ADDING LOW COST E-ASSIST TO YOUR TRIKE

Anybody who has followed me thru the years know that I have had several e-motors on my trike over the years. I started out with BionX and then gave GoldenMotors a try. Then I went to eZee which I really liked. Next I tried Tongsheng which I had heard (read) such good things about but I found very disappointing. And now I have NBPower which I like quite well. In fact, I have a second brand new NBPower hub motor sitting on the floor next to me. I bought it as a spare at a better price than I paid for the first one. I have purposely steered clear of recommending e-motor conversion kits to others but I have been so pleased with this one that I have decided to recommend it.

Most hub motor kits I have found to be 135 mm width which may be a problem on some trikes. I have a Catrike and I had to spread my rear dropout slightly to get the second hub motor (GoldenMotors) to fit. Since then the eZee and NBPower  hub motors slide right into the dropouts okay. I am not advising anyone to spread apart the rear dropouts, especially if you trike is still under  frame warranty as it is likely to void the warranty.

I do want to disclose one important thing. This hub motor wheel comes with a 7 speed freewheel sprocket which means you must give up whatever your trike presently has … 9, 10 or 11 speed. It is a bummer, but not the end of the world. I bought and changed my 7 speed freewheel for different sprockets as I did not like the gearing that came on the hub motor wheel. You can order the 11-34 freewheel HERE. And, some say that a 9 speed chain won’t work with a 7 speed sprocket, but so far it is working well for me. I can’t say if your current setup is 10 or even 11 speed. And for what it is worth, I am not a fan of freewheels vs the newer cassettes. I have found them to be cheaply made and not hold up as well as cassettes.

I purchased it on Amazon. HERE is a link to it. The 20 inch wheel currently sells for $439. It does not come with a battery so that has to be ordered separately. I recommend a 72 volt battery if you can afford it. I already have 48 volt batteries so I am using them thus far. I hope to get a 72 volt someday and take advantage of the power offered by this motor. With 72 volts it should reach about 44 mph. With 48 volts my top speed is only about 23 mph on a fully charged battery.

Even settling for a 48 volt battery the total cost is about $800 to $900. That is a lot better than $2500 or even more many people are paying for Bosch and similar high dollar systems. And this thing is a rocket compared to the underpowered Bosch system like Catrike uses. You can spend more than a thousand dollars on some 72 volt batteries, but that is still more than $1000 cheaper than a Bosch system which will wear out your drive train much sooner adding to your operational expense as sprockets are not cheap nor is the new chain. Crank drive systems are notorious for wearing out drive trains prematurely. When I had the Tonsheng crank drive system installed on my trike it wore out (completely destroyed) my expensive TerraCycle idler pulleys in only about a month.

Yes, I am well pleased with this setup and so I am recommending it. The only thing negative I can speak of is it lacks torque sensing. It does have PAS sensing. I have a fairly recent article about PAS vs Torque Sensing  for those who are not familiar with the subject.

I will say this … the assembly and setup instructions supplied with the hub motor wheel kit leave something to be desired. That being said help can be found online. And I am willing to help in anyway I can. I had to look it up online to find what I needed to get the job accomplished. BTW, the PAS parts won’t install on the crankset of a Catrike. One must use a workaround in order to have a functioning PAS. There are different ways to accomplish this.

The kit comes with a hand throttle however unless specifically requested a twist throttle is provided vs. a thumb throttle. I personally much prefer a thumb throttle as a twist throttle is very tiring on the hand and wrist to use. So if you want a thumb throttle it is necessary to request one when the order is placed. (The seller is very helpful and will work with you on any issues you may have.) If they can’t furnish you will the thumb throttle you may have to order it separately. Make sure you get the one with the longer wiring as it has to reach from your handlebar to the controller which I assume you would mount somewhere behind the seat. You can order the thumb throttle HERE.

HERE is the setup instructions for the display console. Dealing with e-motors thru the years has been and continues to be a learning experience. One thing I learned is that when my trike did not have any speed or power upon completion of the installation it was because I did not have the PAS number selection turned up. It was on only 1 of 5 … actually 1 of 6 as it starts at 0 if I remember correctly. 0 is power to motor is turned off. 1 is the lowest power setting and 5 is the highest. So if you install this motor kit and find it doesn’t seem to have any power or speed (maybe 2 or 3 mph) be sure to check the PAS setting. You can readily change it using the 3 button switch. The middle button turns the power on or off. The left button turns the power (PAS) down until it reaches the lowest setting 0 (zero. The right hand button turns the power (PAS) up until it reaches 5 … it’s highest setting. The PAS number is located on the bottom left of the display console.

I have found that as with all “graph” type battery power level indicators it is not very accurate. I can ride about 60 % of the miles I normally get out of a full battery charge before it drops off of the full charge display. It has 5 bars that make up the battery power display.

The picture above is from when I had the eZee hub motor and its display console. I am posting it here so you can see the way (place) where the display console mounts.

If your trike does not already have a mounting bar for the display console to mount on you may need to purchase and install one. TerraCycle sells them. Actually what I use is a combination of the top part from TerraCycle and the bottom part (called a mirror mount) from Catrike. This is what you see in the picture above. You can buy it for either the left side or the right side. If you would want to mount the display console sideways you would not need the T part on top from TerraCycle. Or you might save money by jerry rigging something out of PVC or whatever.

I wrote about a 20 inch rear wheel but this kit is also available in 26 and 700 sizes for slightly more money. The size can be selected on the same page the link to the 20 inch goes tol

If you have any questions please feel free to contact me. I am always willing to help in any way that I can.

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RAIN PROTECTION

It feels like rain drops … so many rain drops … it feels like rain drops falling on my head. So go the words to a popular song from my teen years. Personally I try not to ride in the rain but I know some cyclists choose to go and ride boldly ride in inclement weather.

I used to carry rain gear with me on my trike but I have not now for several years. I don’t even know if I still have any. I never have had any “quality rain gear”. I know it is expensive. The one above is $450 and that is just for the jacket.  I think that is an outrageous price … about 4 1/2 times more than it should cost. I find that the rider’s seat position on a tadpole trike makes it difficult to get proper effective protection compared to what the rider of a bicycle has. This is mostly the lower part of the body I am talking about. If I were a rich man I would have quality rain gear and the means of carrying it along with me on my trike. Maybe someday, but I am not going to hold my breath waiting for it to happen.

Here is a pair of $190 rainproof pants …

Being a big person (I am talking about FAT) it is quite challenging and difficult to get in and out of rain gear, especially the pants. It is hard enough to put them on at home but when I am already out riding it is extremely difficult to do.

What about canopies, you ask? They are great for  providing shade but they don’t help much when it comes to rain, especially when the rain is coming down on an angle and wind is blowing it about. At best they might keep the face, head and neck dry. But if the wind is blowing the rain  much … huh uh! I speak from experience. And most canopies offer no protection for the feet and lower legs.

There are canopies which offer more protection … on the sides and the front. Of course, they cost more.

And then there are velomobiles which offer great protection. The one shown above even has a windshield wiper.

I know I don’t like riding in the rain. I have done so many times out of necessity … I got caught out in it … and I got quite soaked just like I had been in swimming with my clothes on.

Lastly, there is always the concern of getting electronics wet. Water and electricity still don’t mix. Cell phones, GPS devices, etc. must be protected. Many of us have electic motors on our trikes.  The motors themselves are water resistant but wiring, batteries, switches, connections, and display consoles can be a concern. I have had moisture get inside of my computer and my display console. Both took days to dry back out. I had a perfectly good battery get destroyed by getting wet inside. That was a costly mistake.

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BROKEN BATTERY MOUNT

My T-Cycle battery mount broke off yesterday spilling my battery onto the road. Fortunately the battery came to rest right on the painted line of the center turn lane and the traffic was stopped at a traffic light so I was able to retrieve the battery without it or myself getting ran over. It destroyed my plug that plugs into the battery. I tried for a long time to repair it but had no luck. That meant that I had a long ride home pedaling under my own power. And that means granny gear at 2 mph as that is all my body is capable of doing anymore as I have aged. I had to stop numerous times to rest. And the worst of it was I knew rain was coming and there was no way I was going to get home before that happened. So, by the time I did get home I was soaked to the bone as the light rain we had been having turned to a heavier rain. At least my phone stayed dry as I placed a plastic bag over it. This morning I went to work on my trike getting the electrical problems fixed so I can ride again using my motor. I just finished that. I am going to take a picture of the broken battery mount and send it to T-Cycle to see if they will cover it under warranty. If not I can weld it and continue to use it but I am leaning on making the pieces out of steel so it will be stronger. Since I installed the T-Cycle battery mount I have used rubber bungee cords on it to help take weight off of it and reduce metal fatigue hoping to prevent this. That is a lot of weight hanging out there to work at fatiguing that soft aluminum piece full of holes. Everything on the trike gets bounced around a lot and suffers serious jolts.
I am not an engineer, but I was a very experienced metal fabricator with over 60 years of experience. I have learned some things about metal and know about metal fatigue. Repair welding was my specialty. I have repaired tons of broken metal pieces … most of which failed due to being underbuilt. The T-Cycle battery mount is poorly engineered as it is weak where they have all the holes drilled and tapped. That is right where it broke, of course.  Most T-Cycle products are well made but I can’t say that about this one. If I remember correctly it is rated for 15 pounds. My battery weighs 14 pounds. I see on T-Cycle’s website that they have improved this battery mount for Catrike so maybe they have improved upon this weak point. I have written about T-Cycle’s battery mounts before. Click HERE to view it. And I have written an article on their other many fine products. Click HERE to view it. I have several of their products on my trike and with the exception of the battery mount I am well satisfied with their design and quality.
T-Cycle, if you are reading this my trike is a 2013 Catrike Trail.

 

 

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EFFECTS OF COLD WEATHER

Above is a picture showing my bell (yellow arrow pointing to it). BTW, did you notice the snow on my wheel?

One thing that I notice every year when the temperature plays games cooling down somedays and warming back up other days I am not the only one complaining. Both my bell and my squeeze bulb horn are greatly effected by it too. Below is a picture of my horn mounted  on my right side handlebar below the wrist rest. The red arrow is pointing at the wrist rest.

 

Yep, they don’t like the cold weather any more than I do. If fact, they refuse to work like they normally do in warmer weather. Neither are very loud. It is amazing how they change when cold weather comes along. I bet if I were in Florida I would not experience this. But I would probably find something else to complain about. Fortunately I don’t have that much use of my bell or horn in nice weather so cooler weather is not any big concern as there is even less need of either as there are fewer trail users out once the weather changes. In fact, many times when I go out I am the only person out there on the trails.

Hey, speaking of the effect of cold weather I haven’t mentioned e-batteries. They don’t like cold weather either and will let us know it. They do so by not performing the same as they do in warmer weather. The distance we can go on a full charge will be less than normal. And that’s normal! Fortunately it is not all that much of a concern as most of us don’t care to stay out there as long when the weather is cold. I am starting to shiver just sitting here thinking about it. Who likes bundling up in cold weather anyway. I know I don’t.

Well, it is time to put and end to this before my body temperature starts dropping. It is 35 degrees F. outdoors as I type this. It has not warmed up any at all in the 3.5 hours since I got up. That is discouraging. At this rate if I do go out riding I will need to bundle up like I was in the picture above. When you live in the north this is what we deal with if we want to …

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7th MOTOR IS A CHARM

am on my 7th e-motor on my trike as my 6th one has the clutch going out in it. I had never heard of this company before. It is an NBPower and is rated at 2000 watts at 72 volts. I don’t have a 72 volt battery however. I am using what I already have which are 48 volt batteries. I hope someday to get at least one 72 volt battery to take advantage of the potential this motor offers. With 48 volts it is still the most powerful motor I have had yet. My 6th motor (an eZee) was faster at top speed by about 6 mph, but not nearly as powerful. Of course, with 72 volts this NBPower motor should be much faster … by at least 16 mph. I really like the price of this motor conversion kit … only $469 plus tax. That includes everything but the battery. Oh, and the wheel does not come with a tire or inner tube. (The eZee motor did.)

I don’t know how strong the rear wheel is. My eZee motor came laced in a wheel that did not hold up to the torture the streets, roads and trails of Fort Wayne, Indiana dish out. I replaced it with a heavy duty BMX rim which has held up great. Anyway, I would recommend this NBPower rear hub motor to anyone looking for a motor for their trike. Amazon charges my State’s Sales Tax.  BTW, this is for a 135 mm rear dropout. I had to spread my rear dropout further apart  to accept a 135 mm width. I did that several years ago for another motor so it was already to go when I installed this one. This does have a cadence sensor for e-motor pedal assist, but it is not torque sensing. It also comes with a manual throttle. It is available in many different wheel diameters.

For those interested here are the e-motors I have had installed on my trike thus far:

3 BionX  motors (had problems with all 3)(finally took  it back and got a full refund)

1 Golden Motor (faulty from factory)(sent it back for full refund)

1 eZee motor (ran it for about 4 years before clutch started going out)(the repair part is currently unavailable as is a new eZee motor)

1 Tongsheng crank drive motor (quit working in less than 2 months)(it destroyed my expensive idler pulleys)

1 NBPower motor (working great with lots of power)

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GOT QUESTIONS ABOUT E-ASSIST?

Are you more less uninformed about e-assist and wanting to learn about the subject? Glen Aldridge has compiled a webpage that has lots of information to help others learn. Glen is not only a fellow triker but he has his own business involving bikes and trikes. He rents out such cyclery as well as sells and services customers with e-motors, batteries, etc.

https://mid-islandadventures.weebly.com/electric-assist-kits.html

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BIONX … OUT OF BUSINESS BUT STILL AROUND … WELL, SORTA’

I was very surprised to discover that even though the well known and popular BionX e-motor company went out of business a few years ago one can still buy their products. And the good news is the cost is about half of what it was originally. Of course, there is no manufacturer warranty or service available . How long these sources will be available is anybody’s guess. The source I was looking at came with everything except the digital display. If the customer wanted it it would have to be ordered separately.

Some parts are still available so there is a glimmer of hope for those who have a BionX system. I searched for BionX and found several sources to buy their motor kits. Some sources are even selling unlocked motors which will allow the rider to go faster than the 20 mph speed limiter built into the system. I would like that. One can also buy just the hub motor and have it laced into their own rear wheel. Both the 350 watt and the 500 watt motors are available. BionX had a good product but they priced themselves too high which led to their demise. There was a lot of competition coming on the scene for a lot less money. You can only get away with selling at much higher prices for so long before it catches up to you.

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SUNSEEKER ELECTRIC T3 CX TRIKE REVIEW

Sunseeker has been around for a number of years. Formerly known as Sun Bicycles several years ago they changed the name to Sunseeker for their recumbent line. They are considered startup quality and their lowest cost model is made of mild carbon steel. They also offer Chrome Moly steel and aluminum. Of course, the price goes up with these more expensive metals. Electric Bike Technologies offers Sunseeker’s chrome moly trike with their electric motor package installed on it for $3412. Sunseeker lists this trike (without electric motor) for $2300. Here is a video about this e-trike  …

more videos from Electric Bike Technologies

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NOT A GOOD LOCATION FOR E-BATTERY

The picture above shows a common place to mount a battery. However there are pros and cons about mounting it here. The best pro I can think of is that it keeps the weight down low helping the center of gravity to remain low and thus help the trike to handle better and safer. Another pro is that the key is in easy reach from the seat. I like all of that but even so I am considering relocating the battery because of the biggest con. In this location the battery is subject to getting water and mud on it. In this picture above I wrapped the battery in plastic trying to keep it clean and dry. It definitely helped. I even taped around the plug in the front which is very susceptible to water and mud getting on and in the opening and on the electrical contacts. It gets so bad that the plug won’t plug in or if I can get it in it doesn’t make electrical contact and I have no power. I have to try to clean it out and up in order to use the battery. Like I said, placing the plastic on the battery did help but I didn’t leave it on there as it was not practical to have it on there. First of all it greatly interfered with plugging and unplugging the power cable. This is something I have to do frequently when I switch from one battery to another. I probably could come up with something else to help keep it clean and dry … like maybe a plastic bag of some kind. It definitely needs something. And I really don’t want to have to relocate it. You may have noticed the rubber tarp straps on the battery and wondered about them. The battery by itself weighs 14 pounds. That is a lot of weight sitting on the battery mount to constantly be working the aluminum metal  mount and fatigue it to where it breaks off at some point in the future. The tarp straps help hold the weight of the battery and take a lot of strain off of the aluminum mount in hopes that it never fails. It may not win any fashion contest but it works … it works great. Nope, this is not a good location for an e-battery as it is constantly getting mud and water flung all over it. My other battery is up above the rear wheel on a rack. That places the weight up high but it doesn’t get messed up like the lower battery does. It is always very clean and dry. Well, enough talk … it is time to ride boldly ride. Hope you manage to do the same.

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LOW COST E-MOTOR OPTIONS

Gary Solomon of Laidback Bike Report brings us another video offering information and help for those who would like to add e-assist to their trike.  Here is the video description … If you want to add an electric motor to your existing trike David Hall offers some compelling and inexpensive solutions. David is the founder of Eco Cycles in Nashville and shows us how you can install their motors, batteries and displays on any trike.

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ARE E-MOTOR BATTERIES SAFE?

E-motor systems on bikes and trikes have become so very popular. It seems like everybody and their cousins are manufacturing and selling them or components such as batteries. As with anything one could talk about … “they are not all created equal”. We all like a bargain … buying things at a low cost … saving money. BUT, is it safe when it comes to E-motor batteries? Most of us have probably seen at least one video of a battery fire. Definitely these fires look quite scary. I was a Navy firefighter with training dealing with special kinds of fires which have to be handled differently. In the video you can see that dealing with a battery fire qualifies as a special fire hazard and extinguishing it involves a different method than a normal fire. If you don’t know what you are doing you can a bad situation even worse and endanger your own life or any other people around the area. Definitely other people need to stay far away from the fire. Fireballs can come shooting out from the battery.

For what it is worth I believe it is possible to buy quality batteries from Amazon and Ebay. All my batteries I have bought from them have been good quality batteries. I don’t know about Aliexpress so I can’t comment. I mention this because in the next video this subject is addressed and he advises against buying from these sources. I have heard this from others as well. Batteries are expensive and I have limited funds. Quite frankly I can’t afford buying a $1000 plus battery from sources this guy gets his from. I have bought about 5 batteries thus far and they have all been well made in my opinion. I do look for things like UL rated and the European equivalent.

About the only thing I do special in caring for my batteries is making sure I never charge them at or below freezing temperatures. I leave them outside in freezing weather and have never had any problems. They continue to function normal other than lesser performance in cold weather. That is a well known fact about these batteries. They perform better in warm weather. I live and ride in northern Indiana so I deal with winter weather.

I have everything mounted on my trike. My two batteries and their two chargers are always ready to be used no matter where I go. I almost always charge my batteries on my trike. I keep my trike in the bed of my pick up truck so the charging goes on while the trike is in the bed of my truck. It always has worked out well and I have a full charge in both batteries when I go out for a ride the next time. Some times I plug the chargers in when I stop somewhere and put some charge back into the batteries while I am out with my trike. I use the chargers that come with the batteries. It is hard on batteries to use a charger that charges at a higher rate. I have one 5 amp charger but I rarely use it. That is the maximum size of charger I can use without concern of damaging the batteries. Even so 2 or 3 amps is best and healthiest for the batteries. It takes longer but that is okay. I am usually done riding for the day when I am charging.

Well, that is about all I have to say about this subject. Now it is time to go ride. I am doing my best to …

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DON’T FORGET THE MARSHMELLOWS! (e-trike battery fires)

Many of us have electric motors on our trikes. And they require batteries to provide the electrical power to run the motors. Lithium batteries have a deserved reputation of being capable of being quite hazardous, but that does not mean they are particularly dangerous. Never the less, it is important that we know some things about our batteries and understand some basic fundamentals. We should be careful to buy quality lithium cells such as Panasonic and Samsung. The much cheaper batteries likely use no name Chinese cells and with them come an increased chance of something going wrong … especially if the batteries and/or chargers lack good battery manangement electronics built in. Any more, that isn’t much of a concern either. Basically lithium batteries are safe.

The video below shows a battery on a bicycle catching fire and the guy dealing with it. It is quite likely that he did something he should not have done that caused all this.

This man is living dangerously approaching the burning battery that close and spraying water on it. With the explosions taking place it could shoot out and hit him. And as you can see spraying water on a lithium battery is not exactly safe or effective.

This next video educates us some about lithium batteries and helps us to understand “proper battery management”.

BMS … BATTERY MANAGEMENT SYSTEM is the all important element of safe operation. Batteries must be properly managed. Most of us pay no attention to the recommendation to only charge our batteries to 75% instead of fully charging them. The man mentioned fully charging our lithium batteries limits them to only about 300 charges while charging to only 75% will increase their life to around 12,000 charges … some 4 times longer. I have known this for sometime but I admit that I charge my batteries to a full charge everyday. The good news is both the batteries and the chargers have built in BMS to ensure battery safety. In the early daysit was not always so. Things have improved considerably since then.

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HOW TO TROUBLESHOOT & FIX ELECTRICAL PROBLEMS ON E-BIKES

I can personally identify with this as last Saturday I started having problems with my e-motor on my trike. Power to the motor keeps cutting out so I need to go thru things in an attempt to find the cause and fix it. I am hoping it will turn out to be something simple and inexpensive but I am fearful that it may be the controller. I have a new battery ordered as my present one is old enough to start showing major concerns. It should be getting near the end of its life. Like many others, I am pretty much on my own as there are no e-bike shops anywhere near me that are experienced and know much about working on e-bike motor systems.

This video is nothing profound … just everyday common sense.

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5 BEST RECUMBENT E-TRIKES

I came across this video and found it interesting although I noticed these guys are not doing much pedaling … just using their e-motors to propel them.

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NOT ALL E-MOTOR BATTERIES ARE CREATED EQUAL

My first two lithium-ion batteries I bought for my trike after returning a BionX system for a refund were identical batteries which performed the same … about 60 miles on a full charge. I ruined my original battery riding thru flood water that got deeper than I anticipated (DUH!) That was a costly mistake.

Consequently I ordered a third battery to replace my first one. I did not order the same battery I already had. I checked to see what all was available and chose one that looked and sounded good. It has some extra features that I liked. It has a built in taillight and a 5 volt USB port. It also has a docking head on the front end so it simply plugs in to make electrical contact/connection. I assumed that it would be the same performance-wise. I was mistaken. It is rated the same … 48 volt 20aH … but it doesn’t provide 60 miles of riding like my first two batteries. Fully charged 37 miles is “as good as it gets”. From 60 down to 37 … that is quite a difference. Very disappointing. I contacted the seller about this but got nowhere. It charges up to where it should so as far as he is concerned there is nothing wrong with it. Needless to say if and when I buy a 4th battery I will likely get another one like the first two I bought. My second battery I bought now has deteriorated to where it only provides about 37 miles of riding. That happens as batteries age. So I will likely have to replace it at some point in the future. A friend who has a BionX system older than mine (the one I use to have) tells me that his battery is no longer performing like it used to. He can get his BionX battery rebuilt and in doing so it should be better than it was when brand new providing more miles on a full charge as it will increase from 11.6aH to 14aH. BionX batteries were very high priced. He can get it rebuilt for 1/3 of what BionX charged for it new … and, like I said, have a better battery. I can buy a brand new battery for less than what it cost to rebuild it. Well, that is the truth of the matter. I learned in all of this that not all batteries are created equal. Of course, I don’t know how one can possibly know unless others share their experiences … which is what I am doing here. We all want the best quality we can get for our money. I need to go online to write up a review and rating of these batteries so that others will know. To my way of thinking I got ripped off when I bought this third battery and since the seller won’t stand behind what he is selling it doesn’t bother me to rate him poorly. Summer is nearly over. I hope you have been able to get out and …

ENJOY THE RIDE

despite this PLANdemic we are dealing with.

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