- An affordable, all-inclusive electric bike kit available in many wheel sizes (front or rear) with a nice one year warranty
- You get a standard 350 watt internally geared motor, 36 volt Lithium-ion battery pack and a trigger throttle
- No display console or pedal assist modes come stock with this kit, just a simple LED power meter and throttle mode, EBO has several upgraded kits and can sell custom packages
- Predominantly available online but finding their way to more and more dealers in the United States
The EBO Commuter is the most affordable kit (at the time of this review) from Electric Bike Outfitters. This is a relatively new electric bicycle company based in Denver Colorado. The first things I noticed were the excellent price and all-inclusive setup. Unlike some kits, this one doesn’t tease you with a “battery not included” price tag. For well under $1k you get a modest motor and mid-mounted Lithium-ion battery that will take you 15 to 20 miles per charge and work on most traditional bikes. You can choose the wheel size from a wide selection of 16″, 20″, 24″, 26″, 27.5″ and 28″ which means folding bikes, kids bikes, cruisers, mountain bikes and city bikes will all work! The one hangup here is the slightly wider hub design that might not fit all fork widths, consider the EBO Phantom if you’ve got a single speed city bike because that hub was specially designed to be narrower and avoid scraping. Also, as you consider this kit, ask yourself whether you want pedal assist because it can be added for just $30 but costs over $100 after the fact (because it uses a different controller). This is the only kit from EBO that doesn’t come stock with assist and for many people that will be fine but your thumb might get a little tired after longer trips.
Powering the bike is a generic 350 watt planetary geared hub. It seems like the front-mounted design is a bit quieter but they both produce a bit of whirring noise and endure more wear than a gearless direct drive hub. The big benefits are small size, good torque at lower speeds and light weight ~6 lbs. The Pure City demo bike I was riding in the video review above weighed just 45 lbs with the kit installed! That’s pretty good… and the pricetag for the bike plus kit was under $1,200 making this a very affordable ebike option. Even though the motor you get here isn’t the most powerful and might not be the highest quality, it does offer a lot of value and you get an awesome all-inclusive warranty with the bike so that gives me peace of mind. Considering that it is a kit, you could also probably pick up a replacement on individual parts in the future should one fail.
The battery pack on the EBO Commuter electric bike kit is a mix of good and bad. The upside is that it’s downtube-mounting which improves weight distribution, frees up the rear portion of the bike for adding a rack and fenders and is pretty well protected by the frame. I like the canister design, it has a built-in LED charge level indicator and seats well once you’ve screwed the mounting bracket into the bottle cage bosses on your bike (your bike must have bottle cage bosses on the downtube for this kit to work). The downside is that while this battery pack is removable (for lighter transport and convenient charging) taking it off and putting it back on is a pain. Most downtube batteries (including those on the higher-end Electric Bike Outfitters kits) just click in and make contact with metal prongs, on this kit you have to manually screw the power cable into the battery and the space for getting your fingers in there and twisting the metal ring is very limited… It’s a pain but if you just leave the pack on and charge while mounted you’ll never have to do it.
Operating the EBO Commuter system is extremely simple in its stock form. You charge the battery, mount it and attach the power cable then click the on/off toggle switch at the base of the battery pack. Next you press the red button on the LED console near the trigger throttle and it lights right up. At this point, you can use the variable speed trigger throttle to your heart’s content. It can reach up to ~20 mph but also does well at lower speeds. I found myself juicing it from standstill then easing off once I hit a speed that felt comfortable for pedaling. Honestly, I think my thumb would get tired after too much riding with a throttle like this, especially given the grip style gear shifter on the right bar… this made the reach to the throttle a bit further and required more energy for me. You can screw around with the throttle position and find the perfect fit and as mentioned earlier, you can also upgrade to pedal assist but that requires more installation time and effort as well as an LCD display.
This e-bike kit is all about simplicity and in my opinion it’s a winner. While the ~$500 Pure City Bourbon that the demo kit was installed on felt great and had a lot of extras including an 8 speed derailleur, fenders, rack, nice grips and a comfortable swept-back bar… you could easily find a bike at Walmart with similar features for under $200 and get yourself a sub $1,000 electric bike that would work just fine. Keep in mind that this hub motor design is wider than the EBO Phantom and that you don’t get pedal assist stock but otherwise you do have the nice color coded wires that are easy to setup as well as upgraded brake levers with motor inhibitors. All kits tend to add a mess of wires to the bike so I usually go for black or dark colored frames that help them blend in. You’ll probably extend more time and effort with a rear-mounted kit but that’s usually my preference for traction and improved steering… especially if you have a weak suspension fork.
- Color coded wires are easy to setup, the motor cable has a quick disconnect point that makes servicing the wheel (front or rear) much easier
- You get brake levers with integrated motor inhibitors here which could come in handy if you upgrade to pedal assist (much more affordable to do when you buy the bike ~$30 vs. later since it uses a different controller)
- I like trigger throttles because they are easier to fit with existing grips and twist shifters, they also perform better for off-road use because they don’t compromise your grip, this one worked well but you can upgrade to a twist throttle if you prefer
- Available in a huge assortment of wheel sizes including 16″, 20″, 24″, 26″, 27.5″ (650B) and ~28″ (700c) so you can convert folding bikes, kids bikes, road bikes, mountain bikes etc. and they all cost the same
- Relatively light weight with the battery at ~5.5 lbs and the motor ~6 lbs so you aren’t going to end up with a heavy ride
- The mechanical brake levers are compatible with traditional designs as well as disc brakes and the motor has a mounting pattern for use with a disc brake rotor
- Generic motor and battery cells might not last as long and produce a bit more noise under power but are still covered by the one year warranty
- Basic LED display panel won’t show your precise battery level, speed, range or other details that the higher end kits will
- The battery pack clicks into the holster easily but has a screw-in power connector that can be tricky and time consuming to connect, it also takes up most of the space where a bottle cage would mount… consider a saddle rail adapter, rear rack with a bottle bag or a hydration pack
- The controller unit is built into a separate box vs. being integrated into the battery mount or motor, this just means more things have to be screwed onto the frame and possibly more wires
- If you decide to upgrade and get pedal assist, it will require more effort to install and the units I saw only had a five sensor disc which isn’t as responsive
- You have to power the battery pack on as well as the display unit to get the bike going… this adds a bit of time to each ride but also makes it easier to forget to turn the battery pack off when you park
- Official Site: http://www.electricbikeoutfitters.com/ebo-commuter.aspx
- More Pictures: https://goo.gl/photos/L5w9A1jytq6BhA44A