New Shimano Ultegra Mechanical Hydro

Here is a quick preview of the new Shimano Ultegra mechanical hydraulic shift/brake levers on a 2015 hi-mod Cannondale. Also shown is their new OEM saddles from new brand Fabric. Rides quite comfortably. More details on the group later.

So, the group rode well and felt very similar to the Di2 version that is already out on the market.  As you can see from the small size of the lever body, Shimano got creative with the mechanical parts and stowed them away just like normal (with a small amount of easy access to spray or clean at the anchor of the brake lever and shifter paddle).  The bleed port is in roughly the same place, and the metal housing leads into the shifter body where it connects to their lower pressure hydraulic hose (which also uses a different hose nipple than the mountain style hydraulics).  Other levels of Shimano brake calipers can also be used with the levers, which is a nice option to customize for certain riding situations and locations.  For instance, I might use an XT or XTR caliper for a large rider on a cyclocross bike or the same components on a touring bike for long descents with great cooling.

The Cannondale bike itself looked great with a new blue and gray paint scheme with good detailing.  It rode with absolute comfort with a feeling of being quite nimble.  It is roughly the same frame as last year with the difference in paint schema and a few bits of hardware that look more refined and adjustable.  The new saddles from a Canadian based company called Fabric look promising for an OEM saddle.  There are three varying options of curvature of the shell from very flat to very profiled.  The other models have more limited sizing as of the website options currently and the Cell saddle would look awesome on a pro build.  Apparently they have some new styles of handlebar tape with one made from buffalo leather (likely sourced ethically) that looks like Fizik Micro Tex and Brooks mixed together.  When we get a few samples, I will post photos and details on how it wraps and how long it lasts.

STROMER!

So I disassembled a rear Stromer wheel this morning before all of this Shimano stuff and carefully saved the spokes, spoke nipples, rim, tire, base tape, rotor, rotor bolts, freewheel, spacers, axle nuts, and axle washers safely away while I jump into the electric bike hub motor fixing and diagnosing world (EBHMFDW) and get it back up and running.  From research, I am confident that a viable and cheap solution will exist when I get the motor opened up and it will be running in no time.  After examining the wires where they enter the hub, it seems that one of them might be damaged and shorting out the controller (the LCD display) and the wire and possibly a hall sensor will have to be replaced.  To be continued later this week when I get access to a car bearing puller for the hub motor shell.

– SNC

Advertisements

What I didn’t know about electric bikes

After a lot of research this weekend, I learned quite a bit more about electric bikes and how they work.  I particularly concentrated on how the motor in the rear hub operates and how it can provide power without any moving parts.  My first goal from this point will be to open the hub shell of an Ultra Motor brand hub motor in the rear wheel of a Stromer.  I’ll detail all of it in a well-covered post.

Most of the information I found was on just a couple websites which I somehow had not come across yet. Electric Bike is definitely well organized and provided the most information about a variety of hub motors and their corresponding controllers and diagnostic procedures.  Ypedal has an amazing and vast knowledge of the systems and has created tons of custom setups as well as details repair on several Youtube videos that is a complete procedure and well explained.

Most of the motors have a similar layout:  An outer shell to protect and encase the motor, then a ring of magnets that are positioned between the shell and coils of copper wire.  Other than a couple sensors and wires that exit through the center of the wheel near the axle, that’s about it.  Very simple and once familiar with the parts, moderately easy to work on.  I chose to first learn about the motor because it seems like this is the only component that I haven’t been able to service other than to simply install a replacement wheel.  To have the ability to fix the motors once the manufacturer’s warranty expires will be essential — especially as the number of electric bikes is increasing and they are becoming more common.

Back to the sensors and wires in the motor.  Usually there are three small square shaped sensors that are positioned between two of the outer magnets in line with each other.  These are called Hall sensors and they measure the electrical current coming out of the motor as the wheel spins.  A tapered side of the sensor body is always positioned outward and usually is set with a tiny amount of JB Weld or epoxy. Out of the top of each sensor are three uncovered wire leads that are soldered to colored wires carefully running to the center of the hub and exit from the wheel to the controller and potentially a torque sensor.  A torque sensor is generally on higher end electric bikes while cheaper versions simply use a cadence magnet to calculate the input of added power.  The torque sensor is nicer because it adds power based on a direct measurement of the deflection of the wheel backward against the rear dropout when you put pressure on the chain and pedals.  Most are robust and work accurately, giving the rider a better feel of added power when accelerating.

In some situations, I read that one or more of the Hall sensors can go bad and with the right tools, it is a small project for an afternoon that will avoid a replacement ($500-750) or service elsewhere ($100/hr).  Even if you aren’t up to doing the task yourself, you will be better able to diagnose and familiarize issues that occur.  For the avid mechanic, it is possible to upgrade your hub motor for minimal cost.  Larger wires (if they can fit through the frame and center of the wheel) will boost available power and a better controller or throttle can more accurately distribute the power.  Unless you have an extreme desire to mod your electric bike, the magnets and copper wire are difficult and costly to replace.  Some motors are spun low with larger gauge copper wire which can provide more power, but less torque on hilly terrain while high spin copper will have better power at a high cadence and will last longer.

In order to remove the motor from its hub shell, a car bearing puller is necessary.  It is an extractor style tool with three arms that pull on the shell while a center bolt pushes the axle and opposite hub shell side.  It is helpful and recommended that you tap the shell with a mallet during this process to aid in freeing the two halves.  Otherwise, direct extraction with the bearing puller could break the hub flange and then you’ll be left with a useless motor and no shell.

Considering the Stromer that was detailed in the review and diagnosis, I believe that the torque sensor was overloaded in the frame without that necessary bolt and the motor overheated and fried one or more of the sensors.  This would explain the NO_COMM lack of communication between the LCD controller and the motor.

It makes a lot of sense once the elements are broken down like that.  I also think that one of the wires exiting the rear hub is a faulty wire with a weak spot somewhere near the center of the wheel.  The torque sensor itself seems okay.  I am going to check current through each of the wires to determine the faulty one and then solder in a new one along with the replacement of the sensors.

I was very happy to find this information and come to realization that these bikes can be fixed from the ground up if necessary.  Why wait a week or weeks for new parts to install when the local hardware store and Radio Shack have all the necessary parts for a solution?  I am going to continue to do more research into the motor repairs as well as connecting different controllers to the bike for operation.  It is exciting to realize that with the right research, I can create incredibly fun bikes that are useful for both fun and transportation. Now, once I can locate a car bearing puller, I’ll open the motor and take photos of everything so you can see it.  Stay tuned!

– SNC

2015 Campagnolo Record Preview

I got an excellent opportunity this morning to join my fellow mechanics and gaze at the new 2015 Campagnolo Record group brought by the US rep to explain new features and designs.  It really packed a punch aesthetically and is sure to be a powerhouse to compete with the other major drivetrains out there.  That being said — onto the good stuff!

The first component we looked at are the new shift/brake levers and how they differ from previous generations.  The hoods and body of the brifter are the same shape as the prior edition, but have small improvements.  The hood has a different pattern that contours the brifter better and helps to eliminate the ‘crease’ that some worn in hoods experience after heavy use.  This is also reflected on the inside of the hood where they created a thicker mesh under pressure points for better vibration dampening and a more secure fit.  A small print of “Campagnolo” is displayed in white at the outer front side of the hood.  Here are a couple photos:

The internals look basically the same with the exception of a different ratcheting shift mechanism that corresponds to the way the rear derailleur will travel up and down the cogs (actuation ratio).  This does mean that it is incompatible with the prior generation.

The crank was totally redesigned with the newer four arm spider made of carbon fiber and the chainrings each using 4 chainring bolts to attach to the arms.  This, along with the profiling of the top of each arm over the outer chainring is expected to confidently support the near 45Nm torque of the front derailleur shifting from the inner to the outer ring.  Also, I should note that the downshift is slightly different and acts much more like its electronic cousin, EPS.  When dropping from the outer ring the inner ring, the derailleur will drop to a low trim position — one slight click up from its innermost position.  This should help greatly in eliminating a chain dropping.  Here is a photo:

2015 Campagnolo Record 11 Crankset

Next was the front derailleur which ties into the prior paragraph about the 45Nm torque of the shift.  This is an improvement of about 10Nm more than the last generation and only 7Nm less than its EPS counterpart.  A 3D molded carbon cage exists on the Record and Super Record mechs and is an alloy cage on the Chorus level.  The improvement of the shifting power is mainly due to the added length of the arm used to anchor the cable.  Here’s a couple views:

The rear derailleur was definitely the best part about the entire presentation.  It boasts an incredibly light weight and features carbon fiber all over in both the Record and Super record levels.  The Chorus level will have an alloy outer parallelogram plate.  The reintroduction of a B-tension screw will help to eliminate differences in frame manufacturing specifications and allow the derailleur to be dialed in the exact same way on any number of bikes.  It’s best feature is a spline drive inside the anchor pivot that winds the spring tighter as the derailleur moves up and down the cogs.  Its benefit is to keep the upper pulley moving with the same curved slope of the cogs to prevent missed shifts and smoother transition.  Check it out:

Lastly, here are a few photos of the EPS bike with current generation Super Record 11 EPS:

Stromer Update Photos and Review Part 2

I have an updated gallery of photos for the Stromer ST1 and will be continuing to review it.  After few more issues and discoveries, I will be posting an article later to detail diagnosing the differences between issues with the display, issues with the motor, and issues with the battery.  Some of the information I have gathered will work to fix the problem and some is for correctly diagnosing what needs a replacement or solution.  In my recent article, I talked about the display having problems and have refined the diagnosis a bit further.  As I compile the information and gather the remaining photos today, browse the gallery and compare the components to what is on your Stromer or other pedelec bicycle.  Once again, I would like to mention that the support from both Specialized and Stromer have been top-notch and most of the models that roll through my shop are trouble free and don’t experience any interruption in use.  It can be overwhelming to read an article that mainly details problems, so I will also try to highlight the good points of design and features that I see.  If you own a Stromer, you probably have spent a bit of time on Google to read forums about issues you may be experiencing and found that the information is loosely organized at best and offers very little in the way of a compiled source other than the company’s website.

The article should be finished up by tomorrow morning.  Enjoy the photos!

Stromer Troubleshooting and Diagnosis Part 1

So, I have done a bit of research in my off time to get more acquainted with the Stromer electric-assist bicycle.  It is the other brand of ebike that we carry in our shop and is notable for its price point and performance.  Not only will it go quite a bit faster than the Turbo (about 50kph or 31mph), but it also comes in at a price point of about $3,500 USD versus the $5,999 tag on the Turbo.  Both equate to an amazing experience on a bicycle, but this option seems more affordable than the Turbo without sacrificing quality.  I like to think of the Turbo as an ebike with style where the Stromer is a workhorse that won’t quit and won’t deteriorate under pressure.

That being said, I wanted to go over a few parts of the Stromer that I have worked with and what expect for a long term review in the future once I ride them a little more.  The Stromer is designed by BMC (the company chose to call itself the initials of its UCI code), a Swiss manufacturer that’s founder was the owner of the famous 711 racing team.  They make two models: the ST1 and the ST2.  Both can be configured with various options from a suspension fork or carbon fiber fork to three levels of motor power and two battery levels.

Stromer ST1 Specs

Stromer ST2 Specs

The ST2 is an upgraded version that has a possible range of 150km on one charge.  That is on of the longest lasting battery specs on the market with 814 Wh.  The newest model has a smartphone integration for real time stats and data.  With built in lights, fenders, and a rear rack, it is a notable competitor for the Turbo S and when the newest model hits our shop, I’ll be posting a review on it.  Until then, I will be dealing with troubleshooting the Stromer ST1 and ST2 from prior years since they are more common.  Having all the information I have gathered in one place will help both you and myself as it expands.  From past research, I have not found very useful information on the Stromer on the Internet and have relied mostly in swapping components from a new build to the repair and having replacements sent from the representative for the company in the USA.  That being said, there is still a great deal of information that can speed up repairs and diagnosis and keep your customers happy and riding.

Much of the issues I have come across seem to deal with replacing the display unit or cleaning connections.  One issue dealt with a bad charger (It should be noted that the charging process of the battery off the bike is very specific).  First, plug the adapter cable to the battery.  Then plug the opposite end of the adapter cable to the charger plug.  Next, plug the power cord into the opposite side of the charger from the adapter cable.  Lastly, plug the power cord into the wall.  You should see a red light appear in the LED bubble on the side of the box charger.  After a few seconds (up to about 5 sec), it should change to either an amber color (signifying it is charging) or green (Stromer recommends leaving the charger on while the LED is green for about an hour for maximum charge level).  If the charging connectors are not plugged together in the correct sequence, damage can occur to the charger and the battery and result in a solid red LED on the charger box.  If this is the case, consult your dealer for a replacement charger.  I have had confusion come from customers on the charging process and it has led me to have to deal with recharging a supposedly malfunctioning battery with a new charger.  In these instances, I also try charging it through the bicycle, which helps to eliminate the battery being the issue.  Here are the photos in order of the process.

Cleaning the connectors should be done carefully and with the battery out of the bike.  While an electrical discharge is not likely, be safe and take the battery out first.  This also provides an opportunity to check the connections for the battery inside the frame and on the battery itself.

Here are a few photos of the various electrical connection on the bike.

The two main issues of display replacement have been related to the information messages shown on the display.  One issue of NO_BATT appeared on the display after only a couple of weeks of use.  I checked the battery both in and out of the frame and the connections leading from the display to the battery.  All of them seemed clean of debris or liquid and were securely connected.  The next step was to reset the display to see if the system would correct itself upon start up.  I removed the display from the handlebars by disconnecting the wires and taking the two anchor screws out of the band mount.  Once removed, I used a quarter to turn the battery cover to the open position underneath the circular gray foam pad protecting it.  Taking a scribe, I popped the cover open and removed the CR2032 battery and inspected the two terminals inside the battery compartment.  Both also seemed clean and correctly positioned for contact.  Taking a new CR2032 battery, I installed it carefully and then put the battery cover and foam pad back.  Mounting it back onto the handlebars, I proceeded to carefully connect all of the wires appropriately and turned the system on.  The message of NO_BATT remained and I contacted the rep about a replacement.  In the short-term, I went ahead and connected a brand new display from a model not yet built to this Stromer and everything seemed to work great afterward.  The replacement unit came in and I reinstalled it onto the new build without issue as well.

Another issue I came across (though I believe it to be from either improper assembly or repair in its past and not from a defect) was a mechanical one.  The spacer nut on the rear axle drive side that correctly positions the freewheel away from the frame was completely missing.  I was able to find a suitable spacer and nut at a local hardware store and the wheel spins freely once again.  As the wheel was initially mounted, the high end of the freewheel was locked against the inside of the rear dropout on the frame and scored a fine line into the metal.  If this had continued, the frame would have likely had to been replaced.  You can see it in the photos here.

I am still not finished with the diagnosis of this particular model.  It has seen quite a few miles of use and also has an issue with the display showing an information message of NO_COMM.  This error means that there is a disruption in the communication between one or more of the components.  I scanned through the connectors, but could find little evidence of a bad wire or connector.  The only connection that seemed to have suffered from the weather was the connection to the rear dropout shown above in the right photo and above on the inside of the chainstay.  I question whether attempted use of the bicycle with the freewheel in its original condition as it came to the shop would have overloaded or shorted the sensor in the frame.  This information has been forwarded to the rep for possible solutions and extra wires to swap and test.  Otherwise, I will attempt to receive a replacement display to test (the models in the shop utilize a 2 wire display, where this model uses a display with 4 wires).  My general feeling is that correction of the rear wheel axle assembly and replacement of the display and rear dropout wire will fix all of the issues.  The bike has had a replacement rear wheel already, so the motor should be in good working order.

I will add to this article as the project progresses!  Feel free to message or comment any questions or suggestions.

– SNC

How To Properly Glue A Tubular Tire

I am sure that many people have great techniques (as well as poor ones) on how to glue tubulars, but I thought I would provide my take on it.  I have glued well over 500 in my career thus far and not one has ever come back where it “rolled” off the rim.  I take this as a good technique proven over time because if it is one thing I can pretty much guarantee, it’s that someone who rolls one will definitely make sure the ‘gluer’ knows that it happened.  If you perfect the consistency of your method while gluing, then you will have predictable results that are positive.

That being said, let’s dig in.  If you are a bike shop mechanic and haven’t tried gluing, practice on a set of ones first and have them inspected about a week later by someone who has glued.  If the tire is quite difficult to pull off, then you’ve done it right.  Recently, I have come across several cases where a poor gluing was easily reflected in the difficulty (or ease) of pulling the old tire off.  Either the glue had been applied in spots on the rim or almost none at all in the center.  Let me express that you don’t have to have glued a ton of tubulars to get it right.  You just have to follow a method that is proven and makes sense.  If you are a cyclist that doesn’t have access to a shop, then follow this guide because you’ll know your wheels better because of it and you’ll always have the opportunity to be race-ready.  The process can be done in a day with the right tubulars or over several days for ultimate quality and aesthetics.

The first thing I do is to obviously remove the old tubular.  If it has been glued correctly, this will be the second hardest part.  Below you will see a series of photos detailing the removal.  I usually start by taking my index fingers and thumbs and rock the tire side to side in different places on the rim to try to peel the edges of the tire off.  If a particular section starts to peel well, I will focus there.  I take a plastic tire lever and run its edge along the part of the tire that is glued.  This kind of ‘cuts’ the glue to start the removal and ensures that the base tape does not rip off the rest of the tire.  Then, I begin to pry the edge of the lever under the center of the tire until it gives way to the opposite side.  Push either forwards or backwards along the rim flexing the lever upwards to peel more of the tire off.  Once you’ve done this for about a quarter of the radius of the rim, take the lever out and use your hands to peel the rest of the tire off.  Then, put the wheel in a truing stand if you have one for inspection.  Here are the photos of me removing a Vittoria Corsa Evo off of some Campagnolo Bora Ultimates.

After peeling the tire off, inspect it and compare the base tape to the new tubular being glued.  Many times, indentations around each rim hole for the spoke nipple will be seen.  Glue that is hastily applied will seep into these holes in the rim and create havoc for future truing and for broken spoke nipples to exit the rim in a spoke replacement.  Note any areas that are lacking in glue.  More importantly that this is to check the rim bed (the area where the tire contacts the rim) for leftover glue and any inconsistencies.  Check these two photos out:

WP_20141010_019 WP_20141010_014

In the left photo, you can see that glue never really even made it to the right side of the rim and the indent in the center of the rim bed holds roughly the same thickness of glue as the left side.  From a better perspective, the right photo shows the area on the rim I found when peeling the tubular.  My best guess is that a layer of glue was on the tire and then a bead of glue was drawn onto the center of the rim bed before mounting it.  Don’t ever use this method.  That tire is not secure at all for racing — much less around the parking lot for a test ride.  I recommend at this point to mark non-glued tubulars on display models with a symbol on the valve extender with a silver Sharpie marker.

This is how to glue the new tubular.

Since there was little glue on the rim to start with, I elected to ‘paint’ over the existing glue using Vittoria Mastik One tubular glue.  It is rated the best — it holds the best (I have heard recently of using this in conjunction with gluing tape for cross tubulars and the methods I was described sounded great and sound).  The first step is to start spreading glue on the tubular since the base tape will soak up the first layer.  I like to focus on getting about 95% of the base tape covered in a nice layer of glue.  This means no thick spots or globs.  Use an acid brush (hardware stores — very cheap and perfect for the job) to steadily spread the glue in long sections several inches at a time with short strokes.  I usually spread a bead of glue (as pictured below) around a sixth to a quarter of the circumference at a time.  This helps to ensure that the glue doesn’t begin to thicken and dry or drip down onto the rubber of the tire.  While a little glue may touch the rubber, a lot is difficult to fix and results in poor treatment of the rubber to clean.  Take your time and be thorough.  Each coat takes about 10-15 minutes for a beginner and about 5-7 minutes once acquainted.  Check out the progress below.

One important thing to note with layers of glue on the tire is that you want to build a little extra glue right around the valve where it meets the base tape.  This will help prevent damage from pumping it up as well as rough valve holes and a secure fitting when stretching onto the rim.  Like this.

WP_20141010_029

Next is the rim.  I apply glue the exact same way as the tire.  Do two coats on the tire and two coats on the rim.  Spread it evenly and take care to both cover rim edges around the spoke drillings and the areas between.  Spread 2-3 small half-dime size dots of glue between each spoke drilling approximately a quarter way around the rim at a time.  Start at the last place you dripped glue and spread upwards in directional slow strokes.  Angle the brush to drag excesses of glue along the rim to areas where application didn’t sufficiently cover.  The speed of this process is a lot of what experience will give you.  The more you do, the quicker and more efficient you will become.  The idea here is that you follow the steps precisely so that you get glue where it should be.   The aesthetics will come with time.  Tubulars that stay on the rim are always cooler than pretty ones that don’t.  Here is the glue process.

WP_20141010_033 WP_20141010_032

You can see in the right the bead drops of glue and spreading them out in the left photo.  Let each layer dry completely to touch and then it will be time to mount the tire onto the rim.

Take the tire and apply a very very thin layer of glue over the middle 70% of the basetape.  This will aid in activating the glue on the rim and in allowing a bit of positioning.  Check the tread and make absolutely sure that you will be stretching it on the correct direction.  Nothing is more terrible than realizing you just put the tire on backwards. Check the tread one more time.

Insert the valve into the valve hole with only some ‘pliable pressure’ in the tire.  You should be able to stretch it with moderate effort.  Begin with a hand on each side of the valve and pull the tire away from the valve in the direction of the rim.  Check the base tape on each side to make sure it is being placed evenly along the rim.  Once you get to the final six inches of the tire, wedge the axle of the wheel against something and pinch the tire while pulling it onto the rim.  Some cases and combinations of tubulars and rims are exceptionally difficult and some are wonderfully easy.  Vittoria happens to be a tubular that rides incredibly well and stretches easily onto almost any rim.

I hope this helped clear up the process of the gluing.  I may extend the article soon and include some photos of actually stretching the tire.  Feel free to comment and suggest any methods that are well proven.  Thanks for reading!

– SNC

Update and The Ridge

So, the Turbo wheel was sent back to Specialized for recalibration of the motor. When it came back, it was an entirely new wheel. While the defective motor was replaced, the newly installed one worked perfectly and has since been performing without flaw. It was a pretty quick turn around (about a week).

I’ll be back to posting on both some technical articles and a few on the biking culture in general. With the season slowing down a bit, I now have better time to devote. Also, concerning biking culture and news, I have been in the heart of the situation of cyclists being called terrorists in Washington D.C. and have been listening to many sides of the story as it has resurfaced a couple days ago on the Kojo Nnamdi show on NPR. Both sides have strong opinion and reasons for concern and I think it’s a good time to highlight some of it from a practical standpoint.

Also, the new Danny Macaskill video, “The Ridge” is quite amazing and you should watch it immediately.