Help me find the right e-bike?

Discussion in 'Help Choosing an Ebike' started by Liz, Nov 21, 2017.

  1. Liz

    Liz New Member

    I've never had an e-bike.

    I love cycling and ride my Kona Mahuna hardtail 29er mountain bike every day -- to work, running errands, for recreational rides both on pavement and wide trails (no single tracking). My bike is my sole mode of transportation.

    I am planning a move that will shift my commute from a flat 3 miles to a steady 5 mile climb on the way home from work on a very busy and somewhat narrow road with a bare bones bike lane. I think an e-bike will help me a lot on days when I'm tired -- and I'm hopeful that the right model might also make me safer and more visible to cars. I'd love to have a riding experience similar to my Kona Mahuna, just with that electric assist!

    Some things that are important to me:
    Frame size options that will fit me: 16" or 17" -- possibly 18"
    Upright position
    Lights, or at least good places to mount them -- the more visible I am, the better
    Affordability: hoping to stay under 2K
    Rack for panniers, or the ability to add one
    Ideally lightweight enough for me to pick up and take with me on the train

    Thanks so much for any suggestions you have!

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  3. Rick Speicher

    Rick Speicher Member

    Hi Liz,
    Have you considered building your own? If you have a bike you enjoy, and it sounds like you do, then building an ebike based on the bike you have might be the answer. I know it sounds daunting, but there are several kits out there that completely plug and play. With just a few hand tools and a little patience you can DIY!
    You might look at the Bafang BBSHD. I have put many of these on bikes (just did another one today!), it only takes a few hours, and the results are amazing! And reasonably priced! You can get a complete kit with a very good battery for around $1250-1350, which fits your price point nicely, and you get an ebike that will do 35mph top speed and has about a 30 mile range, and will climb very steep hills with ease. They are very robust, I personally have logged thousands of miles on mine and I have not broke it yet! They include a throttle, which is not included on many factory bikes, and they are completely user programmable, so you can easily dial down the performance to suit local laws and your own needs. The entire kit adds only about 18lbs to your bike. If you do not feel you are up to the task you can have the kit installed for you (I can help with that!) and still be well below your 2k price point! I checked out your bike on line and it looks to be an ideal candidate for a ebike build! You CAN DIY! PM me for more info!
  4. Liz

    Liz New Member

    Thanks for the encouragement, Rick! Anybody you'd recommend in the San Francisco/San Jose Bay Area, if I need some help with the install?
  5. rich c

    rich c Active Member

    Do you want to be a bike mechanic or a rider? Do you have mechanical skills? About your route; Even a 28mph bike is slow compared to cars. Unless your ebike is covered with flashing lights, I don't know of any bike that is more visible than another. Maybe the color will help, but a driver will only see a fender and tire when they approach from front or back. Please don't consider an eBike as a safety device. It is no better in heavy traffic than a traditional bike. I don't think you will find anything at a dealer for your price range. Probably look at Radpower.
  6. Rick Speicher

    Rick Speicher Member

    No one that I know personally. However, I would be glad to share my phone number with you and talk you through any difficulties. I have done this for other people with very good results. Much of the install involves removing certain components from your bike, and your local bike shop will be glad to do this for you. The rest is really quite easy only requiring a couple of tools. I will PM you with my number. 'rich c' does make a valid point, an ebike is no safer than a regular bike, unless you have adequate lighting. As for being a Mechanic or a rider, don't you really want to be both? Having to take your ebike, or car for that matter, to a mechanic for simple problems is expensive as well as unnecessary. Doing your own install is a great way to learn about bikes in general and ebikes in particular. He also makes a valid point in that you will not find a quality factory built ebike for under 2k. You can however build a bike that exceeds the abilities of factory bikes costing 2-3 times as much. I work on factory ebikes and have ridden them all, Haibike, Brose, Magnum, Prodecotech, Radpower. I would never spend my money on any of them. Especially Radpower, a perfect example of cheap! The higher end ebikes like Haibike and Brose are of excellent quality, but are not consumer programmable or repairable without voiding your warranty, and do not include a throttle which I feel is a must have on any of my bikes, and they are woefully underpowered, as well as Expensive!
  7. J.R.

    J.R. Well-Known Member

    Hi Liz, welcome to the forum. There are a lot of ebike dealers in SF, take some time to test ride some ebikes to better understand them and your needs. You also should understand what you can and cannot do legally in the state of California. Should you want to continue anyway, that's one thing, but you want to have all the information to make a fully informed decision. In CA you are "legally" limited to 750 watts and 20 or 28 mph limited drives, depending on where you want to ride. A 20 mph bike is essentially a bicycle and can be ridden where bikes are allowed. A 28 mph bike is supposed to be confined to the road. You should read and know your law in SF and CA.

    The BBSHD isn't legal anywhere in California, except private property - off road. Before someone says the cops aren't carrying multi-meters to check your drive, that's not the whole story either. IF you get into an accident, hit a kid or even a dog with an illegal ebike, you'll be liable whether the actual accident is your fault or not. Personally I would rather see laws based on the actions of the rider rather than the bikes hardware, but that's not where we find ourselves today.

    Local authorities are getting wiser to ebikes everyday. I have a friend that's a state park manager in another state than mine. He told me before I even mentioned ebikes what was legal in the state of Maryland. I've since learned that Maryland does inform local authorities on what is legal there. From personal experience I know most people can fulfill their needs and wants, staying within the legal parameters.

    Lastly, it seems from your initial post you are a cyclist and enjoy cycling. I would suggest test riding a torque sensor ebike versus a cadence sensor ebike. Very different experience! The bike with the torque sensor will feel much more bike like, than the cadence sensor ebike.

    Good luck in your search.
  8. rich c

    rich c Active Member

    The fear of troubleshooting and repair is what has taken me to a bike shop for purchase. I read a lot, and talk of hall sensor replacement, motor magnets coming unglued, cold solder joints, too short of cables, finding extension cables with the correct connector, plus the number of posts about why my bike doesn't power up, really intimidates me. When you read about the why questions and then the opposing opinions about what parts should be replaced, it gets pretty confusing. I suppose there are only the 4 components that could need to be replaced, so as long as it's not the battery, builders must feel the other parts are cheap enough you could just replace any or all of them and still be money ahead. Fortunately, over my lifetime, I have placed myself into a retirement position where I can concentrate on having more fun than work. As the saying goes around old engineers; "how many Saturdays do you have left, and how do you want to spend them?"
  9. Rick Speicher

    Rick Speicher Member

    The BBSHD is Legal anywhere as long as it is programmed to comply with local laws. Torque sensors are highly overrated. By al means try them you will see for yourself.
  10. J.R.

    J.R. Well-Known Member

    I'm not suggesting the law is a good law or a bad law, just that it is the law. And the law has to do with the wattage of the motor as manufactured, not the end user programming. I'm aware there are sellers that disagree, they have skin in the game. Consider their motives.

    "The bill would define an “electric bicycle” as a bicycle with fully operable pedals and an electric motor of less than 750 watts, and would create 3 classes of electric bicycles, as specified. The bill would require manufacturers or distributors of electric bicycles to affix a label to each electric bicycle that describes its classification number, top assisted speed, and motor wattage. The bill would require every electric bicycle manufacturer to certify that it complies with specified equipment and manufacturing requirements."

    One should always know where they stand when dealing with the law. The best way to fight the law is to work for it's change.
  11. Rick Speicher

    Rick Speicher Member

    Agreed! Well, kind of! The problem is that in electronics manufacturing there is a thing called 'tolerance'. If a motor is designed to be 750 watts and wound to produce 20mph of speed at a certain voltage, it has to have the ability to exceed that somewhat or it would be operating at 100% and would not last to long. So when a design is produced they give it a certain amount of tolerance so that it is operating in the middle of its ability not at the max. ANY motor, Bosch included, can be made to exceed the intended design limits of use, by simply raising voltage or raising current, it's just that with Bosch it's not simple! Look elsewhere on this very forum and you will find plenty of people spending a lot of time and money trying to make their weak underpowered Bosch motor have more power and speed or adding a throttle. You know this J.R., you post there often. Speaking of having 'skin' in the game, who do you work for J.R.? I don't work for any manufacturer, or retailer, I was simply trying to give Liz an option that fits their price point. Now don't you all feel like we have hijacked this thread enough?! Lets try to give the OP Liz some good recommendations, and if you want to talk law, then by all means start a new thread for it! As I said earlier in a previous post, the Bafang mid-drives can be programmed and certified by the manufacturer or retailer to be in compliance of local laws. The big difference is that Bafang makes 'hacking' the drive for more power easy, the others make it very hard. Liz, if I had to recommend a factory ebike that meets your price point, I would suggest you look at ProdecoTech. Their bikes are of pretty good quality and they have many models to choose from that are at or very near your price point. Try to stick to the models with a centrally mounted battery as the rear rack mounts tend to be unbalanced an awkward. Also spend a little extra and go with Li-ion. Much lighter than Sealed Lead Acid and lasts longer.
  12. J.R.

    J.R. Well-Known Member

    Don't own a Bosch.

    I've never sold a bicycle, ebike or an ebike kit (not even used). I've never sold my mechanical skills or labor to anyone in the bicycling or ebike sphere. I have zero connection to industry.

    The law was raised in your first response. I felt it was important and responsible to correct the record.

    I think suggesting adding a 1000 to 1500 watt drive to an off the shelf bicycle is irresponsible and possibly dangerous. I tend not to get involved in these conversations, I don't enjoy these debates, but making a suggestion to a perfect stranger they add a 35 mph drive to a bicycle is just wrong.
    I understand no one has to go that fast just because the drive can, but accidents happen. I don't want any part of that! The bike may not handle that much power, it may already have stress fractures. The rider may not be able to handle the power and speed, triple of what a professional racing cyclist has.

    Nothing personal, just information. I've been riding bikes all my life and motorcycles for more than 45 years. Several years I taught safety to "experienced motorcyclists" and organized HOG chapter rides. I've witnessed disasters. Let people decide their own limitations as opposed to realizing them at the least opportune time. I have a riding acquaintance who has been riding bikes for many years, he purchased a 350 watt, 20 mph ebike this year and he wiped out on a rail trail this fall. A gentle curve with a little too much speed for his ability and he wound up at the emergency room. It happens without our help. I hope this information helps Liz make an informed decision.

    Great suggestion! Solid, simple ebike at a decent price.
    Last edited: Nov 27, 2017
  13. harryS

    harryS Active Member

    Hi RichC. No fear of ebike kits for this retired engineer. Have put together six of them w/o any showstoppers, and will do two for my sister and brother now that they got a chance to ride them after the holiday dinner last week. I told them to budget $200-250 for a (geared) motor/wheel. Batteries are the big expense, but I think $300 will get them one with enough range for their riding styles/

    By the way, every day is Saturday after you quit working isn't it?
  14. Rick Speicher

    Rick Speicher Member

    It's great to have an opinion. Doesn't make it correct though.
  15. Carterk

    Carterk New Member

    Ok, here’s my uninformed opinion!

    I’m in somewhat of a similar position to the OP. However (and this isn’t an argument, just stating my preference here) I have zero interest in building my own ebike. Additionally, I own 6 bikes and none of them imho are really built to be ridden consistently over 20 mph with the added stresses of a motor, whether it’s a hub or mid drive.

    I prefer to purchase a purpose built ebike that’s designed from the ground up to accept motor assist and ride at speeds nearly twice what I average on a regular bike (25 mph vs 13-15 mph). I want integrated rack, fenders and lights, thoughtfully designed to complement the bike, not chosen because the color matched. For the money I’m going to spend, I want elegance in the design, an ineffable quality that my favorite possessions tend to have and which makes me smile whenever I use them- think cables run through the frame rather than tied to the outside and electronics that work and give me the information I need without hassles.

    I want to spend zero time waiting for my bike to be delivered and zero time on the phone wait8ng to talk to support. I want a 2+ year warranty on the motor/battery/electronics and when I have a hiccup during that time I want my lbs to happily deal with my problem so I don’t have to. I want knowledgable salespeople to walk me through my purchase decision and help me choose accessories that perfectly complement my bike. I want my bike to be supported by a company with a near-100% chance of being solvent for a few years at least.

    So, with all that assumed- unless I’m buying a demo, used or last year’s model, I don’t think I can get all this for $2K. I think a more realistic budget is ~$3K, and that’s what I’m planning to spend. OP, I think you can get a decent ebike for $2K but not without giving up some things (or finding a great sale... Look at the $1700 sale price on 2106 Raleigh Misceo!)

    Finally, while I wouldn’t put too much emphasis on this I do think ebikes have the potential to make a ride safer: Fewer cars will pass you when you’re traveling at a higher speed. Their speed relative to you will be lower as well. Assisted acceleration could conceivably get you out of dangerous situations. That said, higher riding speeds carry their own risks.
  16. rich c

    rich c Active Member

    Sorry, I have to disagree. I've never seen a vehicle hold back or hesitate to pass me, even when I'm doing 25 mph on my bike. If they are doing 26, they'll even speed up to get around me. Nearly as bad as when I drove our farm's semi when I was younger. People would go to incredible effort to get around a semi and then slam on the brakes. My younger brother stopped driving when an elderly couple did that to him and the truck came to a stop with the bumper against the back window of the car.
  17. Carterk

    Carterk New Member

    I think you misunderstand. I don’t mean that cars will in some way hesitate to pass you if you’re going faster. I mean that given constant speed, fewer cars WILL pass you when you travel at a higher speed. On a stretch of road where 100 cars pass a given point each hour, 100 cars will pass you in an hour if you’re standing still. If you’re moving at any speed, fewer cars will pass you (going the same direction.) The faster you’re moving, the fewer cars will pass you because you’re on that stretch of road for less time. It’s simple math.
  18. ChrisKoz

    ChrisKoz New Member

    Hey Harry, can you tell me what kit and battery you recommended?
  19. harryS

    harryS Active Member

    I'm in a different position than Rich Speicher who needs to provide a reliable/robust system for his customers, and a BBSHD is certainly that. On the other hand, one can melt a BBS02, but it's still a good motor for $400. Add a battery for $400-500. Good kit., but my siblings don't need 750W power. We didn't test ride my BBS02.

    They tried my Q100H geared motor and my 500W ebikeling 36V geared motor kit. The latter is available for under $200 on ebay from vendor "ebikeling." when he has them in stock. I've bought two of them. Per my logs, I have over 1000 miles on one. Forum user Indianajo might disagree. He posted that his blew up after a month and he left it at his summer camp. Anyway, I'm watching ebay and will maybe snag another one this winter. It's about 18-20 mph on 36V. I shouldn't do it, but I will run it at 48, but then I don't get any exercise. Too fast.

    The Q100H and Q128H are also well regarded motors from Cost about $79, but come from China with a stiff shipping fee of $60. Then I have to buy a rim and spokes. Also a controller. Runs up to $260 by then.

    My first battery was a 36V bottle battery off ebay from China for $280 shipped. That vendor no longer sells on ebay, but still sells batteries under the name I have since purchased his controllers, but not his batteries. I've have been wanting smaller batteries so my ebikes look less like ebikes. I have a mini. It's only 6AH, but that gives me 20-25 miles which is all I need. Under $300. I also had a nice 36V 10AH battery built in Florida for $250 earlier this year, but the seller ( appears to have dropped that sideline. Personally, I'm willing to buy batteries from China, but it's probably safer to order from a US vendor like
  20. Dewey

    Dewey Active Member

    Some Chinese "frog" ABS battery packs look like a chunky saddle bag - the EasyGo Race uses a small saddlebag type pack, fabric battery bags such as found on the Hill Topper kits are unobtrusive though less secure, when I had one I slipped it into a pannier bag and the hub motor was small and silver so looked much like a bicycle. Semi-recessed frame batteries are getting slimmer, and some motors too like the 250w Fazua evation that has the gearbox on the bottom bracket, and the motor and battery in-line in the down tube.
    Last edited: Dec 1, 2017
  21. john peck

    john peck Member

    Check out Juiced Bikes, they'll have something you'll like & can afford. As a commuter their CCS has Haibike & Stromer
    running scared. Haibike just cut the price of their 350 watt commuter in half, But I still wouldn't want it. The Juiced
    'Ocean Current might also appeal to you, or perhaps one of Radpower's mountain bikes. If finances are tight, you might
    look into a Sondors bike.
    Personally, I'm hoping for someone to come up with a long-distance, touring ebike.