DIY electric bike conversion

“It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a 78 year old cyclist, who lives on the top of a hill, must be in want of an electric bike.”  Apologies to  Jane Austen!

Example fitting

My first bike conversion was some 14 years ago and involved a large hub motor in the front wheel and a massive 14 kilo battery on back rack.  The 20 plus kilo weight and poor  distribution of the weight inclined me this time to consider a mid-drive motor and a battery located inside the bicycle frame.   The advances of technology has reduced the weight of a DIY kit to now less then 8 Kg. A massive improvement, and, the range and reliability has improved out of sight.

There are many mid-drive kits available but all the internet research points to the “Bafang” range of kits as the ones to go for.   And if you purchase directly from China there are considerable savings to be made.   The Bafang 500 watt kit is under $500.  This is without a battery, a suitable battery is under $260.  Total kit then costs under $760 including postage.

I needed a bike to convert. It is important to have enough room in the frame to house the battery.  Low-cost popular so-called “city bikes” feature a low top tube for ease of getting on and off, but this does limit the room in the triangle to house a battery.    Some years ago I was given a new bike by Bicycle Victoria as an incentive to participate in one of their “big bike rides”.  Looking at this bike now it does feature room for the battery.  It is also a tad heavy and has a plastic gear changing mechanism.  The weight is not so much an issue on an e-bike and the gear shifting components can be changed at low cost if required. In fact I have an unused derailleur in my ‘junk box’ that I could swap in if needed.

Since placing the order I discovered I might have to wait up to two weeks for it to arrive.  So I decided to swap in a derailleur  I took one off my regular bike some time ago when I realised it could not cope with the large 36 rear cassette sprocket. There was nothing wrong with it so why not?
This worked out well, it is easy to do except that the chain needs to be taken apart and this proved the hardest part.  Using those “chain breakers” I find difficult.  Pushing the link pin out (but not right out!) and then back in so that the chain strength is not compromised does require a quite a bit of care.  I hope it was worthwhile.

The battery came in its own box from another supplier

A couple of weeks later the ‘Bafang” Ebike kit arrived.  There were no instructions on how to fit it to the bike but there are tons of videos on YouTube to help.  It is  about a two hour job to fit.  It turns out it could be that the most difficult task is to remove the existing cranks and bottom bearing from the candidate bike.  You need a couple of special tools to do this, again, there are many videos available to help with this job.  Once the bottom bracket is free it is just a matter of slipping the new drive in place and securing it with the retaining rings supplied.   Change the  brake levers, position the controller and thumb throttle on the handlebar,  connect the wiring, tidy up with tie-wraps, hop on the bike and go!  So now I have another bike in the stable, at another level,and it cost less then $800!

The Green Machine

                                                 Go you good thing!

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Removing the bottom bracket bearing

This is not so hard to do if you have the right tools.
(The removal is finished at about 6 minutes in.)

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Camping in the Coolah Tops National Park

Pam and I stayed for two nights at the end of December 2016. This is a fairly remote area camping ground. There is no water or any facilities of any kind except drop toilets and fireplaces in the larger campsites.
(See on Open Street Maps)

Fires are allowed in fireplaces, there no need to bring wood. No phones, internet or any communication. You need to be self reliant and self contained. No bins, take out your rubbish.
The town of Coolah is 30 km away. Access is by 13 km of stony, hilly gravel road with cattle grids and dips.  If possible reduce your tyre pressure to minimise the chance of punctures. Vehicles with long overhangs need to take care over the dips.  We saw several caravans and smallish motorhomes/campervans.  The remainder were camper trailers or just tents.
This is a forest, once used by timber getters and then by sheep graziers. There  is heavy tree cover except in cleared areas. Lots of shade.
Very dark at night, great for stargazing or photography.  There are no bookings and no fees. Just turn up.  No time limits.
You will find lots of kangaroos, birds and other wildlife,
There are many lookouts with magnificent views. Great for walking or biking with hybrid bikes with bush tyres.
There are very few people, even in “busy” times. Very relaxing place to chill out in the bush.
We stayed at “The Pines”. This has large cleared flat grassy areas as well as shady spots under a grove of pine trees.  Everywhere is very clean, obviously used only by dedicated campers.
We loved it!
(Click on a photo for full screen view. Use your back arrow on the browser to return)

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At “The Pinnacles” looking north over Liverpool Plains towards Gunnedah

sunsetting

Last of the Sun

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“The Pines” entry

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Tons of room under the pines!

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Time for nibbles!

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Large flat grassed areas, tons of room!

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Ex sheep herder’s cottage, “Bracken’s”. You can stay in here if vacant, massive fireplace and about five beds. There is room outside the fence line for camping as well.

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Bracken’s cottage visitors book entry

Quite a few of these. And dips!

Quite a few of these. And dips!

Entry to the Park. There is an information board 300m inside

Entry to the Park. There is an information board 300m inside

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Starry night, at “The Pines”

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Map. Double click to read.

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How I made my computer whisper quiet

Before retirement at work my computing environment was totally quiet as I had a screen only in the office, the computing machinery was somewhere else in the building, a long way off. So I got used to quiet computing.

A different story at home; my tower housing the computer made a lot of noise mostly, I determined, from the power supply fan. I tried sound deadening the the sides of the case and absorbing sound by gluing carpet-like material to the insides, and I substantially reduced the speed of the fan. This all contributed dropping the noise level a lot but the bit leaking out was still getting under my skin. Putting a blanket around the back of the tower made a huge difference, but I was not going there as a permanent solution.

As you may gather I was bit obsessed by this, so I bit the bullet and purchased a quiet power supply on Ebay. In addition, I fitted a solid state ‘hard drive’ as the system disk to eliminate the bursts of clicking noises made by mechanical hard drives. As a great bonus, the start-up time of the computer was substantially reduced and the loading time of applications seems very fast indeed.

The system is now basically dead quiet. If I place my ear within than half a metre of the case I can detect a low humming sound. Probably the CPU fan, but in my normal typing position I can detect virtually no sound at all.

Having put up with a mini-tornado like wind noise for over ten years, having an almost dead quiet computer is a bit scary. Is it really running! I think I will adjust very quickly!
Bliss at last. Sheer bliss!

(Maybe I’m just going deaf!)

Power Supply

This cost me under $40 including postage. It took me 30 minutes to swap out the old noisy one.

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Biking in the Baltic

A 5am start by taxi from London in July saw us on our way to Stanstead airport to catch the low-cost German Wings flight to Hanover on our way to Kiel, the start of our adventure.

 Stanstead is one of four London airports; the others are Luton, Gatwick and the huge five-terminal Heathrow. The really cheap flights do not use Heathrow! There is also a small airport right in the heart of London near the Canary Wharf financial centre — LondonCity airport.

We were on our way first to Hanover in Germany, taking the opportunity to visit a friend who lives there and whom we haven’t seen for many years.  From there we were to catch a train to Kiel where our sailing ship, the Flying Dutchman awaits us.

After a dubious start, the low-cost German Wings flight was quite OK.  The problem was, someone had ‘barfted’ in our allocated seats, but the attendant quickly found new seats for us.  At a flight cost 47 Euros for a one hour flight we were not complaining!

These paths are duplicated on the other side!

It is hard not to be impressed with the Hanover area, especially from a cycling point of view.  The road reserves are wide, and the major roads have wide pedestrian and cycle paths on both sides.  These paths are continuous over the many bridges that span the canals that are common in the area.  In fact, the combined width of the cycle and pedestrian paths often far exceed the width devoted to cars.  What a civilised place!  There are extensive woods and parks that are criss-crossed with cycle and walking paths.  Of course bikes are everywhere and are used for getting to the tram stop, the shops, work or school.  In fact our friend and host in Hanover has the choice of cycling the 8km to the city centre either along a wide tow-path on the side of a canal or through an extensive wood that encircles the city.   Oh to have such choices!

Kiel is in Germany. The islands are Danish.


Then the two hour train trip north to Kiel where the massive Kiel Canal commences.  This huge canal allows shipping in the Baltic to get to the North Sea and the Atlantic.  This is a massive engineering work, over 100m wide 12m deep and 100km long.  It is the busiest artificial waterway in the world, or so the sign says!

Our ship is the second one


A converted fishing boat from the 1930’s


Our sailing ship, the Flying Dutchman, was berthed just a short distance from the entrance, so we had a great view of the heavy shipping activity entering and leaving in the afternoon and the evening we were berthed there. Being quite northerly, the evenings are very long, still being able to see about at 11pm. Quite hard to get used to for us mid-latitude dwellers!. We sail the next morning, weather quite overcast and threatening.

The Flying Dutchman is a 40 metre long two-masted schooner-like vessel with two gaff rigged mainsails, four jib-like fore sails and two across-wise square sails set on top of the fore-mast.   I asked the skipper if the square sails were very useful. He replied they are the most powerful sails on the boat, he said they seemed small from down on the deck but in fact they are huge and act like two massive spinnakers.

Very nautical!


So we set sail for our first island, the island of Aerø in Denmark.   Ø is the Danish word for ‘island’ and Aer means ‘palm’.  So it is ‘PalmIsland’.  Did not see any palms!

The official crew of the ship are the skipper Klaus and two young women Anica and Marielle, all from Holland.    So to set the numerous sails of this rather cumbersome tall ship require the active help of the guests.  Luckily there were plenty of volunteers, especially two young lads Marc and Max who were ‘conned’ into going way out on the bowsprit to help in the raising of the three foresails. No one expected me to help in that way at least,  one of the few ‘senior’ advantages!

So we had a bracing six-hour morning of just sailing in this rather large vessel.  Quite an experience especially as the weather turned rather nasty for a couple of hours and we had quite a bit of water sloshing across the deck at times.    Some of the guests were sick.

We berthed at the town of Marstal on the island and set out for a ride without delay.  Unfortunately there was a stiff headwind which took some of the shine off the ride; but returning was great! The island is very eco conscious or ‘green’ and there are numerous fields of solar panels and many wind turbines.  The aim is to become self sustaining in the near future with regards to electricity consumption at least.

The parking areas always have one or two bays set aside for the charging of electric cars with power outlets provided free of charge. The whole attitude to alternative energy is quite an eye-opener.

Next day we rode to the quite incredible town of  Aerøskøbing.  Incredible because it is preserved almost exactly as it was 150 to 300 years ago. Incredible to be able to walk down the streets and sit in the town square seemingly untouched by modern buildings or other developments.

After a lunch on the ship we rode to the port of  Søby right on the north tip of the island.  Aerø is a beautiful island, clean, green and neat, and is a magnet for some of the thousands of cruising yachts that use the Baltic as their summer playground.  So the scenic experience was well worthwhile.  Having bikes means we can explore the island to the fullest, something that is denied the hundreds of visiting cruising craft in the marinas and those visitors who come by ferry.

And so for the next three days we continued sailing and biked on the islands of Aerø, Fünen and  Langerland with the ship going from port to port for our evening meal and nightime stopovers.  What a life!

The area with its many islands is very popular with small boat sailors and the islands have extensive marinas that are used like we use caravan parks, the boats just chose a spot and a fees collector comes around in the morning and afternoon to collect the harbour dues.  There seems very little officialdom, nothing much is locked up or out-of-bounds, there are extensive playground areas for the kids and always a coffee shop or café close by.

These Danish islands are very rural and unspoiled and very environmentally conscious.  This shows in that the streets and footpaths are clean and neat, lots of green grass, there is no rubbish or litter and definitely no graffiti!

The shipboard life on our tall ship the Flying Dutchman was very much one of self help and co-operation, down to the laying of tables and the distribution of food at mealtimes, to cleaning up afterwards, even extending to wiping and polishing the dinning room tables by one very enthusiastic  German lady.

In fact the majority of the 20 guests were German, with four Swiss and seven Austrians from Vienna.  Of course they all spoke German so we were the odd ones out, but were made to feel as much as part of the group as is possible in such a situation.

There were some very powerful bike riders in the group, large framed with broad shoulders and powerful legs, and that was only the women.  Great for sneaking behind to get out of the wind!

The captain Klaus and the other two crew were Dutch, as are just about all the crews and tall ships in the area.  In Kiel there were at least a dozen ‘windjammers’ tied up, several even doubled up due to lack of dockside space.

Anica flaking the main entering Rudkobing


Our two young women crew worked like ‘navvies’.   I saw Anica one moment high up in the rigging folding and flaking the huge cumbersome sail and next in the galley peeling onions.  Klaus was also to be seen bring out dishes and helping clearing away and tidying up, as did some of the guests.  No unionism here!

Finally we left the island of Langerland (long island) and our final port of Rudkobing headed for our dock in Kiel. So after a bracing six-hour sail we are back were we started, except that we have had an experience in between that we will never forget.

So we come to the sad stage of the trip saying  ‘goodbye’ to our shipboard and cycling friends, always a bit sorry when the realisation comes that it is all over and we need to go on our separate ways once more.

A sad ‘goodbye’ to Kiel, the ship and our Baltic holiday

PS: If you have got this far and want more punishment, there are more photos if you click here. View full-size for best effect!

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Back home and smiling

Now that its been a few weeks since the ‘coronation’ I can report that my mouth and teeth are fine, the ‘bite’ is perfect and I couldn’t be more pleased. I’ve been gnashing away and masticating to my hearts content.

I’ve been asked about the nitty-gritty details; The travel agent is here in Noosa and Kirby our contact there arranged the whole setup. We needed to send her a whole mouth X-ray which I did by email. When I got my X-ray done (you need a referral from your dentist) I needed to ask for a CD as well as the film. The CD has a jpg image on it which you send to the travel agent. She forwards it to the dental clinic and before long you will receive a cost estimate for the work.
It is a good idea to take the film with you to Thailand.

The total cost of the package (excluding teeth) for two of us for 11 nights was $2,474. This includes a deluxe room at The Old Phuket with full breakfasts and airport transfers and being totally spoiled.
Just a short walk away you are spoilt by a choices for places to eat, most meals being between $5 and $8.
Pam and I enjoyed a skewer with five king prawns and salad from a roadside stall for $5 each most nights. Delicious! Ice creams and smoothies were around $1.50.

My teeth costs for four crowns and two root canal therapies was about $3000. This included pre-booked taxis for all appointments.

All arrangements worked like a well boiled icicle a well oiled bicycle. We had a great time in Phucket and we can thoroughly recommend it. The boat tours to the dramatic limestone islands are a must and there is a spectacular show featuring lots of elephants and gymnastics, called ‘Fantasea’ well worth seeing.

So, if you fell like a great tropical Asian holiday and at the same time fix up your body and save money, go for it and enjoy a break!


Later:
I have put some holiday photos on another website here. You can view as a slide show by clicking on the black arrow head on the top right hand corner.

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Coronation at last!

The preparation for the fitting of the four crowns was quite an endurance trial for me and I expect, for the dentist as well. The procedures took four hours and I had three injections, one each to the right and left lower jaw and one to the upper right. So my general face area was practically numb all over!

The preparations consist of drilling away at the remaining tooth structure and fitting posts to hold the crowns. And then there is the interminable process of making castings and moulds of both jaws and the meticulous manufacture of models of the actual crowns. This is a fiddly and time consuming process. At long last the models were deemed to be satisfactory and the whole batch of castings was sent off to Bangkok to have the actual crowns made. In the interim temporary crowns are fitted so I could eat for the next few days. My jaw was heavily abused during these processes so a few days recuperation was entirely necessary.

Six days later it was back to the dentist to fit the real crowns made in Bangkok. This was a two hour process and involved a lot of biting on film and minute adjustments to the crowns to make sure of a perfect fit.

So now I am the proud owner of four new crowns. It been gruelling but worth it I hope. Tomorrow’s appointment is just for a followup and general clean and then it is all over.

For me I felt the experience was well worth while. I did not doubt the competency or the quality of the treatment for one second. The service and dentistry seemed to me to be totally first class. Due to the language barrier, there is no re-assuring small talk or banter during the procedures, It was all very business like and I just assumed it is all going along OK. The dentist did come to see me in the waiting room after each session was finished just as some sort of immediate follow up to make sure I was still in a fit state so I did not feel neglected in any way.

As for the costs, all up it was 85000 baht. At 30 baht to the Aussie dollar this comes to under $3000. This was for two root canal therapies and four crowns. And taxis to and from the hospital for four visits. Just one root canal therapy and one crown was more than $3000 at my local dentist.

Pam had a checkup and clean for 950 baht. She is very happy with the results. Try and get that for around $30 at home!

 

The hospital at Phuket was modern, neat, very clean with spacious waiting rooms fitted with comfortable leather couches more like a hotel lobby than a hospital clinic. The clerical staff were right ‘on the ball’ everything pre-prepared for my visit and a taxi waiting to take us home. What more could you ask for!

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