Q: Are the kits easy to install and do you have a manual?
A: Yes, click here to see the manual. Even better, have a look at the instructional videos by clicking here for a rack battery kit and here for the tube battery kit. I believe the kits to be quite simple to install, if you can fix a punctured tyre then you should be able to install a kit with no problems. All you really need to do is put on a wheel, change a handle grip and connect some cables. Please also take note to install a torque bar on a conversion kit for safety reasons. The video for torque bar installation is found here.
Q: What types of bicycles are suitable?
A: Most adult bicycles are suitable in the price range of $300 – $1200. Cheaper than this is not worth the trouble and more expensive than this ends up being too good and too light. Bicycles with carbon fibre forks simply cannot be used. Racing bicycles with curly drop bars are difficult because the throttle does not fit. There is a lot more information on suitable bicycles here and some of our recommended models. In general, if you have suspension forks then a rear wheel kit is better – though marginally trickier to install.
Q: How do the different motors affect the battery?
A: The larger motors draw more current so the battery will go flatter quicker. In general you will get a range of about 20km with the 500W motor, 35km with the 350W motor and 50km with the 200W motor. This is with a little comfortable pedalling. These values of course will vary depending on the rider and bicycle. I’ve heard from a customer that purchased a 500W motor that he can travel 44 km with moderate pedal assistance before the battery cuts out. The best way to increase distance is by not engaging the throttle fully, breaks between motor use and of course pedaling more. Read some of the testimonials to see ranges people are obtaining from different bikes. I measured many parameters on a 500W motor using a 36V 10Ah LFP and a 36V 7Ah LMO battery (now upgraded to a 9Ah Panasonic tube battery). Click here to see some information on electric bicycle batteries, it has a table of estimated distances based on battery capacity and motor current draw.
Q: How fast can I go if I pedal at the same time as having the motor on?
A: The motors top speed is about 28 – 35 km/hr. Of course you can go faster than this but that will be either due to moving downhill or pedaling. So the answer is as fast as your legs can go or as fast as gravity pushes you.
Q: Do I need to have the motor running all the time and how do I turn it on and off?
A: You do not need to engage the motor all the time. You engage it when and as much as you like by twisting the throttle. The motor is off until you begin to twist the throttle. You will unlikely use the motor when travelling downhill or in crowded areas. You can still use the bike without the motor but it does have slightly more resistance than usual. You should switch the battery off if you are not going to use the bicycle for an extended length of time or don’t wish it to be under power.
Q: What are the measurements inside the front forks for the motor to sit in? Can the kits go on all forks?
A: The 200W mini-motor conversion kits can be put on nearly any set of forks that is not carbon fibre. The higher power motor kits have larger wheel nuts so they are difficult to assemble well on bicycles with suspension forks and can be a bit too heavy and powerful for them. They come with C washers that go under the lawyers lip of the forks. If you have suspension forks then you should only get the 200W mini-motor kit, change to rigid forks or get a rear wheel kit. Steel forks are best for the high power kits – with Chromoly being the best choice. You can check there is some steel in your forks by making sure a magnet sticks to them. Don’t use carbon forks – the end of the fork tip may snap off, some people install these kits on bikes with light aluminium alloy forks but strong steel forks are better. The distance from fork to fork should be 10cm. The distance between the fork gaps where the wheel axle sits should be 1cm. Nearly all bicycles have these dimensions. Always install a torque bar (one comes with every kit). Some sets of forks seem to be not ideal due to either the fork gap is too narrow and excess filing would weaken them too much or else an abnormal fork shape restricts the axle nuts being able to lock the axle to the forks. It’s very rare to have a set of forks that isn’t compatible with the mini-motor. Please see the picture from the next question to see a typical set of forks that works well. The mini-motor kits have smaller axle nuts and washers so are more generic. If in doubt, then you can purchase a set of chromoly forks from SURLY – these are very good for any kit. We also stock a range of steel forks for $100.
Q: What is a torque bar and how do I put one on?
A: The torque bar is a small piece of metal one of our customers was kind enough to design and manufacture for us. It is designed to prevent the axle from spinning and wearing away at the fork axle gap by clamping the axle to the fork. You should always put it on for safety reasons. Please click here to see some assembly instructions. Click here to see a video on how to install it.
Q: Are these bicycles legal? Do I need a licence to ride an electric bicycle and do I need to register my bike?
A: Laws are susceptible to change and certain states may implement their own restrictions or allowances on certain roads. Individuals should contact their state authority if unsure but as of May 2011 the law more or less states:
An electric bicycle that does not exceed 200W maximum power output is exempt from registration and compulsory third party insurance. Electric bicycle riders are required to adhere to the same road rules as bicycles and have the same rights and responsibilities. You can ride an electric bicycle on all roads and paths, except where bicycles are specifically excluded. You do not need a driver’s licence to ride an electric bicycle.
The most information I’ve been able to obtain from the police department on how these are policed and tested is here.
Q: Why are some motors small and others larger? Is there a difference between the silver motors and the black ones that I see pictured on your website?
A: The smaller motors are 200W motors and are commonly called mini-motors. They have a planetary gear system inside them. The motors in larger black hubs are gearless and are available in a range of 200W, 350W and 500W, the wattage is controlled by the coils within the motor or it can be regulated by the motor controller. Both types of motors are brushless. All gearless motors look identical. Planetary gears are quite elegant and some people like them to try and get a bit extra out of a 200W motor. They are lighter so will draw less current than a gearless motor and they also are smaller so they don’t look as obviously like an electric motor. However, their cons are that as they have gears they can be more susceptible to wearing out than the gearless motors, their expected life is 2-3 years. Also, they are a touch louder than the larger gearless motors. Any motor of 350W or above should be gearless because the strong torque will destroy the gears within a year. The larger gearless motors have more torque and provide a smoother and quieter ride. The outer hub has rare earth magnets attached to it and this simply spins around the stationary motor core. I’ve taken some pictures of both types of motors I’ve pulled apart out of curiosity and you can see them by clicking here.
Q: What size rim do I need on my electric conversion kit?
A: Most mountain bikes have rims with a diameter of 26″ and most road or hybrid bikes have rims of size 700c. The best way to check is to look carefully on the tyre, the size should be printed on there. 28″ and 700c rims are slightly different sizes, they are interchangeable on nearly all bicycles though. 28″ tends to vary in size slightly and is usually a tiny bit bigger than 700c.
Q: Are the electrical components waterproof?
A: They are water resistant, not waterproof. If you get them too wet they will stop working. That said, I have ridden through numerous heavy storms for quite long periods of time with no problem so far.
Q: How does regenerative braking work and do your kits have it?
A: Regenerative braking works by reversing the current flow to recharge your battery when you are going downhill or when you are braking. It works best when slowing quickly from high speeds (eg. from 120 km/hr to 20 km/hr) so is quite effective in cars and often stated to be able to provide about 10% more travelling distance. It is not so useful with bicycles due to lower speeds and weight. Reports from manufacturers about whether their controllers can provide regenerative braking are difficult to interpret. From our testing, controllers that have been stipulated to come with regenerative braking have not. Controllers that provide this function are more susceptible to breaking down also. We currently do not sell controllers with regenerative braking but are actively seeking ones that we can prove provide extra travelling distance per charge. I have my doubts about their availability currently and have seen numerous reports on problems associated with excess current flowing back into the controller during braking causing the controller to burn out.
Q:How do I know how much battery life I have left, do you have battery gauges?
A: It is difficult to accurately measure the state of charge of a battery. There are basic gauges that measure battery voltage and can give you a rough estimate but these work best with sealed lead acid batteries. Lithium ion batteries discharge quite evenly from full to empty so power will not change much throughout your ride and voltage drops are minimal. For a while, all guages we tested let you know whether it’s fully charged, half charged or empty and you should know this already. You can roughly gauge how much battery you’ve used from the time it takes to recharge your battery. Generally speaking (with a 2A charger), it takes 5 hours to fully recharge a 10Ah battery from flat so monitor the recharge time and estimate how flat your battery has become. It’s good practice to try not to let the battery drop below about 20% capacity and definitely don’t let it go to dead flat repetitively. If you ride the battery until flat you will not likely feel a drastic change in power output, power will cut out when you’re nearly empty. If this happens get off your bike and turn off the switch to avoid it discharging further and risking battery damage. A couple of rides home with no power and you will figure out your range pretty quickly.
The best guage we’ve been able to find is called the Cycle Analyst (Stand Alone Model, CA-SA). This guage measures the power the flows between the battery and controller, it measures many things such as W, A, Wh, Ah, etc… Read through their site for more information. They cost about $150 and come from GRIN TECHNOLOGIES in Canada. Send us an email if you want one as we usually have one or two in stock at the same price. It measures many useful paramters and these can be seen on one of the testimonials after testing a 10Ah battery and a 7Ah battery. You’ll need to run it to near flat once to see how many Ah your battery can put out before reaching this point but then you’ll know how much further you can travel.
Recharge your battery fully before using it, recharge your battery after using it and try to never let it go flat. If you do this it will last a really really long time. It’s important to turn off the switch to avoid excessive discharge. Please click here to download a battery information and instructions pamphlet.
Q:What does the battery management system do and do your batteries have them?
A: Yes, all of our lithium ion batteries come with battery management systems. The battery management system (BMS) is a small piece of circuitry inocorporated as part of the lithium ion battery packs; it is designed to protect against overcharge, excessive discharge and to balance the charge between the individual cells. It’s very important to have this for safety and for enhanced battery life.
Q: What is the pedelec sensor (PAS) for?
A: The pedelec system uses a little magnetic device that is fixed to the pedal crank at the frame of the bike and has a wire running to the motor controller. It measures how fast you are pedalling and can be used to engage the motor to provide certain ratios of motor power to pedal power. It is a typical European thing because of laws, some people do like it though. We can provide one but we rarely install it due to no need and no wish to have additional wiring. In our opinion, the throttle is the better system and is safer too.
Q: Is there any specific maintenance that needs to be done?
A: No, you shouldn’t need to touch anything. The motors are sealed and are brushless so no maintenance is needed. The only thing to keep an eye on is loose spokes. You should keep an eye on this and tighten any if needed. Typically this will occur if riding regularly over rough ground. Check they’re tight for the first ride and check again every now and then and this won’t be a problem. Give each spoke a pluck with your fingers and listen for a nice ping sound, any loose ones will sound very flat and you should give them half a turn.
Q: Do you need special brake levers or can I use the ones on my bike?
A: Electric conversion kits often come with a set of levers that have wires to connect to the controller. These levers function to cut off the motor any time you apply the brakes. If you use your common sense and do not apply the throttle and brakes at the same time they are not needed and you are most likely best using your original ones. If you decide to install the pedalec then you should also install the brakes.
Q: Do these parts come with a warranty?
A: There is a 6 month replacement warranty on all electrical kit components and bicycles for manufacturing faults. Faulty, components should be returned to Solar Bike at the customer’s expense and we will replace components or refund money accordingly. We will always aim to keep your bike fully functional even after this time though. Nearly all failures will occur during the first week. Once you’ve past this first week then things are very unlikely to fail. Just keep your battery charged, avoid running it flat regularly and avoid leaving it in a flat condition and you shouldn’t have a problem. Turn the switch off when not in use.
Q: Why don’t the electrical conversion kits come with a longer warranty?
A: If any fault is to arise with any of the conversion kit components it is most likely to occur within the first couple of weeks. We cannot know how people treat their bicycle and don’t wish to be responsible for rough treatment or damage suffered from any accidents. We feel that 6 months is long enough time for any faults to arise from manufacturing defect. However, even after this time we will always do our best to deal with any problems in a manner satisfactory to everyone.
Q: Which cities can you deliver to and how long does it take?
A: Delivery is by courier to all Australian cities and generally takes about 7 days after payment is recieved. Due to the high voltage lithium ion batteries we use with the kits they cannot travel by air.