Author Topic: Electric assist bicycle -- foolish or awesome ?  (Read 5761 times)

nrsr

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Electric assist bicycle -- foolish or awesome ?
« on: November 09, 2013, 05:04:40 AM »
Hi Mustachians,

Help me decide : should I buy an expensive, but fun and useful toy when alternatives exist?

* Pros :
- This would allow me to commute anywhere by bike, fast (I live in Paris)
- No sweat, yet some physical effort (would help keep me in shape)

* Cons :
- Expensive : an entry-level model would set me back 1300 euros, or 950 euros after the city subsidy
- Risk of theft
- The battery is only good for 3/4 years and expensive to replace
- Paris has a bike-sharing scheme (Vélib) that has a negligible cost (30 euros per year). Bike condition and availability are haphazard, but theft is a non-issue. Also, permits mixed commutes (start on a bike, finish in a bus...)

Any advice?

marty998

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Re: Electric assist bicycle -- foolish or awesome ?
« Reply #1 on: November 09, 2013, 05:11:13 AM »
So long as you don't ride in Le Tour on that bike I don't have an issue.

So much cheating goes on I can't bear it anymore. I yearn for the day when the headlines stop reading "FLECKS OF URINE FOUND IN RIDER'S STEROIDS"

Depends on how far you normally travel. From memory, 15 years ago when I visited, and the nights when I can stay up till 2am watching the Champs Elysee stage, Paris is a pretty flat city. What need for a battery when you shouldn't work up a sweat anyway.

tfordon

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Re: Electric assist bicycle -- foolish or awesome ?
« Reply #2 on: November 09, 2013, 09:30:13 AM »
My experience with the electric assist bikes has been pretty negative.  All the extra weight of the battery and increased frame weight to support the battery caused me to do more work than a standard road bike.  I'd try the bike-sharing scheme before spending that much money.  If the bike-sharing doesn't work, look at good road bikes before an electric.

If you are worried about sweating, perhaps you can go a little slower or find a gym near your work.

geekette

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Re: Electric assist bicycle -- foolish or awesome ?
« Reply #3 on: November 09, 2013, 09:45:18 AM »
My (limited) experience with electric assist bikes is the opposite of tfordon's.  Expensive, but made biking much more fun.  Too bad it wasn't my bike.

Jwesleym

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Re: Electric assist bicycle -- foolish or awesome ?
« Reply #4 on: November 09, 2013, 10:40:52 AM »
I had one, it was a cheaper version with a lead-acid (very heavy) battery. It was a ton of fun, but when the battery went dead, the bike was really difficult to ride. You think you are using your legs to assist the motor, but in reality you aren't working very much. So, when it comes time to actually pedal like a real bike, your legs aren't prepared for the work. Months ago I sold my electric bike, got a real bike and haven't regretted it yet. Also, lost some weight after the switch.

This is a personal decision, and depends on the bike's weight and cost. It also depends on how much excercize you want to get out of the ride. Is it mustachian? Well, it is cheaper than a car to purchase and maintain. It is not a great workout to extend your health, but is better than a car.  In the end, it is really up to you and how you feel about it. Just don't fool yourself by thinking you are getting a great workout.

Eric

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Ziggurat

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Re: Electric assist bicycle -- foolish or awesome ?
« Reply #6 on: November 09, 2013, 11:56:03 AM »
Electric assist bikes -- "Foolish or awesome?":  Absolutely freakin' awesome.

I've modified several bikes for electric assist and absolutely love it. I've been commuting every day  about 18 km round-trip to work, and just last night fired up my ample lights and rode in the dark to my friends 3 km away, rather than drive the car there. The electric makes it so easy that the excuses are much diminished.

I have to believe the comments about heaviness are based on old technology. With moderate sized lithium batteries and an "assist"-level motor (I recommend 350 W geared) it does not add a lot. My complete bike is 35 pounds total. Maybe that sounds like a lot if you are used to feather-weight $2000 bikes, but believe me, with an extra 500 W surge (which a nominal 350 W motor can do) compared to your legs 100-150 W or so, the bike feels light enough.

I recommend converting a bike to electric rather than buying, if you can manage some basic wiring and connections. Such bikes tend to look more normal and can be built for quite a bit less. Plus in true mustachian style, you will have grown your skills and know how to fix it yourself when the time comes. If you are clever, they can be made very "stealth" -- i.e. no one needs to know it is electric. I've had people standing beside my bike and I tell them it is electric and they stare in at it trying to figure out where the battery and the motor is.

One important point is to distribute the weight well. Mine is a front geared motor, with the batteries inside the triangle, and the controller at the back. Batteries low and inside like that make the feel of the bike more normal.

Another advantage of electric bikes is that they are a hybrid human-electric combination -- in my case me driving the back wheels, the motor driving the front (by the way, the all-wheel drive is helpful in winter riding). I can choose to use more or less electric depending on my mood or energy level. It extends the range you will consider going. It also ups your average speed so commuting time is cut down.

Anyone interested in electric bicycles should go over to http://endless-sphere.com/forums. Read my post there in the technical reference area for some basic background (http://endless-sphere.com/forums/viewtopic.php?f=16&t=26619). Poke around or ask questions for the latest recommendations on good values kits.


Deano

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Re: Electric assist bicycle -- foolish or awesome ?
« Reply #7 on: November 09, 2013, 04:56:04 PM »
You live in Paris, just buy a pedal bike. If you buy a decent one they're nothing to carry up stairs or sit in your living room.

2527

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Re: Electric assist bicycle -- foolish or awesome ?
« Reply #8 on: November 10, 2013, 10:09:58 AM »
I think electric bikes are really cool, too.  The risk of theft is an important point I hadn't considered til you mentioned it. 

Lina

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Re: Electric assist bicycle -- foolish or awesome ?
« Reply #9 on: November 10, 2013, 11:22:00 AM »
The risk of theft would make me uncomfortable leaving the bike outside so I would not buy one. I have a 2000 euro road bike that is basically living in my apartment, except for the road trips, because I don't want to use it in the city due to risk of theft. I would stick to a fairly basic bike so I doesn't attract wrong attention. The best would be to have a good bike masked as a crappy bike.

the fixer

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Re: Electric assist bicycle -- foolish or awesome ?
« Reply #10 on: November 10, 2013, 11:38:04 AM »
Something no one's mentioned here is the speed limit, unassisted, of an electric bike. I think in Europe it's even lower than in the US, about 15 MPH. Except when climbing a giant hill, you can pretty easily achieve that speed on a decent bike.

My first electric bike was for a 12-mile commute in the DC suburbs that had lots of rolling hills. On my mountain bike (not a very optimal bike for the trip) I could do the commute in about 70 minutes, I think my best time ever was 65. With a lower-end ebike (250W motor and 6.3Ah lithium battery), I could shave that time down to a record 55 minutes (that required a lot of pedaling on my part, and the battery would almost always die at the end; I would have to bring the giant charger with me to work). Driving the same route in a car would take 40-45 minutes because it was a lot of circuitous back roads. I think that if I had a nice road bike and been in better shape back then, I could have done the commute about as fast as the ebike could.

SunshineGirl

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Re: Electric assist bicycle -- foolish or awesome ?
« Reply #11 on: November 10, 2013, 11:56:35 AM »
I just recently got an electric bike and LOVE it. I mostly just ride recreationally, but am doing that more with my new bike.

Is there a way you can take a ride on one before making a purchase decision? Although...if you try, you will buy...

nrsr

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Re: Electric assist bicycle -- foolish or awesome ?
« Reply #12 on: November 10, 2013, 12:43:18 PM »
I did try one, loved it!

Well, I'll take a final decision once I have sold my car...

Thanks for all the feedback!

expatartist

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Re: Electric assist bicycle -- foolish or awesome ?
« Reply #13 on: November 10, 2013, 05:44:18 PM »
Borrowed a friend's Pedelec bike for a few weeks, and absolutely loved it! Such a fun way to zip through Beijing's traffic. The power surge was lots of fun. I'd take that over my ebike (electric motorbike) any day. You can choose how sweaty you want to get: pushing hard with the pedals, or relaxing more w/the motor. However, battery theft is a big concern.

When we move to the UK next year I hope to convert a regular bike to electric, like the poster mentioned above.

Katsumoto

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Re: Electric assist bicycle -- foolish or awesome ?
« Reply #14 on: November 10, 2013, 11:44:17 PM »
Maybe hold out for one of these:

http://www.stickybottle.com/latest-news/this-ground-breaking-invention-just-may-be-about-to-revolutionise-commuter-cycling-forever/

Yeah I think this is the way to go as it can install onto just about any existing bike. With battery advancements I'm sure it will get better as far as weight and life in the near future.