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Power Your Pedal Pushie (or Building an eBike)

Riding a pushbike is great exercise - until you come to hills! Unless your name is Evans or Armstrong et al, unless you're one of the lycra brigade who keep super fit by pedaling everywhere and anywhere, even if your pushie has 150 gears and weighs about a hundred grams, you often wish that you could have just that little bit of assistance when the going gets tough!

By Ross Tester

My first pushbike came courtesy of Santa when I started high school. And I’ve had one (or more) ever since. While I enjoy riding my pushie and acknowledge that it’s one of the best forms of exercise, I’m the first to acknowledge that I’m not quite as fit as I once thought I was.

In fact, riding for any distance (with the emphasis on any!) certainly takes it out of me. So often I’ve wished for a motor of some sort to ease all those strained muscles, especially walking the bike up hills that have beaten me!

Building a bike for the teacher

Some months ago our esteemed editor and I visited a school which regular readers would be familiar with because we’ve featured it before in SILICON CHIP: Mater Maria Catholic College in Warriewood, near our editorial office on Sydney’s northern beaches.

Click for larger image
The Year 9 class from Mater Maria with the newly-converted "Diamondback" mountain bike. At left is Malcolm Faed, whom readers will recall converted his ute to battery/electric power (June 2009 issue).

We were there at the invitation of Dave Kennedy, the school’s electronics/technology teacher, to review the major projects being built by his senior students for their Higher School Certificate.

Most of those projects came from the pages of SILICON CHIP; many were variations on those projects (and those variations were where some of the builders struck snags!).

Having spent the best part of a day talking to the students and solving (we trust!) many of their problems, we were intrigued to spot what was going on (through the glass) in the classroom next door.  Here his younger (year nine) students were building an electric pushbike.

In fact, Dave Kennedy had purchased a brand new pushie (nice bike, Dave!) and an electric motor conversion kit specifically for the students to gain some “hands on” experience.

The bonus was that when it was finished, Dave could ride to school – about 5km or so across mainly flat terrain but with a nasty hill at each end. It was for these hills which Dave hoped a motor would keep him from becoming too hot and bothered when he reached school each morning.

The completed bike looked pretty impressive – from the fire-engine red frame through to the in-wheel motor and controller, along with all the controls and wiring necessary.

One of the students, Alex, even took a few photos of it for us.

But this started us thinking – why not a project in SILICON CHIP   showing how to build an electric bike (or, to be more accurate, how to convert an existing bike to electric-assist).

By the time we got back to the office, the editor and I were convinced that many readers would like to know how they could bring that old pushie back to life (you know, the one with flat tyres hanging on the garage wall!) and perhaps get some benefit by way of (power assisted)  exercise.

So we approached the distributors of the kit which Dave Kennedy had purchased – Rev-Bikes in Victoria (www.rev-bikes.com) [see end of article] and this article is the outcome.

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