Friday, September 3, 2010

Meet an eBike Builder: Bill Stites, Stites Design

Bill Stites, c. Stites Design
At Southeast Sunday Parkways, as our Intersection Superhero shift drew to a close, our replacement rode up on an impressive recumbent tricycle. Closer examination showed that it was also a mid-drive ebike. It's rider, Bill Stites, and I exchanged contact info, in hopes of talking ebikes again soon.

Bill is more than an ebike rider; he's an accomplished designer and builder of ebikes and trikes. His company, Stites Design, shares a workspace in Southeast Portland with several design and fabrication companies, and enjoys the synergies that often emerge from sharing space with people with a mix of skills and experience.

The New Truck Trike, c. Stites Designs
His latest design is the Truck Trike, a modular trike with a flat bed that can be reconfigured specifically  to carry heavy or bulky loads. The each rear wheel is driven by a 36 volt motor, while the front wheel is driven through Bill's own StitesHub. This unique product transmits pedal power to the front wheel via a top-mounted universal joint, which has also appeared in other Stites-designed bikes.  Photos from the design and build of the Truck Trike can be found here  -  fortunately, the prototype was sold to local bike delivery service B-Line that I wasn't able to see one on this visit. B-Line has been putting the Truck Trike through vigorous testing - in fact, early testing of the Truck Trike suggested improved rear brakes. While we were speaking, Bill demonstrated his solution, a motorcycle-grade disc brake, mounted to the hub via a bracket and plate he designed and machined himself. The disc is nearly as large as the 20-inch BMX-style tires used on the Trucker Trike. When asked if he'd producing more Truck Trikes, he said, "Yes, I plan to build them in-house, leveraging Portland's great network of bike and part builders. For example, the Truck Trike uses Epic Wheelwork's products."

"I have to run in a meeting."
Bill started his second career designing ebikes after leaving his previous one as a chiropractor.  Once you know this, a lot of little touches in his workspace make a lot more sense - for instance, a model of a human spine occupies a prominent position on one of his workbenches, workstations include mats for better comfort while standing, and his preferred desk work position - while walking on his treadmill.  "Sitting is really the worst position for your spine; it's basically direct compression. Besides, it's good to get some additional exercise in while working," he said.

His early designs included a variety of recumbents, trikes, and a very interesting modulated trike. This design combines the benefit of trike stability with the efficiency of being able to lean into a turn. The pivot can also be locked out, turning it into a traditional trike. Past designs are literally hanging from the rafters; indeed, it obvious that Bill is as prolific as he is focused.

Increased swept area should improve brake performance.
While the brake upgrade continues on the Truck Trike, Bill's not losing momentum on other projects, including  mounting an ebike kit midframe on a smaller-framed bike, and designing a new, more ergonomic front end for the Truck Trike, which will feature a more comfortable riding position without sacrificing any power. "We're seeing a lot of different forces come together at the same that increasingly make light electric vehicles valuable solutions. An aging population, increasing petroleum-based transportation expenses, and denser urban living are just a few of these. It's going to be exciting to see how the industry evolves."


  1. That is one serious looking cargo hauling machine! Nicely done Bill.

  2. Motor System by Locally designed EcoSpeed. 36V 40Ah LiFePO4 batteries by eBikekit through The eBike Store.

  3. its seems that we are going full circle and will arrive back at the electric car, this time human hybrid.

    I have been thinking about an electric bike for a while to help me pull my trailer. I probably go with a
    BionX electric bike kit. You don't have to be a rocket scientist to do an electric conversion : )

    Great truck trike, hats off.

  4. And if you want to see the custom designed LED lighting system for the Truck Trike - it is here :

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