In the last 6 months, my wife and I traveled to Europe and Asia on 2 separate occasions. I saw people riding bikes everywhere. That by itself is not surprising. What did surprise me however, was that almost every single bike I saw had an electric motor and battery pack on it. I had never seen anything like that state side. I have seen electric scooters riding around in Toronto, but those were incredibly bulky and wasn’t very pleasant to ride. On these new bikes, the battery packs and motor had such a compact package that it almost feels like it’s intended as part of the bike.
Unfortunately, I didn’t get a chance to ride on one of those electric bikes during my time in Europe and China, but they left an impression on me. I started doing some googling. It turns out there are more than 200 million E-Bikes in the world. That’s way more than I expected. Annually, the world sells 34 million E-Bikes. Asia dominates the market, accounting for close to 90% of worldwide sales. Europe comes in at a distant second, accounting for 5%. North America has <1%, accounting for a measly 152,000 units in 2016 . I was curious why these E-Bikes have such a high level of adoption elsewhere, but almost non-existent here in North America (in both US and Canada).
To truly understand, I wanted to experience riding an E-Bike first hand. I decided to acquire one and use it as my primary form of transportation for a month. To make sure I have good metrics to reference, I used Strava to log all my rides.
So far, I have ridden about 100 miles with a good mix of bike trail and roadway. I would say that overall, it’s been a very positive experience. Here is what I learned during this process.
Build vs Buy
I originally thought I could just buy an E-Bike online, but the prices were significantly higher than I initially thought. I was budgeting around $500 to $1000, but buying a turn-key bike off the shelf often cost more than $3000, and can go up to $5000. There are cheaper ones, but they are all cheap for a reason. I didn’t want this experiment to be ruined because I cheaped out and bought something subpar. Moreover, I wanted a mid-drive solution for performance reasons. This way, I can take advantage of my bike’s existing gearing. To better understand the differences and trade-offs of each setup, click here. I found a few reputable vendors selling E-Bike conversion kits. They often have higher spec motors for a much cheaper price. After some research, I decided to build one myself instead. I bought the bike from a local guy on craigslist, and the conversion kit (including battery + charger) from LunaCycle. Having now gone through the experience, I would definitely recommend the build route. It was such a cool learning experience and you just get much more value for your money.
Below are all the parts I bought:
|BBSHD 1000W Drive kit||https://lunacycle.com/bafang-bbshd-1000w-mid-drive-kit/||
Here are some photos of my converted E-Bike once complete. I really like how it turned out:
The build itself wasn’t super difficult, but did take significantly longer than it should have (about 10 hours over the course of a week). This is mostly due to my own inexperience working on bicycle. Most of the time wasted trying to find the right tools and parts. Realistically, the build can be done under 2 hours. Here are some tips to save you some trouble:
- I didn’t realize I needed special tools to work on a bike. I had to buy this set from Amazon (link)
- The spanner I had didn’t have enough leverage and grip to take off the bottom bracket. I ended up finding this Sheldon Brown method on youtube that worked wonders (link)
- The battery case didn’t fit onto the water bottle mount so had to buy another bracket to offset its position. (link)
- When taking off the chain, and afterwards realizing I shouldn’t take the entire pin out. Spent an hour trying to get pin back in until I gave up. Ended up buying a quick link from KMC (link).
Overall riding experience
Since finishing the build, I have put about 100 miles on the bike over the next 2 weeks. The riding experience have been very positive. I am really surprised at how much better the riding experience is, Below are some telemetry data from a typical ride that I do from home to work:
- I think the best thing about my E-Bike is that it increases my baseline speed when riding. I’m still exerting effort pedaling, but now I stay in the 20-30 MPH instead of 10-20 MPH range. With the help for an electric motor, getting up to speed takes significantly less effort. I can also power through hills without significant loss in speed. As a result, I find that I am enjoying the cycling experience a lot more.
- My second favorite thing about the E-Bike is that it’s really nice to be able keep up with traffic on the road, particularly when there isn’t a bike path. It feels much less scary.
- My third favorite thing is that I can get to work in basically the same amount of time as driving. On my E-Bike, it takes 22 minutes to get to work (7.5 miles). It takes me 15 minutes to drive there. It would normally take me close to 40 minutes on a regular bike. While the E-Bike lacks the top speed, I make it up in stop and go traffic when I can always skip to the front of the traffic light.
- I’m also not sweaty when I get to work, no need to take shower.
- My 13.5 Ah battery is good for about 50 miles, way more than most people commute in a day. However, I typically recharge after 30 miles. It’s not good to completely drain the lithium ion battery pack.
- At 750W setting, the bike already feels plenty fast. I have reached speed of 35 MPH pedaling on my bike, that’s only on a medium power assist level. I honestly don’t think it’s safe to go much faster than that on a normal bicycle.
- For flat city riding, I really only need 1 gear. On cities with more hills, I can see the need for 3, but 9 gears in the back is overkill.
- My biggest surprise was that pedaling felt much better than using the throttle. Even though I can actually go faster when I use throttle, I still compelled to pedal. I think the bike ergonomics is just designed for pedaling so it felt more comfortable, or maybe my preconception is still that I am on a bicycle, so I should pedal. I did feel a little weird being on the bike path with other bikes and passing them without pedaling.
- I tend to use throttle only when I want to accelerate quickly off a red light
Economics of owning an E-Bike relative to car:
- Riding a bike makes is unsurprisingly much cheaper relative to driving a car. By my own estimates, riding an E-Bike cost ~$0.14 per mile (assume battery pack last 500 cycles and routine maintenance on brake pads and rotor) where as driving cost $0.86 per mile. When I replace my 15 mile commute from car to bike, I am able to save ~$2800 each year. The math here is a little fuzzy and have quite a few assumptions baked in, but know that the savings come from the following areas (I might write a more detailed post on this later):
- Most of the savings come from lower depreciation and maintenance.
- No insurance or parking required.
- Electricity is much less costly than gasoline.
- It would still be difficult to completely replace car here in Arizona
- Summer is way too hot to ride a bike. Riding in 100+ degree sun is just not my idea of good time.
- Phoenix is fairly spread out. Going anywhere outside of work and local restaurant would be better suited in a car. I can see E-Bike being adopted much faster in a denser city like New York, Boston, San Francisco, or Toronto
Why adoption hasn’t happened yet
If the ride is so great and economics so favorable, why haven’t I seen more adoption here in US and Canada? If I have to guess, I think there are a few reasons why:
- Current E-Bikes are still too expensive relative to other transport alternatives and there is a lack of available financing options to smooth out the capital outlay. On average, an E-Bike cost between $3,000 to $5,000. In China, your average E-Bike cost around $500. Most Americans just don’t have that type of money saved up in their bank account for what is currently a luxury item. In some ways, a car is actually more affordable than an E-Bike because you can finance a car with $0 down.
- The current E-Bikes are too easily stolen. This is especially a problem in the major cities where E-Bike make the most sense. It just doesn’t make sense to use the same lock mechanism to secure a bike that is $200 vs $2000. I think there is more that can be done on that front for E-Bike. For example, why not lock up the powertrain so the bike can’t be pedaled when off, or notify me on my phone when my bike is on the move while locked.
- Off the shelf E-Bikes performance are too low. Most of the commercial E-Bike uses 250W or 350W motors, because that’s what the European specs are. While that amount of power is able to achieve 20MPH range, it does take its time to get there. In the US, with the open roads, that’s simply not enough power to keep up with traffic. Quite frankly, they still feel like a plain bicycle and it’s a bit boring to ride. Higher adoption require more power.
- E-Bike conversion kits feel more like a prototype than a complete product. The approach most E-Bike builders have taken is to retrofit an existing bike with a motor. While that is often times the most economical option, the bike does feel like a mishmash of parts when done. While they work, but they don’t work as well as you would like. For example, the transmission on an electric motor doesn’t nearly need as many gears, because there’s already an electric power to supplement power. The brakes are often too soft to handle continuous elevated speed. What ends up happening is that I spend more money overtime to upgrade the bike to my desired state. So far I spent about $1500, including parts and tools, this is accounting for a fairly cheap used bike on craigslist ($200). Had I bought a new bike, I would have had to spend probably close to $1900. To make it exactly the way I want it, I estimate that I have to spend an additional $800 to get install IGH, bigger brakes, and more efficient tires with less rolling resistance.
- Software is a step behind the hardware. There are bunch of vendors that are selling kits that have more power, but the electronics are often incompatible. They just don’t feel like the complete package “that should just works”. Most of this is on the software side. Making software + hardware work seamlessly together is hard when everything is built in house. It’s much harder when parts are built by different manufacturers without any real standards in communication protocol. Example:
- My battery charge % being displayed doesn’t reflect accurately because the battery pack is 52v instead of 48v to eek out additional power.
- My display has options to monitor each cell’s charge to ensure that they are balanced. But because the battery pack is custom built by state-side vendor and doesn’t use Bafang’s BMS, those displays don’t work.
- The watt meter also doesn’t get reflected properly.
In order for E-Bike to really take off, I think there is a need to design it from the ground up. Instead of building the motor and battery pack around the frame, the right way to design an E-Bike is to build the frame around the motor and the battery pack. Ideally, the battery pack should be integrated into the frame for a sleeker look. The transmission used should be an Internal Gear Hub for higher reliability, and brakes need to designed to operate in the 30 mph range. Headlight and taillight should be integrated into the bike for night riding.
More importantly, the bike as well as its accessories should also be thought of as an iphone instead of just a purely mechanical system.
- I should be able to program different modes of operations directly on my app (sports mode, eco mode, etc.).
- Over the air update should be possible as power electronics continue to be refined.
- A companion app should accompany the bike to provide detail telemetry data and possible error diagnosis.
- My battery charger should be smart enough to balance the battery charge at 80% instead of waiting until it got to 100% and help prolong the life of my battery pack. Battery Management Systems (BMS) on an E-Bike still have a lot of room to grow.
I am however fairly optimistic that these things will be done in a relatively short time scale. A lot of these technologies are starting to show up in the automotive space. It’ll likely take some time for them to flow down to a price point where it make sense for an E-Bike application. At that point, I think E-Bike will become a much more integral part of people’s lives.
In the meantime, I plan to experiment with a few other things for this bike:
- Tune/program the motor controller to vary the motor wattage and petal assist setting to understand tradeoff
- Build my own battery pack with more capable BMS
- Update the bike drivetrain (bigger brakes, make use of Internal Gear Hub, more suitable tires for city commute)
64 thoughts on “First 100 miles on my E-Bike: what I learned”
Really interesting article. I love the fact that you built the bike yourself from an old model. I believe it would be better to buy each part separately for the best results, like you said, a custom frame that is designed around the mechanism.
I am a fan of things that are expensive but you can make them better for much less money. For instance drones and human scale helicopters.
Taking a KOM on an ebike, you are a bad person.
Exactly. Strava is not for motorized vehicles. Essentially you are mechanically doping to get on the Strava leaderboards. Ignorance is not an acceptable excuse. Get off Strava.
Ah ok didn’t realize that’s how Strava worked. I made all my trips private, so they should no longer show up on the leaderboard.
You can mark the ride as an ‘e-bike ride’ in the activity type field and then it doesn’t interfere with non-electric rider’s KOMs and such. But you can still compare with other e-bike riders. Strava should make it easier. You have to do it for every ride right now, can’t make it a default.
“Strava is not for motorized vehicles.”
You are wrong: https://i.imgur.com/LHtDcNA.png
“Ignorance is not an acceptable excuse.”
People learn by making mistakes. You have made plenty of mistakes in your life. This particular mistake is mostly harmless.
This article was the most comprehensively researched, cross-referenced, and insightful commentary on E-bikes that I have read. Thank you for sharing your thoughts on one of my most favorite subjects. I hope that the professionals within the industry reads this.
I agree 100%, after weeks of reading all sorts of garbage (it’s unbelievable how little is available pertaining to USA), this was one of the best, most comprehensive articles I’ve seen. Cheers, to a job well done !
Please tell me you’ve marked all your ebike rides as ‘private’ on Strava, so that your rides won’t appear in the leaderboards (as that would be cheating the people who aren’t using electrical power!).
Just did! Someone else astutely pointed that out. New to Strava and didn’t know those were automatically tracked.
I don’t have an e-bike, but some friends do, and I’ve researched them a bit (I live near Boston, commute is 6.1 miles by shortest route, I always bike to work, and one day I will probably want an e-assist).
1000 watts is a lot of assist; in many states that would not be street-legal, though there’s not much enforcement (except in NYC because their mayor is clueless about transportation). 750 watts with an assist cutoff at 20mph is a common limit. Ordinary humans produce between 50 and 300 watts, depending on size, fitness, exertion, etc (I think the usual range is 100-200), more in short bursts (like accelerating from a stop). Professional bike racers do more, and for longer.
I’m curious about how well the pedal-assist mode works with a built-by-self bicycle; my officemate has an e-bike that was sold that way by the vendor, and he says that the pedal assist is just magic, you just pedal and it goes better-faster.
You want to be a little careful with e-assist and internally-geared hubs; they’re designed for human-sized power sources, and even large humans (I am a large human) can tear them up, especially if you start using your more-powerful bike to haul larger things. In the world of cargo bikes, the most bomb-proof hubs by reputation are the Rohloff (14 speeds, perhaps $100 per speed depending on current exchange rates with EU) or the NuVinci. One way to help your hub is to use a smaller wheel; those need to turn faster for the same speed, so a higher gearing (with lower torque) is used.
Yeah, I think 750 watts is a very healthy amount of power for a bike. I think in the conversion kit I got, the max wattage is 1000W, but It’s definitely not continuously pulling that amount from the battery pack. I think most of the time, it’s probably pulling about 300W.
The analogy I would make is like having a car with 300HP, but most of the time, you are only using about 100 or so. It does give me a bit more kick during the acceleration phase, which puts a big grin on my face every time.
I don’t really have any data on this, but I would imagine a motor unit designed to handle 1000W is more reliable pulling 300W continuous than a 350W unit continuously pulling 300W, would be interesting to know if your friends with lower wattage bike had any issues and if you know how many watts they are actually pulling.
To answer your second question about pedal assist, it works fairly well, but can definitely be improved. I think this system uses an RPM sensor instead of a torque sensor, so there is a bit of an unnatural delay when the assist kicks in and out.
750w of steady power (let’s say 30 minutes) is twice what a very very strong almost pro racer can do. And more than any pro ever. At that point it’s not a bicycle at all. It’s now a motorcycle. There is no argument to defeat this.
250w sure you’re on an ebike. It’s a bike and it goes bike speeds. 750w is a 1hp electric scooter.
Geese Scott, you seem to want to keep ebikes slow (as if speed and power frieghten you) or you work for DMV or the insurance industry and want to pad your pension with expenses on ebikes. I ride a 750W Polaris eBike that assists to 25mph and it’s still a bit slow in my opinion but I’m on a 50lb ebike and not in a 5000lb car wasting energy so stop whinning about fast eBikes because they can help solve a lot of transportation issues in the US if people would get off their lazy asses and not think they have to get in a car for every trip.
I enjoyed your article, particularly because I had thought about building my own ebike, too. Fortunately, I was able to purchase two e bikes on sale from Rad Power Bikes in Seattle for $2600 on Cyber Monday with free shipping. These bikes address almost all of the concerns you mentioned and have the improvements you wanted. They have 750 watt hubmotors, one with internal gearing (3 speeds) and 7 external gears, and the other with no internal gearing but with regenerative braking and 21 external gears. Each has pros and cons, but the digital control systems are well integrated and function well together. And these bikes were actually less expensive than your project Bike, averaging $1300 each.
Cool, I didn’t know about them but will check them out. Thanks!
Rad Power has introduced version 2.0 for 2018, with a better battery, additional frame designs, and other improvements. They’re also known for responsive customer service.
Great read I liked how you built it yourself. I found my self taking the same route actually. Went to luna cycle after a bunch of research and started a build. I have a bbs02 on a 48v 10ah pack , single speed dirt jumper frame with 100mm suspension. Rides great very slack geo. For my next build it will be the bbshd and a 15ah pack on a plus sized hardtail.Great site and this was a great read hope to see future articles from you on ebikes.
Nice! Let me know how your build goes 🙂 From the available resource I found, it definitely looks like BBSHD is built like a tank relative to BBS02 to handle the power.
Nice articles, thanks for this. However, I don’t know why you say all bikes of worth have to,start at $3000… especially for commuting, you can do fine with an bike around $1500. I just bought a smaller ebike with a 500w motor for about $1000 and ira great.
Just depends on your size and expectations. For my son we bought a 500W 48V12AH hub motor bike for about $1200 straight from the manufacturer. He really likes it and its been a good bike. He’s 125 lbs perhaps and it flies with him on it. Top speed is about 25 mph.
I built a BBSHD 48V14AH middrive on an older aluminium Trek mtn bike frame and then converted the tires over to touring tires and added fenders, blinky lights, a rack and panniers to use as a all purpose commuter around town and on dirt roads. Its been great for 2000+ miles now although several bike components have worn out along the way. V-brakes wore out the rims. The headset bearings need replacement now. I’ve broken some spokes and learned to retrue wheels. I’ve also made several adjustments for comfort. I’m a big bear of a guy and live in hilly country.
For the motorcycle commenters: sure it’ll do 45 mph down hills but nobody in their right mind will do this regularly b/c it still has bicycle wheels, bicycle brakes and its a hard tail. A smooth road doesn’t feel very smooth at high speeds without proper suspension.
What it excels at is ~20 mph all over town. The 1500W of power (mine is “jailbroken”) is used to climb hills not speed through traffic. Rather than regulate everyone to the same anemic 250W/350W standard consider that we all don’t live in flat cities. Some of us ride alot of hills and outside of the cities. I like to use the throttle to accelerate away from red lights to minimize my exposure to intersections. Briskly accelerate to 15 mph and begin pedaling with the PAS feature. The author is correct. Its easy to have too many gears although it is nice to have them to shift down through on the hills to maintain my pace.
I tell people it will go 35 mph or 35 miles but not both. Truth is the range is prob in the 40s and the top speed (on a downhill) is in the 40s. If a person wants to ride around using the throttle they’ll be pedalling home on a 50 lb bike with no assist b/c the throttle burns through a battery far faster than PAS. Throttle only range might be 15 miles if the rider is careful and if they are petite and not aggressive in their riding style.
The motor assist has helped me get more fit, ride more, and take this fitness toy and make it into real utility transportation. I ride to and from work, to the shops and around to visit friends. I like my cars but the bike is far more energy and time efficient for trips of 5 miles or so.
Its also been fun letting everyone test ride it. Probably three dozen people took their first ebike ride on my bike. All grins and giggles. Not alot of people bicycling here due to the traffic, lack of roads with a shoulder, and the summer heat. Its nice to arrive at work fit and ready for work.
Mostly agree, but you should look at the radpower bikes for a turnkey solution. Same price range and power as the bafang mid drive (which I have). If they were on the market a year earlier I likely wouldn’t have built mine.
Yeah, another person mentioned the same thing. I didn’t know about them at the time of the build, but it definitely looks like a compelling offering. I’m curious how the hub motor differ from a mid-drive from a riding standpoint.
Great article touching many facets of ebikes. However in Arizona your conversion is considered a motorcycle because it exceeds the max speed for ebikes (20 mph) or mopeds (25 mph) and as such has to be registered, licensed and insured as a motorcycle. And you need a cycle endorsement on your driver license. I live in Florida and we have similar – but not as strict – laws for ebikes. I had ordered a bike that exceeded the 20 mph restriction which meant it was a moped, had to be registered and was not allowed to be used on the same paths as bikes and ebikes. Luckily I found out about this and was able to cancel the order. I now have an Electra Townie Commute i8 and love it. Expensive but worth the investment and fun!
Ah, also. You mentioned that it feels safer to keep up with traffic. This is an excellent way to word it, because it’s not clear that it actually is safer. In the US at least, riding a motorcycle is far less safe (in terms of mortality risk per trip) than riding a bicycle — the risk is 25 times higher. Whatever safety gains there are from keeping up with traffic, at some speed something else more than counteracts them and makes motorcycle speeds far less safe on an unprotected 2-wheeled vehicle. It’s not clear if it’s more-frequent motorist surprise, or just that the crashes are more violent, but it’s something. Undoubtedly some of it is exposure — people use motorcycles for longer trips and are willing to use them in faster traffic — but a factor of 25 is big. (Reference for motorcycles vs bikes, per-trip mortality risk: https://academic.oup.com/aje/article/166/2/212/98784 )
So be careful. What I find on my muscle-powered bike is that what is more important to a quick commute is “not going slow” — which is to say, don’t waste time with a leisurely acceleration from a stop, but get going, and do your best to get up a hill as quickly as you can. I don’t try for screaming speeds down hills, or an especially aggressive speed on the flats, except when I can see that a light ahead is near the end of its green. Two of my e-biking friends use their assist almost exclusively to get up steep hills.
You might want to research AZ traffic laws. In AZ, if your in a bike lane the maximum speed a motorized bike can go is 20mph. The laws where created when gasoline engines where used on bikes but I am sure police will interpret motororized as electic motor also. I am not sure if Tempe has bike path laws.
Similar writeup to this guy’s ebike experience from 2016:
“E-bikes are illegal to operate in New York City and the NYPD is stepping up enforcement,”
One of you initial questions was, why more people don’t own or ride e-bikes in the USA? There’s a lot of miss information out there, by media and law makers not making understandable laws or over reaching. Take a look at this article, it might give an idea as why more people don’t own it ride e-bikes.
Alot of folks left bicycle riding in their childhood years. Just isn’t a valid method in their mind for getting around town. Also, there are people I know who never bicycled more than a mile from home – only pedaling around the subdivision so actually going somewhere useful on a bike is a non-starter. Traffic is a frightening place for the average American on a bicycle.
While your discussions about high wattage motors and keeping up with traffic are interesting, many jurisdictions only allow e-bikes to give pedal assist up to a certain speed. Here in Canada, the limit is 32 km/hr (20 mph). I can still go faster than 32 kph if I want, but my legs have to provide all the power. If I remove the software governor to allow for greater pedal assist speeds, then technically I would be riding a motorbike/motor scooter, which in Canada requires an operator’s permit and a motorcycle helmet.
Canada is so uptight about fast eBikes. Then again given how they drive cars maybe it’s a good idea to limit eBikes to 20mph there. I break that law every day I commute to work 13 miles each way on my eBike and guess what I’m using 1/50th the energy your uptight ass uses in your car. I suggest that Canandians pull their heads out and consider the potenitial of fast eBikes getting people out of cars for as many transportation needs as possible instead of worrying about them goin over 20mph (good athletes can sustain over 30mph on a road bike on level ground so I don’t need a lecture from anyone that a limit on the bike’s capability to 20mph makes sense. It’s stupid in every way possible.
I bought a Copenhagen Wheel from Superpedestrian last August and mounted it on our tandem. It is now the car for this carless couple and I use it often w/o my stoker to run errands including by pulling a trailer. While expensive at $1600 it has all most all the functionality you desire. And, it can easily be swapped from bike to bike (of the many I own). Upon using I immediately realised that I needed to use the maximum braking assist in the Wheel (regenerative mode) and upgrade my brakes to maximum size disc. Also, to be cautious about my speed. As a lifelong cyclist and occasional racer 30mph in city traffic is a tragedy waiting to happen. 20 is enough.
Interesting. It’s definitely a neatly packed form factor, and there apparently is a bike shop in Phoenix that carries them. I’ll go try it out at some point.
I live in Phoenix…..more details on this bike shop, please?
according to their website, there are 2 stores that carry it in phoenix area.
A lot of your points on needed ebike improvements are exactly why you buy a pre-built ebike. I bought my Haibike speed pedelec (28 mph max) with Bosch motor, great breaks, integrated lights, etc. for 3k since it was the previous model. Pricy, sure, but the same as operating expenses for owning a car here in Seattle with parking, insurance, and fees for a single year.
Given the improvements you mentioned, I easily would have spent 2.5k building it on my own for the same quality so it’s totally worth it. And with the extra power, it’s far less annoying to carry two NYC Kryptonite locks to secure the bike. Further, removing the battery and display (easy, also coded to my name) renders it just an absurdly heavy bike; defs not worth stealing given the locks. Not that I would leave it outside anyway (metal still rusts in the rain after all). Haha.
Yeah I did see those when initially doing my research. They definitely look like really well built bikes. On their website, they cost 5k new, which is a lot. Agree that if the bike can completely replace the car, it probably still make economic sense, but I’m not sure that’s possible in most places within the US. If the rest of the time, you need to Uber around at $1.6 or $2/mile, that cuts into the savings quite a bit. I think where it really starts to make sense for most people is when that level of refinement can be found on bikes that cost $1000 to $1500.
Ebikes are great. But it is just a matter of time before city and state try to tax this or insurance is required. Be sure that the DOT is going to want thier cut. Just like they did motorcycles. Ebikes will be next.
Hi Yilun. E-bikes are pretty common in New York among messengers (food delivery people).
Very helpful! I am looking to cycle or footbike (8km) to work and I have been curious about ebikes.
20-30mph is not an appropriate average speed to be operating in bicycle facilities. Disappointing to read that you are operating on ‘bike trails’ where others are trying to ride, walk, or jog. There is a reason that e-bike motors are generally lower power!
I actually don’t really disagree with you. on bike trails with pedestrian traffic, 20+ mph is quite high, especially with people walking and running. When I do reach 30 mph, it’s always on roads with cars. I wouldn’t say I never went above 20 on a bike trail, but they tend to be when nobody is around. I also tend to ride early in the morning or late at night, so there is generally less people around.
Excellent article! Thanks very much for your in-depth analysis of your construction process. As one of the other commenters said, it is the best all-around article on e-bike everyday use I’ve read.
How about Hill Topper from Washington? Great product?
Juiced bikes. Sub 1000k bike. Takes forever to ship but decent bike which is likely much higher quality then most
I love my sondors original ebike that I purchased Oct 2017. I have a little over 400 miles on it now. It cost $853 delivered. It has a 12.8 amp hour , LED screen and is a single speed. I just purchased a 3-speed crankset from efeno.Com. It costs $508 delivered. I’m thinking it should up my top speed to around 30 miles per hour. You’re probably aware Arizona laws state bicycles are not allowed to go over 20 miles per hour. My stock Sonders goes about 24 miles per hour with me pedaling like crazy. The overdrive gear should improve it. And slow my pedaling Cadence. The bike without the LED screen and bigger battery list for $499 plus shipping of 153., it’s a very solid built e-bike and the company stands behind it without any problems. They are great to deal with. Radrover would be my next choice. 1500 delivered.
I’ve been riding an old school ” heavy” e bike…for many years…it finally kicked the bucket…I haven’t replaced it yet as the cost is a major factor. Thank you for a really good article on the pros vs cons of evokes. Really good read.
Take a look at Flash Bike for better security and safety. Also, look at Riide out of DC. I currently have one of their bike and would recommend it for someone getting back into cycling. It is throttle only and single speed. Now that I’m use to riding again I’m looking at the Flash Bike or something similar with pedal assist and more than one gear.
I got a Flash Bike about a month ago and ride it several times a day. I love it. So many simple, easy to use security features. And it’s just fun to ride. My car is so lonely now.
That was a good story. Have not looked at the references. Am looking to build a mid motor. Have a 29″ MTB and want to convert it. Also have a Rad River fat tire and think it is great! ($1499). Love riding desert trails and the canals. Any chance of having a look at your finished bike? I live in Goodyear. email@example.com
Nice write up. Thank you
Something you are missing that has sabotaged ebike adoption in the US is local / federal laws that are confusing, contradicting and restrictive verses Asia and Europe.
In the US the federal position is anything with a maximum assist speed of 20 mph or less can be sold as a bike, thus not many “powerful” options exist.
In New York state an ebike needs to be register like a car but there is no clear way to do that, effectively making ebikes illegal. New York city has it’s own of more restrictive law(s?) that result in ebike crackdown/confiscation raids by the local NYC PD.
In the end the USA of less free and more restrictive around ebikes than you would initially think. It’s way more car centric (carlobby/petroentitled) place and we need to change that.
Long live the bikesnobnyc and the pedestrian quest for respect.
Interesting…yeah in my experiment I have not really investigated the legal side of E-Bike, it’s not nearly as fun as building an E-Bike 🙂 With that said, I did make sure that the kit I got was “street legal”. It also has a max assist speed of 20 mph. However, with some effort on my part, I can fairly easily get up to 25 to 30 mph. I just have to use a high gear and be on flat ground (Phoenix is pretty flat). As a result, I tend to ride in the 20-30 mph range when the roads allow it.
I do think there is a need to disentangle speed vs acceleration and how “power” impacts each aspect. I think having an electronic limit on the top speed is perfectly reasonable. For most people, riding at 20 mph is plenty fast on a bike and for people that want to go faster, they have to work for it.
Where I find power really helps is the initial acceleration to get to the 20 mph limit though. I find that getting off the line quickly at traffic stops helps put me into the driver’s field of view quickly. Otherwise, they wouldn’t notice me unless they look to their side. To me, that’s where the additional wattage really becomes helpful.
I think you completely miss the point of e-bikes. The power and speed limits in the EU are meant exactly so that they ” still feel like a plain bicycle”. BTW, throttle is prohibited in EU, the power must be available only by pedaling. If you want more power and a throttle, get an electric motorbike.
I don’t understand.
Sondors has ebikes starting at $499. Buy one and ride it.
A few points from a cyclist…
You will struggle to incorporate battery packs/motors into the frame without dramatically affecting the ride quality. Maybe an alu frame with either front or full suspension would work, but that will have serious job problems, not to mention expense.
Agree no need for more than 3 gears in most (flat non windy) cities, but off road more are needed. On the cheap bikes they are sold as status symbols. Brakes – a well set up set of Vs will be fine but from the article that seems unlikely here (non bike person with Craig’s list bike). Discs probably easier to sell.
Totally agree that travelling at the speed of traffic is safer. The commentator comparing motorbikes has not seen electric bike riders travelling versus the organ donors, or considered the difference in use case(s), or the epidemiological differences. Once you’re travelling at the same speed drivers see you more readily and only have to avoid you laterally…
Finally travelling at 35mph might feel dangerous if not used to it; it feels normal enough to me.
This is just a hypothesis as I haven’t done the actual math, but on your point about frame, it feels like steel might be a better construction for an e-Bike. Steel is generally cheaper and easier to work with relative to aluminum at the expense of weight. However, a few extra pounds isn’t that big of a deal when you have a sufficiently powered motor. If that’s the case, the frame for an E-Bike should be cheaper and stronger than a normal aluminum frame. With that said, I would not be surprised if I’m missing something.
So steel has a ‘zingy’ feel whereas alu will transmit all the road buzz. Without suspension alu is too harsh to ride (see road bikes where weight is a premium – steel, or carbon fibre at the high end; titanium is a niche product again at the high end of the market).
Agree that the additional frame weight is less relevant when you have a motor and battery attached!
Maybe hi-tensile steel (used in cheap bikes) is fine for the purposes we’re talking about; I’d been thinking about cro-moly. You can tell the difference with the highly technical fingernail flick test… (If it pings, cro-moly; if it thuds then hi-tensile. )
Interesting writeup. I’ve been thinking about an ebike for a while now.
You say you want to get more suitable tires. Better in what way? Are you thinking high pressure “skinny” tires vs lower pressure knobby “dirt bike” tires?
In my research the first one I came across was the geoorbital wheel: https://geoo.com/pages/how-it-works . It is a spokeless mortorized wheel that is a simple bolt on replacement for the existing wheel. The motor and battery replace the standard hub and spokes. So there is no impact on the existing gear train. The theory is you can easily remove the wheel when parking it. But it only has a 500W motor and a 6 or 10 AH battery. Quite a bit lower spec’s than your system. They cost about $1000.
I’ve also looked at some bikes from Daymak, http://www.daymak.com/beast/features.html . They have 2 models, one with 21″x7x10″ knobby dirt wheels and another with 16″ wheels that looks like a “traditional” gas scooter. Again they are limited to 500W motors and 20-40 AH batteries. They go for betweew $2,000 and $6,500. The top end one has dual 500W motors, LED lights and solar charging panels.
to answer the question about tires, i’m thinking about a hybrid tires that has less rolling resistance and good for city commute. I don’t ride this bike off road, so don’t need big “chunky” tires that dig into the dirt.
I came across this article in my research that gave good introduction. https://www.electricbike.com/tires/ The Schwalbe Energizer seems like a good fit for my use case.
In the case of an accident on an e-bike, you will not be covered for third party damage, and your medical insurance may refuse to pay your own bills.
Sigh. You fell for the trap of it’s “just a bike” line of thought, rather than thinking as alternative transportation. Few would buy a $2K vehicle because it would be a piece of junk. Yet you bought the equivalent of a junk yard ebike – crappy frame, crappy motor, crappy components, all cobbled together in a mishmash of parts. Nevertheless you’ve spent $1500, plus wasted lots of time and aggravation assembling your kit and still have a pile of crap.
You could/should have bought an equivalent new ebike for hundreds less. And for a few hundred more, you could have a vastly better ebike with more powerful mid drive motor, significantly better battery and even full suspension (Voltbike sells their Enduro full suspension for $1,850 delivered – and that’s their most expensive ebike)
As for your silly statement that ebikes are cheap in China because they’re only $500, it’s a typically clueless first world claim. $500 to someone earning $1/hr is a significant investment – far less than $2-$5K is to an American.
The real problem is you’re the exact reason why ebikes aren’t more popular. You throw good money at terrible products and then either complain that they don’t work and garage it, or end up feeling you were ripped off because you were too clueless to buy something worth owning.
Buy a decent ebike. Read some forums and watch all the excellent ebike reviews on Youtube – literally hundreds of reviews from all price points. A few days of research should quickly narrow down what you want vs your budget.