A bike’s gotta know its limitations.

I went on a long afternoon ride yesterday without considering that the ebike had already been back and forth on chicken chores a couple of times and wasn’t fully charged no matter what the power bar said. I ended up wishing I had those 4-6 miles back, but I almost made it.


I know better than this – but the ‘power bar’ indicator sort of encourages a rider to assume that he’s got so much time at X power output when in fact it’s an indicator of overall battery state of charge. So when you’re down to one bar it’s really trying to tell you “the battery’s really low, Joel. Consider homesteading right here.” Everything would have been fine – in fact the motor was still working when I got the bike back to the barn – if it hadn’t been for that one last big upgrade. I got as much of a running start as I could, but by the top you’re switching to the lowest gear and the highest power setting – which turned out not to be there when I needed it. And so things got harder and harder and suddenly gravity just decided to pull me and my 80-pound ebike back down the hill. When that last bar starts to blink, that’s the charge controller saying “You’re on your own.”

I’m more wise to the way this works than I was last year when I took my first spill doing more-or-less the same thing, so things didn’t end too badly. I stopped the bike and got off while still keeping the rubber side down, and there was still enough motor assist to help me push it to the top as long as I wasn’t demanding 750 watts that just weren’t in the battery anymore. Then I still had power enough for the last mile or so back home, but I’m glad the trip wasn’t a single yard further.

Guess I’ve found the limit of its practical range in hilly country. 🙂

About Joel

You shouldn't ask these questions of a paranoid recluse, you know.
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4 Responses to A bike’s gotta know its limitations.

  1. Ben says:

    Now that you have a better understanding of its real-world range, the bike should actually be more useful to you.

  2. TK421a says:

    While I’m glad you didn’t end up pushing “the Goldwing” back to the secret lair, I think that if you don’t push the envelop a bit, you’ll never know the real limits of the bike.

  3. doubletrouble says:

    Sorta like in the machining world- push it until it breaks, then back off a little.
    IOW, you don’t know what it will do until it doesn’t.

  4. Norman says:

    When the current motorcycle was still new but broken in I did a similar test. Discovered, with the tank filled absolutely to the cap, and reasonably gentle throttle administration, it would go 377 miles on a tankful.

    But not 378.

    I had an advantage the e-bike doesn’t – I could cheat with a 1 gallon can of gas in one of the saddlebags. Didn’t need it, though, because 377 point something miles turned out to be about 15 feet short of the pumps at a gas station and that was easy coasting distance. Good thing, too, because it’s 730 pounds, not 80.

    As Ben points out, knowing the ultimate limit is very useful information. In my case, I learned: Absolute maximum range, and that every bit of fuel is usable – upon inspection the tank had barely a damp film on the bottom and the sump was dry, and further experimentation showed that just what was in the float bowls was slightly over 1 mile at 35 mph on level ground. You learned: Absolute maximum battery capacity, and that there’s a a tiny smidge of juice left at the bitter end, not enough to ride but enough to ease walking alongside.

    I can’t help but think better instrumentation would be quite a benefit. Which should be reasonably easy on an electric device.

To the stake with the heretic!