Evolution

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Tramore Beach, Downings, Co. Donegal

Olivia and I discussed how the slope up to the House of Sport in Belfast was limiting our enjoyment of the Cargobike. It is great for the school run and bringing home large bags of cat litter. Not so much if there is a hill to go up.

We’re not talking the Col De Madeleine here, but vicious nonetheless. We needed a bit of extra power. So the plan was born to try and fit an electric motor to the bike.

After a bit of Googling I decided to contact E-fietsspecialist in the Netherlands, based near my home town of Venlo. The site is in Dutch only.

They offer a standard “ombouwset” at 3 levels. I emailed them that I wished to fit it to a Cargobike with 20″ front wheel with rollerbrakes. They then quoted me for a bespoke package, based around their €649 “luxe set”, taking into account the power needed to pull the heavy bike along.

As I intended to fit the battery in the box I decided not to take the special luggage rack. This saved quite a bit of postage and packing.

I paid directly by SWIFT bank transfer and the package was delivered efficiently within 3 working days.

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An experienced bike mechanic with the correct tools could probably do the conversion in an afternoon, but I am a stranger to the world of bike thingummyjigs and doodlewhatsits. It took me a little longer.

I tackled the work in small bits. I divided it so I could complete each task and still use the bicycle every day.

First, I replaced the front wheel with the new motorised one retaining the brake, tyre and tube.
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It required a bit of creative thinking as the fork rubbed the engine housing if fitted according to instructions. By moving both spacers to the non-brake side it slipped in easily. I refitted the brake cable and secured to motor power lead with a cable tie.

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No room for error

The next job was fitting the brake sensors. I cut off the end caps from the cables and pulled them out from the handle bar end. I cut through the protective sheath just above the first cable mount on the stem below the handle bars. Then I removed a 4 cm section and pushed the brake cable back, this time through the brake sensor. I fed the cable all the way through and refitted the end caps and tuned the brakes.
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At this point I also fitted the display (centrally on the handle bar) with the controller button beside it.
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Then I removed the left crank arm (I got a crank puller from Chain Reaction Cycles) and glued in the pedal sensor using epoxy resin. I replaced the crank arm. I had to Google what a crank puller looks like, so I could find it in the shop.

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I drilled a 20mm hole centrally about 5cm from the back of the box and fed through all the wires and connected these to the controller box. There is only one way to fit the wires to the controller.

The battery requires an initial overnight charge so I hooked it to the provided mains adapter and let it sit. I had to fit a UK-standard plug, because the kit came with a European one. The battery can be uncoupled and removed easily. I have it secured with heavy duty velcro stuck to the foam padding the battery was sent with.

The foam pad cushions the battery from blows and shaking and protects the wires coming out of the controller end. I also tidied away all leads and wires with cable ties and the provided cable tidy.

The following morning I switched it on and miraculously it all worked. As soon as you turn the pedals the engine kicks in and it pulls you along. You have to keep pedalling to get the assistance from the engine. Braking cuts the engine and it doesn’t restart unless you turn the pedals.

The bike sounds a bit like a milkfloat, but it is a joy to sail up a hill that previously nearly killed us.

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