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I got my new eBike from Propel! Now what?

From taking care of your chain to submitting a warranty, these nine tips are important for every new electric bike owner to know. Whether you read everything right away or refer to this if you have a question about, say, when your brakes need to be replaced, we hope this information will offer support and guidance when it comes to riding and taking care of your new eBike.

If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to reach out at (562) 263-3067 or hello@propelbikes.com.

1. How to tighten a bolt

Tightening and loosening the nuts and bolts of your eBike may seem like a straightforward task, so you might be surprised to find out how easy it is to damage certain components if you’re not paying attention.

For example, if you have a fixed seatpost (as opposed to a quick-release) that requires a tool to adjust the height, be careful to not strip the bolt-end with the tool or tighten it too tight. Another example, it can be easy to damage your crank arm if using the wrong tools or riding with them not torqued to the proper specification; this is generally an expensive, yet avoidable mistake. We highly recommend checking out these torque specifications, courtesy of Park Tool.

Here is an example of threads that were damaged during a simple rear wheel removal, and why care must be taken whenever using threaded fasteners.

2. How to take care of your chain

Lubrication: Chains must be lubricated periodically, depending on the weather, the atmospheric conditions, and the type of oil being used. In general, “wet” lube will last longer but runs the risk of attracting more dirt, while a lighter or “dry” lube will dry up faster while being less likely to attract dirt.

Regular tune-ups: In addition, it is important to make sure that the gear-changing system is both used correctly and maintained (see tip #3 for more information on shifting). Most chain-driven bikes use a derailleur which moves the chain from one gear to the next. The sprockets vary in size, with the smallest sprocket tending to wear out the fastest.

Is your eBike having trouble shifting smoothly? Is it making a new sound that doesn’t seem right? It might be time for a tune-up! Or at the least give your mechanic a call.

Replace your chain every 1,000 to 3,000 miles: When it comes to replacing chains, there is no single formula to determine an exact mileage interval for replacement. A chain replacement is highly dependent on your riding style, the model of eBike and drivetrain, the type of terrain you’re riding on most often, and how well it’s maintained.  If you don’t know the mileage and aren’t sure, look for an extremely dirty or weathered chain to tell you it’s time to replace it.

However, a good rule of thumb for chain replacement is 1,000 to 3,000 miles. By learning how to ride while putting the least amount of stress on your chain as possible, you can extend the life of your chain.

3. The importance of shifting gears

It’s important to use the entire gear range to get the most use out of your chain and the rest of your drivetrain system, as well as to prevent breakdowns on the road.

In addition to using the entire gear range, care should be taken to avoid shifting too late, especially while riding uphill or stopping at an intersection. If you can look far enough ahead to see that you’re going to have to stop at a light or start riding up an incline, make sure to shift to an easier gear beforehand to prevent having to start from a hard gear or to shift while pedaling slowly up a hill. Not only does this keep your chain, derailleur, motor, and hub from wearing out too quickly, it prevents causing even worse damage, such as potentially snapping the chain or hurting the derailleur.

For this reason, it’s a good idea for every chain-driven eBike owner to have a rough understanding of chain repair and replacement. Check out this video by ParkTool on how to repair a chain on the ride.

To check out the full article, click here.

4. How to protect your derailleur

Since derailleurs tend to stick out of the back wheel a bit, This can create a situation where it could be bent by accident. Here are a few tips for protecting it;

If you’re riding off-road, be mindful not to pass too close to any obstacles low and to the right. The same applies to city riding, and when locking the bike up and transporting it. For example, when loading it into the back of a car it is usually best to keep the derailleur side (right side) facing up.

The bikes we sell typically come with high-quality, durable derailleurs, but in the event that you do need a replacement, they are typically very fast and easy to replace. If you’re in a pinch mid-ride with a bent derailleur, you can make it back home by gently bending it back into position by hand.

For more tips on adjusting your rear derailleur, check out this video by ParkTool.

The full article can be viewed here.

5. Belt drive maintenance

Many of the electric bikes we sell use a Gates brand carbon fiber belt drive. While this product is still relatively new to the bike industry compared to a traditional chain drive, Gates has been making belt drives for automotive and industrial applications for more than a century.

Belts, compared to chains, require far less maintenance. For example, there are no moving components in the belt that require lubrication. At worst, cleaning the belt will be the most frequent task you experience.

Checking belt drive tension: Periodically belt drives must be checked for tension and alignment. There are specialized tools, as well as a free smartphone app that can measure the belt tension by using a mechanism similar to a guitar tuner. The frequency emitted by the vibrations of the belt is translated to a reading on the scale of loose to normal to tight.

Here’s the app for measuring belt tension: https://www.gatescarbondrive.com/products/tools.

Once the belt is set up properly, it shouldn’t need to be re-tensioned for another six to 12 months–or maybe never, depending on various factors (this is an estimate and can vary greatly depending on the rider).

Belt drive alignment: Alignment of the belt and the belt sprockets can become an issue if the bike experiences a collision, or if a component is shaken loose, becomes damaged, or out of alignment. If you think this might be the case, you may need to bring your eBike in for service. Or give us a call, we’re always happy to help.

When to replace your belt drive: It’s tough to give an average mileage on when your belt may need to be replaced due to the variations in application but based on the rough guidelines put forth by the manufacturer and our applied experience, about 5,000 to 6,000 miles per belt is a good rule of thumb. It all just depends on your riding style.

Gates carbon belt drive user’s manual: https://www.gatescarbondrive.com/~/media/files/gcd/owners-manuals/english-owners-manual-gates-carbon-drive.pdf?la=en

Gates carbon belt drive tech manual (including troubleshooting guides):https://www.gatescarbondrive.com/~/media/files/gcd/gates-tech-manual-en.pdf?la=en

6. Tips for adjusting your handlebars, stem, and headset

When you are adjusting the handlebars and stem on your bike for the first time as you prepare to go riding, you may, in some cases, make the headset bearing assembly become slightly loose. What this means is the steering bearing assembly may experience a shudder or heavy vibration on the front end, most noticeable when using the front brake, for example. It can be easily remedied by tightening the entire headset bearing assembly.

How to tighten the headset bearing assembly:

  • Loosen the bolts on the side of the stem, allowing the stem and handlebars to pivot freely on the fork tube.
  • Then, use the top cap bolt (also referred to as the compression bolt) to tighten the entire assembly, pulling the fork and front wheel up toward the stem and thereby reducing any looseness or play in the steering bearing assembly. Please note: This should be done with care and usually requires removing the top cap bolt all the way in order to put some grease on it to ensure everything fits up correctly.  
  • When adjusting the headset, if you happen to start disassembling it, either on purpose or by accident, take care to keep track of the small pieces. You can’t tighten a headset without all its parts

For a more detailed explanation on how to adjust a headset, refer to this link: https://www.parktool.com/blog/repair-help/threadless-headset-service

You can also follow along with this video tutorial for headset troubleshooting, courtesy of Park Tool:

7. A few notes on tubes and tires

In case you get a flat: It’s always a good idea to have at least a few spare tubes at home, and at least two for the road, in case you need to change a flat when out on a ride. Not to sure how to change a flat? Check out this video by ParkTool.

Puncture protection: Extra thick tubes are not necessary, but can be a good application for flat prevention. In addition, some brands of tire liners, such as Tannus brand tire liners, work well to prevent flats by protecting the tube from punctures.

Tire boots, different from tube patches, are also available and work well to extend the life of a tire when it is not worn out but has a puncture that would damage a new inner tube.

The best tires for electric bikes: When it’s time to replace your tires, a heavier, thicker tire capable of handling the weight and speed of an eBike is usually the way to go. Electric bike-rated tires are always preferred, but sometimes a non-eBike rated tire will make a good substitute, if no eBike rated tires are available when you’re in a pinch.

The desirable characteristics for a good eBike tire are something heavier, thicker and designed for touring and flat protection. At Propel, we’re a big fan of Schwalbe tires.

Keep your tires pumped: It’s important to keep your tires inflated to the appropriate pressure. Not sure how much pressure your tires will allow? You can always find the PSI printed on the side of the tire. We recommend acquiring a floor pump with a gauge so you can see the PSI as you’re pumping air into the tire and so you can prevent adding too much or too little air.

Adjust your air pressure depending on the terrain: For riding on the road, such as pavement or asphalt, a firmer tire inflated toward the maximum end of the range is preferred. This will help prevent pinch flats from potholes and curbs and also keep your rolling resistance to a minimum. For off-road riding or for more grip, a little less air pressure is recommended to allow the tire to compress and conform to the uneven surfaces.

8. All about hydraulic disc brakes

Hydraulic disc brakes (which pretty much all of our bikes come with) work a little differently than cable brakes, which you may find more familiar as they often come on road bikes and mountain bikes of years past. While the cable brake is much simpler to service, the hydraulic brake offers a lot more power, and consistency of braking power, over the long term.

There are 7 main components of each hydraulic brake on the bikes we sell. We defined each component below, and added what to watch out for when it comes to service and replacement:

a. Brake pads: It’s impossible to put an accurate mileage interval on when your brake pads need to be replaced, since it depends on so many factors, but about every 2,000 miles for a non-cargo bike and every 1,200 miles for a cargo bike is a safe rule of thumb.

b. Brake fluid: The fluid should be checked, and/or burped or bled whenever replacing a set of pads or a rotor, or whenever the pressure in the brake lever feels soft. Fluid can break down over time, and at that point lose its ability to hold pressure.

While this isn’t something you should necessarily know how to do at home, it’s a good rule of thumb to know the type of brake fluid your brakes require, so when it comes time to bring your eBike in you can confirm with your mechanic.

There are a few different types of hydraulic brake fluid: Tektro and Shimano use red mineral oil, while Magura uses blue mineral oil. SRAM and Hayes use Dot fluid of various types.

Important: As with any brake system, it is of the utmost importance to not rely on word-of-mouth, but rather consult the manufacturer directly regarding compatible fluids if you’re unsure.

c. The rotor: The rotor is the metal disc on each wheel that the brake pads and caliper squeeze in order to slow the bike down and to stop. It is critical that the rotor is in good condition to prevent loss of braking performance.

Common threats to rotors include: Contaminants, such as motor oil on a city street that gets picked up during a rainstorm; regular wear, which happens over time from the brake pads biting at the rotor, and can also be exacerbated by a caliper that is out of alignment and dragging on the rotor; certain scenarios, such as riding off-road, when the rotor should be checked periodically to make sure it’s not getting impacted by rocks, gravel, etc.

When rotors should be replaced: If they develop a step, or lip in the surface, indicating that it is starting to get gouged out. Another sign to look out for, is if you see a purple iridescent surface where the brake pads hit the rotor, it’s likely time to replace it.

Important: Remember to consult each manufacturer’s guide individually to determine minimum thickness thresholds in millimeters for each brake rotor. Also keep in mind some rotors of lower quality are specified for “resin pads only” and will present a potentially dangerous scenario if used with metallic pads, which are made of a much harder material, and will cause the rotor to wear out early or fail.

Otherwise, if your rotor has no lip, or burned surface, and is still above the minimum thickness specified by the manufacturer, you are good to keep rolling. In this case, just wipe the rotor down with rubbing alcohol to clean the surface and refresh it and clear off any grime or grit that would affect the brake’s performance.

d. Brake lever (also known as the master cylinder assembly): The brake lever consists of two parts: a lever blade, the part that sticks out from the grip, that you rest your fingers on and pull, and a piston (that isn’t really visible) inside the brake lever housing, which is called a master cylinder or primary cylinder.When the brake lever blade is pulled, it activates your brake system by pushing in the master cylinder piston, which in turn compresses the hydraulic fluid contained inside. The master cylinder converts the force of your fingers pulling the lever blade(s) into hydraulic pressure.

If you ever drop your bike on its side, make sure to check the lever, as this is one of the most common causes of a blown seal on a master cylinder (and could also cause a blown seal further down the line on the caliper, too), which would then require replacement. And if your brake lever feels soft suddenly, it is a sure sign that your brakes need service.

Most hydraulic brake levers have an easy-to-access “free stroke lever adjustment” knob or adjustment screw which allows you to adjust the distance from the grip to the lever to accommodate smaller or larger hands. This is also an easy way to cheat more stopping power out of your brake system in the short term, however, in the long term you cannot just increase the distance from the grip to the lever, you must service the pads, rotor and fluids.

e. Brake caliper: Calipers, which are located by the brake disc, are usually an unnoticed part of the whole brake system. They can sometimes develop leaks in the seals, but that is uncommon if the bike is well maintained, and they mostly stay out of the way. They do require pad changes periodically, as well as realignment.

f. Brake hoses: The brake hoses, the delivery mechanism of the brake system, are pressurized and depressurized when you squeeze the brake levers. The master cylinder pressurizes the fluid, which then travels through the hose with considerable force to the caliper, where the pistons are pressurized to apply braking force from the brake pads to the rotor.

As important as they are, brake hoses are often an afterthought because they don’t develop many issues, but they should be given consideration during certain situations.

The most important thing to keep in mind is to handle the hoses correctly: Don’t yank on them, and try not to snag them on anything. For example, be mindful of the hoses when riding off-road or loading your bike into a car.

When setting up the bike or a new brake, make sure the hoses are routed in a way that will not cause problems in the long term. You should be able to turn the handlebars left and right freely without any cables resisting those movements.

g. Seals, o-rings and hydraulic fittings: These components are almost unseen to the naked eye, but are integral to holding the pressure inside the master cylinder, hose, and brake caliper. Without these seals, o-rings and fittings, the system wouldn’t work and would leak constantly.

On older brake systems, manufacturers used to recommend overhauling calipers and master cylinders with fresh seals, o-rings and fittings in order to keep the bike maintained. However, in today’s world, the standard practice is to replace whichever component has a failed seal, be it the master cylinder, the hose, or the caliper.

9. A brief overview of Propel’s warranty policy

Last but not least, one of the most common support questions, if not the most common, is with regards to the bike’s warranty.  What is the warranty?  What is covered?  More importantly, what is not covered, and why? The answer is that the warranty policy differs for each component on the bike, but for the electrical systems it is 2 years.  For the frame, it varies but is usually 5 years or more (although sometimes less, like 2), and for the fork it is typically 2 years as well.

On the other hand, when the bike wears out due to being used, misused, or due to not being used enough, that is not covered.  What is covered is manufacturers’ defects, and electrical faults in the battery, motor and electrical system that aren’t due to overuse, misuse or abuse. Warranties are always handled on a case by case basis (hence, why they are referred to as “Warranty Cases”), and so it is difficult to create hard and fast rules by which the manufacturers, and our shop, make determinations of eligibility, but we always strive to do right by our customers and help out when possible.

Updated on December 21, 2022

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