E-Bike Shoppers Fatigue

Scott

New Member
I have been researching electric bikes for some time now. This website has been a valuable resource. However, since I can't really put my hands on these bikes (no local dealers) and I'm new to electric bikes, I would appreciate some advice from those with more experience. First, I am in Florida. I will be riding on dirt/gravel roads and trails as well as wood bridges, which can be wet and slippery, instead of narrow, steep mountain bike trails. Second, I have a wife and a son; he is 17 years old. Therefore, my purchase will be multiplied by three, which makes an expensive purchase three times more expensive. My son is a big young man; 6’, 230 lbs. He doesn’t ride much on his current, non-electric bike because he finds the seat uncomfortable. My priorities are comfort, quality, distance and price. I would appreciate the benefit of any thoughts on how to make the ride of whatever we buy more comfortable. I've bought the larger, gel seats/saddles for our current non-electric bikes, but those didn't seam to help much. What about the ThudBuster? Other thoughts? As far as e-bikes, I have looked at a number of different brands. While even it is a stretch for my pocket book, it looks like the 48V Volton Alation 500 may be the best deal for the money. It does not have a great warranty so I would appreciate any thoughts on the quality of this bike. The Currie IZIP E3 Zuma would cost me about $700 more (multiplied by three bikes). Is it better and, if so, is it $700 better? The NEO Xtrem would cost me about $1,200 more (again, multiplied by the three bikes I need to order). Is it a better bike and, if so, is it $1,200 better? What about the Smart E-bike? By way of research, it seems to provide incredible distances on a single charge and an excellent warranty but (1) I don't know how it is to pedal without a chain, and (2) whether it is even available for purchase and delivery in the U.S. It is probably out of my price range at any rate, but if it lasts a lot longer than a regular e-bike, then perhaps it is worth the investment over the long haul. I would very much appreciate any thoughts you may have on the type/brand e-bikes I should purchase as well as any thoughts on the best vendor from whom to purchase the e-bike. Many thanks!
 

Court

Administrator
Staff member
Hi Scott! Great questions here.

I understand what it feels like to be overwhelmed with specifications, warranty options and all of these different models each with a different price. So I'm going to answer a few of your questions straight away and then jump into my "advice" for your specific situation.

I've never ridden the Smart E-Bike but it looks pretty cool and I have tried a couple of others that use belt-drive systems instead of chains and they offer the benefits of being light, clean and quiet. They do however, require the use of a geared hub vs. rear cassette (which costs more) and this may also exclude them from using a rear hub motor. The Faraday Porteur uses a belt drive and chose to put their hub motor in the front wheel. The Grace Easy also uses a belt but has a very fancy rear hub motor that includes three internal gears as well as the motor itself! Cool stuff...

You mentioned Volton and I agree that the Alation 500 is an awesome bike that comes with a powerful motor, battery and offers a good price. The company is now offering a one year warranty on frame and battery (just spoke to the owner this weekend and found out they've extended it). The riding position of the Alations are more aggressive and only come in size medium which may not be ideal for you. Still, if you like the style and the price the newer models with upgraded battery pack covers, fenders and lights are pretty great. Volton also offers the Boulevard and Ease electric bikes which are setup more like cruisers with larger seats, swept back handlebars and a comfortable riding position. Note that the Ease is just the step-through version of the Boulevard but this might be good for your wife. I haven't ridden these bikes yet, but they might be worth considering and are listed on their website at https://voltonbicycles.com/ they are assembled in Chicago which is where their company is based, they are easy to reach if you have questions and Joe is even on the forums here if you want to have a public dialog, I could direct him to your post.

The IZIP Zuma has been improved for 2014 with a battery pack mounted mid-frame instead of on a rear rack and I really like it. The Easy Motion Xtrem is also a great bike with lots of its own benefits but this is where I want to change the approach and try to offer some general advice for you specifically. There are several great ebike shops in Florida where you can actually try a few of these models out and more importantly, you can get support when you've actually purchased bikes. Here are three shops I know of that I'm sure would love to help you out!
  • Pedego of Sarasota 3604 South Osprey Avenue Sarasota FL 34239 (941) 993-2617 www.pedegosarasota.com
  • Boca Bike Shop 883 E. Palmetto Park Rd Boca Raton FL 33432 (561) 218-4309 Boca Bike Shop
  • The Electric Bicycle Store 2599 North Federal Hwy Fort Lauderdale FL 33305 954-565-0562 www.theelectricbicyclestore.com
Now I realize these shops may not be "close" to you per se, but considering the thousands of dollars you're about to spend and the maintenance you may need after a couple years of riding, I think it might be worth the drive. It might also be fun for you guys to go together and they you could pick out different bikes that really fit your body type or ride style. Most ebikes in the US go the same top speed of 20 miles per hour. The big question to consider (for me) is how does it feel. Is the bike the right size for your body and do you want one that's like a cruiser with an upright position? Are you okay with twist throttle only or do you want pedal assist?

Given the height and weight of your son it might be worth considering the City Commuter from Pedego which comes in a larger frame and offers a 500 watt motor with 48 volt battery pack. It's more expensive but it's very high quality and will do well on gravel with the larger balloon tires.

Let me know your thoughts on what I've shared and I'll chime back in to refine a bit with you :)
 

Scott

New Member
Thank you very much for the well thought out response. Comfort is very important. I do think we'll want a bike with cruiser handlebars and shocks, which the City Commuter does not have. I'm not a big fan of the looks of the City Commuter. I like the looks of the e-bikes with the batteries built into the frame of the bike. I've talked to Joe at Volton. In fact, I've talked to several people. Joe, in particular, was very helpful and accommodating. He, the quality of his bikes and the price is why I have been strongly considering the Volton. We would want the bike powerful enough to transport our son without problem over minor inclines, which is why we were looking at the Alation. Would its battery power be enough? Would its frame size be sufficient for him? Sarasota, Boca and Ft. Lauderdale are quite a distance from us, but your point about a bike being the right size for our bodies and the "feel" are good ones. We would want both twist throttle and pedal assist. Again, my priorities are comfort, quality, distance and price. Thanks for your thoughts!
 

Court

Administrator
Staff member
Hey Scott, great thoughts! Thanks for helping me to better understand your needs. I also really like the cruiser style ebikes with the larger handlebars and shock absorbers to smooth out the bumps and keep my back and neck in good shape.

It's tough to get all of the features you've asked for here and keep the price low but I've got a couple ideas for you. One is to get a Pedego Interceptor and then add a suspension fork (I've seen this done a lot). With this bike you get the large frame, strong motor and battery pack and big tires with a cruiser seat (that has a seatpost shock) and swept back handlebars as well as pedal assist and throttle mode (only on the > 2014 models, my video review is in progress but not out yet). It would be an expensive option, especially with the addition of a suspension fork, but it would be more than powerful enough, come with a good warranty and you could get it locally if you wanted. Here's a picture of Pedego's co-founder, Don DiCostanzo that I took two months ago on my road trip to California. He's riding the exact setup I just described with the addition of an RST suspension fork on the front.

pedego-interceptor-with-rst-suspension-fork.jpg

You could create the exact same setup (minus pedal assist) and save a bit of money with the Motiv Spark + after market suspension fork. This bike positions the battery pack lower, just behind the seat post tube, which you've expressed an interest in. They also offer a great warranty and support their products well. One other option is the IZIP Zuma which has moved the battery lower behind the seat post tube for 2014 as well (review in process).

These are all top-end cruiser style electric bikes from reputable companies but each will still require a shock to be added to the front if you want maximum comfort. The Pedego Interceptor is the only one with pedal assist and it's really the highest quality offering with more years of development and a great network of dealers. None of these options are especially cheap but you could mix and match to keep the price lower. Maybe get your son the Interceptor with a shock, get a Motiv Spark for yourself and a Sleek for your wife. I hope this helps a bit, let me know your thoughts again and I'll see if I can come up with any more ideas for you ;)
 

Scott

New Member
I appreciate the good thoughts. It seems the thought is to take a cruiser and add a suspension fork to maximize the comfort. Is it an option to change the handlebars on a mountain bike, which would have better suspension, to a more upright set of cruiser handlebars? If so, would that provide more options and/or change your recommendation?
 

Court

Administrator
Staff member
Great thinking there Scott, I've actually done that before with a Trek Dual Sport (DS) that I got in Austin. I chose the bike because it was cheap but had a front suspension and the tires weren't as knobby as a mountain bike so it coasted better and had good traction. First I bought a shorter stem so the bars were closer and higher up, then I bought some cruiser style handle bars and I also added ergonomic grips and a Cane Creek Thudbuster seat post to make it even more comfortable since the rear was still a hardtail. Try as I might, the bike still felt more like a road bike than a cruiser and it did cost a bit to get there. I think the narrower tires just felt hard and the geometry had me leaning forward more than on a cruiser which has a shorter distance between the seat and the handlebars.

You actually mentioned Thudbuster early on in your first post and I forgot to comment. These things are great but I do recommend using a Salsa Lip-Lock or other tight seat post securing device because as you go over bumps the Thudbuster starts to slide down into the seat post tube (that happened to me quite a bit and I weigh ~135lbs)

I sense that you're very interested in the Alation bikes from Volton and I think they offer a great product. The power, frame design and price are hard to beat and considering the medium size, if you did put on some cruiser bars you might end up with a more upright ride just as you would with a cruiser. I've owned an Alation 500 and a Cruiser from Pedego and they were both great bikes. Obviously I enjoy exploring the different options and geeking out on all of the nuances between them. Go with your gut, if the design of one bike calls out or the price makes it work for your family or if the support you've gotten from one shop or brand feels right then I think you'll be happy. Joe, for example, is very accessible and I believe he's a good guy. That means a lot and is part of why I recommend his bikes.

I hope this feedback helps you out. If you do get a bike that you want to customize with new bars etc. you can do that at most local bike shops (hopefully there's a normal one near you?) and customizing could end up being a lot of fun. Whatever you end up doing, I'd love to hear how it goes, maybe get a family picture up here at some point when you're all setup ;)
 
Scott, I thought you might want to check the Currietech dealer list: (Link Removed - No Longer Exists)

Florida should have something reasonably close for a test ride. That should give you a reference point for your comparisons.
 

oilerlord

Member
Hi Scott!

I know exactly what you mean. I'm looking at buying a couple of bikes for my wife and honestly, I have an easier time shopping for a new car than an e-bike. We have very few e-bike retailers in my city, so I've been doing all my research and shopping online. This forum has proved invaluable, and though I've only signed up for a few days; I feel that I've already made friends here that really care about helping me make the right choices.

I'd suggest going to a bike show. Specs are great but only your backside will tell you if you like the bike you're riding. We're attending one in Seattle at the end of the month, but there are probably shows in your neck of the woods too. The big one is Interbike that's being held in September at Mandalay Bay.