Pseudo-Review #7- Charger GX At 6,000km, Winter Is Coming

Psuedo-Subtitle: The good, the bad, and not much to report.

Here is a tag-link to all my e-bike posts.

Let us begin, dear worst-rider with the truth. The truth is, as of the writing of this worst-post, I’m surpassing 6500km in the next day or three. With that in mind, there is no need to answer any inquiries regarding the stature of my trusted Germania e-vehicle. It is and has been pretty much in the same shape since about 4000km. Or was that 2500km? Nomatter. This transport device has been holding up very well. Then again… it’s not quite two years old. Anywho.

The Good

Other than some standard tear & wear, i.e. brake pads, tyres (“tires” for my #Americant brethren) and a part removal–plus a recommendation for a few other part replacements (more on that below)–this e-bike extraordinaire has held-up better than all three of my x-wives. (Or is it 4?) And I assure you, fellow e-traveler, them x-wives were never as enjoyably ridden as this vehicle. Yes. Oh wait. (It was 3!) But on that note, I do… die-gress.

As you may or may not notice in the pics, I’ve finally gotten around to removing that silly rack from the front. Don’t get me wrong, dear worst-rider. It was a gallant effort on the part of those German engineer-types that put this and any Riese & Müller together. But in the end, unless you used it just like that dude in the video from the R&M website last year… You know, the long haired, bearded guy that peddled around a dessert with full panniers and a rolled up blanket or camping matt attached beautifully to the front rack? Yeah, that guy. Anywho. Unless you used the rack in the same manner, i.e. storing something on it that is soft and light, it was a useless rack. I did, of course, try to make it useful. I tried lugging around a case of wine once. You know, six bottles of Chianti along with a can of fava beans. Although the effort worked, i.e. I got the wine home unbroken, it was a terrible riding experience. I also tried lugging around a spare 500W battery strapped to the rack. Yeah… No. For you see, fellow worst-rider, the rack is truly meant, as indicated in the minimalist manual issued with the vehicle, to carry no more than 3kg. If I were to give R&M any advice, I’d tell them to stick with the 3kg weight allotment for the front rack but add that whatever is strapped to it, should be soft and cuddly. Anything above 3kg that is also hard & heavy means not only that your steering will be obnoxiously uncomfortable, but your bike balance, your tip-weight when using the kick-stand, etc., is waaaaaay off. In fact, while breaking my distance record last spring by riding 90+ km and carrying a spare battery strapped (with protection and cushioning) to the front rack, I decided then and there, the rack was a goner. By-the-buy, I have noticed that R&M has completely changed the front rack design of their new Chargers. The rack is attached to the frame of the bike and not the the steering/head tube. Well learned, grasshopper!

All in all, at this point, pushing two years old, replacing a car, I really can’t complain about this bike and there’s not much new to report. Even without the front rack, it’s still quite a useful carrier vehicle. As you can see in the pics, for the onslaught of Euro-winter, I even use the vehicle to carry ca. 15kg of firewood. Also, when it’s dirty and I clean it, it feels like new again. As long as I keep the chain and derailleur clean, I never have the feeling the drive train is even close to needing replacement (more on that in a sec). I do perhaps have one regret. When I replaced my rear tyre (tire) for the second time, I actually went ahead and ordered another tyre knowing that the rear only lasts about 2500km. I’ve since concluded that I want to replace the knobby tyres with something more urban, perhaps Schwalbe super-moto-x tyres. I’ll decided that soon enough. But if I do replace them, that means I bought an extra tire for naught. Oh well.

The Bad

When I had the 5000km inspection done a few months back, where I also had the rack removed, the shop told me that although not needed immediately, probably by the next inspection, it’ll be time to replace the chain and sprockets. At first I let the remark pass. Then I got to thinking. From the beginning I vaguely remember being told/sold the idear that this quality of chain and derailleur would last around 10000km. Why then is the dealer already talking of chain renewal?

Soon after the inspection, I gave my Charger a thorough cleaning, especially the chain. With a second and more thorough look, for the life of me, I don’t see why I can’t squeeze another 3000-4000km out of this chain set. Am I being naive? Of course, I might just invest in one of those chain measuring tools on account I have the feeling the bike shop might be taking advantage of me and my generosity for actually paying/affording all these inspections. Heck, the only reason I give the bike up for these dealer inspections is to protect the value of it on account I might want to trade it in after three years. Here in Germany proof of inspections can be an advantage. On the other hand, 100 ,-€ per inspection, plus whatever parts are needed, is adding considerable cost to this vehicle. Which raises another question: should I have taken the Rohloff transmission? The Rohloff is supposed to cost less than a chain/derailleur in the long run, is it not? But when I think/remember test driving a Rohloff I still vividly remember all those gears churning at the behest of every pedal movement. Yeah, churning gears are a big turn-off.

Not Much To Report

Yeah, I’m still diggin’ this e-bike. In fact, I haven’t touched my Giant TCX in almost all year. Then again, once I started to get into e-biking, I kinda knew that analog biking’s days were numbered. Which begs another worst-rider question: what to do, what to do, what to do… when the weather turns as it’s doing as I worst-write this? Winter is indeed coming. And if I learned one thing from last winter… The region of Germany I live in (NRW) has had great weather this summer and fall. I’ve been doing a lot of biking. But my temperature limit for biking is around 7° celsius. Anything below that makes me nervous for various reasons.

  1. Frozen fall foliage on the streets lets tyres slip away no matter how sharp your knobbies and then there’s German curbs and other road knots hiding underneath all that foliage and when you can’t see them and your front tyre gets caught while trying to ride around mothers and strollers… WHAM! You’re on arse toot-sweet.
  2. I learned last winter that gear shifting with thick gloves is a pain in the arse and urban riding requires constant gear shifting and when it’s cold and your worried about freezing your arse off you’re not thinking about gear shifting which means at every traffic light your in the wrong friggin gear… (How’s my bitchin & moanin solar?)
  3. Riding with thick clothes is a pain in the arse and even though I know, if managed correctly, you can ride an e-bike without breaking a sweat… but still, after too much wine the night before, the sweat comes out all the same and then those thick clothes turn out never to be thick enough and and and…
  4. Hours of cold riding has no comfort zone cause I’m such a wuss and when e-biking and sweating out too much drink from the night before… Oh wait. I’m being repetitive.
  5. And let’s not forget how a cold and hard that leather saddle from heaven is…
  6. But enough bitchin’ & moanin.

This bike is just too good to be true. (Knock on wood.)

Worst-ride on, baby.

Rant on, too.

-T

Sizing Up Your Read

sizing up books.png
This pic is a screenshot

While e-book shopping the other morning I couldn’t help but notice this image. Why in the world does Bezos & Co. think it necessary to provide a size-comparison of a friggin book as part of their tech-enormity galore? Then again, considering that this corpo-giant is what it is because, well, at this state (iteration) of capitalism run-amok, the day of the scavengers has arrived. So. I guess. Sizing up books seems as good a tech-idear as any.

Rant on.

-T

Pseudo Tech Test 1: RPi OMV NAS Is First Step To Freedom?

RPi OMV server
RPi-3B+ OMV NAS (sorry for worstwriter’s lack of photo skills).

Would you believe, dear worst-reader, that I spent the last few weeks reading up on SBC’s (single board computer) because…

  1. these little (miracle) devices are so silly-inexpensive AND extremely useful that I can just keep buying them in order to busy my early-retirement existence,
  2. I already have three of them in full use so why not change-up a bit w/ something different like a Rock64?
  3. I’m all poo-poo on Apple on account it’s going full stupid w/ its iOS Krapp.

But I digress.

As of a few weeks back I now have a rockin’ OpenMediaVault NAS running on a RPi 3B+. Connected to it are 2x2TB USB external HDDs that I’ve had lying around. One of the drives is currently being tested as a TimeMachine backup server for all my Macs–and it’s been working great so-far! FYI, even though I possess the capability of offering TM backups on my ageing MacPro with Apple’s MacOS Server App (and only that app), after various attempts using it, I’ve decided it’s a no-go. TM, Apple Macs, home network, etc., don’t really work well together–even though such a claim is sacrilegious as an Apple fan-boy. The reality is, I have never been able to set up my home network–most likely due to krappy networking of ISP issued home router–so that any of my Macs at any given time can access the network for a TM backup. For whatever reason (beyond my comprehension) there has always been network access issue prohibiting TM from working. Put another way: the MacOS Server App, combined with krappy ISP routers, sucks bat-balls!

The second drive of my OMV NAS has a copy of my digital music library, which is my entry-way to perhaps creating a media server for the future–that will replace my ageing MacPro. To play that music I’m using a RPi3 with a Hifiberry Amp2 connected to it (see pic below). My music player -of-choice is Volumio. FYI, I am currently experiencing the best audio/stereo listening of my life with this set-up. Obviously I’m old school when it comes to listening to music which also means so-called smart speakers are not on my consume-to-survive radar anytime soon! Yeah. Smart speakers suck bat-balls, too.

 

 

(Pics of my 3 RPi’s: w/ OMV (ext HDDs left); w/ Hifiberry DAC+Pro used as a Plex client for work-room TV; w/Hifiberry Amp2 and Volumio.)

I have a third RPi as a RasPlex client which is attached to my TV. FYI we don’t have any sort of TV connection to the outside world. I use the TV as a screen for work (presentations) and for streaming w/ Plex and sometimes AppleTV. I guess that means I’m a cord-cutter. Keep in mind, for the last ten or so years we’ve been an Apple household but recent Apple product announcements (especially from 2018), not to mention the rip-off of iTunes, have convinced me to stay the course in my choice of maintaining my own media library.

The pseudo-tech-test.

The question I’m currently asking is how capable is an SBC? Up to this point, using a RPi 3B+ for NAS, experimenting with old HDDs connected via USB 2.0, figuring out Openmediavault, etc., has proven to be viable. Although skeptical of the RPi’s limited ethernet bandwidth that is dependent on USB 2.0, at this point the system works without flaw. There were some glitches when I used an old duel HDD case set to JBOD. The RPi/OMV was unable to access the drives. Since then I’ve acquired two HDD cases with separate power sources. Such a setup is space consuming and requires lots of electric sockets; luckily I have both in abundance.

Indeed. Linux here I come!

I was on the verge of ordering a Rock64 SBC the other day thinking that the RPi’s network capability was too weak. The Rock64 has true gigabyte ethernet–whereas the RPi, dependent on USB 2.0, has only around a third of that. But then I came to my senses. According to my worst-research the Rock64 might be a bit too much for my NAS needs. Up to now I’ve just gotten over certain learning curves of both the RPi and OMV. And even though I’m not using RPi/OMV for streaming video, it has passed with flying colours both backup networking and audio networking.

In short, so far, I am able to backup three Macs, stream music to my Volumio client and also stream HD audio (96khz-24bit) to my Mac using VLC and then playing that music through a TEAC amp (very loudly) via USB–all at the same time. That means I had multiple devices streaming from the RPi-OMV NAS–with its limited Ethernet–and everything worked great.

OMV sys info.jpg

Conclusion (so-far): there is no need to run out and by a higher-end SBC. At least not yet! As soon as I can figure out how to do it, I’ll install Plex on OMV and then do the same test but with video. Needless to say, I am encouraged so far w/ everything SBC. My limited tech skills are able to fiddle-faddle with these Linux devices and even connect hardware (RPi + Hifiberry) here and there to make things not just work but work really, really well. The main task at hand is to find a viable ersatz for Apple. Why, you ask? Because, well, Apple is seriously starting to suck once again–just like it sucked before Steve Jobs returned. As long as I can easily and conveniently backup my Macs, have access to a file server, and have great audio from my digitised music collection, I can’t imagine having to stick with Apple and it preposterous über-expensive shinny unicorn stuff in the future.

Rant on.

-T