Trek-OZO Electric Mountain Bike

Welcome to my latest mini-project – building an electric mountain bike… Why would I want to do that….?

  • I’m surrounded by loads of great off road trails, ideal mountain biking territory
  • Unfortunately there are a lot of steep and rocky climbs which are just hard work
  • I’m a “petrol head” so already have plenty of motorbikes for riding these trails, but I’m interested in exploring the potential of electric power

I do a reasonable amount of cycling on the road on my Sirrus X, but that is no use off road. I could just go out and buy an electric mountain bike, but they are very expensive for anything of decent quality (thousands of Euros) and are constrained by the EU regulations. The regulations restrict the motor power to 250W, are pedal-assist only and the motor cuts out at speeds over 19 km/h. These are all sensible safety measures and even a 250W motor is the equivalent of having a second person pedalling. And where is the fun in buying something ready made when you can build your own ?

I spent some time researching the possibilities and options and quickly concluded that I didn’t want to be restricted by the regulations so would be building an “illegal” bike – but reasoned that for mostly off road use this would be OK. There are many options regarding motor type and location, drive system, battery capacity and mounting that I won’t go into here. Having looked at the choices I decided to start by finding a second hand full suspension mountain bike with disc brakes and then buy the individual components for the electric conversion (motor, controller, battery). I hadn’t finally decided between a mid-drive (mounted on the bottom bracket) or a hub drive (mounted inside the rear wheel), but did want a large capacity battery which I planned to carry in a rucksack. Mounting a large battery on a full suspension bike is not easy and needs to be very secure to survive the off road abuse. My goal was to be able to cycle from my house into Cahors and back on the trails that I have used on the motorbikes…

Having come up with a plan I went to look at some bikes… As I was looking for something a bit specific and France is a big place this involved a few 3h round trips and I didn’t find what I was looking for – one of the issues being frame size. The bikes I looked at were apparently size L but were too small for me. Eventually I found a suitable machine – a Trek Remedy. This is a quality full suspension bike with disc brakes and an ideal base for the project. What made it even more perfect was that it came with an electric conversion kit from French supplier OZO. The kit was a year old and had previously been fitted to the bike but the owner had removed the kit to try to sell the two separately. The complete package met my requirements and made my job a lot easier (assuming I could get it all back together). As a bonus the electric kit was still under warranty…

Trek Remedy

This is the naked bike (the main picture at the top of the post shows the finished conversion). The bike seemed in well used but pretty good overall condition. There are a few things I need to sort out:

  • Pedals are awful and need to be changed
  • Brakes need swapping to get the front brake on the right (which means bleeding the system)
  • Dropper seat post doesn’t lock – it’s hydraulic so may need bleeding/servicing
  • Has a front derailleur with two cogs – this can probably be binned as with the electric assistance 1 cog should be enough. The current big cog (alloy) looks a bit worn.

Having given the bike a check over I did a bit of riding around on it and found it very hard work getting up the hills. I used to do a bit of mountain biking in the UK around the South Downs and brought my bike over to France with me when we moved but soon changed it to road tyres and eventually sold it – now I remember why. I have to admit to being a bit disappointed at this stage… Maybe the electric kit will make a big difference ?

Just need to fit this lot…

The kit has a 1000W hub motor, a hand throttle and a 1KWh battery. It all went together OK but cable routing to my satisfaction took a long time (and used lots of tie wraps). Did some test riding and hill climbing and the transformation was absolutely amazing. What a fantastic piece of kit – overcoming all of the disadvantages of the naked bike. I tend to pedal all the time and just use the motor as a top up to get up hills and in terms of range can already tell that used in this way the battery will last longer than me – 80Km or more should be achieveable.

Disadvantages ?
Well there’s no denying these things cost money – the OZO kit is 1750 Euros new ! There is a lot of added weight – maybe 25Kg +, the motor alone is 10Kg. The battery in the rucksack does start to feel heavy after a while and doesn’t get any lighter as it loses charge ! The heavy rear hub motor does compromise the bike’s downhill performance, overwhelming the rear suspension and then bouncing out of control. There is some resistance from the motor when pedalling but it seems reasonable to me – pedalling on the flat is hard work anyway due to the fat tyres and overall weight, but is manageable.

All looking pretty good, but after a few rides the hub motor started making a funny noise… I’ve contacted OZO and they think it is a hub bearing so it will have to go back to them for a replacement…


Box Trailer

As a close follower of this Blog you will be aware that I had decided to go down the route of a small car plus trailer for my summer shade sail deliveries. The car was covered in the previous post :
http://v2xs.com/ford-focus-2/

I was looking for a relatively lightweight (Max 500 Kg gross weight) box-type trailer. Trailers of this size don’t need to be separately registered in France, are covered by the towing vehicle insurance and can be driven on a normal car license. Shortly after beginning my search I found an ad on a local Facebook Group that appeared to be the ideal solution. I got in touch with the seller and, completely ignoring the sage advice of “Caveat Emptor”, I agreed to buy it without seeing it. The seller very kindly agreed to deliver the trailer 50Km to Alexander’s house in Limoges – this was during lockdown so I had no legal means of being able to view the trailer in advance. The price was right, the deal was done and the trailer duly delivered. It then sat in Alexander’s garden for nearly two months until I had the opportunity to collect it. Once I had got the trailer back home and started to inspect it, I quickly realised it wasn’t such a good deal after all…

The main problem was that the wooden floor of the trailer was completely rotten and needed replacing. The owner had covered the floor with lino so on initial inspection it looked OK, but having peeled back the lino the floor itself was very soggy and falling apart. Having started to strip out the floor the second issue quickly became apparent – the chassis frame was rusty and would need rubbing down and repainting. Fortunately the structure was solid and it was only surface rust, but it was another job I wasn’t expecting.

Rotten floor stripped out
Mushroom crop removed !


Other issues were that one of the tyres turned out to have a slow puncture and the other one wasn’t much better as the rubber was badly cracked. Finally the electrics were a mess and the lights didn’t work so would need fixing or replacing. Altogether quite a catalogue of jobs that meant the trailer definitely wasn’t a bargain. And I now had no choice but to fix it before I could use it and even if I just decided to resell it there was still a lot of work to do. Lesson learnt ? Maybe…

I visited a few of the local DIY shops to price up a replacement floor. The correct trailer-spec marine grade plywood was expensive and only available to special order so I started looking at alternatives. It’s not the right time of year for decking so the stores had some leftover stock that was cheap which set me thinking. I felt sure it would do the job and is treated timber but was concerned about the expansion due to temperature and humidity. The store also had some composite decking which was more expensive but a lot cheaper than the marine plywood so I bought some lengths of that. It was a few mm thicker than the original floor so had to be shaved at each end to get it to fit in the existing metal framework. In addition the composite decking is hollow and I didn’t want to leave the ends exposed as they looked rather odd and would be a hiding place for dirt and spiders. At the front end I welded in a new section of angle iron to block off the ends and at the rear fitted a strip of Aluminium checker plate which had the added advantage of protecting the loading lip. The end result was very tidy.

Painted chassis and interior..
Composite decking planks to make the new floor…
Looking good…
Edge finish…

I decided to rub down the interior wood work and treat it to a coat of paint to brighten the interior and generally make the trailer a bit more presentable – I had some old pots of paint left over (don’t we all ?) and managed to choose what I thought were complimentary shades…

Chassis repainted..

The chassis frame was treated to wire brushing / sand papering to get off the old flaky paint and loose rust before painting with silver Hammerite – left over from the Focus re-painting.

The electrics and lights were all stripped out and replaced with a brand new set.

I bought two new tyres and decided to fit them myself (how hard can it be ?). I fit all my motorbike tyres and had recently replaced the tyres on my motorbike trailer so was feeling reasonably confident. However, these were “full size” car tyres 145/70-13 and it proved almost impossible to break the bead in order to remove the old tyres. I eventually came up with a lever system which worked a treat – but only after a lot of struggling and swearing.

Bead breaking…


Apart from a general clean up and fitting new locks that was about it – one fully reconditioned trailer ready to go…

Ford Focus 2

If you’ve been following this blog you’ll remember that we recently worked on a Focus for Alexander which I have been using as a local runabout :
http://v2xs.com/ford-focus/

The intention is that he will take over this car as soon as Laurena passes her test but with lockdowns and other things getting in the way, this may be some time. However, having some four wheeled transport did make it easier for me to get around and try to find another car. I had a long debate with myself about the type of vehicle to go for and was very tempted by the idea of a van. The justification for this was that a van would make it easier to do the summer shade sail deliveries and provide better motorbike transport. But I had to admit that for the rest of the time I just don’t need the space – so the alternative was to go for a smaller car plus a trailer. In the end there were two factors that swayed the decision in favour of the small car :

  1. The times when I need the load capacity are actually quite limited – once per week during the summer for shade sails (I actually take some most days but the big factory delivery of customs arrives once per week) – and a few times a year for various motorbike events. In total maybe 20 times per year – not a huge amount of use…
  2. The clincher was (perhaps surprisingly) driving Alexander’s Focus and realising how much fun a small and responsive car can be in everyday driving. The roads around here are like English B roads and max speed rarely gets above 50 mph, but the Focus has such a nice feel to the chassis and responsiveness to the steering that I really quite like it. I was so surpirsed that I looked up some contemporary road tests and every one of them praised the ride and handling of the car. As a comparison, not long ago I had a Mini Cooper JCW with 250 bhp which was hugely fast but the steering feel and response of the controls was not as good as the Focus.

Decision made I started looking for a small, fun car… and then another Focus came along… The story with this one was remarkably similar to Alexander’s car – English couple came over to France with their Focus, switched it over to French registration, used it for a few years and then bought a French car, the Focus then relegated to a local runabout until expensive repairs and Controle Technique (French MOT) loom and make it uneconomic to keep it.

Alexander’s Focus is a 2003 Mark 1, the new one is a 2008 Mark 2 facelift (also known as a Mark 2.5). The car was 2.5 hours away in the Gers and from speaking to the owner on the ‘phone the main issue seemed to be that it needed a new catalyst. Having done that job on Alexander’s car I wasn’t too worried and went to see the car… This was just before our second lockdown and I agreed to buy the car but couldn’t come back to collect it until just before Christmas.

All jacked up on the lower terrace…
Under cover (just) but exposed to the elements (not great in January)

I couldn’t have picked a worse time of year to be (mostly) outside crawling around underneath a car… Once it was all jacked up I was able to look at the catalyst issue. What I hadn’t realised is that the Mark 2 Focus is actually a different car to the Mark 1 and although both have 1.8 litre petrol engines they are different platforms – the Mark 2 is quite a bit bigger and more refined but it still retains the same suspension design. The engine is different and mounted the other way round which meant that the catalyst was between the engine and bulkhead and harder to access. On the plus side the Mazda designed engine doesn’t have a cam belt so that was one job crossed off the list. A bit of research and I understood the previoius owner’s problem and willingness to sell the car cheap (and it was cheap) – the catalyst is part of a one piece assembly that comprises the exhaust manifold, catalyst and flexible coupling to connect to the rest of the exhaust. A replacement is about 800 Euros and garage fitting might well double that cost. I found a cheaper option and would (of course) be doing it myself but was concerned about being able to successfully remove the exhaust manifold – snapping off a stud in the cylinder head would be a massive job to fix. It did occur to me that the failure (you could hear the exhaust blowing) was probably in the flexible coupling and the manifold and catalyst may be OK. Very difficult to be sure but some grovelling under the car and limb contorsion seemed to confirm the flexible was broken. A bit more research and I managed to find a supplier offering the flexible as a repair section – no need to replace the manifold and cat – I placed my order…

In terms of cost (£70) this was a great solution, but required cutting the pipe between the flexible and the catalyst and that section of pipe is virtually impossible to access. Removing the manifold would make it much easier but carries more risks. I decided to try the cutting route with the fall back of taking the whole thing out. It took two days…

Looking down behind the engine…

The image above shows the problem. The pipe had to be cut after the catalyst and before the oxygen sensor – I have put a black tie-wrap around the pipe (which you can just make out) marking the cutting location. Impossible to access from above…

Squeezing my Dremel in…

Access from below was much improved once I had cut off the rest of the exhaust system (it also needed replacing) – but even so there was just enough room to squeeze in with a Dremel and gradually cut small sections of the pipe. I lost count of the number of cutting discs I got through…

Job done…

Now just need to wait for the bits and refit the complete exhaust system…
The next big job on the list was painting the underside of the car.. It seems that every car that spends a few winters in the UK becomes a rust farm underneath – mostly the chassis/suspension components but a few bits of bodywork too. To stop this getting any worse I rubbed down everything I could get to and then painted it with good old Finnigan’s Hammerite. It was a horrible, dirty, uncomfortable and thankless task – we did the same on Alexander’s Focus – well when I say we that was Alexander’s main contribution to the work..

For the new exhaust I ordered the centre and rear silencer, but only discovered when they arrived that the rear silencer does not include a short length of pipe from the exit of the silencer to the rear of the car – Doh ! To speed things up I ordered this missing pipe from a local supplier on a “click and collect” basis – went to collect and it wasn’t there – they had lost the package! At this stage I was under pressure to get the job finished as I was planning to drive down to Portugal, but then they started another lock down so the pressure was off. Ordered the pipe from my normal supplier and it arrived 3 days later – all correct.

Other items were more straighforward – a routine service, two new tyres, replace split intake hose and general clean and tidy up. Put the car in for the CT and it passed first time. There were a couple of advisories on tracking and rear brake balance which I’ll need to look at…

In terms of driving the car feels like exactly what it is – a larger and more refined version of Alexander’s car. It’s quieter, more comfortable but also a bit bigger/heavier and not quite so responsive. For running around the local lanes I think I prefer the feel of the older model, but not for any longer journeys.

Ford Focus

Having sold the Faithful Freelander I was reduced to using my bikes and the M3W for transport. This was actually quite good fun – not quite so good in the rain and luggage capacity rather limited though. I started looking for a replacement vehicle but realised I would have to ride there and back to look at it which rather limited the search radius. At around this time Alexander mentioned that he was on the look out for a new car too. He has recently moved from the centre of Limoges to a cottage in the countryside and ideally needs a second car for Laurena to be able to get to work without relying on him. There is the small issue of Laurena passing her driving test but he seemed quite hopeful that might happen soon…

It seemed to me that if I could find a low budget car for Alexander I would be able to use it for a while as a temporary runabout until I sorted a longer term solution. Completely unlike the UK, second hand car prices in France are ridiculously high – finding anything running with a valid Control Technique (CT – same as the UK MOT) would be at least 1,000 Euros – somewhat more than Alexander’s budget.

Before long I spotted a Ford Focus on one of our local Facebook Groups – this was a RHD car (which the French don’t want so are relatively cheap over here), but it was French registered. Registering a UK car in France used to be relatively straightforward but BREXIT has made it much more difficult. The car was cheap but had no CT and needed work. I went to look at it…

It was a 150Km round trip but fortunately the weather was kind and the ride was great fun. The car was in a bit of a sorry state – the interior smelled like a dustbin – the lady owner did explain it was mainly being used for trips to the dechetterie (tip) and for transporting what was evidently a very smelly dog. The owner had been to see a friendly local mechanic to see if it would pass a CT and had come away with a list of faults..

  • Driveshaft needs replacing
  • Water leak – possibly the thermostat
  • Two tyres needed
  • A few light bulbs not working

On the positive side the body looked in reasonable condition, the car started and ran OK and had recently had a new clutch. There was no evidence of the cam belt having been replaced which was a bit of a concern – the car was on 129k miles and was 17 years old – a cam belt change should be done every 100k miles or 10 years. What can possibly go wrong ? A bit of haggling and the deal was done…

Went to pick up the car a few days later and managed to drive it home without incident – apart from needing to put some oil in it (was below minimum) and the fact that it drank a litre of water on the journey. Let the fun strip down begin…

Over the next few days I stripped the car down and made a list of eveything that needed doing, ordered the parts (which cost more than I paid for the car) and generally had a great time. The pictures below tell most of the story…

Battery earth terminal is missing the clamp
Looks like someone has had a go at sealing the thermostat housing..
..with lots of sealer, and it was still leaking…
Timing belt not looking too bad so probably has been replaced…
Rear seat belt has been cut – that will be a CT fail…
Gearchange linkage missing a bush…
This is the knackered CV joint..
Made up a bush replacement…
Cloudy headlights – another potential CT fail…
Polished up quite well though…
Several of the body earth connections need work…
Lots of new bits…
Spot the difference…
Small oil leak from sump – bolt sheared off…
Spot the difference #2…
An original Ford oil filter – don’t see those very often. Hope it hasn’t been on there from new…
Wheels cleaned up nicely…
No wonder this fog lamp bulb wasn’t working – it’s full of water. How is that possible?
Before – lots of rusty bits to paint…
Alexander getting stuck in…
After – that looks a lot better…
All done, ready for the CT…

If at first…

Not too surprisingly it didn’t pass the CT… Fortunately it only failed on one thing, unfortunately this could have been quite expensive. The failure was on emissions – the Inspector thought it may be a pre-catalyst air leak but there was also the possibility that it might need a new catalyst…

Running the engine and examining the exhaust manifold didn’t reveal anything, so I borrowed Susan’s leaf blower and plumbed it in to the exhaust – in fact it was a perfect fit..

Exhaust blow job !

The next step was to cover the manifold and catalyst in soapy water and look for a leak…

Now just need to find a leak..
Eureka !

So I found the leak, but after several attempts at welding it up in- situ I gave up and decided to remove the catalyst to get better access. Unfortunately I then dicovered that the catalyst was fractured and in several pieces. I may have contributed to the damage during the removal process…

Part of the broken cat in reasonable condition..
This doesn’t look quite so good…

So it appears that although there was an air leak there was also a significant problem with the catalyst which looked like it had overheated and melted in places. So I ordered a new one…

New catalyst fitted…

Pleased to say that on the re-test the car passed and is now good for 2 years motoring….

Freelander Farewell

The Faithful Freelander has now departed to pastures new (not before time many would say). It had completed 310,000 miles which is half a million kilometres and done a superb job as a willing workhorse for my 10 years of ownership. This post summarises some of the history of the car…

2007 Land Rover Freelander 2 with 2.2 litre diesel engine and 6 speed manual gearbox.

We bought the car in March 2010 (from Hugh Fearnley Whittingstall’s Land Rover specialist mate in Dorset). It was a one owner company car with a full Land Rover service history.

Half leather trim, electric seats, cruise control, air con, terrain response system, hill descent control, alpine stereo with sub-woofer, Sony GPS/satnav, 4WD.

French registered upon import to France in 2010.

Land Rover rubber floor mats fitted so the carpets are in great condition. I have the original RHD headlights which will go with the car in case you ever want to register her in the UK – or flog them on ebay!

I have now owned her for over 10 years, with almost all servicing and maintenance carried out by me. My habit has been to buy an ex company car at 3 years old and sell it when 10 years old, but I seem to have stretched it to 13 years this time! Car is used every day and I seem to rack up about 15k miles per year.

The recommended service interval is 15k miles, but I change the oil and filter at 10k miles as a precaution. Oil used is the (very expensive) fully synthetic 5W-30, meeting the required Ford spec.

Timing belt, water pump and transmission/axle fluids changed at 150k miles (schedule is 150k miles or 10 years) – this was done by Land Rover Limoges.

I changed the timing belt, auxilairy drive belt and water pump at 300k miles at the start of the lockdown, so is next due at 450k miles.

All brake discs and pads changed at 150k. New brake pads fitted all round May 2018 – discs are fine.

Air filter and fuel filter changes done as per schedule – now fitted with a K&N filter which can be cleaned and re-oiled.

Rear hatch opening switch and handle replaced (a common problem).

Rear wheel bearing replaced.

Clutch replaced in May 2017 – old clutch was fine but the slave cylinder packed up and it’s inside the bell housing, so clutch changed at the same time.

New steering rack fitted in May 2017.

Tyres are top quality Pirellis and are in part worn condition with plenty of tread remaining all round – fronts are almost new.

To avoid any problems with the EGR valve, I have fitted an EGR blanking plate – no issues with the emissions for the CT.

Car has always been run with 2 stroke oil additive in the fuel as this lubricates the high pressure injection pump and helps mpg a bit.

She returns high 30s to the gallon which is amazing for a car of this size and weight. A gentle run to Blagnac and back, crusing at 110km/h will get 40 mpg !

She has a detachable tow bar but has only been used for towing a small motorbike trailer.

She has roof bars which were not a standard fitment.

Aircon works OK, but seems to need recharging every few years – probably will need doing for next summer -c 65 Euros.

Cruise control also works fine.

All electrics working OK, apart from the park distance sensors which have never worked – a weak point on this model. But the high seating position and being able to see all the corners makes this a non issue.

In my pre CT inspection of the car for the last CT I noticed one of the rear dampers was leaking – both of them now replaced.

Control technique…

Passed in March 2019.

Only advisory was some rust underneath, but this is only surface rust on the chassis/subframes and not the body which is perfect. The chassis components are massive and could have come off the Forth bridge so not an issue.

Issues

Some minor car park dings and scratches, as expected. The most noticeable is a dent in the left hand driver/passenger door from brushing against a tree in my drive – Doh !

Mileage 310,000 miles, but it’s a diesel and still going strong. Peak torque is at 2,000 rpm so it doesn’t need to be revved. Top gear is 25 mph/thousand revs so motorway cruising is only 3000 revs.

Rear axle has developed a slight whine – it started five years and 80k miles ago and hasn’t got much worse over time. There is a known problem with the rear axle nose bearing. No rush to fix it but it may need doing eventually – a recon diff is £200. Not a difficult job as it just unbolts after removing the propshaft connection and pulling out the drive shafts.

The manual gearbox works fine but is a bit “notchy” – racing gear changes not advised.

There was an issue with the crank sensor, but after trying two cheap and useless replacements from ebay it turned out to be dirty contacts. It’s now fine and I have a spare OEM sensor just in case.