DIY Electric Bike for Pedal-Powered SPIN Farms

Courtesy of Paul, H., Victory Garden Vegetables, Cobourg, ON

When I was SPIN-Farming in mountainous Nelson, BC, I started out with the highest end BionX electric kit that was available at the time (2009). It was an in-hub electric motor with 36V Li-Ion battery, and it fits into any regular bike (mine was a mountain bike). Very slick design – downhill recharging, alarm system, etc. – but unfortunately, it broke down on me repeatedly, specifically with the downhill recharging. I even had it totally replaced under warranty, and the second one broke down in the same way as the first one. Rather than get the “next model” that they tried to sell me on, I tried another brand. (To be fair, everyone else I’ve spoken to who’s gotten the BionX kit has raved about it and hasn’t had any trouble – but then, most of them weren’t carrying cargo up and down steep mountainsides. 🙂

I ended up purchasing the eZee electric hub kit, which had similar specs to the model of BionX (also in-hub, similar battery) except that it wasn’t as slick (no recharging while you’re biking, and some parts look like they were put together in someone’s basement), but it was totally reliable and just as powerful. I still use it today and it works just as well as when I bought it. I think it ended up costing me around $1700, and I installed it myself.

That worked great for the farm’s first year, during which I had the help of a couple friends who had access to a pick-up truck for market days and for hauling the rototiller. But the next year I knew I was going to need more power if I wanted to operate the farm totally by bike, so I ended up getting a second motor, called the Stokemonkey. (Looks like they aren’t taking orders at the moment, but there are other options out there.) The Stokemonkey powers your pedals, not your wheel directly. This motor offers a significantly higher torque than an in-hub motor assuming you put your pedals into the right gear for the job (you just get a feel for it, the same as you get a feel for gearing up and down normally). With the Stokemonkey I was able to do everything by bike, including hauling my rototiller or a volunteer up steep grades.

I’ve never worn out either of my motors; it’s more my brakes that have taken a toll from all this. 🙂

The Stokemonkey is designed for Xtracycle-modified bikes (Curtis has that, too), and getting an Xtracycle free radical kit for your existing bike is totally worth it, even if you have a separate bike trailer that you’re planning to use. There’s nothing handier.

Here are some pictures of my setup a couple springs back:

Good luck – it’s a fun ride.

See also: Curtis Stone’s post:


Make Raised Beds With a Tiller


Courtesy of SPIN Farmer Kevin A, Ontario

To make raised beds, you can use a walking tractor with an attachment called a Berta Rotary Plow. This can make a raised bed from a grass covered field. This means you could avoid pressure treated wood or worse railroad ties. No worries about leakage or kids

Buy Seed Potatoes and Unusual Varieties

Courtesy of Bob B., The Fresh Veggies, Toronto, ON
I used store bought potatoes in 2008, and the yield was low. Last year I ordered seed potato, and the yield was almost three times higher. I planted following the varieties with exceptional results: Norland Red, Yukon Gold, Banana Fingerling, Lindzer Fingerling, Peanut Fingerling and Russian Blue.Paying extra for seed or seed potatoes pays well at market because you know exactly what variety it is, you can explain to customers the best way to use them and you distinguish yourself with a better product. Almost everyone else has the same varieties, one that anyone can buy at stores, organic or conventional. In SPIN-Farming, we have to standout with a better product. Our customers appreciate that, and always come back for more.