What’s the deal with all those cheap ebikes I see online?


On the fence about buying an ebike? Buy a cheap one! Dip your toes in without much financial risk. This is not a rant on cheap bikes. We love bikes and won’t put down any bike that allows someone to enjoy the benefits of owning an ebike. We do have a couple requests though... 

You can take a toaster out of the box, plug it in, and use it. Ikea furniture takes a little more time and effort, but if that bolt isn’t quite tight enough, the worst thing is that your dresser is a little wiggly. An ebike is not an appliance or piece of furniture. If you could order a car partially assembled to save money, would you feel confident putting it together? Why do manufacturers of the ebikes that you can order unassembled think their customers have the skills to put together a complex piece of machinery? 

Improper assembly results in injuries. If we can make one recommendation, it would be that you have your bike professionally assembled. 

We’ve heard some sad stories. A friend recently ordered a direct to consumer ebike that needed assembly. He put it together himself and was enjoying the bike, riding all over town with a smile on his face. Unfortunately, he neglected to tighten the stem properly which resulted in an unfortunate crash. The part that really hurts? After recovering from his injuries, this person no longer wants to ride a bike at all. He is done with cycling despite loving it before the crash. Your local bike shop can help make sure yours is a happier ending.

What’s this I hear about ebike batteries catching fire?

Along with the assembly issue, ebikes typically utilize Lithium Ion batteries to power the motor. Proper manufacturing and testing proves that these batteries can be made safely and provide years of service and safe use. Even with all the safeguards in place, transportation companies have determined that there are risks involved and treat these batteries as HAZMAT. Batteries that are made cheaply without fuses, fire runaway protections, or poor water sealing can be dangerous. If you are using an unknown battery or charger that is not UL listed, please make sure to only charge when you can pay attention to it, in a location that is not near anything that could catch fire. Don’t charge batteries while you are sleeping. 

Servicing Direct to Consumer (D2C) ebikes

What happens if you need service on your D2C ebike? While we are happy to work on the standard mechanical bike parts of your ebike, we can’t work on the electronic portion. Most electric assist systems have proprietary parts and diagnostic software. We simply can’t service all of the different systems out there. We’ve tried, but many of these companies don’t even reply to technical support or parts requests. We learned the hard way. Years ago, we were part of a pilot project for a manufacturer that was only sold direct to consumers. We won’t name names, but they were toying with the idea of having a few select dealers and we were one of their test stores. Long story short, we had a customer’s ebike that ended up having to go back to the factory for repair, as remotely diagnosing the problem was not possible. After sending the ebike back to them, it took them months to fix it and when they finally returned the ebike to us, it was damaged in transit. We want our customers to be pleased with their ebike purchase, and we simply can’t do that dealing with direct to consumer ebike companies. Our experience made us aware of the problems that these companies face. It is hard to support ebikes remotely. The direct to consumer ebike companies just don’t have the support network and parts resources in place to keep customers happy. It is all about price.

Why do good ebikes cost so much?

There are a few things that you can tell when a bike was designed by a team of people who ride and use bikes everyday. The ebike will have thoughtful use-case design details and quality components. The support team will be responsive with availability of warranty parts and support. The frames and accessories will go through strength and durability testing and be well thought-out. Developing useful accessories is considered from the beginning, not afterthoughts. 

Inexpensive ebikes are often carbon copies of other cheap bikes that are just looking to satisfy the accountant's pencil. Corners are cut, quality control is lacking, cheap components are used and no third party testing or certification is done. They are designed by people who wouldn’t use a bike and are looking for the cheapest line from the factory to market. Aftercare is an afterthought. 

We feel that if these bikes get more people on bikes, they are a good thing. We just hope their customers enjoy them enough to keep on riding once they figure out that there was a reason they were so cheap and that the have it assembled properly.  

Years before entering the market, Bosch sent a team of people around the world asking dealers of electric bikes at the time what their problems were. The number one response was the lack of support and system reliability. Although we were one of the stops on their map, it was apparent they had already heard enough from their previous meetings. They knew what they needed to do in order to succeed, and released their first ebike motor a few years later. That is how long it took for a company even Bosch’s size to do it correctly. They have the support and parts network in place. They make sure that ebike dealers can support the Bosch ebikes that they sell. No one does it better in our opinion.

What it comes down to is that these cheap ebikes can be a gateway to determining if an ebike is for you. Just take our advice and make sure whomever is assembling it knows what they are doing. Make sure that when you are charging the ebike you charge it in an area that should it catch fire, it won’t burn anything or hurt anyone. Never charge the ebike while you sleep.

Significance of UL-2849 Certification for Electric Bikes

In 2020, UL, a prominent testing and certification organization, collaborated with numerous experts and industry leaders to establish the UL-2849 certification specifically designed for electric bikes (e-bikes). Unlike solely examining the e-bike battery, UL-2849 certification signifies a comprehensive evaluation of an e-bike's battery, motor system, and charger for potential hazards such as fire, explosion, and electric shocks.

Among the limited number of e-bike motor system providers prioritizing safety, Bosch stands out by ensuring that all their batteries, motor systems, and chargers meet the standards set by UL-2849. If you would like to check out the Bosch ebike models we stock, you can use this link

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