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"Rail Rider" - a light(ish) weight e-bike legal on Amtrak trains

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    "Rail Rider" - a light(ish) weight e-bike legal on Amtrak trains

    This post is the starting point for an e-bike that is relatively lightweight but still rugged, and capable of carrying panniers. Certain AMTRAK routes accommodate bicycles and the current regulation reads, "Electric bicycles under 50 lbs. are allowed in checked baggage and on trains with walk-on bicycle service."

    Weight limit and range anxiety

    Fifty pounds is a tough e-bike target, especially if the bike has a decent between-charging rolling terrain range of, say, 100 miles. Since AMTRAK passengers are not weighed, an obvious work-around is an easily removable battery, toted along with the panniers. The second is riding behavior - as in less pedal assist and maybe leaving off the throttle.

    More to follow ...

    P.S. Amtrak also has a tire width limit of 2 inches
    Last edited by ncmired; 12-06-2022, 10:53 AM.

    #2
    I just did a BBS02 build for a friend and I think a BBS02 full-size bike sans battery(s) at <50lb (~22.5kg) is very doable

    I didn't [but shoulda] weigh the motor but best guess is even with display, throttle, etc. <5kg leaving ~17.5kg (~38.5lb) for the donor, plenty for something solid

    Comment


      #3
      With stock rings, the weight savings from BBSHD (6.4kg) through the BBS02 (4.6kg) to the Photon (3.6kg) seems to be roughly in the 2.2 to 3.9 pound range - the BBS lessened slightly by using aftermarket chainrings.

      I don't mind the BBS02, and have used them several times. I also prefer IGH hubs, which happen to be slightly more protected. If I look at medium-priced, aluminum framed Bosch motor e-bikes, bikes like the fendered IGH Gazelle Arroyo C8 come in 51lbs with battery - so that's another "how they did it" knowledge point.

      The daily pedaling target is approx 50 miles a day, with a hotel / B&B stayover every day, over 5-6 days or so. There may be an overnight that charging is not available - hence the 100 mile max. The ride itself is on rails to trails pavement or gravel paths, so the grades will be gradual. Strive for 10-12mph average speed - way down from what I'm used to on the errand bikes.

      A lot of this stuff has been hashed over for years. So my initial rough component thoughts, with a build completion timeline 4 years out are:
      • The CYC Photon, should it prove itself out - else the BBS02
      • frame capable of 26 or 27.5 wheels with 2 inch max tires (tire width is another Amtrak limitation)
      • frame material TBD, but probably aluminum
      • IGH drivetrain - lots of horizon possibilities here, that also need proving out - else the Alfine 8
      • limping in the second day on what fumes are left on a 17AH battery
      I am also working on my own mass reduction - 70lbs down so far, and 100lbs more to go.
      Last edited by ncmired; 04-12-2023, 11:13 AM.

      Comment


      • AZguy
        AZguy commented
        Editing a comment
        Our recent BBS02 build we used the thin 104bcd adapter and good narrow-wide ring - barely weighs anything... likely saved weight over stock, lekkies or similar

      #4
      Another thing to fess up is that my e-bike riding habits suck. Most of my riding is errand running in busy traffic, as fast as possible to stay alive (or at least not crunched into immobile but still-conscious jelly). And almost always throttle buried.

      When I have the rare opportunity of no traffic and/or trail riding, I slow down and, yes, even pedal some. But not enough, and not with enough work contribution.

      Comment


      • AZguy
        AZguy commented
        Editing a comment
        My riding is fairly thrifty but if I were choo-choo electric bike traveling I'd be carrying a fair bit of battery, likely two if just so one could charge wherever while riding with the other... and I'd likely be looking at 17AH which seems to be a pretty sweet spot for weigh, size and capacity when built from 21700's...

      #5
      Some of the Geared hubmotors are pretty small. Maybe a 12Ah battery with a spare in the backpack. The EU guys are running 26x1.75 tires on pedelecs at 50kph. I bought some to try but haven't done it yet. But wheels and tires might save some weight there. Continental and Schwalbe both make speed rated tires for that size.
      I have an old (2004) 26" 7075 alloy butted tubing XC bike that weighs zip. 26" is kind of obsolete for most offroad disciplines. You might be able to turn up something like that as a donor bike. But the Rockshox SID forks still bring some money on Ebay. I would look at the weight of some of the hubmotors at Grin Technology.
      You notice that no one here is suggesting the TSDZ2...............................

      Comment


        #6
        Originally posted by Retrorockit View Post
        Some of the Geared hubmotors are pretty small. Maybe a 12Ah battery with a spare in the backpack. The EU guys are running 26x1.75 tires on pedelecs at 50kph. I bought some to try but haven't done it yet. But wheels and tires might save some weight there. Continental and Schwalbe both make speed rated tires for that size.
        I have an old (2004) 26" 7075 alloy butted tubing XC bike that weighs zip. 26" is kind of obsolete for most offroad disciplines. You might be able to turn up something like that as a donor bike. But the Rockshox SID forks still bring some money on Ebay. I would look at the weight of some of the hubmotors at Grin Technology.
        You notice that no one here is suggesting the TSDZ2...............................
        No Tongsheng TSDZ2 fans - what? For that Mahvelous (think Zsa Zsa Gabor) piece of engineering?

        And, a hub motor would likely work fine on the route terrain - need to give hub motors a re-think, and the Priority 600 series bikes come to mind again.

        For the bike, I'm now having thoughts of redeploying one of my 20" wheel Neutrinos, with a quickly removable backpack mounted up front, keeping my hands free when rolling the bike around. appropriate 2" wide tires are easy to find, and with this bike's base weight I could spring for some luxuries, like fenders.​

        Just thoughts, though - I've got lots of time.

        Comment


        • Retrorockit
          Retrorockit commented
          Editing a comment
          The market for mass produced bikes seems to be going to 20" fat tire bikes with hub motors.Skinny tires to fit the rule should work.
          that's a very nice frame. Suspension seatpost and shock absorbing stem will take the edge off. vertical dropout with chain tensioners looks perfect for a hub motor. Lots of room inside the frame for a bigass battery. But no way to save weight doing that.

        #7
        While Googling around to see if any other Neutrino owners had thought up and tried out the front backpack idea, this image was shown:

        Click image for larger version  Name:	Velo-Orange-Neutrino-10.jpg Views:	0 Size:	649.8 KB ID:	158313

        The bike hanging up is a Neutrino, on what looks like a commuter train. From what I've read, Amtrak uses similar hooks, or sometimes stows the bikes in a baggage car - on the wheels and sometimes strapped to the wall.

        Additionally, there are lots of full or partial frame bags for the Neutrino, like this one, available wide enough to hide a Hailong tray battery and provide room for snacks, rain gear, a folding tire, etc., but leaving room for a water bottle:

        Click image for larger version  Name:	velo-orange-neutrino-review_2-2000x1334.jpg Views:	0 Size:	559.4 KB ID:	158314

        It's easy to visualize a tall backback sitting on and stabilized by a front decaleur rack, and double secured to the handlebars. Add a big side pocket for the tray battery while carried off the bike:
        Click image for larger version  Name:	rackdroppedout_1800x1800.jpg Views:	0 Size:	201.7 KB ID:	158315

        The top T-shaped piece slides off, and would be screwed to the backback.
        Last edited by ncmired; 09-23-2023, 03:44 AM.

        Comment


        • pbreezy
          pbreezy commented
          Editing a comment
          Make any progress on your Neutrino? I flipping love minivelos and I’m looking forward to this build. I know you’re still waiting on the photon…
          Thanks for sharing!

        #8
        Originally posted by pbreezy
        Make any progress on your Neutrino? I flipping love minivelos and I’m looking forward to this build. I know you’re still waiting on the photon…
        Thanks for sharing!​
        I like 'em too, and have 2 1/2 Neutrinos - gave one away, but that I maintain. I've made a little progress on the train bike, as parts are still trickling in - here's what I've got done so far:
        1. Tires - I swapped out the Super Moto X 2.4 tires, for a Schwalbe Big Apple front and Pick-Up rear. I'm trying for a more supple, root-heave absorbing front and a slightly more bulletproof rear - thinking that rear flats are more common and more time-consuming to repair. Snotted tubes, and I've also got some Tannus inserts waiting in the wings.
        2. I found a rolling backpack that has wheels and struts that sit down into the above rack, and that I think I'll be able to anchor the bag to the bike via one elastic and one small safety strap:

          Click image for larger version  Name:	20230127_145027.jpg Views:	3 Size:	2.96 MB ID:	159627

          The rack will still be usable with standard Decaleur bags.
        3. REI has the Topeak RX BeamRack at 1/2 off, so I got one and the matching slide-off bag and am pleased so far. Not a not of capacity, but I couldn't risk heel interference (a common minivelo rear rack problem). I'm still thinking I'm going to add a triangle bag, so I should have plenty of storage space. The battery, front backpack, and rear bag must be quickly removable.
        4. I traded weight by swapping the steel bars for aluminum ones, then added some aluminum fenders.
        That's all I've managed so far. I haven't installed the front rack as I'm waiting for some hardware to beef up the struts a bit - I can't risk the rack collapsing down on the front tire. And, someday, the Photon will arrive and hopefully, it's a keeper.

        I'm also looking into lightweight, last-ditch front lighting.
        Last edited by ncmired; 01-30-2023, 12:32 PM.

        Comment


        • pbreezy
          pbreezy commented
          Editing a comment
          You’d probably like the new Bontrager Commuter Pro which is my primary light most days. STVZO, side lights, three settings (hi/lo/flash), five LED charge level gauge, USB-C, and even has a power bank function. It’s everything except lightweight and last-ditch. I’m in the “two is one” camp so I’ve got redundant lighting front and rear in case one goes down.

        • pbreezy
          pbreezy commented
          Editing a comment
          PS- yes ncmired I have been looking at the Mercier minivelo but it’s been sold out for quite a while. Also been eyeballing the Ascent Intrepid but that’s an investment… sorry don’t know how I forgot to reply to that!

        • Retrorockit
          Retrorockit commented
          Editing a comment
          The problem with most newer lights is they have a PC slow day strobe. It makes it look like you're going slow. Also the bright fast offroad ones are hard to ignore. Especially at night.I'm pretty sure Trek/Bonty will be on board with this slow strobe business.Some lights have 2x strobes, and 3x beam settings to cycle though, and some of them require a 3 second hold................... Add in a useless walking beam and I'm over it.
          BTW none of the 2 speed strobes on high are anything like my Lumina 350.It's notoriously distracting. Trail riders bitched about it form day one. I just bought 2 more of them on closeout at an LBS.
          Last edited by Retrorockit; 01-31-2023, 08:28 AM.

        #9
        Thanks guys, especially on the front light thoughts. I know what you mean Retro, on the cycling through the modes nonsense - I have a no-name light that has that annoyance. I think mode-wise, for the front headlight I won't use during the day, off-high-low-off is enough - if there is such a light. And, since I don't shop locally, there will likely have to be some purchase "experiments" (returned via Amazon or the like). On the rear, I use the low-end Cateye blinky red lights, which seem to last years on two AAA batteries. Front light power-wise, I'm still undecided - a deciding factor may be that I'm probably going to have USB power available on the bars.

        Comment


        • pbreezy
          pbreezy commented
          Editing a comment
          The Lezyne lights have a “Race mode” that only cycles between high and low, and the bontrager has “trail mode” which is the same thing. You access these modes by holding the power button for some number of seconds as specified in the instructions. I use it quite a bit on the Lezyne lights, but with only three modes on the bontrager I usually just cycle through the strobe.

        • Retrorockit
          Retrorockit commented
          Editing a comment
          I already committed to NR years before E bikes. It just turns out that for me the first one is the best.But not for it's intended purpose!
          In SoFla bright sun, tinted windows texting, other random distractions.The Lumina 350 head on or in the rear view mirror can hold it's own. I turn my bars to the side at stop lights, but when the light turns green it's ON.

        • pbreezy
          pbreezy commented
          Editing a comment
          Nite riders are good lights, I ran (I think the 600?) for about five years and it was a great light. It’s cool that they’re a local company to me as well, so I could in theory walk into the actual Niterider store/help center if I need anything.

        #10
        I have a 650 that I would be using except working on my car I left it sitting on the exhaust manifold for a couple days (turbocharged) it sill works but he battery won't hold a charge.
        NR soldered some wires to the battery. My big soldering gun is broken. I'll fix it at some point. Same strobe as the 350.

        Comment


          #11
          The Amtrak bike project now continues, as the CYC Photon motor kit has arrived. The motor and related mechanical bits are installed. I need to finish up the electrical stuff which is on a slight hold, waiting for a brake "Y" splitter and short extension cable due today.

          The vendor kits the motor assembly and the other related parts separately - which makes sense with the way the motor is designed to accommodate varied BB widths.

          A concern I've had is the chainring, which appears to be one aluminum cast and machined piece - something that I suspect Lekkie could replicate quite easily and I hope they do, filling out the tooth choices (from the current 34, 38, and 50) and perhaps even a generic spider.

          CYC's online user manual lists out the complete and very usable dimensions, such as the chain line for various BB widths and even the Q factors:
          Click image for larger version  Name:	Capture.png Views:	0 Size:	50.9 KB ID:	160744

          Yep - this is a wiiiiide Q setup. My install is on a 68mm BB with no chainstay interference, so I didn't use any drive side spacers - I'm aiming to be close to the 48mm Alfine offset sprocket chain line. I'm also using a 1/8 chain - for which there's a lot more motor housing clearance than on the Luna 42 Eclipse./Lekkie 40 and BBSHD/BBS02 combinations. I've had to space out the chainrings and hurt the chain line some, to stop the 1/8 chain cutting gouges on the BBS motor castings.

          My rough measurements are 47mm-ish chain line (which I doubt is that good), and a slightly more, to-the-left pedal offset. On narrow-frame installs like mine, a shorter spindle would be nice, but there isn't one. Here are some photos - first of the left side and all of the spacers required. I'm betting the Photon, unlike the BBS02, wouldn't be easily usable in the stoker position on a tandem - it's just too wide:

          Click image for larger version  Name:	20230311_091623.jpg Views:	0 Size:	1.82 MB ID:	160745

          If you're gonna have fins, you might as well put 'em out in the breeze. Meanwhile, on the drive side, the secondary housing is so small it barely extends out to the chainstay, and is tucked away from the chain:

          Click image for larger version  Name:	20230311_091355.jpg Views:	0 Size:	737.0 KB ID:	160746

          Click image for larger version  Name:	20230311_091608.jpg Views:	333 Size:	653.7 KB ID:	160748

          It's hard to show how much smaller the Photon's secondary housing is, compared to even the BBS02.

          The motor bracket and screws are positively puny, compared to the Bafang parts - aluminum versus steel, and M4 versus M6 screws. The motor HAS to be butted up against a stop of some sort.

          On the electrical side, the wiring comes out of the front of the motor. It does make the power wire length requirement that much shorter on most typical installs, which is a good thing. I've had to shorten the too-long stock power wire on all of my BBS motors, as cramming the excess up behind the motor housing is kinda clumsy. Not to mention this is a wire set you want to keep as short as possible.

          There's only one wire going backward, that being the speed sensor cable (no shift sensor cable), and there's plenty of room between the motor housing for it, as well as for the normal shift/brake and whatever cabling - maybe even for carbon fiber frames. The speed sensor is attached to the frame with two wire ties and contains a Bluetooth antenna. The motor's firmware is a VESC spinoff, and there's a phone app to configure and monitor the motor - no more USB/Serial cable.​

          The main harness motor plug and thankfully now has both an alignment keyway and some waterproofing - up at the bar end are the four, familiar plugs we all know. And that's where I've stopped.
          Last edited by ncmired; 07-01-2023, 12:25 PM.

          Comment


          • AZguy
            AZguy commented
            Editing a comment
            It is good looking

          #12
          While waiting on the additional cables, I powered the system up, mainly to check for smoke and to gander the display. I chose the bigger DS103 display versus the Eggrider-style one, which I already know I can't read. There's also a horizontal 750C-like display.

          The motor is very quiet on the stand and makes a muted whirring sound. I've not gone into the settings yet, via the app.

          The DS103, like many of the newer displays, has a separate but hard-wired button panel with no connector in between - potentially a problem for some builds, like recumbents and bikes with long wept-back bars. As discussed in the Photon-specific post, the display is chock full of info - most of which will likely not be glance-readable underway or at all in direct sun:

          Click image for larger version  Name:	b13a26_5c5d1b50a4844a0bab70c94399754eab_mv2.png Views:	0 Size:	435.8 KB ID:	160751

          Fortunately, it can be set to white text on a dark background - maybe that'll make it a little better. I think I want to be able to glance-read just:
          • the speed
          • the power draw when I'm striving for range
          • if I'm pushing the temps, a warning (how about a submarine klaxon noise!)
          But, this is my first exposure to torque sensing, so maybe more info will end up being useful.
          Last edited by ncmired; 03-11-2023, 10:44 AM.

          Comment


            #13
            I screwed up while testing the bike on the stand.
            • initial config, via the app ✓
            • run the motor via the throttle ✓
            • check brake and shift sensor inhibits ✓
            • rotate the pedal forward ... ruh-roh - nothing
            So I checked the config screens - the torque sensing is enabled and set to various increasing power levels. Tried a factory reset. Crap - nothing.

            Then I contacted the vendor, who asked if I had actually ridden it. Err, ah ... no.

            Yeah, the torque sensing works and the motor runs while actually, you know, riding the bike AND applying some force to the pedals. What a dummy. The vendor said, and I quote, "With a torque-sensing motor, you cannot activate the motor on a bike stand without wheel resistance. You will need to ride it. This is a common misunderstanding for those with Bafang experience." Yupper, that's me - red faced and hand raised.

            Maybe, just maybe, if I had dragged the rear brake caliper hard by hand with the bike on the stand, I would have set off the torque sensing. Took a short road ride and it indeed works.

            More test riding and pictures to follow.
            Last edited by ncmired; 03-15-2023, 03:23 PM.

            Comment


            • AZguy
              AZguy commented
              Editing a comment
              I probably would have done the same thing and pondered for a good long while before trying the dragging brake maneuver LOL

              Good to hear and interested to see how it goes!

            • Retrorockit
              Retrorockit commented
              Editing a comment
              Did you find the TS feature of much benefit?

            • ncmired
              ncmired commented
              Editing a comment
              Dunno yet Retro - I'm hoping that it will more smoothly contribute to real effort pedaling, as I find real effort cadence pedaling (set at 9 levels) very clumsy and awkward. Some love it, but I don't. But after 7 years of cadence (but honestly mostly throttle) e-biking, I've got some "getting used to" to do.

              One immediately noticeable behavior difference is off of a stop. I always preset my right leg/pedal at about a 1 PM clock position and hold the position with the brakes, to aid smoother launches. With TS, there's little/no motor spinup delay after releasing the brakes, unlike with my BBS motors.
              Last edited by ncmired; 03-17-2023, 08:00 AM.

            #14
            I rode up to get some groceries, on a route I know well, to get some initial BBS02 versus Photon impressions.

            Gearing-wise, the bike is now 2 teeth lower, 38 versus 40, otherwise the bike is the same, and I tested with a full charge 52-volt 21AH battery I also know well. I've set the initial motor programming so that the motor power is "unlimited" (2000 watts) for the throttle (three levels, set at 500/1200/2000) and left the torque sensing levels stock (400/800/1200).

            On the slight altitude climb way to the market, I throttled along in level 2, with a few "yeah, torque sensing still works" tests. I think the Photon motor makes more full-throttle speed than the BBS02, but it also turns quite a bit faster (190 versus 140 RPM/cadence or so). It may make speed more efficiently, but my GPS battery conked out so I couldn't verify the display speed. There, the battery voltage read about a volt better than I remember other rides, and that was after mentally adjusting for the verified 1.3 volts the display reads low. Throttling almost all of the way, and in the mid-twenties-ish, the motor core temperature read 155F, the controller 96F. Surprisingly I was able to read the fine text on the display, in slightly more time than a quick glance.

            On the slight altitude drop home, I torque pedaled for a bit, realizing that the bike gearing is about a gear and a half too low (rear sprocket change). On this route are some short hill climbs, so that's where I fiddled, shifting gears on the fly, relying only on the shift sensor. On the last mile, I kicked the assist to level 3, went for top speed and to see if I could trip the temperature cutback. As said, can't yet trust the indicated speed, but it was faster than this bike should be pushed on a regular basis. During the speed run the motor core temperature climbed to178F, the controller 99F, and I didn't notice a cutback. Once I stopped riding and rolled the bike back to put it away, the motor core temperature dropped to 134F.

            My initial, very preliminary take is that full-throttled speed-wise it can approach what a stock BBSHD can do. For how long I don't know, but it will at least protect itself - not something the stock BBSHD can claim, even though the motor core has temperature sensors that Bafang elected not to monitor (from what I've read). We'd need true head-to-head BBSHD versus Photon, like bike setup, rider weight, and ambient condition tests to know for sure. I suspect its sky-high throttle RPM helps the speed, but I didn't get the sense it has the big-block low-end grunt the BBSHD can muster. Bolt on the Luna's BBSHD V-2 controller and the Photon eats dust. But without torque sensing, for those that want it.

            This bike has specific goals to meet - primarily size, weight, range, and true exercise. In the next few years, I'll see if it can meet them. Hopefully, whatever weak points the motor has will also be revealed. And I need to become a pedaling rider again, lighter by about another 80 pounds.

            Here are some current pictures - the bike with most of the storage in place (missing the triangle bag):

            Click image for larger version  Name:	20230317_104158.jpg Views:	0 Size:	2.21 MB ID:	161027

            The front bag is a wheelable, wearable backpack, with a telescoping handle, that anchors to the rack via a center bungee cord and some side buckles:

            Click image for larger version  Name:	20230316_122125(0).jpg Views:	0 Size:	1.50 MB ID:	160993

            Click image for larger version  Name:	20230316_122202.jpg Views:	0 Size:	2.58 MB ID:	160994

            On the back, for small quick-grab stuff, is a Topeak RX BeamRack. With the quick-release front and rear storage removed, the bike has several grab points for loading/offloading from cars, the train, etc. On the top bar is the, needs to be charged up, GPS. The soon-to-be reorientated seat bag has tools and flat-fix stuff.

            Click image for larger version  Name:	20230316_122131.jpg Views:	0 Size:	1.83 MB ID:	160995

            Here's the bike, unbagged, as it would be loaded on the train, and with the racks providing lifting/grabbing hand-holds:

            Click image for larger version  Name:	20230317_115737.jpg Views:	0 Size:	1.75 MB ID:	161031

            To hold the backpack load, I doubled up on the fork bolt brackets and the struts:

            Click image for larger version  Name:	20230317_115809.jpg Views:	0 Size:	2.81 MB ID:	161032

            The rear Topeak rack simply clamps to the seat post, and has no struts:

            Click image for larger version  Name:	20230317_115826.jpg Views:	0 Size:	2.92 MB ID:	161033

            Last edited by ncmired; 03-17-2023, 08:19 AM.

            Comment


              #15
              On the display - there may be a slight bit more data sharing happening with the controller. I noticed that when I changed the wheel size on either the display or the controller, both sides were updated. And maybe, software updates, hopefully, makeable via the smartphone app, will update both. And new features, such as display voltage calibration - please.

              Another app feature is a throttle voltage "calibration" tool, which reads the off and full throttle voltage output and sets the controller values appropriately.
              Last edited by ncmired; 03-17-2023, 08:38 AM.

              Comment

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