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Dispatches from The Daily Rider

Budget Electric Bicycles are Fast Fashion

If you’ve read our post  on Radpower, you know we have some strong opinions about what that company is doing in the electric bike space. But to be fair, they’re not the worst offender in the new world of online direct to consumer (DTC) e-bikes. As micro-mobility increases in popularity, consumers need to be aware of the differences in quality, repairability, and safety.

When a consumer purchases clothing from Shein, Zara or H&M, they’re getting a product that looks like a higher fashion item, but made of inferior materials and not constructed for long term wear. Many of these consumers may even consider disposing of an article of clothing rather than washing. Putting on an item from one of these companies may look fine at first, but they’re not destined for a long stay in your closet.

Similarly, companies producing low cost electric bikes promise the same experience as one purchased from a conventional bicycle shop. The truth is, these bikes are just like fast fashion apparel. They meet the minimum requirements to be categorized as electric bikes, but are low quality and prone to early failure. If you’re considering purchasing an electric bike, we know that one of the biggest barriers to entry is cost. But for what you save in the initial purchase, you will end up paying in diagnostics and repairs later.

We want to get as many different people onto bikes in Washington, DC and around the world as possible. As a bike shop centered around transportation, we see the e-bike as a solution to so many issues.

Climate change?

E-bikes!

Urban traffic?

E-bikes!

Land use and zoning issues?

E-bikes!

Maybe we can’t solve every problem with them, but we’re on the record that they can change the world. So you would think that getting as many people as possible on them would be a good thing, right?

Looking at the current offerings from a variety of online vendors we can see e-assist bikes that start out as low as $350. Having worked on this specific model in the recent past, we can safely say it is not built for long term use. When a product claims to be sustainable and environmentally friendly, but ends up in the landfill after a year’s use, that’s not sustainable, it’s disposable.

When customers call us about various issues they have with a DTC ebike, we often have to deliver the news that the problem is either not repairable or greatly exceeds the new purchase value. We see motor failures occasionally, but far more often, there are electronics gremlins. Since these bikes are assembled with other low durability parts, conventional repair issues arise early in the bike’s service life.

Testing equipment for DTC e-bikes is often not accessible to conventional bicycle shops.

We encounter certain repairs more often on DTC bikes. The most common repairs are brake and wheel issues. Companies often install low-end or insufficient brakes on these bikes, requiring more frequent adjustments and occasional failures. With most e-bikes capable of 20mph, reliable stopping power is essential. Due to their less expensive nature, most DTC bikes use hub-drive motors. When improperly built or assembled without correct tension, these wheels are prone to spoke failures. We have seen motor wheels with as many as 5 broken spokes on one wheel, which is alarming, especially when the rider describes carrying children.

Our relationships with Bosch and Shimano and their specialized diagnostic tools allow us to quickly and accurately determine the problem and get a solution. These companies provide in depth annual training and certification programs, which ensure our technicians are up to date with the newest equipment and repair procedures. With dedicated dealer support, we get immediate answers to questions regarding issues we haven’t seen before and parts support when a software update isn’t enough.

A bike technician looks at a computer diagnostic screen of a Bosch equipped e-bike.

Shimano or Bosch Diagnostics can be used to pinpoint problems and update software.

With a direct to consumer electric bike, we’re often not able to do any diagnosis beyond swapping out or disconnecting parts to see if there’s any change. To diagnose many of these bikes, we’re often placed in the role of the consumer and spend hours waiting on hold for a customer service representative to answer our questions.

When you purchase from an online based electric bike company, diagnosis by phone is only the first step. These e-bike companies will send out the lowest cost solution to your problem to be installed and tested by the consumer or their repair shop. When this solution fails to address the problem, it’s back to the phones. Direct to Consumer electric bicycles shift the labor and research of warranty repairs to the end consumer or their local bike shop. With labor rates based on our local market, it isn’t cost effective to have a technician waiting on hold for tech support.

Part of the reason these bikes can be sold for such a low price is that many companies don’t provide support after the sale. While some have a phone support line, others are unreachable. We see this occur primarily with bikes purchased on Amazon. Frustrated customers often complain about their inability to contact DTC companies for guidance on fixing a broken bike, often less than a year old.

Seeing a company like Van Moof enter bankruptcy leads to questions of viability of a bike after the brand disappears. Consumers who own a Van Moof bike could find themselves locked out of their bike if the company doesn’t maintain their servers.

Some DTC companies are different than others. We have had extremely good interactions with Priority with warranty issues in the past, and were pleased with their quick response to technical questions. Occasionally, we have had other companies that provided good service, but could not fix a recurring problem. This led to the consumer returning to the shop multiple times to fix an issue that should have been resolved on the first call.

A Bosch e-bike battery charging with a Bosch charger. Several LED indicators on the battery are lit.

A UL Listed system ensures safe charging and storage.

Recent news reports and FTC recalls are highlighting the role of low quality micromobility lithium batteries in fires. The entire Bosch e-bike system is certified to UL 2489, which sets safety standards for all electric components. We feel safe having them in our shop. Each component has been tested and approved by Underwriters Laboratories (UL), a standards organization that is internationally recognized in the product safety field.

In a December 2022 letter, the CPSC urged manufacturers and importers of e-bikes to meet existing UL or ANSI standards. It asked that these companies comply with and certify that the devices they market and sell are safe for sale and use in the US. Failure to do so could result in enforcement action.

Several of our brands have recently partnered with Call2Recycle, a program that streamlines battery recycling for the consumer. This organization is proactively working to reduce hazardous waste in landfills. It is efforts like this that ensure products sold today have a closed loop for their end of use. Too often, an electrical fault or expensive service cost pushes a relatively new low-cost e-bike into the waste stream. Like a piece of cheaply made clothing, the cost to repair exceeds replacement cost and it becomes trash.

Getting more people to ride e-bikes in Washington, DC is one of our biggest goals. If you’re thinking about purchasing a bike online, stop into your local shop and ask the service department about their experience with that brand. Ask questions about their experience and capacity to service it.

 

Social Media Changes

We’ve had a tenuous relationship with Facebook in the past, rarely updating, and preferring to communicate on Twitter. The events of the last 24 hours in our home city have made us reconsider what outlets we want to use, and how we should communicate.

We have deleted the official Facebook page for The Daily Rider and it will disappear after their mandatory 14 day waiting period.

We never really “got” Facebook after a certain point, and became frustrated with their limits on engagement. Of course, the company and their leadership have been taken to task in the past for their failure to respond to the platform’s use as a propaganda tool by certain groups. We have kept the Instagram page for the moment, and are aware that their ownership by Facebook makes this statement somewhat hypocritical. What can we say? We like looking at pictures of pretty bikes and cute dogs.

No social media platform has figured out how to perfectly moderate discussion in a way that encourages positive interaction and information sharing. We’re well aware of the limitations and failings of Twitter as well, but feel that we’re able to much better navigate that platform and avoid its darker sides.

We’ll be using this site and Twitter to broadcast relevant updates from the shop. As always, we can be reached via email or phone in the shop for more direct requests.

Snowy Day? We’re open 1/13/19!

class=”aligncenter is-resized”>Snow falling on H Street with DC Streetcar passing window.
The DC Streetcar is running, we have warm gloves and hot coffee!

If you’re making an emergency snow day run to the Whole Foods and need some gloves or other snow essentials, we’re here for you.

Electric Bicycle Conversion

Adding an e-assist kit to your bike can extend your range and reduce effort needed to get up hills or carry passengers and cargo. Many of our cargobike customers have decided that an e-assist kit is essential for getting their growing families around the city and up Capitol Hill. Our shop is equipped to install and service a variety of different electric motor systems. Recently, we have been using the Lunacycle mid-drive kits to add power to Yubas, Workcycles, and regular bikes. This system is powerful enough to handle fully loaded longtails and Bakfiets.

Mid-drive power

The mid-drive motor for this electric bicycle conversion is the heart of the operation. We use the 750 watt and 1000 watt versions in most builds. This provides enough power to get a fully loaded cargo bike up to 20mph and maintain that speed.

Lunacycle electric assist motor installed on a Yuba Mundo
The Lunacycle electric motor installed on a Yuba Mundo

Starting the build

We start out with a regular bike, in this photo, a Yuba Mundo. The first step is to pull the crankset and bottom bracket and replace with the motor unit.

Lunacycle BBS02
The motor in place before wiring.

Battery mount

The battery tray is installed directly onto the water bottle mounts for a secure platform.

Battery tray
Mounting the battery tray.

Cabling to the display

Cables run from the electric motor to the speed sensor and to the brake sensors. These components all get wired into a harness that passes through the display/control unit.

Bafang motor controller screen
Control at your fingertips. Five power settings and a robust color display showing speed and power output.

Once we get all the cables set up, we’re ready to pull the battery off the charger and test the drive motor. A few tests of shifting and braking and the newly electrified bike is ready for the street.

Yuba Mundo with electric motor installed.
A completed Electric Bicycle Conversion with Lunacycle 750 watt motor.

We can walk you through the build process if you’re considering making a conversion to electric motor assist. A typical build with motor, controls, battery, and installation will run around $1500.

Is it worth it? Our first Yuba electric motor assist installation customer said her face hurt from grinning on her school run.

We think that’s a pretty good endorsement.

Amsterdam

Our intrepid yogi and shop salesperson Brittany took a trip to Amsterdam this past weekend. Find some of her bikey photos at our account @thedailyriderdc

I don’t want my bike to get stolen

We don’t want your bike to get stolen either. Which is why you’ll notice a lack of cable locks in our shop and a focus on keeping your bike and accessories secure. 

Let’s take a look at what we can do to make your bike as theft-proof as possible.


Street Parking or Garage?


Before we get to locks and locking accessories, let’s talk about parking your bike on the street. Many restaurants and retail establishments dissuade customers from bringing bikes inside so there’s a possibility that your Yuba is going to have to take dinner al fresco. See if there’s a possibility of bike parking in a nearby garage (required by law in DC) as it is more secure and weather protected than street parking. 

If you’re parking on the street, you may notice a variety of bike racks and fixtures for affixing your fixie. The quality and security of these vary greatly. Ring racks are ubiquitous in DC and are decent security (when correctly installed) and provide simple locking options. Place your bike with your non-drive side (the side without the gears on it) next to the rack. This makes it easier for the next person to use the rack without entangling their bike in yours.


No Rack? What now?


Don’t lock to trees (for their health and your bike’s security) and choose street furniture carefully. Street signs are fine as long as the bike and lock can’t be lifted up and over the top if the sign is missing. Locking to a uniformed police officer is a safe method, but always ask for permission before doing so. Less safe spaces and structures are chain link fences (easily cut) and anything wood (same deal). A good rule to follow is to always lock to something that is harder to defeat than your lock.

We’re going to assume that you already have a good quality U-lock or link lock (like the fine Abus Bordo pictured above), that is long enough to get through both your frame and the fixture you’re locking to. 

Lock through your frame and back wheel or use the “Sheldon” method by going through the rear wheel inside the rear triangle of the frame. Now, attach your second lock.

Wait. Second lock?

Yes. Here’s the thing with wheels. They’re what make your bike move and they’re really easily stolen on most bikes. If you have quick release wheels, consider the new Abus Nutfix wheel locks or a similar solution from Pitlock.



The Pitlock locking skewer will protect your wheels, saddle, and other accessories from disappearing 
The Abus NutFix skewer is a keyless solution

You can also use a second lock to attach between the front wheel and frame. This solution may seem extreme, but you might consider it if you lock up in high theft areas (Metro stations, nightlife destinations) to improve your chances. 


Take some photos


Of course, all of these things can be defeated, so take a moment right now to take a photo of your serial number (its probably underneath your bottom bracket) and store it somewhere safe. As long as we’re talking about preventative measures, register your bike on BikeIndex today. Its free, and an open source solution accessible to anyone with an interest in preventing bike theft. Some pictures of your bike and any distinctive markings or stickers can be posted here as well. 


Reading this too late and your bike has disappeared? We have a post for you as well. 


My Bike was just stolen. What do I do?

We understand. That really sucks.

We started our shop after Beth’s Bianchi Milano was stolen from our shed, so we really know what you’re going through right now. 


Make the call


A Celeste Bianchi Milano
Bianchi Milano. Gone too soon. 

First thing you’re going to want to do is call and make a police report. This can seem like a waste of time, but it is important if you want to make an insurance claim or get it back if it ends up in a police property room. 


Get Online


Bike Index Logo
The wonderful folks at Bikeindex want to help get your bike back. Post a picture and description with dates and locations to get the word out. 

Next, take to the web. Resources like Bike Index and the DC Stolen Bikes Facebook page are great open source ways to get the word out about your missing Mongoose or purloined Pegoretti. Post on your personal Twitter feed and Instagram account. Pictures help. You did have pics of your lovely steed, correct?


Contact local shops


You know who hates bike theft? Bike shop employees! We’ve all seen shady characters pushing bikes through our doors asking how to use the shifters or valves on a bike way too big or too small for them.

So give your local shops a call or email. We put our messages up on our internal Slack channel dedicated to this very issue. We’ve recovered several bikes in the shop and successfully returned them to owners, so don’t lose hope. One bike we recovered had been missing for over a year. 


Set up alerts


Set up alerts on Craigslist , OfferUp and EBay along with other sales sites to see if your disappearing DeRosa makes its way to online commerce.

In our experience, most bikes that show up on these sites do so rather quickly so scan them as soon as possible. If it turns up on one of these you have a few options. One can take the rather unconventional yet effective method of stealing your own bike back like our customer Danny  did a few years ago. We do not endorse this method as it could lead to losing more than your bike in the process. We have heard of DC police setting up sting purchases for these cases, but don’t count on it. 


Find a new friend


After all this is done, you’re going to want to replace your faithful Fairdale , and we know just the shop who can help you out. If you’re looking to prevent this heartache, read our post on bike security procedures

Welcome to the newly-redesigned Daily Rider!

First of all, welcome to The Daily Rider’s new site. Take a look around and tell us what you think.

We wanted a platform that would allow us to communicate directly with you for the latest news and developments from the shop.

We’re really pleased with what our collaborators at CStraight Media came up with. If you need a design team for your next project, we can’t say enough about them. The whole team contributed to make this site something we can be proud of. Special thanks go to Thomas for leading the team from concept to production, and to Q. Jesse for managing content and keeping us on task. Thanks guys!

In the next few months, we’ll be announcing our rides, events, and classes here.

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