I regularly follow a news thread called Hacker News and this was a post that I saw on there recently about the experience of building up an electric bike using a Bafang motor, along with some comments from the site.
In the last 6 months, my wife and I traveled to Europe and Asia on 2 separate occasions. I saw people riding bikes everywhere. That by itself is not surprising. What did surprise me however, was that almost every single bike I saw had an electric motor and battery pack on it. I had never seen anything like that state side. I have seen electric scooters riding around in Toronto, but those were incredibly bulky and wasn’t very pleasant to ride. On these new bikes, the battery packs and motor had such a compact package that it almost feels like it’s intended as part of the bike. Unfortunately, I didn’t get a chance to ride on one of those electric bikes during my time in Europe and China, but they left an impression on me. I started doing some googling. It turns out there are more than 200 million E-Bikes in the world. That’s way more than I expected. Annually, the world sells 34 million E-Bikes. Asia dominates the market, accounting for close to 90% of worldwide sales. Europe comes in at a distant second, accounting for 5%. North America has <1%, accounting for a measly 152,000 units in 2016 . I was curious why these E-Bikes have such a high level of adoption elsewhere, but almost non-existent here in North America (in both US and Canada). To truly understand, I wanted to experience riding an E-Bike first hand. I decided to acquire one and use it as my primary form of transportation for a month. To make sure I have good metrics to reference, I used Strava to log all my rides.
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I have put about 3,000km on my E-bike in the last 1.5 years. It’s limited to 25km/h, because then I don’t need a license, it’s fast enough for city traffic (mostly in bike lanes anyways) and I get to tow a trailer for my kid.
Biggest advantage: Hills don’t exist for me. We live in a city with quite a few hills and day care is about 70-100m below our appartment. Doing this trip twice a day with its 15% slope would take way longer and exhaust me, before the day even started. The way downhill to day care is now something like 10 minutes and back up 11 minutes.
Biggest disadvantage: If you drive on mostly flat terrain, there’s no real benefit – it might even slow you down. I get my regular bike to 25km/h easily. An E-Bike accelerates until it hits 25km/h and then it’s just a damn heavy bike (17-20kg) that is slower than a regular bike (if you’re a somewhat fit person).
Anyways, I love the E-Bike for the simple fact that I go almost anywhere by bike, can take my kid with me and don’t have to think about any hills at all. - WA
I’m on my second converted (bafang) e-bike, been riding about 4000 KM the past two years all year (Norway). I love it! I use it as my main means of transportation, both to work and for other transport needs.
My first one was a cheap/old 26" dirtbike with hydraulic brakes. It was OK but the front shock and relatively skinny wheels were a limiting factor.
My second bike is a mid/high quality 27.5" dirtbike with a good front shock and good hydraulic brakes. And it’s a really good bike all year. I highly recommend getting fairly large wheels with wide tires and a good front shock for a conversion bike. - kennethh