When there's no dealer...

GregF

New Member
I'm just beginning my journey into the world of e-bikes and trying to get my head around it all. My wife and I live in the Central Sierras of California and are in the process of moving from a fairly remote area to the only "city" in the county (population 4,500). One of the primary reasons for the move is to cut down on the amount of driving we have to do and we are considering whether we can manage with one car and an e-bike. The bike would be used for light commuting and running local errands within about a 10 mile radius.

Here's the question: The nearest dedicated e-bike shop/dealer is in Sacramento, about 80 miles away. Our town has only one traditional bike shop. I've read some horror stories on the forums about buying online and being stuck when repairs or parts are needed. What would you all suggest for someone in my position, looking to buy a reliable e-bike for under $2,500?

This forum and site has been a great resource so far. Thanks for your help.
 

skp3003

New Member
I took the the plunge 2 years ago with an easy motion bike I brought tonthe Dominican Republic where there are no dealers for e-bikes, but various conventional bike shops. That bike, fortunately, has been reliable requiring no service for the e-drivetrain. Shortly theresafter, we acquired a second easy motion bike and both have had zero issues, and both were near your price point.

Recently I purchased and brought a much pricier e-bike, a Stromer ST2. It has had minor teething issues, but they have been addressed though this forum (i.e. Charging issues) and directly with the company;s customer support which has been fine. While YMMV, I've gotten by unplugged from the dealer network with basic conventional bike maintenance skills and the availability of decent forum/manufacturer support.

You have an advantage, if you have basic mechanical skills you can ship or receive componentd for repair/replacement more easily than me. I'd consider is the availability of at least virtual manufacturer or forum support for your brand/model and the strength of your bike's manufacturer to assure they will be around in the future.
 

Jack Tyler

Active Member
@GregF your circumstances almost mirror mine. We just moved to a small city in Montana, surrounded by mountain ranges and with biking a BIG recreational activity here...but alas, no noticeable ebike presence and certainly no ebike dealer. I too am seeing an ebike as not only an enjoyable recreational resource but a replacement for our 2nd car, which I've sold. And finally, like you I've found this Community and Court's reviews and guides of immeasurable value. So...now what? Here are a few tentative conclusions I've reached so far about how to proceed when choosing and buying my first ebike.
-- Lacking an ebike LBS means I just adjust my shopping priorities, putting long-distance customer support from the distributor or manufacturer and the general rep & market presence of an ebike brand higher than they otherwise might be. And rightly or wrongly, it means I am not considering newer distributors' products which have a limited USA presence and not much of a track record. E.g. you'll notice @skp3003 comments about Easy Motion bikes; I've heard this praise about BH and their EM bikes quite often, which is why they are on my shopping list. I've also heard good things about Stromer customer support. However...
-- I've adjusted my bike preferences to reflect my locale, where there are many LBS's but zero ebike expertise. A Stromer to my mind is a thoroughbred choice, where I'm looking for a pack animal or a trail horse that is more recognizable by the local bike experts. (Mixed metaphors; sorry). And this is perhaps the main reason why I've got some mid-drive choices in mind, since 80% of a mid-drive bike is 'just another bike'. It's also why I'm less inclined to consider DD rear hub motor ebikes, as I imagine a few bent spokes on a DD rear wheel presents a significant repair issue.
-- I've come to appreciate what's available on the Web, and that's softened my concerns about not having an ebike LBS handy. As one example, the instructional videos offered by Park Tool (and their gear, like their chain cleaner and bike stand) have really impressed me. OTOH my bias is in favor of not just riding but also developing the mechanical skill sets needed to service my bike, so for me these on-line resources are quite encouraging. I'm also lucky in that there's a local volunteer group - the Bozeman Bike Kitchen - which in part has the mission of teaching bike servicing skill sets while helping non-bike owners 'earn' their own refurbished bike, and I'm volunteering there. Maybe there are more resources in your new area than you realize?
-- Through the kindness of another member here, I've had a chance to ride a Stromer & a Pedego (thanks, Bob!) which underscored for me how different one ebike and its motor/drive system can be from the next. But now that it's time to buy, how do I get the broader exposure to many of the ebike choices which I need? @Ravi Kempaiah pointed out to me that @Crazy Lenny Ebikes, who seems to have one of the broadest brand inventories, offers airline ticket 'offsets' if I'm willing to come out and try their inventory. That's still a costly option (car rental, hotel x multiple nights, etc.) but that's also a shopping opportunity I simply can't otherwise 'buy'. My rationalization for considering this is that, if I really do want this ebike to serve as a second car rather than just a recreational ride, getting the choice as right as possible seems worth some expense.

Hope some of this might be useful to you...and keep us posted, since there are lots of us 'journey beginners' here.

Jack
 

George S.

Well-Known Member
No matter what you do for a first bike, you will be guessing. Reliability is also luck. I am 50 miles from an ebike dealer but lost interest in dealer support when I realized that visits would be several hours over two days. For me building a bike makes total sense. There are two parts, the motor and the battery (sometimes the controller is not integrated). This is a fantastic article and video showing how to install the motor I just installed on a third build. If you still feel uncomfortable, buy a factory for sure:

https://aroundhome.org/electric-bike-kit-install/

I wrote an article on building that addresses the folks without dealers down the block:

https://www.electricbike.com/18-reasons-to-build-a-diy-ebike/

This ebike will end up around $1200 when I get a permanent battery. Want the battery to go out front, in a bag. I bought this bike because it is steel and has the step through type frame. You can get a smaller motor. These are direct drive and generally direct drive is pretty bullet-proof. Only the wheel against axle moves.

trek 0411.JPG
 
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Jack Tyler

Active Member
I expected @George S. to follow up my comments with a pitch for DIY and, George, I've wrestled with the basic DIY vs. Dedicated Ebike choice more than any other. But in the end, I favored Ravi's advice over yours despite my mechanical ability & hands-on preferences. For a first-ebike experience (which is @GregF's circumstance as well as mine), buying a reliable, known product that provides a solid introduction to ebike riding seems the better initial choice for me.

"No matter what you do for a first bike, you will be guessing. Reliability is also luck."
Statement #2 is certainly true (of any product). OTOH I've never found Statement #1 to be valid when shopping between multiple brands of any product and doubt the same is true for ebikes. After all, there is a reason Consumer Reports continues to this day. And lest we forget, buying from a reputable, long-standing dealer (even if at a great geographic distance) means there is back-up if you get the proverbial lemon.

Jack
 

GregF

New Member
Thanks, everyone, for your suggestions - keep 'em coming. @George S., I think I'll be sticking with a factory bike, as most of my DIY efforts have ended badly :). @Jack Tyler, Good point about mid-drive bikes being more serviceable by a regular LBS. I think I'll have a conversation with the folks at Sonora Cyclery about that. I'll also be interested to know what you end up with, as our situations are so similar. @eoghan, thanks for the lead on Atown Bikes. There are probably others that are relatively close by that I have no way of finding and a personal recommendation means a lot. Anyone know of a shop in Modesto?
 
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pxpaulx

Well-Known Member
There are good arguments for both diy and branded ebikes. I've never ended up going the diy bike route yet, but that won't keep you from learning how to service the non electric parts of the bike, which is quite enjoyable!

There are plenty of well done basic and advanced maintenance videos on YouTube that are very helpful to get you on the right track in this regard.

Although I haven't done diy, I would consider my radrover bike pretty close to one. It is basically a diy bike made for you, with decent quality off the shelf parts. It is a solid bike, but when you step up to the easy motion and haibike brands, with well integrated motors, batteries and other components, they are worth the extra money...If you buy from the right dealer (if you go local make sure to haggle, you shouldn't pay anywhere near msrp).

@Crazy Lenny Ebikes offers great pricing. If you do want to go local, make sure they are aware that you know your shopping options. I bought my first bike locally...A demo that they sold me for probably 50% more than Lenny would. At the time I thought it was a great deal, but I'll never go back, I'm not supporting that kind of markup. Lenny is regional for me (close enough we took a day trip to buy my wife's haibike...still almost 5 hours 1 way) but I would still likely buy there even if it wasn't code close enough to drive.

Best of luck with your choice!
 

George S.

Well-Known Member
A real car replacement would be more of a challenge. Lots of things to consider like weight, bulk, seasonal issues. Not sure I could ride in the cold and snow.

I bought the bike I converted at the local bike shop. I've soured on Bikes Direct. Getting to know the owner means I can take a motor in, discuss some things he might do for me. The young assistant in his shop was aghast at all of it. :eek: I will get the usual free tune-ups. I just don't see the tension between LBS and Ebikes. The biggest bike shop in St. George sells Townie and Specialized ebikes, beside the non-powered version.

I thought the $2500 Haibike was real progress but they seemed to completely muck it up. Very few around and the closest dealer dropped the brand. The battery issues might keep me from ever buying a premium factory brand. All the ebikes are outstripping the standard battery sizes. DIY allows you to move with the tech. Batteries matter.
 
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Jack Tyler

Active Member
" I just don't see the tension between LBS and Ebikes. The biggest bike shop in St. George sells Townie and Specialized ebikes, beside the non-powered version."

@George S. I don't get it either. Of course, when we spent time in St. George, we found it abounds with bikes everywhere and seems to have sucked in a lot of retired folks from elsewhere. Perhaps there's simply more allowance for bike 'assistance' than is true in other communities. Patricia and I no sooner arrived in Bozeman than we hard about the annual Bike Swap, so we visited there on Saturday. Hordes of used bikes, gobs of both buyers and sellers - loved seeing all the little tykes trying on used bikes that other little tykes had now outgrown - and the energy level was exceedingly high. Sadly, not a single ebike in view, not even among the phalanx of bikes lined up in the bike racks outside.

How much of a car replacement can a bike be in a 4-seasons place like Bozeman? Depends on the circumstances. We're both retired, tho' both working steadily in volunteer jobs. We find two cars an unnecessary luxury, altho' it's certainly easier than simply planning one's sked around the other person's sked. For us, 1 car + 1 bike = 1 more form of transport than we *need* but of course most folks aren't so lucky. Just like the ebike purchase itself, this will be an experiment and we'll no doubt learn a lot.
 

George S.

Well-Known Member
@Jack Tyler

I'm 50 miles north of St. George, back in the snow. Under 50k is a nice size for a small city. They seem to get a lot of snow in Bozeman, but the summers must be nice. Lots of micro climates in the West, maybe everywhere, but thermal belts and valley floors versus protected foothills.

I'm sure ebikes are all experimental. Right now there are a lot of people going off in a lot of different directions. There are questions of how much power, how to apply the power, how to make the bikes ergonomic, how to market them to various demographic groups, what to do on trails or bike paths or streets. You can make a good ebike from a bad unpowered bike, or an inefficient one like a Townie or Fat bike. The motor changes a lot of things, but it can be very subtle. They all end up being very efficient and they all lend themselves to small scale renewable power, like a couple of solar panels.

I used to think there were serious transportation applications, but now I lean toward low stress and very enjoyable exercise. I think they could make something smaller than a car, but more practical than a bike, for transport.

https://www.arcimoto.com/

This is interesting, but not sure it would work.
 

tinasdude

Active Member
4 seasons suggest a fat e-bike if you want to use year around, possibly a cargo e-bike with mid drive. Bafang motor products, both hub and mid drive, are reputable and and complete kits are readily available from trusted US vendors. Specialized tires are available for heavy winter conditions. The majority of commercial e-bikes will not provide you a decent 4 season option.
 

Donny

Active Member
In my area, all of the local bike shops and big retailers currently have their ebikes on clearance for 50% off or more. REI has theirs for about 50% off because they supposedly cannot move them, so you may want to look around your area. I've got an iZip Zuma on lay away at my local bike shop and I got it for $1299 (it's a $2500 bike), so there are deals to be had out there if you look around and haggle. I was looking at the DIY route, but by time I priced out a decent quality motor and battery parts, not to mention a donor bike, I was usually around the same cost as a factory made bike. A factory bike can be modded and parts can be swapped out down the road too when they wear or the battery goes out, so I wouldn't let that hold you back. I will admit that I am having some second thoughts about going the ebike route though. I think they are neat, but they just don't seem to be doing too well here in the U.S. (something that doesn't seem to be an issue overseas). I'm seriously considering going back to the bike shop tomorrow to swap out the iZip for a conventional bike, but I'm still on the fence about it. As for the seasons issue, it depends on how hard core you want to get. I used to be an avid motorcyclists with tons of gear and even then there were days when it was simply too cold to comfortably ride.
 

Jack Tyler

Active Member
Fortunately, I don't HAVE TO ride a bike in all weather conditions so a fat bike with studded tires - which are used here by a few folks - aren't requirements for me.

I would love to see REI offer 50% discounts but over the past two years I've not seen them advertise anything beyond the 20-21% on discontinued stock they currently are advertising. (Please share any links you have on those 50% sales). Plus I confess: I've been spoiled by EBR, some of the Youtube channels, and some of the coaching here, all of which is detailed. REI can't bother to even identify the mid-drive motor on their Diamondback ebikes and Diamondback's own specs consider the motor an 'extra' and fail to identify it. We're steady REI customers. However, the stores I've visited offer blank stares when you ask the bike folks about ebikes. I'd love to earn the 10% year-end member dividend by buying from them...but I just don't think this is their ball game. OTOH perhaps I'm just being too picky.
 

J.R.

Well-Known Member
OTOH perhaps I'm just being too picky
Not at all! REI hasn't had the best track record when it comes to ebikes, at least as yet. They'll come around, or someone will fill the void.

Some reports have ebike sales in the US doubling in 2015 over 2014, to about 200,000 units. Pete at Electric Bike Report usually has good information for worldwide sales of ebikes. Getting real firm numbers for US sales is difficult because the US doesn't have specific tariffs for most imported ebikes, so it takes a lot of number crunching to even get close. In addition these sales figures usually don't include conversion kits. The ebike market in the US is strong and getting stronger. Not as good as the EU or Asia, but getting better every year.
 

Donny

Active Member
Fortunately, I don't HAVE TO ride a bike in all weather conditions so a fat bike with studded tires - which are used here by a few folks - aren't requirements for me.

I would love to see REI offer 50% discounts but over the past two years I've not seen them advertise anything beyond the 20-21% on discontinued stock they currently are advertising. (Please share any links you have on those 50% sales). Plus I confess: I've been spoiled by EBR, some of the Youtube channels, and some of the coaching here, all of which is detailed. REI can't bother to even identify the mid-drive motor on their Diamondback ebikes and Diamondback's own specs consider the motor an 'extra' and fail to identify it. We're steady REI customers. However, the stores I've visited offer blank stares when you ask the bike folks about ebikes. I'd love to earn the 10% year-end member dividend by buying from them...but I just don't think this is their ball game. OTOH perhaps I'm just being too picky.

It might just be my local REI location (it's in Plano, Texas if that helps any) and I'm not sure if they will ship to another store or not. If you want their phone number or anything, let me know. I know they have an iZip Dash left and two or three Diamondback bikes and they are all around $1600 or so marked down. I think they still have a medium sized Zuma for around $1400 or so as well. Even my local bike shops have them marked down 50% or more though. I have a Zuma on hold, but I'm seriously considering not getting it after all as I'm starting to have some second thoughts about the whole ebike thing the more I read up on them. We'll see what happens.
 

Donny

Active Member
Not at all! REI hasn't had the best track record when it comes to ebikes, at least as yet. They'll come around, or someone will fill the void.

Some reports have ebike sales in the US doubling in 2015 over 2014, to about 200,000 units. Pete at Electric Bike Report usually has good information for worldwide sales of ebikes. Getting real firm numbers for US sales is difficult because the US doesn't have specific tariffs for most imported ebikes, so it takes a lot of number crunching to even get close. In addition these sales figures usually don't include conversion kits. The ebike market in the US is strong and getting stronger. Not as good as the EU or Asia, but getting better every year.

The guys at REI told me they were clearing them out because nobody wanted them. Now I don't know if that's just locally or if that's a national trend with their ebike stock.
 

George S.

Well-Known Member
A lot has changed since Court started this forum. And that's only 2 and a half years ago. Going back ten years, it was a technology that just never quite worked. The batteries changed that. Now the technology really works. But maybe the expectations are a lot higher.

It was more fun, maybe, when you dug up a bike somewhere and just rode off for a test ride. Then it was really cool just riding an ebike and you kind of went with the flow. I owned a pretty poor design, rear heavy, but never complained much. It was reliable and had great range. Using the standards that vaguely exist right now, I would say that bike was a 50% grade, just too rough around the edges. So any bike these days, if you work a bit, will be 80%.

Court is good enough, now, to explain any bike in 20 minutes. I was impressed that even with the new Stromer, you could know the bike. In his review of the Rad Mini yesterday it's clear they picked a good motor, something you could replace or get parts for. They have good cells in the battery. The Shimano Tourneys are dirt cheap but they work and you won't have any problem replacing them. The frame looks good. That's a $1400 bike, at least to start, and there aren't too many dead ends. You'd have to want a 60# fat tire folder, but it's the analysis.
 

George S.

Well-Known Member
The guys at REI told me they were clearing them out because nobody wanted them. Now I don't know if that's just locally or if that's a national trend with their ebike stock.

Well, as I understand it, Luna Cycle is selling everything they can get their hands on. That's the DIY side...