Monthly Archives: February 2020

Roving with the Rad Rover

This bike is so much fun. That’s not to say that the other bike wasn’t fun. Just that the Rover, with the greater range, the front shocks and larger diameter tires provides a comfort that the Lectric did not. For example, today’s 27 mile ride, a new exploration on county  gravel roads starting in Madison County and crossing over into Perry County. No problem. I don’t have to worry at all about the range on a ride of this distance. A few days ago, the 16th, I rode 37 miles and still had more than 40% of battery left! That was on PAS 2 with an average speed of 14. Yesterday I was late for a meeting with one of our group cyclists so for the first time (with either bike) I cranked it up to PAS 5 for the whole ride to town. I covered the 6 miles to Scoops in 17 minutes with an average speed of 21.5 and had plenty of juice left over (about 40%) when I finished the day at 25 miles. Riding these distances and knowing I can go faster if I want or need to opens up the possibilities further which is exactly what I was hoping for.

2/16 37.5 miles
2/17 29 miles
2/18 25 miles
2/19 30 miles

321 miles for February, 727 for the year! Woot! Only slightly obsessed 🤓

So, the ride today: Gravel! And it was fantastic! As nice as a quiet paved road is for a ride I’m finding that gravel provides a sense of adventure that’s missing on blacktop. And actually, todays ride was as much packed dirt as it was gravel. Technically it’s a gravel road but the best parts of it were down to smooth dirt, all of it through a mixed forest, dominated by pine right up to the edges of the road. Closer to the width of a single vehicle, not that I saw any. Just me on the road surrounded by trees and birds. Quiet. Peaceful. The beauty of an e-bike is that it is nearly as quiet as a regular bike. The motor makes almost no noise at all. The sound of the knobby tires on the road is louder and at 12 mph it’s not all that loud. The whole ride was 27 miles, the best part of that was the 10 or so on the gravel and dirt.

This is my new favorite route and I expect I’ll be doing this ride several times a week until I find a better one. I had a client meeting today so I had to cut it short, only two hours. The next ride I’ll make sure I have 3 hours and I’ll go farther at a slower pace. Friday maybe. I can hardly wait!

Ride Updates

Ride Updates!

2/7 16.1
2/8 21.8
2/9 6.3
2/10 4 – First Rad Rover test ride
2/11 24.5
2/14 24
2/15 31.3

We’ve had some very wet winter weather which has kept me off the bike for a 5 days thus far this month. I snuck in a short couple of rides on some other rain days but they were brief. Still, 200 miles for the month! Knees are great! I have to remind myself to take it easy. I don’t want to push too hard as I did when I was riding back in Memphis 20 years ago.

My third full Rover Ride yesterday, Saturday, was my first ride over 30 miles. The Lectric’s reliable range topped out at about 28 miles. I was really impressed with the battery on the Rover as we had winds from 15 to 20 mph with some gusts possibly higher than that and even with the wind I ended the ride at just over 31 miles and 40% battery, mostly ridden at PAS 2, average speed of around 14 mph. Given that I’m going to speculate that on a less windy day I could safely get 40 miles or more at PAS 2. I wouldn’t be surprised if I could get close to 50. My ride today is set to be a nice one. 55 degrees and no wind so I might try to push to PAS 3 and see where the range lands me at an average higher speed.

Adding a new tag for my Rover Rides which will likely be the primary bike I use going forward.

Rad Rover First Impressions Mini Review

(Note: As I wrote this first impression it occurred to me that I’d like to also write a follow-up digging into what makes electric bikes so fantastic as a form of transportation in terms of enjoyment and efficiency. That will be next on the list.)

The new bike came on Monday. I had just enough time to get it assembled and out for a short, four mile ride. But the battery was at less than a 40% charge so I brought it home before giving it a real test run. The first three charges are supposed to be for 12 hours each to “balance” the cells. I did that and this morning added slime to the tires, tweaked a few things and then went out for a good and proper 20 mile ride. I took my usual route which consists of the quiet county blacktop roads 217, 219, 221 then back and up to the Slime Pond and then to the cemetery.

It’s a very nice ride. Too early to say if it’s everything I hoped it would be when I decided to get a second bike because a big part of that is hoping I’ll be able to get 35 to 45 miles per charge instead of the 28 I’m getting with the Lectric. It takes three 12 hour “balance” charges to get the batteries conditioned to something close to full capacity. After today’s 24.5 miles I’ve used 2 of the 5 bars. So, I’ll guess I’m at around 45 to 55% remaining. With the Lectric the same mileage has been leaving me at about 35%. The Lectric has 10 bars and also a voltage meter for more precise measurement. The Rover has 5 bars, no voltage meter so I’ll have to ride it a bit and learn more about how the five bars translate into range in real-world riding. My understanding would be that each bar represents a 20% range so 1 bar: 0 – 20%, 2 bars: 20 – 40%, 3 bars: 40 – 60%, 4 bars: 60 – 80%, 5 bars: 80 – 100%.

Another aspect of batteries and range also comes into play here. Something I’ve learned about the Lectric is that the lower half of the battery is not the same as the top half. Below 50% and it seems to drop more quickly and as it drops available power to the engine drops as well. So, in the top 50% I might expect to get 15 miles at full power. In the bottom 50% I can expect 12 miles with progressively less power. The last 20% of battery provides far less power to the motor. As I understand it some of how the rider experiences an electric bike will vary based on how the controller has been tuned. Each brand and model providing a variety of batteries, motors and controller means a different experience.

Since I’m on the topic of the electronic part of the bike I’ll go ahead and cover some other differences in that area. Namely that while I do indeed seem to be on target for more range there is also a significant difference in how the two bikes accelerate, maintain speeds and the levels of pedal assist. I expected this largely in part to the difference in while size. The Lectric with the 20” diameter wheels has more torque and feels much zippier from start. It’s also got a more limited 12-28 cog. In PAS 3 it tends to hover around 17-18 with moderate pedal effort. Pushing speed beyond 22 requires a good bit of effort. By comparison the Rover with it’s 26” feels slower from the start but it does get up to it’s cruising speed fairly quickly and once there is higher and easier to maintain. In PAS 3 it tends to run at about 20 to 22. I can push the speed up to 25 with the higher 6th or 7th gear with light to moderate effort.

I’ve got 7 weeks of riding with the Lectric and only a day with the Rover so I’ll really need to spend more time with it to get a fuller view of how it’s performing at the different PAS levels and how it performs in terms of speed and range. On the tail end of the first ride I tried the bike out at PAS 1 and 2 and found it similar to the Lectric. One difference being that I found that I wanted to use the thruster more at these levels, especially PAS 1 where the Rover seemed slower. I found that I could run it at PAS 1 and mix in the thruster at a partial twist to get a significant speed bump while also keeping the watt usage low.

A last bit on the electrical system that seems most significant to me is the display of data which is similar. One difference already mentioned is the less detailed view of battery offered by the Rover. But I like that the watts being used allow me to have a sense of what my range will be. The Lectric does something similar showing the amps being used. With the Lectric I find myself going back and forth between amps being used and current battery voltage. With the Rover I can only see the watts being used which is more limited but I almost preferred it. Not sure why.

On to the feel of the Rover and how that compares to the Lectric. The Lectric with it’s 20” wheels is shorter. It’s stand over height is way lower. It’s easier to mount and feels zippier. All benefits over the Rover. But even with the very nice suspension seat post the Lectric feels like a much rougher ride especially on our gravel which has some fairly rough patches. The Lectric feels like the ideal ride in a city space with busier streets, shorter rides and smoother roads.

The Rover has a much higher stand over height. It weighs about 6 lbs more. It has a longer wheel base. The feel of riding it is very different from the feel of the Lectric. I immediately felt much higher up off the ground and also in a more upright position, almost squished which is funny because it’s a bigger bike! The reason for this is that the distance between the front of the seat and the handlebars is significantly less. The Lectric stretches the user out with a distance of 19” compared to the Rover’s 16”.That may not seem like much but the rider really feels it! The only height for the Rover handlebars is 47” which is pretty high up but right for the geometry of the bike. This will of course mean a different feel for riders of different heights that adjust the seat according to height. The Lectric handlebar height is adjustable with a low of about 42” and a max of about 50” which is a nice feature as it allows for changing mid ride. In general though the Lectric feels like a smaller bike and I feel stretched out regardless of my handlebar height. A couple photos might help illustrate.

IMG_224311C829BC-BC0D-4D67-9A2D-9F96BECA75D0

The Lectric feels like a small speed boat. Highly maneuverable and fast but very bouncy on the waves. The Rover feels like a yacht (not that I’ve been on a yacht, I’m guessing here). Smooth and very stable! With the larger wheel base and suspension fork our gravel road is a much nicer ride. The bumps are far less noticeable and the overall ride felt far more stable. When I ride down our gravel road on the Lectric I find myself feeling cautious with fingers on the brakes. Same on the steep blacktop hill on my county road ride. On the Rover higher speed on hills feel natural and safe.

Overall comfort on the Rover feels better on a long ride. When I finished yesterday’s ride my butt was a tad more sore because I rode with the stock seat. But overall, I felt better. When I’m riding the Lectric I tend to have a little discomfort on the list 5 miles of my ride. I think it’s the result of the rougher ride and the geometry of the bike. I tend to feel a bit of back ache too. Not terrible but it’s there. I didn’t notice this on my first Rover ride.

So, two very different riding experiences and I’ll know more after I get more rides in with the Rover but my first impression is that I greatly prefer the increased comfort of the Rover to the zip and nimbleness of the Lectric. I wanted greater range for longer rides on these back country roads and I do think the Rover is going to provide that. Even better, it provides an overall smoother ride and higher cruising speeds with greater stability which will be noticeable on the hilly and rougher gravel roads. No doubt I’ll provide a follow-up after I’ve had another couple weeks with the Rover.

Spokes and Folks

spoke logoOkay, time for an update on our new cycling project. It’s seeming more real each week. We’ve got momentum. And really, it’s starting to feel like we, not me. My previous posts on the project all still apply to what’s going on with progress being made each week. I’ve now met with two staff of the local county Extension office with the most recent being a couple days ago. There is a third staffer that also works with youth and the 4H who is interested in what we’re doing so that will likely be an additional element in our project.

Next week I meet with the administrator of the local county health department. The following week I meet again with the economic development specialist at county extension (our second meeting) then the following week we’re on the agenda at city council and hopefully the county commission! First group rides will be in April. Possibly a cycling safety class in April too.

I’ve also been in discussion with Brent at the Missouri Bike Federation. I’m a new member there and wanted to say hello to him and let him know about our project. He’s very excited about our project shared some great information which leads me to my next bit… I’ve set up a little website for the project as a place to store updates, links, resources, event calendar, etc… and he was kind enough to post it on the MBF website. I hadn’t asked him to post but mentioned I was setting it up so he made a story out of it. Currently on their front page which is kinda neat because they’re a well established state cycling organization with a lot of members.

One project he mentioned that will concern Fredericktown and Madison County and it is a DOOZY, is the extension of the Ozark Trail System from the southwest of the state over to Fredericktown. The new system of routes being set-up will add 1,000 miles to the system and reaches up to Farmington and down to Fredericktown. The Farmington-Fredericktown loop is mostly set and has been vetted. On its own it is 300 miles and has the potential to bring a lot of cyclists to town. I’ll share more about this on the website and with you all as I gather the information.

Our new project site, Spokes and Folks, is now up and I’ve begun adding content to it. Will add more over the coming days. Kinda cool seeing it sprinkled in amongst the other stories around the state

Ride Updates

1/26: 22 miles
1/27: 22 miles
1/28 15.5 miles
1/29: 12.4 miles
1/30: 25.2 miles
1/31: 23.7 miles
2/1: 24.5 miles
2/2: 27.5 miles
2/3: 20.3 miles

Lots of riding since my last post! 72 miles in February. My total for January was 406. Total thus far since getting the bike in December is just over 600 miles. What a blast! My longest day of riding was 27.5 miles and I think that’s about the extent of the battery. I could have possibly pushed it to 30 but I’m finding that with three bars left the voltage is at about 43 to 44 which means there’s a lot less juice available for the battery and it really shows. The motor struggles to do much at all at that point. While my knees have been great I would not want to try to pedal this bike the last mile home on our gravel. The hills and softness of the wet winter road would mean I’d be pushing it for much of that. Worth noting that the 27.5 miles on February 27 was a warm 70ish day so no energy loss due to a cold temps. I was riding at PAS 3, about 18mph which seems to be the sweet spot. I could ride on PAS 2 at 13mph with similar terrain and temps and get 30 or more probably.

Loving it. That said, as I mentioned in my previous post, I was considering a new bike for longer range. I actually did end up ordering it but not the one I was thinking. Rather than go with a light road bike I went with another fat tire, but a 26” tire, the Rad Rover, which should be here tomorrow. It’s also a heavy bike at about 70lbs. I debated back and forth. Ultimately went with the Rover because it’s coming from a company with a proven 10 year track record and with progressive work culture (as far as I can tell) and great support. After doing a lot of reading and watching and comparing, it seems there are maybe 5 or so bikes in this category. The Rover is a slightly better deal price wise with very similar specs so it won out. I should be looking at 35 to 40 mile range with the better battery and larger tires. So, not a huge improvement but better. And, should I get to the point where I want to do 60 miles a day I’ll get another battery. This bike has the benefit of a battery that not only has more capacity but is fairly easy to change. A final benefit (which can also be a drawback) are the larger tires. Yeah, heavy compared to the thinner options I was considering but I think ultimately a good choice for the terrain in this area.

More soon. Next post will be a fun update about our local cycling project which is moving along at a good clip now with new support and a new website. I’ll have that up later today or tomorrow.