Strolling Amok

Pops goes on tour.

State of the Intrepid – E-Bike Carrier System

The Evelo Aurora cannot be carried by a top-tube carrier, so a wheel hoop carrier is called for.

The Evelo Aurora cannot be carried by a top-tube carrier, so a wheel hoop carrier is called for.

The Hollywood Racks HR1450E Sport Rider SE2 2-Bike e-bike carrier that I use at the front of the truck has required about as much attention as a new refrigerator/freezer. Once you yank the anti-rattle handle that keeps it tight in your hitch receiver a few times during the first month, that’s about it for “maintenance”. I’ve already covered this carrier’s features on my Evelo Test Mule page, so I’ll pretty much keep to usage effects over the last two years.

The wheel hoops are easy to adjust to fit different sizes of bike. I've reversed the rear pair to better support my BOB bike trailer.

The wheel hoops are easy to adjust to fit different sizes of bike. I’ve reversed the rear pair to better support my BOB bike trailer.

The Hollywood carrier supports the bike at the wheels, and the hoops can be quickly adjusted from side to side in order to accommodate various bike wheelbases. You just loosen a large knob, slide a hoop, and retighten. For my purposes, final adjustment required some finesse, so that the bike’s cranks would clear the vertical tube and also center between the truck’s headlamps. Two height-adjustable hooks (of which I use only one) drape over the bike’s main tube. Adjustment is instantaneous thanks to a simple squeeze lever at each hook’s base, and once you let them go, the resulting bite is aggressive and won’t slip at all. Hollywood installs a thick foam tube over each of the large hooks used to hold bikes upright, to help protect paint. The Evelo Aurora’s step-through frame presents a rather clumsy section of frame tube to loop over, very low down and just above the crank. This makes the hook’s job tougher as far as leverage is concerned, but the bike totters inside this hook very little and without a hint of hook flex. The poor leverage and the miles I’ve put on have worn through both the foam tube and the paint on the bike. I’ve wrapped the foam with Gorilla Tape in that spot, just to prevent metal-on-metal contact, and it seems to be getting enough protection that no further action is needed. If the Evelo Aurora had a more conventional step-through frame or had a top tube, I doubt that the foam would have worn through at all. But, I’m speculating.

Since the foam around the hook has worn, I did a token fix by wrapping Gorilla tape around the worn spot. Paint is worn off the bike's tube as well, since the tube is so low. This magnifies the bike's leverage on the hook.

Since the foam around the hook has worn, I did a token fix by wrapping Gorilla tape around the worn spot. Paint is worn off the bike’s tube as well, since the tube is so low. This magnifies the bike’s leverage on the hook.

With all the weather exposure, the carrier’s black paint has gone matte, and touches of light surface rust show here and there along cut edges, a common issue with painted-over sharp corners. The carrier still works like new however, and is sturdy enough that the 65-pound bike and 20-pound bike trailer can’t cause it to flex on nasty trails. They might twist very slightly to one side or other for an instant, but I’ve long since given up paying attention to what’s happening with the bike. The HR1450E is specially reinforced against twist forces. The carrier and e-bike will still be there which, given the Ford’s 800-pound-rated snowplow-ready front springs and heavy front anti-sway bar, is saying something.

The wheel hoops also make a decent platform for carrying the BOB trailer.

The wheel hoops also make a decent platform for carrying the BOB trailer.

Front mounting is not something you want to do unless you have no alternative. I’d say that at speed, the driving rain can have an effect on the mid-drive e-bike’s crank bearings, but making the bike ride in the clinging dustball behind the truck isn’t too good for it, either. The front-mounted bike does impede the view out the windshield, but not badly (on a truck), and you get used to it. It collects bugs along the highway as well, and you have to deal with that if you’re a clean-freak. The bike is too high to throw any kind of cover over it, which cover would cause plenty of excitement if you tried to drive with it in place, anyway. I haven’t found the bike’s blocking light from the headlamps to be a practical problem at night, but I try to avoid night driving anyway. There is some interference – just not enough to make much practical difference.

As long as your vehicle's frame-to-hood distance is tall enough, front visibility is not impaired that much.

As long as your vehicle’s frame-to-hood distance is tall enough, front visibility is not impaired that much.

The only caution I have for mounting the carrier and an e-bike at the rear is to avoid using a hitch receiver at the rear of a travel trailer or cargo trailer, due to the severe, quick bouncing that such trailers produce. My fear is not particularly for the Hollywood carrier, but for the hitch receiver. The long stalk of the carrier magnifies loads and motions, putting quite a strain on the mount. A substantial factory hitch receiver may survive, but it’s just not a happy place to be for something levered so far out there. Clamp-on receivers that attach only to the rear bumper would not be a good idea at all. The Defiant TT’s rear bumper can carry a spare tire, but that is largely above the bumper itself. I don’t think an add-on receiver holding the carrier and e-bike would stay there for long, because the bumper’s thinwall construction and its limited welding to the trailer’s frame merely make it a question of what would fail first – the bumper welds or the twist-resistance of the square tube. Pickup truck or motorhome, great. TT or cargo trailer, not advised. For any carrier you’re considering, download and browse the manual for such usage disclaimers. Whatever happens after that point is your decision.

Turning this handle on the stalk tightens it up within the hitch receiver so that the loaded carrier won't rock from side to side.

Turning this handle on the stalk tightens it up within the hitch receiver so that the loaded carrier won’t rock from side to side.

Call me crazy, but I occasionally check even my front installation for droop or other issues, despite the Curt receiver’s 500-pound rating. (When I towed the Mighty Defiant TT, I also began each voyage with a commercial driver’s license-style walking lap around the combo to check lights and signals, tires, and hitch. That’s the legacy of having once driven bus passengers around for awhile. These days with the truck camper, I check mainly tires, roof latches and now cargo box locking!) The bike/carrier check is done because, should the bike and/or any part of the carrier ever fail and drop to the pavement at speed up there, it would be an exceedingly unhappy day for the Ford’s underbelly as well as my wallet. Such mishaps have happened to others with front-carry bicycles and motorcycles, and the result can be a totaled vehicle, financially speaking. Sometimes, saving money up front can cost a lot more money later. The HR1450E carrier itself is stout enough that it should be seriously considered for problem installations even when all it has to carry is one conventional bike, problem installations being off-road driving and mounting to the rear of any trailer. Unless your vehicle has a relatively spongy suspension, off-roading can bend conventional bike carriers even with just one 30-pound bike (I’ve done that, as well as having a clamp-on carrier snap off), and place quite a twist on carriers using hitch mounts. The Hollywood HR1450E is not cheap, but is a bargain compared to the mayhem a light-duty carrier can wreak should it fold or let go of its load. A little healthy paranoia can be a good thing.

The Aurora's right crank MUST clear the carrier's vertical tube, which makes symmetry against the truck secondary. Fortunately the Ford's headlamps are mounted low and throw their light through the wheels.

The Aurora’s right crank MUST clear the carrier’s vertical tube, which makes symmetry against the truck secondary. Fortunately, the Ford’s headlamps are mounted low and throw their light through the wheels.

When not in use, it’s a quick matter to fold the carrier up vertically. This is done by loosening a thumb lock and pulling a tethered cotter pin to let the main pole swing sideways down to horizontal, then pulling a large cotter pin at the main stalk and lifting the platform. The cotter pin is then reinserted in a different hole to lock the platform vertically, and that pin is held by a short wire cable so that it can’t get lost. Easy. The carrier comes with a long-cable bike lock as well as a hitch receiver lock so that theft is made difficult, and the two locks are keyed alike. The entire carrier is heavy enough that, unless you are in great shape and enjoy showing off, you’ll want to just fold up the platform and leave the carrier installed. Mind you, it’s very quick to dismount, but if you don’t need to remove it, you won’t want to. Its bare weight approaches 100 pounds.

When the carrier is not needed, it takes maybe ten seconds or so to put in its vertical position.

When the carrier is not needed, it takes maybe ten seconds or so to put in its vertical position.

As far as the Hollywood rack is concerned, it was pricey but has proven itself worthy of that. It’s just one of those rare products that never draws attention to itself in use, except perhaps to appreciate its well thought-out functionality in the moment. It just quietly does its job, does it very competently and conveniently, and needs no afterthought. No long straps to adjust, no buckles to pop loose and hammer paint as they flail in the wind. No shifting in place. No “I wonder how it’s doing up there” in the back of my mind. It has taken on the aura of just another tool that you use and don’t have to concern yourself with, and you won’t be needing to replace it any time within the next few decades. It will certainly outlast whatever you load onto it.

Instead of giving my Evelo Aurora e-bike its own separate post, I’ll just mention it here and be done with it. After all, I already have a entire web page devoted to it (see the tabs along the top of the page), with its current status included at page bottom. Apart from the recent failure of its spare battery, the bike itself is still going fine. It just keeps plugging away like an appliance. The Michelin Dry Country tires that I swapped in have been odd. The rear doesn’t have long to go before it will be bald, which shouldn’t surprise me because they start out so thin, but it does. The front has oodles of tread left, but occasionally goes flat while resting. This, despite an add-on belt protecting the Michelin self-sealing tube. I haven’t done anything about it, since it will hold indefinitely if I simply pump it back up again, and it never deflates while riding. Inflation takes a couple of minutes with the onboard air pump, and then it could be days or months before the next spontaneous deflation. I think after I wear through the spare Michelin tire I’m carrying, I’ll look for a more traditional bike tire with more tread thickness. I don’t see 1,800 miles as being too good for a bicycle tire, but I’ve modified my bike to ride more upright and in doing so transfer more weight to the rear than the stock Aurora, so I’m simply getting the natural side effects of my own mod.

A Velcro strap at each wheel helps keep them in the hoops, in case the hook is adjusted a little too loosely.

A Velcro strap at each wheel helps keep them in the hoops, in case the hook is adjusted much too loosely.

When not being used, the straps stow nicely and won't flail around, beating up paint.

When not being used, the straps stow nicely and won’t flail around, beating up paint.

To slow down paint wear on the hoops, I added lengths of split wire looms from the local hardware store.

To slow down paint wear on the hoops, I added lengths of split wire looms from the local hardware store.

The rearward hoop pair also required fine side-to-side adjustment so that my trailer's bottle holders would clear the vertical tube, and still provide a hoop in the right place to drop the trailer's wheel into.

The rearward hoop pair also required fine side-to-side adjustment so that my trailer’s bottle holders would clear the vertical tube, and still provide a hoop in the right place to drop the trailer’s wheel into.

How on earth does an older gentleman lift a heavy e-bike into a carrier? The same way you put on a pair of pants. Note that a conventional top-tube carrier would be unlikely to allow this. I'm no longer gonna be muscling 65+ pounds from waist to neck, held out nearly at arm's length. This method allows you to get up close and personal.

How on earth does an older gentleman lift a heavy e-bike into a carrier? The same way you put on a pair of pants. Note that a conventional top-tube carrier would be unlikely to allow this. I’m no longer gonna be muscling 65+ pounds from waist to neck, held out nearly at arm’s length. This method allows you to get up close and personal.

Between the Super Duty's long wheelbase and this thing hanging out front, maneuvering in tight parking lots is not that much fun. With the carrier empty and folded up, the only impediment is the wheelbase.

Between the Super Duty’s long wheelbase and this thing hanging wide out front, maneuvering in tight parking lots is not that much fun. With the carrier empty and folded up, the only impediment is the wheelbase.

 

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3 thoughts on “State of the Intrepid – E-Bike Carrier System

  1. I actually have a receiving hitch on the back of my little trailer and I keep thinking about a bicycle. Wishing I had one. If I do get one, it sounds like this carrier would be the best option, because I would not be able to see it at all, or even know that it was gone, until it was all over but the shouting!

    Of course, cost is prohibitive for me, on both the bike and the carrier. That’s why I just keep thinking about it! 😉

    Actually, even though I would enjoy having a bike, just to ride, I know that there are not a lot of circumstances for me to use a bike for any specific purpose, the way you do. Which means I could not justify the cost. Then too, I never have been a dirt bike enthusiast. Even when I had a motorcycle it was a street bike. I don’t like that skatey feeling of riding across gravel. It always feels like the bike, or motorcycle, could go out from under me much easier then if I was on a blacktop road. Since most of places I camp at are all gravel roads, I think that wish will just remain a dream!

    Enjoy the ride!

    • I’ve seen your Tiny TT (a Coleman pop-up tent camper converted into a small home on wheels), Rachel, and suspect that your hitch fits into the “problematic” category. Plus, the rear entry means that the bike (and probably carrier) would need to be removed to get inside for any reason. Non-optimal. That said, if you can’t afford a bike and carrier, then you might as well go ahead and dream big! Just for grins, one theoretical option is to go with StowAway’s bike rack on their swing-away frame, which fixes the rear access issue. Maybe Thule has something like this too. The limitation here is that StowAway’s rack holds bikes by the frame and so only accepts top tube (boy’s-style) bikes.

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