Author Topic: Is this electric bike worth it?  (Read 4725 times)

IAmNotABartender

  • 5 O'Clock Shadow
  • *
  • Posts: 8
Is this electric bike worth it?
« on: June 02, 2015, 01:35:47 PM »
Hello all!  I've been reading MMM for over half a year now, and my wife and I have made many changes in that time.  One of them is that we've started biking - though we bought cheapie bikes from Kmart/Target.  We live up a hill, so carrying too much can be challenging, and we only use panniers (no bike trailer yet).  We do some but not all of our shopping by bike.

I've been keeping an eye on the Copenhagen Wheel (https://superpedestrian.com/) for a while, but it's been in pre-order forever.  I came across an article (http://indefinitelywild.gizmodo.com/what-s-wrong-with-electric-bicycles-1702986234) today about a bike that is still in its Kickstarter (https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/hongquan/the-kben-a-modern-electric-bike-for-the-human-race/) - for another few days, anyway.  I was wondering if it would make sense to buy this bike (probably the CVT version, though I suppose the single-speed, with boost, might be okay) to remove the need for the car at all for any local trips.  This would let us carry more AND it would extend our range so that we could get to Costco without a car.  The prices I've seen on other electric bikes seem to be significantly more for new and about the same or only a bit less for used, and the article seems to indicate that this bike solves issues that many other bikes have.

So, I was hoping the more-experienced Mustachians might be able to give me some advice on whether or not it would make sense to get these bikes..

Thanks!

Edit:  I should probably point out that we are currently paying $450/mo for a leased CRV (poor decisions of our past life), and I think we'd be able to try to get rid of it if we got these (and just rent a car for longer distance travel for now).  But, we only have a year left on it, and the electric bikes wouldn't get to us for about half a year..
« Last Edit: June 02, 2015, 01:38:16 PM by IAmNotABartender »

benjenn

  • Bristles
  • ***
  • Posts: 284
  • Age: 55
  • Location: Gulf Shores, AL
Re: Is this electric bike worth it?
« Reply #1 on: June 02, 2015, 01:44:58 PM »

IAmNotABartender

  • 5 O'Clock Shadow
  • *
  • Posts: 8
Re: Is this electric bike worth it?
« Reply #2 on: June 02, 2015, 03:58:39 PM »
Hmm..  Reading up on the differences between this bike and the ones I was considering taught me a bunch about the different types of electric bikes.  I'm a bit confused about this one - do you have to hold the throttle at all times, or does it also come in when peddling?
Interestingly enough, according to Wikipedia, Hawaii considers bicycles to only be bicycles if they're fully human powered, so any of these would be considered a moped.  I'll need to look into the implications of that.. likely still significantly better to have the "moped" than the car.  I'll have to discuss this further with the wife.
The good thing about the bike you linked is that it's shipping now (in waves) and the price is right!

Syonyk

  • Magnum Stache
  • ******
  • Posts: 3848
    • Syonyk's Project Blog
Re: Is this electric bike worth it?
« Reply #3 on: June 02, 2015, 05:24:15 PM »
Since I'm pretty far down the ebike rabbithole, I'll try to help. :)

I've been keeping an eye on the Copenhagen Wheel (https://superpedestrian.com/) for a while, but it's been in pre-order forever.

I don't like the Wheel style systems.  They're easy to install, and otherwise a nasty set of engineering compromises that are only have the upside of making everything fit in a wheel.

The battery capacity is nothing special, the battery chemistries are high energy but relatively short-lived (cycle life and calendar life) to fit enough energy in the wheel, the motors are fairly small, and you've got a heat-generating motor crammed in with batteries that don't like heat.  On top of that, it's going to be highly proprietary guts, so the chances of repairing or rebuilding it in the future are very low (unless it's common enough that aftermarket companies make parts, which is unlikely).

They're very expensive for not very much, and as you note, they seem to be tending towards vaporware.  I suspect an awful lot of issues came out in long term reliability testing that are complex to solve.

Quote
I came across an article (http://indefinitelywild.gizmodo.com/what-s-wrong-with-electric-bicycles-1702986234) today about a bike that is still in its Kickstarter (https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/hongquan/the-kben-a-modern-electric-bike-for-the-human-race/) - for another few days, anyway.  I was wondering if it would make sense to buy this bike (probably the CVT version, though I suppose the single-speed, with boost, might be okay) to remove the need for the car at all for any local trips.  This would let us carry more AND it would extend our range so that we could get to Costco without a car.  The prices I've seen on other electric bikes seem to be significantly more for new and about the same or only a bit less for used, and the article seems to indicate that this bike solves issues that many other bikes have.

Of the crowdfunded ebikes I've seen, that is by far the best yet.  The high trim version with the CVT will absolutely do what you want, will chew up hills and mountains, and should be wonderfully reliable.  It's doing everything "right" - the mid-drive motor with a straight chainline is the correct way to handle a mid-drive motor, the CVT sounds like an excellent bit of hardware, and they're not doing anything exotic with the frame - the rest of the parts should be pretty bog standard bike parts.

I like their claims about the rebuildable battery pack as well, though I'll wait to see how that's implemented.

Quote
So, I was hoping the more-experienced Mustachians might be able to give me some advice on whether or not it would make sense to get these bikes..

If you can eliminate the car ownership, yes - absolutely, get two of them (probably the S model).  You'll likely want to add fenders and lights, since very few of the ebikes on the market seem to come with lights (I suppose a sticker saying, "Do not ride at night" is a lot cheaper).  Hopefully you can pack-power them (I don't know if that bike will have available power ports for lighting).  If not... eh.  They're still cheap enough with batteries integrated.

I'm fairly certain the Official Mustachian Viewpoint would be that you should get rid of the car and buy regular bicycles, but if you're not in amazing shape, ebikes are much more likely to actually get used.  I ride one pretty much everywhere, including places and with payloads I wouldn't consider on a regular bicycle - I don't have amazingly large bags on my bike, so I use a hiking backpack on my ebike.  I wouldn't try riding up the steep hills in my area with 50lbs of groceries in a hiking backpack on a normal bike, but I absolutely do that on my ebikes with no concerns.

And those bikes do look genuinely competent.

We're going for this one instead... https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/sondors-electric-bike#/story

I'll be interested in a review, but it's nowhere near the quality or usefulness of the Koben.  A 350W hub motor cannot be easily compared to a 350W mid-drive motor running through a CVT, and the bike is more gimmick than useful.  The videos of it riding with a lot of power and speed are literally fake - there's a shot of a Cycle Analyst showing 1300+W to the motor in one video, and the fatbike thing is currently cool, but is not a generally useful bicycle if you don't actually live on a beach or other seriously off road conditions.  And if you do, you'll want more than 350W to drive it.

I think the Sondors bike will mostly end up as a neat toy, rather than a daily driver for people - there's just too much "WTF?" in the specs.  The Koben is a very competent ebike, built by people who know what they're doing.

Maybe I'm wrong and it will exceed all expectations, but I suspect you'll be able to find them very cheap, with dead batteries, on Craigslist in about a year.  I might pick one up to play with then, but it's not likely to be a serious bike for me.  And there's no way in hell it'll do 50 miles unless you barely use the motor at all.  Which, I'd add, will be miserable because it's got huge, fat tires that soak up a lot of energy.  And it's a single speed.

Hmm..  Reading up on the differences between this bike and the ones I was considering taught me a bunch about the different types of electric bikes.  I'm a bit confused about this one - do you have to hold the throttle at all times, or does it also come in when peddling?

The Sondors is a purely throttle ebike.  Whack on the throttle, the motor goes whirr, and you scoot along.

The Koben is a "pedelec" or pedal assist.  You pedal, it senses this, and adds boost.  It's a very "bionic" feeling - you pedal and the bike goes far faster than it ought.

For something in the 350W category, pedelec is probably the way to go.  I like my throttle driven monster (1300W... ish), but it's a lot more powerful and is built for my commute.

Of the two bikes, though, I strongly suggest the Koben.  Yes, it's more expensive, but it's simply a better design for an ebike.

Quote
Interestingly enough, according to Wikipedia, Hawaii considers bicycles to only be bicycles if they're fully human powered, so any of these would be considered a moped.  I'll need to look into the implications of that.. likely still significantly better to have the "moped" than the car.  I'll have to discuss this further with the wife.
The good thing about the bike you linked is that it's shipping now (in waves) and the price is right!

Good luck with the legal bits.  Personally, I'd just ride around, not annoy people, and claim ignorance if harassed.  :)

But I really, really don't think the Sondors bike will do what you want.

vhalros

  • Bristles
  • ***
  • Posts: 309
Re: Is this electric bike worth it?
« Reply #4 on: June 02, 2015, 07:18:15 PM »
I'd try a decent bike from a good bike shop before going with an e-bike. That and some adaptation to exercise should extend your range considerably by itself; approximately how much/how often do you need to get to Costco/eliminate most local trips?

If that doesn't do it, then consider an e-bike. I second Syonyk's points about the Copenhagen wheel and its ilk not really being the best engineered things; its only virtue is easy installation.
« Last Edit: June 02, 2015, 07:24:11 PM by vhalros »

Syonyk

  • Magnum Stache
  • ******
  • Posts: 3848
    • Syonyk's Project Blog
Re: Is this electric bike worth it?
« Reply #5 on: June 02, 2015, 07:45:48 PM »
I'd try a decent bike from a good bike shop before going with an e-bike. That and some adaptation to exercise should extend your range considerably by itself; approximately how much/how often do you need to get to Costco/eliminate most local trips?

If that doesn't do it, then consider an e-bike. I second Syonyk's points about the Copenhagen wheel and its ilk not really being the best engineered things; its only virtue is easy installation.

Consider that there are two of them riding, from what it sounds like.  So I suspect there may be some "wife acceptance factor" (or "husband acceptance factor") going on with the ebike thing.

Living on top of a hill, I can sympathize with "Eeeh... I really don't want to grind up that hill loaded."  And I can say, I don't think twice about taking an ebike down the hill and loading up, while I'd strongly consider taking a car for the same trip if I had to pedal back up the hill loaded.

There's going to be a difference between "poor quality bike" and "nice quality bike," but there's a huge, huge jump from "nice quality bike" to "ebike" as far as being a "Yeah, let's jump on it and go!" type bike for car replacement.  IMO/IME.

I also don't know how old the poster is.  If the two of them are younger, then, yeah, "Get a good bike and deal with the hill" is reasonable, but if they're older, that may be asking for knee or hip issues down the road.

IAmNotABartender

  • 5 O'Clock Shadow
  • *
  • Posts: 8
Re: Is this electric bike worth it?
« Reply #6 on: June 02, 2015, 11:08:47 PM »
Thanks for the detailed analysis, Syonyk!  That gives me a lot of information (and some confirmation for things the wife and I had started to think).

Syonyk

  • Magnum Stache
  • ******
  • Posts: 3848
    • Syonyk's Project Blog
Re: Is this electric bike worth it?
« Reply #7 on: June 03, 2015, 07:31:05 AM »
No problem. Happy to help!