Total Noob Here, Need Your Help

Hi everyone, very happy to find this board. I am new at this research and have many questions. First here is my situation.

58 years old, 6'3 240 pounds not in great shape but not a total marshmellow either.. We live in a very hilly area in central MD, so hilly that I need to drive to places to bike. The road we live on kicks my butt. So an ebike would be be great for now but I really will need it when we relocate to the Tennessee mountains for retirement in 7-8 years. Now my questions:

Speed and huge range is not important but I need enough power to handle big hills at my size. Is a 250 W motor w/ 36 V battery enough?

My budget is tight but I also firmly believe in most cases you get what you pay for. However I am finding a number of bikes with good reviews in the $800 range. Is this an ill advised idea? Again I do not need to go 50 miles at 30 MPH but I also don't want to buy junk.

Staying with that some of these inexpensive bikes are available via Walmart. Buying a bike online without riding it scares me. The ability to return it to a store rather than paying to ship back is very appealing. But again it appears as if I am limited to 250 W

How do I know the frame will be large enough for me? Or can that be corrected with an extended seat post?

I have been told ebikes are still relatively new to the States and prices will come down substantially.
I understand they won't come down like big screen tvs did but can I anticipate a drop down the road or have we already experienced that? I don't need the bike now, more for the future. So with that said am I better off waiting as technology continues to improve ebikes as prices continue to drop?

Thanks for your help.
 

harryS

Well-Known Member
I wouldn't count on an ebike purchased today being very desireable in year 2020. Technology will change. I'm 67, retired with several hub motor equipped bikes with 250-500W motors, 36-48V batteries, and a mid drive conversion. No hills where I live.

A 250W hub motor with 36V battery is not good for big hills. It's good for pedal assisted 14-16 mph on flat land. A 500W geared hub motor with 48V plus gearing down with a good dose of sweat should climb your hill. Well, both would work, if you work hard.

Change to a mid drive motor, which powers thru the derailleur, and a 250W motor on 36V still needs you to gear down and add your 80-100 watts of leg power. If you can barely make it up the road where you live now, I think you could do it. However, you don't get mid drives in your budget range.

If you have some mechanical ability and own a bike that fits, have you considered a mid drive conversion kit. About $1000 for my 750W Bafang BBS02 with battery/charger. Ride it in pedal assist and under 16 mph. Motor and battery will add 14-16 pounds to your bike.

Tradeoff is while it's lower cost, it's only as good as your current bike's brakes, shifters, and gears. If they suck, so will the conversion. A commercial mid drive will give you more features like torque sensor, thermal overload protection in motor, and less unknowns as far as battery reliability.
 

piper109

Active Member
Just my 2 cents worth :) I am a "senior" rider too and very new to ebikes. I am a tad shorter than you and 204lbs. Also not a total marshmallow
(I like that ). I don't live in the Tennessee mountains but pretty darned close, just a few miles from the Blue Ridge Parkway in NC and its so hilly I need to drive to my mailbox.

It is my opinion that you should stay away from the 250Watt motors. I would be very careful with the "cheaper" bikes too. I think you would be quick to trade one in to get a better model.

I have a Haibike myself and the more I read and ride the happier I become. I find it interesting that the basic bikes that they sell in Europe tend to be 250Watt motors but the models they sell in USA are all 500Watt motors. I think in part its because they are limited to 20mph in USA and often only 15.5 mph in Europe but there might be other reasons like hills and distances and rider sizes etc. I live on a road which is 20% for almost 300 yds and my 2016 Haibike takes this 70 year old up without a grunt and I am very thankful for its hydraulic disk brakes when I go down. Mid drive and derailleur, big rear cog is 36t and I use the 32t on the 20% climb.
If you want to save some money, I would suggest you find a company that still has some 2016 models with a nice discount. I know a store just a few miles from Kingsport, but in Va, that has some nice ebikes and they are in the mountains you speak of.
At your size I would say you need a 52cm frame if you get a Haibike. Mine is 52cm and I am 6ft.
 
Thanks guys, this is exactly the feedback I was looking for. I don't want to convert my current bike as it's old, probably not worth the hassle and expense, and I plan on retaining it as I will take it with me on trips to the beach and ride conventionally. My bike would be perfect for that as it's obviously lighter and easier to transport than an ebike and there are no hills to deal with. I am also willing to wait on technology to advance things and bring priced down but thinking they have been around in other parts of the world for a while now I was wondering just how much further they can go. I guess I got my answer.

I did not want to make a foolish mistake and buy something I'll regret later. My plan all along was to wait until the move, then get one and only one so get a good one. But the prices and reviews on some of the 250 w bikes made me think maybe I can do it sooner and finally ride these roads around here that I am unable to even think about riding with a standard bike.

Thanks again.
 

piper109

Active Member
I'm smiling Dave in Mt AiryLOL . I started off that way. I figured I could get a kit and modify my nice old Barracuda MTB to use as I didn't like the prices I saw for electric bikes and I rationalized I didn't need that fancy stuff you read about. Then I started reading and I started understanding a few things.
My wife and I went to Myrtle Beach to try riding a couple and it might be a 6 hour drive for us but its the closest place we could find to rent one for a couple of hours to get a feel for them. They had Pedego bikes there and I determined that that's not what I would want really. It was nice but the seat post had a lot of play in it, wobbled horribly and put me right off. It had a throttle too so you did not have to pedal to make it go. My wife tried one in the shop that did need you to pedal and liked in a whole lot better so that helped us decide we didn't want that feature.
I watched a BBC program where folks were trying different electric bikes out somewhere in London I think. People said it was interesting but really raved about the Haibikes. Clearly they were head and shoulders above the others which in all fairness were significantly more simplistic.

I am an engineer and I like to drive German cars and I appreciate the technical importance Germans tend to put on things.
In all honesty when some outfit advertised really good prices on Haibikes at the end of the year it tickled my fancy and I bought 2, one for me and one for the missus. Yes, it cost us our social security for a couple of months but what the heck LOL. We just wanted to do something healthy :)
We never looked back. It was a good decision, good investment.

Get yourself a good one. Dont go cheap. By all means stay basic. No need to go for something to go crashing through the woods with fancy suspension systems. I think a spring fork is a good idea and later on you could go for a fancier sprung seat post if you find you need it but the basic ones (not bottom line though) is a good place to start off. Good brakes are a must too, especially if you live somewhere hilly.
I would get one now. Ride it a good bit to get to enjoy it and appreciate the technical advantages. You might want something newer closer to the time to retire and probably you will have learnt your likes and dislikes by then anyway and your body and health will thank you :)
 
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Thanks again for the replies. More Noob questions:

How exactly dose a mid-drive motor work and what makes it so much more efficient than a hub motor? Is the motor the only thing that determines power and torque or does the voltage of the batter matter as well? At my size and the need for hills would 350 W with a 36 V battery meet my needs?

Did you guys really order a bike online without riding it first? I can't imagine doing that but I have also found that bike store purchases are way more expensive.

I have ridden one but it was on a lark and I have no idea of the specifics of the bike other than it costs over 2 grand. Rode it around the lot and really liked it but I was surprised that I still needed to work a lot to go up a hill, even in the highest (or is it lowest) setting that gave me the most boost. I really need to make sure I get a bike that can haul me up the steepest hill. We haven't picked out a specific area yet but pretty obvious it will have monster hills and I want to be able to walk out my front door and go bike riding without loading onto a truck and going somewhere.
 
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piper109

Active Member
The mid drive motor works in the bottom bracket area and the electric power from the motor gets added to the pedalling force you are making. When you pedal you are actually turning the electric motor and you and the motor (in the chosen assist level) together drive the chain and 10 speed derailleur gears like a regular bike. I have no experience of the hub motors but they essentially are working all the time in one gear and changing the rpm with speed. I have heard that a Swiss company makes a really good one but I bet its expensive LOL. Cant say I'm tempted.

There are basically 4 levels of assistance on my bike with Yamaha drive. Econ Plus, Econ, standard and high. I have never ridden far in econ as I'm not a vigorous youngster but I probably could if I needed to conserve battery on a very long ride (80 plus miles). I ride in standard most of the time, in the higher gears on the level roads and mid gears on small inclines. I switch up to high on steeper inclines and stay in higher to mid gears until I reach the road we live on. Its very steep, 20% and lots of folks cant even walk up it or at least not without stopping a couple of times. In ice and snow a 4x4 is used. I feel sure that this Haibike would take you up any hill you can find and its what they call a Trekking model and just a bit up from the basic ones. I paid a tiny bit less than the figure you quoted as it was a year end sale. We bought it online untested and sight unseen. The nearest Haibike dealer is 2 hours drive from us in Charlotte. We have no regrets. Its a good product.

An amusing story, we live where there is a mile and half long, quite steep and windy hill from the "New River" up to the top. One day we were stopped at the bottom and a couple went by on a nice modern gas powered Golf cart. They looked at us like we were crazy. Shortly after, my wife rode a little behind them in "high" up the hill. Close to the top she said she heard the woman say "there's a little old lady on a bike going to overtake you, cant you make this thing go any faster !". What she heard the man say should not be repeated in good company :). My wife is definitely no athlete and will be 70 in a few months time :)
 
Yeah I had a similar story. I was with my wife driving down a really steep hill and we were passed by a couple about your age riding their bikes straight up that hill like they were peddling on the boardwalk. I looked at my wife and said "what the Hell was that?". That was my introduction to pedal assisted ebikes.

So if Haibike has been at it a while why would I expect such a big drop in price and leap in technology moving forward? And do I want/need a 500w motor and what is the difference in performance between a 36 V and 48V battery?
 
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piper109

Active Member
Yes, there are still lots of people around who have never heard of, let alone seen electric assisted bicycles. It can be fun :)

Not sure if I can answer your questions.
I have worked in Germany and I have worked in China. I have more confidence in German products than Chinese products although they have come a long way. Haibike has a connection with Taiwan not Peoples Republic of China and I personally think that is good.
Even plain bicycles of good quality are a lot more expensive than they used to be and I cant see that trend changing. I paid $700 for a Barracuda mountain bike back in 1991 and its still in perfect working order today ( I wish I was LOL). You don't find them in garage sales on Saturday mornings.
Old cars are only worth what somebody is willing to pay for them, no matter how good they are.

If you are discerning, you can make your own choices. Personally I would stay away from Walmart brands but that's me. The Haibikes are upgrading their Yamaha motors at present and one day I would like to have a later one but I would rather get it at a sale price than when its still new and hot.

I don't have any personal experience with anything smaller than 500Watt but my instinct is to have some reserves. I have a riding mower than works well here in the mountains but it has a 22HP engine, not 14HP. "Horses for courses".

As far as I know, all the Haibikes have 36V batteries, even the latest and greatest. They are increasing their size a bit but not voltage, to get longer range I think and to take advantage of technological gains as they are not bigger in physical size.
 
I think you answered my question at the end, voltage has to deal with range and not power? That is odd as I know the difference in the torque of a cordless drill between 18V and 36V.

Shocked to learn my wife may be interested as she looked over my shoulder as I was noodling online last weekend. I had not budgeted for 2 of these things, and I'm afraid she really won't ride it (like her current bike). For that I may opt for a cheap conversion kit to her existing bike when the time comes.

By the way I agree with you about Walmart products. They are fine for some things but not for a bike I need to work and last.
 

piper109

Active Member
My wife actually pushed me to get the bikes and pushed me to go to Myrtle Beach to try them out :) She is a lot more money minded than me and she reasoned that we could use our social security money to good purpose.
Our plan too was to have bikes we can get out and ride from home, not to mess around loading them up on the back of the car or trailer each time. Getting up the steep hill leading to our house was a big factor in our choices. I read quite a lot before we made the jump.
 
I could have sworn I saw a 2015 Haibike for under a grand but searching my history I can't seem to pull it. If I find it I'll post the link to get your thoughts.
 

piper109

Active Member
I checked where I bought mine a few weeks back. They still have some. The Trekking model I have with fenders, lights and rack is 1880 plus ups. Their cheapest model is 1680. I understand they bought out the end of 2016 Haibike inventory a few months ago. I know the admins. frown on sharing a lot of info.
 

vincent

Well-Known Member
dave i did not even want a bicycle at all,,,,,and now own 7 ebikes for me and friends to ride

your wife will probably ride an ebike WAY more than a regular bike, to me it is just a totally different creature and way more fun

just my 2 cents

good luck in your search!
 

vincent

Well-Known Member
hey dave

i like the fat tire bikes and most of mine are fat tire

have a rad rover and radmini, these are decent bikes for the price- 48 volt 750 watt - excellent customer service - replacement parts/batteries easy to get
on all the cadence sensing bikes i have ridden/owned like these the pas is not great
in my experience they all tend to be too fast in the lower levels, rad has worked on this and my bikes have an older controller that is pretty controlled in level 1 and 2

an 2016 easy motion street torque sensor 48 volt 500 watt which is my most expensive/higher end bike- excellent warranties
it is a nice bike but i do a decent amount of dirt/gravel roads and do not like the skinny tires so will be selling/trading it
it was a good deal

have a 2016 prodeco mariner folder which is a decent bike , throttle only but my lightest bike, easy to fold up and put in a car

a couple of cheap chinese bikes i bought at interbike- both 48 volt 500 watt cadence, although one has 9 levels of pas and is actually pretty good control/smoothness in pas and throttle
one is so ridiculous fast in pas i have it turned off and only use throttle on that one

and have a folding full suspension cheap mtn bike called a cemoto that was my first bike and fine but i would not buy that one again
the battery is in the frame which is a major hassle and cheap full suspension bikes are just cheap
this bike is going on 2 years old so a lot of stuff has changed battery wise etc since then

personally i am a big fan of having the throttle option, think it has a lot of good uses like being able to get the bikes home if something breaks or i get hurt somehow, especially on cadence bikes the ability to go slow is nice

this being said all my throttles act different and some seem to be touchy/wide open or off which i do not like
all my bikes are hub motors

i am looking to sell a few and get down to 4-5
most likely will buy a juiced hyper fat if the frame fits me ok, very excited for this bike to get released
also want a plus size tire mid drive yamaha or brose

at this point my riding time is limited and i am aggravated having to adjust disc brakes etc too often, would like all my bikes to be higher end with hydraulic brakes etc
since i like fat tire bikes finding 20 inch fat tires with torque sensor/throttle and hydraulic brakes is not easy, so my 20 inch fat tires/pretty much friend bikes may eventually get mid drive kits on them with those options...

just reread all this and i agree with some of the other comments, you wont be unhappy spending more money and getting a better bike
since you have a lot of hills a mid drive might be better but most of them are more expensive

i think the rad power bikes and voltbikes are good starter bikes, both companies seem to have very good customer service

hope this helps some
 
Last two posts were interesting. I looked at RedRover and found 750 W and 48v with throttle option and great customer service for $1,500, sounds like a great deal. Why do you prefer fat tires? I still don't have a handle on 36 V vs 48V, is t just range or does 48V boost power?

Thomas hit on my initial thought, I would never buy a car without driving it so I'd like to go the bike shop route. But they are much more expensive. I don't want to convert my bike, it's old and will still be used on trips to the beach.
 
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Mr. Coffee

Well-Known Member
Ride, not read. Buy the bike that fits and provides the comfort you deserve. Shop locally. Or convert your favorite bike. Two best ways to proceed.

You can usually find places that rent e-bikes too. That can get you a pretty good feel for the various tradeoffs between types and you'll develop a few pet peeves about features you don't want in your own bike.
 

Dewey

Well-Known Member
do I want/need a 500w motor and what is the difference in performance between a 36 V and 48V battery?
Hi Dave,

I think Maryland regulates ebike power to 500W, but in Tennessee ebikes are not regulated according to Wikipedia. The federal CPSC regulated ebike definition is 750W and 20mph and this definition is used by insurers. Peak power is calculated by multiplying the battery voltage by the amp setting in the controller e.g. 36V x 18A = 648W, or 48V x 25A = 1200W, usually controller amps are listed on the tech specs. This blog post describes how to calculate the watt hours of a battery pack which helps estimate range. Climbing ability is sometimes described in terms of torque, in his reviews on this site Court Rye generally lists torque rating in Newton Meters. There are a few articles that talk about the pros and cons of different types of ebike motors e.g here, and here. Some off-road riders advocate for high-power electric motorcycles but the mountain bike community does not want ebikes to threaten bike access to trails. People for Bikes have a database of eMTB trails for off-roading.
 
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