Pseudo-Review #8 – 7000km Charger GX And New Drive Train Hell

Here’s a tag-link to my other e-bike posts.

Note on the pics: I was able to directly compare original Bosch sprocket (black) with a different brand (dark grey). I don’t know why it surprises me that the minimal differences in the two has such a drastic outcome on performance (or lack thereof). It basically boils down to a Shimano chain being… I don’t know… a bitch.

Ok. I’m probably over doing it here with new drive train hell. Or am I? Let’s go through it together, shall we, dear fellow worst-rider?

Last fall I was informed after a scheduled tune-up that it was time for a new chain and rear cassette on my mega über-German e-bike. When I naively inquired as to why the drive train wouldn’t last at least 10,000km, I was told/sold this: chains wear out, it all depends on riding parameters and you’re lucky, with the weight it had to carry, it lasted this long. Giggle. Smirk. Pause. Oddly, the shop also told me a new sprocket in the front wasn’t necessary. I didn’t think much about it at the time as I planned to make the change after winter anywho. And so… It’s kinda after winter now, don’t you know. So I made an appointment a few weeks back and, surprisingly–as the shop is usually swamped this time of year with riders getting their wares ready for spring–I didn’t have to wait long. I brought my e-bike in yesterday morning with an appointment to have it finished within a few hours so I could be home by early afternoon to continue worstwritng.

So I dropped off my e-beast and then walked into the city for a nice sushi lunch. After that I went to an Apple Store for some WIFI and uploaded a silly worst-writer-post. I then bought a cappuccino with three espresso shots made with new-fangled oat-milk (P.S. great stuff that new fangled oat-milk). After that I tried to find a new ascot cap at a local department store. Unfortunately, I didn’t have much luck with the cap. Also. The sushi was kinda spoiled with a well intentioned gesture by the owner. The sushi bar owner–a former Japanese Mountaineer that made his way to Düsseldorf in the 1960s–brought me a serving of Mackerel sushi, aka Saba Zushi. It was a gesture on his part, I guess, because I showed grave disappointment in the fact that he had no sea urchin. Although I prefer Mackerel smoked (especially the German way, not as sushi), sometimes I’ve had luck with how it’s cured when topping sweet rice (sushi). Not the case today. Until dinner, I had that funky Mackerel taste humidifying through my system. Oh well. Nothing a glass of Syrah can’t deal with, eh. Prosit!

After killing a few hours, I returned to the shop and noticed that the mechanic hadn’t removed my bike from its maintenance rack. Usually they’ve got it ready and waiting for me to pick up. I was then directed to join the mechanic at his work station to receive a briefing. That’s right, dear worst-rider. A briefing.

First. As I’ve indicated in other pseudo-reviews, the one big thing that’s always bothered me about my Charger GX is how the rear wheel never spun freely. Whenever I spun the wheel it always came to a sudden stop because it was rubbing on something. No mechanic had yet been able to find what the problem was, i.e. brake caliper mount, brake pad springs, corroded brake caliper pistons, wheel mount, bent brake disc, etc.). Today, fellow worst-rider, there’s been a major brake-thru in this… my e-bike spinning wheel dilemma.

It seems, for the past two years, while taking care of my bike, cleaning the chain, checking the rear, etc., I’ve been doing it all wrong. What I’ve been doing is leaning the bike onto the bike’s rear mounted kickstand and then spinning the rear wheel as needed. During the briefing the mechanic told me to do the same thing but this time to lift the rear end of the bike up off the ground.

Booom, baby!

It seems that the weight and pressure put on the kickstand mount with my method of bike maintenance also puts undue pressure on the entire mount of the rear wheel. Although the pressure is ever-so slight, it’s enough to shift the wheel and make the brake disc rub the brake pads. Go f’n figure, eh. This worst-riding greenhorn still gots lots to learn, baby!

The briefing over, the mechanic told me to test the new chain. I hopped on and peddled. And then…

Kack. Cluck. Creek. Ruddle-riddle, riddle-ruddle, clack, clack, clack.

I hopped off the bike and looked to the mechanic. His head flinched back with surprise as he was able to only get one good, long drag from his Marlboro red while I did the testing.

Das ist nicht gut,”he said. “Versuch anderen Gang.”

I mounted my aluminium two wheeled German engineered über-steed a second time and tried to peddle and thereby shift through a few gears. This time the clack turned to a debilitating crushing and grinding sound.

Heilige scheisse,” my mechanic said.

Only having smoked half his Marlboro, he rolled my bike back into the shop and put it up on the rack. Long story almost short… the new chain no longer fit to the old front sprocket. The mechanic immediately hustled to put on a new front sprocket, questioning the whole time if he even had the right part available. He and other guys in the shop were also a little embarrassed at the situation as I questioned why they didn’t just order it when I made the appointment and then replace it from the get-go.

Come on fellows, I got $hit to do today.

The elderly statesmen from the shop came over to console me by saying that sometimes they just try to reduce costs for their customers. I thought to myself: seriously? These friggin bikes costs way too much to be squealing around on things like a 20,- Euro sprocket. Or?

Nö problem-o,” the elderly statesmen said. “Nur nochmal zwanzig Euro für die Teile,” he added.

He told me I only had to pay for the sprocket and not for the extra labour that was in progress. Yeah, right.

JUST FIX IT!

Of course, I wasn’t at all interested in the cost. I’ve saved so much money by getting a car out of my life, that a few Euros here or there for something like a sprocket… Anywho. I wanted my bike back for another 7000km and I was a bit perturbed with what was turning out to be a wasted afternoon where worstwriter billing money was going down the drain.

But. There was one other problem. They couldn’t find the right Bosch front sprocket. For the heck of it–and too look busy, I guess–they threw on a different brand sprocket. And don’t you know, it didn’t work. (See pics.) The thing that really surprised me here is that Bosch (the whole bike industry) seems to think it’s OK to treat bike parts like Apple treats iPhone parts. Indeed. The whole friggin business world is about monopoly, proprietary krapp and, let’s not forget, obsoletism. But before I get too far off worst-subject ranting about what I think of this fcuked up world…

They eventually found a Bosch sprocket. But get this. When making the appointment for this stuff, I had initially requested a larger front sprocket. Not much. I wanted to go from 17 to 18 teeth. When I made the appointment, the shop statesmen told me that it wasn’t possible to change the front sprocket because of the onboard computer and then even added a short lecture on German regulations regarding 25kmh plus how thankful I should be because of the states effort in creating all the great bike lanes we get to enjoy. Blah. Blah. Blah. I’ve since also learned that Bosch is pretty hard-a$$ on dealers and shops that don’t adhere to their stringent drive-train setups. So I don’t hold anything against shop owners for following rules. On the other hand, I think it’s pretty silly how the e-bike powers-that-be don’t want people fiddling with these things on account, well, I’m sure there’s a $hit load of fun to be had by boosting them up to 60kmh. Or? But I have never been interested in that. I just thought a slightly larger front sprocket would allow me to utilise more gears while riding a MTB on flat, paved surfaces most of the time. But before I die-gress (digress)…

The only other disappointment with today’s 230,- Euro e-bike maintenance debacle is that the shop didn’t even bother to degrease and clean the parts prior to reassembly. Nor did they say/do anything about the derailleur. Am I being too much of a stickler here?

Just take my money, bitch!

I hope I’m not being too hard on my local bike shop. But perhaps it’s worth noting, even though there have been some advancement in the biking world, especially with e-bikes, something is awry when it comes to service–especially for something at this price. On the other hand, the special deal I made with the purchase of this bike, which allowed me to acquire it at a substantial discount, also requires that I have it regularly maintained by a Bosch approved shop. That worst-said, I’m committed to another year with it. After that–if I decided to keep it–it’s time to fiddle with it a bit more on my own. Or do I just finally go nuts and get a Stromer? Stay tuned for that, baby.

In the meantime think/imagine this: ageing expat with a slight weight/drinking problem, über-cruising around some old German town on two wheels at 60kmh with a cloud of electric smoke coming out of his…

But I do die-gress (digress).

The ride home with new drive train definitely felt different. Although I could clearly feel its newness, the entirety of the afternoon convinced me to blow it off till I could get a glass of wine in me. Still. The new chain and sprockets needs to be broke-in and it’ll probably take a couple hundred kilometres for that to happen. Onward ho, eh.

The only other thing worth pointing out is, after two years and 7000km, this bike has held up pretty well. I’ve yet to have any issues with things like steering stem, spokes, brake levers and/or the brake hydraulic system. I was also expecting by now to have to replace the brake discs, but they’re fine, too. Or are they? Obviously the quality of parts that help push the price of this bike upward forevermore seems to be worthwhile. Except, of course, for the drive train. After this debacle I’m remembering vividly that original conversation upon purchase about whether or not to afford the extra cost of a Rohloff, which would alleviate having to deal with chains and sprockets and mis-managed shop priorities. Oh well.

Rant and ride-safe on, baby.

-T

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