A note for newbies

Smaug

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There are SO many brands of eBikes now. Many of them are what I call "mushroom brands" out of China. They copy an existing design, build it in China, sell direct-to-consumer, then don't provide good service.

Reading here for awhile, they seem to be a crapshoot. Sometimes good, sometimes not.

Sometimes the brands get bigger and are OK in customer service. Sometimes, they disavow as soon as the package is shipped.

I don't consider myself a newbie any more, but even after riding hundreds of miles on many different bikes and eBikes, I only have experience with a handful of brands, as eBikes are expensive to buy and expensive to sell. (lots of depreciation)

The guys who DO have experience with dozens of brands are usually reviewing bikes for a living and may be in the manufacturer's pocket, hesitant to point out faults or to let them appear as major as they are. One example: My neighbor here at work bought a Himiway Cruiser because his in-laws have them and were happy with them. His came with a faulty seat clamp. Himiway offered to give him a replacement but shipping was $25, and they considered that to be warranty support. If it were a sponsored reviewer (oftentimes paid with letting them keep and resell the review bike) they would of course ship the part for free and ask the reviewer not to mention it. Or if the reviewer mentions it, that's his last free review bike from that company! When you watch professional reviews on YouTube, realize that when they mention ANY type of drawback, it is likely to be worse in real life than the reviewer makes it seem like. They mention it out of a sense of duty, but minimize it out of a sense of self-preservation. ;)

So newbies, if you're here asking about your first eBike purchase, my general advice to you is to ask first how the brand of ebike you're consider is with regards to after-sale support. If you've narrowed down on a bike from a brand that no one's heard about, it's not a good sign:

Tier 1: A brand that no one's heard about and you can't find more than a couple reviews online from what seem to be legitimate buyers. (as opposed to shill reviews posted by company employees) Avoid these, unless you're mechanically and electrically inclined and are ready for a "project."

Tier 2: A brand that we've heard of, but that is not generally known for great quality or after-sale support. (ex. BikTrix, Himiway, heybike) These are not a great value, as they cost the same as a Tier 3 bike; see below.

Tier 3: A brand that we've heard of and that is respected in terms of bike quality and after-sale support. (ex. Lectric, Ride1Up) At the time of this writing, these are in the $800 - 2500 price range. They range from basic but good quality (Lectric XP Lite @ $800) to pretty advanced. (Ride1Up Prodigy V2 @ $2400)

Tier 4: Just like Tier 3, but with local shops/dealers. (ex. Aventon, Rad Power Bikes) At the time of this writing, these are starting to come down to the US $1300-2000 price bracket. With Tiers 3 & 4, it would be good to have some mechanical know-how, but you can probably take them to a shop that is more or less local. (might be a 100 mile drive in some cases) Rad has mechanic vans, for instance. Aventon has local dealers you might not expect; I bought mine from an Indian motorcycle shop, for example. If I had a problem I needed help with, they may have to consult with Aventon, but I'm confident their mechanics could handle anything I couldn't.

Tier 5: A "bike shop brand" that has widespread support and superior quality. (ex. Trek, Electra, Specialized, ) These bikes are without fail more expensive, because it costs the manufacturer money to support local shop who supports you in the long run. Buy with confidence, once you have the money together! These commonly start now at $1800 (for a no-frills hub driven bike) and go up to $14k. (for a high-end carbon road eBike)
 
Yes, it seems almost overwhelming for a newbie, and the possibilities are endless. As a newbie myself, I'd still like to add a frugal option:

Tier 2b/3b: Wait around 2 years till they sell their $1500 ($2000) ebikes for $400-500 ($800-$1000 for Tier 3b). If you don't get a lemon (2-4% of cases due to lack of QC in cheaper products), and with $150-$200 in ad-ons and upgrades you can get a decent commuter ebike. However, it may require some diy skills. As a newbie I learned quickly with the help of many available YT videos. Adding torque arms, changing freewheels, and ebike tires is actually fun and not really rocket science. After two years one can usually find reliable long-term info on quality and reliability of a given ebike/brand (not least thanks to this forum). Many Chinese companies that are 3-5 years in the market will have CS that at least will send replacement parts, such as chargers, controllers etc. However, if you pick a bike with more common components, e.g Bafang ecosystem, one doesn't even have to rely on the original ebike company long-term. Plus, after 2 years people have already figured out where to source batteries directly from the battery manufacturer for 50% what the ebike company asks for (which can be between $350-$500 just for the battery Schwinn, Aventon etc). In some cases, one can even get better quality (upgraded with Samsung or LG cells instead of the usual Chinese cells), which likely will prolong longevity of the whole ebike.

As Jeremy has pointed out, ebikes depreciate fast! A retail e-bike is estimated to depreciate 30–50% on the day of purchase, then 20% per year. Theoretically, a 4-5 year old ebike might be literally worthless then, especially if no replacement parts are available, or very expensive if you need to rely on costly proprietary parts/batteries. Well, I don't blame you in case you do need the up-tier latest and "greatest" ebike, it's your money after all.

PS: I sure wish someone would develop an affordable quality, non-proprietary, and future-proof ebike for the mass market with Bafang components and (real) UL-certified high quality batteries. Those will be the ones which might be still on the road in 10-15 if not 20 years, just like a classic Ford truck. We can dream :)
 
How about a different tier system for eBike kits?! That’s a whole different can of worms, but a viable option for some newbies.
 
There are SO many brands of eBikes now. Many of them are what I call "mushroom brands" out of China. They copy an existing design, build it in China, sell direct-to-consumer, then don't provide good service.

Reading here for awhile, they seem to be a crapshoot. Sometimes good, sometimes not.

Sometimes the brands get bigger and are OK in customer service. Sometimes, they disavow and soon as the package is shipped.

I don't consider myself a newbie any more, but even after riding hundreds of miles on many different bikes and eBikes, I only have experience with a handful of brands, as eBikes are expensive to buy and expensive to sell. (lots of depreciation)

The guys who DO have experience with dozens of brands are usually reviewing bikes for a living and may be in the manufacturer's pocket, hesitant to point out faults or to let them appear as major as they are. One example: My neighbor here at work bought a Himiway Cruiser because his in-laws have them and were happy with them. His came with a faulty seat clamp. Himiway offered to give him a replacement but shipping was $25, and they considered that to be warranty support. If it were a sponsored reviewer (oftentimes paid with letting them keep and resell the review bike) they would of course ship the part for free and ask the reviewer not to mention it. Or if the reviewer mentions it, that's his last free review bike from that company! When you watch professional reviews on YouTube, realize that when they mention ANY type of drawback, it is likely to be worse in real life than the reviewer makes it seem like. They mention it out of a sense of duty, but minimize it out of a sense of self-preservation. ;)

So newbies, if you're here asking about your first eBike purchase, my general advice to you is to ask first how the brand of ebike you're consider is with regards to after-sale support. If you've narrowed down on a bike from a brand that no one's heard about, it's not a good sign:

Tier 1: A brand that no one's heard about and you can't find more than a couple reviews online from what seem to be legitimate buyers. (as opposed to shill reviews posted by company employees) Avoid these, unless you're mechanically and electrically inclined and are ready for a "project."

Tier 2: A brand that we've heard of, but that is not generally known for great quality or after-sale support. (ex. BikTrix, Himiway, heybike) These are not a great value, as they cost the same as a Tier 3 bike; see below.

Tier 3: A brand that we've heard of and that is respected in terms of bike quality and after-sale support. (ex. Lectric, Ride1Up) At the time of this writing, these are in the $800 - 2500 price range. They range from basic but good quality (Lectric XP Lite @ $800) to pretty advanced. (Ride1Up Prodigy V2 @ $2400)

Tier 4: Just like Tier 3, but with local shops/dealers. (ex. Aventon, Rad Power Bikes) At the time of this writing, these are starting to come down to the US $1300-2000 price bracket. With Tiers 3 & 4, it would be good to have some mechanical know-how, but you can probably take them to a shop that is more or less local. (might be a 100 mile drive in some cases) Rad has mechanic vans, for instance. Aventon has local dealers you might not expect; I bought mine from an Indian motorcycle shop, for example. If I had a problem I needed help with, they may have to consult with Aventon, but I'm confident their mechanics could handle anything I couldn't.

Tier 5: A "bike shop brand" that has widespread support and superior quality. (ex. Trek, Electra, Specialized, ) These bikes are without fail more expensive, because it costs the manufacturer money to support local shop who supports you in the long run. Buy with confidence, once you have the money together! These commonly start now at $1800 (for a no-frills hub driven bike) and go up to $14k. (for a high-end carbon road eBike)

one of the best short summary of the ebikes market I read so far, @Smaug... (y)(y)(y) . Should be pinned up in the forum.
 
I agree with much of what Smaug posted. It is concise.
What tier you are happy with will depend upon how much due diligence you did before the purchase (with no regard to the tier), and how comfortable you are with maintaining the eBike.

If you do all the work on your cars, then you are free to go lower tier. This is especially true if you selected a bike which is built with readily available components (standardized batteries, motors, etc). The thing I dislike about tier 5 bikes is the heavy amount of customized (nearly unique) components they use. If those companies go out of business, good luck finding that "cool looking battery which is cleverly integrated with the frame". Your only option may be cracking the battery case (which may be ultrasonically welded) and replacing the cells.

Right now, the big guys with their brick-and-mortar stores are being financially stressed by the inexpensive choices coming out of China. I feel we are in for a shake-up among the tier 5 companies. This will happen over the next 2 years. Already, we have seen some of the biggest regular bike companies fold their businesses over the past two years due to this pressure.

Right now, I am living in the Tier 2 and 3 level. Zeegr, ACTBest, Goat-Bikes. As a disclaimer, I work as an engineer. I have a full machine shop/weld shop in the garage. I also have multiple Fluke meters and a dual trace digital Oscilloscope. It gives me options which most do not enjoy.

I will throw in one other bit. The edgy stuff (like higher power motor(s)) does not typically appear on Tier 4/5 products. They want a product which is frequently conformant with Class 1/2/3 requirements. They don't want to face unhappy customers, should they run into legality issues with their bikes. If you want a speed-demon bike, you are less likely to find it in a store-front shop. Innovations appear later in these bikes as well, as the retooling costs to integrate these new hot features is an important business factor.
 
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