Review of heybike Ranger

Smaug

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These are available on Amazon for $1400 US. Currently, there's a $70 coupon, which pays for the $30 FedEx Ground shipping from California and a bit toward the sales tax. I bought with my Amazon Prime VISA card to also get the 3% kickback. There was a promotion to split it into 18 equal payments with no interest.

So as not to drive the price up on Amazon, here is the link on heybike's website:

Basic specs:
  • 500 W planetary geared hub motor
  • +/- Foldable, but it's a 71 lb. bike;
    • not reasonable for one person (except bodybuilders) to load it in a sedan. Maybe a hatchback. Watch the weather stripping
    • Not a good model to take on public transit
  • +/- Fat tire-type; it's a bit noisy, but will truly handle almost any terrain (extremely rocky might not be good) However, these contribute to making the bike quite heavy.
  • + Comes with three assist levels, but with instructions to re-program for 7. It really should come programmed from the factory for 7, as the lowest PAS takes me right to 13 mph. PAS 2 = 19 mph, PAS 3 = 24 mph. I'm finding that sometimes PAS1 is too fast; I would like settings for maybe 7 and 10 mph below it. PAS3 is a bit too fast for the highest gear, so that I can actually keep up and go faster than 25 mph if I want. That will give me a proper cardio workout. I plan to re-program this speed setting to PAS7, and have a few intermediate settings. HeyBike makes some recommendations in their literature.
  • + Assembly is not too bad, only unclear thing in the instructions are where the washers go for the front wheel. Instructions say it goes "inside", but really it goes outside the safety hook washer. (otherwise the brake disc doesn't line up with the caliper)
    • When mounting the front wheel, invert the bike on a soft surface, like cardboard or grass, so you don't scratch the paint on the rack. They don't tell you this, but if you don't do this, it is quite frustrating to get the front wheel mounted. If you DO invert it, it is quite easy and just takes a bit of patience.
  • + Includes sturdy rear luggage rack, fenders, full lighting. In the product images, the rack seems to be integral to the frame, but it is actually bolted on. A frame-mounted front rack is available as an option, as are panniers. A spare battery (48 V, 15 Ah) is $500.
  • + I read a lot of reviews, and while this is a smaller Chinese brand, their customer service gets good marks. That's why it is $200 more than competing models from lesser brands.
  • - There are some miscellaneous squeaks, especially from the mechanical disc front brake
  • - The included tools are not TOTAL garbage, but the 14 mm combination wrench was too small for the 14 mm nuts. Other hex wrenches (open end only) were OK. The allen wrenches are chrome plated and fit the allen heads well.
  • + The front headlight is powerful enough to be useful, and is easily aimed while out and about with just a #2 Phillips screwdriver.
  • + When the lights are toggled on, the rear light is on solid, and when the brakes are squeezed, it blinks rapidly. This is a nice touch. I feel pretty safe, as my Schwinn helmet from Amazon has a built-in rear light too.
  • + Mag wheels = no spoke hassles, ever. This is the main reason I bought this bike over the older Mars model with spokes.
The bike is available for the same price directly from HeyBike's website, but I felt more comfortable buying from Amazon, in case I needed help with customer service. Also for the 3% kickback. HeyBike should reduce the price when bought directly through them, as they won't have to pay Amazon a portion.

I'm going to look a little and see what tools I'd need to change an inner tube on the roadside and order a spare. I have a feeling it's going to be complex, for the rear...

The thing that surprised me so far is that when I pedal at all, the motor kicks in to take me right to the top speed of the PAS, rather than providing a boost proportional to my effort. Someone posted an FAQ video that explained this type of system. It uses a hall effect sensor instead of a torque sensor, like the fancy Trek e-bikes.

Also, I wish I had thought to look up this bike's weight. 71 lbs. is too heavy to reasonably and regularly be loaded into a car or to take along on mass transit. I may end up buying a smaller, less expensive e-bike later for that purpose, but I'm going to enjoy this one for awhile.
 

Smaug

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I've got 180 miles on the bike now, mostly doing my 4.4 mile daily commute, with a couple longer trips thrown in. Here are my updated thoughts on it and commentary about whether I'd buy it again:

Ratings are on a 10 point scale.

SEAT: 6. Not awful, but I wouldn't call it good either. I'm good for about half an hour on it. (admittedly, I'm not a serious cyclist) I had a Brooks B67 (their sprung model) and it is an improvement in terms of hot spots, but needs a bit of cushioning around the rear edge.

FRAME: 9. Very well-implemented

TIRES: 8. No problems or flats yet, so they must have some kind of puncture resistant belting in them. They're 4x20" fat knobbies. They're noisy and I don't go off-road, so I would have rather had 2.4" hybrid tires for better rolling efficiency. These fat 20 PSI knobbies really drain the battery when cruising at 20 mph. Pedaling doesn't help much; the motor is working HARD to keep me going at that speed.

PEDALS: 5. They squeaked like mad; seems like they forgot to grease the ball bearings. I rode it that way for probably 50 miles before I felt compelled to fill them up with 3-in-1 oil. That quieted them right down. They are folding plastic pedals and I can feel them bend a bit when I stand on them. However, they have never given way before.

BRAKES: 5. They're strong enough, but they screech badly. I wrote to heybike about it and they sent me a video on how to adjust them. I did, and they still screech loudly. Now, they're starting to pulsate, as if I somehow warped the brake rotor. (I don't brake often or hard enough that this should be a concern)

LIGHTING: 10. Very well done. Easy to aim and powerful enough to help me out in the dark up to about 15 mph. Having the brake light flash when I brake is a nice touch; I feel a bit safer with this feature in place.

REAR RACK: Very sturdy. I zip-tied a milk crate to it and it is sure nice to not have a sweaty back all the time now.

VALUE: 5. I get the impression Lectric is a higher quality brand, and their XP 2.0 would have saved me a couple hundred dollars on a similarly-spec'd bike.

WOULD I BUY IT AGAIN? Probably not. I bought it having visions of folding it up and taking it with me places, but it's too big with its fat tires and too heavy at 71 lbs. If it's not going to be practical to put in the trunk of my car, I would have been better served with either a lighter, smaller bike or a full size, non-folding model with narrower full size tires. A regular commuter bike, something like the Rad City 5 but a bit cheaper. (and open up the wallet to the tune of another $700) The screeching, low quality brakes are a constant reminder that this is a ChiComm bike. On the other hand, the power system is plenty strong.

RECOMMENDATIONS FOR FIRST-TIME E-BIKE BUYERS:

1) Look at the weight, keeping in mind that a typical mechanical bike weighs around 25 lbs. The heavier it gets, the more screwed you are if you run the battery down. Also, the more expensive your rack is going to have to be if you want to take the bike with you. The fat tires are also going to be a limiting factor...

2) Be realistic about what speed you need. 20 mph (Class 1 or 2, in the USA) is plenty fast, since you can maintain it going uphill. Many bikes will go Class 3 speed (28 mph) but are not geared for it, so it's a pure electric battery-drainer at those speeds. With this 500 W bike and its 48 V, 15 Ah battery pack, I'm flying up hills that I would be going 4 mph up on a purely mechanical bike.

Let me know if you have any questions.

More later.
 

Smaug

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200 mile check-in:

The bike still satisfies. Only the brakes are an issue. They screech still, but it’s getting quieter. I think the front rotors may be warped, as it has that jerky feeling while braking.

I went to the grocery store yesterday to pick up 20 lbs of ice and a few onions yesterday; the milk crate I zip-tied to the rack works great.
BD3E0198-EF55-4587-961F-A4CE277F9EE8.jpeg
 

Smaug

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I lost the pedal on the Ranger on the way home for lunch today. It just felt like it snapped off. I racked myself a bit when that happened, as I was pedaling pretty hard and going 23 mph.

I parked the bike at the other side of the intersection, and had to wait for the lights to go and retrieve the pedal. It was in good shape, it had just unthreaded itself.

If you remember, when I got the bike, the pedals squeaked annoyingly, as if they neglected to grease the bearings when they were built. My solution was to put some medium weight 3-in-1 oil in them. They stopped squeaking shortly afterwards. That oil got down into the threads in the crank arm and let it unscrew.

I tried to screw it back in with my hands at the roadside, but couldn't do it. I threw it in the crate and went home the last mile on pure electric.

I got home, cleaned off both sides of the threads with rubbing alcohol, then re-assembled it with blue thread locker. I will be keeping an eye on it. I will probably also remove the left pedal and give it the same treatment, so I don't get another unpleasant surprise.

I'm a little surprised this happened, as the threads are directional, such that pedaling forces would tend to tighten them, rather than loosen...
 

Smaug

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I realized one nice thing about this bike is that the handlebar stem is inherently strong because it doesn't telescope. It has sort of an upright riding posture, but it is nice & solid.

I took this for granted at first, but by comparison, the stem on my Sailnovo and Lectric XP Lite are a bit flimsy. (though adequate)
 

Smaug

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I'm at about 245 miles now. It's a good overall bike, the the brake screeching is still going on strong. I don't really want to spend more money to upgrade the brakes to hydraulic two-piston units, so I guess I'll cope.

The power system is strong and the key location is more convenient than on my Lectric XP Lite. It's easy to get to and works smoothly.

The range is holding on strong. It doesn't need charging that often, despite having inefficient 20 psi fat tires.

The XP Lite is a nicer quality all around. I wish I had bought the XP 2.0 instead of this.
 
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