Sunday, March 17, 2019

Ninebot by Segway ES2 E-Scooter: Handlebar and Power Modes

Well this is not a bicycle or bike component, but it is something that is similar in terms of function and usage. A while ago, I bought a normal kick scooter (Oxelo Town 7 XL), just to test it out and see whether it fits my usage or not. Although it is a nice kick scooter with full suspension and a rear brake that is hand operated, I found that having to repeatedly bend the knees to push off against the ground is not ergonomic or comfortable at all. On uphills, riding a kick scooter feels more tiring that just walking. On downhills it is fun, but most of the time it is used on flat ground.

As the Oxelo Town 7 XL was under-utilized, I sold it away. I also had a Carry Me, but it was also hardly used. A Carry Me excels in having a very small folded size, but the ride quality is way poorer than my other bikes. If I was going from Point A to B, I would just ride any of my other bikes, depending on the route. If I'm riding on road, I would just take my road bike or folding bike. If I'm riding on the pavement, a folding bike is sufficient. There is actually no benefit for me to use the Carry Me instead of my Dahon MuEX which rides so much better. Folding and unfolding the Carry Me is also a hassle for me as I always have to retighten and realign the seatpost and handlepost. That is why I also sold away the Carry Me as I almost never used it.

I found that sometimes, I want to get from Point A to Point B, but without bringing along a bicycle (which can be quite big) or exerting too much effort. For example, when going to the food centre to take away some food, or to run some errands, a bicycle may not be so suitable. In my case, whenever I cycle, I have to shower after that as I will sweat easily.

In this case, an e-scooter is actually more useful, as it can be folded to a very small size (smaller than a Dahon). As it is motorized, getting to the destination is also effortless. This means that I can arrive at my destination in more formal attire, without working up a sweat from cycling. It is another form of transport that is different from cycling.

As there are some rules regarding e-scooter usage in Singapore, I needed to get one that is certified, or it will become illegal once the grace period is up. Basically, it needs to weigh less than 20 kg, with a max handlebar width of 700mm, have a top speed limited to 25km/h, and also be UL2272 certified. Lastly, it should look sleek and high tech, and not like the loud and heavily modded illegal e-scooters.

One of the nicest looking one that I have seen is the Ninebot by Segway ES2 E-Scooter, which is what I eventually bought. Being one of the biggest e-scooter manufacturers in the world, it is also the manufacturer of the popular Xiaomi M365 e-scooter. Not only that, this company also supplies rental e-scooters to Bird and Lime, two of the biggest shared e-scooter companies in the US.

Let's take a closer look at the ES2 e-scooter and see what makes it so attractive!

Overall view of the ES2. Clean appearance with no unsightly wires snaking all over the place.

Battery is stored inside the large diameter handlepost, which is less common as most other e-scooters have the batteries under the floorboard as it keeps the weight low and stable.

Clean handlebar, with a round display in the middle, and the switches and grips at both ends. Handlebar is 420mm wide.
With a sticker like this, it sorts of indemnifies the manufacturer against scratches on the e-scooter...

The ES2 has 3 power modes, which is the speed limited mode, the standard mode and the sport mode. The differences are the level of acceleration (power available) and also the top speed. It is recommended to start with the lower power mode first, to get used to riding the e-scooter. The higher power modes should only be used when you are more experienced.
To switch between the power modes, double press the power button which is located beside the display. 

In speed limited mode, no "S" is shown. Top speed is 15km/h while the acceleration is slow. Best recommended for beginners or kids.

In standard mode (white "S"), the top speed is 20km/h, while the acceleration is stronger than limited mode. Good for cautious riding as the acceleration is smooth but not too strong.

Sport Mode (or Type R mode as I call it) with red "S". Top speed of 25km/h (regulated by law), with strong acceleration. This is the mode that I use, as the strong acceleration is useful for moving off. Also needed if you are going up a slight incline.

Braking is activated by pushing the brake lever on the left side of the handlebar. The more you push, the stronger the deceleration. Electronic modulation is quite good, while the regenerative braking is surprisingly powerful.

Throttle lever is on the right side. Push more for a stronger acceleration. Modulation is quite good as I can control the acceleration smoothly, without an on/off feel or a jerky movement. Push the throttle all the way and the ES2 accelerates strongly!

If you ever need to loosen the throttle unit, the bolt is hidden at the bottom, inside a small hole.

For your safety, the throttle will only activate when the moving speed is more than 3km/h. This prevents accidental activation when you accidentally touch the throttle lever when stopped. Also, this means that you need to kick off to get the e-scooter moving, before you press the throttle to activate the motor.

Pressing of the throttle lever with the thumb. Keep it pressed to keep moving.

I took out the rubber grip to see if the throttle angle can be adjusted, and found that the handlebar actually has a keyslot.

This keyslot is for the wires to route internally from the throttle and brake levers to the central computer, and also means that the throttle position is fixed.

The rubber grip has a corresponding shape to prevent grip rotation when mounted on the handlebar. Clever design! That said, you can probably use a standard bicycle rubber grip or lock on grip on the ES2 handlebar.

Handlebar measures about 22.2mm in diameter, which is the same standard as bicycle flat handlebars.

Grip length is about 110mm, slightly shorter than bicycle grip lengths. The throttle position cannot be moved, so if you replace the grip, it needs to be about the same length.

Another look at the display and power button. Looks neat and tidy!

Brand name printed clearly on the handlepost.

Charging port located on the handlepost. This is also where you can attach an additional battery (for additional range and power) if needed.

Charging port with a rubber cover. The rubber cover does not fit really well, as it tends to detach on its own, exposing the charging port. Take note if you ride in the rain (not recommended).

I got my ES2 from Mighty Velo in Singapore, which is now the official distributor of Segway Ninebot products. At the time when I bought it, the ES2 was on sale (it is always on sale) at $599. With a $60 Black Friday coupon from Qoo10, the final price was just $539! I basically went to the shop, bought it using the Qoo10 app and voucher on my phone, and collected it from the shop! Not only is the price quite attractive, it is also covered by warranty for up to one year, since it is bought from the distributor and not other online websites (where the price can be a bit cheaper still).

Actual weight is 12.4kg, which is the same as what is claimed by the manufacturer. This makes the ES2 heavier than any of my other bicycles!

In the next two posts, I shall elaborate more on the other parts of the ES2 e-scooter, such as the suspension, the lights, and the folding mechanism.

Friday, March 8, 2019

Ascent Bolt Mini Velo: Geometry Comparison + Ride Review

In the first part of the Ascent Bolt mini velo introduction, the general specifications and key features of the frameset was shown. In this second post, I will compare the geometry of the Ascent Bolt mini velo, and to see how it rides! Whether it rides well or not is very important, as a bicycle not just needs to look good, it should also ride well.

As the Ascent Bolt mini velo is a custom frameset (not by me, by Ascent Bikes), the bike geometry could be decided by the bike frame designer. Therefore, let's compare the geometry to see how it differs from other similar bikes.

I chose the Dahon MuEX to represent Dahon folding bikes, as I no longer have other mini velos. In a way, I like to use the Dahon MuEX as a benchmark for other small wheeled bikes. As both have a flat handlebar setup, and are small wheeled bikes (although different wheel size), they are similar enough to make a fair comparison.

As always, I align the bottom brackets of the bikes to each other, using it to set a datum for comparing other areas, such as chainstay length, wheelbase, handlebar and saddle position, etc.

The bottom bracket height of the Ascent Bolt is very slightly higher than the Dahon MuEX. It will also depend on your choice of wheels (406 vs 451) and choice of tire (narrow vs wide).

Ascent Bolt has a longer chainstay length. The Dahon MuEX chainstay length is 400mm, so the Ascent Bolt chainstay length looks to be about 420mm.

Distance from bottom bracket to front axle is shorter on the Ascent Bolt. Difference is about 30mm as estimated by eye, as I forgot to take measurements.

Frame and wheelbase comparison. Overall length is about the same, just that the front and rear axle positions are slightly offset.

Overall height of the tire from the ground is about the same. The Ascent Bolt is using 451 wheels with 28-451 tires, while the Dahon MuEX is using 406 wheels with wider 35-406 Kojak tires.

After comparing with the Dahon MuEX, I decided to compare it with the Canyon Endurace road bike as well. Since this mini velo is also designed to be a fast bike, the geometry might be closer to that of a full size road bike.

Using bottom bracket as datum, the Canyon road bike chainstay length is also shorter than the Ascent Bolt by about 20mm.

Saddle height is the same as set to my preference.

The flat handlebar of the Ascent Bolt is just a bit higher than the drop bar on the Canyon, but with a much shorter reach compared to the road shifter hoods on the Canyon. If you change to drop bars, the reach would become the same.

As a side note: I took off the pedals and kickstand from the demo bike, as I wanted to weigh the bike without all these accessories. This also gave me a chance to weigh the accessories on its own.

Very nice and smooth sealed bearing pedals, with a very nice weight too, especially given the large platform. Just 229 grams for the pair.

The length-adjustable kickstand is also surprisingly light weight at just 163 grams. This kickstand is attached to the rear quick release axle.

Seatpost with a saddle clamp that supports a wide area on the saddle rails. This means that you can safely use a carbon saddle rail on this seatpost.

This saddle is interesting, as it is wide and short. The padding is generous but not overly soft. Let's see how it feels when I test it on extended rides.

As I was able to borrow and use this bike over a week, I wanted to install some accessories to make it more practical for commuting. This means adding spares such as a tool bottle (with tools and inner tube, tire lever, etc), a portable pump, and front + rear lights.

Also, I changed the pedals to my favourite PD-A530 pedals which have SPD clips for better pedaling efficiency. This will allow me to use the Scott MTB Elite Boa shoes when riding this bike. In order to ensure a fair comparison and review, I want to keep other factors the same, such as using the same cycling shoes, pedals, cycling attire, cycling route, etc.

Ascent Bolt mini velo with accessories installed! Now it is ready for longer distance travel.

2 x D-Light front lights, which are small, lightweight, easy to install, and yet powerful.

With a Topeak RedLite Aero rear light and a Cycliq Fly6 CE rear light + camera. I like the dropped seatstays as it creates space on the seat tube to mount another rear light as shown here.

Out for a ride on a beautiful day!

This mini velo can go fast! With a good geometry and a relatively aggressive setup, it is easy to ride fast. The gearing (front 50T, rear 11-32T) is also good for fast riding if you want. Personally, I prefer a 46T for 451 wheels as the gearing is high enough for me, but you can customize the chainring size on the Ascent crankset if you want. If I were to use this mini velo regularly, I would change to a drop bar setup for more speed.

Riding Geometry:
The reach is just nice for me (1.7m tall), based on the setup. Initially I pushed the saddle all the way forward, as my previous mini velos needed the saddle all the way forward to position the knee over the pedal correctly. However, I found that it was not necessary on this bike, as there was no setback on this seatpost. I could position the saddle rails right in the middle of the saddle fore/aft adjustment range.

In other words, I fit right in the middle of this frame's size range. If you are shorter or taller, you can still adjust the saddle and stem reach to get your preferred riding posture.

I find that the flat handlebar riding posture is too upright, but that is probably because I am used to the more aggressive posture of drop bars. As you may know, both my regular commuting bikes (Canyon Endurace and Fabike C3) have drop bars, so I am very used to that. For recreational and occasional riders, flat handlebars may be easier to handle.

This saddle is a delightful surprise for me as I did not expect it to fit me so well. Although it is wide, it does not get in the way of pedaling. The cushioning is just nice for me, even if I am not wearing padded cycling shorts. The short saddle nose is a bonus, as it gives me more space to straddle the bike when I put my feet down at a stop.

With the relatively wide 600mm flat handlebar (I am used to narrower 400mm drop bars), riding stability is no issue. Even when I stand up to pedal, there is no noticeable flex in the crankset, frame or fork. Having lightweight wheels with low profile rims also minimizes the effects of crosswinds on bike stability.

Sometimes, on mini velos or folding bikes with tall head tubes and long steerer tubes, you can detect some flex when you pull hard on the handlebars. No issue with this bike, as the carbon steerer tube spacer and stiff carbon handlebar makes the front end stiff and stable.

Brake Performance:
This is my first time riding with hydraulic disc brakes on a mini velo, so I was quite surprised at the braking power on this bike. A small wheeled bike will have more braking power than a big wheeled bike, if the rotor size is the same. Here is an example.

700c road bike (28" wheel), with 160mm rotor. Assume that the brake power on this full size road bike is 100%.

If we use the same brake setup and rotor (160mm) on a 451 wheeled bike (22"), the braking power will be higher.

Braking Power = 28" / 22" x 100% = 127%

In other words, the small wheeled bike will have a braking power that is 27% more than an equivalent setup on a road bike! That is a big difference which I felt.

In fact, the braking performance is so good that I felt it was a bit too strong. Considering that these are basic hydraulic brakes and rotors, it works really well. You should not use stronger brakes on a small wheeled mini velo as it might be too powerful.

On the other hand, this also means that you can use cable actuated mechanical disc brakes, and still have sufficient braking performance on a mini velo.

Possible Improvements:
1) Additional bottle cage mount on the seat tube
Actually this is the only item I can think of, as it seems to be able to do everything else already, with multiple brake mounting choices and even option to install rear rack or mudguards.

The Ascent Bolt mini velo is a very versatile frameset that you can customize to your exact needs. I have seen pictures of it with a drop bar road setup and high profile carbon rims, and it looks really good.

Note that I did not comment on the performance of the bike components, as it is totally dependent on what you specify in your build. If you choose to use high end components, naturally they will work better and feel better. Generally, regardless of what components you use, the Ascent Bolt mini velo should exhibit all the features which I have described in these two blog posts.