PROS & CONS OF ELECTRIC MOTOR PEDAL ASSIST


Those who have been following my writings from the git go  probably know that I got my start in this writing articles about tadpole trikes on Steve Greene’s Trike Asylum blog. One of my earliest articles (To Motorize Or Not To Motorize, That Is The Question which was posted on April 5, 2013) was on the subject of motorizing a tadpole trike and I made it pretty clear that I was against it. I made an exception for those who truly needed it Never the less I ruffled some feathers and caught some flak for writing the article. I have to admit that when I wrote it I didn’t know much about the subject of motorizing a trike. I don’t recall whether or not I was even aware of “pedal assist”. Anyway, since that time I have gotten myself a bit more educated about pedal assist. I also finally reached the point I felt I would benefit from having electric motor pedal assist. I have had one on my trike now for awhile so I have experience with using it and feel I am qualified to write about it. I am loving it. Anyway, I am reposting the early article I wrote so you can read it here in this posting. You will find it at the bottom of this article I am now writing. As you read thru it you should be able to pick up that I was thinking that this subject matter is about propulsion by a motor and not pedal assist.

Recently a fellow triker brought up the matter of a tadpole trike being a Human Powered Vehicle (HPV) … that is to say, they are suppose to be. Hey, that is exactly the position I used to hold so I know where he is coming from. We are all familiar with the terms “Pros & Cons” … stating those things in support or favor of and those things which are not if support or favor of. After having a motorized pedal assist trike and riding it quite a lot already I though it would be good to try to write an unbiased opinion and report on the pros and cons of having a pedal assist motor enhancement. Of course, now I speak only of “PEDAL ASSIST”. I like the description … “it’s like having a built in tail wind”. I am still against a motor propelling a trike where the rider is not required to pedal.

I will state the things that come to mind as pros as well as those things which come to mind as cons. I will say upfront that the list will be considerably lop sided as I have been giving thought to this matter and have to say that there is very little I can come up with to put on the cons list while there is a whole lot that comes to mind to place on the pros list. This certainly is not an exhaustive list. As I think of more I will add them to the lists.

THE PROS

1) It makes pedaling easier not requiring nearly as much pressure to be exerted on the pedals. This greatly helps in hill climbing and those with knee joint problems, pain and weakness.

2) The rider can go considerably faster even though they are exerting the same amount of pressure on the pedals and using the same amount of energy as they did previously. For instance, climbing a hill that used to slow me down to 2 to 4 mph I can now ride up at 14-16 mph if I want to.

3) If the rider tires out during a ride the motor assist helps them to get back to wherever they started from or need to get to.

4) If riding has become a chore rather than the fun it once was then pedal assist can make it fun again.

5) It enables a rider to ride at a faster pace so that being able to ride with faster riders is now possible. You still won’t be able to keep up with a lot of the roadies however as they really go. Funny thing is they are allowed on bike trails and some bike trails ban pedal assist bikes and trikes. It is not right.

6) It is a real blessing to have when you need to zip across a busy street when a break in traffic finally comes along. It can propel you across fast and out of any danger.

7) When you need to make good time to get some place faster than you normally could again the motor is such a blessing.

8) Having the ability to accelerate  quickly and go fast can be a big help in getting away from a dog or person you might be concerned about as far as your personal safety. Of course, most dogs can run faster than 20 mph.

9) Because you are still pedaling, but pedaling easier you actually get more exercise. You can pedal at a faster cadence which is a very good thing as many of pedal way too slowly anyway. And because it is easier to pedal you can ride longer.

10) Someone who has had problems with hernias and are concerned about overexerting them self and causing serious problems can greatly benefit from having pedal assist.

11) Having electric motor pedal assist does not mean that you have to use it. You can ride with it turned off just like it wasn’t there. And quite honestly most of the time I can’t tell the difference between riding my trike as it came from the factory and riding it now with the motor and battery installed but not turned on.

12) If you have long downhill grades you can set the controls to generate rather than use power and in doing this you  recharge the battery. You can also just ride along recharging the battery if you are strong enough to pedal with the resistance involved. Or if you are up to the task even on level ground you can pedal along recharging the battery if you are physically up to it. Please note that the charging rate in this mode is very little so it would take a lot of time and travel to put much of a charge back into the battery.

13) You can play with the minds of the road bike riders  by being able to ride their speed and maybe even pass them. Some of them however ride much faster than a motorized pedal assist can go (legally).

14) When riding off road the pedal assist is great to have. It makes such adventure so much easier and enjoyable and even safer as one doesn’t always have the strength to pedal in/over/thru some places.

15) It reduces the stress being placed on the drive system (pedals, crankset, chain & sprockets) as the motor is helping to turn the rear wheel.

16) If you are riding with others and you have to stop or slow down and they keep going having the pedal assist motor makes it much easier to catch back up with them.

17) It is great when riding into a headwind. Other than feeling the wind you can truly say “what wind?”.

THE CONS

1) The motor and battery add weight to the trike. It has added over 20 pounds to my trike and all on the back. That being said, much to my surprise and delight the only time I can tell there is additional weight is when I lift it. When I ride I can’t tell it at all.

2) Being able to go faster is fun, but it also adds a measure of danger and concern that didn’t exist riding slower. You may tend to go into curves faster than you should. If you are not used to handling a trike at higher speeds you could crash.

3) It is expensive to add a motor to a trike and the battery only lasts so long before it needs to be replaced at considerable cost. My conversion kit costs about $2500 and the replacement battery costs about $900 to $1000. There is always the chance that the manufacturer will either go out of business or simply not offer a replacement battery later on if they opt to make some changes in their product offerings.

4) Some trails don’t allow the use of any motors on  them. I personally don’t think that this should apply to pedal assist systems and I would hope that trails which say no to them will reconsider and change their position on this.

5) Motorizing a tadpole trike adds to the value making it more of a target for a thief.

6) Motorizing a trike makes it so much fun to ride that your spouse or boyfriend/girlfriend will want to ride it and cut you out of the picture. 😉

********************

TO MOTORIZE OR NOT TO MOTORIZE, THAT IS THE QUESTION

I am getting into something here which I will state upfront I am very opinionated about. I”M ‘AGIN’ IT! To my way of thinking motorizing any type of human powered vehicle is defeating the whole concept of the thing … exercise. I mean, come on … if you want a motorized open air vehicle buy a motorcycle for crying out loud. I rode them for over 50 years of my life until I finally decided I would give it up for strictly pedaling around. I was also riding a bicycle all those years so I still got some exercise … just not nearly as much as I do now.

I am sure that there are some folks who are not able to pedal to get around … perhaps can’t use their arms and hands to propel a vehicle either and so they may NEED something in the way of a motorized trike. But there are a whole lot of folks out there who are perfectly capable of pedaling who really don’t NEED to go this route.

That being said, I know it has become pretty popular. The man I sold my homemade tadpole trike to told me he planned on motorizing it. There is lots of information out there on the subject. And I am sure riding a motorized tadpole trike is a lot of fun even though it could lead to an added element of danger. And there may be some folks who just need help pedaling up hills as just maybe their bodies can’t deliver what it takes.

Obviously there are two main ways to go … electric motor or gas engine. Those who oppose gas engines because they “pollute” would no doubt only consider the electric motor route. But I AM STILL AGIN IT!

Here are some pictures of various setups:

KMX trike motorized

KMX trike motorized

gas engine motorized trike

gas engine motorized trike

solar charging motorized trike

solar charging motorized trike

ecospeed motor on boom

ecospeed motor on boom 2

And I say to ya’ll …

KEEP ON PEDALIN’

(We all need the exercise!)

By the way,  one needs to be aware that there are trails where it is against the rules to ride a motorized bike or trike. Our local trails here in the Fort Wayne, Indiana area do not allow them. Only motorized wheelchairs are permitted. When it comes to “pedal assist” it is not fair to ban them. They are as much as a human powered vehicle as the roadies out there zooming by at 25 plus mph while my top speed is only 20 mph with pedal assist. HERE is a good article on the subject.

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About Steve Newbauer

I have a few current blogs (tadpolerider1, navysight, and truthtoponder) so I am keeping busy. I hope you the reader will find these blogs interesting and enjoy your time here. Feel free to email me at stevenewbauer at outlook.com

Posted on May 16, 2017, in Disabled, electric motorized trikes, motorized trikes, options, rehabilitation, tadpole trikes and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink. 9 Comments.

  1. This is an excellent assessment that will be very helpful for anyone contemplating this modification to their trike. It is enlightening to draw a distinction between pedal assist and just a motor of some sort – I think I understand it now (but not fully, having had zero experience with either). The cost factor may be the most significant limiting factor for folks, as the unit costs nearly as much as a new Catrike itself. A new Catrike with one of these would set the rider back more than five grand. I like the recharging while riding ability, but if the battery eventually fails, as all rechargeables seem to do, then replacement with a new battery is also quite costly. It seems that if a rider has the money and need, this pedal assist is an outstanding option to consider. It would certainly make riding long distances an easier bite to chew! See ya’ …

    • Well, Steve Greene, you hit your head on the nail again. I sure hope it didn’t hurt much. 🙂 Yes, this is an expensive option and I figure I need to plan on it costing me about $300 or more a year for eventual inevitable battery replacement time. OUCH! I don’t expect the battery to last much more than 3 years as I am charging it daily. I have found that the claimed range of 65 miles is more less a farce as I ride in level 2 of 4 most of the time and use 3 & 4 frequently as well. I also use the hand throttle quite a lot so all that really uses the battery power. I am usually riding in the low 30 mile range and I pretty much use up a full charge each ride. One would have to really discipline them self and only ride in level one which is barely noticeable. That’s not for me. I bought the pedal assist to use it and not to baby it trying to get as many miles out of a charge as I possibly can. I drive a Toyota Prius and drive it what I consider normally. I get about 52-53 mpg. I have read that people have got about 100 mpg out of theirs. I sure wouldn’t want to be following behind them while they are on their economy drives. 🙂 Well, I gotta go take my battery off of the charger.

  2. armadillozack

    Your comment Hobo is with out thought to those who can benefit from a pedal assisted bike, trike, or quad.. And is fast becoming more, and more an affordable accessory for those who are in need of it…! I don’t know what kind of assist you where looking at but to have a price tag as high as a new catrike, I think that a bit excessive, and some very outdated advertisement as well… Batteries today are fast becoming the path to future rides of all kinds, and are longer lasting to say the least… I too like most felt that it was not an accessory I wanted to ad to my ride, but after reading pages, and pages of how these assist motors made going out for a ride for many who could not do so before, a break thru as big as the ball point pen…. Something that was said not going to last, and was only a passing fad too… I also remember when first introducing my self to you Hobo and had heard your view of the fat tire, and quad… It was not long after you became the proud owner of a Fat ICE… Do you recall that…? Ha ha…! I’m not trying to start a war over this, or any thing else… I am also looking to add a assist motor to my ride as their are times that I really get out there in the world and extend my normal range further then usual.. On the way back I some times wished I had gone with the majority, and added that assist so that I will be making it home with out undo stress because I wanted to extend the range of my ride… It doesn’t mean anything it’s just I needed a little helping hand is all….! I am not looking for a go cart as I once heard it called, I just want to enjoy my ride just a bit more, and if by adding a motor and battery to my ride is going to do just that for me, it shall happen weather now or later, it’s only a matter of time….!
    Steve I thank you as always for a great topic, and I understand your views, as my own seem to be likewise to yours…! I just have only one problem now I have to find a place for the thumb throttle, as all my space along my handles are taken over by other accessories at the moment… LoL…!

    • Zach, Steve Green (Trike Hobo) is correct … the cost of the Bionx conversion kit like I have is about the same price as what my Catrike sold for. They aren’t cheap.

  3. armadillozack

    OMG….! Well to that degree I surrender… I could not believe that Bionex was so expensive.. I had to go my self to see, and not because I don’t believe you, but because of the shock that you said they were… And there are so many better motor assists besides out there… As I had said, I was looking in to them as well for my quad….! So I apologize Hobo for that, I had assumed they were along the lines of other major brands like boch, and was equally affordable as they are… So I apologize for that…!
    Armadillo Zack

  4. armadillozack

    Luna Cycles had some great deals and if you look on Alibaba.com they had some really powerful ones for sale that you would think would cost a fortune and really it’s not so…

    • Yes, you can find cheaper setups, but one needs to be careful as far as the quality and company reputation and customer service they render. It is not always a case of comparing apples with apples. There is still the age old adage … “you usually get what you pay for”. Most of the cheap prices you are seeing aren’t “apples”. They are made in China and usually there are no dealers anywhere around to turn to for help and parts if it is needed. As far as bigger motors, yes, they are available, but here in the U.S. the legal limit is 750 watt and 20 mph so anything over 500 watts is pretty much a waste unless you are climbing nearly vertical. 😉

  5. As SteveN alludes, a pedal assist electric trike is no less a HPV than a conventional trike. Neither will go anywhere without human power. I recently rented a pedal assist electric bike on a vacation and over about 40 miles got at least as good a workout as I would have on a conventional bike, but did it at a significantly faster pace. Steve’s assessment looks right on to me. A pedal assist electric trike is just a trike with a built-in tailwind. It seems silly and wrong that they’re illegal on our local greenbelt. Here are more thoughts on this topic that I gathered as the controversy was brewing in Idaho: https://seasonalcommute.com/2017/03/15/ebikes-a-pedal-is-a-pedal/

  6. armadillozack

    I give up, I wanted to add a assistance package to my ride, but it looks as though I am getting no where… I thought I knew enough from all that have been giving me an education in the mysteries of the assisted motor world, but I see it is still not enough..! I thought I had it all figured out, and as soon as I spit out some of what I thought I knew, I am corrected and redirected… From now on I keep my big mouth shut, and gesture to those who know better then I…! For I know squat…!

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