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

Mini Clubman Über Fun And Electric Bike Cheat Galore Or How I Learned To Love A Car Hitch

Subtitle: This Is Not A Review Of A 2017 Mini Clubman.

Sometimes when I’m riding around on my e-bike I hear these voices. At first I didn’t make much of the voices. But then they grew, they increased, and although they never got louder, they became part of life. After having lived among #Eurowastelanders for so long, especially z’Germans, I’m not unaccustomed to these voices, don’t you know. But I am, every once-a-once, surprised by what these voices say. For example. Most recently these voices made rude comments about the bike I’m riding. “Oh, he’s on an e-bike,” someone smirked. Or. “Look. That doesn’t count. It’s an e-bike.” And then there’s my favourite. “Guido, if you buy me an e-bike I’ll fcuk your brains out,” said the Wessie-schlampe to her half Italian pseudo boyfriend as I roared past them at 25km/h. But let’s not weird out too much worst-writing about living in tax them by the pu$$y Europe.

Although in my first e-bike post I made the claim that we gave up our second car so that we could become a single car household, and now we have two cars (again), I did not lie. Even though we’re once again a two-car household–on account my better half did something useful with her recent work slash compensation bonus–this situation is only temporary. After next September we will once again be a single car household. That’s when we are giving up the scam that is German corporate cars via greed mongering leasing companies. In the meantime, I’ve been given the challenge by my better-half to get used to our new vehicle and, more importantly, get it ready to do what it is we need it to do. I’m referring, of course, to our continuing to be not only a single car household but also to rely on our e-bikes for all of our local transportation needs and even some of our longer distance needs. That is, I use my e-bike for almost all my household chores. Whether I’m grocery shopping, picking up packages, or meeting with people in the city, my transportation of choice is my e-bike. Unless, of course, I have to lug around a few cases of beer, water or large amounts dog food for Beckett, our little killer pug. But that’s neither here nor there. Since I just surpassed my first year of e-bike ownership, I can’t say that I’m disappointed in this source of transport. Now that we’ve added a really, really cool Mini Cooper Clubman to the mix–with a friggin hitch–things have only gotten cooler.

Long worst-writing story short, we bought a Mini that has a factory installed hitch. The hitch, btw, is as cool as the Mini. The hitch fits neatly under the boot floor along with the spare tyre. When needed the hitch clicks neatly underneath the rear bumper and is conveniently locked in place. I bought a bike hitch-rack (Westfalia) via an Amazon warehouse deal; most certainly saved 150,-€ there. Secured to the hitch, the bike rack hangs off the back of the Mini as though it was meant to hang nowhere else. In other words, we’ve tested this bike hitch with more than 2000km so far and all I can say is… f’n cool! Although I can see through the rear view mirror of the Mini how the bikes sometimes wobble and shake while on the autobahn, I’m over all my fears that the whole shebang would just drop off while on our way to Croatia (which we’re gonna do next September).

As you can see in the pics (above), not only are the bikes fully integrated as part of the Mini when on the hitch & rack, but there is also the convenience of being able to access the split doors of the Mini, albeit only one at a time. That is, I’ve since learned that in order to access the boot of the Mini in this configuration, one needs to be prepared. First, make sure you pack stuff in the rear that only needs access if you can’g get to what you need through one of the two rear side doors. Remember that this is a six door vehicle. The issue recently came up when I forgot that I had put my wallet in a bike bag in the rear. At a gas station I had to then drop the bikes (see pic above) to get it. Obviously it was no problem. This wouldn’t be so easy, though, if the Mini was fully packed when traveling longer distances. And so. Heed this. Only one of the rear Mini barn doors is accessible with this hitch & rack, so you should pack the car accordingly.

Another cool aspect of this Mini + e-bike rack layout is that when it’s activated the electronic connector of the rack (for the rear lights, blinkers, etc.) responds accordingly. The rear doors no longer respond to remote activation. The rear parking guide also shuts off and the driver is given a fancy signal inside the car saying, basically, when backing up… you’re on your own. Btw, remote activation of rear doors is kinda waaaaaay Mini-cool. That might sound like a bit of blowhard BS by someone that doesn’t own a friggin Mini, but let me tell you: I’ve already been out and about with this vehicle where I had to park it in tight spaces. If you activate those rear doors with the remote and they swing open, anything in their way will be slammed and, worst, the doors will be damaged. So hats off to BMW/Mini folks for getting the rear doors right when the hitch is activated. Now I have to get it right when there’s no hitch.

As far as driving 2000+km with this bike/rack system on a friggin Mini Cooper? At first I was nervous. How can that little hitch hold all this–especially when driving 100+km/h on the German (drive with your brakes) autobahn? The answer: no problem. The hitch is rated at being able to carry much more than two e-bikes. Of course, I remove all excess weight from the bikes before putting them on. The battery is removed. The computers of the bikes are removed. The Abus lock on my R&M Charger GX is also removed. If on longer drives, especially where rain is expected, I also remove the seats and cover any open orifices with God’s tape. I mean, duck-tape. All in all, when emptied, each bike is around 20 kilos. The (Westfalia) rack is rated at being able to carry 60 kilos. Yeah. This is a pretty cool way to carry bikes around–even if they’re e-bikes (that might not deserve to be carried around; but that’s another worst-post).

Rant (and ride safe) on.

-T

Pseudo-Review #5: R&M Charger GX 4000km

bike review 4000km_4
Trees falling like crazy ’round here. Storms, über-wet ground, and, perhaps, top heavy Germans.

Pseudo-Reviews begin here.

It’s been a long cold wet winter, dear worst-rider. No. Seriously. The weather has been so dismal the past few months here in the Germania tribe of #eurowasteland that I’ve barely ridden the R&M. Although I’ve been living in the old country for well over twenty-five years now, this past winter season has been extreme when it comes to all things wet and cold. That in and of itself is worth worst-writing about (or am I already doing that on this worst-blog?) Nomatter. Speaking of weather…

I was in The Homeland recently… Can you believe you can call it that now? But perhaps they shouldn’t stop there. Perhaps they should/could call it Orwell’s Homeland. But I digress.

I was in The Homeland last October for a wonderful visit. Spent some beautiful days in Baltimore. That’s right, dear worst-rider. When the police aren’t shooting people and when the automatons aren’t walking around like Zombies, and when the f’n sun shines like there’s no tomorrow, Baltimore is actually a great little city to hang around for a few days. This particular visit left me with the impression that October weather in Baltimore is the best weather in the world. Add to that the fact that once I stepped foot back in the old country, about two weeks after my Homeland visit, it started to rain and didn’t stop until yesterday. I kid you not!

I’ve experienced wet and cold weather living in this part of #eurowasteland. But in my twenty-five years I can’t remember it being this bad. I’m kinda ashamed I didn’t do more worst-riding for the past few months. But I’ve set my riding weather limits to seven degrees celsius and trees being uprooted due to flooding ground water. Yea, limits. (See pic above.)

bike review 4000km_3
Shelf space for bike stuff. I’m actually regretting have bought two knob tires (tyres); I’m probably gonna go with more street oriented tires after current set wears out.

On the other hand, I can’t help but think this break from the R&M has done me some good. It’s aloud me to readjust my e-bike senses. That is, getting back on the bike after only sporadic use during the past three or four months has allowed me to re-orient myself with it. Not only that but while it’s been in my basement turning a year old I’ve finally started fiddling with its parts. For example, for the first time I adjusted the air shocks–even though I’m not quit sure how-to do it. I also re-adjusted my thud buster seat going back to the middle rubber mount from the highest (hardest) setting. I also have a new rear tire, although that wasn’t my fiddling. And the Bosch system was updated. So let’s go there first, shall we.

Just after returning to the old country last October–in fact, the day I arrived–I was also scheduled to bring my R&M in for a check-up and frame replacement. As pointed out in this pseudo-review, the dealer delivered my R&M with paint damage on the frame.  If I hadn’t insisted on having the damage repaired I’m sure that the dealer–and perhaps R&M???–would have gladly let the damage slide at my cost. I say that because, 1) I had to wait something like eight months for the frame and 2) after the dealer finally replaced it and I picked up the bike, they said/claimed the following:

“You know, we replaced that frame, which would normally have cost around five hundred or so in labour, for nothing.”

My response: Whaaaaaaaaa?

I don’t know about your experience with customer service, dear worst-rider, but such a comment is common-place here in #eurowasteland, especially in certain parts of Germany where people really do believe they $hit roses. But enough of my worst-writing vulgarities and limited intellect as a somewhat disappointed high-end e-bike consumer.

So. During this money grubbing check-up my frame was replaced. They also replaced both rear brake pads, which I questioned (more on that in a sec). I also had them install a new rear tire even though it could have probably gone a few hundred kilometres more–but that was my choice. I was thinking at the time that I’d kill two birds (with one stone) and  bought a second tire (see pic above where said tire is neatly folded and waiting). I’m now thinking that was an error on account I’m almost sure I want to go with more street oriented tires in the future. Maybe more on that later. They also updated my Bosch system with the new eMTB riding mode. Let me say this about eMTB:

Whoop-di-fcuking do!

In fact, I might even ask the dealer (it’ll be a new dealer by then) if I can return my Bosch system back to the old riding modes. With four modes of riding, I really don’t see the reasoning behind eMTB, which seems to only combine the top three levels of riding. In fact, the other day while going up a short but very steep hill using eMTB the motor kicked a bit too hard and caused a wheelie. To prevent a backward flip I had to jump off the pedals. Indeed. Unwanted wheelies during steep ascensions… I’m gettin’ too old for that $hit.

bike review 4000km_2
There’s an owner’s manual for a lot of Suntour forks here, just not for mine.

As far as the brake pad replacement goes, there is a problem with the rear brake calliper on my R&M. In my opinion, the frame mounts are not properly aligned for this calliper setup. The brake pad that is on the outside of the disk is always rubbing. I know this because the rear wheel never spins freely. Although there is a way to adjust the position of the calliper on the frame mounts, it can’t be moved enough to one side to prevent the rubbing on one of the pads. Once I get a new dealer, I’ll be addressing this issue. Otherwise I’ll be replacing pads mostly because of this unnecessary rubbing.

Actually I don’t have anything more to say about the tires on this bike. I love them. So I might just go one more set and then go to street tires. I don’t know. I’m confused about tires.

The front forks have no manual.

The pic above is a screenshot of the CD that was delivered with this bike that is supposed to contain an owner’s manual for my forks. The only problem is, there is no manual. The good news is that my bike was delivered with a cute little air pump specific to these forks. This is helpful because they are springless air forks. If, by accident, you let out all the air–which I did–you’ll need this pump to get going again. Either that or you’ll have to ride home with useless, impotent front forks. (Sounds worst-rider erotic, eh!) And there is one other problem. Because there is no user manual for the forks, how much pressure can I put in them? Since I fiddled around with air forks back in the day when I was a real-man motorcyclist–as opposed to a wuss on an e-bike–I figured I could fill the forks till they don’t move anymore, which I think was around 150psi. Right now I’m running something like a 100psi and they’re still a bit hard. Or is it 10psi? Who the fcuk cares. And you know what they say about hard (forks) and men in their fifties, right? Ok. Enough.

bike review 4000km_1
R&M heaven or how they look after turning a year old.

Btw, my better-half’s R&M Mixte is definitely gonna skip the eMTB Bosch update. The main reason is because the update seems to be just another gouging mechanism for dealers. You see, Bosch doesn’t charge for the update. But dealers do. Go figure. Also. The Mixte is mostly used on roads, so it really doesn’t need eMTB.

In the last few days I’ve been able to go on longer rides with my GX, even though off-road is still very very wet–in fact so wet that even my extra wide tires sink a bit much for my taste. We’re planning a new tour up on the Baltic Sea at the end of May, though. We’re looking at about ten days of riding and maybe 1500km along the German north coast not far from Poland. Looking forward to it.

Oh. As far as battery life goes… I’m gonna have to worst-write something about that (again) soon. Reason? During the first 2000km I could go 30km before the first notch on the battery gauge would disappear. Now I can barely go 15km. After questioning a dealer about this he said that as soon as it gets warmer I should have all the power back. I’m skeptical. Even though the Bosch e-bike motor is great and I trust the Germans engineered it well and Hungarians put it together well, the battery–or the batteries–is a different story. Indeed. Batteries are the weak link here. But I digress.

Good riding, baby.

Rant on.

-T

Pseudo Review #4: R&M Charger GX At 3000km

charger GX in the woods

As stated here and here, I’m a big fan of Riese & Mueller e-bikes. In fact, after my better-half bought me the Charger GX last spring, the only time I’m not on this bike is 1) I’m pooped from riding it and 2) the weather sucks. Since the power of this e-bike eliminates the need to consider weather, especially wind as a riding factor (wind can be pretty severe on this part of the Rhine) only heavy precipitation keeps me from riding it. I use this e-bike for everything including grocery shopping and errands (utilising trusty and ageing Ortlieb saddle bags and the rear rack). After becoming a single-car family, I’m somewhat surprised how little I’ve missed having a second car. I suppose if we lived more remotely instead of on the outskirts of a city there’d be more reason to have a second car. But knowing what I now know about e-bikes, I’d actually continue without a second car until circumstances dictated otherwise. Of course, every time I drive our remaining car I’m also reminded of how $hitty it is to drive in Germany anyway. I mean. Come on. Just get a load of the traffic between D’dorf and Köln—most of which is hindered by severe construction (as though the Germans are just now learning how to build Autobahns). I’ve been riding my R&M between the two cities and other than an extended, boring passage which feels somewhat middle-of-nowhere-ish, I don’t mind the extra time it takes to ride the forty or so kilometres. But then again, I’ve not actually done a direct comparison of riding or driving from D’dorf to Köln. Maybe I should do that someday. Especially considering parking. But I digress.

charger gx picking up sushi
Picking up Sushi for dinner.

Inspections & Dealer Krapp.

The “Service” notice keeps appearing on my Bosch Intuvia screen. I think I’ve had two of the service inspections done so far. To be honest, I’m not quite sure what the dealer does with the bike during an inspection. The process is not at all that transparent and the bike doesn’t feel like anything has been tightened, changed or oiled when I get it back. Hell, they don’t even clean the thing. Of course, there’s some kind of checklist they have to go through—which they arbitrarily hand to me after I pay. In the end, as usual, it’s all just a waste of money–and time. Then again, I can’t update the Bosch firmware, which has been updated twice since acquiring the bike, hence the two inspections I’ve subjected myself to. Which brings me to the following question: Why do dealers have to charge for a firmware update if Bosch doesn’t charge for it? Oh wait. Who would pass up a chance to rip-off customers of 25,-euros if they can? (Sarcasm off.)

Replacing Frame.

Luckily, my dealer and the people he hires are a bit ditsy. That leaves me plenty of space to criticise, criticise, criticise. As mentioned in a previous post, R&M has provided a new frame for my e-bike due to damaged paint when it was delivered. I’ve had to put off frame replacement though because my dealer is unable to cope with not only e-bike demand but e-bike service. Now get this. The replacement frame was delivered in June. The dealer requested that I wait till the fall to replace the frame because he was too overwhelmed with “seasonal” business. When fall came around, due to my schedule, I requested that we do replacement in October. We finally set a replacement appointment for Nov. 2. When I arrived Nov. 2 (the morning after jet-lagging from international travel the day before) the dealer told me his mechanic was sick and I’d have to leave bike with him for two weeks. That was/is unacceptable. We’ve now changed the date to Dec 5 and I have insisted that an appointment is appointment—he shouldn’t tell me that he needs two weeks to replace the frame when I bring it in next time. We’ll see how that goes. (And by-the-buy, let it not be told that I could easily give up my GX for two weeks because, well, I could always use my wife’s Charger Mixte. The only problem is, I don’t want to give up my GX—at all!)

rear tire 3000km

Tires.

There is something fantastical about the knobby tires on the GX. As far as biking goes, regular or e-biking, the Rock Razor tires are huge, bulky, and kinda ugly. I have to deal with countless comments from fellow bikers about how my tires are… not really bicycle tires. Seriously. I mean… I have pedals. Wheels. A Frame. Handle bars. And there are still some people that think I’m riding a monster-truck on two wheels. With that in mind, the huge tires on this bike are so well designed and made that, other than the noise they give off on flat roads, they are like the best friggin tires I’ve ever experienced on a bike. You would think, due to their size, width, knobs, etc., that high speed turns on roads would, at the least, be edgy. This is not the case. They don’t get unstable, wobbly or feel the least uncomfortable. Of course, off-road, they are even better. There is no terrain that I won’t ride across on these tires. Whether riding through sand, mud or rocks, nothing shakes them.

Then again, they don’t last forever. As you can see in the pic above, my rear tire no longer has any bite. I’ve ordered a new tire to replace it which will be added when I get new the frame next month—and probably just in time for winter. I am indeed curious how these tires will handle the wet, cold and sometimes icy winter weather around here.

Battery.

Juice be told, baby. I really wish I had access to the Bosch system in order to see how my battery is performing. I should be into the hundreds of recharges on the battery by now. I think it’s recharge limit is around 700. I guess it’s held up well so far. But… In 3000km I’ve noticed how the battery has definitely weakened. I’m getting at least 20-30km less battery than the first 1000-1500km. I really started noticing the weakening after 2000km. Of course, if I had access to the Bosch system, I could see if, perhaps, I’ve let the e-bike spoil my legs a bit—which could be the  cause of higher battery usage.

As far as battery modes go, here’s how I use my battery:

  • Eco: I use this mode for 1-2 hour leg and cardio workouts. This mode neutralises the bikes extreme weight and literally turns it into a workout machine–with a great view (of the outdoors). I also use this mode if/when trying to conserve battery on longer tours. Obviously, with battery getting weaker, having to use this mode more often.
  • Tour: this is my main riding mode. I use this when running errands and/or have to jaunt into the city centre. Usually won’t exceed trips beyond 50-65km.
  • Sport/eMTB: Recent update has turned Sport into “eMTB” mode. This is supposed to be a mix between all of the modes and is determined by pedal speed/cadence, pedal weight/strength, resistance/terrain, etc. I use Sport when I’m on trails or mountain biking and when I’m lazy.
  • Turbo: I only use this mode on extreme hill climbs.

That’s it for now.

Ride safely.

And rant on.

-T