A Semblance of eBike Maintenance

30 September 2021

All bikes require regular maintenance to extend the life of their (expensive) components and avoid soul-destroying breakdowns far from home. This wisdom doubles down for eBikes with their additional weight and excess power. eCycle-Trailing, eCommuting and eMtbing all demand an even greater adherence to regular cleaning and servicing to ensure a good time. Dave Mitchell delves into the nitty gritty.

Words: Vladimir Kalashnikov aka Dave Mitchell


Still life with eBiker

The T-34 Tank was reputed to be at least a generation ahead of its rivals, but like any mechanical device maintenance was the first order of the day. A tome of a user manual was strategically located in the passenger glove box and woe betide any crew member who soiled its pure white pages with axle grease or sullied its brilliant red cover with a coffee ring.

Strict adherence to its contents assured many happy and reliable miles to come. The same could be said for an eBike, but what knowledge should we posses to facilitate this important mission?

Chain Gang

Your eBike chain is possibly the most stressed member of the bicycle's running gear, especially on those long hot climbs. It's dragging an extra 10kgs of bicycle whilst torqued to the max by you and a salubrious 250 watt brushless motor,  fed from a hi-density, hi-tech battery charged by a massive coal fired power station at Huntly! 

The encyclopedia of chain-everything is located online thanks to the Australian superhero Adam Kerin. This vast knowledge base would easily fill the pages of War and Peace plus a side serve of Animal Farm. And I quote

"Your bicycle’s chain is put through hell every time you ride. For every minute of pedaling, approximately 44,000 chain pieces are in motion, creating 320,000 separate instances of sliding surface friction. And all of this is on a component that sits near to the ground and is exposed to the elements”.

An analog chain checker like the Park Tool CC4 is ideal to determine when replacement time has rolled around - and it will come around much sooner than with a normally aspirated bike.

Regular cleaning and lubing is an essential stitch in time to extend your chain's life. Magic links and a short piece of compatible chain for emergencies are a worthy addition to your toolkit.

Don't stop stopping

Resin, sintered, carbon, ceramic, semi metallic, kevlar, titanium and spent plutonium. Yes there is a bewildering array of exotic brake pads to choose from, and your eBike deserves the best pads possible for the conditions you ride in.

As with your drive chain - extra weight, power and speed results in accelerated wear. Check your pads often for uneven wear and never let them grind down so far that your disc rotor is rubbing the stainless spring clips or worse, the metal backing of the pad. It will almost instantly destroy your disc rotor - a much more expensive part to replace than the pads.

On adventure rides it pays to carry a couple of spare sets, just in case you haven't booked favorable weather thus encountering rain and the splashed-gritty-pad-destroying stuff that tracks are made of. There is a school of thought that recommends the use of a sintered set at the rear and resin at the front. This is on the basis that you often drag the back brake so it doesn't benefit from the cooling that the pointy end enjoys. And upfront a resin pad provides more feedback.

Some further reading for the keen:

Rotor-less

Those massive shiny Saturn's rings that slow you up when gravity wants to do the opposite don't last forever. The clever people at disc rotor manufacturing dot com have specified a minimum thin-ness for your braking surface. This measurement is usually printed on the spider of your disc. Your friend Vernier will let you know when it's time to replace.

Increasing the size of your rotors, if your frame and forks permit, will provide more stopping power, better heat dissipation and enhanced feedback. For ever extra centimetre, braking potential increases by 10% according to Moore's Law of Mtb stoppage. If you are in the racing sardine weight range, it is highly 'un-lightly' you will need bigger rotors. More for the insatiable at Bike Perfect.

Q: Can you mix and match rotors and install TRP or Swiss Stop instead of Shimano or SRAM.
A: of course you can. Same same with disc pads, a rose by any other name. 

Weight Watchers

Beware the Gross Vehicle Mass rating of your mount. Unlike the mighty T34 where additional ballast 'just don't matter', the maximum permissible weight includes the bicycle and all that sail upon her. That extra 10kgs of e-assist antigravity technology does not come without overhead

Your eBike's components, suspension, brakes, tyres and frame need to be rated for that extra chunk of weight, with service intervals that also reflect your flow. Bike park shuttling and massive gap jumps demand additional regular maintenance. The important practice of preventive maintenance is not lost on those who have experienced a breakdown miles from home wishing that the service intervals had been adhered to, up hill and down dale.


eBike Rated

Low pressure rubber
Rubber Donuts

Tyres are where the rubber hits the dirt and the eXtra loading can be significant. 2.4 wide on the rear and 2.5 upfront is a good starting point but upgrading to a 2.6 or 2.8 can give both traction and braking benefits. Pick rubber with an enduro or downhill rated side wall, as this is the area that bears the brunt of that extra loading. As the tyre size increases you can run lower pressure for the perfect balance between grip and stability.


Upgrade needed
AI Brain Food

Firmware upgrades are everywhere and can deliver great benefit to your kit and caboodle... extra battery life, more torque, additional modes, enhanced ride-ability and security to name just a few. Hacks are all well and good but could jeopardise your warranty and damage the electrics if not properly resolved. Your local eBike retailer is 'upgrade and advice central'.


Edison was 'ere
Borrowed Time

Your rare earth metal accumulator, if treated with respect, should last for hundreds of charges and thousands of kilometres. But if you are wintering overnight at say, the Ghost Lake Hut, don't leave your battery in the bike to endure sub zero temperatures. This will severely crap on its performance and your ability to pedal assist your way out. Cuddling up to it and the spare at the foot of your sleeping bag is weird but a practical way to stay at room temperature. 

More voltage protection measures...

  • Secure the spare battery in your pack for crash-test-safety on those longer rides and gnarly technical descents.
  • To maximise your range, rather than all-you-can-eat, dial the down the power mode to only what you need for a particular section.
  • Try not to charge a hot battery, let it cool as this allows for the ideal recharge cycle.
  • Long term storage should be in a cool dry place at about 50% charged, to increase its life expectancy. 

More sensible range anxiety tips at eBike Mtb.


Battery Packing

IP Explained
IP(A)

Yes, your motor, electrics and battery will no doubt have an IP rating. As with good quality bicycle components, many are only IP54. So don't get carried away with the pressure washer. A bucket of warm water, a brush and a bit of a spray down with the garden hose is about right. Anything more aggressive will force water past the motor and drive seals, contaminate your bearings and generally create future mayhem.

Resist the urge and don't ride your bike's electrics through deep water, it is not a submarine.

Your motor unit is full of bearings and some stage they will need replacing. Increased noise, creaking and grinding are a (bad) telltale sign.


IP-54

Un-stealable
Security

Unlike a T34 which by its very nature is pretty hard to upift, even harder to hide and impossible to relocate without someone noticing, stealing an eBike is child's play. Get the good oil at 'Unchain My eBike'.

And a final word from the bed red book. "Don't ever sleep under your T34 in boggy country."

Счастливый танк-это хорошо ухоженный танк


Blockchain Mining

Robots don't need eBikes, note the riser bar and short stem.


2 Responses

RAD Mackenzie
RAD Mackenzie

07 October 2021

Good, sensible advice. My Gepida is over 15000km and still with the original battery. It developed a crack in the frame in recent times but with a weld from local motorcyclist repair shop is thus far holding together, albeit as an on road commuter.

Michael J Brammall
Michael J Brammall

06 October 2021

great info pretty common sense. that us forgotten with the enjoyment

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