Dale’s STEPS e-bike
I happened to meet Dale whilst out riding several years ago. He is retired and enjoys riding his bike, but was looking for a little help to be able to ride further and more frequently. So we started a conversation about building him a custom electric assist bicycle. This was quite a long conversation as the specifics of what Dale wanted required some parts that weren’t available yet! Initially I was going to do some custom fabrication to rectify this; in the end the timing worked out that I was able to do less of this than anticipated.
The basic design brief was: Fit to match Dale’s Co-motion touring bike. Drop bars. Shimano STEPS mid-drive motor. 38mm tubeless tires. Fenders. Lights. Dropper seatpost (for ease of mounting and start-stopping). Front suspension. Built in rack to fit Dale’s panniers and clear his heels. Gates belt drive. Alfine 8spd hub with Di2 shifting.
I hadn’t built a STEPS bike before, so there was a bit of a learning curve there. And a few discussions with my very helpful rep at Shimano! It turns out that the Ultegra Di2 shifters used to be compatible with the STEPS system, but the current ones are not, so that meant I wasn’t able to fully integrate the Alfine Di2 shifting into the motor/battery. Not too big a deal, we just have a regular internal Di2 battery in addition to the downtube mounted STEPS battery.
I was able to source a STEPS motor mount from Framebuilder Supply, then just had to modify it to mount at 45 degrees rather than flat as it was intended for. Just in time, Gates were able to supply me with a spider for the motor to enable the mounting of a CarbonDrive ring. To get the beltline to work out with the wide tires and Di2 motor unit, I had to offset the rear dropouts 7mm to the right side, with the rear wheel dished accordingly. A set of Paragon rocker dropouts provides both belt tensioning and the split in the frame for belt installation.
Supernova lights are installed on custom brackets front and rear, with all wires and cables (including the dropper post) run internally. To fit the STEPS controller and the dropper lever on the bars an accessory mount was used, tucking them next to the stem.
We decided to give the Lauf short travel suspension fork a try for the front, to hopefully help reduce road buzz. With the steerer at 300m long, a steerer extender was required to get the bars at the correct height. There are bosses on the headtube for attaching a K-edge Go-Pro mount.
If you have ever seen or owned a Rob English built bike, then you know it is a piece of functional art. It is made to Rob’s high standards. The bicycle looks beautiful and rides even better. What I want to write about is the pleasure of interacting with Rob in the course of creating this ‘masterpiece’.
My goal was to have an e-assist Shimano steps motor with a Gates belt drive and an Alfine 8-speed rear hub and drop handlebars. When we began, Gates had not made a belt drive for the Shimano motor and there was no motor housing sold to custom builders. When I would get discouraged, Rob would say, “if we cannot find one then I will build it myself.”
I came out with a road bike that is a joy to ride. I wanted e-assist so that I could have a bicycle that would take me into old age. Instead, I discovered the fountain of youth. “Mechanical doping” allows me to feel as if I am 20 years younger on my rides.
The bike has awesome wheels: Velocity rims, a White Industry front hub and Schwalbe G-one tires. It has a built-in rack with which Rob made sure the panniers would fit with my size 14 shoes. Front and rear fenders to survive the wet Oregon winters.
Thank you Rob for having the patience while working with me to create my dream bike.