Best used ebike for my needs?
January 6, 2015 12:08 PM   Subscribe

It's clear—maybe even more than with regular bikes—that rider and environmental factors are important in the selection process. So PLEASE all you ebike-savvy folks out there, share your wisdom!

I've read the couple of posts from the last year or so, even read an ebook on the subject, and found it all useful. But what's the best bike for my situation? Please share your experiences!

What are the best used ebikes on the market?
What are the major concerns about buying used?
What is the recommended ebike for:
-6' tall, 180-200lbs
-20-mile commute
-only rolling hills
-secondary highway + bike path
-sometimes wet but never icy road
-not too heavy
-probably not able to charge at work...but perhaps
-bonus if it can be put on a bus or tossed in a car without much difficulty.

I want to be able to pedal for exercise, but also want an assist when needed and want to avoid arriving to work sweaty. I do not currently have a bike, so conversion is not an option. Budget? Sub $1500, I suppose. What is reasonable? This will be the second vehicle for the household. Pacific Northwest, if that matters.
posted by AnOrigamiLife to Travel & Transportation (3 answers total)
I found it impossible to find used ebikes in the Northeast when I was looking ~2 years ago- based on your question I assume it might be different where you are? I'm not sure you will have so wide of a selection, but hopefully I'm wrong by now!

I made some suggestions on brands in this answer I wrote although I haven't been able to try many of them. $1500 is a lower-to-mid end cost of a new bike, no idea on the used market.

I would still highly recommend converting your own (or maybe someone in your area does this for a fee?) even if you do not already own a bike. Buying a used regular bike for under $400 and a kit will cost you much much less than $1500, will give you more control over the final product and the comfort/size of the bike itself, and you will be as knowledgeable as you can possibly be about fixing it when you need to.

I imagine when buying used one thing you'd want to watch out for is the condition of the batteries as they might be at the end of their lifespan when someone's selling (and they cost a bundle to replace). Wiring, motor, etc parts might have wear and need replacement, in addition to all the regular-bike stuff. Pre-built ebikes can be kind of a "black box" with hard to access wiring and sometimes proprietary parts, which is why I'm pretty solidly pro-conversion now. If you want to find out if you like it, you might buy a cheaper/slightly lower quality new ebike now, and then once you know more, decide whether you want to convert one as an upgrade. that is what I did and I'm happy with it, although I wish I had been bold enough to just convert one from the start, I could have saved myself a lot of money and headache.
posted by ghostbikes at 1:56 PM on January 6, 2015

My SO is a bike mechanic that builds e-bikes for customers quite often. I can share what I've gleaned over watching the process. With used e-bikes the main concern is battery packs. They have a limited life span which can vary greatly depending on how they're treated. I'm not even sure I'd suggest used at your price point, as you can get a new one at that price.

My SO purchases hub motors and batteries from golden motor, and the link shows some built bikes, most in your price range. He is not a huge fan of their controllers as they are prone to failure, so he purchases Infineon controllers separately, which is why he builds bikes for customers in the first place - sourcing different components as needed.

Basically if anyone in your area specializes in building e-bikes, they can take a basic frame, install a hub wheel with motor, add a good controller, wire it up, and decide where the batteries should live (half the battle). The battery pack will decide the speed and life of your range, and any decent battery will be sufficient for your length of commute. You can go either pedal assist or full throttle. Only pedal assist bikes are allowed on bike paths here, so check local laws.

All e-bikes will be relatively heavy compared to a conventional bike, due to the fact that you're hauling the batteries with you, and the motor hub is not light either. I'd say 50 lbs is average for an e-bike. I would not expect to be able to toss it into a small car at all, but they'll fit into a hatchback with some maneuvering.

If doing it yourself, or getting one built, make sure they know what a bombproof wiring connection looks like, there are some skills required there to make sure the connectors are upgraded, wired well and wrapped in lots of electrical tape for weatherproofing. My SO's e-bikes are built often for bike messengers in Calgary, AB, so they have to deal with ugly, ugly weather.

PM if you have any questions, he'd be happy to answer.
posted by tatiana131 at 2:01 PM on January 6, 2015 [3 favorites]

As you probably know from reading my ebike question, I splurged in a big way and bought the new Felt SportE, which I love, love, love. I ride it rain or shine here in the Pacific NW, my commute is a hilly 15 miles each way when I ride all the way from Shoreline to Seattle, and I still have plenty of juice in the battery when I get home. I'm petite but think it could handle your weight just fine.

Having said that, I think you could definitely stay within your budget with a different ebike, and I highly, highly recommend the Seattle Electric Bike folks. If they don't have an ebike in your price range, they can help you out with a retrofit with a BionX kit. And they are nice people who will be there for you long after you buy a bike.
posted by bearwife at 5:13 PM on January 6, 2015

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