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2000 Miles of Justice: My Year of Riding Electric Bikes

My 500 watt rear wheel from EbikeKit.com

My 500 watt rear wheel from EbikeKit.com

Almost one full year ago, I built myself an experimental electric bike to see what all the hype was about. As a profanely vocal proponent of muscle-only transportation, I was skeptical of the idea at first. But in the spirit of a good experiment, I decided to just add the thing to my bike fleet and see how it went for a year.

As the months and seasons have rolled past, I have found myself blazing around town more frequently, with greater speeds and heavier loads than I ever thought possible, which has turned me into an unapologetic convert. The electric bike combines some of the distance-devouring advantages of a car, with the city-friendly flexibility of a bike (you can bypass all traffic jams and jump freely between roads, bike paths and even dirt and unpaved areas to find the most direct route, and park for free right at your destination).

This is why electric bikes give me the feeling of Justice. You are riding a bike like you should be, creating virtually no pollution or noise, but you have a tireless olympic sprinter in your back pocket that you can unleash at the twist of a throttle. You can EAT gigantic hills for breakfast and DUST entire pelotons of spandex-riders from the comfort of your flipflops and flannel shirt. These things could have a revolutionary impact on the lazy modern lifestyle and make cities of all sizes vastly more livable places. So my official position on the matter is now that Electric Bikes are Awesome.

But Isn’t this Just Modern Lithium-Ion Laziness?

After that first article, several Mustachians questioned my sanity. Had I sold out to the forces of convenience and comfort? My answer was that time would tell and I’d do my best to use the power responsibly. I figured that for any given longer-than-walking-distance trip, there are two categories of people:

  1. Those who use a bike, and
  2. Those who do not use a bike

Since I was already in category “1” for at least 95% of my 1-10 mile trips, you’d think that I would have nothing to gain and everything to lose from juicing my bike. And indeed, it could have gone this way: Over the past year the technology has caught on rapidly and I now see plenty of e-bike riders out on the streets just coasting while the motor does all the work.

But when I look in the mirror, I notice that I have no desire to be any less fit. In fact, more fitness would be quite welcome, which means I need to pack more effort into each day. This is just basic muscle math, the kind that should be part of the driver’s exam before you’re allowed to operate your first car. So anyway, I chose to do things a bit differently, setting up a few ground rules for my use of electric boost:

  • For casual trips like riding downtown to meet someone for lunch, I don’t even use the e-bike. I take my nice low, slow, inefficient cruiser bike instead.
  • When riding the e-bike, I try to leave the motor off whenever possible. So it functions like a super-heavy (60 pound) city bike that provides more exercise than normal.
  • Before turning on the motor, I give it all I’ve got, sprinting to fight the bike (and usually a trailer full of tools or groceries) up to at least 20 MPH on leg power alone. Once I run low on steam, I twist the throttle and feel the electric joyride take over as we blast up to much higher levels of speed. It feels like taking off in an airplane. I keep pedaling the whole time.
  • Since this could still steal away some of my exercise, I resolved to do more biking than before. Running out to get some last-minute cilantro halfway through salad construction, or missing supplies halfway through a a day of house construction, and so on.

In other words, I chose to use the power of electricity as an extension of my biking abilities rather than a replacement. And so far, so good: I haven’t lost any biking condition over the last year, but I have felt an increase in freedom and productivity as I can get around town more quickly, even when I’d normally feel too busy or tired to embark on a bike errand.

The other bonus is that my bike can now hang with standard city traffic on 25-30 MPH roads. I can safely* take a full lane just like a motorcycle without slowing anyone else down, which provides an adrenaline-filled shortcut through certain parts of the city I had previously avoided due to lack of bike friendliness.

A Secret Superpower Against Heat, Heavy Loads, Hills, and Time Itself

Many Mustachians are fairly young and fit, already have bikes which serve them well, and are still ‘stashing cash vigorously for financial independence. For these people, an electric bike is probably an unnecessary luxury.

But for another large group, they could be just the thing. The lawyer who lives in a hot, humid climate and is currently afraid to bike the 4 miles to the office for fear of arriving sweaty. The beginner cyclist in Seattle or San Francisco who lives at the top of a perilously steep hill (especially if combined with kids or groceries in a bike trailer). Even the Longmont, Colorado tech worker who would love to bike to work in Boulder more often but could swing it more often if only that 1-hour ride time could be cut in half. If you have a reasonable surplus of money and feel there’s a shortage of biking in your life, an e-bike could be just the ticket.

The Expensive E-Bike Conspiracy and My Prodeco Storm 500 Experiment

Testing the Optibike R-8, a $10,000 electric mountain bike.

December: Testing the Optibike R-8, a $11,000 electric mountain bike.

As part of this yearlong experiment, I decided to check out more of the electric bike scene. I tested more kit-built bikes from friends, shopped more e-bike shops, and visited the headquarters of high-end manufacturer Optibike, testing out everything they make.

This proved to be a fun visit, as founder Jim Turner has been making ebikes since the late 1990s and seems to care about nothing besides quality. From the custom frame with a motorized crank that drives the chain out to the top-line individual components, these bikes are for wealthy no-compromise buyers. They’re also for record setters, as an Optibike R-11 set the world record for climbing the 14,000 foot Pike’s Peak highway.

My take on Optibikes? Beautiful and without compromise, but I noticed that my homemade high-power conversion based on a cheap city bike was just as fast, at close to 40 MPH**. For real speed in this price range, I’d personally go for the 50MPH 4500 watt Steath Bomber or the highly German Motostrano Spitzing.

riide

June: a visit from the Riide electric Bike

I also enjoyed a visit from Amber Wason, co-founder of Riide, who brought me her low-weight, high-style take on the concept. This thing was a joy to ride, because it behaves like a normal bike. You can barely tell it’s electric.

I noticed a bit of a pattern: the more expensive a bike company’s product, the more they tend to speak critically of cheaper competitors. I would often ask what they thought about the Prodeco Phantom, which you can buy on Amazon for under $1700. “Oh, you do NOT want a Prodeco! Cheap Chinese crap that’ll fall apart!” Yet when I looked at reviews of that same bike on Amazon, they were generally quite positive. Who should I believe?

I decided that the only way to resolve the dispute was to buy one myself. So I forked over the dough and received the shipment a few days later. Since it was mid-winter, I spent the first month testing the bike out both on and off-road during snowfalls.

February: some high-speed snow testing with a Prodeco bike on the local golf course

It was a surprisingly solid bike with good components, smooth shifting and really great disc brakes. It had plenty of power to peg the needle at its safety-limited 20 MPH speed, even when ascending steep hills. Range seemed pretty good as well, at over 20 miles when combining reasonable speed with pedaling.

Since I was already fully loaded with bikes myself, I decided to use friends and family as longer-term test subjects for this bike after the initial month. It has made the rounds and is still performing well for a friend of mine. Just one caution if you’re interested in this particular model – it is very tall, so if you’re shopping for someone under about 5’9″, you might check out the models with step-through frames instead.

So Should you Buy One Yourself?

Maybe. While cheaper than a car or motorcycle, these things are still much more expensive than great conventional bikes, which can be had for under $500 these days.  Many normal people ride a single, basic bike for much greater annual distances than I ride all of my bikes, including the electric ones, combined.

On top of this, the prices on electric bikes will probably continue dropping for the next few years. I wouldn’t buy one if I was in debt for anything besides a mortgage. In fact, I wouldn’t have even bought one (yet) for myself if I didn’t have this blog as an excuse to test it out and report back to you, because I don’t commute to work.

But if it will genuinely replace some of your car use, which costs you about 50 cents a mile, the economic case may be a good one. And if it will entice you to spend more time pumping your muscles out in the real world than you currently do, the case is much stronger. It is hard to overstate the benefit of just getting out there. So if you’re sure you are ready and you can easily afford it, I think it’s a winning invention.

List of Good Mid-priced Ebikes:
(I have no affiliation with these bike companies, just happy to support the growth of this good technology. Please suggest more in the comments and I can add them to this list)

Kits:

My 500 watt Ebike Kit
(^^^ watch for their occasional 15% sales and use coupon code MMM for 6% anytime)
A promising looking cheaper kit on Amazon
Possible Battery for Above
The Hill Topper Kit (clean Republic)

Full Bikes:

Riide

RadWagon (just found this Aug 2016) – looks great for the price
Bikes from Evelo (note the Omni wheel)
Stromer ST1 (expensive but you could try a nationwide Craigslist search)
Prodeco Phantom
The Copenhagen Wheel (available someday)

Honorable Mention:
Jason Kraft from EbikeKit has a neat side project in development for those not looking for 2-wheelers, the Liberty Trike is a 7.5MPH adult mobility machine that seems much more capable than similar stuff on the market. A huge advantage for those currently car-dependent for medium-length neighborhood trips.

* Safety tip:
As a frequent rider on city streets, I have always found that oncoming cars tend to turn left and cut me off dangerously, even when I have the right of way.  The extra speed of the e-bike made this problem even worse. But by adding really bright LED front and rear lights and leaving them flashing at all times while riding in the city, this problem was virtually eliminated overnight. It tells the drivers that you mean business and they treat you more like a motorcycle and less like a bike. You still need to be on guard at all times though, ready to hit the brakes and hurl a few Driver-Educating Expletives just for good measure. 

** A word on speed:
Commercial e-bikes for on-road use are generally limited to 20MPH (throttle) or 25MPH (pedal assist). This is a fine rule and beginner cyclists will find this to be plenty of speed.

Kits have no such limitation, which is why my bike goes much faster, which technically may make it slightly illegal. However, this is a rule I don’t mind breaking with caution: on bike paths, I keep the speed down as they tend to be curvy and narrow. And of course I slow right down if other people are present on the path. On the other hand, on the open road the speed is very welcome.

If phone-wielding teenagers are allowed to legally drive 3-ton 300 horsepower pickup trucks on residential streets, then surely it is acceptable for a 185 pound man with a motorcycle license and some basic motocross training to enjoy his 0.6 horsepower electric motor without a speed limiter installed. But I am definitely increasing my risk by riding at higher speeds!

  • Andrew Norris August 31, 2015, 6:30 pm

    “adding really bright LED front and rear lights ”

    for a normal bike – can easily run them full time daytime off a dynamo hub.

    Reply
    • Dividend Growth Investor September 1, 2015, 7:18 am

      Yep, a dynamo does help with lights on the bike.

      I just hope MMM is safe when riding the bike on the streets, where large vehicles (larger than a bike) go. Can you ride on the sidewalks?

      Reply
      • PatrickGSR94 September 1, 2015, 8:03 am

        no no no, riding on sidewalks is NOT safe. Besides the obvious things like pedestrians, even in areas where there are no other sidewalk users, motorists tend to pull out while looking at other cars in the street, and not what is on the sidewalk. Especially not someone barreling along the sidewalk at 20+ MPH.

        Riding on the sidewalk is bad enough at low speeds. At 20+ MPH it would be a death wish.

        Reply
        • B.C. Kowalski September 1, 2015, 8:35 am

          Totally agree with above – riding on the sidewalk is far more dangerous. As someone who has bike commuted for years, I can say nearly every close call I have ever had was when I was on the sidewalk (the main drag in my city, until recently, required cyclists to be on sidewalks). Not only pedestrians on the sidewalks, but also cars pulling out make this a very dangerous place to be. Visibility is low on the sidewalk and it forces the cyclists to leave and enter the roadway a lot – which leads to a greater chance of collision.

          Reply
          • Powskier September 1, 2015, 11:29 am

            It depends, in my city it is far safer and encouraged to ride on sidewalks, so I do.
            Only a small downtown area is prohibited to ride on sidewalks.
            In my city it is illegal to switch back and forth, you either ride the road and road rules, or the sidewalk and pedestrain rules. I concur that this switching back and forth is where the danger lies.

            Reply
            • Beekeeper Dave September 8, 2015, 10:20 am

              I put about a gazillion miles on my hybrid/commuter bicycle during my year in South Korea. What a crazy place to drive or ride! Cars are erratic, and there are dozens of new and surprising traffic obstacles to contend with, particularly scooters/mopeds. People ride their scooters and even full size motorcycles on the sidewalk, they drive through crosswalks in order to run all the red lights, it’s bonkers. As a cyclist, you have to keep your head on a swivel. You also have to switch between the sidewalk, the bike path, and the road pretty much constantly, utilizing all your powers of common sense and self-preservation so as not to get steamrolled by a taxi, or run over a bunch of jagged metal, or plow into a pedestrian stepping out of a shop and onto the sidewalk. Well, I lived. And it was SO MUCH FUN!! I guess I’ve got no real reason to share this story other than to make the opinionated point that when you choose to commute by bicycle for any reason other than pure leisure, it’s ok to break a few rules if it means a safer and more efficient time for you and the people you’re sharing the road with.

              Reply
          • Garrett August 7, 2016, 6:04 pm

            I will agree with you, B.C. Kowalski. The roads I was riding in this past Saturday in Winnipeg were VERY bumpy, so I decided to use the sidewalk. The entire time I rode on them, whenever I would approach an intersection or a back alley, I had a subtle fear of getting hit.

            From now on, streets & bike paths only.

            Also, unless a cyclist has a bell or calls out when approaching a pedestrian, it can be extremely dangerous FOR the pedestrian!! They aren’t expecting a cyclist to be coming up on them from behind at 10+ Mph, and might get hit. As well, with something like Pokemon Go now on 50M+ users phones, a pedestrian may see a pokemon appear on their screen & erratically move in a random direction to go catch it, thus becoming a further randomized obstacle to cylists.

            Reply
        • Qmavam September 3, 2015, 9:24 am

          Yes, years ago, I was making a left hand turn, waiting for traffic to clear, when It did clear, I started my turn and almost hit a biker that come off the sidwalk opposite my original direction. She was hidden from my view by the traffic. She yelled something about bikes having the right of way. I wanted to tell her that doesn’t matter if she gets hit by a car, but she was gone to quick.
          I don’t know if I was wrong because I missed her or she was wrong for not stopping before entering the road from the sidewalk. But I feel she should have stopped before entering the roadway. That said, If I was riding on the sidewalk, I probably wouldn’t stop before entering the road, but I’d be fully aware of all the traffic at the intersection before I entered. (no traffic lights)
          A pet peave of mine is pedestians walking the same direction as traffic, crossing the road and never looking back to see if there is someone making a right turn.
          Be aware of your surroundings people!

          Reply
          • Mr. Money Mustache September 3, 2015, 5:40 pm

            The cyclist was definitely in the wrong there. But the shock of the experience will probably help both of you be more aware in the future, so no harm done!

            Reply
    • midwest_mayhem September 1, 2015, 8:31 am

      Just please don’t ever put a dynamo on an electric bike! For the sake of thermodynamics… it would be the least Mustachian thing you could do. There are simple ways to power very bright lights directly from the battery, no need to add drag to your drivetrain with a needless generator.

      I agree though that for standard bikes dynamos are the way to go.

      Reply
      • Kyle September 1, 2015, 7:53 pm

        It would be like putting a wind turbine on the bike to power the lights as you go.

        Reply
    • blessings September 1, 2015, 11:28 am

      We seem to have all latched on the security aspect. Glad you put a good disclaimer around biker safety at the bottom too. Being debt free and financially independent, doesn’t matter if you are not around to enjoy it all. ;-)

      Reply
  • Damian August 31, 2015, 6:39 pm

    Unfortunately in Australia,legally limited to 250w, 27kph (less than 18mph)… which means not hugely helpful on my 36.5km each way commute (i typically average over 30kph for the flatter second half). Amd doesnt provide a way to keep up with 60kph traffic, let alone 80kph traffic on the arterials. An ebike would help allow me to ride 5x rather than 3x per week (normal bike 2-3x, e-bike the others), but the Australian legal position limits this

    Reply
    • Jordan Read August 31, 2015, 6:45 pm

      2 more days a week sounds like a win to me!!

      Reply
      • Gwrath September 1, 2015, 2:44 am

        I’m in Australia too, and love that I can pretty much bike year round here (originally from Toronto, where it wasn’t as safe an option). I commute to work every day unless it’s bucketing down rain.
        I want to look at options for my wife, who is a native Aussie and scoffs at the idea of riding to the beach in 40 degree summer heat. We are about a 20 minute ride from town and the beach and it’s pretty flat. I’m thinking of an add-on system for her existing bike (since we don’t have space for a fleet of bikes like MMM).

        Reply
    • Dean September 1, 2015, 8:17 am

      Sounds like someone needs to move closer to work :)

      Reply
      • NightFallTech September 1, 2015, 5:37 pm

        “Close enough” to really make a difference would be the city side of the hills (roughly 17km from the CBD), I’d happily ride that 5 days a week.. But we’d by mortgaged to the tune of roughly an extra million dollars and have a smaller house and section than we do now.

        Any closer would be even more expensive (and not the kind of lifestyle we like on the weekends), any further and I still have the hills to cross which are the limiting factor.

        Working closer to home would be great, but options are very limited.

        I also like my commute a few days a week :) … a 5-10km commute wouldn’t be long enough to really warm up!

        Reply
    • Patrick September 1, 2015, 8:21 am

      What are the odds of the authorities having the equipment on them to test the bikes power levels? Mine has a tiny switch that goes from legal, to useful to dangerously fast.

      Reply
      • Karl September 6, 2015, 8:46 pm

        Actually, it’s not so much about being fined, but more of a matter for compliance with insurance. Riding a non-roadworthy vehicle, e.g. an ebike that is significantly over the power limit, may result in your insurance company refusing to make a payout in the event of an incident.

        As other have mentioned already, we have some pretty frustrating limits on ebike motors here in Australia. Although the regulations were recently updated to allow 250W motors (from 200W) and a max speed of 25km/h to more closely reflect European standards, it is still inadequate for most people who would need and use an ebike for daily, practical riding.

        Reply
  • Jordan Read August 31, 2015, 6:44 pm

    I was a bit skeptical of this article at first, but being in the #1 camp and recently getting rid of my car entirely, I thought I’d see what you had to say. Great way of keeping things in line, and I do believe that you are absolutely right as they could potentially be a gateway bike or just a way to get people out of cars. Well executed. Next hangout you have I’ll have to try one out :)

    Reply
    • Troy Rank August 31, 2015, 8:19 pm

      I think that’s exactly it. If a bicycle already serves 100% of your transportation needs, then you already win at life. I’m hoping that E-bikes will fill some of the gap in between so that more of us can delete the car completely like I did 3 years ago.

      Reply
      • Karl September 6, 2015, 8:55 pm

        Agree Troy. Love that quote btw – “If a bicycle already serves 100% of your transportation needs, then you already win at life.”

        I am a keen surfer, and unfortunately the surf breaks I like to visit range from 5 to 120km away depending on local conditions. Of course the local beaches within 7km I will ride my ‘beach bike’ to. But further distances are quite challenging when carrying all the extra gear like my board, water, wetsuit, sunblock and so on.

        It also makes matter challenging when there are a few moderately steep hills on the way too, plus having to ride home the same distance with wet gear and a tired body from surfing all morning..

        Inevitably and begrudgingly I will drive to these spots that are a bit further away, although I will always try to car pool with surf buddies in my neighbourhood when going to a spot that’s more than a 15 minute drive away.

        An ebike with a fair amount of power and battery range, paired with a trailer to carry my surfboard and other gear would allow me to ride to a wider range of surf breaks in my area in a reasonable amount of time and with minimal effort. I haven’t implemented it yet (as I am not yet permanent) but it is a plan of mine to go back to being ‘car free’ again.

        Reply
  • Troy Rank August 31, 2015, 6:45 pm

    I’m a huge ebike nerd and I earned a Guinness Record last summer by riding out to Boulder. Checkout me nerdy video blogs here: https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLkTuC6Yv4pRzr0TRHjPSANMn6SRXx6aBy

    I started a company called Maxwell Motorbikes, and right now I think we make the best crossover bicycle. (of course I do) Our bike is still a bike and mile-for-mile it’s just about as cheap as you can get (by my own calculation it’s about 8c per mile, when compared to about 4-8c for an ordinary bicycle (my own cyclocross bike is about 5c/mile). http://www.maxwellmotorbikes.com (shameful plug, shameful plug)

    This type of bike is important because it’s one of the few bicycles that retains its bicycle-ness while still being able to extend the use-case. Our bike is 25-32 lbs which is actually a bicycle. 300W out means that you’ve got about 2x your max output (about 3-4x if you’re a weaker cyclist).

    The bike that I took with me for the world record has about 16k miles on it right now, and though it’s more of a small motorbike than a bicycle, it’s still a ridiculously efficient and awesomely fun bike. That’s a far cry from any other small motorbikes on the market today, and it’s still my default method of transport to work. Even a small moped is expensive to maintain relative to running an e-bike, and if you’re stuck 20 miles away from work, where the real-estate is cheap, an e-bike can be a pretty wicked ride-hack.

    Reply
    • Alexandre Forget September 2, 2015, 6:15 am

      I see that the motor is on the front wheel, I wonder how does it handle versus a rear wheel motor.

      Reply
      • David Robarts September 10, 2015, 11:31 am

        I’ve heard someone who rode a bike with a front wheel motor say that it does affect the handling – they also pointed out that when pedaling the bike is effectively “all wheel drive”. How much it affects handling would of course depend on how much you let the motor do the work vs. how much of the power you’re providing through the pedals. I’ve haven’t heard of people finding it difficult to get used to the front wheel drive.

        Reply
  • Neil August 31, 2015, 7:02 pm

    I do feel there’s a shortage of biking in my life… I’ve been lusting after an ebike since the first MMM article on them. I believe it would make my once per month bike commute a several times a week commute. Maybe I’ll get one in the spring. MMM, how about a discount code like last time?

    Reply
    • Neil September 1, 2015, 1:51 pm

      The coupon code ‘MMM’ still works (and always will!) at ebikekit.com. I’ve ordered two kits from him and they’ve been great.

      Reply
  • Sarah Schlockertt August 31, 2015, 7:05 pm

    I love these articles! I have spent the past 3 months biking to work most days, all due to reading your blog and making small incremental lifestyle changes. While I don’t think I will be adding an electric bike to my transport options soon it does make me reevaluate what options we might have in retirement. I think we will travel more and stay in other parts of the world for months at a time. I’ve always thought scooters would be a good option but maybe electric bikes too. We will have to see, thanks for another great article MMM!

    Reply
    • Troy Rank August 31, 2015, 8:15 pm

      My wife’s Vespa costs about 11c per mile, which is amazing considering that it can do 80 miles an hour. It’s probably the cheapest high speed vehicle to own. Something like an old Honda Helix is probably even better than that.

      By comparison my Honda ST1300 (which is for sale now thanks to MMM enlightenment) costs about 30c/mile to operate for me (doing all my own work etc).

      Further comparison: I estimate that my wife’s Prius costs us about 23c/mile to operate… yes… including depreciation… it’s actually cheaper to operate than my motorcycle. I can’t tell you how bummed I was to discover that. Motorcycle tires are the most expensive part of owning a modern bike in my experience, and the Prius kicks it’s ass.

      Reply
      • Chris I September 1, 2015, 10:29 am

        Yes, but who is crazy enough to do 80mph on a Vespa?

        Reply
  • EcoCatLady August 31, 2015, 7:10 pm

    OK… so this is probably a stupid question. But do you actually feel safe leaving this bike outside when you go on a shopping trip or something? How do you lock it?

    I ride over 3000 miles per year, but most is on my road bike, which I NEVER use for transportation because it’s worth more than my car – which might actually say more about my car than it does about my bike! :-) I just can’t imagine trusting any sort of lock to keep my baby safe! As a result, my transportation trips are all done on my 30 year old Trek hybrid – which gets the job done… but at 35lbs and living in on the west side of Denver (think LOTS of hills – especially if you want to travel north or south) its use is pretty much limited to about a 5 mile radius from my home.

    It’s probably a moot point for me, since I’m still WAY under 500 driving miles for the YTD, but I do wonder how it is that people who do use their bikes for significant transportation deal with the security issue.

    Reply
    • Mara August 31, 2015, 7:22 pm

      I use a bicycle cable-with-lock from a regular bike shop to secure my ebike. Sometimes I thread the cable through the pannier handles to secure those, too.

      Reply
      • EcoCatLady August 31, 2015, 7:55 pm

        That’s what I use on my errand bike (the old Trek), But I’m always thinking that all it would take would be someone with a pair of cable cutters and bye bye bike. Of course those fancy U locks aren’t much better – all it takes is a Bic Pen to get one of them open!
        http://archive.wired.com/culture/lifestyle/news/2004/09/64987

        Perhaps I’m just overly paranoid…

        Reply
        • Stephen richards August 31, 2015, 8:50 pm

          The new u locks have a different key now because of this very problem, I think they are pretty good with medium+ security for a reasonable size and cost, but you can get more secure, and larger tools will break them

          Reply
        • Chris I August 31, 2015, 10:41 pm

          A miniscule percentage of U locks are susceptible to that trick. U locks are very hard to defeat.

          Reply
        • Eugene September 1, 2015, 6:40 am

          Here’s a really interest article about bike locks. Is 2 years old, but still quite relevant I think: https://rideonmagazine.com.au/locks-test-2013/

          They test a bunch of locks to see how fast they can cut through them with bolt cutters and a portable angle grinder!

          Reply
      • Chris I August 31, 2015, 10:38 pm

        Your bike wouldn’t last a day locked up in a city like Portland or New York. Cable locks can be cut in about three seconds

        Reply
    • Tara September 1, 2015, 5:59 am

      What I hear is you want to be the most secure bike locked up. My friend bikes in NYC with a high-end road bike and after installing locked with special key nuts in the wheels and the seat, he uses two good u-locks. There is no such thing as a theft-proof lock—there is however, always going to be less secure bikes than your own locked up outside. If you do everything to keep it secure when outside, there’s a good chance a thief will go for a nearby bike over your own.

      Also, look into insurance for your bike. The homeowner’s might cover it? It’s not ideal, but at least it’s a way to keep it covered in case of theft.

      Reply
      • Mara September 1, 2015, 7:32 am

        Thanks for the great suggestions. I will look into better locks and check the insurance.

        Reply
      • kiwano September 1, 2015, 8:42 am

        Yep, this is one of the two principles I apply when locking up my own bike (which I built myself while working at a bike shop, and applied all the associated eligible-for-pro-deals kid-in-a-candy-store component selection to): “you don’t have to run faster than the bear”.

        The other principle that I try to apply is to try and avoid parking outside for long enough for a thief to overcome my lock(s) on any sort of regular schedule (in case someone notices that my bike is nice/worth stealing, and puts in the effort to notice it’s always in the same place for 3 hours on Monday evenings). Of course riding all winter in a city which doesn’t skimp on the road salt, means that I tend to arrange (or seek) indoor parking arrangements for my bike around places that I visit regularly anyway.

        I also augment the last principle by having festooned my bike with stickers (especially on/around areas where the racks that I lock to would tend to wear through the paint over time anyway) and I always cover my saddle with a plastic grocery bag. That way it attracts less attention from the sort of thief who might otherwise notice it’s nice, and stake it out.

        Reply
      • Mkkby November 8, 2015, 9:33 pm

        I once surprised a friend by installing toe clips on her bike while she was at work. I sat at the bike rack working with tools for 30 minutes on a crowded street corner. Nobody asked me what I was doing or called the cops. So I imagine it would be pretty easy to steal bikes and everyone would look the other way.

        Reply
        • Eldred April 16, 2016, 12:39 am

          They probably just thought you were working on your OWN bike. I mean, thieves don’t change out pedals before stealing the bike… :-)

          Reply
    • Hope September 1, 2015, 10:49 am

      As far as the ebike part of theft-proofing your bike goes–this was a big concern for me, as the kit I was buying was worth more than the bike itself, and I was commuting in Seattle, in some really theft-prone areas. I ended up going with a Clean Republic hill-topper kit, both for weight and $$$ reasons, but also because I can disconnect the battery pack and pop it in my backback incredibly easily. No way am I leaving a $600 battery out on my bike to get stolen! So if you do look for an ebike kit, you might want to make sure the battery is either a) almost impossible to remove from the frame or b) very easy to remove and take with you (my preferred option).

      Love the Hill Topper, btw–it’s might be underpowered by most ebike aficionados’ standards, but for an assist, it works perfectly–and my bike is still light enough to put on a bus rack or haul up three flights of stairs.

      Reply
    • Linda C September 3, 2015, 2:07 pm

      We sell some great locks from Abus that combine the flexibility of a cable with solid steel links like a chain. The Abus folding locks (the Bordo) come in two lengths and for my money the long one is the way to go. U-locks can also be used to lock up most e-bikes. If you get a ground-up ebike like those from Pedego or Currie, you get the added confidence of having the battery locked into the frame. With the kits, the batteries are usually just bungied or zip tied to the bike which makes them much more vulnerable to theft. The battery is, by far, the most valuable part of the bike.

      Reply
  • Brett August 31, 2015, 7:11 pm

    This is awesome. Living in Shanghai, I’ve owned an e-bike for a little more than one year while previously using a traditional bicycle. Absolute game-changer. When I tell people back home that my favorite part of living in a place like this is not owning a car, they are sometimes skeptical. Then they visit, take the e-bike for a test drive and their minds are blown. Thanks for spreading the good word!

    One question – is a motorcycle license required for e-bike usage in Colorado or other states?

    Reply
    • Troy Rank August 31, 2015, 8:10 pm

      The legislation for e-bikes is still shaking out. Each state is different and many do not have formal recognition at this stage. I can tell you that after riding through 11 different states last year, since it operates like a bicycle for the most part (with the exception of uber-fast ebikes), and doesn’t make any noise nobody seems to really care either way. After 16k miles I haven’t been pulled over yet.

      Reply
    • LennStar September 1, 2015, 11:49 am

      For Germany (if you ever visit here ;) ) you need a motorbike licence for every bike that can drive with motor alone or faster then 25km/h.
      Bikes were you have to pedal and were the electric power stops at 25km/h (called pedelecs) are free for all.

      Reply
  • Mara August 31, 2015, 7:15 pm

    Awesome! I wrote on the forum last spring about replacing my dead car with an ebike that is purpose-built to be a car replacement: the Juiced Riders ODK U500 Utility Electric Bicycle (http://www.juicedriders.com/). It is working out great! My husband at first thought it was a dumb idea, but he has come full circle now that he sees the money we are saving and the low environmental impact. Today, he rode the ODK to make a bank deposit and pick up groceries on the way home. Our other vehicle is a pickup truck for farm chores, so the ebike is an excellent alternative for errands.

    As for the concept of muscle-power over electric assistance, we both get a lot of exercise doing chores and work on our property; there’s no shame in taking a fun break to do errands on the ebike, pedaling when we feel like it and sitting back to enjoy the breeze when we don’t.

    I am glad ebikes are gaining acceptance. Ours is part of our healthy Mustachian lifestyle.

    Reply
    • Troy Rank August 31, 2015, 8:03 pm

      I LOVE Tora’s stuff. The ODK is so sweet and it deserves way more of a following. It really is a car replacement in so many ways.

      Reply
    • Jep September 1, 2015, 12:34 am

      we have 2 Juiced Rider’s bikes and we love them. I enjoy adding car-like enhancements such as a Bluetooth speaker system, garage door opener and a ‘dashcam’ that comes on automatically when switching on the bike.

      Reply
      • Mara September 1, 2015, 2:53 am

        That is so cool! I’ve been missing having music, especially on the longer rides. How do you handle the security issue?

        Reply
        • Jep September 1, 2015, 3:49 pm

          I got a small speaker (http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B00JTU88Y2) which you can mount on the handlebar and take with you. However, I don’t want to deal with that so I’ve mounted it underneath the battery, out of sight. It will probably be stolen some time, but then we’ll just buy a new one and hope the new ‘owner’ will enjoy it too while bicycling.

          Reply
        • Linda C September 3, 2015, 2:09 pm

          Check out the Cruzen Tunes speaker kit. It’s very small and mounts on the handlebar with solid screws. Great sound with bluetooth that pairs with your phone. They also have what is the very best phone holder on the market– the X-grip. They sell a kit with both in it together for about $75.

          Reply
          • Andrew C September 4, 2015, 1:00 pm

            As a bike commuter, hearing terrible little speakers on bikes near me reminds me of teenagers who insist on blasting the neighbourhood with their fancy car stereos, listening to awful music. Remember that the people around you were enjoying the quiet before you and your pimped bike came along.

            Noise pollution is real, too.

            You don’t need it, anyway. Doesn’t seem very Mustachian to add electronic toys to your bike.

            Reply
            • funny September 17, 2015, 11:01 am

              As a bike commuter I like to listen for the music, however if I ride behind someone at similar speeds for long enough I usually turn it off for exactly that reason…
              You could argue for the headphones instead, which would be awesome if it were legal, but alas they are not in California:

              “Wearing of Headsets or Earplugs

              27400. A person operating a motor vehicle or bicycle may not wear a headset covering, or earplugs in, both ears.”

              Reply
  • The Frugal One August 31, 2015, 7:26 pm

    I remember reading Peter Egan’s Leanings, where he recounted a story of him and a friend as a kid going on some adventure. One rode a bicycle, one had a little 49cc scooter or something similar. Can’t say I remember the details so well, but it wound up a comparison of what was cheaper; the gas for the scooter, or the calories to keep pedaling. I can’t even remember which one won, but it’d be interesting to compare how far you could get on the caloric equivalent of a gallon of gas, versus a gallon of gas compared to a scooter that can get 80-100+ MPG.

    It’d be an interesting thought exercise. I think even if a high MPG scooter won, the environmental and physical benefits of a bicycle rule. An e-bike makes it even more awesome, since it’s going back to the roots of motorcycling. A bicycle with a motor. That means someone on an e-bike can feel justified riding around in the modern knight armor that is motorcycle gear. Ultimate baddasity.

    Reply
    • Troy Rank August 31, 2015, 8:07 pm

      https://www.ebikes.ca/documents/Ebike_Energy.pdf

      This is an awesome paper written by Justin Lemire Elmore from Ebikes.ca

      It’s amazing because on average an electric powered bicycle is more efficient and cheaper to run. He makes some comments as to how this can be offset somewhat by locally sourced food which makes a big difference apparently.

      Reply
  • The Roamer August 31, 2015, 7:39 pm

    I can’t believe it’s been a year already since the post…

    That post definitely left me curious about electric bikes but I think I need to work on the muscles over motor part more first. Although I have been eyeing some rather expensive bikes.

    But for me its the cargo bikes I am itching to buy. Like xtracyle. But I figured even that I really need to do the ROI math to justify.

    Also nice , plug for Johnny moneyseeds new business. :)

    Reply
    • Mara September 1, 2015, 2:59 am

      To help with your math figuring, the ODK costs under 20¢ to charge and goes up to 75 miles without recharging.

      Reply
    • Kelly Sangree September 1, 2015, 8:27 am

      I have an e-assisted cargo trike myself – it’s an after market kit, but they do sell that model stock with e-assist. It’s (to keep using this phrase) a game changer. I rode for a year without assist, and crossing busy roads or getting up even moderate hills in my 125lb bike with two kid and library book payload was way tough. Adding the assist makes me more willing to try longer distances, heavier loads, and different routes.

      Reply
    • FrauSchnurrbart September 2, 2015, 1:40 am

      I have a Babboe BigE electric assist cargo tricycle and it’s so much fun to ride!

      Adding another kid (my nephew) and two kids’ bycicles added twenty kilograms of payload, but I only noticed as long as the motor was switched off.

      This definitely replaces a second car in our family.

      Reply
    • uncephalized September 2, 2015, 2:22 am

      I had a Surly Big Dummy for a while. I miss that bike. I wouldn’t want to use it anywhere with a lot of hills. 50-60 pounds of bike is a lot of weight. But it could haul practically anything even without a trailer. I rode the crap out of that thing through 3 seasons in Tucson. Ended up having to sell it because I needed the money more than the bike.

      I got in damn good shape riding it, too. It got to the point where any other bike felt like someone had pushed an Easy Mode button. Like getting in a sports car after driving a dump truck.

      Reply
  • Gina August 31, 2015, 7:42 pm

    I ordered an ebike kit called Hill Topper about an hour before seeing this post! For us it was between buying this or buying a car (don’t currently have one) so I think it was money well spent. I’m pregnant right now and the morning sickness reduced my energy levels so much that even the 1.5 mile ride to church was becoming an issue. It will also help me keep up with my husband when we bike together. Even when he pulls the trailer with our toddler in it, he is regularly faster than I am, and I know it can get really frustrating riding with a slow companion.

    Reply
    • ClaireB September 2, 2015, 1:48 pm

      I am also pregnant and do not drive. I pull my 2-year-old around in a trailer. If I lived in a hilly city, I would absolutely use an electric bike.

      Reply
  • Simon August 31, 2015, 7:49 pm

    Riide was supposed to ship more than a year ago. I wouldn’t trust them on any promise.

    Reply
    • Mr. Money Mustache August 31, 2015, 7:56 pm

      Wow, harsh judgement! What percentage of startups (Tesla included) ship on their first date estimate? Maybe Amber will comment on how many Riides have gone out so far.

      Reply
    • Kevin September 1, 2015, 11:51 am

      I own a Riide (ordered March 27 2015 and delivered April 15 2015). While they missed their original kickstarter deadlines, they seem quick to assemble and deliver now.

      My daily commute confirms that it works great!

      Reply
      • Gordon September 1, 2015, 8:49 pm

        I own one too. Got mine in March 2015… no issues with my order… just enjoyed my commute today on it in fact!

        Reply
  • Marcus August 31, 2015, 7:55 pm

    I may have misread, but you reference being able to achieve 40mph on your bike, but the link to the out you used states top speed is 28mph. What’s changed?

    Reply
    • Mr. Money Mustache August 31, 2015, 7:59 pm

      They are being conservative, and I used a more aerodynamic bike than average. Mine does 35 without pedaling and slightly more with leg power added in.

      Reply
      • Marcus August 31, 2015, 8:06 pm

        Ah.

        Reply
  • poorplayer August 31, 2015, 8:13 pm

    I’m 63 years old. Your blog is very clearly geared for much younger readers, who, like yourself, will all be 63+ someday. No doubt you will cut no slack because of my age, but e-bikes are very good for older people like me who want to stay active but need that small assist that time and age eventually take away. And I also promote scooters as well, because they promote less reliance on cars and are simple to maintain. I continue to encourage you in your attempt to keep young people as fit as possible, but at the same time, you might consider the needs of senior citizens in their attempts to pursue financial independence,. My generation was not as lucky as yours to be able to have such a wealth of information at their fingertips, and numbers of us have been burned by promises that society made to them and is not keeping. I want an e-bike pretty badly, and I hope to save enough in the near future to pick one up.

    Also, not to be a scold, but you give the impression that the rules of the road do not apply to bikes on the road. In fact, they do, and it would help everyone if you would promote the notion that bikes sharing highways should follow the traffic regulations of the city or state. Your promotion of “aggressive biking” seems to create the impression that you ride with a disregard for traffic regulations, which I am sure is not the case.

    Reply
    • PatrickGSR94 August 31, 2015, 9:02 pm

      I see “aggressive biking” as riding past stopped traffic (between lanes, or even worse along the right side), blowing lights and stop signs in front of other traffic, riding the wrong way, etc.

      However some people also see a person riding with some amount of speed, controlling the full lane, but otherwise riding safely and predictably, as “aggressive”. I hope the latter is how MMM rides, and not the former.

      Reply
    • Garrett August 31, 2015, 9:24 pm

      Another good candidate for ebikes is people with certain disabilities.

      I have an acquaintance that was disabled after a nasty reaction with some antibiotics. He was in a great deal of pain and could only walk for short distances. However, he was able to find himself a mountain bike with full electric assist (in case he couldn’t pedal) and now he is able to enjoy some mobility and recreation riding on dirt roads and easier trails.

      I always thought an ebike would be nice as a grocery hauler due to some of the steep hills around here.

      Reply
    • Mr. Money Mustache September 1, 2015, 8:26 am

      Poorplayer! I had no idea you were still hanging out here, but it is very nice to hear from you again. I was actually thinking of your historic First Ever Guest Post by anyone on MMM (http://www.mrmoneymustache.com/2011/08/19/guest-posting-get-rich-with-scooters/) when I wrote this. I like e-bikes over scooters because a scooter is entirely passive, and thus it is stealing such a valuable part of your day.

      You are right, a young age like 63 doesn’t get you much sympathy around here: in Colorado those people are still finishing near the top of the bike races and triathlons! But there are other health reasons why not everyone can do every athletic and dangerous thing, and that is totally fine.

      By “aggressive”, I just meant that I generally ride a bike as fast as I can up to the speed limit, and I mix with traffic when necessary. I still follow all the rules including red lights, but when there is a bike lane you get to go to the front of the line at every traffic lineup. On some of the big car-clown-commuter roads around here, that can mean a 5 minute savings in a single light. 5 minutes of idling in a half-mile lineup, or effortlessly blowing past everyone. This is why Cycling is Justice.

      Reply
      • 13owie September 1, 2015, 10:18 am

        “But I could always laugh back, knowing I was building my ‘stash to send my 3 kids to college debt-free. And I think making sure that your kids start out their lives college-debt free is pretty fuckin’ manly! I’ll let you ponder that shit for awhile, so maybe you’ll give a scooter a second thought.” lol, that was great to re-read. :)

        Reply
  • Norm August 31, 2015, 8:20 pm

    I’m glad you’ve joined the dark side. I have fantasies about electric bikes. Not just for me, powering up hills I would never attempt on my own, but for society in general. Imagine all those people who don’t want to use leg power at all, zipping around on these silent metal steeds. What a nice place it would be. In my weaker moments, I catch myself looking at Clean Republic kits online which start around $500. The idea of going 40 mph on a bicycle makes me a little nervous, but I am dying to try one out.

    I wish you had calculated the cost of the electricity to recharge the battery. From what I gather, it’s pennies per mile, even if you’re not using your legs to pedal. After all, the only weight being moved is your body, plus the tiny weight of the bicycle itself. It’s not a 2 ton electric behemoth – I’m lookin at you, Tesla.

    Reply
    • Troy Rank August 31, 2015, 8:39 pm

      If you neglect the food that you need to power your body (which most of us probably can) it’s about 2-3 cents per mile more if you use purely electric power.

      Here is an ugly ugly spreadsheet that I use to calculate these things, because I can’t help myself: https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/d/1Z-K6MjSvo4V21o8nADxt0RGNUox5UlW7QUOcfkE5q9k/edit?usp=sharing

      Reply
      • Norm August 31, 2015, 9:09 pm

        Awesome! You even got cars on there for comparison. I’m sure I’ll be watching the videos of your ebike adventure. Western NY FTW.

        Reply
    • Elizabeth September 1, 2015, 6:17 pm

      Your point about ‘silent metal steeds’ is a good one. Ebikes are so quiet, they can catch pedestrians unawares; here in Beijing, you hear choruses of ebike horns during rush hour, so people don’t get run over.

      Reply
  • Dee18 August 31, 2015, 8:36 pm

    My daughter and I rented ebikes on a visit to San Francisco. We had a fabulous day sightseeing on two wheels, especially around Golden Gate Park. Unused to such hills, we were happy to have the electric boost when needed.

    Reply
  • PatrickGSR94 August 31, 2015, 8:40 pm

    “I can safely* take a full lane just like a motorcycle without slowing anyone else down, which provides an adrenaline-filled shortcut through certain parts of the city I had previously avoided due to lack of bike friendliness.”

    Nonsense. One does not need super human strength or speed to be safe on any road in any traffic. I safely control my lane at 8-10 MPH at times (I’m slow as poo on hills), in an area with lots of 2-lane no-shoulder roads, and zero bike infrastructure, and I almost never have any problems. I’m talking 1-2 close passes per month, maybe, riding 300-400 miles per month.

    I highly recommend a course like CyclingSavvy for anyone who is really serious about using a bike for transportation. Unfortunately MMM the closest cities to you with classes are Dallas and Springfield MO. My wife and I made the trek from Memphis to St. Louis back in June to take the course and it is absolutely worth it.

    http://cyclingsavvy.org/about/what-we-know/

    http://cyclingsavvy.org/hows-my-driving/

    Reply
    • Dan September 1, 2015, 12:30 am

      Maybe this is true where you live, but I live in the heart of silicon valley and I have a close call almost every single day. I live in a city that apparently has won awards for it’s bike infrastructure. Your comment makes me think that it’s about the people not about the city. I cross a zero-bike infrastructure bridge every day on my commute, if I tried to control a lane I would get honked at, harassed, and probably eventually hit by an aggressive driver!

      Reply
      • PatrickGSR94 September 1, 2015, 2:02 pm

        There are lots of people who control their lane by default in California with great success. Check out these videos from a couple of guys in SoCal, on roads with no bike infrastructure.

        https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=F1C3qqhW6Aw

        https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6W0twza9B7o – Lane Control at Freeway Ramps in Irvine.

        https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3OKTtCdsT7g – Gerald Desmond Bridge in Long Beach

        https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rU4nKKq02BU – Good overview of the rights and duties of cyclists.

        Reply
        • 1WattLightbulb September 7, 2015, 6:01 pm

          “There are lots of people who control their lane by default in California with great success.”

          I’ve lived in CA for many years, driving and traveling throughout the state. I strongly disagree. I watched those videos. I never see this.

          Do lane control if you wish, but I agree with Eric and Dan – be ready for angry and confused drivers. Be ready for conflicts. Most are probably like, WTF?! I’d like to see those “Bikes May Use Full Lane” signs because this style of cycling is foreign to most California drivers.

          Reply
        • Senad October 4, 2015, 9:51 pm

          Seems to me that it works so well because the cyclist is riding on multi-lane streets. I live and ride in Munich where we have nice bike paths almost everywhere. And those are normally separated from the cars by a green belt or some trees, too. But when I have to drive on the street, it will normally be smaller then on the videos with only one lane in each direction.

          I then drive more to the right side of the lane, but in safe distance from opening doors from parked cars. Cars can pass me then without making the full lane change. Since I am occasionally a car driver, too, I like making it easier for those guys.

          I do think that I am highly visible though. I actually never see cyclists claiming the lane by driving in the centre of it. Maybe this just a difference between continents??

          Reply
      • Julia K. September 1, 2015, 10:05 pm

        I bike in San Carlos and Redwood City, just north of Silicon Valley, and rarely have close calls. When you know the most common crash types and learn how to avoid them – which mostly just entails operating in the center of the lane rather than on the edge – they stop being a problem. Even in Silicon Valley.

        Here’s a video of a considerate motorist thanking me for bicycling in a visible and predictable manner.
        (The wind is a bit loud at the beginning.)
        https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=e1XEFHMlZME

        Reply
      • Julia K. September 1, 2015, 10:21 pm

        With regard to harassment, it is a shame that it occasionally happens – both to lane-controlling cyclists and edge cyclists. I’ll admit the possibility it might happen more when you control the lane. But road rage is almost never a factor in actual collisions. Even assholes stop short of actually wanting to get in a crash and kill someone or, worse, scratch their car. They may honk, but at least they see me and know they can’t logistically squeeze by in the same lane.

        In contrast, the most common thing motorists who do hit bicyclists say is “I didn’t see him – he came out of nowhere.” Both assholes and conscientious motorists hit bicyclists this way. Edge cycling puts you in the blind spot of turning motorists anytime there is an intersection or driveway. It also suggests to passing motorists that there’s room to squeeze by in the same lane, when there’s usually not.

        As my cycling friend John B. puts it, “You just make sure you don’t hit me intentionally, and I’ll make sure you don’t hit me unintentionally, deal?”

        As a frequent motorist myself, I would much rather see a bicyclist behaving properly right in front of me than sneaking by on the edge, darting in and out of the parking lane, or veering toward the travel lane from a crosswalk as an intersection ends. I certainly don’t want to hit them, and would appreciate their cooperation in the matter.

        Reply
    • Mr. Money Mustache September 1, 2015, 8:03 am

      Nice – if you are cool with that, then I am too. Cars could use a little lesson in lane-sharing anyway, since we currently give them WAY too much free run over our living spaces.

      I’m just too much of an engineer to feel good about slowing other people down below the speed limit if I can avoid it. Whether I’m in a car or a bike, I consider it my moral imperative to keep the world running efficiently. Luckily there is a winning option for both of us.

      Reply
      • PatrickGSR94 September 1, 2015, 8:12 am

        But that’s the thing, the slowdown, if they even have to slow down, is usually only a few seconds at most. What motorists don’t seem to understand is that the speed limit is a maximum, not a target, or a minimum speed. There is no guarantee of any minimum speed anywhere, and no minimum speed limits except on limited-access highways.

        I just read recently that one state is removing their “Share The Road” signs because they’re ambiguous and don’t work, and in some cases even create MORE conflict. They’re replacing them with “Bikes May Use Full Lane” signs, which in my opinion, is the best type of infrastructure. They very clearly convey the rights of cyclists, especially when combined with the “Change Lanes To Pass” sign underneath it.

        Reply
        • LPower September 1, 2015, 11:34 am

          Agree with Patrick 100%, to the point that he’s writing what I would have, verbatim. The “slowdown” can be measured in seconds — nothing that isn’t overridden by stoplight waits. Also, if you’re on a bike and ride into the shoulder because you don’t want to slow a car, you reinforce drivers’ belief that you don’t belong on the road and should get your toy out of the way of real vehicles.

          Reply
        • Eric September 1, 2015, 2:55 pm

          I agree with you on all of the points, the problem is at 4:00 on a Friday the guy commuting an hour home often DOESN’T. I took up 1 lane of a 2 lane road (only other option was sidewalk with tons of driveways), and had around 10 people over a 1 mile distance come up behind me honking before eventually speeding around, a few getting a bit closer than I would’ve liked, or yelling at me to use the sidewalk. This was in Austin, TX, which is pretty bike friendly for the most part. I didn’t take that route again. It wasn’t because I decided I wasn’t in the right to do so, it’s because risking my neck to make an angry commuter angrier (under the guise of teaching him a lesson he isn’t going to learn from me anyway) wasn’t worth it.

          I get that someone should be teaching drivers this, but I don’t see a way for it to be done other than drastic infrastructure change, or a huge police effort to ticket people hassling cyclists (probably not very practical). Requiring everyone renewing their license to read a pamphlet isn’t going to help. Riding in the lane is just going to piss them off. Not sure what to do, but I’ll be sticking to the sidewalk and going slower for the foreseeable future.

          Reply
          • aj September 1, 2015, 6:38 pm

            +1 to this. On my current commute I cross a busy street by using the sidewalk and crosswalk. I know I have the right to change lanes and get in the turn lane, but I also have two kids. It only took one angry driver to convince me that sometimes it’s not worth the risk.

            Reply
    • Julia K. September 1, 2015, 2:46 pm

      Agreed! Using the center of the travel lane is by far the safest way to bicycle, regardless of speed (unless perhaps you’re at walking speeds). Those links are essential information for safe bicycling.

      Changing lanes to pass slower traffic is a normal part of driving. Motorists may want to pass me – and should not be angry about having to change lanes to make a safe and legal pass – whether I am driving a car at 34 mph, or a bike at 20 mph, or a bike at 10 mph, or a bus stopped at 0 mph.

      Most motorists understand this. A few don’t, but I refuse to sacrifice my safety to appease their bigotry. I am still safer where I can be seen and avoided by impatient drivers – none of whom actually want to cause a collision – than over on the right edge where I cannot be seen or avoided even by conscientious drivers. Crash statistics bear this out.

      Reply
      • Mr. Money Mustache September 1, 2015, 4:34 pm

        Wow! You Militant Car Driver Educators are a force to be reckoned with! Please keep up the good work!

        For my part, I’ll keep not slowing anyone down. Because if I was in Eric’s situation above, and one shithead after another was honking at me while I was biking in a law-abiding way, there would be a point where I’d stop and walk over and smash the offending driver’s windshield with my bike frame. This would lead rapidly to either jail time or death for me, so I prefer to avoid confrontations in the first place – because I’m aware of my highly irrational temper in life-threatening situations.

        Reply
        • The Frugal One September 2, 2015, 11:30 am

          How does riding an e-bike in traffic compare to hypermiling with the response from drivers?

          Reply
          • Mr. Money Mustache January 27, 2016, 4:28 pm

            I never slow anybody down while hypermiling (aka my normal driving) either. Sure, I’ll coast down to the red lights, but I wouldn’t go below the speed-limit on a 2-lane road or anything like that.

            Reply
  • TonyV. August 31, 2015, 8:40 pm

    Would you like a bed pan with that? Sorry, i couldn’t help myself.

    Reply
    • Robert Plant August 31, 2015, 9:24 pm

      Seriously. I stopped at “For casual trips like riding downtown for lunch”. I’m sorry, what? Why on earth would I ride downtown to eat my lunch?

      Reply
      • Joel September 1, 2015, 9:10 am

        Look at what you have created, Mr. Money Mustache! Your loyal tribe of frugalites is trying to out-mustache you.

        Reply
      • Marcia September 1, 2015, 10:23 am

        To enjoy your lunch in a tree-shaded park, while looking at the lake?

        Reply
        • Keith September 5, 2015, 1:07 pm

          This is actually what I thought (and what I did for dinner on Thursday). A few sandwiches, a few apples, handful of nuts, and my writing equipment. Watched the sun set over the lake while having dinner. 2 mile ride on bike (4mi roundtrip), so pretty trivial.

          Reply
      • win September 1, 2015, 11:04 am

        MMM must be spending more than $25,000 this year. :)

        Reply
        • Dr Bill September 1, 2015, 11:43 am

          @plant: Naaah, he just bags his fruit and jerky, I’ll bet….

          Reply
  • David (thegoblinchief) August 31, 2015, 8:40 pm

    I’ll admit there’ve been a number of trips I could have made by bike recently that I haven’t. Some of it laziness, some of it nagging injuries. An e-bike could help things out, but not enough to be worth buying (yet) versus using the single car we do own for those trips.

    The update is interesting – a few of your product links I’d not seen before.

    Reply
  • Morgen August 31, 2015, 8:43 pm

    I wanted to note the best reason to only go “bike speed” while on a bicycle… because that’s what us car drivers are counting on. Sudden speed, or lack, can skew our judgment as drivers. If the drivers are making assumptions based on the appearance of your ride, and we are, then driving at 40 mph can easily create a very difficult situation. For instance, they may see your bike, believe they have plenty of time to make a turn when they do not and someone could get hurt. We drive under constant assumptions that this car will go that fast, this pedestrian that slow, etc. Unexpected anything, much less speed, needs to be carefully thought out.

    Reply
    • Hollyluja September 1, 2015, 3:47 pm

      Yes! I bike commute and drive here in Portland, and most of the crashes I’ve seen that weren’t just pure driver negligence have been due to unusual speed on the cyclist’s part. It almost seems like the bike lanes should be <20 mph only for most surface streets. If you are cycling faster than that then you should move into the car lanes.

      It is the same reason that cycling on the sidewalk is dangerous – drivers looks for pedestrian speeds on sidewalks, bike speeds (10-20 mph) on the bike lanes, and car speeds in the car lanes.

      Happy to hear if anyone has a better solution!

      Reply
  • Dmitry August 31, 2015, 10:28 pm

    The only advantage i found in different kind of bikes is the weight. It is logical, the lighter the bike, the easier to pedal
    The rest is just your willpower, will you sit on it and start riding, goddammit, or keep it to demonstrate sportiness

    Mine is a cheap Schwinn, 5 gears(honestly, i use 3 of them). I ride to work – 50 km round trip. Can’t say it’s deadly exhausting. Gel trunks are more important, i’d say

    Reply
    • MyFrugalChicago September 1, 2015, 7:02 am

      Weight of bike does not make it easier or harder to pedal on the “flats” (i.e. flat gound). It makes you go a little slower uphill, and a little faster downhill. Depending on the hills in your commute, the weight could have very little or a huge difference.

      The position of the rider is very different between different bikes. A hybrid has you very upright, which may seem comfortable.. but it a very slow position, and you will have trouble maintaining 20 MPH by foot power. On the other extreme a Tri bike has you near laying down, and you will go much faster with the same power.

      More gears matter as you learn to tune your cadence. For example, I do best when my cadence is at 95 pedals per minute, +/- 5. With only 5 gears, I could not stay at this cadence range. Say at 22 MPH, I may have a choice of gear 4 that is 80 pedals per minute, or gear 5 that is 105 pedals per minute. With my 11 speed bike, I have the choice of gear 8 and 92 pedals per minute, or gear 9 and 98 pedals per minute. Really helps on long rides to always have the “right” gear. I use all 11 of my gears, and love them.

      Reply
      • NightFallTech September 1, 2015, 5:55 pm

        On this mornings ride in, 36.5km (with a coffee stop with friends in the middle today), I exceeded 40kph on the flats with my 42/16 single speed… :) so gears aren’t always neccessary.

        Reply
  • Chris I August 31, 2015, 10:51 pm

    I bought my first e-assist bike this year. It was a second-hand Surly Big Dummy cargo bike with 350w Bionx kit. This system stops assisting at 20mph, which is the legal max for e-bikes in most jurisdictions. Honestly, I can’t say I would be comfortable at 25mph+ in an urban environment. As you mention, left hooks become much more likely, and the consequences at that speed are more severe. You also need to consider stopping power. How quickly can you stop a heavy bike at 35mph?

    That said, this Big Dummy has been a game-changer. The flexibility of the xtracycle platform allows me to haul ladders, human children, dogs, pony kegs, etc, but the bike still rides like a normal bike. Highly recommended.

    Reply
    • MrFrugalChicago September 1, 2015, 7:04 am

      Bah this seems bad. I can already do 20MPH all day on pedal power, pretty sure an e-bike capped at 20 would be of no use for me. Sounds like the kits with no speed limit are better for me..

      Reply
      • Chris I September 1, 2015, 10:21 am

        What the e-assist does is erase hills and heavy loads. I can have 150lbs on my cargo bike and still comfortably cruise along at 20mph. I can climb the steepest hills without having to crawl in my lowest gear.

        A lot of the e-bikes out there now are basically e-motorcycles that people sometimes pedal. They should not use bike lanes or sidewalks (and in most jurisdictions, they are not legally allowed). Throwing a 700W motor with no speed limiter on a cheap mountain bike is a good way to get yourself killed. The bikes are not designed for that speed, and the brakes are woefully inadequate.

        Reply
  • Freedom35 August 31, 2015, 11:11 pm

    I clicked through to the Prodeco link and saw something interesting you didn’t seem to mention: It’s also a folding bike! Did you and your testers find that useful or not a feature you used?

    I used to own a folding bicycle and found it very versatile, especially living in the city (easy to get into a second floor walk-up and store in a small closet, combines well with trains and buses, meet a friend and then throw it in the trunk of their car, etc). Did the extra weight and bulk of the battery and motor negate the advantages of a small folding bike or was it still useful?

    I always thought a folding bike would be a good candidate for an e-bike conversion. Ideally one that can be taken on a plane folded.. rental car replacement anyone?

    Reply
    • Esther Paris September 1, 2015, 5:54 am

      Aviva Bikes also has a folding e-bike, the Viper. It costs about $1500. I got the Scout ($990 on sale). I’d gladly have a Viper if I had the money so I could go anywhere I wish by combining modality (bike to train, train, bike to destination.)

      Reply
    • Mr. Money Mustache September 1, 2015, 8:13 am

      Oh yeah! I did forget to mention that. The folding feature is indeed cool – because of that I can easily fit the big Prodeco in my little Scion xA with only one rear seat folded instead of two. Takes less space if you are storing it indoors too.

      Reply
  • Jep August 31, 2015, 11:35 pm

    My wife and each bought a Juiced Riders cargo e-bike and outfitted it to carry our 4 y.o. daughter. They are the cheapest electric cargo bikes we could find that can handle the hills of San Francisco. We also switched our car insurance to metromile where we only pay for miles we drive. We don’t drive much anymore. Being able to bike anywhere without sweating has been a life changer. I even ride to and from work once a week (23 miles one way)

    Reply
  • Mihaela September 1, 2015, 2:09 am

    Hey, does anyone have an idea what would the liberty trike cost ( I checked the site, but can’t find much info, it is just a game for adding points for now)? I use public transport since my job is pretty far from home, but I would gladly use that trike to get me there if it doesn’t need a driving license, because I don’t have one :D

    Reply
  • Eugene September 1, 2015, 5:04 am

    I’m a super fan of ebikes. I just purchased a dedicated ebike 3 weeks ago, and it’s really changed my life.

    I had some health issues this year (gall bladder went nuclear with complications), and was off work for over 4 months. My fitness and energy levels were at an all time low.

    My wife had her car 100% paid by her employer (petrol, insurance, servicing, the lot), but they recently changed their policy and took back the car, and increased her salary to compensate. So now we were down to a single car, and we were going to buy a sensible used car, to replace the one we’d lost, but then I heard the voice of MMM haunting me like a ghost.

    What if we could live without two cars? (shock horror!) Madness!

    Well, I work from home 4 days a week, only drive in one day a week for a weekly meeting (we’re essentially a remote work friendly company), and I thought – this should be easy! I mean, I can give it a go for a while, and if it gets too hard, then I can always relent.

    So I tried it out for a few months – reacquainted myself with the public transpor system, which when you use them outside of peak hours is actually pretty darn easy and awesome where I live.

    But there were a few places that I really enjoyed going to like my local park, which was about a good 30-40 minutes walk away, and then I like to go for a good 30-40 minute walk. So it would take me almost 2 hours all up for my usual lunchtime walk, which wasn’t really practical.

    So, then my wife suggested an electric bike, and I remember that MMM had mentioned it positively in a previous blog post. And I went out and bought one. I spent WAY TOO MUCH on my shiny new dedicated ebike and to be honest was swept up in the retail experience, but that made me all the more motivated to make this whole biking thing work.

    The last time I rode a bike I must have been 17 years old (I’m 39 now), so it was a long time ago, and I’d never rode in traffic before, always footpaths.

    And the place where I live is basically on the top of a really large hill, and all the places that I wanted to go to were at the bottom of said hill.

    Given my medical issues, and the hills I decided that an ebike was a good way to go.

    So there was a lot of fear and apprehension to overcome. But I set small, manageable goals like doing my grocery shopping on the bike, and gradually, day-by-day I used the bike for more and more errands and trips.

    I learned how to use Google Maps to plot out safe routes to my favorite destinations. I learned how to ride on the roads and built up my confidence.

    My workplace is 12kms or 7.5miles from home. And frankly the thought of commuting to work that distance seemed impossible to me just a month ago. But today I rode to work and back for the first time! It only took me about 33 minutes, which is actually a lot faster than my public transport option which was almost an hour, which shocked me!

    And because I ride outside of peak hour, the route I picked had virtually no traffic, and very enjoyable to ride.

    I’m still working up the courage to ride at night, and have acquired the appropriate blinky lights and reflective vests and cuffs (NB: studies have shown that wearing fluoro gear at night makes no difference to visibility, and adding reflective cuffs around ankles/knees in addition to a reflective vest and good lights doubles your visibility at night).

    But beyond the independence, and freedom, and frugal and health benefits, cycling with my ebike has given me more of a connection to my environment and even the local community.

    And the health benefits have been impressive too! In the past 2 weeks my wife says I’m a lot happier and have more energy, and I certainly feel that too. It’s amazing what happens if you just take as many of your regular commutes and errands and do them on a bicycle. You get all this exercise for FREE! It’s distance that you’d normally have to travel, it’s comparable in travel time to an automobile, and often faster in a lot of cases, and you don’t have to find the extra time in your day for the exercise.

    And the clincher. I would not have given a non-ebike a try. It seemed way beyond my ability after my surgeries, and the hilly terrain around home. But now I’m riding every single day, and can see myself as a regular e-bike commuter to work. So, if you’re in group #2 like myself, I highly recommend the e-bike. You still get a great workout, it flattens out those hills, gets you to where you want to faster, and is great fun!

    I have a 5kw solar panel system at home, so the electricity to charge up my bike which would be minimal anyway is essentially free.

    At the price I purchased my ebike, it will be a good 4-5 years before it pays for itself in strict dollar terms, but the added benefits to my health and independence and happiness have made this one of the best purchases ever. Thank You MMM!

    Reply
    • Sean September 1, 2015, 11:25 am

      While still better than burning gasoline or diesel, remember the juice is coming from a coal fired power plant.

      Reply
      • Mr. Money Mustache September 1, 2015, 1:34 pm

        This is worth answering again even though we covered it elsewhere. The US average is about 39% coal power, although you can often buy 100% renewable power if you care about this stuff as I do.

        But the real difference is in the AMOUNT of power consumed. A full tank of electricity for my e-bike is under SEVEN CENTS OF ELECTRICITY. This is for about 40 miles of riding. It is less than a tenth of the energy consumed even by the ultra-efficient Nissan Leaf electric car, and an even smaller fraction of the shit burned by a gas engine in a good 4-cylinder small car.

        Reply
      • Eugene September 1, 2015, 5:22 pm

        Good point. I personally buy my electricity from green sources such as the hydroelectric power, and have a big solar panel installation 5kw on the roof. It’s almost criminal to think that all this electricity would just be warming my roof tiles if those panels weren’t there!

        Reply
    • peter September 1, 2015, 12:07 pm

      Awesome story, very inspirational

      If you don’t mind telling, what city do you live in and what e-bike did you get? thanks!

      Reply
      • Eugene September 1, 2015, 5:26 pm

        Hi Peter, thanks for the support!

        I live in Melbourne, Australia (G’day mate!) in a suburb called Glen Waverley.

        The e-bike I purchased was the Scott E-Sub Tour 10 Mens Bike.

        Very happy with it, and having only the very beginning of some MMM stubble, the sportier appearance appealed to my sense of vanity, but does make it much more likely that I’ll go out and ride it!

        I’m such a recovering consumeraholic!

        Reply
    • NightFallTech September 1, 2015, 5:45 pm

      Great story, I know all about those Glen Waverley hills, I ride over Glen Waverley from Ferntree Gully to the city 3x per week! .. They are the limiting factor that keeps me down to 3x commutes per week.

      There are some good trails around Glen Waverley, recent found a back path from Coleman parade straight down to the Monash Aqautic centre, and of course there is the dandenong creek trail and Jells park to the east.

      I see there is a bike path under construction up railway parade which will almost connect the gardiners creek trail to Glen Waverley.

      Reply
  • Rob September 1, 2015, 6:26 am

    Great post MMM. I have used a variety of e-bikes over the last few years. I had a Ridekick motorized trailer that was nice in the sense that it could hook to any bike without the need for a bonafide conversion-20mph, good range, cargo space for groceries, etc., was a little wide on tight roads. I also at one point had a 250w hub motor kit with lithium battery from Clean Republic that was inexpensive, reliable, but lacked significant power.

    I’m currently using a Bafang 750w mid-drive. It’s phenomenal, and they are coming down in price since they came out a few years ago. It’s virtually silent, efficient (you can shift through the gears on your bike so it’s like a multi-speed transmission on a car), POWERFUL (I can cruise at 30+mph), has a Pedal Assist Function (PAS) that keeps you from having to keep the throttle rolled on, and cost me less than a a grand for the kit and 10ah downtube battery.

    My commute to work is 27 miles roundtrip. I used to do the ride on muscle power alone, got to work pretty sweaty and usually took over an hr. Now I get there in 40 minutes, no sweat, but still getting a workout in (I pedal the whole way with the PAS), averaging 20mph (would be faster if I opted for the bigger 12ah battery with more range). I bring my charger to work, unlock and pop off the battery and charge in my office, takes 2hrs to charge and then good to go. When I get home I pull in the garage and plug it in. Easy. Only 400 miles on this kit so far (I’ve had it about two months), but I’ve clocked about 1,000 electric commuting miles if you count my other kits.

    I’ve been riding (both racing and commuting, lived without a car for 29 years) for most my life. I also was skeptical about ‘copping out’ by going electric, but honestly it’s fun and I’m more motivated to get on the bike than I am with the non-electric option. If I didn’t have kids I would probably sell my car. It’s the next best thing to having an electric car or motorcycle. I figure it will pay for itself in about a years time.

    If you’re riding for recreation, don’t go electric. But if you’re considering going car free or car lite, or commute more than 10 miles, I think it’s totally worth it. I have had a good experience so far and am excited about what the future brings with the electric bike market

    Reply
    • Fuzz September 1, 2015, 11:13 am

      Wondering if the Bafang 750 watt mid drive would get a shout out. That’s my choice for my build. Next couple of weeks :)

      Reply
    • JHM September 2, 2015, 4:08 pm

      HI Rob,

      You seem to be one step ahead of me on the path to electric bikes. I was going to get a ridekick but they went out of business for awhile so I passed on that. I ended up getting a 250 watt front hub kit from Leed for $500 which wasn’t bad. The problem I had was it bent my steel fork dropouts. I recently got that repaired for $250 (no cheaper way around, I’m not compromising on a front fork). So my question to you is where did you get your kit from and was it hard to install? I’ve replaced bottom brackets and a bunch of other stuff on my bike.
      Thanks, J

      Reply
      • Joe Average September 4, 2015, 12:25 pm

        Yeah – I’d like to know more too about your source. This is definitely the kit I’ll buy – the mid-drive. I want to make use of the gears on my bike and I want RWD. I’ve ridden motorcycles and bicycles for years enough to say I don’t want bicycle FWD on slippery surfaces. One front wheel spin and I expect I’d go down very quickly where I know I can stay up with the rear wheel spinning a little. I don’t want to go down when there already isn’t a shoulder and I’m mingling with vehicle traffic.

        I live in a very hilly part of the south and will need the lower gears to haul my backside up the hills without running my battery flat with full throttle on a hub motor.

        Not looking for speed so much as the ability to “flatten the hills”.

        I’ve ridden to work but I’m far too sweaty and tired afterwards to face a work day. Am a sweaty guy anyhow but ~7 miles of steep Appalachian hills just isn’t an commuter option.

        The other concern I have is mixing with traffic while I struggle up these hills at ~1 mph while the traffic zips by at ~40 mph and no shoulder to ride on. I tried it on a weekday and the weekend. The weekday traffic was pretty scary in town. Oh what i wouldn’t give for a golfcart path that led from one end of town to the other where we work.

        Of course if I buy one, I’ll need to buy a second rig for my wife’s bike so she can commute with me. We already carpool every day. Honestly I can’t justify it on cost. The purchase price (x2) would equal us driving our very depreciated Chevy back and forth to work every single day of a year. I’m not going to bike everyday. I might bike part time during fair weather.

        Reply
    • Rob September 6, 2015, 6:23 am

      I got mine from LiBicycle on Ebay. I prefer to order from a US source. He was responsive to my questions and even sent another charger free of charge when the first was a dud. The kit including battery was $930 with free shipping. Lectric Cycles is also a good source, though they’re a little more expensive.

      Reply
      • Hannah September 15, 2015, 1:01 pm

        Rob – I’m a newbie when it comes to bike maintenance, repair, etc here, but I have been looking at the 500W version of this kit for weeks. I want to be self-sufficient in my mode of transportation and I currently bike commute ~10 miles roundtrip. However, I recently got rid of my car, and — living in a very hilly Southern town — I’m finding it difficult to do errands and go into town multiple times a day due to travel time and weight of my loads on the hills. From your experience, how difficult was this kit to install? How difficult do you anticipate it being for a newbie? Could you provide me a short list of the tools I will need to have to install? I’ve tried to get a hold of Lectric Cycles to ask, but haven’t been able to make contact. I’ll try LiBicycle next. Thank you!

        Reply
        • Wright October 27, 2015, 12:29 pm

          The Bafang kit definitely needs a shout out! I bought the 750w motor and battery ( cheap Chinese cells) off of Ebay in April for $1000. I also considered purchasing the full kit from Em3ev. Shipping is pricey, but their customer service is supposed to be good. They are worth a look.
          It is a fairly simple setup, because it just bolts on to the bike, basically. You will need a bottom bracket removal tool, pedal wrenches, cassette removal tool, etc. I bought a basic Tool Kit from Performance Bike that includes everything you need for the installation. You will also need zip ties to attach the wiring to the frame. I have put a couple of bikes together (non-electric), and it took me about an hour to install it.
          Mid-Drives kick the ass of front or rear hub motors, in my opinion. The weight of the battery and motor are both low to the ground and in the middle of the bike, which helps it handle better.Fixing flats is the same as a normal bike, you don’t have to contend with a 20 pound rear wheel. The mid-drive setup utilizes your bikes gears, which means superior efficiency. It climbs with ease, and it is super swift. People in cars are surprised as hell when they see me keeping up with them for the first few seconds from the stoplight.
          The 500w kit would work really well. You can use a smaller (thus less expensive) battery than I have. The 750w motor is overkill, to be honest. It is unnecessarily fast for me (40 mph!!)

          Reply
  • Chris September 1, 2015, 6:39 am

    Thanks for the links!!

    What are your recommendations for front wheel vs rear wheel. I would think the rear wheel motor would make you pop some wheelies when you’re hauling stuff.

    Reply
    • Mr. Money Mustache September 1, 2015, 7:50 am

      Both of my test bikes are rear wheel drive, but I like front wheel systems as well – faster to install (or de-install to return the bike to normal service), and then you don’t have to think about getting the right rear gear ratios or adjusting the shifters.

      Reply
    • Joe Average September 4, 2015, 12:29 pm

      The only thing that worries me about FWD is my experience with bikes and motorcycles. Lock the front wheel with the brakes and you will take a tumble. I’m assuming that riding with bike FWD on slippery surfaces with anything less than good traction (say leaves, snow, sand, gravel, oily pavement) and applying power at the same time might put you on the ground quicker than RWD. In my experience with RWD on bikes and motorcycles – there is at least some capability to power slide a little with practice. Guess it depends on your riding style.

      Reply
  • Chris September 1, 2015, 7:18 am

    Sorry, another question.

    How long will a lithium ion bike battery last?? I would expect 2 years with regular use seems about right. LiFe batteries are about $800 to replace, so that’s $400/year just on batteries. That’s more than I currently spend on gas.

    I guess I’ll do lead acid.

    Reply
    • Mr. Money Mustache September 1, 2015, 7:48 am

      Hey Chris – it is true that batteries are expensive, but I’d say your estimates are still a bit high. Assuming a massive commute where you need to charge fully every day (30 miles), you’d need roughly a $500 battery (10AH at 48V), and that would last at least 1000 charges (4 years of workdays). So maybe $125/year. But by the time you replace that battery, the price might be down by as much as 50% at the rate things are currently developing.

      Also, remember not to use gas cost as an approximation of the cost of driving a car. That’s only about a quarter of it.

      Lead batteries are so much heavier and shorter-lived, I wouldn’t mess with them on a bike at this stage.

      Reply
      • Chris September 1, 2015, 8:30 am

        I was just referencing the cost of the battery included in your linked kit. It is $740. Tax would take it to around $800 depending on your state.

        I agree with the points about car cost and economy of scale with batteries. Just hard to pull the trigger right now.

        1000 charges would be great. I wonder if there’s more info on this somewhere.

        So many options with varied/confusing prices!! It’s frying my brain, because I really want to buy one in the next few months. Recently moved to South Florida and the intense heat/humidity makes the bike commute a sweaty endeavor.

        Complete kit for $1500??? Partial Kit for $400 without a battery or disk brake???? Just a wheel for $1000. A complete bike for $1300??

        Decisions, decisions….

        Reply
        • Fuzz September 1, 2015, 11:14 am

          Check out alibaba and ebay. I think you can get a 10ah 48v lipo battery for under $300 shipped.

          Reply
          • Mr. 1500 September 4, 2015, 8:01 am

            I’m in the process of building an eBike and was a bit shocked (get it, shocked? Ha!) when I saw that the 48v, lithium battery sets you back a cool $740.

            The good news is that batteries are about to get much cheaper. Thank Elon Musk, the massive Gigafactory and the competition. As economies of scale ramp up, battery prices will fall. I expect that by the time I need to replace my batteries, they will be half the cost if even that.

            The future is electric. Bye-bye dinosaur gas.

            Reply
    • Troy Rank September 1, 2015, 8:20 am

      Chris,

      The cost of batteries is about 2c / mile. Checkout the details in my ugly spreadsheet https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/d/1Z-K6MjSvo4V21o8nADxt0RGNUox5UlW7QUOcfkE5q9k/edit?usp=sharing

      I have about 16k miles on a battery pack worth about 400-800 bucks, and it shows no signs of stopping.

      Reply
    • Rob September 1, 2015, 8:27 am

      LiFePo have come down in price. My battery pack that mounts on the downtube bottle mounts is a 48v 10ah Li Ion (lighter than LifePo, slightly less cycle life (600-700). I can get about 15 miles range on full throttle. It was about $400 shipped. They are Chinese cells but seem to be doing fine after 400 miles. Would opt for Japanese cells if I had a choice, though. I expect it to last 3 years or so, at which point batteries will probably be cheaper and longer lasting.

      Reply
  • Harvey September 1, 2015, 7:53 am

    Is there any opinion on which electric bike would perform the best for different weather:
    Rain
    Snow
    Ice

    I am interested in purchasing one but where I live we have snow over half the year and was wondering if any of them would be good in the warmer winter months where there is just light snow.

    Reply
  • Patrick September 1, 2015, 8:02 am

    Ever since I first twisted the throttle on the first ebike I built I was hooked. I was on a motorcycle, but there’s just something about that invisible silent punch in the back power of an electric that always manages to cheer me up. I now have two bikes: http://evalbum.com/2835 and http://evalbum.com/4509. The big one works great for my 32 mile roundtrip seriously huge hill commute. I’ve done it with a normal bike, but with those hills it’s a 3 hour ride home. On the electric it’s 40 minutes, and I still get home feeling like I had a good workout.

    I like to think of my electrics as exercise bicycles combined with cars. You get where you need to be, when you need to be there. With as much exercise as you want, or sweat free if you need, all while skipping traffic!

    Reply
    • Patrick September 1, 2015, 8:12 am

      Previous comment should read that I was on a motorcycle before switching to ebikes. I don’t have an electric motorcycle regardless of what my wife calls my high powered bikes!

      Reply
  • mikael September 1, 2015, 8:22 am

    Good and interesting article as usual. And cycling rules :)

    However, I wonder if you are now spending more money per month. When you type:

    “Since this Could still steal away some of my exercise … do more biking than before. Running out to get some last-minute cilantro … or missing supplies halfway through a day of house construction, and so on”

    Personally, I try to visit a store as few times as possible per month. And only make bulk purchases. And if I run out of something, I improvise and make do with what I have.

    Reply
  • midwest_mayhem September 1, 2015, 8:40 am

    For anyone looking to purchase or especially make your own electric bike, I urge you to check out the forums and wiki’s at https://endless-sphere.com/. There you will find the most concentrated and highest quality knowledge pertaining to electric bikes and other lightweight electric vehicles on the internet. I built my own bike (45-50 mph top speed, 35 mile range, no pedaling) entirely off of things I learned from “the sphere.” There you can learn from other people’s projects and mistakes. (my bike can be found at https://endless-sphere.com/forums/viewtopic.php?f=6&t=60932)

    Also, to add to MMM’s list, http://www.ebikes.ca/ is another quality North American ebike component vendor that is pushing innovation in the industry.

    For handy Mustachian’s, you can ride much further and faster for your dollar if you build it yourself.

    Reply
  • kiwano September 1, 2015, 9:16 am

    This kinda jibes with my experience when I replaced my heavy, rusted-out old hybrid (which I’d bought as a teenager, and had served me through a decade and a half of heavy all-year riding, only the last 7 years of which were accompanied by any reasonable maintenance skills or schedule) with a considerably lighter, fancier, built-it-myself-while-working-at-a-bike-shop touring bike: a bike that seems “easier” leads far less often to reduced exercise than it does to increased riding. Just a lot of changes like riding 5km to the Polish neighbourhood and back to buy sausage, instead of settling for the more expensive and less tasty sausage at the supermarket around the corner (yes, this is an actual lifestyle change that my fancier bike prompted).

    Reply
  • John Dawson September 1, 2015, 9:29 am

    Full disclosure here….I own an ebike shop….I am not mentioning for self promotion just establishing the fact I have some experience on this topic. I am a big fan of Mr Mustache — having lived in an Airstream trailer after college back in the 90s so I could save money, I have always tried to live Mustache oriented lifestyle and was a quick convert to ebikes when I discovered them some years ago. With ebike the issue here is not just the initial price, it the upkeep and availability of parts. There are so many off brands that are simply English labels on poorly made Chinese models. In our world when an ebike breaks down and there is not sufficient support behind the product…it is a disaster. You have spent good money on a transportation alternative that is now a brick. And now you do not believe in ebikes and what then can do. We have folks come to our store daily that bought ebikes off the internet and have dead batteries and there is nothing that can be done as the “companies” don’t really exist, at least outside of China. We did a trial of Prodeco bikes when we opened and found their support so abysmal so we stopped carrying them. You are not just paying for a better design and higher quality more reliable parts with a higher price ebikes, you are buying companies that will still stand behind you and get you the parts you need two years down the road when something goes wrong. With any real transportation option, reliability is the name of the game. We take support of our customers so seriously we even offer free loaners to our customers knowing they are relying on them as transportation tools….not a toy. Thanks for shining a light on ebikes. They really are a practical green solution so many transportation ills of cities, while giving you some exercise and fresh air at the some time. But when buying ebike….do your homework. caveat emptor.

    Reply
  • MK September 1, 2015, 9:31 am

    This is really interesting information. I’d love to be able to bike more but after 15 minutes or so I get the bad type of knee pain. The pedaling motion just doesn’t work for me. An e-bike might be the perfect solution so I can bike a variety of distances. I’ll definitely think about this for the future. Any other Canadians want to comment on what e-bike they purchased?

    Reply
    • SD September 3, 2015, 3:59 pm

      Hi MK,

      You might be able to make your knees hurt less, if you tune your riding position slightly. This can sometimes be a very simple change to your riding position.

      http://www.ilovebicycling.com/knee-pain-cycling-causes-solutions/

      Look around and see if any bike shops in your area do fittings. Getting a proper bike fitting could be less than an e-bike!

      Reply
  • Kyle September 1, 2015, 9:33 am

    Very nice! Excited to finally see the follow up. I’ve been a long term follower of MMM as well as ebikes. I recently launched a kickstarter campaign for an ebike type of item as well! Except it’s a little more car like… It may not be the most Mustachian item, but I hope it’s a transition for people from car to ebikes. The Sondors Ebike has been a good one on a budget as well. I have two of them myself. https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/ekomobil/picar-a-recumbent-pedal-car-with-style

    Reply
    • PatrickGSR94 September 1, 2015, 2:20 pm

      In my opinion that’s just too gimicky. Why have all that stuff that looks like internal combustion engine cylinders and exhaust pipes, which add weight? I’d rather have an actual aerodynamic-shaped velomobile.

      Reply
  • Brandon Buckner September 1, 2015, 9:38 am

    Great Article Thanks!

    I recently converted my Jamis mountain bike for under $1000 from this site http://www.gocarlite.com/

    Best thing I ever did! My BMX will be next.

    -B

    Reply
  • Paula(pbkmaine) September 1, 2015, 9:46 am

    DH and I have Pedego Comfort Cruisers, which we use for longer trips. Like poorplayer, we fit into an older demographic (67 and 59), and the electric assist is great for that last stretch home. For short trips, we use our Raleighs.

    Reply
  • Zack September 1, 2015, 9:55 am

    Hello all,
    I recently had the opportunity to try out electric assist in the form of Ridekick.
    It’s a low profile trailer that can attach to your existing bike. It performs as well
    or better than the other electric options I’ve tried out(full electric bicycle and front wheel conversion)
    but I can hook it up to my own bike on a whim AND carry extra cargo(which is when I need the help!)
    and it’s in the lower midrange price wise. I was impressed. Check it out if you really like your current bike
    and want a convenient solution to help with shopping or hills. Especially both.

    Reply
  • Mr Awesome September 1, 2015, 10:01 am

    How much is the ticket in Boulder for riding a motorized vehicle on a non-motorized bicycle and pedestrian pathway?

    Yes I’m a cyclist. And I think this question needs discussion. Hey its a motor! Get that damn thing off my non-motorized pathway. And def keep it off my local hiking trail system.

    Reply
    • Mr. Money Mustache September 1, 2015, 1:45 pm

      There’s another way to think about it: “Hey, it sure is great to have more people using these non-road pathways! That means we can build more of them, and fewer car roads. Less pollution, less death, and a better life for everyone.”

      This is worth compromising one’s own strict views on who should use a path – as long as the e-riders are fully obeying the rules of the path. If not, you have my permission to knock them into the creek.

      Reply
      • Chris I September 1, 2015, 11:50 pm

        Going over 20mph on a multi-use path, motor or no motor, creates a hazard for the other users. I say this as someone who owns 3 bikes and rides constantly. Fast vehicles belong on the road.

        Reply
        • Baron September 2, 2015, 10:48 am

          20MPH is a pretty easy target on a roadbike or mountain bike. And on many paths that speed would be more than appropriate.

          Reply
        • Mr. Money Mustache January 27, 2016, 4:35 pm

          Totally – it all depends if there are other riders in sight. Here in Longmont, on weekdays and evenings (especially in winter), I often have the whole bike path to myself. So I have been known to exceed 20.

          At other times, like when you’re passing people with dogs or kids, you might be at 5MPH or slower.

          Whether you have electric boost or not has nothing to do with it – your speed while in the presence of other humans depends on how much of a dickhead you are. (Which is why I consider car drivers who pass pedestrians without letting their foot off the gas to be especially inconsiderate).

          Reply
  • Marcia September 1, 2015, 10:26 am

    I have a couple of friends and neighbors who have E-bikes and really enjoy them. There are at least two neighbors at our weekly potluck. One knows the owner of the local E-bike shop, the other is someone who doesn’t drive and never has (both women).

    I have to say the E-bike kit is tempting. We’ve gotten out of the biking habit. It’s 10 miles to work. I’ve thought about trying to get back into it 1-2x a week. But I’m slow as molasses. It takes me nearly an hour (probably 50-55 minutes) to ride those 10 miles when you factor in a couple of big hills and traffic lights.

    If I could shave 15 minutes off though (really just use the E-bike on the hills), it might make my commute more frequent. Hmmm

    Reply
  • mike September 1, 2015, 10:28 am

    Geez MMM, it seems it’s been awhile since a posting, but the wait is well worth it.

    How exciting your article! Yesterday, I’m riding my Honda scooter (110CC, 85MPG, no one gets from Point A to B quicker than I do) and I’m wondering why the masses choose to sit in traffic in their SUVs and high end cars. Seriously, it dumbfounds me. I went to Palm Springs and I even brought my scooter in the hotel room for safe keeping, showing that those who have parking issues (like Long Beach, CA) could just store the scooter in the entrance of their apartment.

    This guy rode by me the other day on an electric bike. I could not believe how fast he was going (I would guess easily 35MPH). This is so much a game changer, thanks MMM.

    Reply
  • Mr.SelfReliance September 1, 2015, 10:35 am

    Love this article! I currently use a Giant City Escape to bike to work and back everyday. My commute is only 3 Kilometers though. Currently looking at changing jobs and my commute would be 10k each way. Still a reasonable ride, but I’d like to consider an e bike to save on time when I need it.

    I really love my hybrid bike, would you recommend just getting a kit for it? Or would I be better off getting a straight up e bike?

    Reply
  • Dennis September 1, 2015, 10:38 am

    I just looked into this a bit for my home state of NY. I’ve been working on becoming a part of the group, but my current location is making it difficult to switch to biking. I do want to move at some point to be closer to job/etc, but it isn’t where I am right now.

    Also I sweat profusely, and easily. I feel terrible coming into work without a shower, and my work does not have a shower.

    Enter electric bicycle as a gateway possibility.

    Alas in NYS they are just straight up illegal. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Electric_bicycle_laws#United_States

    Quite a shame.

    Reply
    • Mr. Money Mustache September 1, 2015, 1:41 pm

      HOLY SHIT!! I just looked that up and you are right – the idiot politicians actually banned them there. New York often amazes me with its suckiness.

      But that’s still not an excuse – THOUSANDS of people in New York correctly use electric bikes, and NYCEwheels.com itself is based there. The law is rarely enforced.

      Better to ride an e-bike illegally than to cause unnecessary risk to fellow humans with a car legally.

      Reply
      • Esther Paris September 1, 2015, 5:47 pm

        I can just hear Arlo Guthrie:
        “Kid, whaddyaget?”
        “I didn’t get nothin’. I had to pay $5k and give up the battery.”
        “What were you arrested for?”
        “Ridin’ an e-bike.”
        .. and they all moved away from me on the Group W Bench, till I said “And creating a nuisance”. Then they all moved back over and we was havin’ a great time there.

        Reply
        • Kyle September 1, 2015, 7:18 pm

          (“KID, YOU REHABILITATED YOURSELF?”)

          Reply
          • Esther Paris September 8, 2015, 4:00 pm

            Too bad underlines & italics are too hard to do! Thanks for the laugh.

            Reply
      • Dennis September 2, 2015, 8:07 am

        Okay. I will look at it a little more. I need to buy a bike first of course (as I said, I was hoping for the electric bike to be my gateway).

        Also, any suggestions for dealing with lots and lots of sweat when going to work?

        Reply
      • Beekeeper Dave September 8, 2015, 11:38 am

        YES! Awesome people have been straight up ignoring useless laws in NY for a long time now. There used to be a whole underground urban beekeeping community in NYC that would set their hives up on rooftops and hide them under hollowed out air conditioning units! Can you just imagine that? Guerilla agriculture, right in the middle of the ultimate urban jungle! The ban on beekeeping has since been lifted, as I’m certain the ban on E-bikes will be lifted soon if people just go right on ahead and operate them. It just doesn’t make sense not to utilize this technology there. Electric bikes have -got- to be better than an endless gridlock of honking cars.

        Reply
    • SR September 2, 2015, 1:26 pm

      I wouldn’t take Wiki’s word for it. I believe they are illegal in Manhattan (crackdown on ebikes due to delivery guys riding on sidewalks etc..), but I’m not sure about the state as a whole. I live in Rochester, NY and there are a few bike shop that sell ebikes here and there’s even an ebike store in Ithica! I have over 5000 miles of Ebike commuting over the last 2 years and know of several more riders in the area and never had issues with the law…

      Reply
  • MEL810 September 1, 2015, 10:47 am

    Because of health issues and a problem with balance, I can no longer ride a regular bike, especially in this hot, humid area.
    The public transit in this area is non-functional on weekends and after 7 p.m., so I was thinking of getting a regular trike or a 3 wheeler scooter so I wouldn’t be so stranded at home on weekends.
    But that electric trike looks like just the ticket for me. Yo doggies!
    Although I doubt I’d ride it to the far flung suburbs here where stores like Trader Joe’s live. The motorists in this area tend to be very aggressive and unaccommodating to cyclists and pedestrians.
    I would, however, use it to go out and about in the city proper.

    Reply
  • Dan S. September 1, 2015, 11:28 am

    You’re setting a bad example by using an electric bike on bike/pedestrian paths. Even if *you* think you can do it safely, others won’t. There’s a reason these paths are off-limits to motorized vehicles.

    Reply
  • skunkfunk September 1, 2015, 11:48 am

    Another excellent article, thank you.

    Reply
    • skunkfunk September 1, 2015, 11:51 am

      To finish my comment – I had recently (last winter) quit bicycle commuting for the most part. I did cycle in today, but it is far less frequent. This is due to the assholes driving around town here. The worst parts are not necessarily the 4 lane roads, but two lane and neighborhood roads.

      I’m tempted to get an electric kit and see whether I can keep a fast enough pace to avoid enraging the asshats, but I’m not convinced that they don’t see a bike and just rage-mash the pedal. This is in Oklahoma City, where it is considered patriotic to burn as much fossil fuel as is humanly possible.

      Reply
      • Walter M September 3, 2015, 7:51 pm

        Have you been to Houston? OKC seems like child’s play on gas guzzlers compared to Houston. Although I will admit there are a lot of trucks. I’m curious, what does your commute look like? I live in OKC as well and have been wanting to make the switch. I’ve got a 9.5 mile commute from Bricktown out to SW OKC.

        Reply
        • Susan September 6, 2015, 3:10 pm

          I live in OKC area and LOVE my e-bike. Nice to see the article here and positive comments about e-bikes. I purchased a Raleigh Detour electric and love it. I commute from far south to Downtown OKC and what the e-bike has done was to take away all excuses – hills, wind, time and huge sweatiness. Having formerly been a road biker in my younger days, it felt a bit like “cheating”. But I just don’t have the time, and I’m really slow. Having the e-bike also means that it’s easy to think about taking the long way around to avoid the traffic. Walter, a 9.5 mile commute for you will take about 40-45 minutes. Best way to get across the river – Byers or Robinson are best or possibly Walker. Shields has too fast traffic and on Eastern people in pickups yell more. Also, city buses have bike racks, so it’s easy to combine a bike/bus combination.

          Reply
  • Amber September 1, 2015, 11:57 am

    We have a third hand Yuba mundo with their first generation electric assist, ezee I think. It is grossly underpowered if I want someone else to do the work especially up hills. But it gives this biking mama the confidence to try. It has been life changing. Now my neighbors with a suburban kids tell their mom that they want to ride their bikes to swim team practice with us instead of driving.

    Reply

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