Electric bike considerations
Most of my posts these days are about working in the public service. But lately I’ve had another area of interest occupying my thoughts. Rather than letting things just stay jumbled in my head, I figured I’d document it here. This is a work-in-progress, but maybe it can help someone else (and/or, if people have feedback or suggestions, I’m definitely open to it!)
Last September, Sara and I were in Penticton and we rented electric bikes to explore the Kettle Valley Rail (KVR) trail. WE HAD SO MUCH FUN!
The Kettle Valley Rail (KVR) Trail and the Columbia & Western Rail Trail is the longest rail trail network in British Columbia extending from Hope to Castlegar. Once a comprehensive railroad system, the decommissioned tracks are now home to an extensive recreational trail providing almost 650 km (400 mi) of connected pathways throughout the region.
The bikes we rented were Rad Power Bikes Rad Mini Step-thrus — they looked a little goofy at first glance, but they were a blast to ride! And, Sara and I are both about 5'3 tall — although the bikes are called “Mini”, they were actually none too small for us, and actually just looked like regular bikes.
By the end of our daily rental, we were enamoured with electric bikes, and we’ve been researching them ever since. Turns out, there are a lot of options, and some pretty big trade-offs to consider. So, I’m writing this post to keep track of things we’ve looked at, to see if this can help with decision-making.
The two bikes I’m looking closest at are:
Sara has done more research into some other bikes, including the Super73, the Lectric XP and a few others. (I read some about the Aventon Cinch) I think my decision will be between the two bikes I mentioned above, in part because I have tried the RadMini and have the opportunity to try the Pedego Element by visiting a retail outlet.
Sales and Support
A lot of e-bike companies ship direct-to-consumer. So, this can be helpful as you’re not limited to what’s available locally, but it means you need to buy it potentially sight-unseen and untested, and may have to worry about set-up (or, heaven-forbid, returns!).
We know quite a few people with Rad Power Bikes (and have tried them ourselves) so feel ok about their support and ease-of-setup, but there is the issue of potential maintenance needs.
In contrast, Pedego is a brand that has their own showrooms and stores, which means you could try a bike out, get it fitted and maintained without having to deal with shipping. That’s appealing, though when I first looked at Pedego bikes, they were quite a bit more expensive than the Rad Power Bikes.
The bikes we tried out were fat tire bikes, and I think that was definitely part of the appeal. I’m not the most confident rider, and these were fun to ride and definitely gave me a sense of stability. So I definitely want to get a fat tire bike!
As I mentioned, Sara and I are both quite short. We had been reading about the Rad Power Bikes RadRover, but in review videos, the reviewers often mentioned “how much bike” it was. And these were big guys doing the reviews! I was leery that the bike would be too much — and this video comparison really helped drive it home. I was likely not going to be comfortable with anything larger than the 20" tires.
Quite a few ebike manufacturers offer a step-thru or a mini-type option, and they definitely seems to be the best for us.
One issue that’s come up is weight. If we get e-bikes, we’re going to want to get a bike rack for our vehicle. Both fat tire bikes and e-bikes mean we can’t rely on a lot of “regular” bike racks (which is too bad b/c my parents were ready to give me their old bike rack!).
Pedego’s website had an article here with some recommendations: https://pedegoelectricbikes.ca/the-best-car-racks-for-your-electric-bike Basically — it’s recommended to get a platform rack. But even the racks that they recommend appear to top out at a max per-bike weight of 60–65lbs.
Note: I did find this rack that can support business up to 80lbs — https://hollywoodracks.com/products/sport-rider-fat-tire-electric-bike-hitch-rack?variant=31833680609349
The RadMini weighs 69.
We toyed with the idea of looking at foldable ebikes (like the RadMini) and trying to store them in the back of a vehicle. But is that feasible with TWO ebikes? I checked out the Electric Bike Review forums to see whether others had been successful with this, but it didn’t sound too promising.
Some folks mentioned putting their foldable e-bike in a 40 gallon tub and then putting that into the back of their SUV. Ok.. maybe that could work with one bike, but two? I’m just not sure… plus, there is still the issue of hoisting something that’s around 70 pounds up into a vehicle.
So, the RadMini has a lot of perks, but the weight is a definite drawback.
Winner: Pedego Element
From a feature perspective, we also were not sure what to do regarding suspension. The RadMini offers front-suspension, whereas the Pedego Element is a fixed frame. I’ve read some articles that state that the fat tires themselves will absorb some of the little movements in the terrain, but I don’t want to compromise and be unhappy with the bike we get. Since our whole experience with electric fat tire bikes is with the RadMini, I don’t know whether I will feel like a bike with no suspension will be less enjoyable. Not that we’re going to be doing any crazy terrain, but I don’t want to cheap out and regret it.
The Pedego Element is sold with ‘the option of adding a suspension seatpost’ but I am not sure if that’s a reasonable alternative. Not to mention that the Pedego is already more expensive than the RadMini, and then you have to add on this extra component?
The Pedego Element looks so cool and fun! I feel sheepish admitting it, but a big part of the appeal of this bike is the look. They come in bright fun colours (so if Sara and I got the same bike, we could still differentiate by colour).
Winner: Pedego Element
The Elements are 50lbs, which is a pretty significant drop from 68. Sure, they’re stripped down: lights are available after-market, they have a fixed front fork, and they don’t advertise puncture-resistant tires like the RadMini. But are we more likely to enjoy the bikes if we can, you know, actually get a bike rack for them and can transport them places? I’m not sure..
It’s clear to me that there is a gap in information out there for smaller e-bike riders. The experience a 6'0 man is looking for is different than my own. Sara and I have joked that perhaps we need to start creating some of our own content and see if we can’t get some bikes to try out. I feel like there’s a pretty big untapped market out there of women and smaller riders with specific needs. We deserve content too!