The first time I wrote down some thoughts about this bike was in January, celebrating the first thousand miles of commuting. I thought I would revisit that article and thoughts as it’s July now and I have close to 5,000 km on the bike. All of the mileage has been commuting from Terra Linda to West Oakland except for a couple of trips to the store so far.
Stuff I’ve Broken
I had flatted the stock Bontrager rear tire a few times and replaced it with the Schwalbe Super Moto X. I am still hanging onto the original front tire, but I may replace it soon just out of general principle. The Schwalbe is a bit more supple than the Bontrager but both are really heavy. It’s an aluminum bike, so the big tires are really the only suspension or shock absorption. It does help to make for a more comfortable ride by dialing in the tire pressure at 3 bars.
Chain- I check the chain frequently with one of these and just ordered a second replacement chain. Make sure you are getting an e-bike chain (sometimes referred to as moped chain) as they are higher rated and more importantly have extra links. This model is 136 links, way longer than your standard bike chain! I bought a couple of standard length chains by mistake that now are standing by for use on the older 10-speed mountain bike.
A rear spoke- This was kind of surprising as these wheels are really beefy, but I do haul 30-45 lbs in the rear bags daily, and figuring with the bags, me, and the heavy bike it’s about 275 lbs rolling over stuff. On one particularly bad day, I managed to break the spoke and then flat on some horrendous construction debris. Tricky to get this length spoke in the pandemic and I got ones that were slightly too long, but I cut and dremeled them down and I was back in action.
L side crankarm- This wiggled its way off at 5 am one morning with the bolt rolling off the path in the dark. I found it and hand tightened it, then pedaled gently the rest of the way, checking it several times. Now I carry an 8 mm wrench but no more instances of loosening so far, knock on wood. The drive system is splined so any looseness is a BAD thing that will destroy itself quickly.
Brakes- I’ve had a set of 4 piston pads ready to go ever since I picked the bike up at my local Trek Store in Berkeley. They warned me they had clients coming in with 300 miles on their bikes and the pads blown. I checked the pads recently and they are getting ready for replacement but still have 3 mm of material left. Apparently I don’t use the brakes much? I also don’t ride down long grades that I need to control my speed a huge amount.
It’s roughly always the same temperature in the morning crossing the bay. It dips into the 40s in the winter and in Terra Linda drops into the high 30’s, but the average is around 50 degrees.
I bought a heavy, geeky, cheap, winter jacket that if I was riding harder than endurance pace it would overheat me. I wear a heavy set of fleece-lined bibs that are too warm for normal daytime riding in this climate, Endura booties, and some awesome Craft gloves which have mittens that roll out over the fingers and are reflective. My neck gaiter and wrap-around clear glasses complete the ensemble. There’s a lot of dust and wind on the bridge and getting it into the eyes and lungs is a crappy way to start to the day. All that geeky clothing racers make fun of? It’s super functional when rolling on your ebike at 4:45 in the morning.
I pretty much always pack my reflective Endura rain jacket and pants which are heavy-duty and have lasted me for years of bike commuting. You should be seen by drivers, especially in bad weather!
I’m really happy to see between some awesome local Strava challenges that I’ve been doing since the pandemic began and consistently cranking out 110-120 TSS a day riding to Oakland, that I’ve pushed my CTL over 100 for the first time in several years, in a sustainable ramp. The motor allows for harder days and intervals by turning the assist down to Eco where you are getting about 50W of assist, and for a decent recovery spin by turning the level up to Sport on the climbs and headwind sections for close to 200W of assist.
On the leg speed or spinning topic, these PAS systems really work better if the rider pedals with a high cadence. I’m a huge believer in riding with quick legs anyway, but you can see the speed increase many times by gearing down one cog and getting “ on top of” the gear.
Things I would like
The COBI, now Bosch app, that pairs with the bike will sync with Strava but not Garmin Connect, which would get the data into Training Peaks easier. I use the HR data from my Garmin Fenix because it’s very quick and simple to save files and get into the rest of my day. It would be nice to consistently have the power files from the bike.
I’m going to be putting a better saddle on soon. The commuter saddle is too soft. Probably fine if you are wearing jeans and riding a few miles.
The bike could be lighter, and I could have bought the carbon version for almost 1000.00 more. That’s about 200 dollars a lb of improvement though.
The Bontrager ergo grips I’m still adjusting. I might replace them with Ergons but they look very similar, although 5mm thicker than the size large Ergons I’m running on our other bikes.
A couple of final thoughts
It’s important to think about these bikes in a bigger context. In some ways, it’s a car replacement, but a very maneuverable and nimble one. I still like riding regular pedal bikes more for pleasure, but I couldn’t do the ride over the bridge on a pedal bike on a regular basis. The wind alone has people struggling to head westward in the afternoon, and even with the e-bike riding at 20-22 average, I’m still spending close to 3 hours commuting a day. With the loaded touring bike, I would be at 4 or more hours of riding a day, which is just not sustainable.
An important part of getting people to alternatively commute is removing barriers or “friction”. Bike commuting often does that. I think it’s also a great public transit alternative or multi-modal complement, with no touching of common surfaces and fresh air all around.
One of the best parts about all the bike commuting I have been doing is that my Subaru has been in for one service in the last 8 months, which is at least half of what I had been doing. The miles on my car have been minimal and a tank of gas has been lasting for weeks. When you think about the high cost of one of these bikes in the context of the savings on your car, and the minimal maintenance on both the car and the bike, its a no-brainer, in my opinion.
Rent one, try it out, get out of the normal rut. When I stop commuting I am getting some folding baskets and doing all the grocery shopping on it, or hooking the BOB trailer to it and heading to Home Depot.
The possibilities are endless!