Are Americans savvy enough to discern the difference between high-tech and low-tech electric bikes?

Larry Pizzi

Active Member
We have finally gotten to a place in time where the average selling price in North America are on par with electric bicycles sold on European market at an average of approximately $2500 retail. What is interesting however is that many bikes are very low-technology products, even some sold at these higher price points.

I'm referring to more expensive eBikes that are throttle only and/or use very simple on/off type pedal-assist, rotational sensors but lack more advanced, bus communications systems for diagnostics, rider control information and multiple input sensors that include pedal force, to enable the delivery of a fantastic and natural, pedal assist feel.

Just within the last few weeks a $3800, throttle only bike was introduced without questioning the functionality and there have been many $2,500 to $3,000 low-tech bikes that remain quite commonplace.

What do you think -- Is it just a matter of time until the market understands and demands leading edge technology, or will Americans continue to be satisfied with simple twist-and-go eBikes, even at premium price points?
 

Dave

Active Member
I think most Americans are driven by technology. Electric bikes are so new to the American market that most people are not even aware they exist on a viable level. When I tell my friends that I just purchased an Ebike they looked puzzled, not really sure what it is, or how it works.

As Ebikes become more popular, and they will, people will educate themselves on the tech part. All of us on this website are doing that, and becoming informed buyers. It does not take long to weed out the low tech, sub par products.

Americans have a way of demanding the best technology, and becoming informed. Look at the auto industry and how the Japanese were able to enter the market place by Storm due to a superior product. The result was American car manufacturers got better because they had to, the people demanded leading edge tech, and a better product.

I don't think Americans will settle for simple twist and go Ebikes. Once the product really takes hold, technology will win out, just ask the people at Apple.
 

Larry Pizzi

Active Member
I think most Americans are driven by technology. Electric bikes are so new to the American market that most people are not even aware they exist on a viable level. When I tell my friends that I just purchased an Ebike they looked puzzled, not really sure what it is, or how it works.

As Ebikes become more popular, and they will, people will educate themselves on the tech part. All of us on this website are doing that, and becoming informed buyers. It does not take long to weed out the low tech, sub par products.

Americans have a way of demanding the best technology, and becoming informed. Look at the auto industry and how the Japanese were able to enter the market place by Storm due to a superior product. The result was American car manufacturers got better because they had to, the people demanded leading edge tech, and a better product.

I don't think Americans will settle for simple twist and go Ebikes. Once the product really takes hold, technology will win out, just ask the people at Apple.
Dave - I could not agree more and I think you are so right with regard to awareness growing and the demand for the best technology. It will become impossible to compete without leading edge technology.
 

oilerlord

Member
"When I tell my friends that I just purchased an Ebike they looked puzzled, not really sure what it is, or how it works."

"Once the product really takes hold, technology will win out, just ask the people at Apple."
Dave, I think the majority of Americans shake their heads, and are puzzled - simply when they see a bike on the road (let alone an e-bike)! Let's face it, a lot of drivers view cyclists as an annoyance and unfortunately don't feel there's a reason to share the road with us. Sadly, it's going to be a long, long time before every American that owns an iPhone also considers owning a bicycle.

That said, I believe the average American bike buyer is well informed and uses sites like this one to research the highest quality bike at the budget they can afford.
 

Brambor

Well-Known Member
What gets me are the remedial responses in comments of an review for a higher end bike ($$$) that usually go like: for this kind of money you could just get a motorcycle or a moped...

The presence of a motor on a bike seems to switch people's thinking the bike is no longer a bike. Instead it is a vehicle to ride their a$$ from place to place.

The mentality needs to switch to understanding it is still a bicycle albeit one with enhanced assistance to the rider to make it both healthy exercise and also a viable transportation option.
 

calvin

Active Member
Larry, The main issue I believe is that we are on the cusp of ebikes becoming very popular. I don't believe that the current manufacturers have the tooling up capacity to meet that projected demand. This will leave an opening for the fast buck artists and fly by nighters to enter the market. What to do? Help build up this site or sites like it for starters. When the prospective customer does his or her search the information will be readily available.
 

EddieJ

Well-Known Member
Over here in the UK, the first time buyer seems to ask or have three main considerations.

Not in any particular order...
How far does it go.
How fast does it go.
How much is it.

In respect of the first time buyer, they don't generally appear from reading other forums, to be concerned with electronic technology or cycle component quality. This changes with the second purchase, and both aspects suddenly become important. I also fit into this category.

Over here the first time buyer is often looking for a bargain £800.00 cheap Chinese bike that ultimately just isn't going to perform. The next stage of buyer is willing to step up to approx. £2,200.00 then some who want something more special such as a high end Haibike, are willing to pay approx £5,000.00 plus

I feel that we are still very much in the early stages of e-bike power technology, and I feel that the next 5-10 years should I hope prove interesting as companies strive to produce bikes that have lighter power units and longer duration, but not at the expense of reliabilty. For now though, the power etc is all pretty universal between the mainsteam manufacturers, so anyone looking for something different is going to look for lighter higher quality cycle parts.
 

calvin

Active Member
Dave, I think the majority of Americans shake their heads, and are puzzled - simply when they see a bike on the road (let alone an e-bike)! Let's face it, a lot of drivers view cyclists as an annoyance and unfortunately don't feel there's a reason to share the road with us. Sadly, it's going to be a long, long time before every American that owns an iPhone also considers owning a bicycle.

That said, I believe the average American bike buyer is well informed and uses sites like this one to research the highest quality bike at the budget they can afford.
I've read before that it takes twenty or thirty years from the inception of a technology till the time that it is fully implemented. I bought my first cell phone in 1983.
 

oilerlord

Member
What gets me are the remedial responses in comments of an review for a higher end bike ($$$) that usually go like: for this kind of money you could just get a motorcycle or a moped...

The presence of a motor on a bike seems to switch people's thinking the bike is no longer a bike. Instead it is a vehicle to ride their a$$ from place to place.

The mentality needs to switch to understanding it is still a bicycle albeit one with enhanced assistance to the rider to make it both healthy exercise and also a viable transportation option.
That's exactly right! I was "that guy" too.

I was looking at e-bikes last summer, but the one I was considering (the Specialized Turbo) was over $5K. I thought that was ridiculous and bought a used 2008 Ninja 650 (for $3600) that I rode a total of four days before an idiot driver decided to text message right through a stop sign. I laid the bike down, tumbled on the asphalt, and my bike slammed into her SUV. I still haven't fully recovered.
 

Dave

Active Member
Brambor, and Oilerford, both you guys are absolutely correct. I especially agree with " the presence of a motor making it no longer a bike". Some of my biker friends are already accusing me of cheating, and havn't even seen the bike, and no nothing of the technolgy. They assume I want to " cheat" the work part of riding, and just get to where I am going.

I actually found that most of the time I use Eco mode on my Carbon for lowest level of assist, just so I can get a workout. When I am pooped, I can use a higher level to still get where I am going without regretting starting out in the first place.. Sounds like a good idea to me, as in best of both worlds.

I think many people people who bike will look into ebikes. If they do I do think they will take the time and effort to educate themselves on the technolgy, and make a very informed buying decision.
 

calvin

Active Member
That's exactly right! I was "that guy" too.

I was looking at e-bikes last summer, but the one I was considering (the Specialized Turbo) was over $5K. I thought that was ridiculous and bought a used 2008 Ninja 650 (for $3600) that I rode a total of four days before an idiot driver decided to text message right through a stop sign. I laid the bike down, tumbled on the asphalt, and my bike slammed into her SUV. I still haven't fully recovered.
I am sorry to here of your injury. I myself was injured, a 12 inch surgery on top of the same sized surgery (no sutures allowed the second time), Ouchie! This is what led me to consider ebikes. Are you able to get around without assistance?
 
Larry, let me just say that I tried the Path+ last week and that bike feels like a high tech ride for a very low price. Nice work.

You know this stuff way better than me, but here's my take on it. It seems that most of the innovation we've seen in the past has derived from European designs. Over 700,000 ebikes sold a year in a predominantly bicycle culture allows for a lot of innovation. They've been pouring all of their engineering into making a more refined ride within the 250 watt/ 15 mph limits. Quite frankly, Europeans probably have better taste in their commuting bicycles anyway.

Along comes George W. Bush in 2002 passing 750 watt/ 20 mph limits on electric bikes, this creates an entirely different beast. European designs couldn't penetrate the American marketplace because we could build bigger and faster for cheaper. This created the "American Muscle" culture of ebikes and well as the stigma of laziness that is often attached to them.

I'm still finding that lots of people like the simplicity and power of a standard throttle, especially baby-boomers. It meets their expectations of an ebike and they take comfort in that. A lot of our customers haven't ridden a bicycle in such a long time than the idea of PAS overwhelms them. Also, we're getting VERY good low-tech bikes for under $2000 now. I think if we're talking about expensive throttle-only bikes then we're looking at "American Muscle", which is designed for speed and ease, and certainly not always low-tech (Optibike SIMBB for example).

That said, it's the high-end tech that is going to covert non-believers to e-bikes. Cycling enthusiasts are finally starting to get on board. It's something that every generation is going to start lusting for. I saw the coolest thing last night. While riding though an intersection on my high-tech ebike, I saw a thirteen-year old kid stop his family in their tracks and point out my ride. He acted like he had seen a Ferrari. There's definitely a new generation that already appreciates the technology.

Anyone who already rides often is quick to appreciate high-end tech on bikes. But because most Americans aren't very serious about riding, the ease of throttle driven or cadence sensor bikes remains popular.

(edit: sorry for only responding the first post guys, I started and then got sidetracked for 4 hours.)
 

oilerlord

Member
I am sorry to here of your injury. I myself was injured, a 12 inch surgery on top of the same sized surgery (no sutures allowed the second time), Ouchie! This is what led me to consider ebikes. Are you able to get around without assistance?
Yeah, have some neck and back issues, but basically in good health. This time around, I'm going to stick to bike paths and trails as much as possible. To Dave's point, the people that are "cheating" or otherwise think people that buy e-bikes are lazy - think it makes perfect sense to drive their 5000lb SUV a few blocks to pick up a quart of milk.
 

calvin

Active Member
Brambor, and Oilerford, both you guys are absolutely correct. I especially agree with " the presence of a motor making it no longer a bike". Some of my biker friends are already accusing me of cheating, and havn't even seen the bike, and no nothing of the technolgy. They assume I want to " cheat" the work part of riding, and just get to where I am going.

I actually found that most of the time I use Eco mode on my Carbon for lowest level of assist, just so I can get a workout. When I am pooped, I can use a higher level to still get where I am going without regretting starting out in the first place.. Sounds like a good idea to me, as in best of both worlds.

I think many people people who bike will look into ebikes. If they do I do think they will take the time and effort to educate themselves on the technolgy, and make a very informed buying decision.
I would tell them that you are not cheating, not claiming to be riding a bike, but an ebike. If they want to pump a motorless ebike that's their sweaty problem.
 

Larry Pizzi

Active Member
Larry, The main issue I believe is that we are on the cusp of ebikes becoming very popular. I don't believe that the current manufacturers have the tooling up capacity to meet that projected demand. This will leave an opening for the fast buck artists and fly by nighters to enter the market. What to do? Help build up this site or sites like it for starters. When the prospective customer does his or her search the information will be readily available.
Hi Calvin - Well I hope you are right that we are on the cusp. I've been in the bicycle industry for over 40 years and e-bikes for the last 12. So I'm more then ready!

IMHO, its really all about the ride feel and I do think bike dealers are more sensitive to this then most consumers at this point. A simple "throttle-only" e-bike that has no technology except decent quality components all plugged together, does not inspire someone to ride an e-bike like a bicycle. When you have a high-technology e-bike that uses CAN bus technology and multiple sensor technology (to detect pedal torque measurement, crank rotational speed and wheel speed - mapped through well written firmware), you can get a completely different experience. Its also much, much more simple to diagnose problems when/if they arise.

The thing that amazes me is that some respected e-bike companies are marketing the most simple, unsophisticated e-bikes at premium prices, as I mention in my opening question, and the market is not calling foul. Why do you think that is?
 

Larry Pizzi

Active Member
Larry, let me just say that I tried the Path+ last week and that bike feels like a high tech ride for a very low price. Nice work.

You know this stuff way better than me, but here's my take on it. It seems that most of the innovation we've seen in the past has derived from European designs. Over 700,000 ebikes sold a year in a predominantly bicycle culture allows for a lot of innovation. They've been pouring all of their engineering into making a more refined ride within the 250 watt/ 15 mph limits. Quite frankly, Europeans probably have better taste in their commuting bicycles anyway.

Along comes George W. Bush in 2002 passing 750 watt/ 20 mph limits on electric bikes, this creates an entirely different beast. European designs couldn't penetrate the American marketplace because we could build bigger and faster for cheaper. This created the "American Muscle" culture of ebikes and well as the stigma of laziness that is often attached to them.

I'm still finding that lots of people like the simplicity and power of a standard throttle, especially baby-boomers. It meets their expectations of an ebike and they take comfort in that. A lot of our customers haven't ridden a bicycle in such a long time than the idea of PAS overwhelms them. Also, we're getting VERY good low-tech bikes for under $2000 now. I think if we're talking about expensive throttle-only bikes then we're looking at "American Muscle", which is designed for speed and ease, and certainly not always low-tech (Optibike SIMBB for example).

That said, it's the high-end tech that is going to covert non-believers to e-bikes. Cycling enthusiasts are finally starting to get on board. It's something that every generation is going to start lusting for. I saw the coolest thing last night. While riding though an intersection on my high-tech ebike, I saw a thirteen-year old kid stop his family in their tracks and point out my ride. He acted like he had seen a Ferrari. There's definitely a new generation that already appreciates the technology.

Anyone who already rides often is quick to appreciate high-end tech on bikes. But because most Americans aren't very serious about riding, the ease of throttle driven or cadence sensor bikes remains popular.

(edit: sorry for only responding the first post guys, I started and then got sidetracked for 4 hours.)
Thanks so much for your kind comments on the Path+! This latest generation of product, I believe, will begin to reverse the throttle trend that has unfolded in recent years because a good pedal-assist bike is actually more intuitive then a throttle…..start pedaling and the power is proportional with your human power input. Pedal harder and faster, and the power continues on a proportional basis up to the systems top speed.

I completely agree with most everything you are saying in your post but as you mention, at $2200 (price of the Path+) you can have the best of BOTH worlds. Throttle if you want and great pedal-assist functionality, too. Time will tell!
 

Dave

Active Member
The thing that amazes me is that some respected e-bike companies are marketing the most simple, unsophisticated e-bikes at premium prices, as I mention in my opening question, and the market is not calling foul. Why do you think that is?
I think some people are questioning those companies, and looking elsewhere. I looked very closely at a 7K ebike, and liked the motor technolgy and speed. I did some research and asked some questions to the company rep. It became apparent there was no pedal assist, no torque sensor, cadence sensor, or any type of integration between pedal input and motor. Just throttle, and pedal in parallel with motor.

I think companies offering throttle only ( twist & go ) no matter how fast or how good the bike looks, or how well engineered, will struggle as the market matures.
 

Larry Pizzi

Active Member
I think some people are questioning those companies, and looking elsewhere. I looked very closely at a 7K ebike, and liked the motor technolgy and speed. I did some research and asked some questions to the company rep. It became apparent there was no pedal assist, no torque sensor, cadence sensor, or any type of integration between pedal input and motor. Just throttle, and pedal in parallel with motor.

I think companies offering throttle only ( twist & go ) no matter how fast or how good the bike looks, or how well engineered, will struggle as the market matures.
Or, hopefully, they will get with the program...
 

Brambor

Well-Known Member
I think the gears and levels of assist plus potential throttle are too many systems on a simple vehicle as a bicycle is. We're losing the throttle, that's good. I would also lose the gears, make the bike single speed and program 10 assist modes into the shifter. It would lighten the bike and make the transition from regular bike to electric assisted bike a seamless affair.
 

oilerlord

Member
I think the gears and levels of assist plus potential throttle are too many systems on a simple vehicle as a bicycle is. We're losing the throttle, that's good. I would also lose the gears, make the bike single speed and program 10 assist modes into the shifter. It would lighten the bike and make the transition from regular bike to electric assisted bike a seamless affair.
Exactly. Do we really need 30 gears on a bicycle? I think the "more is better" idea comes into play when bike manufacturers compete with each other. I've read some reviews that question the Neo's "underpowered" 350 watt motor, but then read Dave's review saying he was surprised at how powerful his Carbon (with 350w motor) is. More isn't necessarily better.