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An Inquiry Into The Catasrophic Failure Of A Bafang Geared Hub Motor, August 2018 | William Thomas Online | William Thomas

An Inquiry Into The Catasrophic Failure Of A Bafang Geared Hub Motor, August 2018


Revised Sept. 4, 2018



Imagine this



Muddy Goatbike  CU


AN INQUIRY INTO THE CATASTROPHIC FAILURE 

OF A BAFANG GEARED HUB MOTOR, AUGUST 2018

 

by William Thomas

 


 

 

INT. HEARING ROOM DAY:

 

With many spectators and reporters forced to stand, the large open room is a hubbub of rumours, speculation and anticipation. How could the most widely-selling geared electric motor in this solar system fail so drastically after less than two-years’ use?

 

“All rise!” someone calls out. The room falls silent, except for the scrape of chairs and shoes as a woman garbed not in black robes but a tailored business suit emerges from a side-door and takes her seat behind the large table at the head of the room. Her age doesn’t matter.

 

Facing this imposing figure with their backs to the intent crowd are two men seated at smaller tables placed far enough apart to discourage fisticuffs. I am one of them.

 

“Sit down,” says the facilitator, waving everyone to their places. “My name is Samantha J. Weatherstone. I am charged with facilitating this hearing and summarizing its findings. While I appreciate your respect, I am not a judge and no one is on trial here. The purpose of this inquiry is not to assign blame for this mishap, but to determines its cause so that the various vendors represented here today and riders of similar machines may not be discommoded in future.”

 

This introduction is met by polite snickers. Everyone knows someone is going to hang today. Will it be the bike’s manufacture? Its seller? Or an incompetent rider?

 

“I will tolerate no further outbursts during these proceedings. This is not a Roman circus. Anyone further disturbing this hearing will be taken out and shot.”

 

Gasps from the assembly. Abruptly self-censored.

 

“Just wanted to see if I have your attention,” says Ms. Weatherstone with a thin smile. “Now then…” (peering at a sheaf of papers before her.) “Will Thomas, resident of REDACTED and Mr. REDACTED, representing Bafang of China. Mr. Thomas, you may proceed.”

 

“Yes, your honour,” I say, standing. On my table sits a cardboard box. No papers. I don’t need notes. “I allege that with modest additional effort, and perhaps six-dollars’ worth of materials, this… tragedy could have been prevented.”

 

“You may dispense with the honorifics. And the hyperbole.”  

 

“My ride has been down for nearly a month. It’s still down. I may have to shoot my goatbike.”

 

“I thought we are here to discuss… (consults her notes) a folding fatbike. Is that not so?”

 

Goatbike in the woods -Will Thomas photo


“My Mariner goes – used to go – places only a goat could negotiate. Which is why I prefer that name.”

 

“For the record, we will refer to this Voltbike Mariner as a ‘fatbike’ during this hearing. Do you think you could be bothered to resume before, say, lunch?”

 

“Sure. I…”

 

“Let me summarize your sworn affidavit. It states that your Voltbike is your sole means of transportation and that you have over 4,000 kilometers on the odometer after nearly 24 months of riding – more than half of that on gravel roads, roadside trails or rough mountain double- and single-track. Why not an exact mileage figure?”

 

“When I – unnecessarily, it turned out – changed out the first LCD control screen, I failed to record its mileage: something over 400km. Plus 4,200 or so on its replacement. I’m more interested in my trip distance to estimate my remaining range on each charge.”

 

“Your bicycle has been performing in an admirable fashion until now?”

 

“Actually, it’s an ebike. ‘E’ for electric bike.”

 

“Is the Mariner a good, ah, ‘ebike’?”

 

“It’s basically excellent. The Chinese manufacture over two-million electric bikes every year; they know how to make sturdy, practical ebikes. My Mariner’s electronic and mechanical ‘gears’ worked together perfectly out of the box. So did the brakes and the shifting. They still do – after a couple-thousand normal bicycle 'kill'ometers through the bush. Impressive? You decide. We’re all pioneers and test pilots here.”


“That’s an impressive pitch, Mr. Thomas. Heartfelt. Like all of your testimony today. But everyone knows – or thinks they know – that what really matters in an electric bicycle is useful range. I’m re-purposing a flying expression that measures actual distance flown for a given energy state. In our case, real world, 48-volts. Hills and headwinds and 15-kilometers each way."


“Again, guilty of being impressed. Sure, there are drool-worthy, tricked-out ebikes on 3/16” tires costing thousands of dollars or more, covering, I don’t know, 40, maybe 50 kilometers on a charge. My need and preference always is for a sturdy, massively-shod, folding bike that doesn’t seem to mind whatever groceries, empty propane tanks, or canoe and camping gear you care to strap to it. Including the canoe.” 


Bike and canoe on trailer -Will Thomas photo



Your range, Mr. Thomas. In case someone else wants to transport their house over a mountain on their bicycle."


“To wrap up my defence of a bike that left me stranded in the woods... without the boat trailer, the Voltbike Mariner's geared Bafang is dialled-in to its lightweight state-of-the-art battery. I can tell because after two years of hill-climbing, I am – was – still getting 35 km range, plus 3-5km reserve, across the island and back over often bumpy terrain. I’m staying with Voltbikes because I can find no other ebike that folds, fits me, and does what this one can do for twice the price. Except… Well, it turns out, two excepts…" ”

 

“I liked how you slipped in, ‘bumpy’. And ‘whose’ refering to a two-wheel conveyance. Now if we may – if you’re sure you don’t mind – could you elucidate the first, quite serious, exception to your rave?”

 

“There was a design flaw in my early model Mariner. The controller – the bike’s electronic brain – is housed in a metal box underneath the cranks. The pedals. Wiring leads into the front of this box through a large opening. Riding through puddles floods this enclosure.”

 

“Which, I’m guessing, is bad?”

 

“Even though the controller is enclosed, water eventually seeps in, shorting out the circuit-boards. I’ve replaced two plug ‘n’ play controllers supplied by the seller at no cost to me. And sealed the hole with Gorilla Tape. The new Mariners do not have this issue.”

 

“I’m sure this is all very satisfactory. But we are here to discuss a… (reading further) 500-watt, rear hub motor. Gazillions of these 8Fun Bafangs are apparently in use all over the globe. Would you say this is a good ebike motor?”

 

“Except for an easily-remedied vulnerability, this geared-hub motor is terrific. Lightweight, high-torque, incredibly energy efficient. I really like it. Or at least, I did.”

 

“You're pretty hard on your bike. What’s that cowboy expression? ‘Rode hard and put up wet?'”


“Rode hard, yes. Washed, inspected, chain cleaned and lubed, tire pressures checked and a general going-over once a week. Except after muddy trail-rides, when I wash the bike before putting it away. My Mariner loved everything I threw at it. My ride is well looked-after."


“So, you were riding through the woods one day…”

 

“I live on an island with a mountain crest for its spine. A network of trails, well-maintained by mountain bike fanatics, means I can avoid most roads, which are crowded with large, incompatible vehicles. Often piloted – more or less – by rubbernecking tourists.”

 

“Which is why you purchased your Mariner.”

 

“Which is why I bought this particular machine to take full advantage of these trails. And it has served me well. Not to mention keeping me fit and my balance and reflexes functioning. As a heart attack survivor, I’ve had some memorable adventures with a friend who observed my constant grin and bought one for himself.”

 

“And how old is this kid?”

 

“Seventy-four.”

 

“And you are what age?”

 

“Sixty-nine and two-thirds.”

 

“Good Lor… I mean, please continue. You were on the familiar Beulah Creek trail when…”

 

“Ironically, I had just issued a thought-balloon of gratitude that this motor was so reliable when I heard a gnashing, grinding sound from the back of the bike. Immediately, I lost propulsion. It became hard to pedal as my fatbike proceeded in fits and starts. Then it stopped completely.”

 

“Did you know what was wrong?”

 

“I’ve been modifying and riding electric bikes and my Motorino scooter for more than a decade. When I bought my Mariner, I was aware that the three nylon planetary gears inside its hub motor were known to eventually fail. Though usually after many more years and kilometers than this.”

 

“So, you immediately thought…”

 

“I could tell the gears in my Bafang were toast. It was a long walk pushing my 57-pound fatbike out of that forest. My riding buddy rescued me with this Volksie van. Anyone possessed by an ebike should own or have phone-access to a rescue vehicle. Though with the Mariner folded, it’s easy to hitchhike – another great feature.”

 

“Could you think of a cause why your geared motor failed so soon?”

Fatbike Emergence Onto Trestle


"As I said, most of my riding is done at low trail speeds, around 20k, at a pedal-assist power setting of “2” out of “9”. This to avoid sudden lunges into immovable trees. I blip the thumb throttle when additional bursts of power are required. Even this is carefully modulated acceleration.”

 

“You’re saying your riding habits are not at fault.”

 

“I suspected they were. As you can see, I am height-challenged when it comes to mounting bikes: about five-five. So I’m in the habit of straddling my Mariner, standing on the lowest pedal and gently applying the thumb throttle. From a standing start, this procedure moves the seat under me and away we go.”

 

“That certainly does not sound abusive.”

 

“I didn’t think so. But on three or four occasions I tried this on slight inclines and the motor stuttered, ground and crunched. Aware of those nylon gear-teeth, I discontinued starting like this on any uphill grade.”

 

“When did you stop using this… ah, technique?”

 

“I still use it. Though not on any kind of hill. I stopped doing that after those first few attempts.”

 

“But you feared you might have weakened those gear teeth.”

 

“I didn’t see how. George – the seller – assured me that these gears are tough. He advised me to avoid using the thumb throttle and use pedal assist to start off. But PAS comes in with a similar jolt. In any event, those few incidents lasted seconds and happened eons ago. The motor never showed any further discontent. Until it did.”

 

“I… see. What else did you suspect?”

 

Riding in the snow POST

“Geared hub motors are said to risk failure after being repeatedly lugged. That is, run at too-slow speeds up long, steep hills. That can put a lot of force on those internal nylon gears.”

 

“And you live at the bottom of a long, steep hill.”

 

“I live at the bottom of a gravity well moon rockets would have difficulty escaping. It’s the reason I went electric. Coming home with a depleted battery, the return slope up the backside is even steeper.”

 

“There you go. So to speak.”

 

“Except with the geared Bafang, there are no hills! In all those rides, I never lugged that motor. It just went right on up at 20-24k with easy peddling. Pure magic.”

 

“Then what did you do?”

 

“I called Voltbike in Vancouver and described what happened. George sent me a replacement set of planetary gears at no charge, even though my fatbike was a year out of warranty. Voltbike’s service has always been first-class.”

 

“So, you took the motor apart. What did you find?”

 

washers, but brake sideCU

“Actually, I didn’t. Couldn’t. Not at first. The video Voltbike 'dot ca' put out showed how to remove the rear wheel. That went well. And I was careful to photograph the placement of a dozen or so nuts, washers and spacers on each side of the axle for proper re-assembly.”

 

“I am not growling at you. My stomach is. Please get to the good stuff.”

 

“I followed the video closely as it showed a tech inserting a cassette removal tool – a kind of socket – into the rear, six-cog cassette and removing it. Then the motor cover was simply unscrewed and lifted off.”

 

“A similar tool is shown in the stock photo you ripped off, down here on the right.”


Bafang hub motor cassette removal tool

“Copied under fair-use, yes. Not having such a socket, and living semi-remotely, I ordered a ‘cassette removal tool’ online. It came the following week.”

 

“And you removed the cassette.”

 

“I did not. The opening in the neck of that standard mountain bike socket did not fit over my ebike’s squarish axle-end. So I ordered one from my friends at GRIN Tech in Vancouver. It came within four or five days. This one fit fine over the axle but its wall-thickness would not fit into the cassette.”

 

“Were you feeling a bit, shall we say, frustrated?”

 

“I was somewhat… displeased with Voltbike Vancouver for not warning in their video that a special tool is required to remove the cassette on their Mariner.”

 

“Then what did you do?”

 

“What I should have done in the first place. Went back to the ebikes.ca website and spotted a second, smaller cassette-removal tool. Ordered that one. When it came, I immediately tried it on my wheel. It did not fit.”

 

“Uh oh.”

 

“Next, I took the first, thin-walled cassette-removal socket to a mechanic friend and asked him to bore out the neck. He nearly fried his drill press. ‘This is a cast part, not aluminum,' he told me. ‘Nothing’s going to drill through this’.”

 

“Oh my.”

 

“That’s what I said. Or words to that effect. I went back online to an ebike specialty supplier on Amazon. This fourth tool arrived in four days. It…”

 

“Didn’t fit.”

 

“That is correct. Here they are. If I may: Exhibit A.” Reaching into the box, I take out all five cassette sockets and hold them up.

 

Which one fits the Mariner?


“You are showing us five cassette tools, not four.”

 

The fifth one, ordered from I forget where (2nd from left), mistakenly fit the cassette on my rear wheel. I was stunned.”

 

“But not too shocked to proceed.”

 

“The cassette wouldn’t budge. It appeared to be seized solid on the axle. I tried lubricants. Nothing worked. I figured a six-foot-long chunk of steel pipe inserted onto the handle of my adjustable wrench might loosen my nemesis. But I didn’t have such a pipe on my premises.”

 

“Your solution?”

 

“I called back and spoke to REDACTED, Voltbike's tech. This time, I was informed that I did not have to remove the cassette. The motor could be dismounted from the hub, leaving the cassette in place!

 

“How did this make you feel? Don’t answer that. I do not permit profanity in my proceedings.”

 

“What do you think? My ride was still down. The best part of summer was slipping away. And just because an old YouTube had not been updated with a written or spoken note to skip removing the cassette, I had lost nearly three weeks before I could get at the motor. I respectfully advised George to update their video ASAP.”

 

“Okay. You quickly unscrewed the cover on the opposite side, tapped that axle end with a hammer – as shown in the video – and popped the motor windings out of the hub.”

 

“I took the precaution of using a block of wood to smack my hammer on. Nothing happened. It took repeated, hard hammer blows to finally – finally! – free that fricking motor.”

 

“Congratulations.”

 

“Not quite. When the motor popped free of the hub, tiny silver ball-bearings scattered over my worktable.”

 

“Not a good sign. Where were they from?”

 

“From somewhere inside the cover. I couldn’t see where. Obviously, from around the axle. The video definitely did not show ball-bearings shooting all over. If I may, Exhibit B…”

 

Reaching into the carton, I withdraw a snapped circlip and a bunch of silver and rusted BB’s and throw them skittering across the floor. The room hums and stirs.

 

“Very dramatic,” Ms. Weatherstone says dryly. “What’s that broken bit?”

 

“A small circlip. It failed after completely rusting away. This retaining clip must have held those press-fit bearings in place. Here’s a picture of it magnified:”

 

broken circlip & rusted, flattened bearings


“Did you happen to notice any other signs of corrosion?”

 

“Yes,” I say. “This!”

 

Reaching into the carton, I withdraw the internal guts of my Bafang. A collective gagging sort of gasp resounds through the hearing room.

 

Rusty Bafang, 2 years

“If I may present this as Exhibit C. As you can see, the entire motor assembly is a ball of rust! Also, this…”


I hold up the hub cover. It, too, is coated with rust, as is the inside of that housing itself.

 

Sounds of projectile-vomiting as the packed hearing room “erupts". Several older reporters run out to telegraph their editors. BANG! goes the gavel. “Quiet!” orders Samantha J. Weatherstone. And quiet is what she gets.

 

“I could not believe the motor had even run,” I go on. “I should have worn latex gloves like the video showed. I had to scrub my hands before proceeding...”

 

“To remove the planetary gears,” the scarily-sharp Ms. Weatherstone finishes. "They are, I understand, mounted together on a mild-steel plate.”


“The video advised smacking the axle-end on an anvil to break that gear assembly free,” I explain.

 

“Let me guess. You don’t have an anvil.”

 

“Something better. A cast-iron woodstove. I smashed that axle into the stovetop. Repeatedly, full force, for nearly 20 minutes. It moved maybe a sixteenth-of-an-inch. That’s all. Those gears are not coming out with any persuasion less than dynamite.”


“But you could plainly see those nylon gears. Were they broken as you’d suspected?”

 

“No, they were not.”

 

“They weren’t?”

 

“No visible wear. No broken teeth. No bits of broken hard nylon jammed in the gears.”

 

“I don’t understand.”

 

Crunchabunch


“Neither did I, at first. But some of the teeth on those gears were deformed. Indented with circular depressions nearly as deep as my own growing depression.”

 

“Just the facts, if you please.”

 

“This was obvious damage. But as far as I could see, the bike should still have run. Not happily. But those centre-deformed teeth would have still meshed. Mas o menos.”

 

“Did you solve the mystery?”

 

inside cover

“It was then that I noticed several rusted ball-bearings clinging to the stator. That’s the circular electro-magnet that spins around inside the hub, driving the axle and the bike. They had not gotten loose when I popped out the motor. They were running around inside the motor after that circlip failed, before I’d taken off the cover.”


“Ah ha…”

 

“One rusted ball bearing was crushed into the magnet used to sense motor rotation when at rest. (Count down 3 circles on the cover's right.) I found more bearings rusted thin and flattened between the outside of the stator and the inside of the hub.”

 

“So, like Sherlock Holmes, you picked up your trusty magnifying glass and…”

 

“And saw – though no magnification was needed – that the rust-discoloured indentations in the gear teeth exactly matched the diameter of the still-intact, rogue ball-bearings.”

 

“I will accept, ‘rogue’. You’re saying water ingress over time rusted the motor, destroying the circlip retaining one set of axle bearings, which came free and damaged the planetary gears and jammed – or partially jammed – in the stator. What we now need to know is how the water got in. How well were both hub covers sealed?”

 

“They are not sealed at all. No gaskets. No sealant.”

 

“A clear case of manufacturer negligence.”

 

“Objection!” The Bafang rep starts to climb to his feet.

 

“I don’t think so,” I continue. “Both covers were very tightly fitted. Even fording shallow creeks and riding through occasional puddles isn’t going to get much, if any, water inside through those covers.”

 

The rep sits back down.

 

“The intake pipe, if you will, is the power cable running through the hub directly into the guts of the motor. Where it enters the axle, the opening is not sealed. In fact,  the gap in that Achilles axle is extensive. I admit overlooking this because the cable and the spring protecting it appear to offer adequate sealing. They do not. ”

 

“So, in heavy rain, or when crossing standing water, water runs in through…”

 

“Pours in. Moisture is also inhaled through the power cable. Parked under cover in our Northwest coast’s wet winters, moist air will get sucked into the motor after every ride.”

 

“It sounds like you are describing a kind of vacuum, Mr. Thomas. Inside the motor?”

 

“Exactly, your… Exactly. Justin over at GRIN videoed eyebrow-raising tests showing how a warm hub motor creates – like any body of warm air – a miniature high-pressure system inside the hub. Though geared-motors run cooler, it’s this increased temperature and internal pressure that keeps the water out.”

 

“Then how…”

 

“Justin’s tests showed that as the motor cools with the ebike at rest, lowering pressure brings in outside air through the power cable until it's equalized. It’s not much. But the pressure difference is enough to introduce significant moisture into all hub motors from moist air alone. Depending on how often and how hard they are ridden.”

 

“I see that you have not named the vendor, Voltbikes Vancouver, in your damage claim.”

 

“The bikes they sell are excellent. Except for a diabolically outdated video, their support has been superb. The vendor is not at fault for this failure.”

 

“Then why are you unhappy with this manufacturer, when – as you testified – all hub motors suffer from this potentially fatal flaw.”

 

“Because it is so easy to prevent. And Bafang – in the interests of keeping costs down, like every other e-motor manufacturer I’m aware of – did not take preventative measures to waterproof their motors internally.”

 

“How?”

 

Varnished stator -electricbike.com


“I’ve done it myself on my own non-geared hub motors. Pulled them apart and sprayed electronics-specific, red lacquer-varnish over the rotor, stator and inside casing: $12.95 at Amazon (with lots left over). Once dry, this completely seals the motor’s internal parts. Motor performance remains exactly as before. But corrosion cannot happen


“Mr. Thomas, I may be a Bear of Very Little Brain, but how are those three gears going to move if you paint them?"


“No, no. Remove the grearset and lacquer only the stator and inside casing.”


“Wait! Excuse me! Don’t do that!!”


“Who is speaking? Yes. With your hand up in back.”


“This is Justin. Most people get season after season of Vancouver weather riding without ever having water ingress issues show up in the Bafang. The best would be spraying  something like boeshield rather than an actual varnish.”


“Thank you for your input. Mr. Thomas, anything to add?"


"Also per GRIN’s findings and recommendation, I used to drill three 3/16th-inch holes spaced equidistant around both non-geared hub motor covers near their outer flange.”

 

The crowd mutters darkly, an incipient mob. Have I just confessed to hub motor homicide?

 

“Are you having me on? Why in this world – or the next – would you drill holes in what you describe as a watertight, or nearly watertight, hub motor cover?”

 

“To let any accumulated water or moisture out, Ms. Facilitator.”

 

“What about letting water in, Mr. Thomas?”

 

“Doesn’t matter. In my experience with drilled-out hub motors like the old Crystallites and Nine-Continent models, these drain holes are too small – and any spinning exposure while transiting puddles too brief – to allow much water in. The critical point is to drill drain holes to let any water inside the hub out.”

 

“Fascinating. Why didn’t you take these proven precautions when you bought your Voltbike?”

 

“Because doing so would have instantly voided my warranty. And later, because I didn’t want the hassle of taking the back wheel off and tearing the motor down. I hoped my much cooler-running, geared Bafang would not be subject to such rusting.”

 

“And you found, once again, that hope is not a plan but actually another form of denial.”

 

“Ms. Facilitator, I purchased this expensive – at least to this pensioner – fatbike expecting that the motor would not rust solid and catastrophically fail after less than 5,000 km. Does this seem a reasonable expectation to you? If this were a car, say.”

 

“Mr. Thomas, I am not in the habit of driving my car through streams or over what you term rough mountain tracks.”

 

“You might, I respectfully suggest, if it was a jeep. We’re talking maybe a half-dozen 10-foot-wide creek crossings four to six-inches deep. This electric-assist fatbike is meant to excel over such terrain.”

 

“So, what are you after exactly? Considering that you hold the vendor blameless and Bafang is no more negligent in assembling its wildly-popular hub motors than any other e-motor manufacturer.”

 

“Right now, I need my transportation. Either a complete replacement rear-wheel assembly  which could be difficult, since Mariners now come with a 9-pin power plug, whereas mine is a hard-to-find 6-pin. I would like to fix, waterproof and sell my Mariner and purchase the new model Voltbike with front suspension. Or a really good deal on a new replacement bike (without seat or battery). Which I will happily “test” and report improvements online.”


The startled facilitator shakes her head. “You’re saying you would purchase another Voltbike Mariner if the price was reduced for your troubles?”

 

“In a stent-assisted heartbeat.”

 

“But…”

 

And… I would like those good folks in Burnaby to disassemble that new motor, spray it inside with red lacquer-varnish, and drill out both motor-covers as I’ve specified before shipping that replacement unit or newly purchased fatbike to me. Of course, I will pay for this additional service. For Voltbike, these mods would be a great Beta test and marketing opportunity.”

 

“While voiding your warranty.”

 

“Since these simple, non-mechanical measures would be done by an accredited dealer, the original motor warranty should still stand. Though at this point, I would rather have the weatherproofing than the warranty.”

 

“And if these measures aren’t taken?”

 

Anywhere on Canada’s ‘wet coast’, recreational city folk and fair-weather riders ’should’ be fine for years of occassional riding. But for my kind of near-daily overland commuting  not. Interestingly, fatbikes are video-marketed splashing happily in the chuck!

 

“Who is ‘Chuck’?”


“Salt chuck. Seawater. Ocean beaches. I’d never risk my ebike’s components like that."


“And you would like to see this optional motor prep?”

 

“Smooth pavement and groomed park-trail riders may not opt for this special service. But Voltbike could offer it for more remote riders who depend on their bikes for their daily cross-country transportation. Even better, easier and cheaper would be to do this at either the Bafang or Voltbike factories.”

 

Once again, my Bafang colleague stands. 


“Yes. Mister REDACTED for Bafang.”

 

“We regret that Mr. Thomas has experienced these difficulties. And we appreciate that he remains loyal to our brand. We will do our best to get him back on the road. And, er, his island bike trails. But doing as he suggests in our factories would add to the price of each bike, dulling our competitive edge.”

 

“Even if…”

 

“Yes, Mr. Thomas.”

 

“Even if Bafang essentially owns the geared-hub market? And could offer the ultimate in hub motor reliability?”

 

“Thereby implying that our existing motors are somehow… deficient?”

 

“Thereby prompting all ebike makers and vendors offering serious, zero-emission, all-weather alternatives to four-wheel carbon-burners to eliminate a major issue that has dogged hub motors since their inception. And not just rust and internal failures. Get a Hall sensor damp inside the stator and that ebike is going to be doing the herky-jerky. If it runs at all.”

 

“Speaking from your experience,” Ms. Weatherstone interjects.

 

“Speaking from my stack of defunct hub motors. Also, if makers of controllers simply coated their circuit boards with clear nail polish – $2.95 a bottle at Amazon – dunking tests online show those boards driving small motors while fully submerged. Again, a cheap, simple fix that would eliminate probably 90% of controller returns.”

 

“Very helpful. Anything else?”

 

“Worn cassettes still need to be changed. Voltbike dealers must offer the proper cassette-removal socket under their optional ‘Parts And Tools’ listing. Bike shops won’t have one. Also, please flag Kenda tubes that are not in stock. And please, please update that video.”

 

“In other words, make this entire nightm… experience a win-win. With virtually bulletproof motors and controllers.


"And happier customers,” I point out. "I have two more people on this island interested in buying Mariners. What should I tell them? Don’t ride in the rain? Stay out of puddles?”

 

Ms. Weatherstone isn’t going to bite on this. Instead, she pauses dramatically. IP network cameras and iPads poised, everyone present cranes forward to catch her not-verdict.

 

“Right then. This hearing has determined that this Bafang geared-hub motor, made from uncoated metals, eventually failed after severe internal rusting ocurred due to water entering the rear hub through poorly designed power cable access, as well as moist air ‘inhaled’ into the hub as it cools after riding. Even though it’s fun to go splash – and this is an 8Fun motor – owners are encouraged to resist riding through waist-deep puddles, creeks, streams, raging rivers, flash floods, breaking surf, torrential downpours and tsunamis whenever possible." 


“Objection!”


“Objection!"


The facilitator sighs. “Yes, Mr. Thomas. I guessed you might have something to add. Let’s hear from the motor rep first.”


“The power cable issue has been rectified on our current models with a press-fit, watertight rubber boot.”


“So noted. But this does not help Mr. Thomas, who was not informed that ‘bathing’ his bike in BC's monsoons, the deep dark woods, or even at home with a garden hose could inject water into his unprotected motor. Mr. Thomas?"


“E-motorized or otherwise, mountainbikes get wet. It’s what they do. The Mariner’s supposed to handle wet conditions. Check out the name. Boat transportation is what its made for!" 

 

“Further,” Ms. Weatherstone rolls on, “we find that future failures from sudden ponds, abrupt sea-level rise and too much moisture in the air can be all but eliminated if simple, internal water-sealing is done by Bafang, the bicycle maker in China, or by its Canadian distributor as part of their pre-delivery prep. Buyers could opt to pay a nominal, increased price for this additional service.”

 

The Bafang rep shifts in his seat at the words, ‘nominal’ and ‘increased price’.

 

“If there is nothing further, I see we might still be in time for dinner,” Amanda J. Weatherstone concludes. "This hearing is adjourned."



Upside Down

Dead pony






WRITER’S NOTE:

This story was revised while undergoing water therapy aboard my solar-elecric outrigger sailing canoe. As far as I know, there is no Samantha J. Weatherstone. If she exists, I would like to meet her. I also “stood in” for Bafang. And thanks to Justin for his email comments folded into this revised article. Photos by William Thomas, except for the two otherwise noted.







Dry Teflon Lube

HOMEWARD BOUND

 发件人     William Thomas 2018