163 comments

Recipe for a Badass DIY Electric Mountain Bike

 

IMG_20160525_185336By this point, we already know that bikes are awesome and good for you, cars are useful for a few limited things but come with major disadvantages, and electric bikes combine most of the advantages of both.

But they do still come with the downside of, “how does a somewhat experienced cyclist get a really good, fast one without spending several thousand dollars?”

I’ve made two attempts at the problem so far, with the following two bikes in my little test fleet right now:

I started with a home-brewed conversion of an existing commuter bike, putting it together with speed as the only consideration. This bike is fun and can hit 40MPH if you set both the motor and your legs to maximum. But the narrow wheels and zero-suspension design is not ideal for speeds like that: I blew out the front tire and broke a back spoke in bumps and potholes during the first thousand miles of riding. And even if you can avoid damage, the ride is VERY rough when you force yourself through city obstacles at greater than normal speed.

Somewhere in there, I added a Prodeco mountain bike, to see how pre-built bikes compare to a conversion and to see if I could tempt Mrs. MM and her friends into e-biking. Diagnosis: a solid bike, but too tall and heavy for smaller people. The big tires, front suspension and disc brakes, however, were way more useful to me than I expected. Despite the mandatory 20MPH speed restriction, this quickly became my favorite bike for trailer-pulling, rough roads, and snowy conditions.

However, a friend of mine in the neighborhood decided to seek the best of both worlds: a kit that is both more affordable and higher performing than the stuff I used, with a good quality full suspension mountain bike that he selected from Craigslist. Heavy duty, light weight, lower cost, and the full 40 MPH of speed on tap if you dare to use it – a rare perfect combination in the electric bike market.

My inventor friend is Carl, better known as Mr. 1500 from his blog 1500 Days to Freedom. He is another financially independent family man / tech industry veteran in his early 40s who likes to build stuff, which means we always have lots to talk about when our paths cross here in the streets of Longmont.

Since the real challenge of putting something like this together is the research, I asked Carl if he would share his findings. He surprised me with the following complete story and recipe for the build.

Mr. 1500’s Badass Electric Bike Conversion

I’ve always loved two-wheeled machines. I’m 42 now, but still remember the day that I learned to ride a bicycle clearly. I was 7 years old and my dad had been patiently running behind me, holding the seat while I learned to balance. After about a week of practice, he let go and I continued on, upright.

At that moment, I felt freedom. I could zoom all over the neighborhood at a pace that seemed like warp speed compared to my previous mode of locomotion, walking. My friends and I spent the summers putting many, many miles on our bicycles. It was good.

My love for two-wheeled machines never faded. When I was 20, I bought a motorcycle. While I enjoyed taking twisty roads at high speed, I just didn’t use the motorcycle enough. It mostly collected dust in the garage, so I sold it.

Back in 2014, I read MMM’s post on his Ebike with great interest. I occasionally missed the thrill of going fast on two wheels. Could an Ebike give me some of that need for speed while at the same time, getting me out of the car-cage?

Pete let me test ride his new machine and it was a thrill. At one point, I found myself thumbing for a turn signal, just as I would have on a motorcycle. Somewhere deep down, my brain thought I was back on a motorcycle. Game over. I had to have my own electric machine.

My Ebike

After doing loads of research, I decided to build a slightly different Ebike than MMM’s. Instead of a hub motor like his, I went with a mid-drive mounted motor. This means that the motor is mounted at the crank instead of in the hub. The mid-drive is great for climbing and centralized weigh distribution.

The bike: Mustache advised me to look for a full suspension bike. At the higher speeds of an Ebike, the suspension helps maintain control. I also wanted a bike that would accommodate the battery on the water bottle mount. Finally, I wanted low weight. The Jamis Dakar fit the bill, but there are plenty of suitable bikes out there. Its suspension geometry allows for mounting the battery pack centrally and the bike weighs in at 29 pounds. After a couple days of Craigslist* hunting, I found a nice example for $400.

jakar-base

 

The kit: I knew that I wanted a mid-drive kit, but I needed to figure out the details:

  • Motor: I went with a 750 watt Bafang unit (note that Bafang has since released a 1000 watt motor). This kit allows the bike to cruise around at about 30 mph with no pedal input.
  • Battery: Bigger is better. This bike is meant to be a commuting tool, so I went with a big battery pack; 52 volts, 13.5 amps. I also bought a pack with high quality, Panasonic 18650 cells, the same that sit in a Tesla.
  • Charger: Lithium-ion batteries are temperamental beasts. They last much longer if you don’t charge them up to 100%. I paid extra for a charger that can charge the battery up to 80% or 90% to prolong the life.

kit

Clockwise from top left: charger, electric motor, crankset, tool kit, computer, battery pack

All of my Ebike components came in the form of a kit from Lunacycle (other places on the internet to order the kit include Dillenger and and EM3EV). The kits come with the motor, battery, sprocket, crank arms, display/computer, charger and just about everything else you need to build the Ebike. I also ordered a tool kit from Amazon and this adapter which was necessary to mount the battery on the water bottle mounts. Finally, I purchased a new chain which was needed to accommodate the larger sprocket.

The Build

I’ve done minor bike maintenance like changing tires and chains, but nothing quite as extensive as this. I was most concerned with taking apart the bottom bracket where the new mid-drive would sit.

My worries were completely unfounded. In fact, I was surprised at just how easy the build was. The most technical part was soldering together a couple of wires. With proper planning, even a novice can install this kit in two hours.

install-steps
From left to right: Disassembling the bottom bracket, installing the battery mount and connecting everything up

Basic Steps

  1. Remove the bottom bracket. Note that you’ll need special tools for this.
  2. Install the mid-drive motor unit.
  3. Install the battery pack mount and battery.
  4. Install the electronics including the speed sensor on the back wheel, the display unit and throttle on the handlebars.
  5. Connect all of the electronics.

 

finishedbike

Optional: Because the bike was full suspension, I recalibrated the rear shock to accommodate the increased weight.

Cost: The Ebike ended up costing about $1,600. The bike was $400 while the Ebike kit was $1100. The toolkit, chain and other supplies ran the bill up another $100. While $1600 is a lot of money, this bike is far better than off-the-shelf models that cost twice as much. Also, have you seen what a car costs lately?

The Ride

The Bafang mid-drive has two different types of electric assistance; pedal assist and throttle. The pedal assist detects when you are pedaling and fires up the motor, giving you a boost. My version of the kit came with five different levels, 5 being the fastest. The kit also has a throttle that can be used similar to a motorcycle. You can also program the kit through an optional cable. For example, if you don’t want to use the pedal assist, you can reprogram the unit to eliminate it and just rely on the throttle.

When you take your new Ebike on its maiden voyage, brace yourself and be careful! You’ll feel like superman the first time you turn the pedals and the pedal assist kicks in. Prepare yourself to get around town at a speed much faster than you’ve become accustomed. I was also pleasantly surprised to find that the motor is quiet and smooth. When I showed the bike to friends, most didn’t even realize it was an Ebike.

The first big ride was a 16 mile trip to Lafayette, CO. The ride would have taken me at least 75 minutes on a conventional bike. Despite a stiff headwind, rolling hills, and stoplights that didn’t go my way, I completed it in 45. Because it was my first ride, I was conservative. If I would have used the throttle to enhance the pedal assist, I would have been there much faster.

Why should you ride an Ebike?

Before I rode my new Ebike,  I was worried that it might make me lazy. Would I just lay on the throttle and coast around everywhere with minimal (or no) muscle effort? The answer is a decisive No. When I’m on the Ebike, I find myself pedaling as hard as I normally do. The difference is that I get everywhere much faster. With that in mind, I would recommend an Ebike for two reasons:

Kill your Excuses: A 20 minute trip to Home Depot becomes a 10 minute trip on an Ebike. No more of the “I don’t have time to bike” excuse. You’ll get to most places at a pace similar to what you’d do in the old car. Only, you’ll be in the open air. What is better than that?

You’ll expand the distances you’re willing to bike: A couple weekends ago, I went to visit a friend in a town 20 miles away. With an Ebike, a 40 mile round-trip commute is no big deal.

It all comes back to time. I work full-time and so does my wife. We also have two children. Time is precious. The Ebike allows me to spend more time on a bike and less time in the car. I’m getting exercise and enjoying the Great Outdoors, free from that old metal cage. It is good.

Thanks for sharing, Mr. 1500! I don’t have space for any more bikes, but if I were in the market, this would be my first choice of e-bike given today’s parts scene.

  • Jimmy May 25, 2016, 10:14 pm

    For those of us folks with limited attention spans, maybe lack of building skills, but still desire an electric mountain bike, how highly do you recommend the Prodeco? Or are there any others that catch your eye?

    Reply
    • Fiscally Free May 26, 2016, 8:45 am

      I’ve been researching e-bikes pretty extensively recently and it seems like this kit is the best option for now. All the commercially available, fully assembled e-bikes seem to be under-powered, overpriced, or both.
      If you’re serious about getting an e-bike, I say take a chance and try a kit. You might just learn something new, and if you have any issues or don’t want to buy the special tools required, your local bike shop would probably help you assemble it for next to nothing.

      Reply
    • Charles Hogsett May 26, 2016, 9:07 am

      I bought a 1st gen Prodeco Genesis used a couple weeks ago. This seems like a good sturdy bike. I was immediately able to double my mileage from 8 miles in 1 day on my old worn out Mongoose, to 16 miles in 1 day on this. This review isn’t going to be reflective of the newer models and unworn batteries. I have a 24V battery. I believe motor is 200 or 250w. I consider this sort of a boost. It provides no assistance once I get up to speed. If going up hill, I am tired and close to stopped\, I can turn the throttle and get going again. I’m happy with this purchase to the extent that it convinced me that I could use a bike as transportation. Otherwise, Averaging under 10 miles an hour doesn’t do it for me when this makes my commute and hour both ways. Been a good learning experience.

      – I’m debating upgrading this to something aftermarket such as mentioned here. Because of the weight and the outcome of scrapping what I got, I’m uncertain of doing that. I might just sell this and look for a good bike like the one mentioned here. Anyone know enough about these to comment?

      pros: Can bike 8.5 miles each way to work. (I have a gym near my work to shower).
      Extends my mileage some
      gives me a little boost at the beginning of takeoff.

      cons: Is not fast
      More powerful battery without limiter would be a huge benefit.

      Reply
      • John June 15, 2017, 10:07 pm

        I have a Trek 4900 alpha and I went with a front hub motor. It is a 48v, 1000 watt champion from Walmart and it works great.

        My battery is a Lithium 48v, 21 amp, 1000 watt unit shipped from China. I can do 38 mph on flat ground, and the system has a range of 38 miles on full charge.

        It’s the best bike I’ve ever owned!

        Reply
    • The Hidden Green May 26, 2016, 11:22 am

      My mom has a Prodeco! She slowed down on exercising because of an ankle injury a number of years back, but the bike has got her outside and moving again. Her and my dad live up a MONSTER hill (think Big Sur style mountain) and the bike has powered her up it for 4 years. I was skeptical when I first saw it, but have become the biggest fan. Really opened up a lot of fun for her and my dad. (My only thing with Prodeco is they got jipped in my opinion on the name when Pedego hit the scene.) Not as rad as a DIY one, but it has been a solid, lasting machine. Hope that helps a bit with the search, Jimmy!

      Reply
    • Nick May 26, 2016, 12:30 pm

      Hi Jimmy, I just had a 23 year-old mountain bike that was given to me by my brother converted locally. 11.6 Amps and a 1000 Watt motor. I’ve gotten it up to 30 mph with furious pedaling (faster possible if you have bigger cogs) and it’ll easily do 25 on flats. Has pedal assist and a throttle. My 4.5 mile hilly commute to work now takes the same amount of time on my bike (less in the evening) as my car. Long story long, I highly recommend seeing if any local shops will do a conversion for you. Just find a donor bike and drop it off and get ready to have a lot of fun! Total cost (bike was free) was $1,150 installed. You simply won’t find factory e-bikes that will compete on price and doing a conversion really allows you to customize to your needs.

      Reply
      • Jimmy May 26, 2016, 2:00 pm

        Great idea! We have quite a few bike shops near by. I’ll try that avenue as well. Thanks for the idea.

        Reply
    • Brook W May 31, 2016, 2:31 pm

      I bought a BH Emotion. Great ride, occasional hiccups with the electronics. The cool news is, an identical line of bikes (same exact build, probably made by the same factory) is available for $1000 less, called Magnum.

      Reply
    • Craig June 1, 2016, 9:02 am

      I test rode the Prodeco’s, they’re pretty good. However I bought a Bafang BBSHD mid-drive, which is the faster, 1000w version of the BBS02 profiled by the author, along with a similar 52v battery. Believe me it is worth the money. I’m at 600 miles in just a few months, riding it everywhere while my car becomes a dust collector.

      These Bafang drives are so easy to install your local bike shop can do it, and you can order through Luna or EM3EV and get US style warranty and customer service at Chinese prices. There is also very little maintenance required, although your bike needs more maintenance because going fast wears on parts, and you don’t want things to fail at high speed. The BBSHD is truly amazing – silent, stealthy and very reliable. Even if you don’t need that kind of power all the time, it’s an option worth having. You’ll appreciate it when one of those 20% hills gets in your way.

      Total bill for a BBSHD, 52v 13.5ah battery, charger and installation is probably $1400 after tax & shipping. It may feel strange putting all that on a bike you got from Craigslist, but in the world of used bikes, $500 can buy a lot if you’re patient. There is a wealth of knowledge 0n Endless-Sphere.com and electricbike.com that will help you find the right bikes. Or just call one of the kit retailers.

      My personal advice is spend the extra for the BBSHD. It is more powerful and reliable. Saving $150 on the BBS02 is penny-wise pound-foolish.

      Reply
  • JP May 25, 2016, 10:23 pm

    Very interesting post. I commute 16 miles each way to work and always wanted to ride my bike to work but knew with 2 kids, I would hardly see them during the week if I did so. This may be a great solution! Maybe I will have to earmark some tax return money next year for this type of project. I too got rid of my motorcycle last year for the same reasons as Mr.1500 but miss certain aspects of being out in the open. Thanks for the post and the inspiration!

    Reply
    • Mr. 1500 May 26, 2016, 5:43 am

      JP, you sound like a perfect candidate for an Ebike! My main reason for building this was never to pedal less, but to get from point A to point B faster with the same amount of effort.

      Reply
      • Jim Wang May 26, 2016, 8:27 am

        I doubt someone looking at ebikes really wants to pedal less… since you can pedal less in a car. :)

        Reply
  • woodnut May 25, 2016, 10:45 pm

    Hi MMM & Mr1500,

    I’m a “neighbor” of you guys up in Berthoud. I ride my bike around town but Berthoud is just a bedroom community. I end up going to either Longmont or Loveland for work, grocery shopping etc. Both are 10 miles so I’m looking at upgrading to an e-bike. I’m torn whether to add a Bafang to my city bike. I have a bike trailer for hauling. Or for $1600 I can buy a Rad Power Radwagon cargo e-bike, no trailer needed. What would you guys recommend? My current city bike is partial suspension and only has V-brakes. I have to admit though, riding my bike on the shoulder of 287 with cars passing at 70+ mph freaks me out little.

    Reply
    • Mr. 1500 May 26, 2016, 5:47 am

      I’m not familiar with the Radwagon, but many commercial Ebikes are limited to 20 mph and come with lower quality batteries. I wanted to be able to go faster, so the Bafang fit the bill.

      Regarding suspension, front is the most important. Maybe you’d want to upgrade to disc brakes if you use your old bike?

      Reply
    • Chuck May 26, 2016, 7:03 am

      WoodNut, I ride the Diagonal Highway from Longmont to Boulder every day on my e-bike. I ride a mid-drive bike with a Panasonic 350W motor and carry a 14Ah battery. My setup allows the motor to provide assist up to 38mph. I can average 34mph all the way to Boulder and back. At those speeds, the 70mph traffic isn’t such an issue as it would be if you were pedaling at 15mph. It’s still annoying but less so. I’d want to ride the RadWagon before recommending it. It looks very heavy. I’ve adapted the Panasonic mid-drive to bikes like the Surly Big Dummy and that makes an amazing cargo bike. Hub motors on big heavy bikes are very inefficient but if you’ve got a big enough battery, go for it. Just don’t let it run out of power because you’ll need to call AAA!

      Reply
    • Antia May 27, 2016, 6:28 am

      Hey, I recently got a radwagon for my 6 mile hilly commute in Austin and carrying my two kids around and I am super happy. The battery is high quality and the frame is built like a tank. Message me privately if you want an extensive review. The bike is not perfect but I think it was a great choice at a great price.

      Reply
    • Adam May 27, 2016, 8:12 am

      I have a RadWagon and I have put about 700 miles on it. I would highly recommend it. They are heavy, but being able to have my lady ride on the back is very fun. As to the limiter, it is required for it to count as a bicycle and to be honest, 20mph feels very fast on bike paths. The main bike path near my home has a speed limit of 15mph anyway.

      Reply
    • Antia May 27, 2016, 9:03 am

      I bought a radwagon a few months ago and are really happy with it. It is a steel cargo bike so it is HEAVY, but also built like a tank. The battery is pretty substantial and I don’t think it is made out of cheap components, but only time will tell how well it holds up. I use it for my 6 mile hilly commute and carrying my two kiddos around. Chuck is right that it is not something that will fit in just any rack or trunk, but that has nothing to do with it being electric but rather it being a long tail cargo bike.

      Reply
    • Engineering Elf May 27, 2016, 9:12 am

      Dear Woodnut,

      I have had my Radwagon for about 6 weeks now and we are loving it. On a typical day I bike 5 miles up and down rolling hills to my son’s school and then my office. The Radwagon has a rear hub motor so while it doesn’t have the power output of the mid-drive builds I haven’t found it lacking for around town kid hauling. Our largest load so far was two adults, a toddler and a first grader. As others have noted commercial builds top out at a speed of 20 mph; I find if I pedal I can get that up to 25mph. I recharge the bike every couple of days ~15 miles but before it hits zero, it does have regenerative braking so that keeps me going. I haven’t used the lights much but that would decrease mileage as the front works off the same battery. As Chuck notes the Radwagon is heavy, the assist makes it a non issue, pedaling without is a pain but doable. It has five levels of assist that can be set using the computer and then engaged through either pedaling or a throttle. I didn’t think I would need the throttle but it helps when riding in traffic that gets upset when you don’t speed up fast enough. The Radwagon comes with disc brakes which are better for stopping with heavy loads & a dual center kickstand which is good for loading and unloading. I have ridden in the rain and a light mist doesn’t bother it; when it stormed I parked it inside to be sure I could get home with the assist working. It sounds like distance with assist might be a limiting factor on the Radwagon for you, that said I haven’t run mine to the limit to find out if the range is 20-35 miles as stated on RadPowerBikes website is accurate.

      Reply
    • Carlos May 27, 2016, 4:18 pm

      I like this radwaon! thanks for suggesting…

      Reply
    • Brad June 12, 2016, 9:58 am

      I had a Radwagon given to me as a birthday gift last month. Its a lot of fun. The pedal assist makes a heavy bike feel very nimble. I work from home and our family needs 1.25 cars. The goal is after getting the accessories for the bike we can remove the .25 from our car needs.

      I have of course renamed it to the Bradwagon.

      Reply
  • Ty May 25, 2016, 11:03 pm

    Would this work for actual mountain biking? Is a e-bike limited to city streets or can it hit the trails as well?

    Reply
    • Jc May 26, 2016, 9:32 am

      The bafang BBSHD 1000 watt is awesome for mountain biking. I have one on a fat bike an thrash the trails and love it.

      Reply
      • Fritz May 31, 2016, 9:03 pm

        JC – I just purchased the same motor and debating putting it on one of three bikes. Can you provide some pros and cons to the following options
        1 – Commuter, aluminum frame, carbon fork, rim brakes
        2 – Road Bike, carbon fiber frame, rim brakes
        3 – 29er Dual Suspension, aluminum frame, disc brakes

        Option 4 – buy another bike… not very MMM or Mr. 1500

        Reply
    • Fit Saver May 26, 2016, 10:15 am

      Ty, I can’t answer your question directly but you want may want to check the local MTB trail rules and bike associations in your area. In the DFW area, the MTB community is quite against any bike with a motor of any kind on the trails that they maintain. You might not make many friends by trying to take one out there.

      Reply
    • JD May 26, 2016, 10:54 am

      Depends on the trail but most I’m familiar with prohibit motorized vehicles.

      Reply
    • Dave May 27, 2016, 6:32 pm

      This is a fair question, and some trails are ok for e-bikes (moto/ Atv/ dirt bikes trails, or occasional there are trails without designated usage), but on the vast majority of mountain bike trails its is illegal and hugely immoral to ride anything motorized, including an e-bike. I’m not saying this to be a goodie two shoes; I’m saying it because trail access is a very real issue related to everything from user safety and wildlife to erosion control, preserving the trails themselves, etc. Mountain bikes already have a tough enough battle trying to get trail access because we are blocked by antiquated laws relating to mechanized vehicles and ranching zones. It’s complex but we have had success because generally we are respectful and work with other trails users. Illegally riding e bikes on trails ruins that and makes everyone from trail builders to hikers to equestrians to ranchers hate everything bike-related. PLEASE don’t contribute to ruining a rad sport by riding e-bikes on mtb trails!

      Reply
    • Dan D. May 31, 2016, 12:20 pm

      For rough riding I’d be wary of the motor position out in front and even slightly below the chainring/bash-guard. Looks like it could be exposed to a totally destructive rock hit.

      Reply
  • TheHappyPhilosopher May 25, 2016, 11:05 pm

    That is excellent. I may have to seriously consider an Ebike one of these days. As discussed above, it is often not about fitness but about time saved.

    Reply
  • Frankie Lee May 25, 2016, 11:26 pm

    Yes! Yes! Yes! I love this article. I recently built a similar ebike from Lunacycle – 750W BBS02 with a 13.5 ah battery on a hardtail 29er. The tool kit from amazon is self explanatory. Even if you aren’t handy, just watch a youtube video. My only problem was mounting the battery. I see you have an adapter plate of some kind? I was only able to use one of the threaded water bottle mounts, so plastic zip ties came to the rescue, I hope to shore that up. I would also like to add that for commuting, fenders are a must at the speeds you reach on an ebike, especially with MTB tires. I have been wearing goggles to make the ride tolerable on rainy days.

    Killing the Excuses is the key -the ebike turns every ride into a walk in the park. Hills, wind and everything else are no longer an excuse to not bike it. When you are not ebiking, just leave the battery at home. I just got back from a 6-7 mile slow ride with the dog on the same bike.

    Reply
    • Mr. 1500 May 26, 2016, 5:56 am

      I found the adapter from a company called Mount Skidmore: https://mountskidmore.com.au/ and it works fantastic. Fenders are a great idea and are next on my list!

      And yeah, the ease of battery removal is a good thing to mention. Mine locks in place with a key, but comes out in less than 10 seconds if I choose full leg mode!

      Reply
  • PatrickGSR94 May 25, 2016, 11:53 pm

    I did a little research on Bafang units recently. Seems that some people have been having problems with worn internals after a few thousand miles. I hope to convert my utility bike one day but I’m leaning towards a BionX hub drive kit.

    Reply
    • Garry May 26, 2016, 3:30 am

      The BBS02 does indeed have some wear-points that causes maintenance issues.

      I recently bought the BBSHD, and I’ve heard that it’s extremely overbuilt. You can ride it hard all day long. So far that’s been true for me. I can tow a bike 80lb bike trailer up a hill at 40 km/h no problem. My variables are vague, but hopefully you get the idea.

      Reply
      • Mr. 1500 May 26, 2016, 5:58 am

        I read the same things about premature wear, so followed the instructions from this crazy screaming guy to add extra grease to the gears: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3lVRTRFueUU

        It cost me less than 10 dollars and 10 minutes. I plan on adding grease every year. So far, so good.

        Reply
        • Garry May 30, 2016, 9:00 am

          Oh, nice! That crazy screaming guy is hilarious, but also surprisingly knowledgeable as far as I can tell.

          I would still try to baby your BBS02 as much as you can (which should be easy since it’s got a lot of power). But, even if the worst happens, I think it’s fairly repairable. Good luck!

          Reply
          • Jeff May 31, 2016, 3:56 pm

            Well if I was doing that many, I would have a big fat syringe with the moly grease in it.

            However, the most interesting question is does that countermeasure work ?
            Anyone going in for frugal living will expect these things to last at least 10 years.

            Reply
  • Ken May 26, 2016, 12:16 am

    The Bafung mid drive motor is amazing, like a motor cycle, I love it!

    Reply
    • Mr. 1500 May 26, 2016, 5:59 am

      Sure is ! Riding this thing puts a huge, stupid smile on my face every time!

      Reply
  • Brodie May 26, 2016, 12:16 am

    Great article! I’ve been planning an e-bike build for quite a while since my new job is 25km away (and up some gnarly hills). The main motivator for me is time. I’m able to make the trip by bike (and have done on a couple of occasions) but it ends up being a 75 minute commute!

    Reply
  • Mr. Tako May 26, 2016, 2:40 am

    Awesome bike Mr. 1500. How long does the battery last?

    Reply
    • Mr. 1500 May 26, 2016, 6:03 am

      I haven’t thoroughly tested it yet, but I’ve done a 50 mile ride with wind/hills and still had at least 25% of my battery life left at the end. I had it set to the top assist level.

      When I ride, I always put maximum effort into pedaling (goal isn’t less exertion, but saving time). If I were to let the battery do all of the work, I’m sure it would have conked out long before the end of the ride.

      Reply
  • The Rhino May 26, 2016, 2:45 am

    Dude, we need more close up pics of the BB drive motor setup

    1st time I’ve heard of one of those in a conversion kit format

    no question, the right place for an electric motor is at the BB, not in either hub

    looks awesome, but still very expensive in absolute terms (fair shout that its relatively cheap though)

    I have ridden a 250W front wheel conversion kit and it was very cool

    But a little part of me thinks that if your legs still work you should probably hold off for as long as you can still hack it?

    Reply
    • Freedom35 June 1, 2016, 11:49 am

      I second this. Getting the motor out of the hub sounds promising.

      I have a random Craigslist Special electric bike with a rear-hub motor, and it works fine, but when you get a flat in the drive wheel, changing it is a PITA because of the heavy motor and cabling integrated into the wheel
      (admittedly, still easier and faster than dealing with a flat on a car)

      This sounds like another problem solved by the motor driving the crank.

      Reply
  • The Rhino May 26, 2016, 2:51 am

    One other question – Is it single chainring only? No front-mech allowed?

    Reply
  • Matthew May 26, 2016, 4:06 am

    I love the guide, I was always cautious towards DIY kits because I really wanted the pedal assist function, but MMM only talked about going full throttle. My question is about water resistance. I’m from a slightly wetter clime than Colorado, but I was wondering if you have any concerns about using the DIY ebike in like a light shower.

    Reply
    • Mr. 1500 May 26, 2016, 6:06 am

      I did a little research on Endless Sphere and this isn’t an issue. I recommend using shrink wrap tubing on the solder connection between the motor and battery though.

      Reply
  • The Green Swan May 26, 2016, 5:06 am

    Wow this is pretty inspirational. I love the idea and definitely plan to do this one day. Thanks for the guide to get it done! Be safe out on the roads!

    Reply
  • Kyle May 26, 2016, 5:37 am

    I got to check out that sweet bike when Mr. 1500 came to Wisconsin recently. He zoomed a good several mile round trip quickly with it. $1600 sounds like a lot but if you use it more often it’ll pay for itself pretty quickly.

    Reply
    • Mr. 1500 May 26, 2016, 6:12 am

      At heart, I’m a frugal dude, so the $1600 was difficult to swallow. Now that I’ve built the bike, I don’t regret it one bit. It truly is a replacement for the car. If commuting on an Ebike allows you to keep your car years longer, you’ve made your money back and then some.

      Bonus: You get to be out in the open air and that is priceless!

      Reply
  • Chuck May 26, 2016, 6:41 am

    I live in Longmont and used to be co-owner of a bike shop in Boulder specializing in electric bikes. I’ve build many dozens of e-bike conversions with a variety of motor types, including the 750w and 1000w Bafang motor kit. While I agree that the conversion is quite slick and easy, the resulting product is only acceptable for its initial wow factor. The primary issue I have with the kit is reliability. The motor uses a one-way bearing on one in the gear reduction system which is prone to failure after only 1500-3000 miles. That may seem like a lot of miles but when you consider that an e-bike is often used to replace a car, it is nothing at all. The cost of the part is minimal – somewhere around $25, but you have to completely disassemble the motor to replace it. The cause for these failures is simple – contamination. In an effort to keep the costs down, Bafang chose not to seal the motor case. Water, dust and grit enters the motor quite easily. The one-way bearing requires tight tolerances to work properly, so couple cheap manufacturing with contaminants and you have a recipe for repeated failure.
    The other issue I have with the Bafang is the cadence-driven operation. There is no torque sensor to provide motor assist proportional to your pedal input. Only a cadence sensor that turns the motor on based on how fast you are pedaling and what power level the controls are set to. That works, but it isn’t very bike-like. The better e-bikes utilize a torque sensor and that is where the magic is. If done right, it feels just like a bike – but better.

    Reply
    • vexed87 May 26, 2016, 9:24 am

      Chuck, so what kit would you suggest as an alternative?

      Reply
      • Mr. 1500 May 26, 2016, 9:53 am

        Hi Chuck-

        I’d be curious to know if Bafang has since improved the sealing of the motor case since you worked on one? The reason I ask is because the case seemed very tight to me. I took it apart to add additional grease (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3lVRTRFueUU) and add a temperature sensor. The thing did not come apart easily and seemed well sealed. I think there was even a rubber gasket in there, but don’t completely remember. Perhaps you could recommend an area to add some silicon caulk to get a better seal?

        Anyone else have long term experience with this unit?

        Reply
        • Chuck May 27, 2016, 9:09 am

          That will certainly quiet the motor down, but that isn’t the issue for longevity. Too much grease can be just as damaging as too little grease. The issue is that the case isn’t sealed properly. If you look at the inside of the Panasonic mid-drive (my personal favorite) you will find that even after 5 years of rough service, the components look brand new. The case is sealed like an automotive engine. Nothing gets in or out. The Bafang will let water and dust in and over time all that grease will turn into first polishing compound, then grinding compound. Also, when the grease heats up, it will flow into places it’s not supposed to go, like into the one way bearing. Sealing around the final reduction housing (the part where the grease was put in the video referenced above) will help a great deal. The issue with the failing one way bearing is greater than just contamination. It’s a part that was ill conceived to begin with. It should be much larger – but then it would be too heavy. Tradeoff!
          Here is an example of cost engineering. The bearing on the left is from a Panasonic mid-drive. The bearing on the right is from an Impulse (Kalkhoff/Focus/Raleigh) mid-drive. The bearing serves the same function in both motors. The Impulse bearing failed after 2000 miles – 0ne day out of warranty. The Panasonic bearing is 5 years old and looks (and performs like) brand new.
          Not sure how to upload photo – help?

          Reply
        • jbravo November 13, 2016, 10:23 am

          Hi Mr. 1500 –

          Do you have any more information or personal experience regarding the long-term durability of the BBS02? I’m thinking of getting one, but I want to understand what maintenance and repairs are involved.

          Thanks!

          Reply
      • Chuck May 27, 2016, 8:51 am

        I haven’t found a good mid-drive kit yet. The Bafang is great for ease of install and basic use but when the demands of the customer dictate longer term reliability and performance, I use a GoSwiss rear hub motor. I know, you all think the hub motor is a poor choice, but before you slam me on this go out and try the GoSwiss. It’s awesome. Best pedal assist hub motor on the market. Period. Followed closely by the Alber if you can put up with 20mph max speed.

        Reply
        • IvMr. 1500 May 27, 2016, 11:42 am

          Chuck, I don’t think hub motors suck at all. I rode both of MMM’s and thought there were both great. And from my research, a hub motor probably would have been better for my application; level, on street riding at higher speeds. The mid drives are harder on the drivetrain and can also overheat if you don’t keep the motor spinning. However, I wanted to try something new and I may climb some hills, so I went with the mid-drive.

          It does surprise me about about junk getting into the housing. I did take the final reduction housing off and it was a pain. I had to work at if for several minutes because it was on so tight. I’ll probably take it apart over the winter with an eye open for the issues you mention.

          Reply
        • CuriousChris May 27, 2016, 2:53 pm

          Hey Chuck,

          Do you know of any US distributors that sell GoSwiss kits? I can only find them on prebuilt bikes in the Netherlands for $4500 euros!!

          Is the new BBSHD better sealed than the BBS02? I feel like it might be better to just craigslist hunt a used Stromer at this point.

          Reply
          • Chuck May 27, 2016, 8:40 pm

            Try reaching out to Heath at Defiant Bicycles in Minneapolis, MN. I have a number for him if you can’t locate him from his Defiant website.

            As for the BBSHD, I’ve installed a few and they seem to have exactly the same construction as the 750W variants. I didn’t take the motor apart to look at the one way bearing but I would also suspect the same. You can buy higher quality one way bearing parts, but it is only marginally better. The issue of contamination remains.

            Reply
    • Patrick May 26, 2016, 9:58 am

      Would you be willing to recommend a good bike kit that perhaps meets IP66 or equivalent rating and has decent reliability? Perhaps only need IP65, but I’m not sure how heavy the spray can get from your tires when hitting puddles.

      Reply
    • CuriousChris May 26, 2016, 10:34 am

      Do you know if the Bafang BBSHD has the same bearing failure issue? Would packing the BBS02 with moly grease, as mentioned in this video (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3lVRTRFueUU) help with this at all?

      Reply
  • Gwen May 26, 2016, 6:46 am

    Looks intriguing! I’ll file this away in the back of my brain for the future :) Thanks guys!

    Reply
  • Eric May 26, 2016, 7:22 am

    What kind of range can you get on this thing? You said you made a 20 mile ride with it, but if I was really pushing it how long would the battery last?

    Reply
  • Taylor Gould May 26, 2016, 7:23 am

    This looks very similar to what bike delivery guys ride around NYC. Full or at least front suspension, w/ battery in the water bottle spot. Seems like they all have the same model but I’m not sure what it is.. battery is in a light gray / chrome type casing.

    Reply
  • Daniel May 26, 2016, 7:23 am

    When he says that he still puts in the same effort pedalling but arrives at the destination sooner. . does that mean with pedal assist you are doing everything in a higher gear than you would normally? So you are travelling faster on average?

    Reply
  • Rich v May 26, 2016, 7:35 am

    I’ve been thinking about the same 750W mid-drive kit, only the e-RAD branded version from LectricBikes.

    I still haven’t found out if there is a choice in crank lengths, though. Being stuck with something like 170mm would suck for a guy like me at 6’6″. I usually ride 180mm.

    Reply
    • Rich v May 26, 2016, 8:26 am

      I mis-spoke. It’s from lectriccycles, not lectricbikes.

      Reply
    • Rich v May 26, 2016, 8:46 am

      Also I found cranks available in more sizes here: http://cyclemonkey.bigcartel.com/product/schlumpf-crank-arms

      A rep from Luna Cycles mentioned them specifically for the Bafang bbs02.

      Reply
    • Jeremy E. May 31, 2016, 2:41 pm

      The E-Rad mid drive kits are actually upgraded versions of the Bafang BBS02 used in the build in this article

      Reply
  • insourcelife May 26, 2016, 7:41 am

    I’ve been thinking about selling my 50cc Honda Ruckus scooter and building an e-bike for a while now. It should be about an even swap for me at $1,600. The e-bike will go just as fast as my scooter while allowing to completely bypass any traffic if necessary (sidewalks, cutting across an open field – acceptable on a bicycle, but not on a scooter). I can legally filter to the front at any stop light, which I guess you could do on a scooter but not without pissing people off and/or getting a ticket. Also, no registration, plates, oil and gas to deal with.

    My question is about security. You mentioned that the battery can be removed in 10 seconds with a key – that’s great because I want to be able to bring it inside to charge at work during the day. Does this feature come with the battery itself or the bracket? Do you feel comfortable chaining this bike to a post or a bike rack when you are away somewhere in public? I’m wondering how easy it is for someone to strip this e-bike of its expensive e-components if they wanted to.

    Reply
    • Mr. 1500 May 26, 2016, 8:10 am

      The keyed bracket is part of the battery. Check with the company before you order to make sure your model is the same. The battery is half the price of the kit, so I can see this part being the most susceptible to theft as Ebikes catch on. Lithium prices are on the rise too.

      I chain it up all the time. The motor would be time consuming to remove, so I’m not at all concerned.

      One of the things I like about the bike and build is that to the casual observer, no one seems to know it’s an Ebike. The motor is small and sits behind the chainring. People assume the battery is some kind of storage compartment.

      On the road, the bike is silent. I take great joy in passing groups of hardcore road bikers around Boulder (“ON YOUR LEFT!”). Do this in full upright position wearing jeans for maximum shock value!

      Reply
  • Edizzle May 26, 2016, 7:54 am

    Here are a couple of lower cost options. Not sure how they do in real life:

    http://thestuffwebuild.com/projects/diy-electric-motorized-bicycle/

    http://diy-ebike.webs.com/

    It seems like they would work for my needs.

    Reply
  • Eric May 26, 2016, 8:15 am

    Interesting timing – I’m once again deep in the research phase. Seems about once a year I get excited, research the crap out of the idea and then get discouraged by the cost. Now that Lunacycle has these priced the way they are I think I’m about to pull the trigger. Still hung up on the donor bike issue though. I read lots of recommendations for full suspension bikes for the comfort/stability factor, but with a hard tail I could mount a rack and make the bike much more utilitarian. How do you deal with carrying loads on this bike?

    Reply
  • Adam May 26, 2016, 8:55 am

    I can get behind this post. I actually picked up an EBike conversion kit for 20% off on Earth Day. The installation instructions were terrible but I finally figured it out and I have been using my bike so much more ever since! That extra power makes it addicting and time efficient and far better than using my car.

    Work commute is 24 miles round trip. Once i get a parking spot for my car on June 1 (street parking right now so I’d get ticketed like crazy during the week) I’ll be able to take it to work as well.

    Reply
  • Keith Schroeder May 26, 2016, 9:23 am

    Hey, if I can hitch a ride to Gasworks Park tonight I’ll go. I’m staying at the Holiday Inn in Issaquah. Mrs. Accountant does not want to go (I’m the guy who writes the Wealthy Accountant blog.) Let me know.

    Reply
  • Fru(Gal) May 26, 2016, 9:44 am

    Great post! I have seriously been considering an e-bike since MMM posted about his experience years ago. I have done a little research, but I still wasn’t exactly sure where to begin. The biggest hang up, has been deciding if I want to convert my current commuter, Mtn. Bike or look for an alternative option on Craigslist to try it out. I still haven’t decided, but this post will be very beneficial! Thanks again!

    Reply
  • kyle May 26, 2016, 10:57 am

    Nice post! I’m running one of the new new 1,000 watt bafang mid drives on a fat bike. I’ve also got a few new 1500 watt mid drive bikes being assembled, and a new line of fat ebikes coming online soon. They’re tons of fun. If you have a car, you’ll stop using it around town.

    MMM – if I can get your attention – I carry these motors, batteries, etc. I’d be happy to put together some sort of MMM special for the members. I can even have things shipped direct from China to cut costs down further. Anything to get more people on ebikes!

    Reply
  • The Hidden Green May 26, 2016, 11:15 am

    This is BADA$$! My mom was the first person I knew to get an e-bike 4 years ago, and it’s got her outside and active so much more. Especially since she lives atop a big hill. I am so AMPED to put one of these together. Possibly even an epic christmas present. Thanks MMM!

    Reply
  • Trevor May 26, 2016, 11:37 am

    Any idea what the thing weighs now? I just picked up an ezip trailz from a friend for next to nothing. It tips the scales at a hefty 72 lb, though the SLA makes up a good chunk of that (not to mention the portly steel frame it’s attached to). And while I currently ride the light rail to work, I’m excited to finally be able to convince the lady to start biking places instead of taking our car.

    I like the idea of a DIY kit – even at $1500, it’s still a much more cost-effective option than driving for most of us. I’d have pulled the trigger by now if not for the train, which is paid by one of my employers.

    Reply
    • IvMr. 1500 May 26, 2016, 3:42 pm

      Hi Trevor- It was 29 pounds before and comes in at 47.5 pounds now. By no means light, but it doesn’t kill you to pedal without power either.

      Reply
  • John Everett May 26, 2016, 11:57 am

    Thanks, MMM!

    Of all the topics you cover here, the ones about bikes remain my favorite. I bought my first after reading your blog. That was 4 years and 12,000 miles ago. The wife say my legs have never been sexier!

    Reply
  • Matt May 26, 2016, 11:58 am

    How are car drivers around you?
    I’d expect people coming the opposite way to turn in front of you more often because they underestimate your speed…

    Reply
    • Mr. Money Mustache May 26, 2016, 2:57 pm

      I found that a bright flashing led headlight on the bike cut this problem down by at least 90%. As with all driving however, you are still best to assume everyone else is out to kill you and plan accordingly.

      Reply
  • Adwait May 26, 2016, 11:59 am

    Umm. I have a few questions. Can the puny breaks on a bike stop the high speeds that can and will regularly be achieved with this setup? Also, if I fall, which I do on occasion, what are the chances that the Lithium battery catches fire?

    Reply
    • IvMr. 1500 May 26, 2016, 3:44 pm

      Disc brakes work great, so go with those or install them on your donor bike.

      Batteries have to take severe abuse before catching fire. Unless you puncture them, I wouldn’t worry about it.

      Reply
  • arboristbytrade May 26, 2016, 12:01 pm

    Cool article. If an electric kick in the pants gets more folks out on bicycles, I’m all for it.

    Good call on recalibrating the rear suspension for the added weight. Along the same lines, it seems Really Important that you start off with a quality bike with solid components, as everything is potentially going to see more stress than it was engineered for. Probably not a good idea to strap an electric motor to a KMart special.

    Reply
  • TinaP May 26, 2016, 12:10 pm

    Ha! And Mr 1500 just posted an article that he isn’t creative…CALLED OUT!

    Reply
    • IvMr. 1500 May 26, 2016, 3:46 pm

      Ha ha, I just took MMM’s idea and made it my own!

      Reply
  • Supreet May 26, 2016, 12:22 pm

    I had the same dilemma about wanting an e bike but not wanying to pay the $2000 minimum it seemed for a decent one. Craiglist wad not helpful as I am not very capable with fixing machines. I ended up getting a used ebike from crazy Lennys ebike online. I ended up paying less than a thousand for a a 2 year old haibike and could not be happier. I am a happy customer (no financial ties)
    .

    Reply
  • Edifi May 26, 2016, 12:38 pm

    Pretty cool stuff. Next step in badass will be to build up a 3D-printed ebike!

    Reply
  • Scott Scharnhorst May 26, 2016, 12:46 pm

    Funny that you should post this, I was just pursuing an ebike myself from a kickstarter campaign. Check out the link: awesome and affordable!
    https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1266381423/geoorbital-wheel-make-your-bike-electric-in-60-sec

    Reply
    • Lost in Space June 8, 2016, 1:57 pm

      Is that ever interesting!!!

      Along the same lines I’ve been interested in An E-bike for a while, love biking but hate hills. Problem is a decent e-bike here runs 2000-3000 Euros! I ride an old fashioned city bike, basket, rack, hub gear so I figured a conversation kit wouldn’t work till I found out you can get front wheel conversation kits!!!!

      Perfect for what I need!!!!

      Reply
  • mike May 26, 2016, 1:04 pm

    Well, if there’s a business suited for MMM, it would be electric bikes.

    Come on Pete, give it some thought. I’d buy a bike from you.

    That being said, when Tesla first started, I bought some of their stock. While driving my motorcycle from Seattle to Los Angeles I thought, how are they able to make electric cars and it can’t be done on motorcycles? So when I got home I sold my stock. (I know, stupid idea).

    This ebike idea is a game changer. Reliability is a big issue as Chuck mentioned. But every way I look at it, I see nothing but good. Here in LA, one wouldn’t have to worry about parking. The bike could be carried in the house. With so much traffic, the commute might be shorter. Exercise, quicker commute, friendly to the planet and pocket book, fun, convenient, what’s not to like.

    Reply
  • SBourassa May 26, 2016, 1:14 pm

    $1600 (ish) doesn’t seem very thrifty unless you use it A LOT under circumstances where your ordinary bike and feet don’t cut it. In the argument for this bike, the comparison keeps being made to a car – but how much less than a car it is doesn’t seem super useful a comparison. A more apt comparison is just to your everyday bike (which also carries a single person and loads if you’ve got a trailer for it) OR a motorcycle/scooter OR simple public transit.

    Assuming you live close enough to work to bike there under your own power (we should assume this for Mustachians worth their weight), this extra bike (or add-on) is only getting used once (ish) a week. What’s the natural life of this awesome machine without repairs? 3-4 years? Call it 208 weeks – each day’s use is almost $8. Using public transit is almost certain to be less than that for your once-a-week trip to things beyond your bicycle comfort-range.

    An even more apt comparison would be a motorcycle – there are PLENTY of dirt bikes and scooters available in the cost range from $500-$1000 with much longer ranges than this electric bike. A 10 year old motorcycle is still probably more cost effective for these sporadic longer trips than your electric bike – even if you account for fuel, repairs, and other costs like insurance (assuming you’re handy – which this entire DIY post is already assuming). Motorcycles aren’t the best for the environment (they burn fuel), but old bikes get good mileage – I’m surprised they don’t get more love from Mr. Money Mustache as his apparent love for expensive gadgetry grows.

    Reply
    • Mr. Money Mustache May 26, 2016, 2:53 pm

      Well said, SB. I think the prime ebike customer is someone who will use it at least several times per week. Even I pass this test, without even having a job to commute to.

      Motorbikes and scooters can be marginally cheaper (if you live somewhere with very low insurance rates), but if they keep you more sedentary, their hidden costs are much higher.

      My goals here are greater health and less pollution – cost is a distant second.

      Reply
      • Mike Reiche October 27, 2016, 4:36 pm

        The push or me to start an ebike conversion is my work moving to a different location 13 miles away for 9 months. Rather then get a second car (or move, since I already sold my house and moved closer to work based on MMM’s advice) I am building an ebike, since that range is a little uncomfortable for my puny little legs to pedal 5 days a week! Now I get a sweet electic ride that I can recharge on the companies dime, while also giving me a second long(ish) range vehicle without the insurance or other major mechanical costs associated with cars. Also, my wife is averse to biking but is pretty excited about riding this bike to the grocery a few times a month at least, super added benefit! The cost is high, but considering my 7 year old Honda Civic, with an avg use of 300 days out of the year is costing almost 8 dollars per drive day still. More if you count the insurance, gas, and maintenance. So the Ebike seems like quite the steal, really.

        Reply
  • Mr. Melmoth May 26, 2016, 1:39 pm

    This is the perfect setup for me! What size Jamis Dakar XC bike frame did you use, 17″ (medium) or 19″ (large?) I’m looking on Craigslist for this same model but some don’t look large enough to fit that Panasonic “Shark Pack” battery (which I think measures 14.5 x 3.5 x 3.5″). What’s the range of compatible frame sizes, would you suggest?

    Reply
  • Jacob May 26, 2016, 2:55 pm

    I found this option on Kickstarter:
    https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1266381423/geoorbital-wheel-make-your-bike-electric-in-60-sec?ref=nav_search
    I’ve been looking for an easy way to modify my current bike to an ebike, and I think this fits the bill.

    Reply
  • LabRat May 26, 2016, 3:05 pm

    I’ve been looking at the new style of conversion called the GeoOrbital wheel. It’s still on kickstarter, but the team doesn’t strike me as the type that isn’t going to deliver a sub par product. The two things that make me want the GeoOrbital more than these other models you folks are talking about, is the fact that i already have a bike I love, and I doubt I could get one of those kits to work on it, and that its cheaper! i’m not in a position where I feel comfortable spending $1500 on the whole e-bike idea… let alone the $700 that the GeoOrbital would cost me… thats why I haven’t pulled the trigger on it yet.
    For anyone who hasn’t seen the Geo wheel, go check it out on kickstarter. their claim is “make your bike an e-bike in 60 seconds” and the design of it is kinda funky cool too. I’d love to hear the opinions on it of those that are already in the E-bike scene. Like I said… I’m hesitant. lol

    Reply
    • LabRat May 26, 2016, 3:10 pm

      ***doesn’t strike me as the type that WOULD deliver a sub par product.*** the double negative made me say something i didn’t mean too. I’m not great at writing. I mean “IT LOOKS AMAZING AND I REALLY WANT IT”

      Reply
    • Mr money pinch June 6, 2016, 3:49 pm

      The thing with Kickstarter projects of this type is that you will wait a while to get it. I followed the Copenhagen wheel, which is less ambitious in it’s design, and two years passed before they delivered. Whenever they start selling to the general public, I will be very tempted to add it to my commuter bike!

      Reply
  • TooManyGuitars May 26, 2016, 5:14 pm

    I am seeing more and more ebikes around my city on my daily commute. I think they are awesome inventions and should help get many people out of their cars. I am curious what people think about where they should be able to operate though.

    For example, much of my commute is on shared 2 lane cycle/pedestrian path. The path runs alongside the rail lines and therefore goes past many train stations…lots of pedestrians in these areas. I see guys on ebikes – one guy in particular who lives in my neighbourhood – tearing through these areas on ebikes, not pedalling at all in some cases, going upwards of 40 km/h. He passes me – a reasonably fit daily cyclist – on my road bike in the flats like I am standing still. That speed, plus the extra weght of the battery and motor, adds up to in my opinion too much force to safely share narrow paths with pedestrians. There are schoolchildren, babies in strollers, etc.

    I did some research after one particularly aggravating morning with this guy. The law here is while they are allowed on the shared paths, that ebike motor assistance must only kick in when pedalling, and must drop out at 25 km/h. This law is plainly broken by most ebikes I see these days. Sounds like it is quite easy to configure the computer around that.

    As the batteries and motors get more powerful and cheaper, this problem is only going to get worse. I think either the pedestrians or the ebikes need to be banned from these shared paths – the average velocity is too different to share the same transport space. In my opinion, ebikes, as motorized vehicles, should be limited to roads and bike lanes alongside roads – NOT sharing space with pedestrians.

    Has anyone else observed this issue? What does the community think?

    Reply
    • Mr. Money Mustache May 27, 2016, 10:32 am

      I agree, Guitars. Similarly, it would be great if cars could be automatically limited to 25mph while within city limits because they are many times more dangerous than bikes.

      So far, our society has gone the route of road speed limits and enforcement rather than vehicle limits. Your bike path could probably use a police officer or two during the morning commute hours.

      Reply
    • Chuck May 27, 2016, 1:46 pm

      We don’t ban the cars from the neighborhood roads simply because they are capable of higher speeds. Why would you impose a double standard here? Simply set some guidelines (which is what a speed limit sign is – a guideline) and let it go at that. You will always have drivers of cars speeding all over the place and you will have bike riders doing the same. Best to keep access for bikes and encourage their use as much as possible. Basic geometry says that we can’t continue to embrace the car the way we have – we just don’t have the space. And as MMM well knows, the real benefits of the bike are hidden in better health etc…

      Reply
      • Sean May 27, 2016, 3:46 pm

        I’m not sure TooManyGuitars is talking about a double standard. It seems like he’s worried about speeds on pedestrian/bike trails, where cars are (hopefully) non-existent. Those trails are typically very narrow, and any excessive speed would be fairly dangerous.

        I am in agreement that those trails should have some speed limits though, and perhaps some patrolling.

        Reply
  • Jay Cope May 26, 2016, 5:36 pm

    Awesome – Nice build! :)

    Reply
    • IvMr. 1500 May 26, 2016, 7:34 pm

      Thanks! I’m thrilled with how well it turned out!

      Reply
      • Adam May 23, 2017, 1:49 pm

        A year later how are you enjoying the build? Is there anything you would change?

        Reply
  • The Roamer May 26, 2016, 6:47 pm

    Very nice post. We have all just transitioned this year to being more active on our bikes. Mr Roamer’s commute isn’t very long 3 miles so I’m not sure how practical it is for us. But it’s always nice to know where to find good info should that change.

    Reply
  • Mike Reiche May 27, 2016, 12:09 am

    I was playing with the idea of converting my road bike to electric. I had a 9 mile commute to work and found that I kept putting my lazy pants on instead of riding… SO, took MMM’s advice and sold my house, as of yesterday I live 1 mile from work and have zero excuse for not riding a bike/walking/running/transporting to work everyday until I retire (8 yrs or less…). I am also ~2 miles or less from grocery stores and the library. So, this article was just about 3 weeks too late for me!!! As a side, MMM… because of you I tried and succeeded in selling my 250k house on my own. Realtors called and tried to convince us we the only way we could sell is if we hired them. Some even had my wife in tears thinking we were making a huge mistake selling ourselves and would never sell. 4 days later we had a full offer. Thanks for giving us the motivation and guidance to sell by owner! You da man.

    Reply
  • Melinda May 27, 2016, 1:21 am

    Hi , I live in Queensland, Australia, and was excited to see you were meeting people in Seattle at the gasworks. I have a daughter who lives out of Seattle, (Kirkland) and on one of our visit to see her we walked past the gasworks. It might seem trivial, but when you live so far away from you and actually have been to somewhere you are talking about.
    I am not a keen cyclist but do own a fold up bicycle for when we are travelling, and my husband is a keen cyclist and shortly will be doing a fundraiser riding one hundred kilometres.

    Reply
  • Vast Goed May 27, 2016, 1:24 am

    Great article and a nice DIY-E-bike. In my country (the Netherlands) the use of electric bikes is already quite common. The use of electric bikes started for 10 years by the elderly (which gave te E-bike not a very sporty image), but nowadays students and commuters are using them more and more. On my commuting-ride (15 km, 10 miles) a meet a lot of E-bikers. We have a very good bike-infrastructure, what really helps. But beware, we also have a huge rise of accidents because of the higher speed, what is especially dangerous for the elderly.
    I think the benefit of building your own bike is the fun of riding your own creation. Buying a new one might be a bit more expensive, but not thát much . To give you an impression on how many E-bikes there are on the Dutch market, here’s a link to a site where one can make a comparison between 220 models (only in dutch, but Google Translate is your special friend).
    http://www.anwb.nl/fietsen/elektrische-fietsen/vergelijken-en-kopen/#/?vanaf=200&max_aantal=50&currentPage=1&pageSize=6

    Reply
  • The Big Monkey May 27, 2016, 1:49 am

    I’ve built a similar bike with the Bafang mid drive (BBS02). I’ve also built hub drive bikes. Both are great for different reasons.

    I’ve bought a lot of bits over the last couple of years. Paul at EM3EV is one of the most helpful vendors / suppliers out there and will go above and beyond when required. I damaged a controller due to inexperience. Paul contacted me and offered to fix it FOC. It doesn’t get better than that.

    A great forum for E-bike stuff is Endless Sphere. The ladies and gents on the forum are incredibly knowledgeable and helpful.

    E-bikes are the mutts nuts. If you’ve not tried one, give it a go.

    Reply

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