Monday, April 16, 2012

Trek Electric Bicycles--Part Two

usbackroads information--Trek Electric Bicycles Part 2

We have had the Trek Electric bicycles for a couple of months now.  So here is the update after riding for a couple of months.  They still are great bikes!!  We have joined the flat earth society as all the hills have disappeared due to the bicycles.

We have two slightly different models.  Susie rides the FX+.   I ride the 7200+.  At first glance, it looks like the 7200+ is the better bike, however, the price difference between the two indicates that the FX+ is the better bike.  The 380 dollars went into better components and a larger battery.  My battery is only a 33 cell model, while the FX+ has a 44 cell battery.

I liked the FX+  but the dealer in Eugene only had one FX+, fortunately in Susie's size and one 7200+ in my size.  So we bought both bikes.  However, I suspect that I will end up upgrading to an FX+ sometime in the future.

The 7200+ has a suspension fork, while the FX+ does not, however, for most riding you will never notice the difference.  My bike also has a large, cushy saddle that while Susie's bike has a small bicycle saddle.   We swapped the two bike saddles due to our respective genders.  More on this later.  The 7200+ is more of a "comfort" bicycle, while the FX+ is a standard bicycle design.  So if you were a bicyclist at one time, buy the FX+, otherwise you might want to consider the 7200+ for its plush design.

Should you get a WSD model even if your a male?  You should consider it, particularly if swinging your leg over the bicycle is getting more difficult.  The step-through design does make it much easier to get on a bike.  My 7200+ is a "male" model.  No problem, swinging the leg over the  However, that tube is awful close to a very sensitive part of my anatomy when I  jump off the saddle.  Good thing, I have completed the biological imperative and passed on my genetic material.

As long as we are on gender we might as well discuss bicycle saddles.  Here is the low down on women's saddles.  So generally, a wider saddle is much better design for the women rider.  However, men are not exempt from problems with bicycle saddles.  It seems that bicycles are a problem for hard core riders.  There is more to be afraid of than a too tall main tube!!!   However, at the turn of the century the problem with bicycles was that they were perceived to be more than a little risque.  As always right click to open a new tab for these links.

We did discover one additional problem in that our existing handlebar packs and panniers do not fit the electric bicycles.  So there is an additional cost and my very COOL Eclipse handlebar pack from 1976 will not fit!!  So our next shopping step will be new saddlebags for the silver wings.

Here is an up close picture of the forks.  My suspension fork is not worth it.  Not sure about the headlamps.  Mine has already broken as the picture shows.  I would rather the headlamp be on my head!!  I managed to fix by using epoxy glue and it broke again on the next ride.  The design is such that anytime your front wheel pivots to the max the headlamp breaks.  Bad design. Very bad design.

Charging the bicycles has been a disappointment.  The chargers work fine on 120-volt grid power, except for one small issue.   Trek recommends that you unplug the charger after the batteries reach full charge.  The full charge light is subject to interpretation.  Lithium-ion batteries should NOT be overcharged, so I am unsure if Trek's recommendation is based on the charger not being able to taper a charge or just being careful.  If I used the bike on a daily basis I would get an electrical auto-shut off so the charger quits working on its own after charging for three or four hours.

But we were hoping that we could use solar to charge the battery pack while camping.  So I gave it a try with this solar panel and battery combination.  The battery is there to act as a buffer as clouds affect solar charging significantly.

The solar panel is 56 inches by 26 inches.  It is a 125 watt panel to puts out 7 amps at 12 volts.  The Trek battery charger outputs 2 amps at 40.7 volts.  That is a significant mis-match.  As soon as the charger was hooked up to the panel the battery voltage started dropping on the battery pack at a significant clip!!  After five minutes even with full sun on the panel the battery was pretty much drained of power.

This past winter while camping we were using our 2000 watt generator to charge the bicycles.  That is a significant draw even on the Honda generator.  Oh well, I guess when camping we will have to be very careful about making sure we have the generator and keeping the bicycles topped off at all times.  It would be great to find a solar charging system for the batteries that would slowly charge the batteries over a longer period of time.

Solar does not generate much power and it is very difficult to scale up enough to keep the batteries charged on the bicycles.  Breaking free of the grid is difficult!!

In reviews it seems the focus just naturally shifts to what is wrong.  Must be human nature and our need to FIX all problems.

The basic fact is the bikes are a kick in the pants to ride.   If your living in a sticks and bricks house you can replace many, many auto trips with there bikes and get exercise and fresh air to boot.   If you are traveling they are the best way to explore new areas.  You will see things on a bicycle that are just plain missed while traveling inside a metal box.  The bicycles also make you much more accessible to people as you travel.  You will meet more local people and have a much more interesting trip.

Here is the link to Part One.

and the link to Part Three.

We are really enjoying the electric bicycles.  That ride in the Yosemite Valley is a great memory.  Next posting the Apple Capitol Loop Trail.


Carol K said...

I have Electric-Trek envy! Nice bikes. We have battery Hill Toppers( for our bicycles. They help some but are not good for long distances or large hills. They make riding really fun, though, and like you, we get to still use our pedal power!

tom said...

do you already have an answer for the sunpower charging?

gr tom

Vladimir Steblina said...

No. The inverter takes some power and I suspect the Trek charger is not that efficient. It would be nice to have a 36 volt charger that would plug directly into the battery.

Unfortunately, that is beyond my electrical skills. The simple way would be to hook three panels together to get 36 volts and then find the pin-out sequence from Trek.

However, you would still need a lithium-ion charge controller so you did not ruin the battery.

Write Trek and ask them about a solar charger for their electric bikes!!!

Contribute Your Input said...

Very much enjoyed your usbackroads post. Hassles with the solar charging were eye-opening and informative.

This world trek solar bike trip came to my attention, published in today in U.S.

Sounds awesome. Let us know what you think...uh, and how maybe scale down to my Dream Solar Electric Bike trip to more mundane locations.

Contribute Your Input said...

P.S. Got that info from neighbor here in sunny Arizona,

He seems very heavy-duty into it all; should get a medal or something.

Vladimir Steblina said...

Thanks for the links.

That Mongolian trip must have been an adventure. I was in the Russian Far East in 1996 for a joint US and Russian Forester trip focused on recovery of the Siberian Tiger.

Travel in the backroads there is a bit more difficult.

Is there anymore information on the panels and charging systems they used. Those are nice German bikes.

Vladimir Steblina said...

My original plan was to use the Trek Bicycles to tour New Zealand.

I did a 2,000 mile tour of Europe in 1976 on a regular ten speed. Since the years have passed rather quickly I suspect my only chance nowadays is with a electric bike.

So I was looking for a solar panel set-up for extended touring. For the trip in Europe the perfect mileage was about 25 miles each day. That is perfectly suited for an electric bike!

I am surprised that more emphasis is not placed on electric bicycles for touring. There is one lady and her friend that did an extended trip through the American west on a Trek FX+.

I think I will try and contact Bionix to see if they would be interested in providing solar chargers for their batteries. I did not get any interest from Trek or Evolo.

My personal e-mail is Drop me a line I would be interested in seeing if we could get something going on the solar charging aspect.

Contribute Your Input said...

Re: Charging System...In the article was mention of Ecomo21,

At their site (also in Germany) they talk of Bosch eBike system for managing charging devices.

This info at.

I'm new to this -- which is why I liked your web posts; maybe you can make more sense of it than I.

When I saw the picture of the German ebikes from Riese & Muller and one from Kreidler - they were awesome! It was like looking at a BMW vs. a Kia cube or was in German though so I didn't learn more.