The Blog

Thursday, May 20, 2010

We did it! - Electric bicycle conversion in one afternoon!

The anticipation was immense.  Sean was all a tingle as we headed to Boulder to attempt the amazing feat of building an electric bicycle in a day.  We stopped at cousin Jim and his wife Regina's fine home and tried to be relaxed and calm while internally chomping at the bit to get the build underway.  After admiring Jim's solar electric and hot water systems and eating a fabulous lunch, we grabbed the bicycle that Jim agreed to contribute to the cause and headed down to Pete's Electric Bike Shop to start the conversion.
Dean and Chuck, the owner's of the shop were busy hanging an electric bike from the ceiling and very generously stopped and helped us get oriented.  It turned out that they had already gotten an older steel framed mountain bike off of Craigslist for our conversion.  We quickly figured out that using the frame they got would work out better than the one that Jim offered so we got to work.
Between 12 and 4 Sean did most of the mechanical things that needed doing like changing brakes, cables, messing with racks changing tires and wheels and mounting new handlebars.  Around 4 some folks who had been invited to join us showed up and amidst the hubub of answering questions, giving rides and checking out a very cool hand build "pusher trailer" built by local enthusiast, Sean, Dean and Chuck hooked up the controller, battery rack and front drive wheel.  All did not go smoothly with the controller but fortunately, Dean pulled another out of a box and it worked.  Catherine and I had a dinner date so when we left at 6:30, Dean said they had about an hour left and sure enough, Sean showed up about an hour later to join us for dinner.
Dean and Chuck have the best electric bike shop we have seen.  They carry a number of different types of ready made bikes and scooters and they love doing conversions.  Sharing the shop space with us was a tricycle that they were outfitting with an electric drive system and there were other trikes on the floor that were going to be converted.  They have another shop in Minneapolis and they are opening a shop in Aspen in a couple of weeks.   Until meeting them, I thought that operating an electric bike shop was an act of charity.  Dean and Chuck don't see it that way.  They have a model that includes rentals, sales, conversions and excellent service and it looks like it is working.  We know that when people try electric bikes, the experience is usually very positive and for people who like to putter with bicycles, adding the electrics adds another layer of challenge which I noticed Sean certainly enjoyed.
Without Dean and Chuck's expertise and extra parts, we would not have been able to complete the conversion in a day.  Their record is just over 4 hours for a conversion!

The other exciting thing about this conversion is the cost.  We have built a strong, hopefully reliable electric bicycle out of a $140 Craigslist purchase that we added new fenders, tires, tubes, quill stem, handlebars, cables and housings, used front rack from the shop and the electricals.  Excluding the $400.00 battery and motor kit, we built the whole bike for $300.  The motor kit retails for under  $400.00.  So for around $1,100, we've got ourselves an awesome electrical bike.
One of the visitors at the Bike Shop yesterday was Tom Weis, an environmentalist and wind power activist who is planning on riding an electric bicycle from Boulder to Washington DC in September.  Needless to say, we had a lot to talk about and he is completely delightful.  We ended up having dinner with him, Paul Sheldon from Natural Capitalism Solutions and my dear friend Elliot Hoffman who happened to be in Boulder for meetings with Hunter Lovins and her crew.

Starting out on the conversion

Dean helping out
Chuck adding his touch
A "pusher" trailer that hooks onto a bicycle and pushes it down the road
The designer builder showing off his invention
The finished product - Minus fenders and front rack
It really works
Trying out the electric Miles car
Very cool car

Great to see Elliot in Boulder
He joins the Green Riders for as long as it took to put on and take off the T-shirt
Tom Weis talking to Catherine about his upcoming electric bicycle cross country tour.


  1. I'm excited about your conversion because you are so doggone excited, Oliver! I've really been enjoying reading your blog everyday and learning about some of the interesting things happening in sustainable energy development. Go Green Riders! Chris

  2. is it possible for an electric bike to carry a load of atleast 100KG and drove it for about 100KM? im planning to have my own electric bike this coming christmas. thanks. hope you can help me.

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