Tuesday, April 20, 2010

eBike Reviews: Establishing a Baseline

I'm working on setting up a series of longer-term tests of some ebikes, and I thought it would be useful to provide some information about the tester, his riding experience, and his current ride to help put some of my future reviews in perspective. Bike reviews can be very subjective, so I think knowing these details may help understand some of my opinons in subsequent reviews.

About the Tester
I'm a mid-30's commuter. My daily commute is a little over 5 miles, but I frequently finds excuses to go out of the way to make it longer. I've been a recreational rider for years, a full-time commuter for a little over a year. In addition to the commute, I also use the ebike for neighborhood transportation, including hauling a trailer and grocery shopping. I also rides non-ebikes, but I'm not a high-mileage rider or a racer. At the home end of my commute, I have to carry the bike up 6 stairs; at the business end there are a few staple racks and ample hanging rack space.

The Current Bike

The classic lines of 1957 Schwinn cruiser, with a Wilderness Energy front hub motor at 36v/600 watts. I'm running a Ping v2.5 10ah LiFePO4 battery, which yields an effective range of about 20 miles on a single charge; a complete recharge takes about 4 hours. Top assisted speed is 20mph, top observed speed (downhill) is 27mph. The kit is a throttle based system, using a right thumb throttle. The bike weighs in at 65 lbs, which includes the 10 lb battery.

Front braking is accomplished through cantilever brakes; a v-brake upgrade is likely in the future. Rear braking is via the original coaster brake. Rolling a Schwalbe Marathon Plus front tire and generic whitewall rear tire, the ride is firm when inflated to maximum, but can be modulated via air pressure. The cruiser retains its original single speed setup; the chrome chainguard keeps pants out of the way of grease without the necessity of velcro.

Front lights are halogen, hardwired into the battery with Planet Bike blinkies for backup. Rear light is helmet-based. Aesthetically, the shaker-can spraypaint in flatblack leaves a bit to be desired, but the classic lines of the cruiser frame, generous seat, swept handlebars, and aftermarket folding basket make for a comfortable and functional ride. The innertube top tube wrap and zipties secure wiring, and lend to the utilitarian nature of the bike.
Bicycle Rear Rack Grocery Baskets, Folding - Wald 582 (Set of 2), Black

Overall, its a nice bike. It's a bit heavy for carrying upstairs or using a hanging rack, but it's comfortable and the ride quality is good. A bit more stopping power and a battery bag upgrade would be nice.

"Schwinnly Goodness"
Comfortable ride
Powerful lights
Collapsable side basket
Good power/thumb throttle

"Not so good..."
Squeeky seat
Urban camouflage paint job
Front rim requires occasional retrueing


  1. Can you post any additional photos? Or perhaps a short video showing the conversion?

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