The 'Dirty Little Secret of the E-Bike Industry'.

AREM

New Member
First of all, I'm not writing this editorial to undermine or discredit the e-bike industry. Far from it, considering I just bought my first e-bike three weeks ago and fully intend to buy another for my fiancée once her therapy treatments are completed and just before we go on vacation.
Being a newbie to the fraternity of electric cycling, I approached the industry with both curiousity and suspicion. As a senior, I seen more than my share of fads, fanaticisms, band-wagons and social 'paradigm' shifts to keep me wary of 'all things new are supposedly better' mantra. For me, if it ain't broke, don't fix it.
But being a senior also means having to deal with debilitating infirmities like arthritis, less stamina, muscle atrophy and just pain in general. So e-bikes seemed an obvious choice for people like me who still want to be active - albeit limited - get outdoors, be mobile and still have some fun dammit.
So in researching which e-bikes would be suitable for me and my gal, we both watched countless hours of tutorials, testimonials and demonstrations of all things e-bike on YouTube. Then three weeks ago, we attended the Cycle and E-Bike Convention in Toronto, held at the International Centre. The one peculiarity I began to see was the striking similarity of so many e-bike models. Other than cosmetics, a rack here, a fat tire there, many of the bikes seemed like they came from the same factory somewhere in China...oh say it ain't so!
The final proof to my suspicions came when the dealer I bought my e-bike from didn't provide me the requisite paperwork one normally gets with their purchase. I pressed them, badgered them and cajoled them for a manual, warranty, receipt, etc. not to mention some identification on the make, model, serial number and so they relented and gave me their own vendor invoice. So now I knew who the Chinese manufacturer was, how much they paid - in USD - and even shipping costs but still no paperwork associated with my purchase.
Anyway, I checked out the manufacturer - nice e-bikes, e-trikes, electric scooters and electric motorcycles. BUT, they all look like knock-offs of so many other e-bikes and the likes.
So I'm thinking, could it be that some ambitious entrepreneur decides to go into the e-bike business but doesn't want to deal with designing, engineering and manufacturing a brand new - from the ground up - e-bike and just orders a container or two of several already to go models of generic e-bikes. When they arrive, they assemble them, jazz them up, accessorize them, change a things like batteries, front ends - with or without suspension, some cosmetics...and viola: their own 'exclusive' line of NEW e-Bikes for Court to test.
Seriously, that's what the dealer did with my new e-bike. They kind of admitted it to me...a slip of the tongue so to speak. They even removed all identifying features, decals and marking - they forgot to apply their dealer insignia logo or decals to my bike before the bike show.
If many of you are honest, you can't help but notice stark (not the e-bike model) similarities between most models of e-bikes. NOT ALL, but most.
But this is not a bad thing. Look at cars. Notice any similarities?
As I said earlier...if it ain't broke, don't fix it. Working with established tried and tested designs and features is just smart manufacturing. That's why we old people know what's worth our while and what's not. We've been through all the fads. We'll stick to what we know is good.
 

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Ken M

Well-Known Member
I have to agree that there are a lot of cookie-cutter "me-to" models out there that are simply just re-branded products but that doesn't make them bad ebikes especially if some are configured with better overall component sets and accessories. I don't think it's a great business model to just go buy a couple cargo containers and privately brand cookie cutter ebikes but the industry is growing and it's relatively new so it's to be expected I guess. I do think some Chinese companies are trying to up their game a bit so we may seen better designs when we get past this global health issue. Tough times it seems for every industry.
 

AREM

New Member
The good thing about this practice is that it's bringing the price of most e-bikes down and making them more affordable for the masses.
 

Alex M

Well-Known Member
The good thing about this practice is that it's bringing the price of most e-bikes down and making them more affordable for the masses.
A consequence of China's overpopulation. No worries, the masses will pay the price, in more ways than one.
 

harryS

Well-Known Member
I agree, Arem. For bikes that come from China, it's all done with decals. Sure, there are some differences, Meanwhile, the average build quality has done up a lot in the past two years.

I attended the Chicago Bike Expo in 2017. and the few chinese made no-name bikes there were embarrassing, not even set up as well as my home conversions. Shifters did't shift. Brakes didn't work. Much better today.

.
 

jazz

Well-Known Member
I wouldn't say it's a dirty little secret, at least among knowledgable ebikers, it had pretty much been standard practice the past several years. Unless you are larger brand like Haibike or BH and can make your own custom designs and frames (though they may still be manufactured in Asia), then the next group of companies falls into the category you became aware of. These companies source same frames and similar components with a slight change here and there to make it their own, but yes, you are correct they are essentially the same Chinese made bike. It is no coincident that Biktrix, Volt Bike, Rad, M2S, Tao, Surface 604 and a handful of others companies have very similar looking ebike designs and prices.
 

GypsyTreker

Well-Known Member
Are you telling me RAD is not a bunch of millianial "hipster" kids, in the Northwest, cranking out frames and motors? When will honesty return to the marketplace? Can anyone answer me that?

At least my millianial kids eBike company were honest when they said I would :

Enjoy many days of wonder having good experience.

By golly were they ever right about that! :)

Seriously...I'm delighted with my Chinese eBikes, guitars, Basses, amps, solar equip.......who ever the branding company is.
 

Smong

Member
Yup, take a good design, tweak a thing or 2 with add on parts, build it where you find a low cost and we will buy it. It's our way of life and has been for 50 years. There will always be designers working outside that model and we might be willing to pay the premium price for their stuff or not. And their stuff might be better than an older tried and true design built off shore, or it might not. It's great to have choices isn't it.
 

AREM

New Member
I agree, Arem. For bikes that come from China, it's all done with decals. Sure, there are some differences, Meanwhile, the average build quality has done up a lot in the past two years.

I attended the Chicago Bike Expo in 2017. and the few chinese made no-name bikes there were embarrassing, not even set up as well as my home conversions. Shifters did't shift. Brakes didn't work. Much better today.

.
I remember attending an auto show when Russian Ladda's were first introduced to North America. The build was atrocious and quite laughable...trouble is, I don't think the Ladda ever improved 😂.
The same cannot be said about Japanese products over the last 50-60 years.
So yes, maybe the Chinese have taken a lesson from Japan and not Russia.
 

AREM

New Member
Yup, take a good design, tweak a thing or 2 with add on parts, build it where you find a low cost and we will buy it. It's our way of life and has been for 50 years. There will always be designers working outside that model and we might be willing to pay the premium price for their stuff or not. And their stuff might be better than an older tried and true design built off shore, or it might not. It's great to have choices isn't it.
After the second world war up until the early eighties, everything, electronics to cars that was made in Japan was associated with being inferior copycat of a superior North American product. Then their paradigm shifted, our products took a nose dive in quality for a couple of decades and look at Japan now.
 

AREM

New Member
I wouldn't say it's a dirty little secret, at least among knowledgable ebikers, it had pretty much been standard practice the past several years. Unless you are larger brand like Haibike or BH and can make your own custom designs and frames (though they may still be manufactured in Asia), then the next group of companies falls into the category you became aware of. These companies source same frames and similar components with a slight change here and there to make it their own, but yes, you are correct they are essentially the same Chinese made bike. It is no coincident that Biktrix, Volt Bike, Rad, M2S, Tao, Surface 604 and a handful of others companies have very similar looking ebike designs and prices.
I'm a newbie to this community and found it amusing as well as telling. Nothing really changes.
 

ruffruff

Well-Known Member
Doesn't take long to figure out after you've researched about two models.

And to take it a step further....the PREORDER game.

All these companies are doing is getting money upfront so they can afford to fill a shipping container.

It' s not that they are sitting in a lab designing and testing and tweaking until they get the perfect design to release. NOPE, they are just gathering money to pay for a sea container full of bikes.

Is this all bad? I dunno it just is. You can go on Alibaba and order the bike directly. But you are on the hook for EVERYTHING!!!! Shipping goes bad, you deal with it. Parts not all there,,,you deal with itl
Warranty....righttttttttt.
 

AREM

New Member
That's why you buy from a REAL Bike shop who sell brands like giant, specialized to name a few, from people who REALLY care about
the industry. Yes you pay a little more but at our age who cares.
I thought I was buying mine from a real e-bike shop - they had a booth at the Bike Show and supposedly have a Showroom in town...
 

smorgasbord

Well-Known Member
As others have posted, this really isn't a secret, and the Chinese copying (they even copy each other) is rampant through-out many industries.


Now, if you really want a dirty little secret, it would be the patent infringement that Bafang did against Sunstar, the resulting lawsuit, then the patents were almost so old they were about to expire anyway, and then Sunstar going out of business.
 

smorgasbord

Well-Known Member

Chancelucky2

Active Member
Giant, Trek, Specialized may be tied to real bike shops, but I'm not sure it's that different. Pretty much everything but the frames come from a couple suppliers and the frames often come from
the same factories; they just get painted and badged differently. I imagine the factories will customize for them a bit more, because they're building in bigger lots. For years, Giant was building most everyone's bikes.
 

Thomas Jaszewski

Well-Known Member
The good thing about this practice is that it's bringing the price of most e-bikes down
The lower prices are for the most part lower quality. Which is why I choose kits from reliable resellers with superior products. By building, we can get equipment with a reliable parts chain. Building on better frames as well. KHS Smoothies for example.

A home conversion with a decent battery for under $1500. With a motor, controller, CA3, older versions are best, and can often be found used. Likewise with Electra step through flat foot frames easy to mount. $1500 gets an eeZee geared hub 30miles at full throttle. A Satiator upgrade for $42. (special pricing for kits since others our out of stock) Now you have the support and a reliable parts chain. There are ways to reduce the price even further with a MAC motor kit and superior battery fro EM3ev
 

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Jimbo08

Active Member
If you truly take a look at the engineering behind the Trek, Giant and Specialized ebikes you will find the difference between the basic and the more expensive bikes. They are all intended to do basically the same thing. Some just do it (at a higher cost) with a little less drama and maintenance. Spec has a dedicated high tech facility in Switzerland where they design and test the whole bike, including motors. I am pretty sure Trek and Giant has a crew of dedicated engineers too. Yes, they both take advantage of cheaper labor to build their designs, but they also have full time product managers making sure of quality control, and reacting to deficiencies as quick as possible. And they all seem to come up with problems now and then. It's how the big brands try to efficiently handle these issues is one of the differences.
I still think it comes down to a good lbs to take care of issues, unless you are really really handy at not only fixing bikes, but electrics too. That is where the support of the big brands/lbs for many people is indispensable. Just my observations. Sorry for rambling/preaching, but not much else to do in quarantine.