There has been a lot of controversy about the Storm Fatbike Crowdfunding Campaign due to this article on Yahoo questioning the legitimacy of the campaign and the people running it. I was part of this campaign back when it had stalled out at about $80,000. That was before Yahoo starting posting their original article about it into their feed and over 3500 more people signed up pushing the campaign to it’s almost $3 million mark. This has taken myself and many others by complete surprise.
Most of the consensus from the Ebike crowd is these guys are overselling their bike to the point of fraud. On some levels I have to agree.
-It is unlikely that the bike will weigh in with the battery at 45 lbs. Extremely unlikely, it will be at least 50 lbs and probably closer to 55 with the battery at the very lightest. The lightest singlespeed fatbike I’ve weighed was around 31 lbs and that was an aluminum frame. Expect 5 lbs for the motor, another 7 or 8 lbs for the battery and you’re already at close to 45lbs. Add that heavy comfort seat and a steel frame and it becomes obvious that it is impossible that the bike weighs only 45lbs with the battery.
– The top speed is claimed as 20mph but will more than likely be ~17 or 18 mph on level ground with a 170lb rider at that powerlevel (380watts) with a direct drive motor. Those big tires create a lot of drag.
– The range is the biggest complaint and I don’t think anyone would argue that 50 miles is simply not true. I would say 10 miles is a more realistic number, 15 miles is pushing it. Throttle powered bikes are notorious watt suckers as people tend to get lazy and not bother pedaling at all.
So are these guys snake oil salesmen or are they just practicing what the ebike industry does all the time. Overstating their range, power and mileage. I bought a giant twist ebike with a 10Ah 24V torque sensing pedal assist and I remember reading somewhere that the bike would go over 100 miles on eco mode. There is absolutely no way that is true unless you do all the pedaling. Riding in the hilly terrain around my house the range is more like, well 10-15 miles, 20 if you do all the work and there is no hills. Giant is the biggest bike manufacturer in the world and they were overstating the milage on their electric bike by a factor of 5-10x what it really was.
Last week I finished the training to be certified in selling the Bosch drive unit. When we asked how to sell the milage range of the battery we were told that the 10Ah 32v pack (similar to the Storm in power capacity) that came with the Bosch system (Retail $900 just for the battery) would get somewhere between 10 and 135 miles depending on conditions and how aggressively the torque sensing PAS system was set. The average would be somewhere around 20-25 miles.
I did my homework and googled Storm\Ivars Sondors and his partner Jon Hopp several weeks ago before I invested my money in their campaign back when it was stuck at $90,000. I came up with the same results that the author of the Yahoo account did. I looked through some of the videos that Storm had watched on You Tube and looked at pictures of Jon’s family. I didn’t interpret Storm’s lack of a web presence to mean anything other than he doesn’t spend a lot of time on the internet and social networking sites. I still ended up donating $499 in the hopes of getting a bike.
So being educated about ebikes and knowing they were overstating their bike’s capabilities and also seeing that Storm was not a big presence on the web and that Jon was just a normal guy why in the world would I still support this campaign? Simply because I wanted to see them succeed. They had already met their goal but I wanted to test a bike and blog about it here and convert it into something that wouldn’t suck quite as much (see my post on the AWD fatbike built from a Storm donor bike for ~$1000 here).
Before they hit the big time the odds of Jon and Storm taking the $90,000 and running to Tahiti and never fill any orders was remote at best. More than likely in a couple of months some kind of box was going to show up at my door with a bike and a motor and a battery. How well it worked would depend on the choices that Jon and Storm made for the expense and quality of the components. Almost certainly the bike is assembled in China and all they are doing is Bulk shipping them from China then slapping labels on boxes and getting them to the client the same way Bikes Direct does quite successfully.
All that changed when the Campaign broke the $2,900,000 mark. Suddenly them taking the money and splitting started to look like a real possibility. According to the contract of the supporter with Indiegogo and the contract with Indiegogo with Storm and Jon they have full legal rights to take everyone’s money and deliver absolutely nothing. In the short-term they would end up ahead but in the long run it is insane for them to do this. If they play their cards right they can turn the Storm name into the dominant electric fat-bike in America. In a bigger picture way this points out one of the biggest problems with people ‘shopping’ on crowd-funding sites. It’s not like shopping on the internet, you are basically investing in someone’s idea and trusting that they will come through with their promises. Almost everyone’s honesty breaks down at some point, and if someone handed YOU $3,000,000 and said that you could legally take it and walk away if you wanted to just forget your promise to deliver 4,000 bikes what would YOU do? Would you squander the money on yourself or would you follow your dreams. These two seem like dreamers to me. Once the money started pouring in they started posting about trying to find homeless people to give free ebikes. That just didn’t feel like someone that would take the money and run, more like someone who wanted to give back to the community.
In the bike world there is a common saying. Price, durability and weight. You want anything bike related then pick two. This means you can have cheap stuff that lasts forever but is heavy as hell. You get two of what you want but you sacrifice the last one. The thing that has the ebike companies as well as endless-sphere up in arms is that Storm and Jon were advertising a bike that was too light and too cheap with far too much quoted range.
They never made claims about a warranty or bike support except to say they might setup an online store for parts and it looks like they will sell batteries (You”ll need a new one every 4-5 years or so). How this whole thing will play out remains to be seen. One thing is for sure, that Storm and Jon probably never really dreamed of this level of success and that this new found success will put them under a microscope of scrutiny.
In the photos and video they show people riding bikes that are prototypes with foot-pegs instead of pedals and using much larger motors than a 380Watt system. In the video they also show a Cycle Analyst, an expensive computer used to monitor and control the motor which is not going to be in the final model. They also advertise it as Direct Drive, but in the pictures the motor is clearly a geared hub. They talk about hydraulic brakes, but then show pictures of cable brakes. There is little to no consistency in the description and the pictures and videos. The frame size is quoted axle to axle and seat height which is almost never done in the bike world. Ussually you talk stand over and frame size in inches as the length of the seat tube. They also talk about charging a 32v 10Ah Lithium battery in 90 minutes which is a recipe for disaster. Those water bottle packs need to be slow charged at around 3 Amps not 7 Amps in order to maximize their lifespan. Charging at those power levels is going to cut their total lifespan cycles almost in half. These two are clearly not ebike nerds (not a criticism, just an observation).
Why do I believe that two men that I don’t know and that aren’t bike gurus will fulfill on their promises? Hope. I hope they will, because I want to see Electric Bikes become the dominant form of transportation in America. The biggest thing preventing that right now is the cost of electric bikes. Electric Bikes help to solve one of the biggest problems we now face, global warming.
That being said, I’ve traveled to 40 countries in my life and the one thing I can say about our country is that people are generally honest. It’s part of the culture and the social pressure to not rip people off is substantial. I’d rather give my money to a beach bum surfer with big promises than a CEO of a big company any day.
I’m putting my faith in you Storm and Jon, please don’t let us down.