Solo elderly tourer

John Gray

Just Joined
May 20, 2021
3
1
That's both me and the BIke! Touring is my passion, but I have been prevented over recent years by heart disease. To cut a long medical story short, my cardiologist was persuaded to approve my returning to touring by my arguments that I would buy an e-bike, and monitor my heartrate. So here I am, looking to learn about e-bikes and find the right machine for me. Hello folks!
 
  • Like
Reactions: budsy

Jodel

Pedelecer
Oct 9, 2020
65
39
If you are happy with your present bike, then I'd look at converting it with one of the many kits available. You do need a bit of mechanical ability, but nothing too drastic.

I bought my kit from Woosh bikes and have been more than satisfied with it. Range might be an issue for you if you are touring, depending on how far you need to travel between charges. For illustration, I can easily get 50 miles range (probably more) from my 48V 12Ah battery and that's on a tandem with a gross weight of 165Kgs.
 
  • Like
Reactions: jimriley

Scorpio

Esteemed Pedelecer
Apr 13, 2020
293
120
Portugal Algarve (temporary)
HI and welcome. If you like the bike you have, it;s not too difficult to convert it to electric using a kit.

To monitor heart rate I use a Huawei "Band3 Pro" fitness braclet but there are plenty of others. Some background https://www.pedelecs.co.uk/forum/threads/fitness-trackers.31349/

Have fun, electric bikes are the furture :)
 
  • Like
Reactions: jimriley

stevenatleven

Pedelecer
Apr 18, 2011
197
136
Fife
From what you say about age and heart disease buy one of the modern trekking crank drive e bikes. Buy the biggest battery you can get, probably a 625w. That will give you plenty of power to keep the strain off your heart.
Unless you are passionately interested in mucking about with bikes skip the kits, there are often problems which detract from the pleasure of cycling
 
  • Disagree
  • Like
Reactions: budsy and Nealh

Nealh

Esteemed Pedelecer
Aug 7, 2014
14,544
5,640
58
West Sx RH
The OP has a heart rate issue , a mid drive means he will have to exert more effort to attain the 300% power available with good input pressure on the pedals. He will need to test ride a bike first and monitor heart rate vs effort to see if it is suitable.

And can you tell us the kit problem that detract the riding pleasure ? Sounds like utter rubbish to me.
 

Phil Dryden

Pedelecer
Jun 20, 2018
225
123
67
Leicester
As a fellow sufferer with heart problems, my guess would be that the OP really just wants to buy an ebike he can get on and enjoy immediately without the potential problems and workload of fitting a kit. Especially if he is not of a mechanical/electrical mindset. If these assumptions are correct, then both torque and cadence sensors would be my suggestion, unless the OP wants completely 'no effort' cycling, in which case a cadence sensor bike is the way to go. From my own experience it is nice to have both so that as fitness improves then the torque sensor can be used increasingly, which makes for a more satisfying ride.
 

Nealh

Esteemed Pedelecer
Aug 7, 2014
14,544
5,640
58
West Sx RH
As I said Op needs to test out a mid drive tourer bike or a hub tourer bike and see how his heart rate goes, the flat might be alright it's the hills that might not be though.
 

Phil Dryden

Pedelecer
Jun 20, 2018
225
123
67
Leicester
As I said Op needs to test out a mid drive tourer bike or a hub tourer bike and see how his heart rate goes, the flat might be alright it's the hills that might not be though.
Just by way of encouragement to the OP, I find I can ride up hills on the ebike much easier than I can walk up an incline. Walking up a slope gets me breathless very quickly, and whilst I can't exactly whizz up the hills, a 25 mile ride over undulating terrain with a few decent hills as well is not a problem. Although my bike has a throttle, I have never needed to use it. OP, go for it. Test ride a few bikes as Nealh says and get the one which suits you best.
 
  • Agree
Reactions: Nealh

Nealh

Esteemed Pedelecer
Aug 7, 2014
14,544
5,640
58
West Sx RH
I think a hub drive rear bike with pedal first option throttle is just the job, but don't think one will see an oem tourer ebike with one. I am assuming tourer means traditional drop bars, if that is the case having a tourer converted with a kit would allow a thumb throttle. One only needs to turn half a crank and the throttle will operate at full power should heart rate rise a bit far this would allow one to ride but will use up more battery capacity, it depends on the range Op is needing.
 

Nealh

Esteemed Pedelecer
Aug 7, 2014
14,544
5,640
58
West Sx RH
Just by way of encouragement to the OP, I find I can ride up hills on the ebike much easier than I can walk up an incline. Walking up a slope gets me breathless very quickly, and whilst I can't exactly whizz up the hills, a 25 mile ride over undulating terrain with a few decent hills as well is not a problem. Although my bike has a throttle, I have never needed to use it. OP, go for it. Test ride a few bikes as Nealh says and get the one which suits you best.
It is good encouragement and I don't disagree however your situation and the Ops could be very far apart in ability and stress on the heart.
 

Benjahmin

Esteemed Pedelecer
Nov 10, 2014
1,932
1,321
67
West Wales
Hi John,
Don't be put off the idea of converting. I did mine some 10k miles and 7 years ago. In that time I've had one connector issue, one bearing change and a battery re-cell. All of this was either done by myself or, in the case of the re-cell, an expert to my spec.
And this is the point, with a self conversion you have a machine you know your way around and have at least some knowledge of how it hangs together. Off the shelf parts can be had at reasonable cost. On a 36v system any 36v battery can be used so long as the polarity is right. So, for instance, I have a 14Ah rack battery and a second !4Ah battery that I can connect in paralell for longer journey's
With the mid drive bought bikes, Bosch etc, there are no user serviceable or replaceable parts in the motor or control system. These are treated as a 'black box' and even the dealers have no ability/knowledge to repair. Any problems and the motor is removed, sent back to the manufacturer and replaced - at full cost to you outside of warranty. You can only use oem batteries (as they use comms) and these are much more expensive and cannot easily be re-celled.
If you are of the curious tinkerer type - convert. If spanners and things cause brain fog - buy one, but don't expect the kind of anywhere serviceability you get with a car.
 

John Gray

Just Joined
May 20, 2021
3
1
Gosh, thanks guys! Some food for serious thought there! My existing touring bike is a Thorn Nomad - heavy duty, and 18 years old now. I am happy tinkering, although perhaps not with electrics. I am not really interested in converting, certainly not personally. I did think about asking Thorn about it, but would rather take the opportunity to buy a more modern bike - disc brakes, for one thing.
I have the technology for monitoring my heart rate sorted, thanks. I have been doing that for some time to gather evidence for discussions with the cardiologist! Hills are going to be the issue, for now at least. I will be 72 in a couple of weeks time, and need something to assist me on hills, with the scope to increase the level of assistance as the years advance. BTW - why does a mid drive require more effort? Significantly more?
Touring has been my passion for many years, and I am concerned about being able to charge the battery when travelling. I have learnt that some batteries are not removable, which could limit access to overnight charging facilities. Test riding and serviceability both seem important. I am in Lancashire, and do not drive, although my wife does, so I am exploring what dealers are in easy reach. On that basis, so far Ribble (in Clitheroe) and Boardman (Halfords are everywhere!) are contenders. Hewitt (in Leyland) stock Orbea.
 

stevenatleven

Pedelecer
Apr 18, 2011
197
136
Fife
I think we need to hear from the OP as to what he is looking for, if he has mech/elec know how and enjoys tinkering by all means fit a kit. If not buy a off the shelf model (assuming he can find anything these days with covid) If all I cared about was riding and didn't want to stress my heart I would buy and have bought a Bosch 85nm mid drive, in Turbo I can ghost pedal up any hill in my area with very little effort. Much more so than the legal 250w hub drives that I have had in the past on my 2 shop bought e bikes, a Oxygen and a Whisper. I do have a hub drive which will match the Bosch mid drive but it is a 48v 500w Bafang bpm and on level 5 it gives 850+ watts and will climb anything with ease but it is a build that needed all the experience from my previous builds to achieve. Woosh as an example does have a reqd skill level paragraph so it's not for everybody.
Nealh, problems I have had with kits, broken spokes from poor Chinese wheel builds, motors arriving that were the wrong code and unsuitable for hills. Motors that arrived that were too wide for the dropout (xiongda) bottom brackets being too short to fit the pedelec sensor necessitating a change of bb length or different chainset. wires melting together and causing power loss, LCD programming niggles when matching motors/controllers. battery plates requiring rivnut fittings on down tubes. These are just the ones I can think of just now, none of them were serious and could be rectified with a bit of time and thought but they did detract from the of the cycling experience.
PS posted simultaneously with OP
 
Last edited:
  • Like
Reactions: budsy

Nealh

Esteemed Pedelecer
Aug 7, 2014
14,544
5,640
58
West Sx RH
None of those are issues for hub electrics if the correct items are sourced to start with and none technically hard to overcome. As with any diy build one does ones homework first.
 

Nealh

Esteemed Pedelecer
Aug 7, 2014
14,544
5,640
58
West Sx RH
John the mid drives are torque multipliers that can give some 300% power boost but they require the rider to press on the pedals harder.
What I found with mid drive OEM brands was the continuous effort needed for the torque multipliers.
With the cadence type one can happily just rotate the cranks needing little effort to pottle along, if one wants a bit more speed then one can ride it like you stole it.

The only way you will know what type will be suitable for yourself is to test ride and if possible find some hills/inclines. One can adjust the assist level for hills/inclines so they need testing out.
 
  • Like
Reactions: John Gray

MichaelM

Pedelecer
Nov 14, 2020
50
35
I have never ridden a hub drive so I can't give a comparsion. I have a Bosch mid-drive with the Active Line Plus engine, nominally 50Nm. The (presumably maximum if the engine is trque-limited) torque addition levels are +40%, +100%, +180%, +270% for Eco, Tour, Sport and Turbo modes respectively.

For the OP's understanding I will give a little possibly tedious detail of my heart condition. I'm 67 and have dilated cardiomyopathy diagnosed 3 years ago. I have always liked bikes and always had them, but have never been any good at hills. Now I know why. My ejection fraction in early 2018 was 19% and I got breathless crossing the road. No question of cycling then. Now I am back to 55% or so and feeling better than I did before I knew I was ill, but beta blockers take a lot of the force out of my contractions and help limit my heart rate to about 120 unless I overdo it. My cardiomyopathy no longer stops me doing anything, but I simply don't produce enough power to climb proper hills unassisted other than with a struggle in the lowest gear, at sub-walking pace. This takes the fun out of cycling,and leaves me exhausted after only a few miles.

John if you are up to it, the torque-addition approach could work well. I need cardio exercise, what I don't want is a heart rate of 130 or more which would be dangerous. The point NealH is sensibly making is that, because the Bosch augments the rider's effort by a notional percentage, it can only assist if you are making an effort in the first place. The critical question is whether you can make sufficient effort do your share of the total amount of work needed to get up the hill. NealH has also made the point that a cadence sensor only bike that only requires you to turn the pedals might be more able to 'rescue' you if you were simply unable to put any real effort in.

I ride the Bosch in Eco for the most part, which includes gentle gradients or into a breeze - but probably not both at the same time. My ability is such that I can do this quite well, without a struggle and without my heart rate going through 120. Some hills I can get up in Tour, but if I need more assistance I'll use Sport or occasionally Turbo. The lowest gear I have used so far is 3/9 which is 41" on my Cube so I feel I have a bit in reserve.

My daughter also has mild dilated cardiomyopathy but has had more difficulty keeping her heart rate down, on a lower dose of beta blocker, than I do. She cycles a lot, and has a Shimano Steps E5000 mid drive (40Nm) city bike and a cargo e-bike with a Shimano E8000 engine (85Nm). She normally uses maximum support (the Shimanos have 3 levels) although she is a stronger cyclist than I am, just to control her heart rate - she is in Cambridge where there aren't many lumps but she usually has a 4 year old and a 6 year old on the back of the cargo bike! The cargo bike takes off like a rocket in Level 3, but pretty lively even in level 1 and I suspect it is actually programmed to give an extra shove for starting off.

My tip for the Bosch drive or similar is to use the gears as you would unassisted, to keep your cadence up. Bosch advises that 50 or more is optimal, and around 60 is comfortable for me if the effort isn't too great. By doing this you will get more power from the bike, assuming it is torque limited to the stated figure. At first, instinct sometimes caused me to increase the assistance before changing gear, but I soon worked out that I needed to use gears to get the the best out of the drive, just as I do with human effort. Because the motor is acting through the chain, use of gears can maintain its RPM and thereby avoid a power drop at low speeds.

A Performance or CX engine (in the Bosch range) would of course give you a higher reserve but the ALP seems fine for me.

I've found my Bosch, and my daughter's Shimanos when I tested them, both to be very natural to ride. I don't expect the hub drive to feel as natural when I get the Swytch kit for my Brommie. Quite how much that matters I don't know - lots of people with more e-bike experience than I seem quite happy with hub drives but I can't speak to that.

I am super-happy to be able to cycle much more pleasurably than I have done for years. So far, by keeping my pedalling speed up and using the available assistance I haven't ever felt I was struggling, and I do feel I am getting useful exercise.

John Gray, feel free to PM me if you have any questions.
 

Nealh

Esteemed Pedelecer
Aug 7, 2014
14,544
5,640
58
West Sx RH
At the end of the day both type of motor and PAS input system all work, both types have detractors and bias users. Trying out both will be the best way for anyone with an issue and under quack's orders/advice.
My only beef with TS mid drive is if a fault occurs I am unable to repair or fault find, unlike my hub bike. Currently underload Bafang CST hub is knocking and I can feel the noise resonating via the frame to the cranks, it needs a good service and bearings replaced so a job for me next week. About an hours work and it will be done, it has been some 5k miles since the last service and bearings replaced. If this was a mid drive bike I could be waiting weeks for a replacement motor.
 

John Gray

Just Joined
May 20, 2021
3
1
Hello Michael - thanks for your extensive comments.

I will be 72 in a couple of weeks time; I had a triple bypass at the end of 2016. I have toured since then - the Fens in 2018 as a re-introduction - and a Coast to Coast in 2019. The second tour turned out to be too much of a challenge. My heart condition has deteriorated since then, and further surgery is deemed too risky an option. I was advised to give up touring, although that decision has now been qualified a little. Next month I am starting a rehab programme with the BHF.

I started cycling again just a couple of weeks ago, and am learning what my limits are. Doing short local, fairly flat, routes, I have been able to keep my average heart rate down to acceptable levels, but I really want to get back to touring, and electric assistance on hills/challenging terrain seemed to be the answer, or at least part of it. In conjunction with the medication, of course. I enjoy cycling, know how to use the gears, and am happy to make some effort myself, but need to keep my heart rate down.

I knew nothing about ebikes, and have quickly learned how much there is take into account - reading about different types of motors has confused the hell out of me! Some suitable options are emerging, but my choices will to some extent be limited by how easily I can get to see/try beforehand.

Thanks for sharing your experiences Michael.
 

MichaelM

Pedelecer
Nov 14, 2020
50
35
Thanks for sharing your experiences Michael.
No trouble.

Cardiac rehab for me was very worthwhile, and gave me some confidence when I was seriously worried about exercising.

You are clearly a much more experienced cyclist than I am, although in fairness to myself I have probably never been up to touring since I was a youngster - I've almost certainly had the heart problem for decades.

Since writing my last reply I did reflect on the touring aspect - I do exert myself a bit (without struggling) on hills, and I am not loaded with luggage. Also my heart rate to a large extent is controlled by the beta blocker. My daughter has been much more prone to too high a rate, hence she habitually uses full assist successfully to keep it down. Based on my test with her cargo bike, and her feedback, a "performance" or MTB engine like the E8000 or similar would probably be prudent if you did want the natural feel of a torque-sensor mid-drive. I can see the argument for a hub-drive bike that you could 'ghost pedal' for a while if you needed to.

She did have one problem on that cargo bike, which is still quite new, when the left crank fell off. It's the Shimano type with pinch bolts. That seems to be cured now with the substitution of a metal bearing-preload cap for the plastic one. Not unknown, apparently. If I had one of those I'd be inclined to change the cap pre-emptively.
 
  • Like
Reactions: John Gray

egroover

Esteemed Pedelecer
Aug 12, 2016
632
341
54
UK
A bafang BBS01 250w mid drive motor (approx £300) which uses built in cadence sensor will allow you to 'ghost pedal' i.e. the motor will provide lots of assistance even if you are just spinning your legs around on the pedals. Cheap removable downtube 36v 630wh batteries are available from £200. Pack a spare in the pannier/rack bag and you are good for 80-100miles of assisted cycling, more than enough for a day in the saddle. I've now converted three bikes now with Bafang 250w 36v mid drive motors, here's my current conversion. The process is pretty easy, lots of guidance on this here on the forum .Good luck
 
Last edited: