Electric bikes, bicycles propelled by a motor and battery, are not new. In fact the very first e-bike was documented in the 1890’s! Since conception, electric bikes have come a long way. And in the last few years, momentum is gaining. But there is a secret the big electric bike companies don't want you to know....
Though relatively unknown in the United States, there are over 200 million electric bike riders in China and e-bikes sales in Europe have taken off since 2010 up over 47% according to Bike Europe.
Propelled by higher gasoline prices, a lackluster economy, an aging population of baby boomers, and the desire of more Americans to be "green", the electric bike market in the US has been growing steadily since 2008 (when gas crept over $4/gallon in the US). Although paling in comparison to sales in Europe, the US market is poised to excel.
E-bikes are an exciting product with a lot of potential for growth considering the broader conventional bicycle market in the US. In 2014 the e-bike market is attracting new investment and encouraging the early-adopter brands to dig in and grow market share. Banking on the success of the European market, the major electric bike players in the US market are beginning to push more expensive models in the $3500-$10,000 range.
The sellers of these expensive electric bikes justify their hefty price tags by touting high-tech pedal-assist transmissions that make for a more intuitive assist in power, guided by the rider's own pedal-power input.
Some companies, in a desperate attempt to justify the higher prices, have even gone as far as suggesting "throttle-on-demand" type e-bike systems are unsteady and potentially dangerous.
So what's the industry secret the big electric bike companies don't want you to know?
Electric bike conversion kits are available to convert conventional bicycles into high-performance electric bicycles for a fraction of the cost of buying a complete electric bike. This is something almost anyone can do (on their own or with the help of their local bike shop), and because the systems have options (front or rear wheel, different motor and battery types and various functions), ultimately by converting, you can end up with the complete electric bike that best suits you.
Conversion kits are also not a new concept but they are increasingly overlooked and in some cases outright bastardized by complete e-bike manufacturers. The reason is profit; there is more profit in selling peanut butter and jelly sandwiches than there is in selling just peanut butter;)
The fact is that the hub motor and li-ion battery system you see on that $4500 complete electric bike can be had for a lot less money if you buy the system and convert a comparable bike separately.
Don't get me wrong; some electric bikes with mid-drive systems, in-frame batteries and high-end components should command a premium. There are a lot of expensive e-bikes out there that are well worth the high-dollar price tag.
That said, many times what you have is a cheap bike (add in disc brakes and a few brand name components to cover up the cheapness) that has been converted using an average electric bike conversion kit and an average made in China li-ion battery pack. Really all the manufacturer has done is hide the cabling and connectors inside the frame and voila! Now a $400 system + a $150 bike is given a $2500 MSRP.
So yeah, shhh.... don't tell anyone. When it comes to getting an electric bike, you have an option in conversion that could have you ending up with a better e-bike for a lot less money.
One more word of advice; if you're interested in converting a bike to electric, contact your local bike shop first and ask them if they are a "J&B dealer". If they are (and likely they are since J&B Importers is the largest bike distributor in the USA), they have access to the E-BikeKit™ and E-TrikeKit™ conversion systems.
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