Analysis of a bike you probably shouldn’t buy

This popped up on my email today, and I thought wow! only $1099! I should buy that! NO, I DIDN’T! It is being sold at $1099, “elsewhere up to $3999*”. No, it is not $3999 elsewhere. Not even close.

Now I don’t know if I’m crossing some sort of professional line, either moral or legal, but I feel like I have a greater obligation to protect you from doing silly things.

The email eventually led me to here. Now, I’ve seen many sellers of these on Alibaba and they tend to be around $US450 so actually with freight and warranty it’s not a bad deal, financially-speaking. I’ll dissect and decode its specs because you sure aren’t going to catch me riding one for a review. Ain’t nobody got time for dat…

Specifications:

  • Motor 36V250W Rear Drive, with hall sensor – that’s quite underpowered for a full-size bike. It’s got rear-suspension so pretends to be a MTB. It won’t be satisfying in that role at all. The hall sensor is just something that brushless motors have to tell the controller where the motor is in its rotation – it is technically possible to have a ‘sensorless’ motor but that is uncommon. If the motor was something known like Bafang, Dapu or Shengyi they’d have said so.
  • Battery 36V9AH Lithium Battery, with 36V2A charger – that’s a tiny battery. Entry level is generally 11-13Ah. Chances are that it’s not the best quality cells either. The 2A charger is typical for entry-level bikes.
  • Controller 36V15A 6mosfets, high quality – that’s quite typical and is a bit underpowered. The controller (not the same as the display) is as important as the motor in the power and torque department. Controllers very greatly in quality and price. It’s a hidden element so you can guarantee that no-name bikes have skimped in this area. 15A means a peak power of just over 500W. May sound like a lot but it isn’t. Chances are most bikes that you like have at least an 18A controller. 
  • Display 880 LED displayit’s just some LEDS that tell you what mode you are in and how much battery you have left. Doesn’t show you speed, distance or anything like that because it’s just glowing lights. Not an issue in itself, the Juiced Crosscurrent that I enjoyed had one of these.
  • Max speed 30km/h – for an unrestricted bike that is slow. Motor and controller are weak. It will likely struggle up hills too.
  • Travel distance 40km by throttle, 60km by PAS – if you can do that on 9Ah, it’s because you are going really slowly. They’ve likely taken the wattage and Wh rating and done some maths to come to that theoretical range rather than ridden the bike to see how far it goes. You never actually get the theoretical range.
  • Rim/Tire 26inch Alloy Double wall, CNC sidewall Rim/ KENDA tire – this means nothing, but 26″wheels is a bit old-school. The quality of the wheel for a hub motor is quite important – because replacement involves re-spoking which is an expensive exercise. Look for eyelets around the spokes – they are a sign of a reasonable wheel. Road bikes are 28″, most MTBs are 27.5 or 29″(which incidentally is exactly the same 700c size as a road-going 28″). Kenda make many tyres, some good some not so much.
  • Suspension Zoom Hydraulic Suspension – WOW! what’s that? Trust me, it’ll be terrible.
  • Brake Front Disc-brake, Rear V-brake, Tektro brand, with EABS – better to have one disc brake than none. The EABS should mean that it has regenerative braking, but I’ll bet it doesn’t because that looks like a geared rear hub motor and regenerative braking is impossible.
  • Saddle Velo Plush – fairly typical of generic Chinese bikes. You might even like it!
  • Speed gear Shimano 6 speed gears – that’s the lowest end of gears available. I’d generally expect 7-8 gears on entry level and 9 or 10 on a quality bike. 11 on top-end.
  • Colour: Grey – will likely be a semi matt paint, it’s really cheap.

Other considerations:

  • You can more-or-less guarantee there are no spares or support available. Sure it has a 1 year warranty but don’t you rather want a seamless experience? This is your transport after all.
  • It looks like it will be very flexy and bendy with all those pivots and suspension members. This isn’t going to be top quality.

So what’s a budget buyer to do?

  • Please, go to a reputable dealer and get something. Evo have an Everglide Swift bike for $1799 that has reputable components, engineered by Smartmotion (I am told) and backed by a major retail chain. ecyclesnz sell the Onya for $2350 if you want a folding bike. It’s properly engineered with quality components. Sure, it may come from the same factory as this one but there is a quality difference in every piece of it.
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12 comments

  • Curious cyclist

    It looks a lot like this fellow http://starkdrive.bike/

  • I have to comment since I happen to own a sister of that model, a non-folding version from the same company. It’s about the same price in China, US$515, I paid NZ$1500 here in NZ, from a shop. I wasn’t expecting much but didn’t want to sink $4k into a brand name product that I would have preferred (such as a Grace Easy) in case I didn’t use it much, or worry about it getting nicked.
http://www.ele-cycle.com/product/City-Electric-Bike-EB19-2.html (but mine is the men’s version)
If nothing else, I’ve learned in my old age to be open minded. I’m a degreed mechanical engineer and have designed automated machinery, industrial controls and instrumentation products in my 30 year career. I have a pretty good grasp of materials, electronics and manufacturing as well.
Points of difference, my bike has a 350W Bafang motor and 10s x 4p Samsung cells at 36V 10.4Ah. When it arrived the rear wheel was 2mm out of true axially, outside what I considered acceptable, so I had it corrected, a cost which the Wellington vendor covered without argument. Otherwise the quality and finish is very good and consistent throughout. There are honest concessions to cost, those being a non-removable battery, no fenders and no lights, however, there is nothing about the bike that does not meet my expectations given the price.
    
I’ve owned it for a year now and so far done about 700km. It’s used for transport rather than recreation. I ride it full throttle, as fast as it will go all the time, only peddling when going uphill or when I want to go faster than 30 km/h. I don’t need to push the battery capacity but have not detected any loss of range so far. The 2 amp charger is perfectly suited for an appropriate charge rate of 0.5 amp per cell.

    How much trouble have I had with this eBike? Yep, nil, nada, absolutely none. It’s been brilliant, flawless even.
    
I apologise profusely for being blunt since we need eBike advocacy websites, but your “specs analysis” reeks of pettiness and unsubstantiated assumptions. If you tested an example of the bike and arrived at those conclusions, qualified by the price paid, I would fully accept your review. But for an entry level eBike, I can’t fault the model and example I purchased, and don’t see any reason why the model you analysed would be any different.
    Cheers, Paul.

    • Thanks Paul, sounds like you are one of the lucky ones. I am not against entry level bikes (quite the opposite) – what really got up my nose was the assertion that the bike was ‘worth’ $3999 which it clearly isn’t.

  • Very good analysis and well said. In short most dealers in Alibaba cannot be trusted 🙁

  • Oh dear, deal was ‘activated’ 19 March with 30 sold. Best stay out of their way if you see one…

  • Wish I’d read this earlier. I just bought one from Container door…haha hopefully I don’t get the problems above you’ve outlined.

  • I saw this bike last night, when a client phoned me about it and asked if it was OK.
    You have been very polite with your comments, and truthfully, this is the bottom of the range of any e-bike I have seen. Was thinking of phoned the commerce commission over this on.
    There is no e-bike like this for $3999, this would be the greatest missing leading ad i have seen.
    Lets get sued together on this.

  • Well said ElectricBazza! As an industry we need to educate, and this piece is spot-on in terms of an education in avoidance! Great work.

  • It’s a problem that because of our isolation , the rapid growth of e-bikes and the perception that real e-bikes are overpriced we will see an increase in similar poor value bikes. All I can say to any buyer is to do your research talk to current and be aware. If it sounds too good to be true etc..

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