Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Workcycles Fr8 eZee electric conversion part 1

The Fr8 has landed. It left Amsterdam, went to Cologne, back to Amsterdam (more whores and coffee shops?), back to Cologne and on to Perth. She's a beauty for sure, Quality with a capital Q (read Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance for more on this). However, she's a bit on the heavy side so all my dreams of riding it sans electric assist went out the door pretty quickly. Maybe my legs aren't made of the right stuff, but in my defence there are more hills here than in Holland, Amy insisted on electric assist and we don't want it sitting in the garage like many a bike in Oz does. Here is what she looks like (but a different colour).

The Fr8 is based on the old style baker's/butcher's/postie's bike, so it's a cargo bike without the box (bak in bakfiets). It is a modular bike, with many configurations depending on how you like it. Check out Workcycles for tonnes of info on this. If you have any questions go to the Bakfiets en Meer blog and ask Henry, he designs and builds the bikes and he actually spends the time to answer people's questions (thanks Henry). If you're in Australia and want to buy one of these go to Dutch Cargo Bikes. So, here's how we converted the bike.

Firstly the specs of this Fr8:

Fr8 NN8D Uni frame, with black city rack and rear rack
Shimano 8 speed Nexus internal hub gears
IM70 Roller brakes rear, Magura HS11 front (this is to allow for the electric hub, which is not compatible with roller brakes)
Beautiful dutch orange colour (RAL 2004)
Brooks B67 saddle
White Big Apple tyres
GMG 911 child seat, with foot guards
Clarijs XLU recyled B panniers
Abus integral lock with 1m plug in chain

If you want to convert a Workcycles Fr8 you may be better off ordering direct from Holland as we did. This is because things like Magura hydraulic brakes are not standard, so if you get a regular Fr8 you will need to buy rollers and remove them. This might not be a big deal if you can resell/re-use the wheel though and ordering direct takes a while (13 weeks for us!). Importing is also a hassle and may cost more too.

We decided to use the eZee 36V 14a conversion kit since it seems to be one of the best, most common kits on the market. We got it from Glowworm Bicycles in Sydney, who gave great advice and service (thanks Maurice). We went for the flat pack version, which comes with a rack and has a thinner battery than the vertical. The first decision to make is where to install your battery. I wanted to put it behind the seat post but there wasn't quite enough room. Another option was the panniers, but there's no way to lock your battery this way. The rear rack was out of the question due to the child seat, so I opted for the front rack. There are pros and cons to this, there's less wiring needed but it means the front crate cannot easily be removed. If you decide to put it on the rear rack then don't buy the Fr8 rack when you buy the bike, just get the rear bumper and install the rack that comes with the eZee flat pack kit (but be aware it won't take the weight of the sturdier Fr8 rack which can take 80 kg+). The advantage of this option is that you can lock the battery to the rear rack and it won't get pinched. Anyway, the next step is what kind of crate to put on the front rack and I had a doozie lying around the shed. An old banana box we got for free a few years back when we were buying Vacola preserving jars. It's pretty rickety to say the least, but I think it suits the bike to a T so I zipped a few screws in and it was ready. Like Jack Nicholson's football helmet in Easy Rider it has it all, style, panache and utility…

Maurice suggested putting a false floor in the crate, which is a great idea and worked well. Here's how I did it. Firstly I decided on how to lay out the components, with the battery at the rear to allow for easy access to the key hole and the controller at the front. 

Then I screwed the controller on to a piece of wood and attached this to the box to secure it (the wood and controller are the same height as the battery so the false floor is flat). 

Then I drilled a hole for the key to go through (35mm drill bit) and screwed a piece of wood in each corner so that the false floor could support cargo weight. I left one piece of wood adjacent to the battery not attached to the crate to allow for removal of the battery if needed. The wood wedges the battery snugly all around so that it can't rattle around.

Next I got two U bolts (14mm between the threads) and drilled holes through the bottom of the crate to attach the crate to the rack firmly at the front. 

This stops side to side movement and anchors the crate really well, but I still put two cable ties at the back to ensure no front to back movement (no room for U bolts there due to battery). The last step was to put in the false floor. I bought an off cut of 3mm marine ply for $10 from a boat supply shop and cut it to fit the crate. Three licks of varnish for weather resistance and in it went snug as a bug. I'm still pondering whether and how to secure this. I need access to the battery to charge it, so the options are to either leave the floor loose or screw it to the bits of wood (need to unscrew every time you charge though) or cut out a window with a hinge on to allow for access. The dilemma is that I don't want it to be too hard to charge the battery but I don't want the battery to be pinchable.

I got side tracked by the battery positioning, so rewind a bit: the first thing I did was install the Ezee wheel. This contains the motor inside the front hub. The hub fits a 10mm drop out and the Fr8 has 12mm drop outs, so I used a hand file to file them down. It was actually quite easy to do and only required removing the paint to fit nicely in. 

I replaced the Marathon plus tyre with the Big Apple to match the rear and adjusted the brakes for the thinner rim. To install the nuts and bolts to the hub I'd recommend the Renaissance manual, it has a great explanation of how to do this (the kit doesn't come with a manual unfortunately!).

Next I put the torque arms on. This stops the hub motor from spinning inside the drop outs and is a really important part. It's pretty easy to do, just follow the instructions from the Glowworm website (look under E-bike parts and accessories, torque arm).

Then I fitted the LED display unit and cable router to the handle bar and head set respectively. Next I put the motor cable harness junction box together and installed it on the right fork (again, check the Glowworm E parts specific descriptions for instructions). It has a loop at the bottom to try to prevent any water from getting in to the motor. When you do this make sure you have enough slack in the cable to allow for full lock on your wheel.

When you have this done you can install the throttle and check that the wheel spins when you turn it. If it doesn't you may have a problem, but don't worry you probably just forgot to plug something in to the controller or to turn the key! To attach the throttle just remove your hand grip (left usually) and put the eZee one on.

Lastly I installed the pedal sensor. This was the most daunting bit for me since I'd never removed a crank before, plus I didn't have the necessary tools. You may want to go to your local bike shop to get the crank off and on again if you're not confident about doing it yourself. I asked our bike mechanic mate Alex for a hand (thank you Alex, you're a star). He expertly whipped off the left crank with a crank extractor and we fitted the magnetic disc (make sure it is facing the right way by pedalling before you put the crank back on). Normally you remove the bottom bracket cup and fit the sensor behind the cup, but this wasn't possible with the Fr8 because the cup was smaller than the ring of the sensor. We just decided to cut off the metal ring attached to the sensor and cable tie the sensor directly onto the frame. It looks a bit shonky but it does the trick. When you pedal the sensor sends a signal to the controller to tell it to power up. Put the crank back on making sure it's oriented the opposite way to the right pedal, unless you want to ride like a Kangaroo!

Re lights, the Fr8 comes with Busch and Muller dynamo lights run off a Shimano hub dynamo. The hub dynamo is not compatible with the front wheel Ezee kit so I considered other options. The lights are well done on the Fr8. For example the cable to the rear light runs through the frame and under the rear mud guard, so I thought I'd leave them on. I've ordered a Nordlicht bottle dynamo to run on the front wheel which will be compatible with the B & M lights and should fit on the light bracket on the front left fork. I'll report back on this when I get them. I ordered the dynamo through a great site called Dutch Bike Bits.

Phew, I think we're done. Please note that I am a DIY dunce and would have paid someone to do this for me if I could have. Despite reservations I plucked up the courage to do it myself and I'm glad I did. It may not be the best job ever and it did take me about 10 hours plus, but I'm chuffed with the end result. I don't think anyone else would care enough (or be crazy and anally retentive enough!) to make the crate look so neat and cool. So go on, do it yourself. When something goes wrong with it you're much more likely to be able to fix it if you installed it. Just remember to take your time to contemplate the job beforehand and if you get stuck just walk away and have a think about it instead of plugging on and getting it wrong.

These are the tools you'll need for the job:

A clear head
Allen key set
Spanners: 19, 16, 15, 14, 10 and 8mm from memory (try not use adjustables, they’re bad for your bolts).

Phillips head screw driver
Cordless drill if you're putting a wooden crate on
Cable ties (200mm by 4.8mm worked well for most, plus a few smaller ones)
Time and patience

By the way, regulations in Australia are that an electric bike's motor be no more than 200w, with no speed restriction. So, despite this being a stupid law in that it restricts the appeal of e-bikes to many people (keeping more cars on the road), the eZee kit has a 200w motor. This may change to match the EU's 250w limit, but I wouldn't bet on it.

That's it for now. I've ridden it a bit and it works a treat but I'll leave the review to another post. Now I just have to get that bloody Oasis song Married With Children out of my head! 

"She's electric, she's got a family full of eccentrics"...

See part 2 here for the rest of the conversion.

Monday, June 25, 2012

Water quality: mains vs rain

I'm lucky enough to work with a lovely man called Peter who has a lab full of fancy analytical gadgets (mostly bought second hand on Ebay!). One of the things he does is analyse water, so a few weeks ago I asked him to run some home water samples through his gizmos. And here are the results (ppm is parts per million).

Source Fluoride Chloride Nitrite Bromide Nitrate Phosphate Sulphate Na NH4 K Mg Ca bicarbonate carbonate pH Conductivity
ppm ppm ppm ppm ppm ppm ppm ppm ppm ppm ppm ppm ppm ppm uS/cm
tank no filter 0 5.3 0 0 <1 0 1.2 3.0 0 0.3 0.5 0 6.33 0.00 6.40 28.6
tank+filter 0 5.6 0 0 <1 0 0.7 3.0 0 0.2 0.6 0 6.78 0.00 6.50 30.7
tank top 0 18 0 <1 <1 0 3.1 7 0 0.2 1.0 2.2 5.4 0.0 6.2 37
scheme + filter 0.9 134 0 0 0 0 16.5 90 0 3.3 5.4 27.4 80.8 0.2 7.7 592
scheme no filter 1.1 134 0 0 0 0 16.6 91 0 3.2 5.6 30.0 84.3 0.4 8.0 594

I took five samples : tank water with no filter (this is the filter we have at our kitchen sink for drinking water); filtered tank water, water scooped from the very top of the tank; filtered scheme water and lastly unfiltered scheme water. 

So, what do the results mean? Well the first thing that jumps out is how bad Perth's scheme (mains) water is. The salts (mainly sodium (Na) and Chloride), conductivity, calcium, magnesium, sulphate and bicarbonate are all at least an order of magnitude higher than the tank water. pH is a lot higher in the scheme water too. Perth's water is a mixture of ground water, dam water and desalinated water. The mix changes from suburb to suburb and depending on the time of year and dam levels. These samples were taken in late autumn when dams are pretty low, so the scheme water quality could be worse at this time of year than others. Having said that, Perth's water is relatively good compared to many other parts of Australia and other parts of the world so I shouldn't grumble too much... 

The rain water tank was half full at the time and the roof was nice and clean from heavy rainfall so I'm not surprised at how good the tank water is. I tested the top of the tank because I wanted to test whether installing a Waterboy would be beneficial. It's a gadget which takes water from just below the surface of the top of the tank instead of the bottom where it's all mucky, low in oxygen and high in micro-organisms. It appears from these results that it won't help much, although I did take the first two samples at different times to the others due to a problem with some of the samples. Also, I didn't test for the contaminants which the Waterboy claims to avoid, so it probably isn't a fair test.
The other main thing that is striking is that the filter is doing absolutely nothing to reduce any of these parameters. We have an Everpure H54 filter, which removes many things which we didn't test for (eg lead, cysts, dirt and cloudiness, mould and algae. However it claims to reduce chlorine taste and odour and lime and scale build up in things like kettles. Maybe they put taste and odour at the end of chlorine to trick people into thinking that meant chlorine itself, because it definitely doesn't reduce chlorine. And I would assume that lime and scale build up is mainly caused by bicarbonates, which were not reduced significantly in this test. The filter isn't anywhere near the end of its life either, so it's not doing part of its job. That doesn't mean it's doing nothing though and it may be blocking some nasties along the way.

And how does this apply to you? Well, if you don't live in Perth it probably isn't very relevant, especially the scheme water results. However, it does show that if you want good quality drinking water which is low in salts a rain water tank could be a good thing. Rain water still has all the essential minerals your body needs without all the other crap. It doesn't have fluoride which is added to mains water in most western countries to keep our teeth healthy, but if you're worried about that then brush with fluoridated toothepaste. There are many other good reasons to get a rain water tank. Foremost among these is the fact that many water sources are being over extracted to provide cheap water to people. The loser in this equation is the environment of course, which we are actually a part of (easy to forget sometimes) and we depend on for our quality of life. Also, water companies use huge amounts of energy (Watercorp is the biggest energy user in WA) to pump water around and clean it. If you're interested in installing a tank, check out this post for some tips. 

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

DIY Toothpaste

At work we are in the throws of preparing for the Plastic Free July Challenge - can you go for one shopping trip, a week or a month without using single use disposable plastic? It was an idea a friend had and we ran with it last year and had about 40 households participate, this year we have over 100 already! It will probably go viral and end up like Earth Hour. That is our humble prediction. In preparation for Plastic Free July I am doing a little demo on how to make toothpaste and so had to do my homework...but I got a little help...

Quin was super enthusiastic about the idea. The recipe is simple (and there are other plastic free recipe's on the Earth Carers website):

1/3 cup bi carb
enough coconut oil to make a paste
pinch salt
peppermint essential oil or similar to taste

So we started out and mixed together the ingredients and it was all fun...

Now time to actually try it out. Initial excitement turned to...well...

... bitter disappointment. It looked like toothpaste, it smelled like toothpaste, it was almost the same consistency as toothpaste but the taste? I think his face says it all.  
Oh well. He will still take it for news at school next week and said that during July he will try half normal and half homemade toothpaste and I said that was a fine contribution to Plastic Free July in our household. 

Friday, June 8, 2012

Pelmets and curtains

Just how long since you did something are you allowed to do a blog post on it? That's a question I've been asking myself recently, since blogging should probably be fairly up to date. It's somewhere between a week and a year I'd say, preferably on the lower end of the scale. Anyway, let's just pretend I did all this stuff in the recent past...

So, we finally got the curtains installed and pelmets up in time for winter. We found the pelmets on the verge a while ago and with a bit of modification to make them deep enough to surround the curtains they're doing a great job. We got the curtains installed by a local family business called Susie Q's and we're really happy with how they came up. They are made with fairly heavy fabric and lined with a separate layer of sunblock material. Amy chose the most expensive fabric in the shop for our bedroom...

Then we have a boring kind of neutral colour for the living room.

And finally we have foul blinds. No, fowl blinds for the kitchen (these are recessed into the wall so don't need a pelmet).

So what's the big deal I hear you ask. Well, installing good quality, double layer curtains with pelmets is one of the best ways to insulate your home. "Windows are often the weakest link when it comes to winter heat loss. In fact a single glazed, 3mm pane of glass can lose from 10 to 15 times more heat than insulated wall of the same area". To stop this heat loss you need a layer of still air between the window and the room. The best way to do this is with curtains and pelmets, where you can reduce heat loss by around 45%. This is about 20% better than the best double glazing! Curtains trap air between the glass and itself and pelmets stop the air from rising. As I explained in an earlier post: "A pelmet is a box type structure fixed to the wall above curtains. They stop heat loss in winter and heat gain in summer. In summer, air between the curtain and the window heats up. This warm air rises and escapes over the top of the curtain. This air movement sucks cool air in from the rest of the room to window. This cool air warms, rises, and so it goes on in a convective process. In winter the air by the window cools, sinks and draws warm air to the window in the same way and the process works in reverse". This info is all from a great article by Vic DPI.  

So we're fairly toasty right now as winter comes. Of course now there are other gaps to plug, such as walls (how to insulate brick veneerial disease?) and leaky hard wood floors...

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Hi-line = high production

It's been 4 months since we got four new Hi-line brown chooks. These hybrid hens have been bred for the sole purpose of pumping out eggs regularly and by heck do they do a good job of it. It took them a few weeks to get going but since then this has been the result most days. 

We have seven chooks now (we off loaded our two Wyandottes to a breeder a while ago), but our older girls (Australorps) are not laying at all now. This means our new girls lay an egg a day almost every day! You can see from the chart below that production is picking up markedly.

This has meant our cumulative total is running well above all previous years and should easily surpass our best ever year.

Now we're wondering what to do with our old girls. They're almost four years old now and they're not laying. They may come back into lay in the spring but we are paying a fair bit for food with no gain in eggs right now. We obviously have an emotional attachment to them, but they do need to pay their way a bit.

On another note, today is a joyous day. After searching the web far and wide with no success I have now found an easy, quick way to put Excel charts in the blog. Up until now I have been printing charts, then scanning them and saving them as jpegs before importing to blogger (what a pain in the arse). Now I've found a much better way. A brilliant geek by the name of Jon Peltier has developed an Excel add-in to export a chart as a png file. All I have to do now is highlight a chart, click on the add-in and it exports it to wherever you want to put it. Then you go to blogger and import the png image. It's so easy, I love it. The best bit is that it's free, download the export chart zip here and install the add-in.Thank you Jon, geek c'est chic!