Looking for Ms. Goodebike (long)

GregS

New Member
Hello folks,

This is my first post but I have been lurking this website for a good month. I am a 50+ dude who lives in the wonderfully dangerous (traffic wise) city of Los Angeles, CA. I have been motorcyclist-only for four years and recently took up the car again, because of the increased water falling out of the sky this year, so they said. However, I don't like driving a car in LA, it makes me crazy, besides being so inefficient here in LA. My weekday commute is very short, about 5 miles on most days with one ten mile day. I have hated to drive or start my motorcycle with all my gear for such a short ride. I really can't ride a normal bike because a rare disease has left me with only one inefficiently functioning kidney. Besides taking care of urinary filtration the kidney also secretes a hormone to the bone marrow that stimulates the body's production of red blood cells, which carry oxygen. As a result, a by product of the disease I have is a chronic anemia. The anemia inhibits the amount of exertion I can do before it stresses the oxygen flow to my neurological and muscular systems. Ergo, the electric bicycle has come to my rescue.

Two months ago, I didn't know anything about electric bikes. Now, thanks to the internet and this site (thank you, Court & Co.) I can actually go into a bike shop and understand what they are talking about... even ask questions and make sense of the answers. Still, in real life experience I am a complete novice. My last real love affair with pedal power was long ago when I had my gold Schwinn Sting Ray. Damn, I loved that bike. My friends and I used to ride around all day long, back and forth to school, up in the hills on dirt trails, and doing our little stunts that ended up with a more than a few stitches, scraps, head traumas and broken bones. Lots of fun. So now I begin a new quest to find my new pedal+electric powered ride. The choices are enormous. Here is a list of bikes that I have ridden or at least seen: Stromer ST1, Emotion Evo Cross, Trek Lift+, BM Nighthawk &Shadow, Specialized Turbo, Raleigh Miceo+ and Izip Dash & e3 Peak (2015) plus the new Dash (2016). I had very good experiences with them all, some quibbles but not many at all.

The questions become what do I want, how will I use it and who do I want to buy it from. First, I want a bike that I can get to work on during the week and one that will lessen my carbon footprint in an efficient and reliable manner. An urban commuter bike that can haul limited groceries and office supplies. I like the mountain type bikes but I really think mountain trails are not in my immediate future, mean city streets are my domain. It is raining (thank you rain dancers) so I want fenders. I teach at night so it needs lights plus a utilitarian rack. I'm not a big guy, 5'7" and about 145 lbs so it doesn't need to have a huge motor or battery. I want to use it everyday to commute and I think I can, especially living in SoCal. I live within 5 miles of downtown LA and the city is doing better on bicycle traffic but the streets are still pretty mean and congested with aggressive and/or distracted drivers in bumper to bumper rivers of steel.

So now that I have determined what kind of bike I want/need and how I propose to use it the remaining question becomes local shops that will service it. Most of the shops I have been to that offer the widest variety of options are in Santa Monica, about 12 miles and about four or five different socio-economic realities from me. I don't have a car that can haul an bike (Mazda MX-5) so I'm looking for a closer bike shop but most of them are purely pedal power shops, with one notable exception that carry the new Trek line. Some smaller bike shops carry some e-bikes but they are not dedicated electric bike shops like I found in Santa Monica and the San Fernando Valley, further away from me.

I'm still in the trying out phase but it's hard to pass up the end of the year seasonal sales. I have a couple of more bikes to try out (in between seasonal last minute shopping for other people) before I make a decision. I think I want to head back to the Trek shop and check out a few more bikes before making a final decision. Well, that's my story and I'm sticking to it.
 

Nirmala

Active Member
Welcome to the site. While you already seem to be thinking about this, I would stress the value of finding a shop that will stand behind your purchase. If you look through the threads on here, it becomes obvious that ebikes are still a new technology and a somewhat complex one at that, and that can lead to more than a few problems with reliability and repairs. If you can find a bike with a good warranty and a shop where you will be taken care of, then I would give that a lot of weight in your decision.

Given that your needs are not that demanding in terms of distance, I would think a lot of bikes would qualify, so again the shop and the reputation of the manufacturer for warranty service would be key. You can add a rack and fenders to a lot of different models if they do not come with them.

If you will be riding at night, then I would consider also spending a fair amount extra on some of the better aftermarket light systems out there. Most lights that are included with a bike are really just a starting point. You want more than one front and rear light in case one fails. Also some headlights are better for being seen and some are better at lighting up the road ahead. And just like on a motorcycle, it makes sense to have lights on during the day. I always have flashing lights on my rear rack, on the back of my helmet and also a white flasher on my handlebars, and I do not ride in a lot of traffic. Bright colored and reflective clothing and anything else you can use to be seen will be key.

The best part about an electric bike is riding one, not shopping for one. I hope you find a bike soon!
 

GregS

New Member
The best part about an electric bike is riding one, not shopping for one. I hope you find a bike soon!

Sage advice, thanks. I am looking forward to actually getting the bike but it's a big ticket item and I want to make sure of the bike, and yes, the dealer, warranty and convenience of the bike shop to me.

I found that I really like mid mounted motors. My favorites were actually the new iZip, Raleigh and Trek. I especially liked the boost button over the throttle on the Dash, the weight and smooth shifting of the Raleigh. I want to check another Trek out if I can find it - the Contour+. We'll see.
 

David1

Active Member
Hey Greg welcome, I like you ride on city streets,and my police chief termed our driving culture here as aggressive. I lived in L.A. for yrs. and not quite like The City of Angels , but pretty tough here . We lost one this morning on his commute about 6:30 to a pickup truck. Just last night I ordered some turn signals,who knows if they will work. It is an endless quest to be a safe as possible. Be safe, and you will find the right bike.
 

Corey

New Member
Greg, I think the one thing you'll find is there is no "best " bike. They all have their strengths, but the shop will make the most of your experience. As I go down the same path as you, I always try to remember how I felt the guys in the shop treated me, and how good they were with their time in going over the bike. Here in the DC region there are a few locals shops who only mention e-bikes and send you on their way, then there are those that are interested in your experience and seem happy to help and answer questions. I lean towards those when looking at bikes that meet the same general criteria. I like Nirmala's comment, the best part is riding one, not shopping for one.

Enjoy the ride!

Cheers
 
D

Deleted member 803

Guest
As I said on numerous other posts:

-first priority is geometry. Find a bike that fits you and feels comfortable.
-do you need suspension, if so find a bike that has front and or rear suspension.
-range: Consider you max distance and then add 10%. Look for a bike with enough battery to accomplish
-Mid-drive vs rear hub (advantages/disadvantages to both)
-Local dealer for post sale support (very important, ebikes require more maintenance and you want a local authorized dealer as your friend)

Lastly, as you are doing, ride as many bikes as you can. If you stick to the major brands, you will find that the quality is pretty good across the board.
 

vincent713

Active Member
As I said on numerous other posts:

-first priority is geometry. Find a bike that fits you and feels comfortable.
-do you need suspension, if so find a bike that has front and or rear suspension.
-range: Consider you max distance and then add 10%. Look for a bike with enough battery to accomplish
-Mid-drive vs rear hub (advantages/disadvantages to both)
-Local dealer for post sale support (very important, ebikes require more maintenance and you want a local authorized dealer as your friend)

Lastly, as you are doing, ride as many bikes as you can. If you stick to the major brands, you will find that the quality is pretty good across the board.

I've heard a lot of good things and advantages of a mid drive but not so much on the rear hub drive. Can you shed some light on the advantages of a rear hub motor?
 
D

Deleted member 803

Guest
-direct drive hubs have no moving parts and hence have better durability
-geared rear hubs (more maintenance) usually have better off the line torque and get you to speed quickly
-rear hubs are not as sensitive to correct gearing and apply power the same regardless of the gear your are in.
-rear hubs do not stress front chainrings or chains

disadvantages

-typically not as efficient in use of power and sometimes have less range than mid-drives.
-some rear hubs are not quite so easy to remove and should you damage a wheel you will need to replace the motor as well.
-some will tell you that mid-drives feel more "bicycle" like. I never quite understood this comment............
 

GregS

New Member
Thanks for the posts and advice. I wasn't able to find a Trek Conduit that fit me, but I did find an XM700+ that was a bit large in the frame but I really liked the ride once I got going. The Trek shop is the closest to my home and they have a shop with lots of traffic with a couple of mechanics on duty from what I could tell. While they didn't have a large selection of ebikes, just the lift+ and xm700+ the sales folk were up to date on the technical attributes of each new ebike. While the iZip dash is better priced with all the accoutrements for an urban ride I like the ability to walk a block or two and put the Trek on a bus front rack and have a straight shot to the dealer if something goes wrong.

I have to get through the holiday and and make a final decision but it's looking like a new Trek might be in the cards. While mostly non-reviewed, from what I can tell or see, I believe Court would be happy to know all of the Trek bikes I have seen have capability for water bottles. :)
 
D

Deleted member 803

Guest
I'm not familiar with Trek e-bikes. We have a very large Trek dealer in town but they do not have e-bikes. I am sure someone on the forum will chime in with an opinion.
 

Jack Tyler

Active Member
Greg, welcome to the group. Your bike performance requirements - shorter distances in flat LA - sound minimally demanding when compared to some others here. Meaning: You have lots of choices and it doesn't sound like they all need to be $3K+ choices, either. In fact, I'd say both your safety and comfort will depend more on accessory hardware you purchase to upgrade your bike than on the high-end features built into the more expensive bikes. A good rear view mirror, directional signals, multiple lights (for seeing and being seen) and reflective clothing sound relevant to your needs. (And as a ex-SoCal resident, let me add a good collection of locks & cables, given it will be your primary transportation).

Here's a recent article on the build quality of ebikes I think is worth reading. Its author has been involved in biking for many years. Obtaining some independent reports on how build and reliability problems are addressed by the manufacturer of your choice seems prudent. I'd also spend some time before purchase having the bike shop lay out in detail how a quality problem (for your brand and bike) will be addressed. Saying a bad controller will be replaced e.g. doesn't address whether the controller is carried in stock by the bike store, the U.S. distributor or the (often, overseas) manufacturer. Lots of disappointments get reported here about the niggly post-purchase details. Hopefully, your experiences will all be on the positive side of the ledger.

One sorta-related rec for you: Court recently did an interview with his Uncle after Greg had completed a 4,000 mile year of commuting (in the hearty weather locale of Loveland, CO, I might add). Totally different conditions than LA, yet I find many of Greg's comments worth reflecting on. Examples for you: Note how many chains Greg has gone through and consider that his bike is a mid-drive motor style. Note the slide-and-catch bag system he uses above the rear tire and how the panniers seem to appear from out of nowhere. Lots of useful info to be mined there, I think.

Good luck to you!
 
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GregS

New Member
Thanks for your thoughtful comments Jack, I appreciate them. I am a motorcyclist so I do know the importance of accessories and safety gear and have a closet and drawers full of them. Of course, most of it is pretty heavy stuff so resources will be spent to get appropriate safety gear, too. In the last decade bicycle advocacy has been pretty strong in LA and there is a growing number of dedicated routes and lanes that will make the commute a little less direct, but much safer. While my commute is mostly flat except for some hills closer to downtown, I also hope to take advantage of riding along the LA River between Elysian and Griffith Parks so there may be a need for some robust hardware. I have looked at the Top Peak bag system, and so has my girlfriend who still expects me to do some grocery shopping :) I have yet to make a final choice but I believe I've narrowed down the bicycle shop.

Happy holidays and new year to everyone, thanks for your comments and advice.
 

harryS

Well-Known Member
Miata with a trailer hitch and hitch carrier is about as sweet a setup as there is. ;)

I agree. I've packed two alloy bikes on mine ('94) for local trips, and have carried one for 300 miles w/o worries on my cheap Bell hitch carrier. An alloy mid mount with its battery removed ought to be easy. A 20 pound DD motor ... well, it might be lopsided.
 

GregS

New Member
Yes, upon further review (in a different forum), it does appear that trailer hitches are available for the Miata or MX5. I honestly didn't know that option was so readily available. Looks like another future project. I thank you, but my wallet doesn't :)
 

GregS

New Member
After a few weeks of internal angst and shopping I pulled the trigger on my first ebike. I went back to BM EBikes in Northridge, CA and was able to talk directly with Tim, the co-founder, and he is building a variation of the Nighthawk for me that is a little more suited to my urban commuter needs. I shopped a lot, and as had been pointed out above, there is no best bike but a lot of really good bikes that have their own qualities. Most shops offered to order me a bike that maybe would suit my needs but Tim at BM Ebikes offered to build me a bike based on a model he has already built. I really have confidence in the build and the shop. Tim is a great guy and so is his mechanic on site. He was also able to offer me the urban Nighthawk at a special holiday price with a few goodies thrown in.

Thank you all for your invaluable insight in this process. I'll post pictures when I take delivery of the bike in a few days. Happy New Year.
 

J.R.

Well-Known Member
After a few weeks of internal angst and shopping I pulled the trigger on my first ebike. I went back to BM EBikes in Northridge, CA and was able to talk directly with Tim, the co-founder, and he is building a variation of the Nighthawk for me that is a little more suited to my urban commuter needs. I shopped a lot, and as had been pointed out above, there is no best bike but a lot of really good bikes that have their own qualities. Most shops offered to order me a bike that maybe would suit my needs but Tim at BM Ebikes offered to build me a bike based on a model he has already built. I really have confidence in the build and the shop. Tim is a great guy and so is his mechanic on site. He was also able to offer me the urban Nighthawk at a special holiday price with a few goodies thrown in.

Thank you all for your invaluable insight in this process. I'll post pictures when I take delivery of the bike in a few days. Happy New Year.
Greg,

I see a lot of the BM bikes listed on their Ebay store often. There is significant missing information and exaggerated claims with their listings. They are listing the Nighthawk for $2389.00 w/free shipping.

http://www.ebay.com

I'm not trying to dump on your new bike, or your decision, I'm just trying to inform you. I started researching BM bikes last summer while I was shopping for my second ebike. As a matter of fact I posted one of the two threads on the BM forum here. From what I can understand, from other sources as BM doesn't list it on their web site or Ebay store, they are using the Bafang BBS01 - 500 watt mid-drive and a 36 volt, 8.8 amp hour battery. That is on the small end of battery specs for ebikes these days. Their claims of mileage and power are high.

I hope you found your dream ebike!

Happy New Year....
 

GregS

New Member
Thank you for your concern, J. R. My dream ebike lies somewhere between a Raleigh Misceo and a Canondale Contro E Rigid if you include a throttle/boost (or joy) button for the same price that Tim sells his bikes. But that is not going to happen. Besides, next year it may be a completely different bike that I lust after.

I rode the bikes that piqued my interest and I visited most of the shops. I found Tim's bikes to be solid and at a price point that allows me to enter into the world of electric bikes at a level that I am comfortable with. Not only that but when he didn't exactly have what I wanted he worked with me to make modifications at cost in many cases. Tim is more than accommodating to my needs. Yes, his bikes are custom builds from components he puts together from outside suppliers. His bikes are not as shiny and new-fangled as some of the ebikes that I've ridden. But I am confident that he knows and has tested himself every component that goes on his ebikes, which I can assure you is not the case with the majority of the shops I visited. With the exception of two other shops in Santa Monica, BM E-Bike shop was the only other shop I visited dedicated solely to electric bikes. In addition, Tim's shop was the only shop I visited that actually built the bikes they were selling. No, he doesn't have the resources of a corporation with a team of engineers in the home factory with a worldwide network of vendors. He has a shop that a person can visit in real life, or virtually online, where you can talk to the owner and builder of the bike you want. I find Tim's entrepreneurial spirit to be admirable especially especially in our society where we expect things to have known and recognizable labels of large brands.

I became interested in ebikes for two reasons. One, to help myself get more active as I get older and am faced with health conditions I didn't have when I was younger. Secondly, I felt really wasteful every time I started a gas motor to drive a car or ride a Vespa/motorcycle to work a short commute away. I couldn't ride a regular bike so I became really happy to find the world of ebikes (much cheaper than the Zero motorcycles I was looking at from afar). My goal is to better my health and to lower my carbon footprint. My girlfriend and I don't have children but we want to do our part to save our part of the environment for future generations. Riding an ebike in Los Angeles takes another car or motorcycle off the road for that day. If I can do that 100, 200 or even 300 days a year I'll be a happy guy. If by doing so, I can show a friend or coworker to do likewise, even better.

In closing, ebikes are a really fast growing and innovative technology that will see growth by leaps and bounds (hopefully). An older guy like me has a few bucks to be an early adopter and hopefully the newer products down the line will be affordable and ridden by a new generation of kids who don't want the hassle of driving anyway (according to nephews and nieces I talk to). And most importantly, if I really want my bike to be efficient, cost-effective and to increase the range of a single charge.... well, all I have to do is pedal harder :)
 

Ann M.

Well-Known Member
Good sentiments, @GregS ! It may be that you will be able to upgrade the battery when you choose to; many motor controllers today can accept different voltage batteries and upgrading to a higher amp hour battery certainly wouldn't be an issue. Looking forward to seeing pics of that new bike!