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A (minor-ish) Disaster

Raffi was drop-shipped from Italy, where Di Blasi tricycles are made, to me in the USA, arriving in perfect condition in a surprisingly small carton, thanks to his compact fold. The transaction seemed a risky business, but went very well, and it was possible to ride immediately. Out of the box!

Cracked and split.
Above, the raw edge where the clip,
which is meant to hold the battery in place,
has broken off.

However, three rides in, disaster struck. The mounting plate into which the Di Blasi battery slides and clips cracked and broke — making it impossible to use. After three rides.

This was crushing. On reflection, though, it’s impossible to understand how this couldn’t have happened. The clip meant to hold the battery case in place is very slim, the plastic seems far too fragile a material to hold a heavy battery, and the whole trike vibrates, of course, as it must, putting stress on those vulnerable plastic parts.

Crack on the other side, which didn’t break all the way through.
There’s a spring in the back, just visible, to help absorb the vibrations,
but that’s no help with the forces in the slot which holds the battery case.

Thanks to the Di Blasi’s compact fold, rescue was easy. I folded Raffi up, and we tucked him into a vehicle and took him home. I contacted the shipper, and a new part was ordered right away, which was a great relief.

To my even greater relief, and in the face of impending Covid lockdown, the new mounting plate arrived. It was identical, so I knew I’d have the same problem all over again if I didn’t figure out a solution.

Installing the new plate required some dexterity, and a socket I didn’t have, which meant a trip to a hardware store. In the process, in the middle of a delicate first turn, I snapped the electric connector from the Di Blasi’s right wire, which necessitated a second trip to a hardware store for a new connector. It’s possible to remove that connector without damaging it, but great care would be required — and fore-warning. I know better now.

Nonetheless, I persisted, and got the new plate wired and installed, and then took a good look at the issue. I figured the solution — at least the home-grown solution — was pretty self-evident. I also figured it had a high likelihood of being successful.

View of new plate, installed. You can see the flimsy clip
in the center, to the right of the round cap.
The view is from the back of the seat looking
across the battery and rear wheels.
The visible spring, theoretically, would hold the battery case
locked in the mounting plate, and also act as something of a shock absorber.

The essential requirement to keep the mounting plate from self-destructing would seem to require preventing the inevitable stress caused by the weight of the battery against the plastic slots in the mounting plate. Ergo, movement between the mounting plate and the battery case must be prevented. So I got got a hold of some webbing straps, some clips, and some velcro, and made two straps to hold the battery in place without shifting.

I added the silver band and reflective tape to the battery case.
The more visibility, the better. The decor doesn’t affect the
way the case works in any way.

The straps fit around Raffi’s frame, across the mounting plate, and around the battery case. The hook-and-loop fasteners on the webbing allow it to be drawn tight against the case, and “double gatekeeper” clips keep the straps locked in place. The webbing slips through a slot on one side of the clip, and the other side has a hook which locks closed. The lock lets you release and remove the strap when necessary.

I didn’t need to worry about the spring behind the mounting plate, since it functions like a shock absorber, and shouldn’t be a problem as long as the plate and battery case act as one. All I’ve really done is to ensure that the case and mounting plate are solidly connected to each other without stressing the side slots or that feeble top clip.

So I’m completely confused as to why this battery-mounting arrangement is so . . . awful. I know that, in the UK, these Di Blasi R34s (and the unpowered Di Blasi R32s) are often sold as disability trikes. (One advantage being that they are slim enough to go through shop doors.) So perhaps there is an expectation of genteel use. And yet, how much more genteel are village side walks, paved gardens, or quiet streets than my own well-paved pathways?

How does this mounting plate, un-protected, survive anything?

You might think that I’m a bit discouraged by this little adventure. No, not exactly. I bought my Di Blasi R34 after a huge amount of research, and even more thought, at the start of a pandemic which I well understood would disrupt supplies, supplies and supply chains all over the world. (I am not prescient; this is what happens in pandemics.) It was a gamble, yes, but a well-considered one.

When I had Raffi drop-shipped from Italy to the United States, I accepted that the warranty was, essentially, not useful to me. I knew that if anything happened to Raffi’s frame, I’d probably be looking for a welder in a agricultural county close to me. I knew that if his engine or battery failed, I’d be finding service here, and not in Italy. I knew needing parts would be a problem.

I admit that I thought of potential problems on a much larger scope than the one I discovered! The one part I’d have the most difficulty replicating or replacing was the one that broke.

Here, I was enormously lucky. The mounting plate broke, incredibly, on my third ride. I emailed pictures and a clear description to the drop-shipper — Bikemania — and they ordered the replacement for me, presumably under that warranty I thought I’d never use. I stayed in polite contact during the wait for the part, the staff was wonderful at being responsive and responding, and, against all odds, the part arrived safely, allowing Raffi’s story to continue — to my great happiness!

The replacement part broke, this time on the other side, details here.

I have no affiliation with Di Blasi, except as a paying customer. See my Disclaimer page.

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