e-cells e-bike brakes

In July of 2020, we purchased a 600 watt dual-motor AWD fat-tire e-bike from ecells.com. The bike has a motor in each wheel. The frame is super beefy and fairly heavy. It has been a hoot. Mostly we ride it on paved urban trails here in town, where the beefy frame and rack lets it excel at hauling home groceries. It’s more at home out at Meany Lodge where we ride it up and down forest roads in the mountains where the low-pressure fat tires provide abundant traction and good suspension. It can really haul on the loose gravel roads.

Last weekend I took it on a ride near Mailbox Peak with a group of friends. The bike did quite well at helping me ride up the mountain like I was 20 years younger and 20 pounds lighter. Where it wasn’t so awesome was blasting down the no-longer-maintained-and-sometimes-washed-out logging roads. I wanted to downhill hard and fast, like on my still-awesome Raleigh M-800 mountain bike. The E-cells brakes need to stop 70# of bike, 10# of gear, and me, while thrashing downhill at 30-35mph. I was experiencing significant brake fade and needing to plan my braking. The brakes lack authority. So I went shopping for upgrades and learned a few things.

Brake Pad Types

  1. metallic – longest life, greatest stopping power, more noisy
  2. organic/resin – quiet, good initial bite, glaze over / fade under heavy braking
  3. semi-metallic – combination of the two

The pads that came with my bike are Tektro A10.11, which is a sintered (semi-metallic) ceramic pad. That pad is no longer listed on the Tektro web site. The nearest OEM replacement is the E10.11 ($15), which is sintered organic. A higher performance metallic pad is the Tektro P20.11 ($24) which I have ordered. They provide a small boost in stopping power, but more importantly, they won’t fade under prolonged heavy braking.

Rotor Size

E-bikes have three common rotor sizes: 160, 180, and 203mm. Bigger rotors increase stopping power. Most e-bike forks are set up for 160mm rotors. Cheap ($10-15) adapters enable those forks to work with 180 and 203mm rotors.

The E-cells 600 comes with Tektro Aries mechanical disc brakes on 180mm discs (front and rear) with adapters. Because the front wheel provides ~70% of the stopping power, it’s quite common to use 203mm front rotors and 180mm rear. In fact, the higher spec E-cells 700 and 1000 models have exactly that setup, except with hydraulic calipers.

Disc Brake Types

• Mechanical disc brakes are inexpensive, reliable, and solidly better than rim and other brakes of yesteryear. Like legacy brake systems, they are cable actuated. They have a single moving piston which warps the brake disc into the other pad, compressing it and providing braking power.

• Hydraulic disc brakes replace the wire cable with hydraulic fluid (DOT or mineral oil) which provides equal force on two opposing pistons. The reduced friction and doubling of pistons provides more braking power with less effort. Testing (varies a LOT based on bike and system) shows a 40-70% reduction in braking distance with hydraulic disc brakes.

• Hydraulic 4-piston disc brakes are fairly new, fairly rare, and expensive. They are the go-to option for higher speed (22+ mph) and cargo eBikes. The piston engagement is progressive: you initially get two pistons braking and as the rider pulls harder, all 4 engage for massive stopping power. That much braking power would be dangerous on lighter bikes, but it’s needed for fast downhills on a heavy bike. 🚵 😁 😈 

• Hybrid: there exists a hybrid, the Juin Tech M1 cable actuated hydraulic brake. They’re intriguing, promising substantially better stopping power than mechanical disc brakes for a modest upgrade ($160) price and very simple install. The only “not paid” review data I found is that they are an incremental improvement upon mechanical disc brakes, but not a step-change improvement like going from mechanical to hydraulic.

e-bike brakes

Another layer of complexity added to e-bike brakes is that the brake levers need cutout switches that disengage the motor when braking. The vast majority of bicycle brake systems don’t have this feature.

Combine the newness of 4-piston brakes with the much smaller ecosystem of brake levers with cutoffs for e-bikes and the choices get very narrow. As in, the full list is: Tektro E-725, Magura MT-5, Magura MT-7. I opted for the Tektro because the Magura’s have plastic fluid reservoirs.

The switch to metallic pads and 4-piston brakes should suffice. If not, my next move will be upsizing the front rotor to 203mm, for another ~12% increase in braking power.

2021 Michigan Road Trip

This summer we drove to Michigan to visit my dad and celebrate his 75th birthday. Because I’m still playing the Superchargers Visited game (2019 trip, 2020 trip), I had to choose routes that didn’t overlap with previous ones. Fortunately, that left lots of fresh ground to cover and we spent a lot more of this trip on highways and less time on the interstates.

The slower pace and smaller roads made road tripping more fun as I got to experience that joy of discovery that is rare on freeways. Sometimes the discoveries are, “huh, this route through Kansas is every bit as interesting as every other route through Kansas.” Other times, like driving through northern Wisconsin and Indiana, we stumbled through some lovely little towns and cities that were well kept and seem to have avoided the fate of so many rustbelt towns.

This trips haul was 86 unique superchargers visited over 9 days of driving.


A year ago I gave my old AirPods to Kayla because the batteries didn’t last very long. Now they’ve reached the point where they only last 5 minutes on a charge. I’m pretty handy at replacing batteries in iPhones and  Watches so I looked up info on how to do it for AirPods. And then I looked at how much Apple charges to replace the batteries ($49 per Airpod, $98 for the pair). And then I found PodSwap. So I ordered a swap for $60. If you have an old pair of AirPods needing new batteries, try them and save 10%.


A few months ago I listened to a How I Built This episode about the Dripsie, a meticulously and carefully designed sink strainer. I have a garbage disposal in the bottom of our single bowl kitchen sink and thus have no need for a Dripsie. I bought a two-pack anyway and took them up to our ski lodge to try them out.

They work much better than the old stainless strainers full of little holes. Even when they’re full up with food scraps, they continue to drain very well. Tonight Alicia asked me where I got them. At first I couldn’t remember and googled a few terms related to sink strainers with no luck at all. Then I finally remembered the name Dripsie and voila.

Finance books worth reading

Here are a few books on finance and investing that I’ve read and recommend.

  • The Intelligent Investor by Benjamin Graham
  • The Four Pillars of Investing by William Bernstein
  • A Random Walk Down Wall Street by Burton Malkiel
  • Thinking Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman
  • When Genius Failed by Roger Lowenstein
  • Financial Statement Analysis by Martin Fridson
  • One Up On Wall Street by Peter Lynch
  • Asset Allocation by Roger Gibson
  • The Neatest Little Guide to Stock Market Investing by Jason Kelly

Humor: COVID 19

  1. What types of jokes are allowed during quarantine? Inside jokes!
  2. I’ll tell you a coronavirus joke now, but you’ll have to wait two weeks to see if you got it.
  3. Why do they call it the novel coronavirus? It’s a long story….
  4. Why don’t chefs find coronavirus jokes funny? They’re in bad taste.
  5. What do you tell yourself when you wake up late for work and realize you have a fever? Self, I so late.
  6. Let me get this straight, there’s no cure for a virus that can be killed by sanitizer and hand soap?
  7. Why didn’t the sick guy get the joke? It flu over his head.
  8. When this virus thing is over with, I still want some of you to stay away from me.
  9. If these last months have taught us anything, it’s that stupidity travels faster than any virus on the planet, particularly among politicians.
  10. Wait – you’re telling me that my chance of surviving all this is directly linked to the common sense of others? You’re kidding, right?
  11. People are scared of getting fined or arrested for congregating in crowds, as if catching a deadly disease and dying a horrible death wasn’t enough of a deterrent.
  12. If you believe all this will end and we will get back to normal just because we reopen everything, raise your hand. Now slap yourself with it.
  13. So many coronavirus jokes out there, it’s a pundemic.
  14. Whoever decided a liquor store is more essential than a hair salon is obviously a bald-headed alcoholic.
  15. Remember when you were little and all your underwear had the days of the week on them. That would be helpful right now.
  16. The spread of Covid-19 is based on two factors: 1. How dense the population is and 2. How dense the population is.
  17. Remember those times when you wished the weekend would last forever? Wish granted. Happy now?
  18. It may take a village to raise a child, but it’s going to take a vineyard to home school one.
  19. Did a big load of pajamas so I would have enough clean work clothes for this week.

(some jokes without links blatantly stolen from Dean Forbes post on NextDoor)

Please don’t use TurboTax or H&R Block

If you ever wondered why we can’t have single form tax returns, or automatically prepared tax returns with the information the IRS already has, the reason is because Intuit and H&R Block have made it illegal for the IRS to offer such a service.

They’re trying to perpetuate that status quo, permanently preventing the IRS from offering tax prep software. The best way to fight them is to never again pay them a single penny.

For tax prep, I’ve been using credit karma for the past couple years and I recommend it.

RIP: Methuselah

In the year 2013 we acquired our fish tank and a few goldfish from Highland Terrace Elementary. Months later our tank population grew when neighbor kids tired of their fish. The goldfish eventually outgrew our tank and retired to an outdoor pond. We replaced with a few Neon Tetras. One by one, the tank population shrank until 2016 when only one (from our neighbors) remained: Methuselah the Ancient.

Methuselah moved with us to our new home in 2016. After that initial year of construction and mayhem we added two more fish, three snails, and a pair of shrimp. Methuselah had tank mates again but he paid them as much attention as they paid him: not much at all. Methuselah the Ancient has been the subject of many stories and his old owners still come visit (he never knew they weren’t coming to see him).

On Saturday June 16, 2018, Methuselah the Ancient was found stuck to the intake of the water filter. Farewell oh ancient one.

dumb questions

Straight from the department of Don’t Ask Questions You Don’t Want To Know Answers To comes today’s plumbing edition: “how much water could possibly be left in this pipe?!”