle 360 watts. I use it for fast charging devices, and eventually to run some fans and lights in my tent.

This is an ongoing project with many moving parts and tons of interesting features and quirks. I know another bike is in my future, as this one is reaching its limits fast. I've got an idea for a recumbent that would require me to build the frame and everything. I'll design it over the next few years and start building it when I finish the designs. For now, the trusty Trek will have to do. I have about 1,200 miles ahead of me, starting tomorrow. Hopefully my bike and I are up to the task.

After 6 years, the tent finally decided to show a little age. The aluminum poles have been incredible. zip ties to the rescue!
First meal on the new alcohol stove. Instant mashed potatoes. Simple, cheap, filling, tasty. Survival food.
Temporary campsite in my home town. Located off the bike trail. Trusty tent of 6 years.
Hastily loaded and very heavy. I left a day early on a whim, and just shoved everything into my bags.
After my first overnight camp, with a wet towel and pair of underpants drying on the top. I spilled a ton of water in my tent...
Charging while I sorted, narrowed down, and packed my gear. This was after a few hours of work. I did take an ice cream break, of course.


timotheekeller wrote 06/05/2024 at 12:26 point

Create an account to wish you good luck. That's the life the vibrant one when you don't even know what could go wrong tomorrow. Be safe my friend and create some memory. 

  Are you sure? yes | no