Friday, February 24, 2017

You can't be too cheap or too skinny? Two $800 (shipped!) commuter e-bikes

So, let's say that
  • you're cheap
  • you're broke
  • you live in a not-too-hilly place
  • you just can't imagine paying $1000 for any bicycle
(Check, check, check, check. Yep, I fall into all four! If you do too, welcome to the club, my frugal amigo!)

Do I have two bikes for you? Do I have two bikes for you!

So, let's check out the first bike:

Lately we've looked at the Populo, and the before that the Propella. I even got to pick up (it was very light) an Easy Motion EasyGo Race at an electric bike shop in Dallas back in December. And I have to say that they are all gorgeous. I love the look (but not the reality) of a fixie, and these bikes have brought that sleek minimalism into the e-bike world (and have done it at very low prices.)

So, let's look at one more -  the Vilano Core. Besides the sleek looks, this bike has one really compelling reason to buy it (price) and one surprisingly upscale and trendy feature (belt drive). You can get one (delivered to your house) for $800 and it has belt drive instead of a chain. Other than those, it is extremely similar to the Populo and the Propella. Strangely, the Vilano seems to be very widely available. I was surprised to see that you can order one from

See how I managed to squeeze the price, the vendor, the belt drive, and the no-name and slightly underpowered motor all into one pic? (I have mad blogging skills like that.) [Cursor drop and walk away, Mesquite Hugger]

Other than lots of identical vendor sites and the product site itself, I haven't found much online presence or review for this bike. I do wonder why it has a 220 watt motor rather than the industry standard 250 watt and I'd sure like to know who makes the components used in the bike, but hey, it's hard to get too picky at $800, right? So, I am not recommending it (or not recommending it) - just letting you know it's out there. (Me, I would not be brave enough to order one until Pete, Court, and a passel of youtubers checked it out.)

Actually, I do find it a little disturbing how widely available it is:

Yep, you can even order one from Wally World.

On to the other $800 (shipped) bike

This one, on the other hand, I feel qualified to endorse (with a few caveats) even though I've never seen this particular model in person.

Sondors still keeps sending me emails, and each time they make me ponder. I have to say (after getting to know Grizz's sondors Originals) that Sondors offers an impressive bike (for this price range.) The Sondors Thin has me intrigued.

What's red, white, blue, and black all over?

You see, I'm a street commuter, and I just don't feel any need to have the big honking tires. And I would not want to pay for their replacements when it's time. So the Thin makes sense to me. It's 10 pounds lighter, it's thinner, (Duh!) and it has a decent reputation. And this may or not appeal to you, but it has a cult following that can offer lots of tech support and/or hop-up advice. And, it has a 350-watt motor from a well-respected manufacturer. Also, similar to the little speedsters listed above, it's a pretty simple machine. And, of course, you can have one delivered to you for $800.

Grizz's Sondors - in stock form - surprised us both. We did not get to test it with pedal-assist, but we had no problem reaching 17mph (throttle only) and 20mph was attainable with some hard pedaling. For most bike commuters, this machine is plenty powerful, and with pedal-assist installed you should be able to get some fairly impressive range.

One other thing to consider, if you are less than 5'6", this bike will be a stretch for you. The Sondors bikes are tall.

LunaCycle (pictured) and Velomobile Shop offer Sondors aftermarket parts

[A little Sondors aftermarket sidebar - Sondors is the only e-bike I know of that already has brand-specific aftermarket stuff availability, but be careful, most of the aftermarket parts are designed for the fat-tired bike. Threads where Thin owners are frustrated with aftermarket upgrade parts are very common.]
Image from OverVolted

[Another little Sondors Thin/Belt Drive sidebar - when the Thin was originally offered, there was an option to order one with a belt drive, but it added close to $100 to the price. But I have not seen that option available these days. So, if you want one with a belt drive, you may be able to pick up a used one. But be careful, I often see used Sondors bikes for sale at prices higher than the new prices. It pays to do your homework.]

To be honest, in my quest to give up petroleum I have given serious consideration to purchasing a Sondors Thin. If you're looking for a no-frills e-bike on a very low budget, this thing could cover a lot of bases. With the addition of a rear rack, a suspension seatpost, and some lights, it would easily cover my commuter needs.

May you find petroleum-free transportation that covers your needs and does not empty your bank account.

And two more low-cost e-bikes for those of you who like to hang around and watch the credits:

For those of you who want to go super-low price, check out this Treehugger article about the Stark. (Thanks, Derek!)

For those of you who want a high-quality and very capable cargo/commuter for not much more money, check out a refurbished U-350 from Juiced bikes. (If you're gravitationally challenged like me, pony up the extra $70 to go 500 watts.)