Monthly Archives: December 2018

Oliebollentocht 2018

Each year on 28 December there is a gathering of velomobiles for a group ride. I attended Oliebollentocht in 2016 in Dronten, 2017 in Rotterdam and then this year’s was just round the corner in Roermond. So of course we had it in our diaries for months!

Klaus and I were joined by Fritz and Biggi (www.tandemontour.de) who stayed with us the night before Oliebollentocht as they had a 3 hour car journey to get to Roermond. They arrived with their two DFs on a trailer.

I had already arranged to borrow Ralf’s Sprinter (once again!) and Biggi decided she would be happy to come with me in the Sprinter to the start of Oliebollentocht. Klaus and Fritz would ride to Ralf’s where they would collect him, Hartmut and Thomas, a Quest rider from Kleve and then all ride the 30km to Roermond.

The Sprinter was packed with Millie and Biggie’s DF, called the Little Bat. Klaus and Fritz set off at 7:15 and as Biggi and I were ready we decided to drive to Ralf’s to say hello to everyone as they gathered.

We then drove to Roermond, where everyone was gathering in a sports centre. There was lots of parking which was handy as the place was full of cars with trailers with velomobiles on top. Others had cycled the day before to a location where the organisers had arranged sleeping quarters. There was lots going on!

Here is a row of velomobiles including Klaus’s Quattrovelo Emily.

Klaus, Ralf, Fritz, Hartmut and Thomas arrived not long after Biggi and I had unloaded our Velomobiles and registered.

I bumped into chum Klaus from Köln who is always very handy with a camera and asked him if he would take some photos of Millie – and he of course obliged. Most of the photos below were taken by him.

We had some introductory remarks by various people – the event was being sponsored by several organisations including the EU! Then it was time for us all to get in our velomobiles and try to make our way out of the car park and onto the 66km route that had been planned for us.

Ahead of me in this picture is the black and white DF belonging to Lincoln, who I met last year at Oliebollentocht. He comes over from Australia for the event (and also other things, I think!) so that is very impressive! He wins the competition for furthest distance travelled to Oliebollentocht.

We very slowly rolled out of the car park.

The route that had been chosen had quite a few switchbacks and corners – and this made for a wonderful sight! I was actually in about the first third of the velomobiles but still saw this long series of velomobiles in front of me (the picture below was taken by me).

To me they looked like a load of jellybeans!

Here are some of Klaus from Köln’s pictures, including the hot air balloon which took off just in front of us. The people in the balloon must have got some wonderful shots of all the velomobiles!

The route wended its way around Roermond and then headed towards Germany, taking in mostly quiet B-roads and farm tracks. But soon we were heading up the main road towards Brüggen and crossed into Germany.

And eventually we arrived at our lunch destination in Niederkrüchten. There were velomobiles parked all over the green beside the chapel.

Klaus and I found a seat and enjoyed the lunch of bread rolls, meat, cheese, scrambled egg and drinks. The place was full, as it turned out there had been 150 velomobiles!

The lunch stop was just the right length, as we were finishing with our cups of tea and coffee it was time to move on again. It had been a good opportunity to talk to some friends.

We set off again, first having to queue to get back into our long line which must have stretched nearly a kilometre.

I was fairly near the head of the string of velomobiles and the drivers of the cars that had stopped to let us past were still smiling and waving. I think as they realised there were rather a lot of us their grins probably turned into rather more of a grimace. There were some long hold-ups, although we kept the group together pretty well.

And for this I have to thank Oliver Piper and the organisation team from Grensrijders. I had struggled a bit on the previous Oliebollentocht rides as the speed was too great for me, and people didn’t wait. I ended up riding large chunks on my own, which I felt rather defeated the object of a group ride. I had talked to Oliver about this earlier in the year, and I said I thought it would be good to offer a shorter route (which indeed he did, although I don’t know if anyone used it), and he definitely took more care to keep us together. Oliver led from the front and there weren’t any large gaps apparent to me, as he kept the speed constant and manageable. I know another rider said to me it was a bit fast for them, but as I had my motor this year it was pretty easy for me. So thanks again to the Grensrijders for all their wonderful planning for the event, and for making it all run so smoothly.

When we got back to the Leisure Centre we collected our goodie bags which included t-shirts (we had earlier all been given rather nice fleecy hats!). We were given soup and of course the eponymous Oliebollen…

There were some speeches which included a short time of silence to remember Robert Frischemeier, Liegender_Robert, who died in February. We were also extremely sad to hear that a rider Erwin, who I know from his Velomobile Tante Lies, had suffered a serious accident on his way to Oliebollentocht the day before when in the dark he hadn’t seen a horizontal barrier across the road and had hit it hard with his head. The last we heard he was in a coma with many broken facial bones and had already had his first operation. We all hope that he makes a full recovery.

After a couple of hours it was time to head home, Biggi and I in the warm Sprinter, Klaus and the rest in their velomobiles. Klaus ended up with a 170km day, Biggi and I had the 66km, which we enjoyed very much.

Biggi and Fritz stayed another night with us and then headed off with their bikes on the trailer the next morning.

Oliebollentocht is a really impressive experience. Where else do you see 150 velomobiles in one place? We were also extremely lucky with the weather as, although rather cold (2 degrees), it was dry and clear.

Thanks again to the organising team, and to Klaus from Köln for letting me use lots of his photos. There are lots of YouTube videos of OBT2018 which you can search for if you want to see all the different velomobiles, although this year seemed to be the Year of the DF.

Friend Jupp shot a great video of the event – you can watch it here: https://youtu.be/toAyorIf0ec

Next year, December 28, Oliebollentocht will be in Utrecht. I can’t wait!

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Filed under Cycling in Germany, Millie the Milan GT Carbon, Six Wheels In Germany, Velomobiles

Millie goes electric! Fitting a Bafang electric motor to a Milan GT Velomobile

Electric motors in recumbents

Some time ago I electrified my ICE Sprint recumbent trike.

This was to enable me to keep up with Klaus on his trike, a Wild One. Klaus was a faster rider than me, despite the Wild One being 6-7kg heavier than the ICE Sprint; this is of course down to biology – the average chap has more power than the average woman, and I am also a very heavy woman.

Anyway, Alfie was electrified and our rides together were evened out for speed.

Fast forward two and a half years, and I’m in the same situation again. I have a very fast velomobile (a Milan GT) but Klaus has upgraded from his Strada to a Quattrovelo and has increased his speed. He has also become fitter this year, and I have lost some fitness. So what this means is that, once again, I have been struggling to keep up with Klaus.

When you start falling behind in rides, this is also not good psychologically and you ride less as a result. After all, if you are doing a short ride with a friend and you end up completely pooped and drenched in sweat, when they are barely breathing harder, this makes you feel bad. So you are less fit, fall further behind, use the car instead. So this year Klaus and I have ridden together much less than previously.

My average speed on rides alone has not actually changed that much, but I have been slower when riding with others when not able to ride at my optimum pace. I have also now measured my wattage which is 100W at the pedals on average, which translates to about 70W on the road after losses through the drivetrain etc. That’s not particularly high (although I can ride at that power for 12 hours/300 km). Most chaps are around 150-200W, really fast guys much more.

It is not possible for me to buy a faster Velomobile that I can ride/fit in, I have the best option with the Milan GT. Losing weight is extremely difficult and although would help would not make an enormous difference. So the third option was to fit a motor to Millie.

I thought about this for some time, as in some ways I feared it would spoil her. The velomobile is a wonderful bike as it’s actually fairly simple, it’s fast and it’s easy. The electric motor and battery would add weight, would add complexity, cabling, might be a lot noisier (although velomobiles are fairly noisy anyway, fortunately Millie isn’t too bad) and I would lose the purity of cycling entirely under my own power. Not to mention that when people ask me “is there a motor in it?” I would have to answer “yes!”

But the thought of riding Oliebollentocht without power assist, with 150 fast men riding at full speed and me once again falling off the back, riding alone, feeling really grumpy, girded me into making the decision to fit a motor.

So which is the right motor?

I spoke about fitting a motor to my velomobile with Velomobile.nl and with Ligfietsshop Tempelman. They suggested the following options:

Vivax: https://www.vivax-assist.com/en/product/vivax-assist/vivax-assist_4-0.php

Bimoz: https://bimoz.ch/

Moteur pédalier pour Vélomobile: http://www.declic-eco.fr/boutique/moteurs-pedalier/moteur-pedalier-pour-velomobile-detail

And of course the trust Bafang BBS01, such as I have fitted to Alfie the trike.

The Q-factor

The main issue with fitting a motor to a velomobile is the Q-factor, which is the width between the pedals. On a normal bike you have lots of space either side of the bottom bracket; in a Velomobile there is a carbon frame around it and for many velomobiles there simply is not room for a wider bottom bracket which most motors require. If the Q-factor is too wide then your feet scrape the side or indeed jam against the carbon shell. I discovered this with Millie when I had a standard-width Schlumpf fitted, rather than the velomobile narrow version… I had to adjust the cleats on my shoes so I could pedal without scraping the sides!

It’s actually hard to get any official information about the Q-factor of velomobiles. This is partly because people have their seats in all sorts of different positions, and as the noses of the velomobiles narrow towards the front, if your feet are further forward (because your seat is, or because you are tall and have long legs) and if your shoes are larger, then this can cause many issues. But generally, the Strada and Quest have space for a wider Q-factor, the DF is very narrow (although the DF-XL is a bit better), the Milan somewhere in the middle of these two. But not many Milan owners build motors into them.

Vivax

So the first option was to find a motor that doesn’t affect the Q-factor negatively. In the list above, the Vivax looked ideal. It’s a motor that fits in the down-tube of a normal bike and helps to turn the cranks. It’s also invisible on the bike (not an issue with a velomobile, but is something that apparently some cyclists have as secret help!). It is horribly expensive, at about 3000 EUR including fitting, but I thought it worth investigating.

Fortunately someone on the Velomobilforum had owned a Vivax, although he had taken it out of his velomobile and sold it on.

I contacted him and he gave me his phone number for a chat about the Vivax. And it became very clear straight away that this was not the best option for me. It wasn’t very helpful upon acceleration or hills, its main job was providing a small amount of motor support when riding at a regular speed. That’s the one aspect of riding that I don’t really need help with! It can only help up to a certain cadence, either 70 or 90, which would be OK for me but could be a deal-breaker for others, but the whole system would clearly not be a good option for me. Strike that one off the list!

Bimoz

The Bimoz looked really good but was still in the crowdfunding stage and it’s always a bit of a lottery as to when these things are ready.

Price for the full monty kit is $1,100 so not bad at all, but I suspected this would not be available for months if not years. From the images it looks like the Q-factor is not wide so it might be a good option for the future for other velomobile riders.

The French option

This is marketed as specific for velomobiles and the company have links with Cycles JV in France who are well-known velomobile suppliers. So far, so good!

Here is the description in French from their website:

Description du produit:

  • Kit moteur pédalier pour vélomobiles (waw, quest, mango, A4/A6, go-one)
  • Nouvelle version , un gros travail d’optimisation a été effectué , roue libre interne , carters latéraux ,support pour un double plateau ,support dérailleur ( non monté sur la photo ) …
  • Axe de pédalier en 128mm de large
  • Manivelles en 152mm
  • Moteur mis au point en collaboration avec la société  QBX
  • Un modèle est disponible pour essais chez Cycles JV Au Mans
  • Ce matériel  est non homologué usage réservé sur terrain privé .

Le kit se compose :

  • D’un moteur pédalier avec sa fixation spécifique pour vélomobile (utilisation du tube alu 40*40 commun a ces vélomobiles)
  • Contrôleur 36V/48V pour adapter la vitesse du moteur a la rotation des pédales du cycliste (80rpm en 36v 105 RPM en 48V)
  • Un accélérateur ou  capteur de pédalage
  • Un contact de frein a placer sur le guidon d’origine
  • Un capteur pour le dérailleur AV
  • Un dérailleur  spécifique
  • Un cycle analyst 2.3  en version direct plug-in pour permettre de régler ampérage et vitesse max

le kit ne comprend  pas les  plateaux pour permettre au client d’ajuster sa démultiplication en fonction de ses besoins.

And it looks like this: (images taken from the website linked to above)

You can see from these photos that this motor, like the others, needs some kind of special mounting for the Velomobile Tretlagermast (boom) as it is square. This is also ideally offset to the left to make space for the chainring, and these offset bottom bracket holders are made by Alligt in the Netherlands who offer them to the companies that fit motors into velomobiles.

What was also noticeable is that the company listed velomobiles that this system would fit – and the Milan was not one of them.

Bafang motor

I also spoke with Gerrit Tempelman who has a lot of experience at fitting Bafang motors to trikes.

His initial comment was that the Q-factor is too high. The Bafang motor is wider than the standard velomobile bottom bracket. But otherwise the Bafang is a great option – price is keen, they are everywhere so parts/replacement is easy, and they are a tried and tested solution which is reliable and relatively quiet in use. It’s just that pesky Q-factor.

Now what?

So it seemed I hadn’t had much success. The Vivax had looked great (although pricey) but wouldn’t suit me, the Bimoz might not exist for years, the French option probably wouldn’t fit, the Bafang might not fit.

So how wide COULD I go in Millie. With the current pedals I had a bit of room to the side.

I remembered with my Schlumpf (which had subsequently been removed) I had problems with the width but eventually it just fitted. But I didn’t actually know how wide my Schlumpf was, just that it was wider than the normal one. I read somewhere it was 180mm wide pedal-to-pedal. This is actually wider than the Bafang.

I also read lots of threads in the Velomobilforum with people fitting motors to velomobiles, mostly Quests and Stradas. But there was a lady with a DF-XL who had a Bafang, and the nose of that appears smaller than Millie’s nose. And then I read a post by a guy who commented that there’s a 70-year-old guy with a Milan GT who rides around with a Bafang in it.

So I tried to investigate this some more, and the chap Jörg said yes, this guy did exist, the fitting was done by the company Akkurad in Köln. This sounded most positive as Köln is only 70km away.

I phoned Akkurad and they said that yes, it should be possible. I asked about the Q-factor and they weren’t too sure and suggested I phoned Räderwerk (manufacturers of the Milan), which I did. I spoke to Helge, and he said that as long as I didn’t have the luggage holders at the front I should be OK. I assumed that having shoe size 43, so smaller than most chaps, should also be a benefit. Helge said I would have to have the straight cranks, not the usual ones that bend outwards, and would also need short cranks (155mm rather than the normal 170mm), but it should work.

A visit to Akkurad

The chap at Akkurad had told me that the motor is about 500 € and the fitting 450 €, roughly. I already had a battery from my trike. This all sounded very positive, could be a present from me to me at Christmas, paid for with my Weihnachtsgeld (Christmas Bonus) from work.

So I arranged to visit Akkurad with the Milan in tow and look through the options. I would leave the Milan there if we decided to go ahead, and they were likely to complete the work in a week or two. All good.

They’re not usually open on a Saturday but the guy would who do the fitting, Herr Zghibi, would let us in.

How to get a Milan to Köln? Using a trailer of course! This would be the second time we had hired the large trailer from our local trailer hire place, and it was cold and windy as we got everything together, but eventually we were on our way to Köln with our appointment at 11am.

It became clear as soon as we arrived in Köln that driving a 5 metre long car with a 3 metre long trailer in the centre of a busy city is not everyone’s idea of fun. I was so grateful that Klaus was doing the driving! We watched some crazy Ninja cyclists riding across red lights with no hands on the handlebars, just on their phones. City living.

We arrived at Akkurad a bit early and unloaded Millie. Herr Zghibi arrived and let us in, and spent a long time going over all the options with us. I decided very early on to get a battery from them as it was much better than the one I have. I also showed him where I would like the display unit, and we spent a long time working out where all the controls etc would go on the tiller. I would only have the single front chainring so my trigger shifter would go (a bonus!), and due to lack of space the bell would also have to go, so I arranged for them to fit a hooter for me, which would be much better anyway (no-one hears the bell). There is also a thumb throttle which powers the velomobile at full power up to 6 km/h and then stops. After that, there are five power levels which come in when you start pedalling and fade out at 25 km/h, stopping all assistance at around 27 km/h. My Bafang on the trike had a switch on the brake levers to cut the motor but this doesn’t work with velomobile brakes so there is no brake cut-out. Once you stop pedalling the motor switches off pretty quickly anyway. In order not to kill the gears, there would be a sensor built in to the gear cable which detects when you shift and quickly shuts off the motor.

Klaus and I were very impressed with Herr Zghibi who spent a lot of time showing us the options (we had to decide on which display unit, which format battery etc) and working out where things could best be fitted. There isn’t loads of space in a Milan, and I have velomobile bags both sides (which I left there, so he could see how much space was available for other stuff), so I asked if he could fit the battery behind the seat on the chain side, as I just store spare tyres there and nothing else. We would see.

He then prepared the quotation for all the work and I nearly fell of my chair when I saw it. The initial price over the phone of about 1000€ had ballooned to 2,400€. The battery was 700€ and the charger 70€, but the rest was basically all the little bits and bobs that you need.

This might be of use to other people so I will list the items:

  • 250 Watt 26 Volt Bafang 8Fun bottom bracket motor
  • Display C961 (upgraded to C18 which is colour and smaller)
  • Thumb throttle to 6 km/h
  • Controller unit with 5 buttons (on/off, light, info, Power Level Up, Power Level Down)
  • Battery – Standard 36 Volt battery, 16,5 Ah 600Wh LiIon 10S 5P
  • Battery charger 36V 2,35A
  • Gear sensor, cuts out power whilst changing gear with derailleur gears
  • Cable set for 8Fun motor (includes speed sensor, cabling between the units, etc etc)
  • Bafang cable from motor to battery with heavy duty battery connector
  • 12V horn/hooter
  • DC/DC step-down converter from 26-72 Volt to 12 Volt 10 A (installed in the nose under the lights)
  • Bafang pedals with additional thread boring for 155mm pedal length
  • Fan to cool motor when in use
  • Holder for the fan
  • Special bottom bracket holder adjusted to the side to fit Bafang to Velomobile
  • 57 tooth Bafang front chainring
  • Fitting everything into Velomobile

I was sucking my teeth a lot at the price as he was putting together the quote, and Herr Zghibi gave a few discounts here and there, including in the fitting into the Velomobile, and in the end the price reached 2430,32€. Which is a lot, but I felt that the fitting cost of 610€ was well worth it as I know how difficult it is to fix stuff into the Milan’s nose.

We had more of a conversation about the Q-Factor but knew that we couldn’t really know until the thing was done. So I said go ahead, Klaus and I left Millie there and had another challenging drive with the trailer out of Köln.

Collecting the Milan with Motor

My original plan was for Klaus to drive me to Akkurad when it was time to pick up Millie and I would cycle home, to avoid the trauma of a giant trailer through Köln. But in the end the weather was so cold, I didn’t fancy the 80km ride, especially in a bike that had had a lot changed. I might need some time to get used to it.

Klaus was game to have another go with the trailer but I felt that was something I had hoped we wouldn’t have to do again. Once again, Ralf came to the rescue with his Sprinter. We picked it up and then drove to Akkurad two Saturdays after we had dropped off Millie, this time to collect her. A little heavier, with some more cabling, but hopefully with a new lease of life.

Herr Zghibi was there and let us in to look at Millie. Of course, she looked exactly the same – from the outside you see nothing of the motor. Inside I saw instantly that the battery was not on the chain side but on the other side, where I store my luggage. I was rather disappointed by this but he said that in order to fit the battery holder he needed to use the left hand side behind the rider as the chain on the right hand side would foul the holder. So be it. I would still be able to put my luggage on top of the battery.

Here is the battery that Akkurad supplied, which is actually the smallest that they now offer, but it is the most lightweight and should be good for any daily distance I do with the level of support I need.

And here is the very solid socket for the cabling in Millie:

And here is the connector between battery and cabling

And here is the battery mount that he fixed to the yellow structure which is my rear swing-arm

The blue bag is my bag with emergency jumper and waterproof in case I break down somewhere. This bag is stuffed right in the back of the Milan as I don’t need to use it regularly, but it has to be available in emergencies. It can fit behind the battery OK.

Here is the battery in place, held in with a couple of restraining straps.

Once the battery was plugged in the fan for the motor started running. This always runs when the battery is plugged in, as do the lights on Millie. I can run the lights separately with the old battery system, but for simplicity’s sake Herr Zghibi had also made a connection for the lighting system to the main giant battery. Which is unlikely to run out!

Q-factor again

The moment of truth would come when I tried to pedal. I had been worrying about this for ages!

The cranks had the new thread and looked a bit like this (photo not of mine, but of some others that have previously been done by AntoineH on the Velomobilforum):

And this image (also from AntoineH) shows the difference that crank position can make to the Q-factor (top set have a narrower Q-factor than the bottom set)

It was time to get into Millie and see how pedalling would work.

My feet got stuck!

The right hand side couldn’t push the pedals around, the left hand side scraped a lot but was just about possible. Argh!!

Klaus says that my face was a real picture here. All this money invested and I can’t turn the pedals because they are now too widely spaced. Argh!!

I had worried about this the entire two weeks Millie was at Akkurad. But Klaus and I had already discussed what we could do if there was an issue with the Q-factor.

  • Move the pedals nearer to the seat
  • Move the seat itself back so the pedals can be brought further towards the back of the velomobile
  • Move the cleats on my shoe more to the outside of the sole to bring the foot towards the centre
  • Crumple into a heap crying

So we tried option 1. This was a good idea anyway as I had already decided the pedals were too far away from the seat and that I was too stretched out when riding. I have hyper mobile joints which mean my knees can bend backwards and although it’s comfortable for me to ride with straighter legs I decided, after I got Bertie with a different seat position, that more bend to my knees might be a better idea. I had been having knee pain when pushing on rides for a while, but with Bertie I could feel different muscles being used as the pedals are nearer the seat, and it felt like less pressure was going through my knees. On Millie the position of the pedals had been changed several times over the last two years with the fitting of my Schlumpf and then its removal, and I suspect that the most recent change left it slightly too far away.

Herr Zghibi moved the pedals about 2cm towards the back of the velomobile.

Another attempt to pedal, this time only the right foot scraped the side of the velomobile, the left shoe moved freely. This is partly because the cranks are offset as there is a chainring on the right hand side, which shifts the whole assembly slightly to the right.

We then tried option 2, I moved the cleats about 4mm to the outer side of the shoe which would mean my shoe is clamped on the pedal more towards the centre of the bike.

This helped a lot, there was almost no touching of shoe to the side of the bike. However, I now had the issue that with each pedal stroke my right knee touched the top of the Lukendeckel (the lid thingie that you can open on the Milan to get in and out).

So it was time for Option 3, moving my seat back. This is a fiddly job which Herr Zghibi did for us which was nice!

The new seat position was good, although it had made a difference to the amount of shoulder room I had, as the seat was further back but the backrest was in the same place, so I was more upright. I thought this might involve a bit more fiddling about in future.

As there was now a lot more room we also moved the pedals towards the back of the bike again, another 1cm or so, and this time my knee cleared the Lukendeckel and my feet were now not touching the sides of the Milan at all.

Here you can see the differences between each side.  Here is my right foot, where there is only 1mm or so clearance to the right of my shoe.

And here the left foot, with much more clearance although the cleat is in the central position, not in the outermost position.

I have to say, if my feet were larger than 43 it might still have been an issue, but I do have long legs which affects the boom position.

And I also have to say that the photos show the appalling gaffer tape nest inside Millie. You can’t see it as the rider! I will sort it out in the summer and find some better way of fixing the cables, but in winter it’s too cold to rummage around inside a velomobile, especially as you probably have to lie on a freezing cold garage floor to do it!

So this, at least, was now sorted. It took about an hour with all the moving about of pedals and seat and refitting of cable ties at the end in the new position. And this is how it looked at the end.

And a slightly different view.

This picture also shows that the pedals are screwed into the cranks in the second position, not at the end of the cranks, to enable the 155mm crank measurement.

Strange new noises

I hadn’t ridden Millie for several weeks really, but when we did the first test with Klaus holding the back up so I could pedal, it seemed very noisy. But it’s always hard to tell when in a different environment (inside a building, not out on the open road). I had also removed all my tools and spares and the Isomatte baffle that is between the gears/rear wheel and seat, so I knew it would be noisier.

However, on further testing this noise seemed to be from nearer the front, although it is always really tricky to pinpoint noise in velomobiles.

I checked that the Umlenkroller (idlers) were all in place, and they seemed to be OK. So why was it so noisy?

In the end Klaus wondered if there might be a stone caught under the bridge where the chain passes through the bridge; this has happened in the past and jammed the chain a couple of times. You can’t see it at all, you just have to stick your fingers in and see what you can find.

He stuck his fingers in and felt something in there, some piece of plastic. He couldn’t tease it out with his fingers so Herr Zghibi got a selection of tools and eventually removed… a Bafang wheel sensor! He said he had dropped it when fitting the motor to the Milan and couldn’t find it anywhere so he got another one. We now know where it was, although it had been rather chewed up by my chain so wouldn’t be being used on anyone else’s motor!

The chain was now much quieter, although it still seemed louder than normal. I would have to see if this is the ‘new normal’ for Millie or if more can be done.

A test ride

So now it was time for a test ride. I was actually rather nervous, as this would be the real test. Was all this expenditure worth it? Would I like it? Herr Zghibi had done a short test ride a couple of days before and said he had a hairy moment when a car cut in front of him, but otherwise it worked OK. So it was my turn… on a cold, windy, grey day I headed off into Köln for a 2km ride. Which went well! Millie was noisier but the motor worked well. It was clear that the chain was rubbing on the wheel box at the back, it was very noisy on left hand turns and in very low gears, but I had this to a lesser extent previously. It could be to do with the position of an idler/Umlenkrolle, but I decided not to fiddle with this till I got home.

Conclusion: it works well, it was time to take Millie home!

So how does it all look

I have to say, I am extremely impressed by the job that Akkurad did in fitting this motor.

As I mentioned, Herr Zghibi had fitted the controller in the small amount of spare space on the right hand side front wheel arch. The blue battery is my previous lighting battery, which can still be used on its own. The controller is the dusty (!!!) screen below it, which is currently also plugged into the main lighting circuit so the battery for the motor also powers the lights. This is a very nice easy-to-read screen.

And here is my new tiller area.

On the right is the grip-shift for my normal gears, 9 speed at the back. This has not changed.

On the left, to the right of my fingers is the thumb throttle. It’s easier to see in the second picture.

The metal bar towards the top of the screen is the brake lever, but between it and the metal pole of the tiller are the switches for the motor – on/off, backlight,  info, Up and Down.

You can see the thumb throttle a bit better here, and also the switches for the motor.

The tiny blue dot to the right of the motor switches is the new hooter, fixed onto the standard area of the tiller designed for this.

And this is what you see when you look into the Milan now. Rather more cabling than there used to be!

You can see it here – this is the left hand side wheel arch. I believe this is where the wheel speed sensor is fitted, as there was previously a hole here (for the old bike computer) and it has now been filled and sealed over! That must have been such a fun job in a Milan, fitting a speed sensor to the closed front wheel box!

This speed sensor measures the rotations of the wheel and feeds back what speed you are going. This is partly for interest (it’s shown on the display) but also works to switch off the motor when you go beyond the 25 km/h. Consequently the wheel size has to be accurate. Usually you can type in the circumference of the wheel in mm (on most trip computers) but surprisingly the Bafang Controller only allowed you to choose 20 inch wheel, or 21, or 19 etc.

Akkurad had programmed it with 20 inch wheel size but on my first rides it was clear that this was not giving the correct readings. My Garmin consistently showed I was cycling 2-3km/h slower than the Bafang controller thought, which meant I was only having assistance up to about 23 km/h. I experimented with this a bit and ended up discovering that if I set the wheel to 21 inch then it provides almost the correct speed measurements. I can only assume this is because they measured it for a 20 inch wheel with a standard tyre, such as a Marathon, whereas I am running very low-profile and narrow Durano Plus.

Once I got home I had a few test rides, although the weather was really bad (very cold) so I didn’t do as much as I expected.

I replaced the sound baffle at the back behind the seat, but the noise level has definitely increased from the back with Millie. Not sure why, I can live with it, but it’s one of those mystery things that happens.

The sound of the chain rubbing on the wheel box was much more noticeable and, as I had suspected, this is because the idler/Umlenkrolle gets pushed too much towards the centre of the bike. I assume this is to do with a slightly altered chainline because of cabling/fiddling with the bike. I can push the idler back into the better position, but if I use the motor on a high setting then it works its way back. When the weather allows we will try to put some kind of spacer/cable tie to stop the idler sliding along its holder.

One surprising thing I noticed in my test rides was that moving the seat back 1cm had a big knock-on effect for how I sit in the bike. My head is much higher and actually occludes my Lichtkanone front light at times. I also found that my neck and upper chest tended to get colder as they were now out in the wind! My shoulders where right under the edge of the frame and I think if I went over a bump then they could bang against the underside of the frame, I might get a few bruises.

There were a couple of options to fix this. Firstly, I could recline the seat more. This might work well, but I wasn’t sure if my head might then bump against the headrest thing at the back when I am riding, which doesn’t suit me. The easier experimental option was to take away the 3-thickness ventisit mat and replace the original mat that came with Millie which is just 1 thickness. It has the disadvantage that it has some sharp plastic bits that seemed to dig into my legs before, but as a first test I decided to go with this option. On a short ride of 6,5km it seemed to be an improvement and I didn’t have any needle-jabs into my thighs from the sharp plastic thingies but we shall see! Next ride will probably be Oliebollentocht which is a 66km ride (although I have plotted a shorter version at 44km which I may do on the day). That will be another good test!

Riding with the motor

What is it like?

I feared that it might be noisy – it isn’t. I detect no additional noise. Even the faint noise of the fan disappears in the road rumble as soon as you start moving.

I thought it might feel a bit unnatural – it doesn’t. I am only using it on the first power setting, so that is giving me a 15% assist, and it doesn’t really notice when it comes in to help. But help it definitely does, as Klaus noticed that I was accelerating much faster.

The thumb throttle is to help me move off straight away so that the motor doesn’t have to wait for the pedals to turn. I haven’t had much of a chance to use this, I have to remember to use the throttle! But I think it is a good option. It gives 100% assistance up to 6 km/h, which in reality is about 1-2 seconds then. Enough time for the pedals to take over and the motor to continue at 15%

For the local bridge over the motorway I switched the motor onto 5 (maximum) assistance and I breezed over there. I switched it straight back to 1 at the top so as not to get used to having too much help!

I did my 10km test ride when the wheel size was still wrong, so the motor started to fade out at 23 km/h, but I have to say the fade out was very good as it wasn’t really noticeable. The controller display shows how many watts the motor is using to help, and on most of the ride it was doing nothing as I was cruising at around 28-30 km/h. But it did help in the starts and in the bridge, and this was a great feeling.

A second ride showed that the new wheel size of 21 inch was close enough, and the assistance really isn’t that noticeable to me as a rider but makes quite a significant difference to the speed. I can kid myself that I’m really doing 99% with my own effort!

At the time of writing this I have cycled 35km with the motor. Interestingly, the display says the battery is on 100% still; I don’t know how true this is, but it is something I will track. As the temperatures in our garage have been 0 degrees or into the minus, I have been taking the battery out and keeping it upstairs in our apartment. This is apparently a good idea if the temperature dips below 5 degrees.

Conclusion

Firstly it is indeed possible to fit a Bafang BBS01 to the Milan GT. For very tall people or for people with big feet it might be a bit too difficult however.

It is a good feeling whilst riding, more of a support than taking over the machine. I was also pleasantly surprised that Millie doesn’t feel heavier when riding her, and also she still seems well balanced so when manoeuvring her by hand or lifting her in and out of a sprinter, she doesn’t seem any more difficult. My trike became quite awkward to fold up once it had its motor.

And I am so, so glad that I paid a proper company to do the fitting. Akkurad did an excellent job and I am really happy with all that Herr Zghibi did in terms of cabling and decisions about controls on the tiller etc. He really did listen to me and what I liked, and had a good understanding of velomobiles too. It’s good to know that if there is a problem I can take it back to a company who know about these things.

For me it was definitely worth it, despite the price. I look forward to more kilometres next year!

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Filed under Cycling in Germany, Millie the Milan GT Carbon, Six Wheels In Germany