BionX vs Alation or Falcon

michelle

New Member
Hi there.

First of all, I just want to say that this site rocks my socks. It's amazing and super helpful.

So I'm looking at buying my first e-bike. I love the idea of the sustainable, efficient, and healthy commuting option ebikes offer, and I also love the idea of a little assistance and boost on fun off-road trails. So I definitely think I want a mountain bike because they're so versatile. If there were no complications in my life, I would say I'd like the Falcon 350... it seems like a sweet bike, and I'm kind of a fan of the gearless hub and the pedal assist/ throttle combo.

However, there are complications in my life. Number one, the Falcon is a teensy bit expensive for me at the top of my budget. I'd prefer something sub 2K, but I know my options there are limited. I'm about to move back to Duluth, MN, and it there are definitely some things about that city I need to take into account when choosing my bike. Essentially, the whole city is on a massive hill. There are two business districts: one at the bottom of the hill next to the lake coast, and one on the top of the hill. I'll be living in the middle of the hill, so if I commute by bike, I would inevitably hit the hill every day. Not only is it a big hill, but it's a steep one, too. No way would I be able to bike up this thing without electronic assist... only the bravest and most dedicated of Duluthian citizens stand up to the challenges of biking it. So because of this, I think I need a strong motor, 350 or the 500 of the Alation. Another thing about Duluth is that it's in Minnesota, and due to our awesome weather patterns, the roads can be kinda rough. Ice wreaks havoc on them, and we just don't have enough time and resources to patch all of them up every short summer. Lots of cracks and potholes. So I'd need something kinda durable and preferably with some shock absorption. Falcon or Alation sounds good right?

My other concerns, which take me towards the bionX, are the fact that BionX offers regen braking and a sweet security system. Going up that hill everyday means I'd have to go down it, too, and that seems like it would wear out the brakes pretty quick... but regen braking might help that? I've heard, though, that too big of a hill in regen mode causes the motor to overheat and wreaks havoc on the battery. Any thoughts on that from folks in San Fran?

As for the security system, bike thieves are rampant everywhere... Just a little nervous about having such an expensive bike chained up... anywhere. Is a good chain and a lock on the motor usually good enough?

BionX isn't necessarily cheaper than the other two, either. I'd need to buy a new bike for it. My current one I got for ten bucks at a garage sale 8 years ago, and it's spent most of the past three years holed up in a shed while I've been moving around.

So... that's it. Sorry for the long post. Any advice?
 

michelle

New Member
Oh, and one more thing... I'm a little wary of BionX, as I've heard they have terrible customer support. Don't know how true this.
 

Court

Administrator
Staff member
Hi Michelle! You've certainly done your homework on all of these bikes, great thoughts there. Thanks for describing your situation in such detail, it really helps me to recommend one bike over another and I'm glad you're interested in getting feedback :)

I was just in San Francisco and reviewed a bunch of German-made bikes by Kalkhoff that really aren't available here in the US (outside of this one shop called The New Wheel). Those reviews have yet to be posted and even then, I'm not sure how relevant they will be if you can't actually buy the bikes where you live... They were great hill climbers and offered a lot of what you are looking for. Feel free to contact The New Wheel and keep an eye out here for the reviews in the next month or two.

I agree that regenerative braking sounds useful, it saves your brakes and charges your battery! That said, brake pads are super affordable and regenerative systems are very expensive. I've also heard from several manufacturers that the return on investment just isn't there, you don't actually get that much juice back because bikes and people are fairly light weight. It's not like a Prius where you have this mass and inertia that can be converted into substantial energy. Your point about overcharging the battery with regen has come up before but I can't really back it up with my own experiences. You think the systems would be smart enough to avoid letting that happen... but I have heard people say it does.

I've been told that BionX is actually part of a very large company that has been making motors for a long time. They have been inching their way into the ebike space but might have made a mistake in 2013 with some of their 48 volt pack because there were tons of recalls. I heard this from several shops and it was really a bummer for customers who couldn't use their new bikes for weeks while the batteries were being replaced. I think that has been resolved but it made me pause and I'm mentioning it here because you might want to buy locally or at least keep your receipt in case you get a pack like that with issues. All of the BionX bikes I've demoed have worked out great, but they were mostly brand new at trade shows or shops. It's hard to say how well they work over longer periods of time. That said, a friend of mine named Ann who lives in Austin and runs a shop called Alien Scooters has had her BionX system for years and it has worked wonderfully! You could probably even get a kit through her shop. Feel free to reach out, she's really nice... The little blue bike in this review is actually hers. As for BionX themselves, on the plus side, you're dealing with a large company and you can swap out a battery pack easily but you might not get the attention or speed of a smaller brand or local shop that really values you as an individual. Then there is the actual installation of the kit. I've heard this can be tedious and that the brake lever setup (to activate regenerative braking) is pretty sensitive and only works on one brake lever. If I were getting a BionX bike I'd just buy one that was already setup like the Yuba elBoda Boda. This bike might actually be perfect for you, exept for the price...

Security is an issue with any bike but I can understand your concern with an ebike that costs $2K+. I always use a u-lock through the frame with a cable going through both wheels (and sometimes a cable through my seat). I always park inside or take my battery and I always take my LCD computer. Not all bikes let you do this but I do like the Easy Motion series and the eFlows for this reason. Both of these are a bit above your price range again, but worth considering. I have owned the Neo Jumper and really loved the suspension, balanced frame and sleek design. There are some new security devices emerging that will ping your phone or sound an alert if tampered with (cut, banged on or even heated up). One big deter for thieves about ebikes is their weight and complexity. Who is going to buy a used/stolen ebike that doesn't have a battery or display? What thief is going to pedal a 40lb bike away? I realize there are many thieves that pull up with vans at night and simply steal an entire bike rack, but that's why I keep my bike inside overnight :)

Suspension is a big deal for me and it sounds like you're also interested in keeping your ride smooth. Considering the higher speeds and longer distances traveled with ebikes, it's important to take care of your back and neck, especially if you wear a backpack! This is another reason I loved the Neo Jumper but I also enjoyed the Volton Alation 500 and even the Pedego City Commuter which just has a small seat post shock and large, soft tires. Depending on your size, Pedego makes one of the only smaller sized ebikes called the 24" Cruiser (because it uses 24 inch wheels) and it's a fun, powerful, solid ride with a great warranty and excellent support! Though it lacks pedal assist which is something you wanted.

All things considered, if I were you I'd go for the Volton Alation ST 500 (unless you're a taller woman, then get the full sized Alation 500 because it has a stronger 48 volt battery pack that will help with the hills). These bikes are within your price range, they have a nice frame design, good suspension, great customer support and plenty of power to get you around. They also offer pedal assist, throttle mode and fenders and lights for safety and utility on those wet snowy days. You can even mount a rear rack easily for use with panniers or a saddle bag so you won't need to carry as much weight on your back.

Let me know your thoughts on this feedback and if you have any other questions. I'd love to hear what you decide on and find out how it works in Duluth! If you'd like to learn more about Volton, check out this great forum post the founder made recently. His name is Joe and you could even ask him directly if you have questions.
 

michelle

New Member
Wow, Court, you're awesome! That was a great response. I do feel a lot more sure now about my concerns, and I completely trust your judgement. The Alation does sound like a really great bike, and I think I'd be really happy with it :) I'm looking to buy in a couple of months, so hopefully in March there'll be little enough snow and ice to give it a spin right away. I'll definitely let you know how it holds up, both on the steep hills and on our twisty, hilly MB paths :) Now I'll keep my fingers crossed and hope there's no wrenches thrown into my plan. Thanks again!
 

Court

Administrator
Staff member
Sounds awesome Michelle! One other fun idea for you. This past year at Interbike there was a company selling little studs that go into bike tires to help making riding in snow or ice more stable. They are called GripStuds and I got some footage that you can see below (it begins around 4:18). It seems like using them would wreck your tires and removing tires on ebikes in general is kind of tricky so think this one trough. Still, it looks like a neat idea.


Also, here's a fun picture and video of a Pedego Trail Tracker with a mini snowboard by BikeBoards attached to the front. It's a neat idea and the big balloon tires they use on that bike are perfect for snow or sand. I'm not sure how useful this would be year round... and the Trail Tracker only has twist throttle so it's not quite what you were looking for. Still, fun to share :)

bikeboard-front-wheel-ski-for-bicycles.jpg

electric-bike-in-snow-bike-board.jpg

 

michelle

New Member
Hahahaha, oh my goodness, I can't believe I just saw this. That trail tracker is... something, lol. Let me put that on the "maybe someday" list :) That would be wicked on the X-country trails, for sure. As to the studs... maybe someday list, too, I think. I'm really hoping to miss a lot of the snow this year when I head back to Minnesota, it'll give me eight or nine months to figure out the "winter biking" thing before I have to commit to it. Let's see how that pans out, ha.

But definitely, thanks for the input :) Oh, and note on the first video... if you still haven't seen "Pulp Fiction," you should ;) Good movie.
 

Court

Administrator
Staff member
Ha! Yeah Michelle, that guy was a real character but the show was a lot of fun and I have indeed seen Pulp Fiction since then. I try to keep an open mind, especially at an event like Interbike ;)