Boardman HYB 8.9e electric bike review

My partner needed an electric bike – it is hilly round here so an ebike was the only viable option. There were two important criteria:

  1. She isn’t particularly small, but the trend towards large wheel sizes means that most bikes are far too big.
  2. Her top priority was that it shouldn’t look like an electric bike – no bulky battery.

One of the few bikes that met both criteria was the Boardman HYB 8.9e with the Fazua battery and motor system. Both the battery and motor are in a removable lump that clips into the bottom of the downtube. The motor drives the bottom bracket via a three-lobed rotor (that forms the Fazua logo). It is a mid-drive unit – the motor power is transmitted via the normal gears and chain – with torque sensing.

Overall the bike seems to be good quality. The first bike seemed to have been dropped during assembly – the plastic top downtube liner was broken – but Halfords shipped out a replacement quickly and that bike has been fine. It rides nicely and the Fazua system works very well, providing plenty of power for even steep hills.

I did upgrade the firmware in the motor to version 2.0 and tweak the settings via the Fazua toolbox. This was easy to do and very worthwhile – the bike is much more powerful and responsive now. It is still entirely legal – the changes are better performance at a wider range of cadences, plus less rider pedal pressure for given level of assistance.

I’ve fitted mudguards and a rear panier rack. I like the way that the front mudguard eyelets are part-way up the forks. This is an important safety feature as it stops the front mudguard getting jammed in the front wheel if road debris gets between the tyre and mudguard. With the eyelets close to the wheel the mudguard gets closer to the wheel as the debris moves up, causing a jam. With the eyelets further up the mudguard moves away from the wheel releasing the debris and avoiding a jam. The panier rack is so she can lug the heavy stuff up the hills!

The bike is nice and light – about 14kg including battery and motor. It doesn’t feel heavy and is easy to lift around.

The only downside is the downtube. This isn’t actually a tube as it is part of the Fazua system – it is just a C shape so the battery and motor can be clipped in. This means it has very little torsional ridgidity – readily apparent if you watch closely while pressing on a pedal. In practice this doesn’t matter at all – the motor power means you never press hard on the pedals anyway!

Overall – recommended. My partner loves the bike and is happy to go on rides with big hills.

Mazda 6 Mk2 Rear Seatbelt Issue

I’ve got a 2010 Mazda 6 with about 100,000 miles on the clock. It’s a great car – lovely to drive and very reliable. However it did something interesting to me the other day.

I folded the rear seats down to get a bike in the boot. When I tried to put the seats back up one side wouldn’t move – the seat belt had locked itself. I suspect the inertia reel units have something to stop them locking in the down position and this has stopped working due to age.

The seat is designed to be worked on when it is in the upright position – locked down everything gets much harder! I wanted to take the car to the garage for them to have a look but all the Mazda garages are closed due to COVID-19.

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Vitruvius on lead pipes

I recently received a copy of Vitruvius’s On Architecture. This is a guide for professional engineers written in about BCE10. Vitruvius worked for Julius Caeser and was granted a pension by Augustus.

The first impression is of a modern attitude towards engineering. Whilst some of the conclusions are not in alignment with modern thinking the overall impression is that you could take this book, follow the instructions and the results would be satisfactory. The theory as to why you should do certain things is dubious, but the conclusions seem sound.

I’ve only browsed the book so far, but my biggest surprise is that he says lead pipes are poisonous:

Besides, water from terracotta pipes is much more healthy than that taken through lead pipes, which seems to be particularly damaging seeing that white lead, said to be harmful to the human organism, derives from lead.

So it is obvious that water should never be conducted in lead pipes if we want it to be beneficial to our health.

This was over 2000 years ago. I’d always thought that lead being toxic was a modern discovery. I grew up with:

  • Leaded petrol
  • Lead in paint
  • Lead water pipes (lots still around and in use)

So I am boggled that lead was known to be a problem over 2000 years ago!

Rebuilding steel-framed bike

One option to get fitter, reduce car costs and reduce carbon emissions is to:

  1. Drive myself and the kids to school in the car;
  2. Get bike out of the car boot and cycle home;
  3. Cycle back in at pick up time, dismantle bike and put it back in the boot of the car;
  4. Get kids and drive back in the car.

I discovered that a bike my dad bought me for school will fit in the boot of the car with its wheels off. It is a nice bike – great fun to ride. However the freewheel was free in both directions and the paint was coming off, leading to rust.

First stage was to strip off the old paint. I was going to get the frame shot-blasted and powder coated. However I couldn’t find anyone locally to do this – most calls went unreturned – and I didn’t want to put the frame in the post due to the risk of damage. For this bike I don’t really care what it looks like – the paint needs to stop rust and if it looks rough it is less likely to get stolen.

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Debian exim/dovecot email server with Saltstack – Installation

I develop the Salt scripts against a local VM. Once it is time to deploy remotely the process is as follows:

  1. Start up the VM with provider of choice (I use and recommend Bytemark)
  2. Log in via SSH
  3. Add the appropriate Saltstack Package Repoisitory
  4. apt-get update
  5. apt-get upgrade
  6. apt-get install salt-minion
  7. Configure the SaltStack Minion to run masterless: edit /etc/salt/minion and ensure that file_client: local is set.
  8. Tar up the SaltStack configuration files you’ve created, scp them across to the server, and tar xzf them out into /srv/salt/
  9. salt-call --local state.apply
  10. Now wait a bit. Hopefully there won’t be any errors.
  11. /usr/sbin/update-exim4.conf
  12. systemctl restart exim4
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Debian exim/dovecot email server with Saltstack – Security

A couple of basic security utilities: fail2ban and logcheck.

srv/salt/fail2ban.sls

Fail2ban scans the SSHD log files looking for failed login attempts. After a few attempts from one IP address it adds a firewall rule to block that IP address from further connections. Given that any SSHD exposed to the Internet will receive a continuous stream of connection attempts within seconds of going online, protection of this kind is very necessary.

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