That Moment You’re Out Of Battery. Oh. Great! I’ve Got Another One. Battery, That Is.

challenging tour with ebike.jpg

A pretty gruelling ride yesterday. It started with a train ride that took me and my electrified The Panzer to the badlands at the end of Wuppertal. (Btw, if you’ve never been to Wuppertal, you have to go. It’s worth it to go there and just take a ride on the Schwebebahn.) From there I planned to ride back the whole way to the Rhein and then D’dorf. I got started late after meeting with some folk and drinking a few. Since the sun is beyond it’s summer solstice, and it got away from me quicker than I expected, most of the ride was in the dark. And we’re not worst-riding (writing) about the dark on some paved roads. I was in the friggin woods most of the time. Thank goodness I’ve got some  pretty decent lighting on The Panzer. Btw, the panzer is a Riese&Müller Charger GX Touring (what a mouthful, eh). Now. The distance I travelled wasn’t the farthest I’ve been. It was only about sixty and half kilometres. The challenge last night was something else. Most of the first half of the ride required some pretty serious uphill trekking, including having to get off the bike and push it, albeit with electric motor assist. Seriously. There were these tree roots covering one pathway and I thought I’d have to put that damn bike on my back to get it up (and that’s what she said, eh). The darkness that quickly overcame me didn’t help matters. Anyhow. See elevation and speed profile of pic above. Moving my well endowed, well-over 200lbs a$$ up a hill–see 10km mark in pic above–pretty much wiped an entire bar from my battery. I even had to use the walk-assist of the motor to get up some of the hills. Keep in mind, five bars indicate a full juiced battery. By the time I hit 25km two bars were gone. On flat-land, I can average 15-20km (on tour-assist mode) per bar. And so. In the middle of some serious darkness on a lonely road in the middle of nowhere, and only one bar of battery left, I finally changed batteries at 45km. I was pretty tired at that point, too. I rode around 35-40km through dense woods and trails, up and down lots of steep hills–and it was f’n fun! But this middle-aged fellow was pooped at 30km. Would I do it again? Damn straight. But I’d prefer to do it when there’s… let there be light.

Rant and ride on.

-T

PS The speed profile is a bit whacky. I think the reason it has such a large blank space in it is because, while going down one hill, I exceeded normal bike speeds by whole bunch. Indeed. I clocked well over 60km/h on one down hill short trek. (Oh, it was light out, in Ronsdorf, when I did that.) Yea, baby.

Pseudo-Review #3: R&M Charger GX Touring – 2000KM (And Counting)

IMG_2954
Just off the beach; Fjord in background; cool sandy tires, eh.

Previous pseudo-reviews here (1) and here (2).

Ok. Ok. As I write this I think I have exactly 1958KM on my Charger GX Touring. I’m sure I’ll pass the 2k mark within the next few days as a number of commutes to Köln are in the works. We also just got back from a week-long vacation on the Baltic Sea, at Germany’s most northern point. The original plan was to go by train with our bikes (my better-half as the Charger Mixte Nuvinci) but we couldn’t secure tickets for the train car where the bikes are stored. Next time we’ll have to reserve the tickets probably three to four months in advance. Since there is no way to take the bikes with our car, we went ahead and rented a midsize utility van. The cost of the van is the same as the train. Luckily the eight hour drive through German holiday/vacation season wasn’t all that bad. Someone we spoke to up north said that most Germans this year flew to the Med for their vacations anyway. Good for us.

Btw, if you’ve never been, and you have the capacity to do so, and you’re interested in nature, fresh air, beautiful brackish waters and rolling hills not unlike Tuscany, check out the Baltic Sea coastline of Germany or Denmark. Even though I’ve been living in Europe for a quarter century (sounds so much better than writing 25 years), this was the first time I was at the Ostsee (East Sea, as the Germans call it). I was not disappointed. It is stunningly beautiful up there–but you’ll also have to be tolerant of the rain and coinciding über wetness. When hanging out in the forests in the north, there is an uncanny feeling of the past that lingers around your every move. And not just a recent past. I kept thinking of vikings while there. Maybe even neanderthals. Cool!

The plan for this little getaway was to do all our local commuting with the bikes, including a days trip to Denmark via ferry. In fact, we didn’t use the utility van once. The ferry ride, for instance, took us across the Flensburg fjord. Once in Denmark we rode the 60KM trek back to Germany around the fjord. What a ride it was, too. More on that in a bit.

IMG_2795
Her Mixte with road-going Big Bens performed great, even in some pretty hairy and wet conditions.

Back to the Charger.

Would you believe, dear worst-rider, unlike other bikes I’ve owned, the Charger GX Touring still feels brand new. The Giant TCX cross racer I purchased last summer, which has around 3000KM on it, but of course only weighs 10kilos, and I don’t ride it nearly as much anymore since purchasing the Charger, feels ten years older in comparison. Riese & Mueller have made the right choices regarding parts for these robust e-bikes, including great tires, brakes, screws, bolts, etc.

Btw, I Purchased my Charger GX in mid-February and it was (finally!) delivered at the beginning of May, 2017. I suppose, for some, two-thousand kilometres in less than four months might not be a lot. But as I’ve said in previous pseudo-reviews, we actually replaced one of our two cars with this e-bike. Since I live in an urban environment, I can easily do all my shopping, chores, errands, etc., with it. In fact, I rarely ever ride it anywhere without the Ortlieb panniers. I’m never concerned about how much the bike weighs, either. My wife calls it my SUV. Although I’m not using the front rack much, when I do use it, I’m glad it’s there. Even though the rack is only rated at 3KG, I’ve carried much more than that with ease and comfort. This is, without doubt, an extremely useful and fun vehicle.

Range

I no longer look at the Bosch CX system range estimator to determine how far I can ride on a battery. Instead, I consider the amount of time I’ll be on the bike. The thing is, I’ve yet, even after rides of 80+KM, actually drained the entire 500W battery down to only one bar (out of five). If I’m off on a daily tour I consider whether or not I’m gonna be gone the whole-day or half-day and then determine whether or not to bring a charger–or, better yet, just carry my wife’s battery as a spare. I’m really surprised at how well the Bosch motor and battery work on this bike. It is very impressive!

On a recent trip to northern Germany that included a 50+-KM ride from Denmark back to Germany after a fjord crossing by ferry, I put the battery to its hardest test yet. I did a lot of trail riding, some mountain bike riding and a few long uphill road passages. Remember, fjords were cut out of cliffs during the ice ages. Lots of passages have to be ascended. Anyhow. At about 20KM left for the ride, just before re-entering Germany from Denmark, I hit a number of pretty steep hills. I actually put my bike on “eco” mode while my wife left her Mixte on “Tour” and, when necessary, “Sport”. I really thought I’d end up giving her my battery before we made it back to our bungalow. But that wasn’t the case. In the end, she made it home with only one bar (out of five) but i still came home with two bars. Wow.

IMG_2724
We road km after km through beach front property. Cool!

Saddle

There are not many negatives about this bike, except for the hard rear-end and the accompanying even harder Brooks saddle. So let me just say this: riding this bike is waaaaaay hard–especially if you’re off-road or you have to ride on pathways that are full of obnoxious tree root knots (which are abundant here in Düsseldorf and Köln). But get this. I love riding this bike hour after hour. The saddle and Thudbuster combination is perfect. It’s the best friggin seat I’ve ever experienced on a bike. Even though I’m up to the hardest rubber mount on the Thudbuster–and I’m still a little lost on how that thing actually works–I wouldn’t change anything on this setup. My wife’s Charger Mixte has a spring seat-post and a traditional rubber/plastic saddle. I don’t like her saddle at all (but she also hates mine). The Mixte saddle moves too much, literally shifting me backwards as the spring in the seat-post does its job. The Brooks saddle and Thudbuster, on the other hand, although not as flexible, is as comfortable as comfort can get–on a friggin e-bike! I only wish that there was more feeling from the Thudbuster.

charger gx touring brooks saddle 2

My Brooks saddle is starting to show wear. I considered it broke-in after about 1200-1500KM. My only concern about it now is that I over did it with leather treatment. I’ve erased the raw look it had when it was new. But I’m good with that. I’m curious if the leather will start to crack and, maybe, flex more now that it’s broke-in. I’m not sure I want one of them old Brooks seats that looks like it’s been through a century of riding. Even if this saddle fails because of my inexperience in caring for it, I’m buying another one toot-sweet. Learn by doing, eh. Oh. Before I forget. I’ve tightened the leather tensioning bolt on it once (one full turn) and tightened the strings on the bottom that, I guess, are supposed to prevent it from developing wings that could push on my inner thighs.

Have I mentioned how much I love this saddle?

The thing that makes the Brooks B17 the best saddle in the universe (for worst-moi) is the fact that its thick, hard, stretched leather is the perfect place for a human to place not only his/her ass but those damn seat-bones and the infamous perineum. The leather both supports and cushions and allows you to actually sit on your seat-bones. Even after three or four hours of riding I do not get the same amount of numbness as I do with conventional seats. Heck, this saddle is even better than the fancy (Selle) race bike seat with those centre cut-outs that I have on my cross-racer.

IMG_2976

Maintenance

There’s really nothing to report regarding up-keep of this bike. I’ve actually allowed myself to get a bit lazy lately when it comes to cleaning it. But I still regularly clean and oil the chain and derailleur. The chain gets a thorough cleaning every fourth or fifth ride and less thorough cleaning every other ride. Even if that’s overkill, I’m good with it. Other than adjusting distance of brake levers, there’s been nothing to do with the brakes. The rear disc brake does rub a bit, which prevents the rear wheel from turning freely when I’ve got the bike off the ground. I’m gonna have that looked at during the next service appointment. It looks like there’s no more room to the move the brake calliper to free up the disc.

Chain

As far as my choice of the “Touring” model of the Charger GX, i.e. the one with the chain and derailleur, I wouldn’t have my final drive any other way. Although I get a kick out of my wife’s Nunvinci hub, it just can’t compete with the efficiency and precision of this chain setup. I ran across a fellow Charger GX owner recently who has the Rohloff hub. Watching him struggle through gear shifting reassured me that a conventional chain with an excellent derailleur is the only way to go–even if you have to get your hands a bit greasy to maintain it.

rear tire 2000km
2000KM rear tire

Tires

As you can see in the pic, my rear wheel is beyond its heyday. I would say that my road to off-road riding is about 70-30. I noticed during recent mountain biking that grip isn’t as good in the rear as it once was, but it was also quite wet at times. I suppose this type of wear is to be expected for knobby tires that are mostly used on the road, which actually speaks for them. The question then becomes: what do I replace the tires with? Do I stay with knobby tires? These knobby tires do not feel like off-road tires–even on paved roads. Or do I go with more street oriented Big Ben plus tires? A bit more thought required.

Nuff for now.

Rant and ride on.

-T

 

Got hit by van the other day. Can you believe it? The know-it-alls say that that line of distortion in the X-ray could (could!) be a tibial plateau fracture. Yea. The van hit my left knee.

Cool!

Update: It’s not a fracture. Whoopi. And get this, I get to get my first MRI so they can see whether my meniscus is damaged.

Seriously?

An MRI?

Hold on there a sec, chippy!

Between you and me, dear worst-reader, this whole health insurance coverage thingy that I’ve got over here (in Germania) that pays for all this great care is really, really over-kill. Knowing that the bone isn’t broke is enough to know that the swelling is caused by some slight meniscus damage. Ice packs, keeping leg still/braced for a couple of weeks will be the ultimate outcome with or without a corporate sponsoring MRI. But what do I know?

Rant & ride on.

-T

PS I’m too old for this $hit.

Hit By A Van Almost Down By The River And It Was Obviously My Fault. #Hooray!

hit by a van
It’s true. Behind the tall building in the background is the Rhine River.

What an exciting afternoon in good ole Germania. Have I volunteered, dear worst-reader, what I actually think about my expat host country? Well, there’s no time like the present to NOT volunteer such things. With that in mind, I was hit by a van today while riding my new über e-bike through the city. As you can see in the pic above, I was on the reddish bidirectional bike path and the van was blocking it while trying to rush into traffic. After using my bike’s bell and giving off a whistle, the female (in the pink/purple sweatshirt who was in the passenger seat) looked me right in the eye as I approached the van. Then I noticed, to my own detriment, that the driver of the van, the guy on the far right with the striped short-sleeve shirt, didn’t even bother to look both ways before entering traffic. Without very little consideration on my part–or being a bit brain dead as only I can be while riding a bike–I proceeded to continue on my route thinking (blindly hoping?) that the eye-contact I had with the passenger-chick was enough, so I proceeded to circumvent the van from his front. Obviously (obviously?) that was my error. And allow me to reiterate: The driver never looked to his right–even though he was blocking a bidirectional bike path. And so. Just as I was in front of the van the driver proceeded onto the roadway hitting me on my left knee and knocking me off my über e-bike. Fortunately I caught the fall with my right leg and didn’t body slam the road. I then limped off to the side as a young man–the thin guy with the shoulder bag and the blue jacket–came from around the corner and picked up my bike (not pictured but you can read about it here). The young man then proceeded to start asking me questions as I was dealing with the pain that the van had shoved into my left leg.

left leg hit by van
Those other scars below the current skin abrasion from today’s van are from another brain-dead bike fall last year after which I always ride with a helmet now!

“Are you a doctor,” I asked the young man.

“No. I’m a medical student,” he answered.

“Should I call the police,” I asked the young man.

“Not really sure. Don’t know if they can do anything,” the young man said.

“Aren’t you supposed to always call the police in a situation like this,” I asked.

“Not if it’s not serious,” the young man said.

“Was this situation my fault,” I asked.

By that time everyone had come together, see top pic. As soon as I uttered the word “fault” everyone, EVERYONE, Germans one n’all, answered:

JA!

eagle in van that hit me
American steel doesn’t want me dead. Yet.

And so, dear worst-reader, heed this as you bitch & moan about #Trumpism and the world of greed you have created: there are only two things that mean ANYTHING today–especially in good ole Germania. One, of course, is money. The other is The Automobile and all that that entails. And so. While traversing through Germania make sure you watch every possible way and direction from where a car/van can hit you. Because even if you are hit, it WILL be your fault. On the other hand, if you do get hit, I hope you too will be hit by a car from your home country that has an American Bald Eagle in its grill. Yeah, baby.

Rant & Ride safe.

-T

PS I’m fine. Just a bit of knee pain but I’ve got it wrapped as I worst-write this.

PSS The down by the river thing:

“You kids are probably saying to yourself, “Now, I’m gonna go out, and I’m gonna get the world by the tail and wrap it around and put it in my pocket!” Well, I’m here to tell you that you’re probably gonna find out, as you go out there, that you’re not gonna amount to jack squat!” You’re gonna end up eating a steady diet of government cheese and living in a van down by the river!” -Matt Foley SNL

Pseudo Review #2: 1000KM On The Charger GX Touring Or How To Spend Stupid Money Smartly (I Hope)

R-M Charger GX Touring Rhein 2

Part 1 of this pseudo-review is here. Part three is here.

Update: day after worst-writing this I was on my über e-bike and got hit by a van. But it was my fault, I guess.

Summary:

  • Heavy bike that feels light due to motor and balance.
  • Although GX tires are loud on the road, they are also smooth and agile and don’t feel like off-road tires at all, even in turns.
  • Brakes are nothing less than fantastic.
  • The motor makes carrying full Orlieb side bags, easily pushing 25kg limit, and six bottles of wine strapped to the front rack, feel as though I was riding through the park, down a hill and the wind was in my back.
  • The dealer where I bought this e-bike is definitely below par (even though one of the guys that works there is great at explaining stuff).
  • The kickstand is very durable and stabile–even when loading full side bags to the rear rack.
  • Not sure about the wide and oddly shaped handlebars; still evaluating.
  • Replacing dealer issued cheap pedals with real pedals (to burn more money) a must!
  • I can’t actually say that there’s a whole lot of “measuring” going on–as claimed by Bosch & Co.–between pedal cadence, speed and pressure. The motor just seems to push when I push–even from a stand still, which is kind of strange and requires some getting used to. The bike will literally lunge ahead of you from a stand still and I’m getting used to making sure that I don’t start the bike from a stoplight where the pedal is in the up position.
  • Even though one can adjust the power settings at will, I’m finding it imperative to have the bike in the right gear when starting from a stop.

Disclaimer: Probably as I worst-write this worst-post I’m just now surpassing the 1000km mark on my new e-bike. With that in mind, are you asking how it is that I can ride an e-bike and chew gum at the same time, i.e. worst-write a/this blog post about it? Wow. What a great question. To that I can only answer…

The Bike.

R&M Charger was the right choice–for us. The other bike/brand we considered, i.e. Stromer, is as good a build as R&M with the difference being utility and, perhaps, the cool factor (the Stromer wins that one). The Charger offers the most robust, durable, useful, confidence I’ve ever had on a bike. With that in mind, I better stop inversely-lamenting before I cum all over this post.

charger gx touring on bike rack
Maintenance is mainly keeping the chain and derailleur clean.

Two Chargers.

Did I mention that we bought two Chargers? We did so, btw, as a result of selling our second car last year. These two bikes, for the most part, replace that car. My wife has the Charger Mixte Nuvinci. Since she (still) works for the man, she’s the one that continues the sinners life and uses a car most of the time to get to work. Of course, she’s not an all-weather biker. When it’s not raining or too cold and her busy management schedule allows it, in the morning she’ll ride her Mixte to our local (regional) train station, about 5km away, and from there she’ll board the train with the bike and ride (about 25km) to a train stop near her office. From there she’ll ride the remaining 10km to work. After work she rides the whole way home–about 45km.

Charger Mixte Nuvinci for the wife
Other than handle-bars, stem and seat, I love the Mixte, too!

Purpose.

  • The perfect grocery-getter and general errand runner.
  • Trek on or off-road to city centre of Düsseldorf (20km) or Köln (45km).
  • Great for picnics, country side or even travel to nearby cities and villages. The huuuuuge difference here to conventional biking is the fact that we can double or even triple (more?) the distance travelled.
  • Combined Euro-trains, I’m hoping that these things will be an even robuster car replacement than we originally thought.

Range

  • Longest ride so far: ca 75km.
  • Still had 2 out of 5 bars of battery life when I got home.
  • Battery charge time between 2-4 hours.
charger gx touring locked
How I lock my bike when I’m in town, shopping or collecting bribery fees.

One key, two roles.

The Charger GX comes with an Abus folding lock and it’s own carrying case that is attached to the bike’s rear rack. The key to the lock is the same key that secures the battery–which, I guess, is a good thing. I have no need to remove the battery, though. I suppose, if I lived where the bike would be in a cellar or basement that has no electric socket, let’s say, in an apartment house, then I would have to take the battery with me to charge it, thereby requiring me to unlock it from the frame. As of yet, I have no use for the dual role of the Abus key.

The Abus lock.

It’s taken a bit to get used to the folding lock but I think I’m getting the hang of it. I’m still worried how it bangs on the thin spokes of the wheels as I usually insert it through the rear wheel and the frame. Although the lock is too short for securing the bike to a pole or fence using it, I’ve added a steel cable that I also feed through the front wheel. At the least I’ve got both quick lock wheels secured. I would never use this method to lock the bike somewhere in the city overnight but I do feel secure about it while I’m in the city during the day. Btw, I store the cable along with various tools that I always ride with in one of the rear bags.

 

That rack (in the front).

I was skeptical about the front rack after I picked up the bike. I even contemplated removing it after the first few rides. But I’ve since come to my senses. Rated, according to the owner’s manual, at only 3kg, I’m sure I’ve carried at least 6 to 10KG on it so far. I’ve already used the front rack to deliver cake (while visiting friends which was stored in a heavy plastic container and wrapped in one of them big, blue Ikea shopping bags and then attached with bungee cords). I’ve also used it to carry home a month supply of toilet paper and kitchen paper towels. The front rack can easily hold six bottles of Rioja Reserve that I picked up a local wine dealer. The other day I also used the front rack to deliver a Rhine River alligator to a friend who payed me righteously to catch it for him. Please don’t ask me for pictures of the alligator because, if you don’t already know, it’s not quite kosher to ride a bike with a live alligator attached to it via bungee cords–let alone catching the damn thing. ;-)

charger gx touring rear rack scratch from bags
Waterproof Ortlieb bags doing a number on my new rear rack.

Bags.

I use ten year old Ortlieb side bags with the rear rack. So far these bags are scratching the hell out of the paint. The rear rack is rated at 25KG and that’s probably more than I’ll ever need. I usually only fully load the bags when I go grocery shopping. When I’m running around to get fresh groceries, which I do three to four times a week, I certainly don’t need to carry that much weight. But like I said previously, one bag always has my tools, tire repair kit, etc. I do plan on eventually getting that fancy Ortlieb office bag. That way I’ll feel safer carrying my laptop to work or to meetings. The rubber bungee cord that comes with the rear rack I’ve not gotten much use out of but I’m sure I will eventually. One other good thing about the rear rack is that I use it to manoeuvre the bike in my basement. It’s the best handle to pick up and move the bike.

 

91.4KG on a bike seat?

Btw, It’s not a seat. It’s a saddle. I was skeptical about this Brooks “saddle”. On my sporty cross road racer I have one of them fancy, comparatively cushy bike seats with the ergonomic (and prostate saving) split down the middle. (For two hours of leg work that split really does work!) The first few days on this old British designed horse saddle did leave a bit of blood in my undies. Once that cleared up, this is the best f’n bike seat (saddle!) I’ve ever experienced. Obviously there is no cushion and even the thudbuster doesn’t help when it comes to those knots in the road you can’t get around while riding. But there’s something about how my/a a$$ just fits in/on this thing–and it’s only just now starting to break in. I’ve been using mink oil on the underside of it to treat it hence the discolouration in the middle. (Remember, less is more!) I’ve also changed the rubber on the thudbuster from middle to soft and plan on trying hard soon. So far soft is too soft and middle was too hard. Does that mean hard will be…? Nomatter. Even after four or five hours on this saddle, I’d still take it over any other seat I’ve ever had. Where other seats hurt you in the inbetween, this one does NOT. It just hurts your whole a$$. I know that might sound weird but to me it’s kind of a relief. Will I put a saddle like this on my cross racer? Probably not. But I did read that Brooks has a sportier and lighter offering for race bikes. So far this B17 is worth the hype!

charger gx touring brake and shift mount cluster
Great parts don’t always work well together.

False ergonomics?

The right brake leaver (rear brake) and the gear shift mechanism do not fit on the handlebars. I’ve moved them here and there over the past few weeks and can’t find the right position for either. They are both in each others way. I can’t adjust the brake leaver height to where I want it because moving it means it will collide with the shift mechanism. That also means I can’t get the shift knobs in the right place in order to utilise a triple downshift with one push. Bummer!

charger gx touring rear gears

Love the chain.

The gears and the derailleur are top notch on this bike. There are moments where the sound from shifting is pretty scary, though. The derailleur has a switch on it that stiffens it. This is supposed to stop the chain from moving too much while on rough terrain. When the switch is “on” and you shift it sounds like a hammer hitting an anvil. I’ve not found much use for the switch so far. Who knows, maybe future mountain biking will change that. The only downside to a chain and derailleur (compared to the fancy Rohloff or my wife’s fancy-pants Nuvinci) is the mess of keeping it clean. My maintenance routine is to simply wipe it clean after every other ride with lots of WD-40. (Aghast!) I only use oil on my bikes chains when they are not in use for more than a few days–i.e. when I have to leave town. For those who don’t know, extended use of WD-40 alone will lead to rust on a bike chain. As far as lubrication goes, WD-40 is more than sufficient and as good as oil–on a per ride basis. If you ride off-road or in dry, dusty conditions, whether oiled or full of WD-40, you have to clean the chain regularly anyway.

charger gx touring water collection under battery
See that little water collecting crevice just below battery charging port?

Even though I prefer a battery that is better integrated in the frame (Stromer!), I’ve become accustomed to R&M’s minimal but functional design choice(s). With the battery kind of hanging there, I wondered if it would remain tightly mounted. I’ve heard stories of people not properly snapping-in their battery. A few of these bikes have been returned because customers didn’t snap the battery in properly and it was damaged rolling down a road. But that’s not the least of my worries. It rains a lot in Germany, don’t you know. See that little crevice under the battery and next to the frame? Guess what else is right there? That’s where the charger cable connects to the bike. Water collects in that little crevice. Yeah. Water plus a 500w battery and a charging port… No issues there. Or? Nomatter. After every rain-ride I’ve gotten used to checking for water before plugging in the charger cable.

 

Knobby tires galore.

It’s too be expected that after a 1000km the rear tire shows more wear than the front. And to be honest, I’m not sure the rear is gonna make it to 2000km. The question is, with the amount of off-road riding I do, can I replace these tires with those fancy Schwalbe Big Bens or do I stick with knobby tires? I’m thinking I’ll go with one more rear knobby and after that move to the more street oriented Big Bens. We’ll see.

 

Chain guard?

Two things about a chain, oil and keeping things running like a well tuned killing machine. The chain is scary close to both the frame–where the Bosch motor is attached–and the tire. Even though their is a rinky-dink guard around the front sprocket, as you can see from my pants leg, it doesn’t do much good. This is the price I’m willing to pay, though, I guess. Did I mention that I love this chain and derailleur setup? It’s so much more valuable to me than having spent almost a thousand Euro more for an over-engineered, over-kill Rohloff.

charger gx touring service indicator

Ok. Ok. I get it. The dealer has to make some money, too. Right? But what do we do when the dealer is… useless? I hit the first service interval within a week of owning this bike. When I asked the dealer when they would service it they just laughed. “It’s spring time and everyone’s buying bikes,” they said. “We’re too busy for your silly service,” they added (or the like). And so. I don’t get a service appointment until the end of June. Did I mention that I’m already at 1000km? Come on. Give me a break. Bike ownership shouldn’t be like Apple Computer ownership. As in… come on dealer, can’t I just give you my money?

Rant & ride on.

-T

 

Pseudo Review: R&M Charger GX Touring Or How I Gave Up A Car For An E-Bike

R-M Charger GX Rouring with 10 yr old bags.jpg

Part 2 of this pseudo-review is here. Part three is here.

Picked up my R&M Charger GX Touring the other day. For those not in the know, R&M stands for Riese & Müller. Or it could also stand for: two well endowed German engineers that couldn’t get jobs in austerity ridden #eurowasteland so they decided to adhere to their passive/green post WW2 upbringing and start making really, really cool electric bikes while at the same time flipping the bird to BMW, VW, Audi, Mercedes, etc.

This is a restricted 25km/h version of the bike. It’s also available in a 45km/h version but then you have to get permission from some cocksucking bureaucrat to ride it and when you do ride it you can only ride it on roads with cars and not bike paths or in pedestrian areas and you also can’t use bike parking spots, you have to park it where the cars park.

Needless to say it was an exhilarating first ride on this communist-like regulated bike. In just a few days I’ve managed to put well over 200km on it–which says more about the bike than it does my semi-early-retired nature. And before anyone starts calling me bourgeois for paying such a high price for friggin bicycle, heed this. The bike has been purchased as a commuter vehicle, it’s a tool. Also. I’ve literally replaced a car with it. Not sure about you, but I’m about done with gas-guzzling automobiles where politicians are incapable of planning, adjusting, working–on better transportation infrastructure. With that in mind, German Autobahns, especially the congested area I live in, are in a perpetual state of contruction as though they are being built for the first time. Go figure. Yeah. Politicians! And so. With this new tool, a tour to the coast of Holland this summer is already in the works where it might take me two days to get there but it’ll be funner than blowing bubbles through #Trumps comb-over.

R-M Charger GX Touring cockpit.png
Left: phone mount. Centre: info display. Right: GoPro mount.

Before I get into any details of the bike, allow me a few worst-words about the dealer and purchase experience. I really wish this or any of this caliber bike could be purchased w/out a dealer. The only thing I got from the dealer (i.e. old school business model) was the opportunity to test ride a variety of these bikes. Other than that, dealers are a waste of time and, most important, money. Goodness knows what R&M has to sacrifice to dealers for their ill service and whatever it is it ain’t worth it. Add to that I wasn’t informed about the outrageous delivery time of these bikes… In the end, it took two months to get it.

Moi: How long do I have to wait before delivery?

Dealer: Two months.

Moi: You mean two weeks, right?

Dealer: No. You’ll wait two months and you’ll like it!

Moi: Wow.

By-the-by, when I tried to contact R&M about my order they just blew me off saying that I need to talk to the dealer. How f’n rude! Wouldn’t it be great if R&M could at least provide some “tracking” info? Oh wait. We live in a day & age of just-in-time assembly lines (R&M does not manufacturing any bike parts) that most likely utilise every means of modern communication yet the company is not able to provide it’s customer with order info? What am I saying? Knowing how #eurowasteland works, especially at this  bourgeois price-level, I shouldn’t be surprised at the wait time–or the corporate rudeness. And that’s not all.

R-M Charger GX Touring Rhein 1.png

The Bad.

After pick up and initial ride on the bike, something wasn’t right. The handlebars or the stem was out-of-whack. Not only that, but the small front rack, which is part of the GX series, wasn’t properly attached. Luckily the rack is easy to adjust. There is also something wrong with the cork grips. One of the grips is lower than the other. As of the writing of this post, I’ve not got around to figuring how to adjust them yet. Call me lazy (since I do ride an e-bike). All of this has got me thinking that maybe there is something wrong with the handlebars. I’m gonna put off dealing with this for a while because when I look at the bars from the front, they look straight. There aren’t any useful measuring lines on the handlebars to check if something is out of whack. These are the widest bars I’ve ever had on bike–so maybe there is some adjusting I need to do… on me.

Some sadness.

R-M Charger GX Touring - paint damage.jpg

The first thing the dealer did was point out the paint damage. There is a 2-3mm chip in the paint of the top-tube. I have since heard from the dealer that R&M will be sending a new frame for replacement–but it will take till at least winter before I can get it. Something about the spring and summer riding season and frame inventory, I guess. It’s a good thing that imperfect paint doesn’t effect how this thing rides. Indeed.

By-the-by, this is the second bike I’ve purchased in the last year. The first one was a cross road racer which I use for leg and cardio training. Would you believe that the manufacture had to replace that frame too? The thing started to crack where the top-tube meets the seat-tube. Is there a coincidence or conspiracy theory here regarding where/how bike frames are made? I mean, aren’t they all made in the same sweatshop factory in… China? Nomatter.

Oh, and one last bad thing about this bike. At this price they should put something more than cheap pedals on it! It’s like delivering a Ferrari with snow tires. The pedals suck. I immediately replaced them with some fancy Shimano XT pedals. Yeah, money is for burning, eh.

The Good.

This is by far the best bike I’ve ever ridden. It’s incredibly balanced and smooth, it oozes confidence. At a stand still this bike is The Panzer. Under power it is a well-tuned machine with topnotch components that work perfect together. The Bosch motor is so smooth that at times you don’t even now it’s there. It has enough torque to let me ride up steep inclines while remaining seated or cruise along at top speed easily blasting through heavy headwinds. Other than a slight humming and the occassional power surge, you can easily forget that it is an electric vehicle.

The brakes are nothing less than incredible and even provide motorcycle-like feedback. Although I’m not a fan of suspension on bicycles, this one may change my mind. (I’ve always preferred to spend money on a good frame instead wasting money on a mediocre forks.) These front air forks eat up terrain that is sometimes unbearable on my cross road racer or my trekking/cruiser bike. I’m not tickled with the Thudbuster seat post yet but I think I have to give that some more time and maybe change the rubber mounts to figure out how it works. But like I said before, maybe there are somethings on me that need to be changed for this bike.

R-M Charger GX Touring Rhein 2.png

As far as purchase decision goes and price, I based my decision on the following criteria:

  • Battery
  • Utility
  • Components

The Price.

This is not just a toy. (Or is it?) And don’t bother asking about what I paid for it. (Way too much!) If you’re interested, R&M prices are online. Also. Keep in mind. My wife and I–after a move from Germany to India and then–quicker then we expected–a return to Germany–and in that crazy process we ended up selling our second car–I was most adamant about not getting another (2nd) car. Anywho. I managed to get a farily decent discount on the R&M Charger. Perhaps I’ll post something about how that happened later. Anywho. I’ll mainly be using this bike as a replacement for a car. Obviously it can’t replace a car completely. But if it’s about shopping, going into town for meetings, commuting, etc., it should be fine. And let’s not forget the Köln and Düsseldorf trek where I’m constantly testing the stability and viability of ancient pillars and citadels and old money, and finding out which tastes better: Kölsch or Altbier. Although I’m not a regular working stiff anymore, I still need to show up for an office meeting or presentation here and there–you know, to entertain the troops. And would you believe, I even have rain-wear to keep my suit and shoes out of the acid-rain.

charger groceries

Competition.

Of the bikes I looked at, I narrowed my choice to three–each, under other circumstances, I would still buy. There was the Haibike (either with Yamaha or Bosch motor) and the luscious Stromer St1. All these bikes start at around the same price range with the R&M topping them by a few hundred Euros.

As far as I’m concerned even the Stomer St1, their low-end offering, is the sexiest e-bike on the market. For 2017 the St1 can be purchased with a 600+watt battery, replacing or complimenting its standard 500+watt battery. The battery increase should provide significant range. The only problem is, for whatever stupid corporate greed reason, Stromer decided to put a 250watt hub motor on their new low-end bike. Now I doubt that the production cost difference between a 500watt hub motor and 250 watt hub motor is significant enough to warrant a totally different product offering than last year’s model. Which brings me to the following question for Stromer. Do you really have to be like Apple Computer–forcing arbitrary pricing and thereby taking advantage of customers?

And since I’m on the subject of Stromer, there’s the whole hub v. middle motor thing. Personally, I like the Stromer hub motor. To me hub motors feel more natural. But that’s neither here nor there at this point. In Germany it seems like all e-bike’s are going with middle motors. Of course there is the issue that Stromer has the best integrated battery system there is. Then there’s Stromer’s new integrated touch-screen monitor thingy on higher-end models, the St1X and for-rich-only buyers, the St2. To which I say: stupid! Sure, including a cellular phone (“connected”) on the bike is cool. But then again, I guess only rich buyers would actually put the bike in a situation where it could be stolen–the only reason for putting a cell phone in it? (Sarcasm off.) The price increase for the same frame as the low-end ST1 but with a stupid monitor on the top-tube that you can’t see or use while riding… Wow. Sounds like Stromer and Apple Computer have something in common. Can you say MacBook Pro w/ Touchbar, dear worst-reader?

Then there’s the Haibike. In the end, after lots of testing, feeling and licking, the Haibike’s mass produced feel wasn’t worth the price. (When my spendable income drops, it will be, though. Sarcasm off again.)

Hopefully paying the highest price for the Charger GX will be worth it in the end. We’ll see.

Rant and ride on.

-t

PS Part 2 of this pseudo-review is here.