Pseudo-Review #6: R&M Charger GX At 5000km And Humming Brakes From Hell

Surpassed 5000km the other day on my beloved e-bike. As of May this year, it’s also just over a year old. Although I’ve met some who ride their bikes a lot more than worst-moi, I’m kinda tickled that I’ve been able to ride all these kilometres. With that in mind, perhaps it’s time to complain (or is it “rant”) a bit about this great bike.

First: the frame (see pics above). As mentioned in Pseudo-Review #5, I was gallantly (sarcasm off) delivered a replacement frame under warranty due to a chip in the paint right in the middle of the top tube. A few weeks after ridng around with the new frame though, I noticed that the shop re-installed one of the handle bar cables in the wrong position. A few weeks of riding caused the cable to thoroughly abrase the head tube.  Well, don’t you know! The whole frame replacement ordeal for the cracked paint (which took almost eight months) was all for naught. Although I got rid of the obnoxious chip, I now have an obnoxious scratch. Wow. Competance hard to find, eh?

Next: strange noises or humming brakes from hell. Although I tell people that I would buy this bike again and the main reason for that is the sheer quality it exemplifies, after a year of riding, it’s starting to show wear. This is most notible in noise. The seat, for example. Although I love this seat, it sqeeks and crackles something awful. The worst noise this bike makes, though, is a low humming sound coming from the rear disk brake.

I had to the take the bike to a shop this spring because, after changing the rear tyre last fall, something went awry when I re-installed the tyre. For the life of me, I could not get the rear tyre properly aligned when re-installing it. I’m assuming this has something to do with the complex axil mount R&M uses on this frame design.

Note: The Charger frame is special in that, unlike most bikes, the chain does not go through the frame–or the chain stay. This is in part why the axil mount for the rear wheel is so complex. As you can see in the pic above, the axil of the wheel is mounted to an adapter. The adapter is mounted to the frame. I’m assuming R&M chose this design to allow for choice in final drive solutions, especially belt drive systems which, unlike chains, require some form of frame separation to install. It’s a pretty ingenious design–if you can deal with the f’n humming brake noise that is, I’m guessing, caused by this complexity. But I digress.

After the shop checked the rear wheel they told me that the problem wasn’t the alignment of the wheel but instead I had jarred the drums of the brake pads in the wrong direction when I removed the wheel. This caused one side of the brake drums to protrude further out than the other. Of course, this made no sense to me because I understand hydraulic brakes, brake pads, brake drums, calipers, etc. When I removed the rear wheel, I was careful not to squeeze the brake lever–or mess with the caliper. In fact, I didn’t go anywhere near the brake lever till I had re-installed the wheel. The bike mechanic said that they simply had to push the drums all the way back into the calipers. Ok. Fine. They charged me twenty Euros and sent me on my way. But! Did they fix the problem? No. The brake is still rubbing and humming–because I’ve given up on the whole thing. This also means I have to unnecessarily and prematurely replace brake pads.

My worst-guess is that this is a two-fold problem and has to do with R&M frame design. There is simply not enough room for error or adjustment on the frame where the brake caliper is mounted. The complexity of the rear wheel mounts, derailleur, gears, hydraulic brake, etc., is also, IMHO, missing something. Unlike the front wheel, which has a through-axil, and requires no vertical or horizontal movement, the rear wheel, when removed, drops vertically. In this complex mounting situation there also needs to be some way to move the wheel horizontally if the brake caliper can no longer be adjusted. Needless to say, R&M have made something complex that should probably be a bit simpler. But on that note, I digress again.

All in all, this is a fantastic bike and at this point I wouldn’t trade it for anything but a Stromer ST2 at half-price. (And even with such an offer I’d have to think twice.) I’m hoping that in time I’ll figure out some of the complexities of it on my own. Till then, humming and squeaking be damned.

-Rant (and ride) on

-T

Published by

Tom

Just another expat blogger.

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