291 comments

Electric Bikes: Gateway Drug to Bike Commuting?

st1_b_m_e_c_ckeWhat would the world be like if almost anybody could ride a bike effortlessly, at any speed they choose, regardless of physical fitness, hills, headwinds, or drag from the bike trailer full of kids and groceries?  What if even those of us who are not athletes could get all the glorious benefits of cycling including invincible health, complete freedom from traffic jams, free Rockstar Parking everywhere, and Zero Dollar Gasoline, forever?

This is the promise of the Electric Bicycle, a trend that has become enormous in Asia and Europe and is finally making its way here to North America.

The basic idea is that you take a regular bike but swap out one of the wheels for a different one with an electric motor built into the hub. Add a battery, basic control electronics, and a motorcycle-style twist throttle, and you have created an astonishing Frankenbike that allows you to perform like Lance Armstrong at Maximum Sprint, without even breaking a sweat. Depending on the model and style, Ebikes can attain top speeds anywhere between 15 and 50 MPH, with ranges from 10-50 miles.

To put the value proposition into the simplest form possible, this is why I am excited about this invention:

Convenient range for various cyclists

Convenient range for various cyclists

This table is obviously just an approximation. Steep hills or humid summers may reduce a beginner cyclist’s range even further, and meanwhile some readers can crank out 15 miles before the first bead of sweat forms upon their brow. But the bottom line is that these things get you further and faster, with the option of little or no sweat.

At this point I need to admit that I’m personally not the ideal electric bike customer. I live in a town that is 5 x 5 miles and I rarely leave here except to go to the airport. Standard leg-powered bikes have been getting me around this place easily for 9 years and they allow me to carry everything from groceries and kids right up to major appliances. With my 40th birthday coming up next month, I don’t need to be getting any less exercise. And while we do also have a car and a minivan, both are still sipping on the tanks of gas I bought them in April 2014.

But hey, I like speed at least as much as the next guy, and I’ve been known to own a fast motorcycle or two in earlier years and also perilously approach highway speeds on a snowboard. On top of that, electric propulsion is absolutely the future of personal transport – chant out the usual oil exec slogans all you like, but electric cars are already here and they make their gas counterparts look like tragic clown dinosaurs by comparison. I’ve been researching electric vehicles for years now, and looking forward to the day when we can all make the switch.

I test drove a 2015 Nissan Leaf over the summer and was floored by its lightning acceleration, solid handling, silky silence even at 90 MPH, and general 5-door practicality. If we could take the benefits of that, and scale them down to bicycle size so we could still get some fresh air and exercise (and spend a lot less than the price of a new car), it would be even better.

So I built myself an electric bike recently, with the goal of evaluating long-term performance and reporting it back to you. It is a hell of a lot of fun, and I’ve been blasting around town (and country) on it for several days now. But before we get into the details of my setup, let’s take a look at the whole ebike scene to see where everything fits in.

In my mind, it breaks down to three categories, which will appeal to different people:

Off-the-Shelf Electric Bikes ($600 – $10,000)

The Stromer Sport (image credit nycewheels.com)

The Stromer Sport, with battery compartment shown open (image credit nycewheels.com)

These are the easiest (but generally most expensive) option. Last year, I toured the inventory at Small Planet E-vehicles here in my own town, and test rode some very fancy bikes. My favorite was the $2800 Stromer Sport, which senses your pedaling effort and adds the proportional boost of your choosing, which feels exactly like being a bionically enhanced superhero. However, the bionic boost gets you no faster than about 25MPH, as the pre-made bikes must comply with federal e-bike speed limits.

Pros: Ready to go immediately. Sit on it and start riding. Just plug it in every now and then to recharge. This is the option for people with more money than mechanical skill, and a desire to get out into the fresh air immediately.

Cons: More expensive, top speed (while still swift) will not appease speed demons like myself.

Examples: Stromer, Prodeco, and Pedego are some of the leaders in this field. Some car manufacturers are offering their own take on E-bikes including the SMART (owned by Mercedes), BMW, Audi (prototype only), and KIA.

 Complete Conversion Kits ($800-$2000)

Here's the kit I used, from ebikekit.com

Here’s the kit I used, from ebikekit.com

Several companies are now putting together kits that allow you to take almost any existing bike and convert it to electric drive. The motor, battery, controller, and any accessories are all designed to work together with matching plugs, voltages, etc.

This is the option I chose for myself, because I wanted to profile something within the technical skill of the average bike owner. If  you can change the back tire on a bike and install a bike speedometer, you can install this kit. On top of that, I was able to get advice from Ebikekit* founder Jason Kraft about exactly what setup would best fit my existing bike and align with the way I use it.

I ended up with a 500 watt direct drive motorized rear wheel, a 13 amp-hour lithium battery, plus everything required to use it and charge it at home. The total list price of my setup with shipping was about $1600, although with strategic use of discounts, this can be had for about $300 less. We’ll get into how well this system works at the end of the article.

Pros: Top e-bike quality at lower cost. Unrestricted speed. Flexibility in choosing your own bike and exactly how you want things installed. Easy to upgrade battery later.

Cons: A bit of work to install (mine took 1 hour). A slightly more homemade look to your bike.

Honorable Mention: Although it is not yet available for general delivery (release date seems to bump out another three months every time it gets close), the Copenhagen Wheel is a $700 (update: looks like they just raised it to $950) conversion that has everything – battery, motor, and control electronics – packed seamlessly inside the wheel itself. It senses and boosts your pedaling effort and links with your smartphone to present an incredibly fancy yet simple user interface. Because of the splendid ease of use, this will probably change the face of electric cycling forever. But it’s still not as fast as the full kit above.

Fully Customized Systems for Hackers:

reader kit

This is the full setup of a monsterbike built by an MMM reader who helped me when researching this article.

Just as it works with home renovation, auto maintenance and most other practical fields, if you bring more knowledge and effort to the table, you can build a system to your own specifications and potentially save quite a few dollars in the process.

For example, if you search Ebay for “electric bike kit“, you’ll find basic straight-from-China front wheel kits for about $260, then you’d add a 48V Lithium Ion battery for about $400 – $600 with shipping, depending on capacity. The downside is the risk of part failure (and I wouldn’t expect the greatest support if anything breaks), and the need to splice and solder a few wires here and there to get everything to work together.

Or instead of cheap, you could go for high-end. At the forum called Endless Sphere, enthusiasts spend hours doing detailed reviews and extensive discussion. One MMM reader sent me a full description of the $3400 ebike he built from the ground up that easily does 35MPH and regularly rocks a 42 mile roundtrip commute in a hilly area with high winds.

A Quick Primer on Terminology:

If you are going to look into one of these yourself, here are the basic things to know:

The Motor: 250 watts, 500 watts, or more?

Think of it this way: a fit cyclist can put out about 150 watts for an extended period of time. If you combine this with a fairly streamlined bike, you’ll end up zooming along at about 20MPH. During a quick sprint of acceleration, the same cyclist can put out over 745 watts (1 horsepower) for short periods of time. So even a 250 watt motor can beat you in a long race, and 500 watts is almost like sprinting at full speed. Sure enough, my 500 watt motor tops out at just over 30MPH if you are letting it do all the work, which is about the fastest I can pedal a conventional bike for short sprints without assistance. When I set my own legs and the motor to maximum output, we can achieve over 35MPH together.

Voltage: 36 or 48 volts? This doesn’t strictly matter, although you will generally find 48 volt batteries and motors in the higher-powered systems.

Lithium or Lead Acid Batteries? In my opinion, Lithium batteries are the only way to go. The older technology Lead-acid batteries are heavy and bulky, which are both properties you want to minimize in a bike. On a trike or golf cart, however, Lead batteries are fine.

What are Amp Hours and How Many Do I need? To understand battery capacity, multiply the “Amp hours” by the “Volts”.  My new system is 13Ah x 48 volts, which gives us 624 watt hours (also known as 0.624 Kilowatt Hours, to put things in the context of my old Electricity article.) To put this simply, the battery holds energy equal to about four hours of intense cycling. The neat part is that charging it only requires about seven cents of electricity, which is way less than the cost of the enormous meal I devour after returning from a 4 hour ride!

So what is the range of these things?

Just as with a car, that depends on how fast you drive it. On a recent outing to the far side of Boulder (a 30 mile roundtrip), I rode my own bike at a swift 28-30MPH speed the entire time, pedaling along at my own normal energy level. This used up about 75% of my battery pack, which means the total range with this fairly intense use is about 40 miles. Just like an electric or hybrid car, you get better mileage in the city than on the highway, and my trip was mostly highway.

So tell me about the Mr. Money Mustache E-bike!

This post has grown quite long, so we’ll save the detailed analysis and testing for my second article in this series, which will come after I get some more miles on the clock . I’ve also recruited a friend to build one of those Customized Hacker Systems in order to compare his results with my own with the premade kit.

Here’s what my bike looks like so far. It is a fairly incognito setup, and the battery bag is simply held on with bungee cords at the moment. But so far, so good. The added speed of this thing has expanded my options for speedy errands around town, and it just might prove to be a revolution even for me. Tune in next time to learn more.

mmm_ebike

Here’s my regular city bike, now enhanced with Electricity. 100 miles into the test, it is already lots of fun, but more development is still in the works.

 

*Coupon code for EbikeKit – I have no affiliation with the company and don’t get commissions, but Jason did set up a coupon code for Mustachians – use “MMM” in the box if you are placing an order with them. The code can even be combined with any of their regular 15% off sales events which occur several times each year.

  • Philasurfer October 1, 2014, 8:23 am

    I recently bought a Kalkhoff Pro-Connect E-Bike with a panasonic motor. It is German-made and of the highest quality. I love the thing.

    Not cheap, like the Mercedes benz of e-bikes, built to last.

    Reply
  • nostache October 1, 2014, 8:31 am

    The Bosch motor on the European bikes looks awesome. It is of the type that just multiplies your input. I think Cannondale is making one destined for our shores this year. These things are pretty pricey which may eliminate the direct savings, but maybe not the indirect through health and fitness for someone on the fence about bike commuting longer distances

    Reply
  • rachel October 1, 2014, 9:09 am

    Love the idea of an e-bike – would certainly make biking more attractive given all the hills around here. Anyone bike with kids? I have a 4yo who goes pretty much everywhere I do and he’s just about to outgrow the child seat over the rear wheel. What’s a good next step for a kid who can’t ride his own bike yet? (Note: need something that would work for city streets) Thanks!

    Reply
    • KF October 1, 2014, 4:28 pm

      In my hilly city, I see a lot of folks biking with their kids on a trailer bike (also known as tag-along bicycles) – if you google those terms you’ll see what I mean. It’s like you chopped the front wheel off a kid’s bike and attached the rest to the back of your bike.

      Reply
  • Brett October 1, 2014, 9:10 am

    Hey, MMM-
    Great post. For some reason I keep picturing a fat guy in the bike lane cruising by other people at 35 mph- and laughing uncontrollably at my computer in this coffee shop :)

    Reply
    • Scott October 2, 2014, 10:40 am

      Coffee shop?!?!!? How about a bedpan and a catheter?

      I kid, I kid.

      Reply
  • KruidigMeisje October 1, 2014, 9:29 am

    Just curious MMM, did you research recumbent bikes? They have similar gains like an ebike (according to the tests of the NL cycling union http://www.fietsersbond.nl/de-fiets/snelheid-5-verschillende-type-fietsen-vergeleken), but use the motor over muscle principle. Just enhanced with better engineering (aerodynamics). Should have thought you would have researched it.
    Things like http://www.nazca-ligfietsen.nl/nl/list/models/ kind a stuff.

    This is not even mentioning the ultraefficient option of the velomobile, which only is an option for specific commutes. But when an option, wins from the ebike (any ebike!). The options might be scarce in car-centric US, so I could imagine that bike not featuring in your article – though my boyfriend did ride 3000 miles in US in a month with it without any problems. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OxJDxPiANmQ

    Reply
  • Early Retirement Extreme October 1, 2014, 9:47 am

    Just a minor yet nerdy revision to your numbers. Depending on your weight, a 150W output will get you to about 11-13MPH. This is what can be expected from a couch potato. To go at 20MPH, you need to put out almost twice as much power or some 250W which would be in the range of fit person. Reference: Coggan power chart (google it).

    Incidentally, there’s a much less expensive solution than electrifying a bike which doesn’t require any downtime for charging. It’s called “a used moped” ;-)

    Reply
  • Mary Ellen October 1, 2014, 9:59 am

    The mention of electric cars made me think of this. Anyone who hasn’t seen it should check out this awesome Oatmeal cartoon about the Tesla Model S: http://theoatmeal.com/comics/tesla_model_s

    (The model S is arguably not a very mustachian vehicle, but I am hoping future models might improve.)

    Reply
  • Mrs. Lobbster October 1, 2014, 10:01 am

    Hi MMM! The idea of an electric bike is really neat. I’m assuming there would be limitations to using it in the winter and with a bike trailer with children in it? My husband and I are currently considering going car less (our 2003 Ford Taurus is starting to have transmission problems) and relying on our bikes and public transportation to get around. Winter is the only thing that is really scaring us. We have a 4 month old and don’t live to far from your home town in Ontario so as you know the winters aren’t very fun. However, we are looking into winter bike tires and appropriate clothing. We really want to make this work! We love reading your blog!!

    Reply
    • Mr. Money Mustache October 1, 2014, 3:19 pm

      Yeah, Ontario winter can really slow down the cycling unless you live somewhere with properly plowed bike paths or road shoulders. I did manage to do my last 3 years of university in Hamilton with 100% bike commuting, but it was only 5km each way.

      Where I live now it rarely snows, so it’s always biking season – one reason I’m never moving back!

      But combining electric assist with really wide knobby tires would be a powerful thing. You could handle longer distances even in snow.

      Reply
      • Patrick October 2, 2014, 7:13 am

        I’m a full time bike commuter in up to about -30C and I’ll say two things:

        – Fuck the car drivers, they can wait behind me. The Ontario Highway Traffic Act says I am a vehicle, so I will ride on the road that I pay property tax for. No need for plowed shoulders or bike paths. But at the same time, my protest-style riding may lead to bike paths in the future.

        – Lithium batteries cannot produce as much current when they’re cold. -30C is my rough limit in winter not because I can’t handle it, but because my bike lights (only get 8 hours of daylight so I commute in the dark both ways) cannot last my entire commute past -30C. I assume an e-bike battery would be the same.

        Reply
  • Kim October 1, 2014, 10:01 am

    Electric bikes are really popular here in Orlando where we have lots of folks without driver’s licenses :) A great way to make sure you can still get to work after you run into trouble with the law.

    Reply
  • Mindaugas October 1, 2014, 10:09 am

    Dear MMM,
    You, sir have recently become my hero. I sold two cars, cut my spendings, started cycling to work on a moderate trafic out of town road 20miles in the dark, rain and 5degrees o Celcium above zero. My wife does 10 miles daily (two times/day actualy) to the kindergarden with a bike trailer and two kids inside. I have also a knee injury and it hurts me if there is a strong wind in front while I bike to work, that is why I started to think about el. Assistant. BUT, I have read your article “Muscle over Motor. It’s more than just an article. It’s a Founding Principle of Mustachianism, because when you embrace it, it adds great fun to your life even while it simultaneously strips away the fat from your physique and your budget. It’s one of the most powerful little three-word sentences you can embrace.” and decided to keep cycling – hoping to build some muscles and get-through the pain.
    But with rhis article, sir, I got confused.

    By the way, bigger part of electricity in the world is still produced by heavilly poluting the Earth by burning coal or producing nuclear waste.. That is why this is not so “green”.

    Sincerely,
    Young, beginner mustachian from Lithuania.

    Reply
    • Mr. Money Mustache October 1, 2014, 3:57 pm

      Thanks Mindaugas,

      You are totally right, Muscle over Motor still applies – see the paragraph where I said an e-bike is NOT actually the ideal addition for my own life, because I can already handle everything by M-bike. This article is for people who are currently unable/unwilling to bike, but ready to dive in if it is a little easier. It is a gateway drug, and they will find themselves riding more after that.

      The electricity consumption of e-bikes is so incredibly low, that it doesn’t matter how it is generated in this case – it is an environmental win. It has an even lower impact than the FOOD a cyclist would normally have to eat to produce the same cycling distance!

      Reply
      • solid citizen October 1, 2014, 6:28 pm

        I think to be fair, you should also somehow monetize the cost and environmental impact (consumption) of the batteries – production, replacement, and disposal…Battery materials and manufacturing is not very green. I have been waiting for somebody to do the analysis on a Prius or Leaf when taking into account the whole life cycle of the batteries and their total “carbon footprint”… is a Leaf really overall greener than a Honda Fit? Such a comparison is probably hard to make without much assumptions and speculation though.

        Reply
        • Mr. Money Mustache October 1, 2014, 6:33 pm

          You’re definitely right.. there is a bit of that in this article about the Prius: http://www.mrmoneymustache.com/2012/03/20/toyota-prius-ass-kicker-or-trouble-maker/

          The batteries do come with a bit of an environmental footprint. But if you are using the bike to displace a large amount of real car driving (or even enough food eating), it still ends up a big positive because the batteries last 1000 charges x 30+ miles each. This is 30,000 miles, which is an incredible amount of cycling.

          Reply
    • Patrick October 2, 2014, 7:21 am

      If your knee hurts in a headwind you need to downshift and keep a faster cadence. If your bike is a single speed, invest in gears. If you can’t spin out a 22 by 32 gear even in 50kmh headwinds then you’re gonna have to take the parachute off your bicycle.

      Muscle over motor is great, and bicycles give you the mechanical advantage to use muscle to its maximum potential.

      Edit: Oh yeah, another main cause of knee pain is having your seat too low. Mechanical advantage and all that…

      Reply
  • Leonel October 1, 2014, 10:59 am

    What kind of discounts are you talking about when you mention the $300 ish dollar strategy?

    Thanks!

    Reply
  • Kevin October 1, 2014, 11:06 am

    Omg I didn’t know these existed either! This is awesome, and could allow me to bike commute my daily 30 mile round trip. And as a Mechanical Engineer, a retrofit kit sounds like tons of fun!

    One thing though, MMM: to you and other Mustachians whose minimal driving habits allow you to stretch a tank of gas for several months, I’d advise only filling up with no more than 1-2 months worth of gas at a time. Gasoline has a limited life, especially with today’s ethanol blends (even when it’s only 10%). See http://www.fuel-testers.com/expiration_of_ethanol_gas.html (not affiliated with that site, just FYI)

    Reply
  • Frugal Paragon October 1, 2014, 11:22 am

    I also had no idea these existed! I’ve bookmarked this page to review next year, when my kids are bigger. I have a two-year-old and a three-year-old and DAMN that trailer is getting heavy. I ride a special petite-frame bicycle, so my options for are limited. I HATE going fast on my bike, but maybe this could be a way to get a little boost. We are a one-car family, so my choices are often “schlep children on bike” or “stay home and all want to kill each other inside of an hour.”

    Reply
  • Ken October 1, 2014, 11:30 am

    My Dad was a keen fitness man for all his life. Getting an electric bike meant he could still enjoy 40-50 km stints around the countryside in the last few years of his life. An electric bike meant that he was able to do bike ride just six weeks before he died.

    Reply
    • fwttg October 1, 2014, 1:45 pm

      Hey Ken,

      Nice story. It must have given your dad great pleasure to be able cruise around the countryside like that.

      I made way for a fellow earlier this year on my commute. Apparently he has MS. His ebike allowed him to continue cycling.

      Reply
  • BW October 1, 2014, 12:02 pm

    As someone who commutes 35+ miles a day by bike, I have mixed opinions of the new e-bikes. I live not far from MMM in Colorado and commute to Boulder. This year I have noticed an increase in ebikes on the roads and bike paths. Unfortunately, many of the people riding these bikes lack proper cycling etiquette and safety knowledge. There have been multiple occasions where I have personally experienced these folks trying to squeeze around other bikers and pedestrians and creating unsafe situations for all. Because these bikes go faster than most manual bikes, the folks riding them seem to be overly aggressive in passing and travel at speeds that are inappropriate for the conditions. Moreover, many of these same people do not have a lot of cycling experience and are not always in control of their bikes at these speeds. I would urge folks who adopt this new technology to be respectful of others that use bike lanes and path bikes and to understand cycling etiquette and how to control your bike before cranking it up to 30 mph and trying to pass a group ride of experienced cyclists.

    Reply
    • Mr. Money Mustache October 1, 2014, 12:26 pm

      I definitely agree – they’ll probably start requiring licenses eventually because of just this problem. For now, though, my version of etiquette is to use the super speed mode only on real roads and switch to leg power only on the bike path (unless it is completely deserted as it is during working hours here in Longmont).

      Reply
  • Tawcan October 1, 2014, 12:08 pm

    E-bike has come a long way in the last 8-9 years. I did some engineering projects on e-bike during university days and back then it was super cool to work on the e-bike. With the battery technology getting better and better, you no longer need a super heavy battery for the e-bike. This makes life easier when you’re paddling with your own power too. For e-bike to really pick up the price needs to drop further. For now people would just pick scooters over e-bike. I suppose this is similar with electrical cars and regular cars.

    Reply
  • skiMore October 1, 2014, 12:26 pm

    I was wondering what the battery cost/mile estimate is? The lithium ion batteries are not cheap. How many charges (miles) do you get out of them? How much does that add to the cost of ownership?

    Reply
  • Sarah October 1, 2014, 12:31 pm

    I think this would be a great option for me. I used to live biking distance from work and biked regularly to an office that had a shower if needed. Then, within a few months I both moved in with the new husband and changed jobs – each of which increased the distance with a net result of “too far to bike” – plus I lost the shower. This could get me there in a timely manner and reduce the sweat factor. I am sold :) Admittedly, thinking about using this on ice and snow in the winter make me nervous, but maybe with studded tires I would be okay.

    Reply
  • Postscript October 1, 2014, 12:32 pm

    I’m very much a beginner bicyclist, hate going fast, and not good at assembling or fixing things. I am trying to work up to commuting to and from work (about 6 miles each way). It’s LA, so I could do it all year round, but there are hills. So I like the idea of being able to get a little boost, but I don’t want to go fast. MMM, as you explore this further, can you please expand on the get-nervous-nontechnical-people-out-of-cars angle in addition to the super-cool-GEAR!-SPEED!-DIY!-tinkering angle?

    Reply
    • pce October 1, 2014, 6:18 pm

      check for a local bike dealer that sells electric bikes so you can try some out. Your options are a ready-made production bike, or an add-on conversion kit for an existing bike. Bikes with pedal assist can be ridden slowly via both low assist levels and light pedaling (most bikes now work by varying the assist according to how hard you pedal). So if you just want to go easy, there’s no problem doing that. As for the hills, unless they are extremely steep, nearly any current electric bike is likely to be fine for your needs. Details of weight, wattage, amp hours and all the rest matter if you need extended range, are hauling very heavy loads, or are interested in maximum speed/performance. For most folks that just want a little boost you don’t need to worry about all that. Just try out some bikes and have fun choosing.

      Reply
      • Postscript October 2, 2014, 7:06 pm

        Thanks pce, good suggestions!

        Reply
  • bo_knows October 1, 2014, 12:38 pm

    I’ve been looking at (read: salivating over) e-bikes for 2 years now. I’ve been in a job that is about 12mi each way, and I work a compressed schedule (Mon-Thurs 10hr days) so I feel like the time burden of biking to work and showering sort of takes away from my time with my son which is the whole purpose of the compressed schedule.

    E-bikes have always been a promise of minimizing that downside. Though, I do wonder how long a 12mi commute would take in the winter when everything is icy/sloshy and you can’t exactly zoom at 35mph on 2 wheels.

    Complainypants aside… I love article and it’s certainly giving me another reason to consider this as my commute.

    Reply
  • Joe October 1, 2014, 12:55 pm

    I really need one of these. I can ride bike on flat land, but any incline at all just kills me. I have a muscular disorder so I can’t keep up my aerobic activity for long. Once my kid can ride better, then I’ll see if I can get one of these so we can go on longer distance rides. Hopefully, the price will come down a bit in a few years. Yeah, if it’s over $1,000, then I’d probably go with a scooter too.

    Reply
  • MrBill October 1, 2014, 1:18 pm

    It’s good to see MMM discuss e-bikes.

    A few thoughts:

    1) Reader “Cecile” suggests using an e-bikes are a “big NO” if it replaces a regular bike. I disagree. The marginal value of exercise decreases with the amount of exercise (energy burned) and can easily go negative if it causes over-use injuries. It has also been shown that e-biking has a lower cost of energy than 100% human-power biking, in part because food Calories are more expensive than Calories pulled from the wall outlet. See https://www.ebikes.ca/documents/Ebike_Energy.pdf

    2) In California where I live (and probably other states), any bicycle with a motor is considered a “motorized bicycle” and is by default banned on multi-use paths, trails, and other facilities, except where those paths run immediately on or adjacent to a roadway (such as a bike lane). Although the law was probably written when the only motorization was accomplished with a beastly 2-stroke gas banger, the law makes no exception for an e-bike, whether or not it is speed/power limited. This means you can get busted for riding your e-bike on a bike path, even if you aren’t using the motor. Merely possessing an e-bike on a path is illegal. An effort earlier this year to amend the law to give speed- (20mph) and power- (750 watts) limited e-bikes same access to bicycle facilities as human-powered bicycles recently failed but I expect the effort to be renewed in the coming year, especially since a growing industry’s target market starts out by riding on paths and trails away from auto traffic.

    3) I recommend readers planning to build their own e-bikes with lithium batteries use turn-key battery and charger solutions and avoid using HobbyKing RC packs as shown in the “monsterbike” photo, unless they understand the care and use requirements of lithium batteries and their safety risks. pingbattery.com, em3ev.com (in China) offer solutions price-competitive with HobbyKing and make a good and safe product. Your local ebike vendor will also offer good after-sale service.

    Reply
  • Eric Paul October 1, 2014, 1:26 pm

    I’ve often considered electrifying a bike but I always come to the same conclusion – for me (a healthy 37 year old man who already commutes by bike about 80 miles/week) it doesn’t make much sense. However, if it will open up new places to use a bike where I normally use a car (like monthly trips to Costco) then it might be worthwhile. Not anytime soon though – still dealing with some pre-Mustachian debt!

    Reply
  • RapmasterD October 1, 2014, 1:39 pm

    Here in the SF Bay Area Peninsula, I find the prospect of tooting down our busy city streets in the bike lane at 25 MPH to be inherently unsafe. AWESOME if you can throttle back to 15 MPH and get more range.

    Reply
    • LennStar October 1, 2014, 3:17 pm

      It goes as fast as you use your feet on the pedals LOL

      Reply
    • Andy C October 1, 2014, 7:04 pm

      Just because ebikes are capable of 25+ mph doesn’t mean you have to go that fast. Our cars can all get up to 80 on the highway but if we want to maximize our fuel economy, we’ll go much slower, sticking to 60-65 mph in the right lane. Just do the same with an ebike. Use it at a common sense speed and you’ll be fine.

      Reply
  • Jeff October 1, 2014, 1:51 pm

    How long do these Li Ion batteries last for before the range starts reducing considerably?
    Phone batteries start noticeably losing capacity after 18 months or so.
    Presumably a bicycle battery with daily use might do the same?

    Then Li Ion batteries don’t like being fully discharged, so do the bicycle controllers prevent that?

    Reply
    • LennStar October 1, 2014, 3:22 pm

      Modern, good quality Li-Ion batteries shoudl easily give you several years at min 80% even if daily charged and discharged.
      Good quality is the key here.

      And that phone batteries lose after 18 month is either a myth, planned obsolescence (iPhone not long?), bad quality or very heavy/misuse. I had one and the same run for 8 years before it broke down – and that was a very cheap 2001 model!

      Reply
  • Daniel SC October 1, 2014, 1:55 pm

    I know the article is about electric bikes, but I’ve been looking around at affordable options for a commuter bike. The range I need right now is about 1 mile each way. Have we had any articles about getting a commuter bike?

    Reply
    • Mr. Money Mustache October 1, 2014, 6:47 pm

      You could do that with any bike – search your local Craigslist, or if you want a new one, this $349 Diamondback is ideal: http://www.nashbar.com/bikes/Product_10053_10052_565115_-1___204687

      There are a few shopping tips at the bottom of this post too: http://www.mrmoneymustache.com/2012/05/07/what-do-you-mean-you-dont-have-a-bike/

      Reply
    • RubeRad October 2, 2014, 9:09 pm

      MMM does have good tips; if you still have questions, head on over to bikeforums.net/commuting, sign up for a free membership, and post a new thread to ask. The commuting forum is full of friendly folk (like me!) who are very happy to answer questions, give recommendations, look at CL postings and give opinions, look at google maps and recommend safe routes/techniques, etc.

      I’ll tell you right now, 1 mi each way is very minimal, you don’t need much bike at all, and if there’s any inconvenience locking or storing the bike etc, it might just be easier to walk.

      The most common recommendation for commuter bikes is to search craigslist for a 1990’s rigid-fork mountain bike, $150 or less, from a recognized brand name (specialized, trek, giant, gt, fuji, schwinn, … no magna or Next or roadmaster), get it cleaned and lubed by a local bike shop for under $100, and you’ll be set.

      Reply
      • Daniel SC October 3, 2014, 8:54 am

        Thanks for the tip!

        Reply
  • zsolt October 1, 2014, 1:57 pm

    Hey MMM, I am a Huge fan of electric mobiliy and live in Stuttgart, Germany, a pilot-city for emobility with Hydrogen fueled buses, eCar-carsharing (is extreemly popular) and eScooters running up and down in the hilly city. There are eStations everywhere in the city and there are fee parking spots for eCars. Would be interesting writing an article alone about that. It’s extreemly interresting to See how this evolves here…Do U have something like that in the us?
    After saying all that…what you forgot to mention is: electric bikes should not be used by healthy individuals on short distances (less then 5miles or so). At least this is my opinion. eBikes can be bad for your fittness: For example: your commuting is 15 miles per day. The distance is obviously fixed per day. With an ebike you consume lot less energy. If you can make it with a normal bike, stick to that! Otherwise you become lazy and lose fittness…
    But for lazy,fat people, could be the key to make thema ride a bike in the first Palace.

    Reply
  • Nate October 1, 2014, 2:07 pm

    Since you are cost conscious, here are a few items of consideration from someone who pedals a traditional bike about 8k-10k per year (half of it commuting the other half for fun).
    1. Consumables for bikes are not as cheap as you may think. The tires for this type of bike will only have a few hundred miles of use to them (they are made for light riding or dirt), but a road bike tire can last as much as 3,000 miles.
    2. The brakes ARE an issue. At speeds greater than 25 mph on a bike that weight in traffic, you will want disk breaks. The pads on disk breaks last longer so I do not believe they will be excessively more expensive to operate over time. Some time, take your e-bike out and emergency break from top speed and see how long it takes. Then break from top speed to 2/3 speed before emergency breaking the rest of the way. You will find out how squishy those breaks really are in a situation you may one day find yourself in. Also, disk breaks do not degrade control of the wheel like v-breaks do.
    3. With the additional torque on the chain, you will go through chains more quickly. They typically last 2,500 miles on a light road bike and much less for my mountain bike. If you stretch them out, they destroy the much more expensive cassette.

    Many people feel that they cannot do their own maintenance on bikes even though they are some of the most simple machines you can work on. In order for a bike to work correctly, they should be cleaned and maintained very regularly. If you hire the local bike shop to change tires, chains, breaks, and do routine tuneups, they can be very expensive. When you take into account the extra complications of an e-bike, it gets even more spendy.

    In no way am I saying an e-bike is not a good idea (compared to a car, it is way better). What I am saying is that you can save a ton of money and be better off by going with the better option of a 100% human powered bike.

    As far as not going as fast, most people will be able to travel half the speed of an e-bike without breaking a sweat (wind resistance is exponential). For five miles, that is 30 min vs 15 min, assuming no stops. Since that will never happen, with the stops, the time savings is cut to maybe 5-10 min. Let’s face it, that speed you are enjoying between stop signs and lights is a pure luxury that costs lots of money and if I see you on the road, I will draft your wheel and enjoy it for free at your expense.

    Reply
    • pce October 1, 2014, 6:30 pm

      you raise some good points, but maintenance on an ebike (assuming you bring it in to a shop) is not any different than a regular bike for all standard bike parts, and won’t cost any different. Truing wheels, changing tires, adjusting derailleurs, etc is all the same. The motors are generally not going to be owner serviceable, but typical electric motors are pretty simple things when it comes down to it. With regard to your point on the tires … some ebikes come with nice tires (e.g. schwalbe marathons), some come with junk. Same as with any bike. Lastly, for the motor shown in this article (hub motor), there is no additional torque on the chain at all. There are some bikes with mid-drives (where the motor is part of the bottom bracket) where your comment would apply, but not with hub motors.

      Reply
      • FreeWheel October 1, 2014, 8:43 pm

        Correct. A hub motor puts no additional torque on the chain. It puts it on the spokes. As such it would be wise to carefully inspect spoke tension and integrity more often than you would on a non-motorized bike.

        Reply
  • Mrs. WW October 1, 2014, 2:09 pm

    I had a lady tell me I was guilty of neglect this morning because I ride my kids to school every day (on regular bicycles, we’ve been full blown mustachian for awhile now.) I almost couldn’t even process it. Here’s the real weird thing. She was mad because when she went to pull out of her driveway (in her full size- seats 14 but only had 2 in it- van) we were in her way for a few seconds. Why was she mad at me and my darling kids who LOVE biking to school with their mom every day? (We have a personal temp cut off of 20 degrees. Colder than that the whole day and we drive– for now.) If we were in a car we wouldn’t have been out of the way much faster? What have I ever done to her? Argh. All I could think was, complainypants. I smiled on the outside and politely asked that she watch out for us anyway even if she didn’t agree with my parenting choices, but on the inside I called her a complainypants.

    Reply
    • Mr. Money Mustache October 1, 2014, 6:41 pm

      The ironic part is that driving kids to school deprives them of exercise that measurably improves their concentration and learning ability. The negligent people are the drivers!

      Reply
      • David October 2, 2014, 7:44 am

        Indeed! My wife and I are eagerly awaiting the moment our girls are old enough to ride their own bikes to preschool, rather than riding in the trailer…

        The fun part is that when we pick them up in the trailer, a ton of the other kids in their class have decided that it looks like enough fun that they want to ride with us! Gotta love kids, since they haven’t had years of conditioning to think cars are the ‘right’ way to do things… It also means that ours will give us flak if we *don’t* bike places sometimes, which is always a helpful kick in the pants.

        Reply
      • Mrs. WW October 2, 2014, 9:29 am

        Exactly! Plus, I get to spend 40 glorious minutes with my kids every day doing something we love together as opposed to just driving because I’m in a hurry to ship them off. Biking is not neglect. That’s extra-special care.

        And then I get 40 heavenly minutes by myself with blood flowing and fresh air incoming to work out the day’s problems. But then this lady got me all riled up and I had to spend my 20 minute ride home convincing myself to be peaceful and caring. She’s lucky I had that time to get my head right. : P

        Reply
    • Nate October 2, 2014, 6:30 am

      It is most likely not the fact that you delayed her. She most likely thinks that cyclist will certainly be struck by cars and because of that she thinks that you are endangering your kids.

      I get two versions of this from people who make excuses on why they cannot do what I do (bike commute). The first is, they say they saw cars almost hit me when they saw me on the road. This never happens, but their perception is, a car passing me safely with a couple feet of clearance is almost hitting me. The second is that too many people are texting and distracted. Although this can be problem, in most situations you are visible to cars a quarter of a mile or more before they pass. That means someone would have to be texting for 20-30 seconds without ever looking up for them to completely miss you. The roads are very safe for us cyclists if we are acting in predictable ways and going with the flow of traffic. By teaching your kids this early, you are NOT neglecting your kids, but teaching them essential life skills.

      My biggest defense against the, “a car may hit you,” is to point out how cars so easily avoid those large chunks of blown out tires in freeways when traveling at 80+ mph and tightly packed in. If anything should be struck, it would be that black rubber sitting stagnant in the middle of a fast moving road., yet I have never seen a car hit one (I am sure it does happen occasionally). How much less likely is it when you are moving in the same direction, much larger, visible clothing, lights, off the side of the road, and on slower moving surface streets. Keep up the riding and building weather resilience.

      Reply
      • Mrs. WW October 2, 2014, 9:43 am

        I do agree that cars can be dangerous. We do need to bike defensively in order to deal with those who are distracted or just plain lazy looker outers. It does make me nervous with my kids from time to time.

        I think there’s something to be said about consistently being out there too. Many drivers in my area are not used to looking for bikers. Yes, it makes us more unsafe but the more we are out there, day in and day out, the more the motorists will become better drivers. Bikes do share the road. It’s time these people learned that we’re here and how to deal with us. We’re not going away, not even if it’s a little rainy or cold. Watch out ALL the time.

        And I love what you said about teaching them essential life skills. That’s right on. It was actually great the first time we rode in the snow. The littlest is pedaling on a tag along with me but the big kid had to learn how to ‘drive’ in snow, as all motorist have to do when you live in a snow covered state. Thankfully the main roads were plowed well but that first day I think he fell over 5 times on the side streets. I told him time and again to brake slowly and watch for the pull of the snow but he had to learn the hard way. By the time winter was over he was a pro. I am just so happy that he’s learned the basic concepts now instead of in a car when a miscalculation is much more dangerous.

        Reply
    • Postscript October 2, 2014, 7:11 pm

      I had the same experience this morning! My son’s first time biking with me to school (previously he used a razor scooter) and a woman screams at me from a moving car that I’m putting my son in danger and he should be biking on the sidewalk. Ugh.

      Scary thing is, she was probably texting as she drove off…

      Reply
  • Heath October 1, 2014, 2:25 pm

    Extremely cool post!

    I’ve been daydreaming about getting an e-bike for years. Kits definitely seem like the way to go, though I’m not all that mechanically experienced. I think I could enlist the help of some biking-enthusaist friends, though.

    I’m curious about how ebikes fare in wet weather. I imagine that it would be pretty difficult to build one that is entirely rain/puddle-proof, though maybe that’s just my perception. It would be a super huge pain to be riding to work, and have your bike short out on you, leaving you with an even more difficult commute (because it’s heavier than a ‘normal’ bike would be).

    Also, what do you think about the different kinds of kits? I see you chose a hub motor, but I’ve heard various good things about “mid-drive” motors as well. They basically attach to your chain somewhere along the way. They seem mechanically more complicated, but you can put them on anything with a chain, including trikes and other configurations.

    This site seemed to have dcent info on mid-drive-kits.
    http://www.electricbike.com/mid-drive-kits/

    Up to this point, I’ve avoided buying any form of ebike because I only have a 4 mile (one way) commute, and thus the cost/complexity isn’t yet justified. But I think I could justify it if I consider replacing my scooter. Hmm…

    Reply
  • Marc MkKoy October 1, 2014, 2:34 pm

    I almost did a small gas conversion kit a year ago, but prefer the exercise and considered the weight/benefit ratio. Now, these seem like a good alternative and are much cleaner. My usual commute is between 10 – 20 miles depending on circumstances, with some pretty decent hills/inclines. It would take some discipline to not use the motor when leg power will do, and after some time the weight will become negligible due to your body acclimating. I ride with a pannier bag of around 10lbs. and a backpack with laptop and other provisions of about 20 – 25lbs. I can still average 15.5mpg over a 10 mile trek.

    The e-bike would be good for a second vehicle used for hauling groceries or other things, or when speed is an issue to be someplace on time. As far as traffic, I always stick to back roads when possible. The route is usually shorter (cutting corners as it were), lots less traffic, scenery, and an occasional friendly conversation. When on the highway, I ride in the middle of the roadway as much as possible to be more visible while always watching my rear-view mirror for approaching traffic and then moving to the shoulder. I find that sticking to the shoulder is more dangerous, because if you are required to divert onto the roadway it will catch some motorists by surprised, as opposed to being ever omnipresent in the road where they can see (and possibly curse you), but nevertheless become aware of you. I very seldom have any issues with motorists.

    I’m curious about the time needed to recharge. If I make a 40 mile commute and burn 60% of my battery. how long would I expect to charge before getting another 20% to make the trip home and totally expend my reserves? I know that is kind of subjective due to circumstances, but generally, what is the layover time for a return trip of equal distance for charging?

    Great information, as usual!

    Reply
    • Todd October 3, 2014, 3:50 pm

      I own this one: http://www.evelo.com/electric-bicycles/aries/ (I know it is much to pricey for a true Mustachian, but it is paying for itself, and I did get $400 off). I usually commute 40 miles per day on it, though recently I have been commuting 60 miles a day on it. It has about a 35-40 mile range with me pedaling so I have to charge it while I’m at work (it is usually down to about 20% when I get to work), and that takes it about three or four hours to fully charge back up. From completely dead it fully charges in about four or five hours, so I would guess to get just 20% more charged it should take less than two hours.

      Reply
  • LennStar October 1, 2014, 3:07 pm

    Just a littel about bycicles, about what is possible ;) – both german though.
    OSE Germany is building an Open Source carrier bike frm used parts
    http://opensourceecology.de/2014/08/lastenrad-statusupdate-aus-berlin/
    and this company is building custm made bikes from bamboo
    http://www.faserwerk.net/de/bikes/

    Reply
  • Dan the Dogman October 1, 2014, 3:27 pm

    W0w, lots of great comments, that span the whole spectrum of pros and cons to riding ebikes.

    I’ve got more than 10,000 miles of ebike commuting logged, plus tons of off road riding I never counted.

    One thing I can say for sure, a jerk on an ebike is dangerous. Police should go after somebody weaving around and terrifying the people on the bridge or multi use paths. Hooligans will be hooligans, they suck just as bad on skateboards, bikes, motorcycles or ebikes.

    Also really dangerous is riding past your ability, this is really tempting when your bike can reach 30 mph. Choose a speed that suits your ability. A throttle allows that, as do some e bikes that have 3 or 5 speed switches. I’ve run a 50 mph ebike on a racetrack, and yes I did crash it. But grocery getting I do at 18-20 mph, a safe speed for me to both ride, and avoid that guy not looking out the windshield of his F 350 one ton pickup.

    As for exercise, I get ALL the exercise I want. It’s very simple, set the throttle to a medium setting, then pedal till I hit my perfect cadence and cardio effort. Then keep going at that perfect cadence up hill, down hill, into the wind, all at my perfect heart rate. It’s not just that the assist means I can ride farther, I actually get the best quality exercise for an old guy. I don’t have to worry about a heart attack from a steep hill. I just keep that perfect cadence going for miles and miles.

    Of course, if you are still young and fit, ride your bike to the ski area, and go boarding or skiing. OHHH, I miss Taos double black runs on telemark skis. But that was when was young and made of rubber. Now I just really enjoy miles and miles of riding my ebike.

    Reply
  • Hamlin October 1, 2014, 3:42 pm

    After the Seattle Meetup I was inspired to go further on the quest to vanquish the car clown habit.

    I live in West Seattle and work in Bellevue about 14 miles away, not an issue on bike distance at all…but the hills.
    I was biking to and from a few days a week, but it was becoming a chore of a workout until…
    I bought an ebike! I got an eMazing Daedalus ($1,600) from ebike Seattle, http://www.electricbikeseattle.com/
    It’s got a 250W rear hub motor and it’s been life changing, even for the famous Seattle hills.

    Reply
  • Tobias October 1, 2014, 3:48 pm

    Hells MMM,

    What do you think about velomobiles? Are they avaiable in the U.S.? If not, Imagine a bike with additional Plastic Parts to cover the driver and the mechanic Parts almost completely for perfect aerodynamic shape. Some time ago a velomobile drove in front of me, reaching 45 kph driving up the Hulks of Bavaria. Plus you have perfect weather protection, are allowed to drive even in snow and depending on the shape a lot of space to transport goods.

    Find here some pictures
    http://de.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Velomobil

    Reply
  • mary w October 1, 2014, 3:59 pm

    Years ago at an auto museum there was a display for a Whizzer which was a bicycle with motor (gas rather than electric I’m pretty sure). The interesting part was the advertisement which appeared to be 1940s or 50s. A sketch of a man in a business suit on a Whizzer with ad copy that pointed out that the average man’s commute was 6 miles. What stuck most in my mind wasn’t the Whizzer itself but that the average commute was only 6 miles. Wouldn’t cities be different if that was till the average commute?

    Reply
  • Melody October 1, 2014, 5:11 pm

    These are a really good idea for people who don’t have “end of trip” facilities in their work places (especially if there is a big hill you need to go up to get to work.) The pay-back period for a $1000 e-bike compared to public transport is around 6-8 months in my city, which makes it a great way to save money, even if it’s not the most bad ass option out there!

    Reply
  • Jen October 1, 2014, 6:35 pm

    An ebike was my gateway to cycling – an I LOVE IT. I just sold my original ebike (and OHM) and purchased a used Yuba Boda Boda off Craigslist. Now I pretty much only use the car when I really need it – most of my trips are on the bike. They are expensive when you compare them to a bike — but affordable when you compare them to a car. In addition to getting fresh air and exercise – bike riding improves the quality of my life because I feel better overal – a near constant smile on my face after a ride. Since my Boda Boda is a mid-tail cargo bike -I can haul my kid, my gear, the groceries all at the same time. The electric elimainates my own range anxiety – I don’t worry that I will get too tired or stuck – I know I can always just up the power. Also, I have a tight schedule – I have to pick up my daughter exactly one hour after I get off work – I wouldn’t make it on a non electric bike — but I average about 15 mph on my ebike and I can stay on time. Unlike others — I don’t ride it fast — but I do ride it far….

    Reply
    • SisterX October 2, 2014, 12:13 pm

      You might have just shown me my dream bike. Only one question–can you hook up a trailer to the Boda Boda as well? Or a trail-a-bike? We’re planning to have a second kid at some point so I’ll need an option to haul the second one around.

      Reply
  • Derek October 1, 2014, 10:14 pm

    Big fan of electric bikes here- we have 2 bionx kits. One on a surly big dummy (for me) and a xtracycle edgerunner (for my sweet sweet wife)

    But when it’s dry, I prefer my new electric longboard :D

    http://thatsrubbish.wordpress.com/2014/09/21/365/

    Reply
    • Heath October 2, 2014, 11:33 am

      I’m strangely drawn to the idea of an electric longboard. I’m also somewhat terrified that I would kill myself if I ever actually tried to use it…

      But it’s so tiny that I could conveniently store it wherever I went. What’s the range on it, and how fast does it go?

      Reply
  • Jeff October 1, 2014, 10:42 pm

    When I saw this article, it was while I was in the process of shopping online for my first bike in maybe 10 years. I was not at all aware of eBikes. I spent the whole day pondering whether I should get one of those instead, but ultimately, I reminded myself that the whole reason I wanted to get a bike was to get more exercise on my way to work. I decided to just get a regular hybrid with disc brakes and if I end up not using it as much as I thought I would and that the reason was hills and sweating too much before work, then I will get a FlyKly or a Copenhagen Wheel for it and it will end up being about the same price as the eBike I almost pulled the trigger on. I’m really glad I know about eBikes now, and also really glad I avoided the less badass/more fancy option for now.

    Reply
  • Frugal McDoogal October 2, 2014, 12:29 am

    Love the eBike concept. The only think keeping me from riding a bike to work is a gnarly hill that lies directly between me and work about 5 miles into a 10 mile one way ride. I’ve done it several times, but showing up to work drenched in sweat has not gone over too well with anyone including me. That giant hill (peaks at about 1000′ and continues to rise slightly for almost a mile) has become my gravelly white whale. How many times while snorting my way up the hill did I dream of a way to get me over the hump without waterfalls of sweat tumbling down – every time I tells ya, every single time.

    So does the electric bike have to be “on” the entire time you ride it or can you just switch it on when you, uh, need to get over a hill and then switch it off? I only need the electricity going up the hill, the rest of the journey is all leg.

    great idea M

    Reply
  • Mr P October 2, 2014, 4:24 am

    Just wantto present one more option, which wasn’t mentioned here. It’s a startup http://www.rubbee.co.uk/ You can apply their device on any bike’s rear wheel. You always can take it with you to office and charge (removes possibility of stealing, which is really important in Europe). Also, if you’re going to have fun, you just remove this thing and drive your MTB or whatever you have the usual wheel.

    The price 1190 is. I would say that not so bad for such a device. However, I prefer simple bike for now.

    Reply
  • Perpetuummobile October 2, 2014, 6:27 am

    Riding my conversed e-bike for almost four years now. Love it! Don’t want to ride w/o e-power anymore…
    Car is staying almost all the time below a cover. Ha ha!

    Reply
  • Nichole October 2, 2014, 8:03 am

    I am so excited to see people considering e-bikes! I purchased a Kalkhoff Agattu 3 years ago and have LOVED riding it around my bike-friendly city of Denver. I recently added a companion seat to the back that allows me to take my 11-year-old wherever she needs to go. Between that and the trailer for groceries I can do most anything I would need to use a car for. In fact, I just finally got rid of my car. I do sell residential real estate, so having no car is a logistics challenge that I am still working on.

    I considered a scooter but didn’t want to miss out on at least some exercise. I do regularly break a sweat on this bike. I ride WAY more than I did without the assist so I figure it must be a win. Also, being able to still ride in the park and on bike paths is a huge advantage over being stuck in traffic.

    As far as keeping it road-ready? In three years and a TON of miles I have replaced the chain once (there is more pressure on the chain so it wears out a little faster) and just put new tires on about a month ago. I spent about $20 extra to upgrade the tires so I’m hoping they last beyond three years this time. Still has original battery, breaks etc and it doesn’t seems like they will need replacing any time soon?

    Some people call it “cheating” but I wonder what game they are playing? Everyone that has ever said that to me drives a car most everywhere they go?

    Reply
    • Derek October 3, 2014, 7:10 pm

      Nichole- My wife and I get the cheating comment on occasion when people walk over to indspect our bikes and find out we are hauling groceries with electric power. I just ask them with a grin on my face- yeah? How did you get here?! :)

      Reply
  • Stephen October 2, 2014, 9:32 am

    Good stuff on the electric bike. I took a little test ride of the specialized turbo from the local bike shop not too long ago ($5000 msrp). It was a pretty epic feeling. It is a really nice bike in addition to being electric. I’ll follow them as the price continues to drop. It was a pretty cool experiment. For me, the ole standard road bike works well for my short commute but I think my wife would be interested in an electric, especially when pulling the kids in with the seats/trailer.

    On a short side note, you might want to check into local deals for leaf leasing. I hate the concept of leasing, but here in Georgia, you can lease a 2015 leaf for ~$38 a month for 24 months after federal and state tax credits. We are planning to switch out the hybrid with an electric next week and we’ll probably write up the experience. Let me know if you have any questions about that as well.

    Reply
    • Josh October 2, 2014, 9:54 am

      The lessee must claim $5k + $7.5k rebates and when accounted for over X years the lease is $38/mo? Or these benefits are claimed by the dealer resulting in an monthly bill of $38?

      Over the years my actual numbers have supported a car ownership philosophy inline with MMM. However, my last few analyses have shown that numerous leasing options are competitive or lower TOC over the expected remaining lifetime of my 2006 honda civic. It has certainly been an eye opener. In fact, there was a sweet spot w/r the resale on this car about 2 years ago that would have paid for ~8 years of leases.

      I would be interested in seeing a comparison of used car TOC to aggressive lease pricing, especially fringe cases where a single unexpected repair may tip the scales.

      Reply
  • Jonathan October 2, 2014, 9:59 am

    Looking forward to the next article! This will help me get motivated for a 16 mile commute bike only. Otherwise, if I actually do the commute I use the combination of bicycle plus bus. Usually, I just get lazy and hop in the car.

    Reply
  • Selene October 2, 2014, 10:34 am

    Good to know as well, in case you have a bike breakdown, since they are heavy to pedal without the engine, if you are member of CAA in Canada, they can tow your bike too. https://www.caaquebec.com/en/on-the-road/services/bike-assist/
    :)

    Reply
  • Quez October 2, 2014, 10:45 am

    Hi from Portugal! This is my first comment. I finally read all the posts AND COMMENTS since the beginning. It took me more than a year to do that. In the meantime I got obsessed with mustachianism, started commuting by bike everyday (25kms/day), started buying my own tools and investing 60% of my income. Thanks MMM. You changed my perspective of life for the better! I now feel a full entitled mustachian and I will try to participate more. The most difficult thing, for me, is to think I have to keep my job another 5 years before I reach FI. I know I should be grateful for that (I read the book of stoicism) but I get obsessed every single day thinking the great day is still too far. THANKS MMM!

    Reply
  • Netrun October 2, 2014, 10:50 am

    Thank you for pulling the trigger on trying the ebike concept and going for something that an average handyman can handle putting together. I had seen ebikes before but was really put off by the weight and kludgy architecture. What you have is very incognito – an important in a big city where theft is a very real problem. The solution you have presented here would allow a modest bicyclist like myself to tackle my 25 mile commute in a non-bike friendly city. I love it! Eagerly awaiting your Part 2 on this article!

    Thanks Triple M!

    Reply
    • Mr. Money Mustache October 2, 2014, 11:33 am

      Yeah, I agree that you wouldn’t want something like this to get stolen. That’s why I decided to convert my existing bike (which was only around $300 when I bought it in 2008). A flashy bike will attract more thief attention than a conversion kit, and have better resale value too. Here people see my cheap bike with a tattered seat, and a nylon bag bungied to the frame. The big rear hub does give it away as electric, but in average conditions this is not a big magnet for thieves.

      So far I’ve locked it up on the university campus in downtown Boulder, as well as all the grocery and hardware stores around, plus the elementary school. No thefts yet :-)

      Reply
  • Francisco October 2, 2014, 11:49 am

    I really think e-bike are really cool… have been keeping an eye on them for a while, but as a serious question, for somebody who is still in the “building wealth” phase of their mustachist path, would this be perhaps an unmustachian purchase? Is it an expensive toy?

    If it really is about commuting distances that you can’t with a bike, wouldn’t getting a used Moped/Scooter be better? They are still really efficient, they don’t use that much gas, and can be had for less than 1000. Actually a quick craiglist search showed a few nice looking mopeds for about 600… there is even an electric moped! (http://sandiego.craigslist.org/esd/mcy/4689658502.html)

    So all in all, who do you think should be looking at an electric bike vs the kind of vehicles I mentioned?

    Thanks!

    Reply

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