This wirteup was posted to a forum populated with perhaps the most dedicated group of electric bike enthusiasts on the internet. These guys and gals have collectively tried about every combination of E-bike, kit, and everything inbetween on the market today. You can find them at:
Al, one of the long time members of the group gives his account of years of trial and error before setting on his current bike, an Optibike 800Li:
Allow me to make myself perfectly clear. A year or two ago many of our TFX hubs died. We jumped in and spent thousands of dollars on Lithium packs that came very well recommended by engineers with years of experience. Those packs died during the next year and not wanting to be guinea pigs again; I was forced to stop riding and Larry resorted to toting around 3 SLA packs just to get out riding — far from his past performance and range. After much (several+ years) of all of our research, Larry finally sprung for Lithium again and so far it’s going great but until we see how long it lasts it is another crap shoot. I didn’t ride for a year as I will not resort to SLA and couldn’t get over my mountain with them anyway. Get the picture — attention–> I could NOT get over my mountain, with even a new TFX I needed an auxillary pack to augment the hub — again the hub and the auxillary packs died — as did Joe’s. Joe went for the option of having LEVT rebuild his hub but for the $700 he still has only 8-9 ah. I can’t do anything with that.
When I say “get the job done” I mean get 17 miles to work with a 2000′ vertical rise — get there in under an hour reliably and not sweaty. Then I need to charge and return. At night the mountain can sometimes have high wind and thick fog blowing. I want to climb fast to minimize the cars overtaking me on twisting narrow roads and want to descend fairly fast for that and other reasons. The handling of the Opti is probably significantly superior to most or all of the bikes on the ES list — if not I look forward to seeing any that can compete. Riding on the flat or on bike trails lots of bikes can seem to handle fine. I’m talking when you are pushing some limits — Optis are from Colorado. When I did the same ride on my TFX, when the packs were all new, if I hit a small pot hole the TFX hardtail would jump to the side very unervingly — the degree of scariness would depend how sharp of a turn I might be leaned into at the time and how wet the road might be. What on earth do you think it means when Opti says Fox Float forks and shocks handle well. How about the $60 ea German tires — Do I want to save $30 on tires for a ride like that? I’ve seen good friends in a casket from a bike accidents.
I love the guys at Endless Sphere and have learned massive amounts from them. They are as close to ‘Dr Emmett Brown’ as you can get. They are geniuses creating the future by inventing powerful ebikes — Jim Turner is exactly like them except he went the next several steps to refine his experiments and put them into production. A number of those ES guys are engineers and if not an engineer many are very savvy— they are like the Wright Bros developing a new technology with all kinds of interesting and capable contraptions. I built and ride (or would if I had a battery) a crystalyte 5304. I’ve followed ES daily for years — love it. It is not uncommon for a Crystalyte or other controllers to blow up — ES threads are full of stories, pics, instructions of how to replace the blown MOSFETS and etc. Sometimes when a controller blows the rear wheel seizes up. Do I look like I want that in the cards when I’m descending a two lane mountain road with a rock face on one side and a cliff on the other?
The guys at ES are inventors — they love building, inventing and experimenting. They are predjudiced though, against a $9K shiny off the shelf bike — I don’t want to be soldering MOSFETs or wondering if the rain will get into my connections — or the latest here; wondering if the bolts on my brake calipers that are hitting my spokes are going to rip out the spokes — this on the ES recommended bike.
I also just described how I went to the dentist and had to huck the bike up several flights of stairs — I don’t want to carry more than 50 lbs up the stairs after riding over the mountain — I’m 61 years old. I’m very fit but when I’m in San Francisco maneuvering on the very steep hills, in traffic with cable car tracks, over curbs etc — I’m very happy my bike weighs 48 lbs. When I lift my bike into my car by myself and my back feels great the next day I’m happy again — we all know light weight engineering costs.
So no, my TFX was most definitely not doing the job for the last three years.
I’ve described how we’ve been disappointed/burned by the state of batteries. I’ve scoured every forum for years searching for reliable, affordable warantied batteries. I actually 100% wrote the ES ‘Battery Tech’ sticky on ES ‘Lithium Battery Reports & Tests’ 9/08′ for Fetcher. The longest warranty I’ve noticed is 6 months even on a $1600 pack. The Opti packs are the only ones I know of that have a year or more — three year warranty on bike and pack. I know things are getting better but for now Opti is out front where it counts.
I’ve had my fun building ebikes and futzing with packs and chargers, lights and brakes. Now I want a real vehicle that works superbly, handles as well as my Ducati, gives me great exercise, is as reliable as my Toyota and does not pollute to boot. I’m interested in all ebikes that might meet my standards — I’ll look over the ES list but the one at the top does not meet my standards (cannot do the job) and the one at the bottom does — but that’s the story of my life — I often don’t like the Oscar winners.
Jim Turner laid down the gauntlet — he is serious. He offered $5,000 cash to anyone who can beat him up the mountain to his house on a production ebike and he emphasized he’s not that strong anymore. When the green flag drops the BS stops.
PS remf — yes I was going all out on a little straight hill with no traffic and no headwind when I hit 54 — but Larry did 60 on a bigger hill on his TFX!