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Thread: Electric Cycle as Tractor-Trailer

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    Default Electric Cycle as Tractor-Trailer

    I swore I'd never do it, but I did anyway, made a quick and dirty electric bike for my wife to ride. It was kind of fun to goof around on, and it suggested a use to me. A lot of pickers - homeless and otherwise - are using bike trailers to pick up cans, bottles, and items they can use or sell. I talk to them when they are up for it. The ones who seem to have it together like a trailer with a high, centrally-mounted hitch.

    Attachment 113598

    I am a heavy-duty gardener in Portland and have learned the hard way that you gotta mulch here or the weeds will take over. You can buy the stuff, but by the truckload? I don't have a truck. Anyway Portland is lousy with trees and they drop their leaves every fall. I had been picking leaves up in the neighborhood with a wheelbarrow, but I could never get enough.

    I thought, this year I'm going to pick up the big piles that are out of wheelbarrow range. I got a gently used Shimano mid-drive unit, a 6010 STEPS, and most of the associated wiring. I modified my 26" cruiser frame to accommodate the motor and used an 853 disc brake fork that was kicking around the shop.

    Brakes are 203mm discs with BB7 calipers.

    For a hitch I built a little tower off the seatstays with a 3/8" bolt sticking up. The trailer side of the hitch is a heim ball from a military surplus aircraft linkage. It has freedom of motion horizontally and vertically. The trailer is big but light, with a box that will hold about 1/3 of a half-ton pickup load.

    Attachment 113600 Attachment 113602 Attachment 113601

    So I have got eight loads in, half maple leaves for over the winter (after which they pretty much disintegrate into compost) and half a mix of oak and magnolia which should last out the summer as mulch. My first load was the heaviest, wet maple leaves pack down. I couldn't get the bike moving! It was an uphill grade. The STEPS doesn't kick in until the bike is already moving, so starting out you are on your own. It was all I could do to push the bike and trailer to a level side street where I was able to get it moving under leg power. Lesson learned!

    The setup I got was hard-wired for a 700c wheel and Alfine hub. This bike has 26" wheels and a Saint 8-speed downhill wheel/gearing combo. So the bike gets going what it thinks is 20 MPH and shuts down power assist. Not that I want to go thaT fast with a loaded trailer. It takes me about an hour to raKE up leaves and fill the trailer. Sometimes people stop and ask how much I would charge to rake their lawns ... this may spawn a new livelihood!

    jn
     

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    Default Re: Electric Cycle as Tractor-Trailer

    Well, I have been really putting this thing through the wringer. I was surprised how much weight I was able to put on it. Leaves, what do they weigh? They're like feathers, right? Aaah, not when they are wet and packed down. The trailer box is 3 x 5 x 2 feet high - 30 cubic feet. I've been filling it right up and over the box. Some of the drier leaves seem to be around 10 # to the cube, but my sense of it is the heavier, denser stuff is over 20#, maybe by quite a bit.

    mother_lode.jpg

    This was a load that took some work on my part to get it underway. This monster pile of compacted and composting leaves, courtesy of the City of Portland, is about 3 miles from our place and maybe 100 feet higher elevation. Each trip seems to use about 1/3 the charge in the battery. Supposedly the Shimano Steps 6010 has a 65-mile range! Looks to me more like 18-20 when used for serious hauling.

    Once I've got a few more loads, I'll probably tear the bike down to do some modifications - like add lights, a kickstand, fenders, side baskets and water bottle mounts. I'm going to experiment to see if I can't move the pickup a little farther out of the way - Shimano says the max distance between the magnet and the speed sensor pickup is 17mm. I've got it taped to a wood shim on the chainstay to meet that spec, but it gets in the way of the tire when I pull the rear wheel.

    jn
     

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    Default Re: Electric Cycle as Tractor-Trailer

    These are the pictures that refused to load on this post

    A picker and his trailer - note the high mount hitch

    bike_and_trailer (1).jpg

    This is the bike before adding the hitch

    IMG_5722.jpg

    This is the heim ball hitch

    IMG_5725.jpg

    This is the bike and trailer before finishing and adding the wood

    IMG_5726.jpg

    The bike and trailer with a load of maple leaves - maybe 250-300 pounds plus the trailer

    IMG_5727.jpg


    This particular forum engine I've seen in other places. It does have its quirks. Hope this helps visualizing. Too bad I cant just edit the original post.

    jn
     

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    Default Re: Electric Cycle as Tractor-Trailer

    Perfect setup J.N. Utility is a term I never use lightly when it comes to handbuilt things. We tend to treat these bikes as precious objects rather than what they ultimately are...transportation .

    Anywho, I have a cargo trailer with a very similar ball hitch. That's a great setup because I can lay the bike flat and the trailer remains standing.

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    Default Re: Electric Cycle as Tractor-Trailer

    Quote Originally Posted by Too Tall View Post
    Perfect setup J.N. Utility is a term I never use lightly when it comes to handbuilt things. We tend to treat these bikes as precious objects rather than what they ultimately are...transportation .

    Anywho, I have a cargo trailer with a very similar ball hitch. That's a great setup because I can lay the bike flat and the trailer remains standing.
    2Tall, I have had the bike fall over flat without damaging the trailer, the hitch or anything else. After leaf season I'm going to do some mods to the bike, including a Schwinn welded-on kickstand, lights, etc. Sometimes I am tempted to use the bike for riding around, but don't want to be caught out after dark with no lights.

    In the long run, I would like to see a mod-drive electric power unit with better bearings and metal, rather than plastic, drive parts. By metal I mean brass or steel, not pot-metal.

    jn

    jn
     

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    Default Re: Electric Cycle as Tractor-Trailer

    Nice.
    As much as folks speak badly about the misuse of e-bikes, this is exactly why they are going to be future owners.

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    Default Re: Electric Cycle as Tractor-Trailer

    Well, here's some more. I have pretty well gotten my compost/mulch leaf supply in. Ten-twelve loads at least, some of them pushing close to a half ton. What have we learned? First, the regular e-bike battery will get you through a day of hauling, provided the distances and elevation change are not too great. A heavy load on a 2-mile round trip without too much elevation would use about 1/3 of the battery's charge.

    oak_leaves.jpg

    This is a perfect load of oak leaves!

    Second, without a throttle control, an e-bike can be pretty hard to get underway under some (heavily loaded, uphill) conditions. Third: be that as it may, a strong e-bike with a trailer is a pretty decent stand-in for a pickup truck, and WAY cheaper. For one thing e-bikes fly under the radar as far as DMV is concerned.

    For a driveline, I used a Shimano Saint 26' wheel and 8-spd derailleur combo - probably a J&B blowout item - that I picked up at Community Cycling Center for $60. It is plenty strong and shows no sign of strain under load etc. This is for those who worry that e-bike use may require heavier-duty components than those on a pedal bike.

    Tires: I used WTB Mutanos (no longer available). They are light and passed for a high-volume, low pressure tire back 10, 15 years ago. No need for heavier tires, then.

    General build. For this bike, which was designed for heavy use, I pretty much based the design and build on my 26" BMX frame. The only deviation was the 17 1/2' chainstay length, to clear the mid-drive motor.

    Brakes: I used 203mm rotors and Avid BB7 calipers. Cable brakes so I could modify the cabling runs as needed, without the hassles of hydraulics. These are adequate for controlling the bike and a heavy trailer, and stop the unloaded bike RIGHT NOW.

    The trailer hitch: The heim ball worked like crazy. It has enough play to allow complete freedom for the bike and trailer riding around, It has enough play to allow the bike to lay flat on the ground while the trailer stays upright. It is strong and proof against rust corrosion and dirt. Best thing since sliced salami

    The trailer: I didn't expect wheelchair wheels to survive under such heavy loads. I was hauling close to 1,000 pounds on a couple runs. The wheels survived and the cantilevered, 1/2" bolt axles did not bend or fail. It helped that I took it pretty easy and stayed out of high-speed traffic

    The Shimano STEPS drive unit: It did not break during a really good workout. However, I am not convinced of its long-term durability. I would choose a stronger, all-steel drive unit if I were doing this again, as well as a much larger-capacity battery.

    The mounting bracket: the setup I bought from an individual online included an investment-cast mounting bracket for the drive unit. I would look for a stamped stel bracket, something I could weld. The IC bracket is OK if you braze to it.

    Lights: Shimano has an "extra" adapter that takes current off the battery to run lights. It costs well over $100. Next round of changes on this bike I plan to tap right into the main line and make some sort of IC to produce a 6V DC output for lighting.

    Model name: I always name a new design, helps me focus on its functional needs and purpose. This one's interim name was "Electra" but I am thinking about "el Obrador"

    So much for that!

    jn
     

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