Researching first e-bike. Could use some guidance.


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I'm 54 years of age, 5'10" and weigh 260lbs. Six years ago or so, I bought a decent Fuji bicycle, hoping it would be an enjoyable option for getting some exercise and losing some weight. One thing became very apparent very quickly - it takes a lot more energy to get this much weight up to speed and keep it moving down the road, than I remembered from my youth. I was simply unable to ride for any length of time, having to choose between quickly reaching muscle failure from either having to exert too much force in the higher gears or feeling like I was in a spin class in the lower gears. I always enjoyed riding, when I was younger. I know I would today as well, if it were less difficult to get back "up to speed" with it.

I've recently seen a few references to e-bikes, so I headed to YouTube to check them out. This seems like just what I need - something that will give me the pedal assistance to ease me into riding, with some throttle support for when I get too winded or fatigued. I'm only a few days into my research, but I've noted some criteria I'd like the bike I choose to satisfy as well as some things that may factor into it (subject to any insights I can get from those with more experience).
  • Budget: around $2,500 Edit: $4,000
  • I'm comfortable with shifting, having ridden geared bikes extensively in my younger days and motorcycles currently as well.
  • My area is predominately flat suburban/small city geography with plenty of mostly mild grades of less than half a mile or so, though there are a few steeper grade dips here and there.
  • I'm not looking to ride it like a scooter outside of brief stretches to catch my breath and rest my legs for a few moments. I primarily want to be able to settle into a comfortable gear for the surface at hand with adequate pedal assistance.
  • Range: At least 30-miles would be great - it's about a 25-mile round-trip to some of the locations to which I would like to eventually be able to ride.
  • While the majority of my riding will be on pavement, I would like to be able to ride the occasional mild off-road trail to get to a fishing spot or park area. One area I will be riding to for instance is a nature preserve with some nice, natural walking paths. The long entrance drive and parking lot are graded with very large gravel.
  • I haven't settled on anything, yet, but I'm thinking a fat tire bike may serve me best. I see options with 20" vs 26" or larger wheels. I'm thinking the larger wheel sizes would handle differing surfaces better, so that's the direction I'm leaning. Edit: I may be wrong on this. I had not considered the higher drag factor of fat tires. After riding a few Gazelles with 1.5"-2.15" tires, I loved the ride on pavement, but something just a little bigger would give me a good compromise for gravel/mild trails.
  • At my weight, torque is pretty important, as I understand it.
  • Any reason to choose thumb throttle over twist throttle or vice versa, or is it more a matter of personal preference?
  • Edit: I should also add that I want fenders and at the very least a rear cargo rack. I would prefer the option to add a front rack as well, but I can live without that.
Being completely new to all of this, I have zero familiarity with the numerous e-bike brands, so I'm pretty open to any. I would appreciate any suggestions or guidance in narrowing down my options. If anything I've mentioned sounds like crazy talk, I'd like to hear that as well. :)

EDIT: A few more points to mention:
  • I'm in pretty good health (weight aside). I do my own yard work, do my own home improvements if they are at all possible for a single person and I play in a recreational sand volleyball league with friends, where I have no trouble throwing my body around, diving for balls and such (not exactly the reflexes of a cat by any stretch, but it's a good excuse to get together with friends for a few beers and a good workout).
  • I am mechanically inclined, so doing my own wrenching doesn't scare me.
  • I have a few LBSs not too far away. I typically prefer to buy locally, but checking their stock online, many of their products seem significantly underpowered with much lower bang for the buck compared to online retailers.
  • Edit: After trying them both, I've decided I prefer mid-drive motors. HOWEVER, I would much prefer to find one that offers a throttle as well.
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Welcome to the forum. Depending on your area, I would visit as many LBS's and look at as many e-bikes as you can. My preference is to purchase from an LBS for service and warranty issues. The other option is purchasing over the internet. There are hundreds of company's that sell this way but I would use caution in doing so. As you probably are doing, read the reviews on e-bikes offered on the forum. $2,500 is a good chunk of change but in the e-bike world it's on the lower end so look wisely. On the technical side learn the difference between Cadence and Torque sensor bikes, hydraulic and mechanical brakes, drum and mid-dive motors, battery size as well as group sets.
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I'm 6'1"/315/71 years old, in good health (lucky) and ride pretty much daily year round. Have been doing this for a while now, and explored different bikes with several different styles of power (direct drive, geared hub drive, and mid drive) and I ride because I like to. The exercise I get is nice, but not my primary motivator.

Regarding the throttle, I won't own a bike without one, and for wrist comfort, I prefer the thumb type. Not THAT big a deal from a purchase standpoint, as they are not expensive and are easily switched. Try both to see what YOU think!

As a "heads up" would like to mention 26" Fat bikes are REALLY big bikes! Way bigger than most people think. Most will come with "knobby" tires, as it's assumed they will be ridden mostly off road. These knobs make the tires noisy when ridden on pavement at speeds over about 10mph. For mostly on road purposes (90%), after trying one for a while, I wasn't happy with the big heavy feel, the bike's handling, or the extra drag when pedaling. Would HIGHLY recommend you ride one before pursuing that idea, and while on one of these rides, make sure you turn the power off so you can get a feel for how much drag is involved. IMHO, tires that are between 2.25" and 2.4" wide are the better tires for "hybrid" on/off road use, especially when ride is a factor.

The range you are asking for shouldn't be too hard to achieve as long as you plan on supply at least a little bit of the power. It might be close at first, but as you learn to coordinate the PAS (assist) levels and the gear you are in, with the conditions at hand, you'll do noticeably better.

I would consider this new bike a learning experience. It's going to teach you a TON! After riding one for a bit, MANY of us find we are hooked. We see e-bikes have changed our way of thinking, and we start taking note of features that would be nice to have if we lived in a perfect world. This will very likely lead to the purchase of a second bike, only this time, it's going to be pretty clear you'll know exactly what you're looking for. First bike will be sold, or more likely given to a family member/friend. Speaking for myself, second bike, knowing now it's cost can be easily justified, will very likely cost a bit more than the first one did.

Forgot, to build on @CodyDog's note above, there's a really important decision to be made right away. It's something like who's going to be getting their hands dirty when it comes to assembling, servicing, and possibly troubleshooting, this new bike? Will it be you, or will you be using a local bike shop (LBS) for that purpose? It matters/is a big deal, as MANY LBS's won't work on anything they didn't sell - especially bikes purchased "consumer direct" (on line)! The reason this is a big deal is because if you plan on having a shop do your work, you are forced into looking at only the bikes they have for sale - at the prices they are asking for them. This pretty much eliminates all of the thousands of choices you'll have buying on the consumer direct plan, where YOU will be your chief mechanic. If you are on the fence here, concerned about your level of expertise regarding the electronics on these bikes, if you know what a volt meter is, and how to use one, you'll be a step ahead of some. Especially noteworthy is the level of support available from place like this, and YouTube has just a ton of "how to" on just about everything e-bike! -Al
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My two cent here. 59 and 175 pounds, have a hip and knee replacement which is why I wanted to get something to take the pressure off my joints, or at least lesson it when needed. I have a decent city park a mile away that has a paved trail around it as well as disc golf paths that gets me off road at times if no players are around. I’m mechanically inclined and can do my own work which if you want to order via the internet is important, else sticking with your LBS is probably best. I have a fat tire bike, 27.5 x 3 mountain bike tires, duel battery capable which gives me long ride ability if I want. The bike is heavy at 73 pounds give or take, 11sp. 1000 watt Bafang mid drive motor so gobs of torq as needed. Will easily haul larger weights around and tackle any hill as long as I can hang on. I only use the throttle when crossing main highways and need to get away from traffic quickly. I stick to PAS 1 mostly for I want the exercise for did not get a bike to make it a damn scooter. I spent $2995 which was more than a year ago and prices have gone up a good amount since then. I have a Biketrix Ultra Duo 3 version. Have had no issues other than a couple of flats. Bike is well made, built like a brick s*it house and company stands behind their products. Do your own research whatever you decide to get for just about all brands have both good and bad feedback. Pick a brand that has been around a while with a proven track record and if you need help with maintenance that your LBS will work on for you. Good luck and enjoy.
I'm 51
220 pounds
No hills on my routes.
No health issues.
I've owned a few ebikes and finally found the "one". I don't mind a mail order ebike as long as the quality is known to be good. I would have loved to find a bike shop brand but nothing clicked with my needs. I have a mid-drive with a torque sensor. I've never hit 20mph with it so I refuse to commute to work on it. It would take way to long at 14 busy miles each way. And the only thing I miss? A throttle. I rarely used it on any of the other ebikes I've owned but now realize that it did get used when needed, crossing intersections, if it gets super hot outside or brutal headwinds. And rain. Furthest I take my ebike now is 6 miles each way. Whats weird is I find myself riding it far less than any of the previous ebikes I've owned. Now that I think about it, maybe it's not the "one" or I'm just getting lazy again.

I still tell anyone who asked to buy a Rad Power brand. Cheap and easy entry into the ebike world. Mine was bullet proof and is now being used daily by a new owner. The only ebike I ever missed after selling it.
I'm 51
220 pounds
No hills on my routes.
No health issues.
I've owned a few ebikes and finally found the "one". I don't mind a mail order ebike as long as the quality is known to be good. I would have loved to find a bike shop brand but nothing clicked with my needs. I have a mid-drive with a torque sensor. I've never hit 20mph with it so I refuse to commute to work on it. It would take way to long at 14 busy miles each way. And the only thing I miss? A throttle. I rarely used it on any of the other ebikes I've owned but now realize that it did get used when needed, crossing intersections, if it gets super hot outside or brutal headwinds. And rain. Furthest I take my ebike now is 6 miles each way. Whats weird is I find myself riding it far less than any of the previous ebikes I've owned. Now that I think about it, maybe it's not the "one" or I'm just getting lazy again.

I still tell anyone who asked to buy a Rad Power brand. Cheap and easy entry into the ebike world. Mine was bullet proof and is now being used daily by a new owner. The only ebike I ever missed after selling it.
Sounds like it's time to start shopping again? If there are no hills involved, there are a few geared rear hub bikes with torque sensing AND throttles that should get the job done for you.....
I love my belt drive and really enjoy the riding characteristics of a mid-drive, but a quality hub drive can come very close to the true pedal experience as well. I'm leaning toward a Evelo Dash folder next. The Dash looks nimble, has a mid-drive, belt drive and has a throttle if needed. I'll still keep the Cero though. I do ride it still, just not as much as I hoped.

The SWYTCH conversion looks interesting as well. I was going to get one and slip it on my wifes Electra Rat Fink. If she takes to it then great, if not I'll put it on my swing bike. It's boring riding alone sometimes and that may be the underlining motivation problem.
A few points not yet covered:
Fat tires, 3" up, are required for flotation on fluffy powder snow (colorado etc) or fluffy beach sand (florida, NJ). They have a maximum pressure of 30 psi so they drag a lot more than 55 psi tires. I ride 2.1" (55 mm) on all surfaces including gravel & high grass, but not including ice. I like the ride fine without a suspension, but my spine is in A1 shape (at age 72, weight 170 lb). Fat tires allow people to get away with 20" wheel bikes without breaking their teeth, but I prefer to just buy 26" or taller tires to start out. There are potholes & ruts in my city pavement. I can't always miss them.
Hydraulic brakes don't need adjustment over the life of the pad, which is a key feature in downhill mountain bike racing where pads last one downhill trip. I use cable pull brakes, which require pad adjustment every 1000 miles or 6 months. Takes about 2 minutes, exclusive of removing bags to reach the adjustment. Cable pull can be inprecise with ****y imitation steel cables & wound steel wire cable housings. Similar to $200 kiddy bikes. My bike came with real steel (non-stretch) cable and lubricated housing, which makes action fairly precise. I find 160 mm disks okay at 330 lb gross (I carry groceries & ag supplies to my summer property & full repair kit). I cross hills up to 15% grade, but 100' maximum elevation change.
You can get away with either mid-drive or geared hub motor with your terrain. Quality bikes come mostly with mid-drives because that is required for mountains in CA, OR, WA, MN, CO where most bikes are sold. Geared hub motors can burn a winding if lugged up a 1000' grade for an hour. Won't happen in your state, perhaps. Mid drives have fancy displays, which are a real barrier to turning the bike upside down on seat & handlebar to change a tube. I don't have a display. If I want to know how many miles I rode I look at a map afterwards. Mid drives from bosch & bafang can last twice as long as a geared hub motor. The batteries for mid-drives are patented & will seriously cost you if one is stolen. Mid drives use chains twice or more often than hub drive bikes do.
Torque sense control is cool and comes standard on bosch mid-drive bikes. The bargain in hub drive bikes now with torque sensing is the surface 604. I like the drop frame rook at my age. Surface 604 has thirty complaints on brand forum known problems thread.
Some really good information so far. It's much appreciated.

I made my way to a LBS today. They're a fairly small shop and carry Gazelle, Aventon and IZip bikes primarily. They were extremely helpful and let me ride four different bikes. They were happy to let me try more, but I began to run short on time. I learned a lot and was able to make a few important observations.

The way that hub drive motors engage and disengage just felt strange (Aventon Aventure). When riding along with the bike tech, I had to continually stop pedaling to maintain a particular speed beside him, unless I dropped to a lower PAS level, where I had to do all the work. Basically if the motor engages, it's going to push you at its constant power level, until you reach the speed limit of whatever PAS level you're in.

I tried out a mid-drive model with a geared hub as well. It was the Gazelle Arroyo with belt drive. It rode very well, but I did notice the lower number of gears, and I had trouble getting used to the fact that it doesn't like to shift when you are pedaling. It felt backwards. I decided I just prefer the more conventional non-geared hub.

After this experience I've decided that I much prefer mid-drive motors. That said, I'm not keen on going without a throttle. The mid-drives I rode were all Gazelles with Bosch Performance Line motors, which, as I understand it, don't allow for a throttle. Again, as I understand it, Bafang is the only mid-drive motor in widespread use that can incorporate a throttle. I'm not buying an e-bike to ride like a scooter, but it really would be nice to have the option, if needed.

Gazelle really does make nice bikes, but they seem a bit underpowered. In the EBR review of the Ultimate T10+ HMB, turbo mode - which I found the most comfortable when pedaling the entire time at my current weight and fitness level - reported only around 16-miles of range on the 36V/10.6A battery. I think I'm going to look for something that offers more juice.

I've also decided to increase my budget to $4,000. The difference between a $2,000 hub motor and a quality mid-drive is worth it for me. I would appreciate any suggestions.
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The problem you experienced with the geared hub bike, too fast, not enough exercise, terrible trying to maintain speeds under 10-12mph, are REALLY common complaints among geared hub owners. A very similar bike to the Aventon, the Ride One UP 700, is supposed to be used definable regarding the speed/power in each PAS level. That would be a great feature that might be worth looking into.

Your shop sounds like one of the more unusual ones that actually know what they are talking about. If you enjoyed dealing with them, maybe discuss having a mail order (consumer direct) bike sent to them so they could set it up for you for a fee? Unless you like doing your own work (like I do), that would be an awesome arrangement if possible.

This bike has a Bafang mid drive with a throttle and all the power you would likely need if not spending a lot of time in the hills. Middle of the road power, middle of the road price. The motor is pretty conservatively rated here (500w), many times it's rated as a 750 watt. Just tossing it out for discussion...

@Geek.Verve your getting-started story sounds very nearly like a carbon copy of mine. I started out with fat bikes and reaped the benefits of their being very, very versatile. A plus-size tire in all honesty is probably a better choice for most use cases, but a fat tire setup is an unstoppable juggernaut. I think its better to have a bike with few limits so you can explore where you want those limits to be as opposed to having them dictated to you by hardware limitations. That coarse-gravel road you mentioned in particular comes to mind as tailor-made for a fatty.

Put another way, fat tire bikes are the best at almost nothing and pretty good on almost everything. Get used to that freedom from limits and then after you are, you can downsize the tires, or get another bike with 2" tires you can zip around on when you feel like doing that.

I also feel you on the mid drive thing. I started out with geared hubs and really took them to their limit - twin hub 2wd. They are a blast... but there are limits there that a mid doesn't have.

You say you are mechanically inclined. So... why not give yourself the bike the manufacturers don't? Pick up a bike. Put a BBSHD on it with a 52v battery. That takes care of power and gives you a throttle. Your $4000 budget can end up giving you a whole lot more performance. You will be on the hook for maintenance but for some, thats a non issue. The Bafang motors are largely bulletproof so long as you aren't doing things like putting on an aftermarket controller and strapping on a 72v pack. I'm a pedaler and not a throttler. I tone my motor settings down so I get a good workout, which also increases my range and the motor's longevity. But I still have the throttle so I can punch it and not have to miss a light and come to a stop and lose all that momentum I just earned.

In terms of a built-manufactured bike, the Sondors Rockstar, with its Bafang Ultra motor and 27.5"x3.0 tires is a mid drive juggernaut. The Rockstar has a SRAM drivetrain and 11s cassette unlike their other mids that use 8 spd freewheels. Its a bike styled like a singletrack bike, and you can go there... but really its not meant for singletrack. Especially when you recognize the implications behind a 48T front chainring and a 21ah battery pack. And an 85 lb curb weight. First thing I would do is knock that front ring down to 42T max even for street use. At $3400 its still a deal despite the fact they have gone up in price quite a bit in the last year (but they aren't shipping until at least September). This is the bargain wait-for-it option.

With name-brand components, a Luna Z-1 is a much better bike, but its $4500 price reflects that. Also I am not crazy about a carbon fiber frame in an urban environment. Luna is going to be giving you more power on their bikes, but they are not interested in taming it in any way. Expect no rack option to be easily accomplished for example.

I would call the Frey CC-Fat the pick of the litter. The Frey CC was/is an awesome commuter - its been renamed the Savannah and is found on that same site. The fat version is shipping mid-July. Again... $4500. I told myself a long time ago that if I were to buy a bike I didn't build myself, it would be a Frey.

@m@Robertson, building my own conversion sounds fun, but that would be a big project I might entertain later. I'd like to be on a bike within the next 2-3 weeks.

Those models you suggested all look like great bikes, but I neglected to mention that fenders and a cargo rack are something I want as well (added to the original post). I guess it's fair to say that I would like the power of a MTB on a more multi-purpose bike. The fact of the matter is that the vast majority of my riding will be on pavement - no crazy hills but plenty of rolling grades that the bike will need to haul me up and over.
BIG power (the most available anywhere), with throttle, mid drive, tire size to accommodate mostly paved riding (a little off road riding handled easily), fenders and rack, a reasonable price tag, and it looks like they may have a red one in stock-
We have two trek allants with 2.4" tires that we ride about 1/2 of the time on gravel roads with no problem. Yes, if they've just graded one, it may have a bit of loose gravel which forces us to slow down a bit, but the weight savings are worth it. Keep in mind that some of the bikes mentioned are really heavy, like the Rockstar at 83 pounds.
building my own conversion sounds fun, but that would be a big project
It's not really a big project, well mid drive is more so than hub.

With a hub you can get on the road within 2-3 hours, it's really just changing the wheel and connecting color coded wires.
Your experience with hub motor seems related to the model you tried, as my geared hub powers on as smooth as silk and with a programmable controller,(mine is a KT) you can adjust the "kick" from hold on!,... to is it working?
The longest waiting for the kit is going to be shipping, but if it's in stock and "local" that would be like 7 days.
I recently purchased an Evelo Omega, a comfortable step through with a strong mid drive Dapu motor from Japan. It is a 750 watt motor produces 115 Newton meters of torque connected by a low maintenance, durable Gates carbon fiber belt to an Enviolo Automatic CVT. It does have a thumb throttle. It comes with 26 x 2.8 plus sized tires, not quite fat tires but close. It is very well made bike, built in Taiwan, not China. Excellent finish and a real pleasure to ride. I added both the Kinekt body float suspension seat post as well as the Kinket suspension stem. It has a 720 watt hour battery with the option of adding a rear rack mounted second 680 watt hour battery for extra range. The bike is rated for riders up to 350 lbs.

Evelo has been designing and making its own ebikes for 10 year and offers an excellent warranty, with outstanding tech support and warranty service.

It is a bit over your price range but with the warranty and build quality, well worth it IMO. They currently have a July 4 sale going on and the bikes are actually in stock and ready to ship.

My other bikes are Bosch powered and I love them. This bike was purchased to help me rebuild after a health challenge and has really delivered for me. While I again ride my Bosch bikes, they are used more for exercise and recreation, while the Evelo has become more a vehicle replacement for running errands, getting groceries, going to appointments and generally doing my around town rides. We live near the top of a 500 foot hill so every ride ends in a hard climb. The Evelo is up to the challenge, getting me up to the house without strain, even loaded with groceries or towing a cart.

Given your specs, this bike is well worth a good look.


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