Help me cobble together my own Voltbike Bravo from China

ebikebob

Member
Hi,

If you have nothing better to do with your time, I have a request. If you look through my post history, you will see that I ended up not getting an ebike, but the lady boss has somehow granted me the ability to get a true ebike just for me. I can't believe my good fortune. I'm really happy but I've got one chance to get this right. I am in a bit of a unique situation. Living in East Asia, intermediate language speaker of Chinese, but I can not buy an American bike here. Giant is the only recognizable name in town and it's out of the question to spend about 7-8 months' full salary on an ebike. They are only for the elite over here.

I've settled on the voltbike bravo. but of course it's not available over here.

But I can order what I'm calling an OEM Voltbike bravo from Alibaba.

Why? Because this (exact?) model is available all over the place on Alibaba and I've found a few places that will ship 1 unit to me.

The bike can be totally customized with a 250w motor to a 1000w motor, and anything is fair game. It's a bit like the old Dell build your own computer business. All parts are available to you, and they'll just build you 1 unit to your liking. I've investigated a little and asking for comparable specs to the voltbike bravo will cost me about $850 including shipping (really).

Can you help me pick which parts to ask for, given a max budget of $1000. I want this bike to be powerful enough to accelerate into traffic and hit the max speed limit which is about 45 km/h quickly. Of course I won't be using that if at all, but just if the situation to keep up with traffic demands it. I'm normally about 30 km/h or so, not a speed demon. I do not feel comfortable riding above 45 km/h. Around 38 km/h is when I think, wow I"m going pretty fast for being on two 2.2" wheels in the rain. Of course I'd like alot of range, and I've learned this year that pedaling is not a bad thing. I miss it, and I will use pedal assist. It saves too much battery not to use it and I"m too young to be doing all throttle. Over here, this bike will be my car. It's common over here for your motorbike to be your only vehicle, so it has to transport a kid or two, groceries, and be reliable. Regular bike maintenance is cheap here, but if the "e" portion of the ebike fails, I doubt I'll be able to find much help. I can not afford to let the "e" portion of the bike fail. But again I could buy 6 of these for the price of a Giant, so I'll take my chances because I read that a rear-hub motor rarely fails. I should say it rains alot here and unless you're rich you don't have a covered garage to park it in. I'm not rich.

Specifically:
1) Do I need to get an upgraded Bafang rear hub motor? They can put any motor I want but their standard is an 750W MXUS motor. They told me that in their opinion reliability is the same. I've never heard of MXUS but googling it seems solid.
2) Tektro hydraulic brakes--worth it over disc brakes?
3) Shimano drivetrain shifters, etc standard.
4) Zoom suspension front fork
5) It comes with front and rear lights, and the rear activates when braking
6) Battery is China cells, but they suggested rather strongly upgrading to Samsung cells, 48V 13A for $38. (This makes me think the company is honest; they have perfect feedback and have answered my admittedly idiotic questions patiently).
Does the Voltbike use a Reention semi-hidden battery? I really like the half-hidden aspect, and I'm counting on being able to buy replacements myself so I don't get ripped off.
7) What should I ask them about the tires? They are 2.2" Kenda tires, but that's all I know. Anything else I should ask them about the tires? With this frame, can I fit some semi-fat tires (say 2.75-3" on there no problem one day)
8) Throttle is a twist throttle, they have an LCD screen, your standard five levels of pedal assist.
 

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harryS

Well-Known Member
Well, now you know the secret of the start-up ebike huys. They buy an $600 bike, claim they engineered it for the US market with Samsung cells, a little higher quality Samsung Altus derailleur, and add hydraulic brakes, which should be standard anyway, I have no problem with them selling for $1600. Lost of loss with warranty support, shipper damage, etc.

If I were to buy it, sure, I'd get the hydraulics and the Samsung upgrade. For $38, or 75 cents per cell if it is a 13x4 pack, you're getting the older 3.2AH cells, not the newest 3.5AH ones, but who cares.

Tires are tires. Kenda's come on most bikes, You can always get better ones later.
 

ebikebob

Member
Thanks what about the Bafang motor upgrade for $95? They said the MXUS brand is 15–20 years old and is exported to Europe and New Zealand and other places. They claim it’s a solid brand, what most customers get, and the bafang is mostly a brand name effect rather than actually being higher quality.

the fact that they said the Samsung battery is definitely advised makes me think they are pretty honest. I too do not believe any Chinese battery cells are of high quality.
 

rich c

Well-Known Member
" I can not afford to let the "e" portion of the bike fail" What does that mean? Because it will fail. None of these components are bullet proof. At the price you are paying for all those components, low cost is the #1 manufacturing parameter! You have read all the folks on here with dead eBikes, right? I had a Bafang rear hub motor fail at 1,600 miles.
 

ebikebob

Member
What I mean is that replacing brakes or derailleurs or tires or other regular mechanical bike parts will not be a problem here. But troubleshooting the controller or the lcd or the motor will be harder. These are the electric parts. I will be on my own if they fail. So I want these parts to be as reliable as possible. I know that the bike won’t last forever, I just want to do what I can to prevent an early demise, which is selecting reliable parts.
 

rich c

Well-Known Member
My opinion is that buying anything on Alibaba is a crap shoot, as well as the reliability of any cheap eBike component. No one can direct you to specific high reliability parts, especially in the under $1,000 budget. You get what you get. Somewhere I read about a dead Alibaba eBike after 80 miles. Maybe that was Reddit. The guy was hoping they would pay for return shipping of the motor for a new one. But the company wanted the dead motor before sending him a new one. That's what you get with Alibaba.
 

Alex M

Well-Known Member
You're right that troubleshooting the controller or motor requires specific knowledge. But replacing them is easy. With ebike under $1,000 on Alibaba (or under $1,800 in North American market) you are taking chances if there is no support from manufacturer and you can't troubleshoot e-parts. There are other e-parts that may go wrong, beside controller and motor.
 

Thomas Jaszewski

Well-Known Member
They said the MXUS brand is 15–20 years old and is exported to Europe and New Zealand and other places. They claim it’s a solid brand, what most customers get, and the bafang is mostly a brand name effect rather than actually being higher quality.
Correct. But MXUS gear drive parts can be hard to find. I have a GD and a DD, bother with several thousand trouble-free miles
 

rich c

Well-Known Member
You're right that troubleshooting the controller or motor requires specific knowledge. But replacing them is easy. With ebike under $1,000 on Alibaba (or under $1,800 in North American market) you are taking chances if there is no support from manufacturer and you can't troubleshoot e-parts. There are other e-parts that may go wrong, beside controller and motor.
Replacing is easy if you can find the parts with the correct connectors and specs.
 

reed scott

Well-Known Member
Hi,

If you have nothing better to do with your time, I have a request. If you look through my post history, you will see that I ended up not getting an ebike, but the lady boss has somehow granted me the ability to get a true ebike just for me. I can't believe my good fortune. I'm really happy but I've got one chance to get this right. I am in a bit of a unique situation. Living in East Asia, intermediate language speaker of Chinese, but I can not buy an American bike here. Giant is the only recognizable name in town and it's out of the question to spend about 7-8 months' full salary on an ebike. They are only for the elite over here.

I've settled on the voltbike bravo. but of course it's not available over here.

But I can order what I'm calling an OEM Voltbike bravo from Alibaba.

Why? Because this (exact?) model is available all over the place on Alibaba and I've found a few places that will ship 1 unit to me.

The bike can be totally customized with a 250w motor to a 1000w motor, and anything is fair game. It's a bit like the old Dell build your own computer business. All parts are available to you, and they'll just build you 1 unit to your liking. I've investigated a little and asking for comparable specs to the voltbike bravo will cost me about $850 including shipping (really).

Can you help me pick which parts to ask for, given a max budget of $1000. I want this bike to be powerful enough to accelerate into traffic and hit the max speed limit which is about 45 km/h quickly. Of course I won't be using that if at all, but just if the situation to keep up with traffic demands it. I'm normally about 30 km/h or so, not a speed demon. I do not feel comfortable riding above 45 km/h. Around 38 km/h is when I think, wow I"m going pretty fast for being on two 2.2" wheels in the rain. Of course I'd like alot of range, and I've learned this year that pedaling is not a bad thing. I miss it, and I will use pedal assist. It saves too much battery not to use it and I"m too young to be doing all throttle. Over here, this bike will be my car. It's common over here for your motorbike to be your only vehicle, so it has to transport a kid or two, groceries, and be reliable. Regular bike maintenance is cheap here, but if the "e" portion of the ebike fails, I doubt I'll be able to find much help. I can not afford to let the "e" portion of the bike fail. But again I could buy 6 of these for the price of a Giant, so I'll take my chances because I read that a rear-hub motor rarely fails. I should say it rains alot here and unless you're rich you don't have a covered garage to park it in. I'm not rich.

Specifically:
1) Do I need to get an upgraded Bafang rear hub motor? They can put any motor I want but their standard is an 750W MXUS motor. They told me that in their opinion reliability is the same. I've never heard of MXUS but googling it seems solid.
2) Tektro hydraulic brakes--worth it over disc brakes?
3) Shimano drivetrain shifters, etc standard.
4) Zoom suspension front fork
5) It comes with front and rear lights, and the rear activates when braking
6) Battery is China cells, but they suggested rather strongly upgrading to Samsung cells, 48V 13A for $38. (This makes me think the company is honest; they have perfect feedback and have answered my admittedly idiotic questions patiently).
Does the Voltbike use a Reention semi-hidden battery? I really like the half-hidden aspect, and I'm counting on being able to buy replacements myself so I don't get ripped off.
7) What should I ask them about the tires? They are 2.2" Kenda tires, but that's all I know. Anything else I should ask them about the tires? With this frame, can I fit some semi-fat tires (say 2.75-3" on there no problem one day)
8) Throttle is a twist throttle, they have an LCD screen, your standard five levels of pedal assist.
I think you are chasing the chimera. A fantasy beast. You want something but you don't have the capital. Or you don't want to spend the capital. Yeah, people build their own ebikes and they are content with their finished product. But they are mechanically inclined folks and willing to sort through the electrical morass. Most of us are adept at what we do. We figured out how to make a buck in this world and this economy. Most of us are better served by paying someone else to do for us what we have no expertise in ourselves.
 

Timpo

Well-Known Member
Is Alibaba available in China? 🤔

If you talk to Chinese people, they usually have never heard of AliExpress or Aliababa.
They're called Taobao in China, I thought AliExpress and Alibaba are strictly for foreigners.

I could be completely wrong, can someone chime in?
 

Timpo

Well-Known Member
Also ebikes are extremely rare in China.

Most ebikes in China (like 99% of them) are 50cc scooter look alike.

North American definition of ebikes, one that look like MTBs are not popular in China.
 

harryS

Well-Known Member
I have owned both MXUS and Bafang, and would prefer the latter, but not for $95 more. Most of my motors cost less than $95, plus $50 shipping to the USA. Hub motors are fairly interchangeable. As long as you don't beat them to death on hills, they should last a long time. I've had no fails with my ebike builds.

Some people are able to gather how an ebike is put together and are able to keep them running. Either the electrical part works or it doesn't, and gets replaced. Others struggle to put the pedals on, get the forks backward, or leave the motor nuts loose and twist off the wires. If that's you, try to find the neighborhood ebike shop. Must be common in China.
 

legsofbeer

Active Member
Do I need to get an upgraded Bafang rear hub motor?
Are you considering a geared hub motor or a direct drive hub motor? The geared hub will accelerate you faster and has more torque for hills, good if you're hitting a traffic light every few blocks, but has less top speed. The direct drive will have better top speed, but like you if I'm going over 35 kph next to a sidewalk where any fuckwit might step into the bikelane without warning, it feels faster than I want.

I've investigated a little and asking for comparable specs to the voltbike bravo will cost me about $850 including shipping (really)
If you've got $150 left over in your budget spend it on locks. A bad assed chain and lock-picking-lawyer approved U-lock (most thieves carry tools for one or the other, but not both). I usually tell people to expect to spend 8 to 10% of the cost of the bike on locks, and you've said you'll have to store it outside.

they suggested rather strongly upgrading to Samsung cells, 48V 13A for $38.
This one's a no brainer. I will note that the US stock Voltbike Bravo is 48v 16A panasonic, but 48V13A is still pretty good for that price. It is removable and chargable away from the bike, right?

Kenda tires are fine; twist throttle is ok but will make your wrist ache if you try to go multiple miles on just throttle, unless you go full power all the time. Trying to twist it just enough for an intermediate power level will drive you nuts (did 20 miles on a twist throttle just to see how much more the battery would discharge vs. me pedaling on PAS3).

On cable brakes vs hydraulic, I don't have any direct experience with hydraulic except to say that my friends complain about having to bleed the brakes. OTOH the mountain bikers and mountain ebikers won't use anything else. I will say that tektro (aries) disk brakes are good enough for what I do on a 69 lb bike with 180mm rotors, but I seem to have to adjust them (cable tension and pad position) about every 400 miles.

Also, is the controller fully programmable, as in it lets you define what wattage is applied at the various PAS levels? I ended up dropping $220 on an aftermarket controller because I was dissatisfied with the stock controller's fixed settings and wanted to define more useful lower PAS number wattage that would give me better range. If not, might be a good use of your remaining budget.
 

ebikebob

Member
Thank you all. I am in Taiwan. Can of worms, but Alibaba will ship here. It's not China for Alibaba purposes. Trust me when I say that Giant and Merida are the only reliable games in town for ebikes. 6 times as expensive. The imported ebikes are identical to what is on Alibaba and I know for a fact that basically local sellers buy them also from Alibaba. Many who sell them to you and say wait 2 weeks, they are just ordering from Alibaba for you. The few local venders that are trying to start their own branded bikes come and go, judging by them no longer being available for sale after a year.

Local ebike prices are cheaper, but they are "only" 3x the price of what is on Alibaba, and they look even more identical except with their own local logo added. The support is, by western standards, one step above non-existent. My experience is that after sales service is begrudgingly given; it's cultural. I had bought a bike where the battery failed (this was a local brand certified by the government) and they made me pay for a brand new battery, tying up several hundred dollars in cash (about two weeks' salary) and waited for a month to give me a repaired battery, not a new one, which of course does not last as long as the original battery (I paid for the high capacity and this repaired battery doesn't last nearly as long, suspecting that it's the standard capacity now).

My logic is, if there will effectively be no support, and *all* local ebikes with the exception of Giant and Merida are literally directly shipped from Alibaba, unaltered, at 3x the price, then why not just order 1 myself?
 

Timpo

Well-Known Member
Thank you all. I am in Taiwan. Can of worms, but Alibaba will ship here. It's not China for Alibaba purposes. Trust me when I say that Giant and Merida are the only reliable games in town for ebikes. 6 times as expensive. The imported ebikes are identical to what is on Alibaba and I know for a fact that basically local sellers buy them also from Alibaba. Many who sell them to you and say wait 2 weeks, they are just ordering from Alibaba for you. The few local venders that are trying to start their own branded bikes come and go, judging by them no longer being available for sale after a year.

Local ebike prices are cheaper, but they are "only" 3x the price of what is on Alibaba, and they look even more identical except with their own local logo added. The support is, by western standards, one step above non-existent. My experience is that after sales service is begrudgingly given; it's cultural. I had bought a bike where the battery failed (this was a local brand certified by the government) and they made me pay for a brand new battery, tying up several hundred dollars in cash (about two weeks' salary) and waited for a month to give me a repaired battery, not a new one, which of course does not last as long as the original battery (I paid for the high capacity and this repaired battery doesn't last nearly as long, suspecting that it's the standard capacity now).

My logic is, if there will effectively be no support, and *all* local ebikes with the exception of Giant and Merida are literally directly shipped from Alibaba, unaltered, at 3x the price, then why not just order 1 myself?
That's same as in the US.

They order bikes from Alibaba, tell the customers to wait 2 weeks.
 

ebikebob

Member
Thanks guys. They are now showing me a letter saying tektro brakes are out of stock until July next year. Many vendors are saying independently that there is huge demand (virus) which makes sense. They say they can substitute zoom hydraulic brakes. Hb875. Amazon gives them a 4.2 out of 5. Is this brand ok. Assume they are about $40. They do have tektro disc brakes. Which one to choose?
 
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harryS

Well-Known Member
These little attachments are nothing, You could buy a set of Tektro M300 Aries with calipers on ebay for $29.99 if your brakes fell off.

It's the frame fitting you, a reliable battery, enough power for your needs, and a decent pedal assist that matters.