Blue ICE Refinements

I’m planning a long tour in Summer with the Blue ICE and the 120km tour in March showed some shortcomings in the setup.

Gear range
The gear range wasn’t too narrow for comfort with the 42/67t chainring of the Patterson and a finly spaced 13-32t freewheel. 42t to 32t was too long to climb hills without electric assist, the

The 42t chainring of the Patterson Drive had to make way for a 36t chainring that got 12 magnets for the pedelec sensor glued it them. The Bafang BPM got a 11-34t freewheel.

The front light changed from a the old Trelock LC950 to a B&M IQ Cyo 80Lux ebike light. Much better beam wideer pattern, more suited for a trike. Its fed from the 10V line of the Cycle Analyst V3.

Agains dropping the chain occasionally on rough roads, a little clamp made from two Amphenol Air holds the upper chain tube in place.

It got a 15FET/45A controller that is slightly oversized and could cook the Bafang BPM in short order if not tamed by the Cycle Analyst V3 to 30A. Tis $50 controller can be found at Ebay and having kind of a soft start feature. If connected to the Bafang BPM’s hall sensores it got 120% ‘overdrive’ option, but can work in sensorless mode as well.

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Blue ICE Impressions

The Blue Sprint on commuter duty

Blue Sprint_XPress_left_02_web
ready to roll with panniers and battery

Blue Sprint_XPress_left_web
ground clearance

Blue ICE_in front of shed_web
blue Sprint with batterys

Blue Sprint_battery mount_web
battery mount and rear lights

Blue Sprint_beam pattern_web
The Cockpit

Blue ICE_front_Patterson_Xpress_web
Patterson Metropolis drive

Ortlieb XPress_Batterys_Lock_web
XPress panniers, 1.2kW/h battery, Abus U-lock

Blue Sprint_XPress_rear view_web
rear view

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Ortlieb X-Press Pannier Conversion

Once upon a time Ortlieb sold a waterproof shoulder bag that can be converted to rather perfect recumbent bike rear panniers with little effort and cost.

Once converted, the X-Press panniers provide a less unwieldy alternative to the Ortlieb Recumbent Bag that isn’t available in less heat prone white and silver colors.
Black panniers might look more fetching, but will heat up quickly to pretty high temperatures (like 70°C!) on a summer day.

Meet the Ortlieb X-Press

Ortlieb X-Press M

The Ortlieb X-Press came in several colors (black, red/black, yellow/black, silver/black, white/black) and three sizes (S, M, L). Size S is a perfectly fine waterproof shoulder bag, but for bike panniers you want size M or the deeper size L.

Ortlieb X-Press sizes
X-Press size S: 28cm height x 38cm width x 15cm depth (15 liter)
X-Press size M: 38cm height x 48cm width x 15cm depth (25 liter)
X-Press size L: 38cm height x 48cm width x 20cm depth (35 liter)

It might be a slight problem is to find a pair of these bags nowadays, since Ortlieb discontinued them around 2005. They come-up at Ebay from time to time and normally sell for €30 to €40 a piece. Hence it will probably be more of a project, not a quick solution for the upcoming cycling trip next week…

Ortlieb XPress size SML
Yeah I know. I got a bit carried away… and had to make sure I got the bags I need before you all snatch them up on Ebay😉

Blue ICE with Ortlieb XPress_web
To get a feel for the size of the 35 liter X-Press L. They’re pretty huge!

How to:
With the right parts, converting the X-Press to bike panniers is relatively easy. Add a mounting system and a sturdier rear plate, move the locking straps to the front and you are done. Basically, you create a bigger, 50 liter (size M) or 70 liter (size L) version of the Ortlieb Back-Roller City (40 liters) or Ortlieb Office-Bag (21 liter per bag).

Ortlieb XPress
The X-Press front and rear. The upper one is ready to roll, the lower one is still in original shape

Move the straps
Why move the straps with the quick release buckles to the front? Well, If you leave them on the back side they are less accessible and might dangle into the derailleur or rear disc brake. We don’t want that, do we?

Fortunately there are already holes in the front plate. You just have to pierce the fabric to simply change the straps from the rear to the front. Use the four Ortlieb screws and plastic nuts from the shoulder strap buckle to close the four holes at the rear.

New rear plate
While the 1.5mm thick Nylon plates inside are perfectly fine to give the X-Press shape and protect the stuff inside, the rear plate is too flexible for use as panniers. Either you add a piece of corrugated plastic like Coroplast (from an old election sign) or cut a new one from stiffer material (plywood or plastic).

Use the original rear plate as a template for the new one, drill the ‘old’ holes as well and fix it inside the bag before you drill the holes for the mounting system.

What parts needed for the mounting system?
First you need a mounting system to fix the panniers to your rack. Luckily, Ortlieb invented a rather practical and sturdy mounting system with the Ortlieb Quick Lock-1 and sells the parts seperately. The parts will cost about €20 per panniers.

The QL-1 rail (long)
The long QL-1 rail comes in two versions: with four mounting holes or with five mounting holes and a buckle for a strap. I prefer the five-hole version, since the center hole makes it easier to mount the rail to the bag.
QL-1 rail long 4+5 holes

The QL-1 hooks
The sturdy QL-1 hooks get mounted into the rail. When the panniers are mounted to your rack you just grab the carrying strap to release the hooks.

QL-1 hooks

The anchoring hook with rail
The 10mm anchoring hook with lower rail to fix the panniers at the bottom to the rack
Anchor hook with rail

Screws, washers and lock nuts
While the screws and plastic nuts Ortlieb provides with the rails are fine, they might be too short after you added a sturdier back plate to the bags. I used metric 4mm ‘M4’ screws and lock nuts to attach the Ortlieb rails to the bags. Put the lock nuts on the outside. They fit well inside the mounting holes of the QL-1 rails.

QL-1 mounted with screws

A 4mm wood drill worked perfectly to drill the holes into the bags. Best to mark the hole positions with a sharpie first.

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Schwalbe Big Ben vs Schwalbe Shredda Evo and Almotion

Recently, I’ve switched from my usual Schwalbe Big Ben tyres all around, to supposedly faster Schwalbe Shredda Evo (in 50-507) at the front and Schwalbe Marathon Almotion (in 55-559) at the rear of the blue Sprint.
These are just my unscientific impressions after using the Shreddas for 450km at the front and the Almotion for a bit over 1,000km at the rear.

The Schwalbe Big Ben (Performance Line)

I wrote about the Schwalbe Big Ben already here and here. Its my standard tyre on my unsuspened tadpole trikes. Great traction and good comfort at lower tyre pressure. Certified throughout Europe for tyres used on ebikes capable of a top speed up to 50km/h (‘E-Bike 50 ready’). In essence a very light moped tyre with tremendous grip.

The Schwalbe Shredda (Evolution Line)

The Schwalbe Shredda Evo is a BMX tyre build for low weight and maximum speed. No puncture protection or ebike rating. Just a 127tpi carcass mated with Schwalbes finest rubber and a relatively fine thread pattern. It is equally at home on gravel, light snow or the street and offers great traction. Clearly better traction on gravel and wet roads than the already outstanding Big Ben.

While the Shredda Evolution Line ranked in several rolling resistance tests as one of the fastest 20″ tyres in its 50-406 size, the same tests and anecdotical evidence from members in the German recumbent forum suggested running at temperatures around freezing is not the strongest suite of the Shredda. It looses noticeably in the speed/rolling resistance department at chilly temperatures. In its 50-507 size, like tested, the Shredda is probably the fastest 24″ tyre available (when temperatures are above 15°C).

Choosing the ‘right’, fast Shredda is not plain obvious, since Schwalbe offers it in two versions.
The fast, expensive (€50), 127tpi carcass, tubeless ready, folding, ‘Evolution Line’ version, build to leave your contenders in the dust, and the cheaper (€20), wire beat, every day, ‘Performance Line’ version with a more pedestrian 67tpi carcass. The ‘slow’ Shreddas where still a smidge faster in rolling resistance tests than the Kojak, though.

The Schwalbe Marathon Almotion

Schwalbe promotes the relatively new Marathon Almotion as a light and fast, tubeless ready touring tyre with high puncture resistance, equipped with their high-end ‘One Star’ rubber compound. Schwalbe rates the Almotion as a ‘E-Bike 25’ tyre (for Pedelecs with 25km/h top speed).

At the same tyre size and air pressure, it’s a bit more comfortable than the already pretty nice Big Ben. Traction on the road is at least equal to the Big Ben if not slightly better. On gravel and off-road, the Big Ben with its slightly coarser thread got a bit of an advantage, though. Like the Land Cruiser, the Almotion seem to slip more gracefully and provides a bit easier handling when pushed too hard on cold, wet roads, compared to the Big Ben.

How did they behave?
I couldn’t find a clearly discernible speed increase of these faster tyres compared to the Big Ben at temperatures between -5°C and +5°C. I did find the Shredda (as well as the Almotion) provide even better grip and traction on wet roads than the Big Ben. You don’t get twice the grip for twice the money, but the better grip was clearly noticeable when I pushed the trike at high-speed around tighter corners.

So far, very nice tyres! The Almotion on the rear wheel seems to be a pretty good match to the Shreddas at the front. Just the lack of noticeably lower rolling resistance at cold temperatures (compared to the Big Ben) gives a slightly nagging feeling. Don’t forget, these tyres cost 50 bucks a piece, while you can get a Big Ben under 20 bucks.

Since Spring is still slightly chilly here, I went back to using the Big Bens for my daily commute and will try the 24″ Shredda / 26″ Almotion combo again when temperatures settle above 15°C. Then it will hopefully be more clear whether the Big Ben is such a great tyre or the Shredda/Almotion are just a bit more susceptible to colder temperatures.

That wouldn’t be a phenomenon unheard of: All tyres get slower at lower temperatures, but the plain old Marathon GreenGuard is known to have way less increase in rolling resistance when temperatures drop under 5°C, than most other tyres.

All images: Schwalbe

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Gaadi Tubes

The new Gaadi two-end tubes look like a very good idea if you use an electric hub motor or internal geared hub in your cycle. Being able to quickly change the tube without opening the axle nuts or fiddling with torque arms in case of a flat, sounds pretty intriguing.

Image: Gaadi

Judging by the many different tube sizes Gaadi offers, they obviously like you to choose a tube that fits your tyre width best. I did that. The Gaadi 50/57-559 tube size looked like the right fit for my 55-559 Schwalbe Big Ben (that would be a 2.15″ wide tyre , for the metrical impaired).

Today I’ve tried mounting a 26″ Big Ben tyre with a 26″ Gaadi tube on a spare 26″ rim.

Even after several attempts I couldn’t mount the Gaadi tube without ending up with a clearly visible gap between the tube ends inside the tyre at my usual tyre pressure of 2-2.5 bar (29-36 psi). Not convincing…
In case of using it in a tadpole trike or velomobile, where a blown-out rear tyre tube at some speed can lead to pretty severe accidents, not convincing at all!

First of all, mounting the Gaadi tube might not be the simple, straightforward affair with a wide tyre, like the promo video suggests. Second, it might work if you choose a narrower tyre with stiffer side walls and higher tyre pressure. Like a Schwalbe Marathon or Marathon Plus.

After a short Google search I’ve found several threads in online cycling forums about customers complaining about Gaadi tubes failing at the tube ends. These Gaadi two-end tubes might not be the best invention since sliced bread. Patented or not. One might wonder why Schwalbe doesn’t offer a similar two-end tube…

I might do some further testing with narrower tyres, but I can’t see myself using Gaadi tubes in the rear tyres of my trikes. Not recomended for wide tyres.

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ADFC Radreisemesse 2016 im CCH

This gallery contains 20 photos.

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Schwalbe Big Ben vs Schwalbe Land Cruiser

Since I’ve used several Schwalbe Big Ben (11,500km combined) and several Schwalbe Land Cruiser tyres (pre 2016 model, 9,000km combined) at the rear wheel of my ICE Sprint, I’d like to make some comparison. This is not the usual tyre test where rolling resistance is determined. Since the rear wheel of my ICE Sprint tadpole trikes are equipped with fairly powerful hub motors, my focus is primarily on traction.

Rear wheel traction on a tadpole trike with hub motor is pretty important. If the rear wheel washes out at speed, you’re most likely in big trouble. While drifting around corners is great fun, the range between fun and an unavoidable crash is fairly narrow.

The Schwalbe Big Ben (Performance Line)
The Big Ben is a great rear wheel tyre for a electrified trike. Note, that I’m referring to the sligtly more expensive ‘Performance Line’ version with Schwalbes ‘Race Guard’ puncture protection. I have no experiance with the cheap ‘K-Guard’ version.

Described by Schwalbe as ‘a Big Apple with more thread’, its relatively soft rubber offers very good traction on dry or wet tarmac and fairly good traction on gravel. Its supple side walls provide a comfortable ride even without suspension. Especially the traction on wet roads is head and shoulders above most other tyres I’ve tested. It only takes a close second place behind the old Land Cruiser, or the Marathon Almotion on wet roads below 5°C, where the Big Ben looses traction more abruptly when pushed hard around tight corners.

The Schwalbe Land Cruiser (pre 2016 model)

The old Schwalbe Land Cruiser is out of Schwalbes budget ‘Active Line’ tyres without any ‘bells and whistles’. Nonetheless its my preferred rear tyre for the cold and wet season.

Its serrated ridge in the middle of the thread and the relatively soft rubber compound offers equally good traction on any dry and wet surface, compared to the Big Ben, but with its coarse thread its obviously better suited for sand, snow, mud, ect.
On wet roads below 5°C, the Land Cruiser looses traction a smidge earlier than the Big Ben if you push it hard around corners, but it slides more gracefully and is easier to handle.

I’d phrase it like this. The Land Cruiser will give notice if you are slightly too fast, while the Big Ben is less forgiving when it looses traction if you push it too rigorously in cold and wet road conditions. That can make the difference between getting the message and taking the next tight corner a bit more carefully, or ending rubber side up with the Big Ben (then you will take the next corner a bit more carefully as well!).

The Schwalbe Land Cruiser (new 2016 model)

I haven’t tried the new 2016 model of the Schwalbe Land Cruiser yet and can’t say if it behaves the same as the old version. Schwalbe gave it a slightly different thread pattern with a wider middle ridge.

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