Buying an e-bike on-line: some considerations for decision making

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pnop

Active Member
I think it's highly inappropriate for a dealer to disparage on-line sellers. That sure wouldn't fly on any other forum I know of. And they aren't the space shuttle. Most maintenance is fairly easy. If you need your hand held and told what a wonderful bike you have and you made such an excellent choice , I guess only consider a LBS.

I don't see it this way and I say that as someone that built their own.

I understand a dealer getting frustrated at someone that bought online to save a few bucks then wanting a local dealer to take care of the issues that pop up. Obviously that does not affect you as you can take care of these issues yourself. Many can't or won't. I understand the dealer getting frustrated when someone that bought elsewhere wants their bike fixed ASAP, but they are going to get their customers bikes in and out first.

My daughter is fairly talented musically. We have bought all her instruments at the local music store because it is also where she takes lessons and it helps keep them in business. I do not know instruments very well. When something is not right we simply hand it to them and it's quickly fixed. Generally with no charge.
 
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Deleted member 4210

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I think it's highly inappropriate for a dealer to disparage on-line sellers. That sure wouldn't fly on any other forum I know of. And they aren't the space shuttle. Most maintenance is fairly easy. If you need your hand held and told what a wonderful bike you have and you made such an excellent choice , I guess only consider a LBS.
There is no disparagement here. These are serious considerations that need to be taken into account that many people would not think to consider. Being on the end of a phone call from a number of these upset people looking for help, might change your mind about this. I try to help them as best I can, but there is only so much that can be done. Being at the consumer level brings an entirely different perspective. Many dealers will just say 'no, we don't handle that', and hang up on them. If you as an on-line seller have addressed these issues, then you have nothing to worry about, do you ? Its too bad that when offering a different perspective to open people eye's about what could be involved, is mis-labeled as 'disparagement'. Go to the thread where the guy who owns a Shocke bike, now has battery issues, and the company is no longer there to support him. Will you help him ? Can you ? I feel bad for the gentleman, as I would anyone else in his shoes. Its an unfortunate situation, but one that is clearly existing in this still emerging industry. Many of these on-line firms face a really tough challenge, of after service support, and may not have thought through an entire business plan, other than to simply sell on line. One that I can attest that has is Evelo. They provide excellent support and their depth of staff, and the way they have designed their firm to provide on line support, and to try to make it simple for end users who may not have the technical expertise to do these things, is a good model that proves it can work. There are certainly others, but I have dealt personally with Evelo, though I do not represent their products or sell them. I have bought their ebikes though, (2015) and have put them in rental situations. It was a learning experience, and I put more than $12,000 of my own money into it.
 
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Deleted member 4210

Guest
I don't see it this way and I say that as someone that built their own.

I understand a dealer getting frustrated at someone that bought online to save a few bucks then wanting a local dealer to take care of the issues that pop up. Obviously that does not affect you as you can take care of these issues yourself. Many can't or won't. I understand the dealer getting frustrated when someone that bought elsewhere wants their bike fixed ASAP, but they are going to get their customers bikes in and out first.

My daughter is fairly talented musically. We have bought all her instruments at the local music store because it is also where she takes lessons and it helps keep them in business. I do not know instruments very well. When something is not right we simply hand it to them and it's quickly fixed. Generally with no charge.

By the way, I am NOT frustrated that people buy on-line or from other places. That is natural competition, and I knew full well before going into this, what I was up against. The competition is healthy, and its a natural dynamic of all industries. I faced competition in sales for 34 years in the corporate world in energy technologies.

I would LOVE to be able to service and help every person who bought on-line, but I have learned it is just not possible, with no consistent standards, and so many different designs of batteries, controllers, different form factors, and with the lack of a US supply chain for so many different parts. The average buyer probably just thinks its like a regular bike, or may not even think at that level of all, assuming there will be support from any number of places. 10 years from now, as the industry grows, that may well take place. But right now, this is still very much an emerging industry. Very few industries with this few of unit sales, would have 300 different brands. That is a sign of a very young industry with no real dominant player yet. A symptom of that, is all the widely varying component designs that are part of the electrical system on an ebike. Most everything else on the bike, is the same as the rest of the bike industry. In that you have a few dominant players on things like groupsets such as derailleurs (everyone knows Shimano - do they have 300 competitors ? no - its more like 2 or 3). That benefits dealers in that you have either Shimano, or SRAM, that you can easily find parts for from many places. Brakes are similar, Cassettes, shifters, and so on. So dealers can usually fix many other brands beyond just the ones they carry in a regular bike world. That is just not the case YET with ebikes, on the electrical side of things.

Its obvious not everyone is going to buy local, especially with big players like Amazon continuing to be successful with all kinds of products. Its just that with Ebikes, its not yet a mature industry, and so the consequences of that might not be as obvious to someone new to the world of buying an ebike. Its also a more complicated piece of equipment, and long term reliability remains a complex endeavor to prove out for the whole industry. My only consideration in writing this thread to begin with, was really to help people face some facts in their decision process that they might not have been aware of, before they put a big chunk of money on the line, and to be careful about any assumptions they might be making. Anyone can make a rebuttal to any of my points. That's what free speech and these forums are about, right ?
 

TForan

Well-Known Member
There's also the aspect of what you want in a bike. I wanted a powerful fatbike with decent components and there weren't many options. I looked at the Pedego Trail Tracker and was not impressed at all. Was interested in the Juiced Hyperfat but none were available. I ended up with the Biktrix Ultra and for close to a year , I've really enjoyed it and Roshan has been excellent. Technically, it's off road only but I don't worry about that. Most of the bikes in the LBSs around here are step through cruiser bikes, which I can't stand. And the Pedego cruiser with that high mounted battery in the back and with the hub drive felt very imbalanced. Buy what suits ya, I guess.
 
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indianajo

Well-Known Member
I don't mind a dealer discussing why he can't support himself servicing any other brand. For reason's listed by Mike, it is a wild west out there. I wouldn't mind being told no by a local dealer about a problem bike sold by somebody else .
However, I have bought as much trash from my LBS as I have received from Amazon. Air pumps that wouldn't hold the stem one time, lights that worked once but would never turn off, undersized tubes that "will work fine" but blew up at the first inflation. A new mountain bike that the handlebar rotated in the fork, dumped me on the pavement, and got me 8 stitches on my arm. And all the bikes he sells are made for European giants, they certainly wouldn't fit compact old me. I use my LBS for new tires, occasionally tubes if he has the exact right size, and that is all.
For reasons listed, I bought an internet kit for $300 and a battery for $300, instead of a new bike for $$$$. I've got plenty of heavy very strong steel frames, anyway. Didn't work more than 13 miles, $300 down the drain, oh well. It is the wild west out there. Replacement kit is $180 - still wrestling with it. first battery was bad too, got a free replacement via Amazon without shipping the old one back.
I'm a physicist. Way to debug electric bikes 1. is the battery hot? all the time? alligator clip a meter to the DC going to the controller, and sample voltage continuously as you ride around until the failure. Hint - analog meters with a pointer are easier to read on a bouncing bicycle than digital meters. My first battery was a dud, 7 miles and dead. Maybe one stack of 14 was working when I got it. (took the top off and probed the BMS board, a non-dangerous maneuver if you know how to not wear jewelry and not touch metal with two hands at once.)
Second question, does AC current come out of the controller? Those 3 fat phase wires from controller to motor can be surrounded by a $50 amp clamp meter, also available with a pointer. If DC goes inta the controller, and AC amps stop coming out, the problem is in the controller or throttle, switches, or hall effect sensor. Thottle and brake switches can be tested with a simple meter.
Beginning with parts swapping is for the lowest grade of "mechanic". First determine where the problem is with the goes into doesn't come outa tests, then if parts are available, buy what you need.
 
D

Deleted member 4210

Guest
Beginning with parts swapping is for the lowest grade of "mechanic".
And by the way, that's exactly how Rad, Surface604, Magnum, Evelo, Blix, Smart Motion, and others internal 'technical people' will tell you how to resolve the issue if it's electronic related. I have had direct experience with everyone of these folks by phone and email. I also have various types of 'meters', understand their purpose, and a mechanical engineering (degree) background, with years of experience fixing many different pieces of equipment, both electrical and mechanical. No meter is going to tell you everything, and is only part of a diagnosis process, and unless you have the underlying diagrams and program logic, which most ebike OEMS do not supply, the fastest pathway is often doing swaps. Sure you wouldn't do this on a car, but e-bike electronics are fairly modular, and designed for this sort of 'elimination process.' Hence why I suggested my list of very simple spare parts items to have on hand, which will allow someone to address very common problems fairly quickly on their own (if they bought on line). It saves a ton of waiting, and worming through the process by phone, and really isn't that hard to do. Trying to make this as easy as possible for folks who do still wish to buy on-line,after understanding the potential risks. So Im not just bringing up some factors in the decision process, I'm also offering a relatively low risk way, and small cost, to over come the lack of a local supporting dealer. (perhaps of value to those where dealers aren't even close by...)
 

ymarty

Member
Here is my worthless two cents, as I purchased my bike online from the manufacturer. I live in sizable city and went to every dealer within 100 miles looking at ebikes. I went in knowing what features I wanted and the style of bike that appealed to me. What I found is that is that most of the brick and mortar bike shops pretty much carried all the same brands and same types of bike. If I found one that met most of my requirements, it was priced well outside of my budget. There are so many more bikes out there than any B&M can carry. My advice, if you have decided to go online for your purchase, before hitting the payment button, do your home on repair shops. That is what I did. I found the ones that worked on Ebikes (and many bike shops do not) than I gave them all the specs. One shop called EProdigy to see about getting additional information. My bike is too new and no problems yet but its nice to know that I have found a shop who can take care of the bike. Plus, he also has a mobile bike service and can come to my house.
 

Bruce Arnold

Well-Known Member
I think it's a lot simpler than what this thread implies. There are only 3 things you need to know:

1. It's a new industry and you are an early adopter. If you go into it thinking that it will be like buying a car or a TV, you may be disappointed. Just like in the early days of personal computers, you have to either be willing to do a lot of the work yourself because the support infrastructure may not be there for you, or be lucky that everything goes well and there are no problems.
2. Don't gamble more than you can stand to lose, because your bike may have problems.
3. Most of the components are the same as on any other kind of bike. Any LBS that's willing to work on it will do just fine, until you get to specific components like batteries, controllers and motors. Then you'll be glad if you picked a company that hasn't gone out of business and stands behind their product, because parts will be available.
 

PDoz

Well-Known Member
Mike, thankyou for going to the trouble of posting your perspective.

Do you have any insight into the track record for parts availablity for bikes purchased at the lbs? I'm not asking you to name &shame the big companies, but more interested in how sensible it would be to purchase the spares on a lbs purchased bike whilst they are still available? In particular - with integrated batteries becoming fashionable and design changing every year, can we reasonable hope to be able to replace our battery if / when it dies? Are controllers cross compatible to some extent ( again, these seem to be changing with each year model) ?

I bought from a great lbs who have offered fantastic support, but they are relatively new to ebikes and these are issues they haven't had to face ( yet)
 

Mr. Coffee

Well-Known Member
Region
USA
City
A Demented Corner of the North Cascades
One of my concerns about purchasing an e-bike is how will I replace components a few years down the road? It is hard to predict in general what will happen in this marketplace and bluntly a lot of companies don't do the best job at stocking replacement parts for older product models. And since there is a lot of diversity in models there isn't any sane business you can build around stocking those replacement parts.

I suspect that the connectors are the least reliable parts. It shouldn't be unreasonable for a business to make custom cables to replace most any connector for an unreasonable price (e.g. around $100-$150). That also brings up my observation that a lot of the inexpensive e-bike brands (and some of the more expensive ones that should have known better) didn't seem to realize that e-bikes were used outside, where it is often wet and dirty. What that means is that an improperly sealed connector can introduce corrosion which could damage the more expensive parts like the battery, controller, or motor.
 

DDBB

Well-Known Member
Have you spoken with the store owner at the bike store that won't sell you the model that you want to buy, or just to sales clerks or floor manager types?
With the way I was treated, I'm not sure I want to do business with them even if the owner apologizes and says it was all a mistake. I'm very interested in the Haibike lineup and we'll make the 3 hour drive to see and test ride them. In northern Michigan, our riding season will be over fairly soon. We're unsure if we want to buy last years models at a discount or wait and see what's new next spring. I'm chomping at the bit though!
 

larry-new

Active Member
I wouldn't touch a bike on Amazon...it's so obvious they're night and day with a company like Rad Power, who I ended up buying from. Owner's comments on great customer service and problem solving made me take notice...then I found that Rad had pioneered direct sales. This told me they probably have a reputation to protect and were oriented around making a long distance relationship work.

I spend probably forty hours on this site, and was more concerned with other buyer's experiences than the products themselves.
I particularly avoided the popular bikes whose owner feedback was filled with..."Still waiting for answers... or "out of stock again..."
 
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harryS

Well-Known Member
I'm another one of those retired EE's. Bought our first ebike at a faraway LBS (200 miles away) in July 2015. A few weeks later, I ordered a motor kit and battery off ebay and we had our second ebike! I started to put together a 2WD fatbike that winter. The fatbike was one of three kits I finished in 2016, two in 2017, and two this year. Some of the donor bikes were old ones we've had. Some were new, like my 20" folders.

Been lucky, Haven't seen any motors go bad yet. No display failures. I have bought some flaky controllers, but I caught them when testing out a new build.

But like Mike who sells ebikes sez, having a bunch of extra parts is how you fix things.
 

larry-new

Active Member
If you look around, some pretty decent e-bikes are available on Amazon:

Addmotor MOTAN M-5800

Pedego Interceptor Step-Through in Seafoam Green (@ebikemom 's bike!)

Both of which have been reviewed on this site.
It's not the bike I'm worried about...it's the time it takes to contact technical support while I'm sitting here fuming with a problem.

As far as build your own goes, I note an ebike built from the ground up is SOLID...welded bits everywhere..a torque arm for the reverse forces generated with regen braking, etc.
 

AHicks

Well-Known Member
Region
USA
City
Snow Bird - Summer S.E. Michigan, Winter Gulf Coast North Central Fl.
So, anyone wanting to try out Mike's idea regarding having a complete set of electrical components for a Rad bike on hand (minus battery), including a complete motor w/26" rear wheel for a City, I can help you out very reasonably. I removed them all from a 1 month old bike I wanted done "my way". Shoot me a PM with your offer.
 
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TForan

Well-Known Member
So, anyone wanting to try out Mike's idea regarding having a complete set of electrical components for a Rad bike on hand (minus battery), including a complete motor w/26" rear wheel for a City, I can help you out very reasonably. I removed them all from a 1 month old bike I wanted done "my way". Shoot me a PM with your offer.


And don't forget to always wear a belt with your suspenders .
 

DaveMatthews

Well-Known Member
I know my way around electronic devices, and I'm OK with some mechanical. I do tons of research before I buy anything online including many of my guitars.
That being said, I was most comfortable with buying a Giant ebike from my LBS. Was it outside my original budget? Yes.
Am I comfortable with the level of quality and service available? Yes, very much so.
This is a purchase that represents years of use and care and I'm uninterested in worrying about it.