Let me start by saying i’m damn fortunate. i make enough and work somewhere that makes it possible to even consider buying a $1000-$3000 bicycle. i’m also fortunate enough that i live about 10 miles from work and am able to rationally consider spending 40-60 minutes getting to the office. i’m totally, and painfully aware that this is a deeply first world problem, and in fact a problem for a very small percentage of the general population.
So, yeah, much like watching Top Gear drone on about the values and faults of a car greater than the yearly income of most folks, here goes.
i’m now officially on my second eBike, and want to pass along some of the lessons i’ve learned.
The First Bike
The first bike was a Riide electric, which i got off their kickstarter for $1500. This was an experimental bike for a number of reasons, and while i was more than a little leary about giving a random bunch of strangers a sizeable chunk of money with only the promise that a bike would show up, i was able to consider that an acceptable risk.
The bike was very much version 1, but a pretty good v1. The bike has some fairly top notch gear on it, including disc brakes, and rugged tires. E-Bikes tend to be either throttle based (kind of like a motorcycle, but with the option to pedal), pedal assist (where there’s a motor that only runs when you’re pedaling), or a hybrid of the two. Riide is throttle based, with a reported range of about 25 miles and a top speed of about 20 mph. It’s a single gear bike, that gear being equivalent of being about gear “8” of a 10 speed. The battery is replaceable, but not considered user serviceable since Riide wanted to make the bike as simple as possible.
As i’ve learned, that’s also kind of a problem. There’s no battery level indicator, so you have no idea how much charge is left on your bike. The throttle tends to be “all” or “nothing” which is fine for starting off, but odd when you’re at full speed. i usually throttled back, but i have no idea what that does to performance or battery life. Top speed really depends on terrain and how much you had for lunch (the spandex guys will still fly by, but you’ll breeze by most everyone else).
i also have no idea how far you have to really ride before you can get any appreciable charge back onto the battery. i had it die on me once about 2.5 miles into a 10 mile ride, and it never fired up again until i put a full charge on it, so not quite sure about the recharging capacity. The bike is surprisingly easy to work on, which turned out to be a good thing. i had to swap the proprietary battery out which required a lot of creative thought and use of one of those combination bottle/paint can lid openers you get at the paint shop.
The Riide folk are EXCEPTIONALLY GOOD at customer service. They were more than willing to cover costs of proper repairs and adjustments to the bike should i have wanted them. This is why i’ve given my Riide to a friend because i think he’ll enjoy it. Might as well spread the addiction around.
Still, i needed to upgrade to something i can absolutely rely on, and matched my actual use more.
The New Bike
The Second bike was a bit more than the Riide, and it shows in a lot of ways. It’s a 2016 iZip Dash e3, and it has a lot of things the Riide doesn’t, like a swappable battery, built in speedometer/odometer with range and power gauge, front fork shocks, kick stand, fenders and back rack. It also costs roughly twice what the Riide cost.
The Dash can do a top speed of 28mph or it has a range of 36+ miles. High speed burns battery pretty fast, so it’s ok if you’re going for a 8 mile total trip. The battery takes 4-6 hours to recharge which is 2-3 times as long as the Riide took. There’s no throttle, only pedal assist, but it’s geared so riding without power doesn’t require standing on the pedals to get rolling. Honestly, unlike the Riide, you can use the Dash without power and not give yourself a heart attack going uphills or doing standing starts. i’ve actually ridden the Dash without power and lived to tell the tale.
Granted, the bike does look a bit less “cool” than the ride. Honestly, it has an odd “PeeWee Herman” vibe to it, and i’m not really sure why. The built in lights are mostly for show, so i’ve had to strap on some LED lights to keep from getting murdered. The grips don’t really allow me to mount a mirror easily, so i’ve had to fit one that uses a velcro strap. The owners manual spends a LOT of time carefully pointing out the various ways you can die and be horribly mutilated while riding a bike in general rather than go into detail about any differences riding this one. Feel free to laugh at me. i’ll be giggling too as the shocks smooth out the crap roads around here and i blow by folks sitting in traffic.
What i Learned
The ultimate thing i learned? Go try a few bikes. The place i bought from had dozens of models available and folks willing to answer questions and offer good suggestions. There are all sorts of options out there, from the sane to the insane, and like any vehicle, you should get one that meets what you’re actual needs are rather than what you think you need.
And yeah, they’re not cheap. You’re not going to be able to pick one up at a WalMart black friday sale with a 50% off coupon. That’s actually kind of a good thing. Eventually, they may get down to prices comparable to a used Chevy.
Still, they’re a freaking blast to ride.