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City e-bike buying tips

Sept. 19, 2022, 11:17 a.m.
Posts: 485
Joined: June 17, 2016

We are starting to look for a city e-bike (pedal assist) for my partner. FWIW she has a medical condition which is impacting her mobility and independence. The goal is for her to be able to ride around town for errands etc.

Zero experience with e-bikes and not sure where to start and what to look for. Currently our parameters are:

  • Upright sitting position per physio recommendation

  • Low step through for easy getting on/off

  • Some cargo capacity (rack and/or basket)

  • Battery must come off for charging away from the bike

  • At least a few gears

  • No need to go fast

  • Reasonable expectation of durability and continued support (like replacement battery X years down the road)

  • Easy to work on for basic maintenance on drivetrain, brakes, etc.

  • Ideally something that local (Comox/Courtenay) shops would be happy to work on for more complex issues (e.g. motor/electrical)

She's previously had her eye on Rad Bikes but I don't think they have any local shops/dealers. How big of an issue would that be?

Anything similar to, say, the RadCity Step-Thru that anyone can recommend?

Looking for practical e-bike buying tips from actual e-bike owners, what to look out for, what to avoid? Any specific motors or batteries with significant issues?

Thanks!


 Last edited by: niels@nsmb.com on Sept. 19, 2022, 12:07 p.m., edited 4 times in total.
Reason: added location (relevant for local support)
Sept. 19, 2022, 11:40 a.m.
Posts: 307
Joined: Feb. 24, 2017

We've had a Radwagon since Feb 2020 and it's been good. Get's ridden rain or shine year round daily and parked outside during work hour/day. It had a rear hub issue come up early in life and replaced on warranty, a display unit has also been replaced on warranty. Both times they were great to deal with (the 2nd one we used their mobile shop service to come to our place in N.Van to do the replacement). It's not a sexy bike, it's like buying a Hyundai or a Kia...it just works no fuss. Our wagon is the last of their 26" wheel cargo bikes, it's a tank. RadCity 5 Step Thru possibly for her?

Sept. 19, 2022, 12:03 p.m.
Posts: 2461
Joined: April 2, 2005

who is gonna service a radwagon? 

get something with a motor that can be serviced by the shop you bought it from, in a reasonable time span

Sept. 19, 2022, 12:03 p.m.
Posts: 485
Joined: June 17, 2016

Posted by: earleb

We've had a Radwagon since Feb 2020 and it's been good. Get's ridden rain or shine year round daily and parked outside during work hour/day. It had a rear hub issue come up early in life and replaced on warranty, a display unit has also been replaced on warranty. Both times they were great to deal with (the 2nd one we used their mobile shop service to come to our place in N.Van to do the replacement). It's not a sexy bike, it's like buying a Hyundai or a Kia...it just works no fuss. Our wagon is the last of their 26" wheel cargo bikes, it's a tank. RadCity 5 Step Thru possibly for her?

Thanks, yes the RadCity 5 Step Thru appears to check most of the boxes. One issue is we just moved to the island and their mobile service doesn't reach here yet.

Sept. 19, 2022, 12:06 p.m.
Posts: 485
Joined: June 17, 2016

Posted by: Sethimus

who is gonna service a radwagon? 

get something with a motor that can be serviced by the shop you bought it from, in a reasonable time span

Rad actually has a store in Vancouver and a mobile service so if we were still in North Van I would be less hesitant. Here on the island local support is a concern, probably a deal breaker.

Sept. 19, 2022, 12:07 p.m.
Posts: 1488
Joined: Feb. 17, 2009

Posted by: Sethimus

who is gonna service a radwagon? 

get something with a motor that can be serviced by the shop you bought it from, in a reasonable time span

If you're in/around Vancouver, Radwagon will. They are basxed in East Van.

Sept. 19, 2022, 12:48 p.m.
Posts: 1532
Joined: Sept. 10, 2012

I don't think any LBS in the area actually services e-bikes beyond swapping parts. So if you had a battery issue you would get a new battery and they'd install it in the frame. I am not aware of anyone that would actually do any work on a battery or a motor or a controller. Enthusiasm to work on any DTC or non-big brand e-bike seems low. So buying an e-bike a LBS sells will get you the best after sale support.

Black's sells these Envo bikes and they are close to you. They may have some built up to test ride if it looks of interest and if they don't have one ready to go they will get stock regularly and I'll make sure they call you when they do.

https://envodrive.com/products/envo-st

I have ridden them test riding with a customer or post-repair. I would say they are a good value for the price, but I am not an expert in the e-bike landscape. Black's also sells Cube e-bikes which are nicer, but the cost rises significantly. A lot of these Envo's get sold and people appear to be happy.


 Last edited by: Vikb on Sept. 19, 2022, 12:55 p.m., edited 1 time in total.
Sept. 19, 2022, 1:03 p.m.
Posts: 485
Joined: June 17, 2016

Thanks Vik. That Envo could be a decent option. Canadian company, local dealer support. Black's will be our first stop once we are ready. 

Still in the research phase, trying to get a feel for what things are important. I have no idea. For example, I can imagine the motor puts more strain on (???), so need to pay special attention to.... (???). Maybe I'm overthinking it.

Sept. 19, 2022, 1:15 p.m.
Posts: 1532
Joined: Sept. 10, 2012

Sounds good. I am swinging by there tomorrow to drop off a bike I'll check stock and what their incoming orders look like. They are really low pressure about demos so if your lady wants to try one she doesn't need to be ready to buy or anything. The main staff members are quite keen on e-bikes and will have a lot of comparative info between models so also feel free to just drop by and pick their brains.

Sept. 19, 2022, 3:37 p.m.
Posts: 485
Joined: June 17, 2016

Cool, we will swing by when she's ready. First I want her to do a short loop through the neighbourhood on her regular bike a few more times without issues.

Sept. 20, 2022, 2:31 a.m.
Posts: 80
Joined: Dec. 1, 2008

Posted by: niels@nsmb.com

Thanks Vik. That Envo could be a decent option. Canadian company, local dealer support. Black's will be our first stop once we are ready. 

Still in the research phase, trying to get a feel for what things are important. I have no idea. For example, I can imagine the motor puts more strain on (???), so need to pay special attention to.... (???). Maybe I'm overthinking it.

Not riding one myself, but i'm the one who keeps my moms city e-bike in working order, so i get to hear what works for her and what doesn't. For a step-through, consider a battery mounted on/in the rear rack. Makes actually stepping through easier.

When operating in below-zero temperatures, don't just keep the battery inside the house, take the display unit as well. There is a small battery in there which might not like drawing power in sub-zero.

Hydraulic disk-brakes are super helpful to the average city rider. Not for power, but for modulation. Expect high pad-wear. Buy basic Shimano.

Drivetrain wear is less of an issue than expected if riding sensibly.

Oh, and really good tires with proper modern flat-protection technologies are worth every penny!

Sept. 20, 2022, 4:05 a.m.
Posts: 2461
Joined: April 2, 2005

so far every bike mentioned seemed quite archaic to me. don’t you have a healthy market with sleek integrated solutions with a middle motor like in europe?

Sept. 20, 2022, 6:06 a.m.
Posts: 174
Joined: March 1, 2017

Posted by: Sethimus

so far every bike mentioned seemed quite archaic to me. don’t you have a healthy market with sleek integrated solutions with a middle motor like in europe?

Why does everything need to be sleek and integrated? It just makes everything harder to diagnose issues and more expensive to fix. Ironically these archaic bikes seem more reliable than way more expensive mountain bikes with mid mount motors, hidden batteries and shitty wiring looms that die after a couple of splashes of water.

Sept. 20, 2022, 6:16 a.m.
Posts: 1532
Joined: Sept. 10, 2012

Putting the battery under the rear rack does open up the step-through area at the cost of a significant shift in CG back and up. Put panniers with groceries back there and a lighter/less confident rider can have handling issues. When I was living in Victoria I help a number of ladies who had e-bikes with the under the rack battery mounts. They had trouble getting started once stopped. The bikes tended to wobble and fall over side ways or get a very light front wheel with too much assist. 

You can get batteries integrated inside the DT which solves both issues, but they can be hard to remove and tend to cost a lot more.

Definitely another reason to buy from a LBS since some test riding can identify what is a problem and what is not an issue for a particular rider when dealing with a product that isn't well understood by them.

Sept. 20, 2022, 6:29 a.m.
Posts: 485
Joined: June 17, 2016

Posted by: Timer

Not riding one myself, but i'm the one who keeps my moms city e-bike in working order, so i get to hear what works for her and what doesn't. For a step-through, consider a battery mounted on/in the rear rack. Makes actually stepping through easier.

When operating in below-zero temperatures, don't just keep the battery inside the house, take the display unit as well. There is a small battery in there which might not like drawing power in sub-zero.

Hydraulic disk-brakes are super helpful to the average city rider. Not for power, but for modulation. Expect high pad-wear. Buy basic Shimano.

Drivetrain wear is less of an issue than expected if riding sensibly.

Oh, and really good tires with proper modern flat-protection technologies are worth every penny!

Thanks for sharing some real world experience, this is all very helpful!

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