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Design your ultimate commuter bike

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    Design your ultimate commuter bike

    As I was riding into work today, I thought if I had to do it over again, what type of bike would I design for high-speed long distance commuting?
    1. Chromoly Frame
    2. No Suspension
    3. MTB handlebars for more of an upright seating position
    4. Gel Seat
    5. Maxxis Hookworm or Marathon Plus Tires or Nokian W106 for the winter
    6. Mud Guards
    7. 203 or 180mm front hydraulic disc brake
    8. 180 or 160mm rear hydraulic disc brake
    9. 12 or 13 gauge spokes
    10. BBSHD with 13.5ah 52V battery (20ah would be sweet)
    11. Torque sensing
    12. Gates Carbon Drive
    13. 3 speed internally geared hub
    14. Front and rear integrated lights powered by bike's battery
    15. Rear Rack with panniers

    Why no suspension? You are riding the same route over and over again. You know where the potholes are and suspensions require maintenance. Reliability should be the number 1 feature of any commuting bike.

    I'm not missing not having any suspension, but my roads are, for the most part good (except for shoulder room issues) and I've learned where the frost / root heaves are. I wouldn't mind a extremely simple, short-travel front wheel system like the old '90s Cannondale "headshok" thing.

    I'd like to enhance visibility of my current rig - both my own rearward visibility and to drivers. Nighttime lighting is also on the list, hopefully powered by the main system ... 20 ah - yes please!

    I'd only entertain restoring the belt drive if the right hub came along - a cost-reduced, 5-7 speed, mid-fifties chainline Rohloff (no such animal) like hub would be perfect.

    Keeping up with the BBSHD cadence would be nice, somehow too.

    I increased the front rotor size on my bike, from 160mm to 180mm, and got quite an improvement.
    Last edited by ncrkd; 12-09-2016, 08:57 AM.
    2nd build, 2018 Crust Scapegoat, BBS02 or BBSHD, Rohloff IGH
    3rd build, 2018 Crust Evasion step-thru, BBS02, Shimano Nexus INTER-3 IGH
    4th build, 2016 Salsa Marrakesh flatbar frameset, BBSHD, Alfine 8 IGH

    Visit the forum knowledge base


      I would get a Stromer ST2 S


        I built two commuter ebikes for myself. I set no limitation on time, effort or cost so I built exactly what I wanted which involved building a couple of prototypes first.

        Building the prototypes brought to light a lot of problems with my original design:
        (1) motor heat (I switched from a 40mm to 50mm stator magnet),
        (2) insufficient braking power (I switched from mechanical disc with 160mm rotors to hydraulic disc with 203mm rotors),
        (3) unsafe adjustable stem (I now use a fixed stem),
        (4) too small of a chain ring (I switched from 46T to 58T),
        (5) factory 150mm axle didn't match dropout width and needed spacers (I custom ordered a 190mm dropout axle for my 190mm dropout frame),
        (6) the original funky, modified universal torque arms were upgraded to custom torque plates made specifically for the application,
        (7) fatter tires came out while I was building the prototypes so my final versions have Vee Snowshoe 2XL tires,
        (8) the aluminum plate for my controller heat sink was unnecessarily heavy (I switched from 1/4" to 1/8" plate),
        (9) I made the front tire fatter by using a 100mm rim instead of an 82mm rim,
        (10) I use a midtail frame rather than a standard frame in order to (A) fit a larger chainring, and (B) move my body weight 6" forward,
        (11) I use a 16mm axle with 10.8mm axle flats rather than a standard bicycle 15mm axle with 10mm axle flats,
        (12) I replaced the 40mm head tube with a 44mm head tube,
        (13) I moved the steel pannier mounting straps (these are part of the frame) from the outside of the frame to the inside of the frame so I could get to the nuts more easily,
        (14) I put on fatter grips,
        (15) I use a custom tire liner made from a motorcycle tire instead of thin Mr. Tuffy tire liners,
        (16) I use Bontrager tubes instead of easily punctured Surly tubes,
        (17) I added another thin tube to the frame so that I could mount two flashing rear tail lights instead of just one,
        (18) I powder coated every part that I could, even small nuts, bolts and washers,
        (19) I use a quality Chris King headset instead of a mediocre Cane Creek headset,
        (20) I made my battery boxes out of aluminum bar and rivets rather than ABS reinforced with aluminum bar and bolts,
        (21) I was very particular about my wire routing so that it is as organized as it can be,
        (22) I use 100A BMS units rather than 50A BMS units,
        (23) I tried a couple 100A fuses, but they were cheaply made. Now I have no fuses,
        (24) I run my fat tires at 20psi rather than 30psi,
        (25) I use 24 oz. of tire slime rather than 12 oz.,
        (26) I put a lot of lithium grease on the seatpost so I can remove it more easily,
        (27) I put Frame Saver inside the frame to prevent corrosion.
        (28) I limit the current in my Cycle Analyst so that the bike rides more safely and has a safer top speed.

        Now that I am finished with the final versions, the only thing I would do is switch to a battery that can deliver more current which I will do when my current battery dies. I will soon be testing a LiPo battery which Alan B. made for me to borrow long term. I might love it and use LiPo for my next new battery. I want to learn to make my own batteries.

        I also might add a 65A circuit breaker or two to my system.

        I now have two 36V, 20Ah batteries in series. It would be less strain on the batteries to use two 72V, 10Ah batteries in parallel.

        I am also going to make a titanium frame which will make my bike 8 lbs. lighter. I am very happy with my 4130 Chromoly frames, but the bike school that I go to has frame classes where you make a frame for yourself in the class. I may as well test it.

        "Identical steel vs titanium frames would be about equal in strength, but that the titanium frame would be about half the weight and half the stiffness. Such a frame would likely have a whippy feel due to the reduced stiffness, especially in loaded touring applications. To compensate, builders of titanium frames use somewhat larger diameter tubes to bring the stiffness more into line with what riders like. This tends to increase the weight a bit, but by making the walls of the larger tubes a bit thinner, they can compensate to some extent, and come up with a frame that is still lighter than a normal steel frame."

        I also changed to a full face helmet with a helmet cam, and I wear reflective gloves, vest and pants.
        Last edited by commuter ebikes; 12-09-2016, 10:34 PM.


          Could you expand on why you did #3 and #12. Is this what you mean by an adjustable stem?

          Click image for larger version

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            Originally posted by calfee20 View Post
            Could you expand on why you did #3 and #12. Is this what you mean by an adjustable stem?

            That is a picture of the exact adjustable stem that I had. Those are cheaply made. One day, it failed and I was nearly killed by a city bus. When they fail while braking, your whole handlebar and all the controls rotate forward over 180 degrees so you can't brake or steer.

            To avoid riding into the path of the bus without brakes or steering, I had to plant my feet on the ground and try to stay there, rotating forward to get the bike to stop propelling me into the kill zone. The bike ended up stopping by ramming into my perineum. Very painful, but better than being run over by a bus. It was dark, and the bus driver would not have expected a fast bike to come rushing perpendicular into his path.

            A 44mm head tube is used on most nicer frames because it costs more. Most bikes have a 40mm head tube. The 44mm head tube can accommodate a larger (head set) bearing.

            My more succinct answer to the OP's topic is:
            (1) largest motor available,
            (2) hydraulic brakes with 203mm rotors,
            (3) quality, high capacity 72V battery with a 100A BMS capable of pushing a lot of current (two 72V batteries in parallel),
            (4) titanium midtail frame,
            (5) 24 FET sine wave controller with 4110 FETs,
            (6) fattest knobby tires available on 100mm rims,
            (7) 12 or 13 gauge spokes with a two cross pattern,
            (8) 44mm head tube with a Chris King headset.
            (9) No suspension (fat tires at 20psi),
            (10) 65A circuit breaker(s),
            (11) quality parts throughout,
            (12) organized and waterproofed wiring,
            (13) removable and rechargeable head and tail lights (I like 100% of the battery power to be available to the motor).
            Last edited by commuter ebikes; 12-10-2016, 10:28 AM.


            • calfee20
              calfee20 commented
              Editing a comment
              When I was about 15 I got a narrow tire 3spd as opposed to a cruiser. Like all my deals as a kid and later in life it was a box job or in pieces. I put it together and the first thing I did was race someone. Well when I was at top speed the front wheel turned 90 degrees to the handle bar. That is what happens when you forget to tighten the quill bolt. That might have been worse than when I dumped a Norton at 50 mph.

            I know the OP asked about commuter bikes, but I wanted to make an analogy to what a lot of hot rodders do when designing a rear wheel drive hot rod. They choose the largest displacement motor that they think is reasonable, choose a wide enough, sticky tire that won't spin under load, a rear suspension that will get the power to the pavement, and a drivetrain that can handle the power. And then on to powerful brakes, maximum air flow, etc.

            The ebike analogy of this would be choosing the motor with the most copper (50mm stator for a hub motor, Cyclone for a mid drive), running a tire that has a large, soft contact patch, getting a battery that can put out a great deal of current, a controller that can handle that current and quality, beefy parts that can handle the power. Such a bike would probably have thick battery and phase wires that wouldn't restrict the current or overheat. Another circuit breaker, in addition to the circuit breaker on the BMS, is a good investment to protect the controller. A 24 FET Sabvoton controller would be good to handle all of the current. Top it off with hydraulic brakes and big rotors so things don't get overly exciting.

            Both of the above strategies produce a vehicle which is thrilling to pilot, but this is at the expense of being practical and economical. Although, if a bike is exciting to ride, it may see more service time.
            Last edited by commuter ebikes; 12-10-2016, 09:43 PM.


              I think the main reason to get an adjustable handlebar stem is to get the handle bars set at just the perfect angle, especially if no fixed stem has the right angle for your best comfort. That being said, I hadn't thought about them failing during a stop, and I now believe that once and adjustable stem is properly set, it should be permanently fixed in place with something super strong, like DP-420 epoxy.


                Originally posted by spinningmagnets View Post
                I think the main reason to get an adjustable handlebar stem is to get the handle bars set at just the perfect angle, especially if no fixed stem has the right angle for your best comfort. That being said, I hadn't thought about them failing during a stop, and I now believe that once and adjustable stem is properly set, it should be permanently fixed in place with something super strong, like DP-420 epoxy.
                That is why I bought the adjustable stem to begin with. At that point, I was unsure of the angle that I would settle on. Alan B. has an adjustable stem which is high quality, and he feels that his type is safe; it has a secure design. The one I had (as is photo above) was just plain cheap, although it would be okay for a very slow bike (<10mph).

                My issue was getting the Cycle Analyst to fit on the neck of the stem. I ended up buying one with a long neck and the highest angle available because I like the handlebars to be as high as possible. Here is what I have on all 4 of my bikes: It is medium quality, but I trust it because it is fixed.

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                The 80mm length has plenty of room for a CA.
                Last edited by commuter ebikes; 12-15-2016, 05:03 PM.


                  Who or what are you referencing with Alan B and an adjustable stem. I like adjustable and a safer one is always good


                    Originally posted by New Mariner View Post
                    Who or what are you referencing with Alan B and an adjustable stem. I like adjustable and a safer one is always good
                    i will contact Alan B. & ask him to come on here and give the make and model of his quality, SAFE adjustable stem.


                      The adjustable stem I used on the CroBorg is a Ritchie; it uses splines to adjust the angle, so it cannot slip. To adjust the angle you have to take it apart, so in service the splines prevent the angle from changing. No epoxy needed. It is a good design.
                      Alan B


                        For a commuter I prefer a DD hubmotor, no motor related chain maintenance and variable strong regen (actually electric braking for maximal stopping) and no brake maintenance. A sinewave controller, for smooth silence, and torque throttle for smooth control. The hubmotor also offers dual drive reliability - if the motor, controller or battery fails the bike can still be manually propelled.
                        Last edited by Alan B; 02-09-2017, 06:23 PM.
                        Alan B


                          I used to run a Nashbar adjustable stem on one of my bikes, which also had splines in the adjustment portion. It would not have slipped, but the darn thing creaked and popped like crazy. No amount of tightening would cure it. I finally tossed it when I changed handlebars. IMHO they're really only good for determining what angle of fixed stem you want to go with.


                            The Ritchie I use on the CroBorg has been flawless and quiet, so I've never bothered to replace it with a fixed one.
                            Alan B