IMG_20150428_180205038Way back in 1997 I worked for Bike Friday doing customer service. It was a truly amazing year I spent there working with customers, learning about lean manufacturing and bicycle fabrication. Since then I’ve ridden a Bike Friday folding bike in one form or another. When I learned that co-founder Alan Scholz (the man who is credited with designing the Burley Bike Trailer and Burley Rain Jacket) was dedicating substantial amounts of time to create a cargo bike model, the Haul-a-Day, I was elated.

We have one cargo bike already. It’s a 26″ wheeled Civia step through frame with an Xtracycle Freeradical with a Bionx 350 watt rear wheel electric assist motor. “Superbike” as the kids call it has made fun, exercise, and parking effortless in most places for me. With that being said, it hasn’t worked so well for my wife Helen. She’s been concerned about the distance, hilly terrain and feeling confident carrying our 2 young children, and I’m not holding that against her. She is 5’1″ and I’m  5’7.”  To this quandry I wondered, Wouldn’t it be great to have a bike that fit her better. Wouldn’t it be great to have a bike that could easily adjust to fit both of us?  Wouldn’t it be great to find a solution that would help have the option to go more places by bike. Hello, Walter at Bike Friday, let’s talk about a Haul-a-Day solution for my family.

I ordered the frameset in late 2014 and over the next few months gathered different parts for our electric-assist, cargo, child carrying machine. Having a 20″ wheels meant I could have a lower center of gravity for loads, better hill climbing torque (especially when paired with an electric assist motor) and a stronger wheel. I decided on the Bafang BBS02 500 watt mid drive electric assist. Being a mid-drive motor it would be able to use the gears on the bike instead of delivering power the same whether headed up a hill or on the flats. Direct drive motors can be virtually silent, but they don’t have gears. Gear are nice to have for going up big hills, hauling big loads and making the most of your battery.  With the Bafang, I also liked that I could bolt it onto most any bike later on.  The Haul-a-Day frameset arrived in February of 2015 and I finished the bike in May.  I used a Nuvinci internal rear hub (which I got used from Bike Friday) because it could be easily shifted with the motor going vs. needing to shift a la motorcycle – power down motor, shift, the power up the motor with each gear change.

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The build went forward smoothly despite typical delays. I tinkered  after the kids were in bed and when I could spare the sleep. Warning: more bikey geekspeak to follow.  I needed to order different brake sensors for the Bafang Brakes sensors aka the “kill switch” will shut the motor off when you use the brakes, a nice feature to have although the motor will shut off by itself after 2-3 seconds of you not pedaling.  I wanted to run hydraulic disc brakes and their stock sensors were part of their proprietary brake levers which weren’t compatible.  I got around this by getting different brake lever sensors off of aliexpress.com and using epoxy to mount a washer which the magnetic sensor was able to detect.  After setting the brake lever reach to fit my wife’s smaller hands I was able to find the right positioning for the sensor through trial and error. The zip tie pictured below is helping to hold the sensor along with with self adhesive tape to the body of the brake lever/hydraulic reservoir.

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Thanks the internet I was able to find enough documentation to set up the Nuvinci hub and program the Bafang control unit. There were some other workarounds I did.  I used an old road derailleur as a chain tensioner with the Nuvinci internal hub and used a section of wooden dowel to bridge the gap between the magnetic wheel sensor and the spoke mounted magnet sender for the Bafang.

IMG_20150414_093431058_HDRAnd after many late nights, here is the bike almost ready to test ride.

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Jumping ahead. Here are my dear children sleeping.  This is one of the main reasons I love cargo bikes. There are more reasons which I’ll save for another post. For now, I’ll say they are quieter than cars and help me enjoy additional silence as a parent while the gentle action of riding along while being cradled in their seats rocks sleepy children into their naps (for now at least).  We bought this child neck support pillow on etsy.com for car rides, but it works better with the Yepp bike seat, which lacks napping child head support.

In summary, the bike build went well considering the unknowns of a new frame,  hub and electric assist. The internet provided enough information for me to figure out the rest of the details.  After all is said and done, The Haul-a-Day is a bike that easily adjusts to fit different sized riders, my children like it, and my wife Helen is comfortable riding it, which was the entire point of the project.
But, how much can it really haul?

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Here’s a short distance run carrying our other cargo bike, my Bike Friday New World Tourist and a commuter mountain bike (other side of the bike).The Haul-a-Day side cargo racks are perfect for carrying front wheels and towing other bikes. This kinetic debacle worked fine for the 4 blocks I needed it to. I was laughing with delight and silliness while trying to carry so much, and despite the extreme side to side sway it worked out.

Now that we have two cargo bikes I have the chance to compare our different electric assists. Watch for a follow up post comparing the Bafang BBS02 500 Watt mid-drive 48V (2015 model) with the Bionx 350 watt 48v (2013 model).