2017 was a great year for ebikes. Customers demand that bikes just keep getting cheaper, more customizable and more powerful. It really has never been a better time to get into ebikes than right now, as you can buy so much more ebike than you could a year or two ago for the same price or less. I gotta say that for so many reasons 2017 was the hardest year I’ve ever been forced to stomach, I can’t imagine any way that 2018 can’t be better. This article looks at the trends in the ebike world and what I expect 2018 will bring.
Local bike & ebike shops continue to struggle
As more people buy their bikes and ebikes directly off the internet it seems like your friendly local bike shops will continue to suffer. Bike repair and rentals are 2 areas that the internet can’t compete with. Many local bike shops are watching the big bike brands move over to direct to consumer sales in an effort to try to cut costs and margins and compete with online retailers. It seems like even Bikes Direct is now selling ebikes, although not ones I would ever buy. Ironically, the link on their website is broken so the only way to find their $3500 ebikes is to do a google search. Will any local bike shops survive as anything other than just service centers? It remains to be seen. The internet is changing the face of retail as we know it and there is a good chance that the retail apocalypse is almost upon us already.
My good friend Laurence has slaved away with his dedicated ebike shop Boxy Bikes for years now. He now has a choice to either renew his lease or just move over to a pop-up tent model where he sets up a temporary bike service\rental station for ebikes. It sucks that someone can toil away hard for years doing ebike stuff and still not really get ahead. Selling quality ebikes that cost thousands of dollars is tough when people can just buy a Sondors shipped to their door for less than $700.
The BBSHD lords over 2017
The drive unit that has made my year is the BBSHD with a 60 amp ludicrous controller. I’ve tried a bunch of other stuff and nothing else seems to come close to the level of price/performance and raw fun of the BBSHD with a 30 or 36T chainring on it. Massive wheelie popping torque that will pull me uphill through 8 inches of snow. What’s not to like? What will be the big drive unit of 2018? The Bafang Ultra Max seems like the likely contender, although someone will need to source and start selling cheap Ultra Max alloy fatbike frames for the DIY crowd. I’m modifying an existing frame I have for an Ultra, but the problem is heat treating the welds is beyond the capabilities of most DIYers. The Ultra has potential as with the 50 amp Ludicrous controller it is a solid torque sensing drive unit easily capable of 40+mph. Right now it’s only available on the expensive carbon ($5,500+) Luna Apex, but the less expensive 3 inch tired full suspension carbon Apollo will be coming soon.
Frame Packs that will do 50 amps continuous
This has been a pet peeve of mine for a while, most shark and dolphin packs max out at 25 or 30 amps cont and if you try to pull more then they just flounder or shut off. I’ve finally got my hands on a Luna prototype wolf pack which promises to revolutionize frame packs. I’ve busted 3 Hailong cases with the standard shark packs, so I’ve been eager to use a frame pack that doesn’t suck for several years now, the Luna Wolf pack might actually live up to my impossible expectations.
Everything just keeps getting cheaper and cheaper
From batteries to drive units to parts, it seems like so much stuff is impossibly inexpensive compared to what I was paying 3 years ago. I remember when people were selling 11Ah frame packs for almost a grand, now it is close to a third of that. The BBS02 750W drive unit used to run over $700 from most US vendors, now it is only $400 for the whole kit. The craziest thing I’ve noticed is that the prices for the BBS02 from China (alibaba, aliexpress) and the US are now almost exactly the same. I never thought that would happen. This is great because I am the MOAC (mother of all cheapskates) and I hate buying stuff from China. I predict that 2018 will be the year that the majority of DIY guys switch from buying from China to US resellers.
Electric Motocross moves into the mainstream
For years the only name in electric motocross in the US was Zero. Now it seems that all the major players are planning to release or have released an electric motocross model for 2018 (Alta motors, KTM, Yamaha). One thing all these electric motocross bikes share is a high cost. I broke down this Xmas and bought myself a dirt cheap Sur-Ron emotocross bike for about $3375. This is less than half the cost of any other option I could find out there and although the Sur-Ron is pretty crappy in the deep snow, it is still a great emotocross bike for the price. I ordered a bunch of giant tire spikes for the snow and I’m hoping it will improve the handling of the Sur-Ron in deep powder.
Nylon is out, Steel is real
Bafang has finally decided to abandon their crappy ass nylon gears on the Ultra Max. They are offering free steel gear replacements for anyone who purchased an Ultra Max with a nylon gear. This change should have happened years ago with the BBS02, but at least it’s better late than never. With the stock Bafang Ultra Max I heard rumors that over 30% of the drive units were suffering nylon gear failures. Just goes to show that the engineers at Bafang really don’t thrash hard enough on their drive units in the real world. Here, let me help you with that.
Ebike crowdfunding is now officially out of control with no end in sight
It seems like every other day there is a new crowdfunding campaign for another crappy ebike. I get daily requests to do articles for these and I tell all these crowd funders the same thing I’ll tell you. Crowdfunding is like gambling and people love ebike crowdfunding because it’s a HUGE high dollar item that they can buy for dirt cheap from China and then resell to clueless Americans while advertising ridiculously unrealistic battery ranges. Don’t believe the hype, if you want a dirt cheap Chinese bike then get on Alibaba or Aliexpress and just buy one yourself. Don’t get stuck waiting a year for an ebike that is basically the same thing they are selling online and paying a whole lot more for.
Bikers and Ebikers continue to try to find common ground, or hate each other’s guts
Now that ebikes are welcome at Burning Man and most (but not all) bike paths in the US the next goal is for them to get accepted on singletrack trails. This is a much harder sell, considering that most trail riders that push pedals have to bust their asses to have a good time. For the record 9 months out of the year I don’t use a motor, but seeing as how now I have the Sur-Ron emoto that might change. I’m going to do my part to not piss all my friends off by NEVER EVER riding my emoto on the local singletrack trails. Since I have access to 500 acres of private land at my wife’s land trust I have little motivation to do that anyway. Please be courteous to fellow trail riders and if you do ride your ebike on singletrack trails just follow my simple rules of singletrack etiquette (don’t be a dick).
High power ebikes start competing with gas scooters for commuters
It used to be that ebikes were really popular with people who lost their driver licenses from repeated DWI’s. This is slowly changing as now ebikes are viable for many city dwellers for at least 3 seasons out of the year. I know of several people who have actually given up on car ownership to embrace ebikes completely. While I admire this attitude, I’m not ready to give up my gas burners yet. If I lived it a big city, then I almost certainly would as the cost and hassle to own a vehicle in large cities in the US makes it financially silly to do so. A 750W peak motor doesn’t quite do it as a car replacement, but a 750W nominal mid drive unit like the BBS02 with a large chainring starts feeling reasonable for longer trips. The BBSHD feels even better and a BBSHD with a 60 amp Ludicrous controller feels best of all. I think the Ultra Max is going to start to gain real traction against the BBSHD in 2018 now that Bafang has given up on the nylon gears. Pedalling along with a torque sensing mid drive at 35+ mph feels just plain awesome. You finally get to be that superhero you always wanted to be when you were young.
More people are likely to die or get seriously injured in 2018 ebiking or charging counterfeit cells
In China last year 95 people were killed in building fires while charging their ebikes. Many of those fires were from cheap bikes with counterfeit 18650 cells. God help you if you buy cheap Chinese batteries from Alibaba or Ebay, I have already had one eBay charger blow up on me and now I charge everything in the woodstove. As more people in the US buy more powerful and faster ebikes to drive on the road, there will be accidents and people will die. If you ebike then use common sense and wear a helmet and don’t break the laws and your odd of living increase dramatically. Also the death rate for accidents changes dramatically between 30 mph and 40 mph. As the days of 20mph limited ebikes steadily comes to a close, you should really exercise a little restraint when it comes to how fast you go when sharing the road with cars. When I am riding with cars in town I drive at their speed, wear my motorcycle crash pads and I hog up the whole lane, it just feels a whole lot safer. Dying sucks, living is awesome.
Carbon will move out of the spotlight
I think in 2018 you’ll see less carbon bikes and more focus on quality alloy frames. I ride really hard and I’ve only broken one frame in my life. Big picture I’m not a fan of carbon as I’m way too hard on my bikes to worry about dinging the frame everytime I pull the front wheel off and cram the ebike in the trunk of my car. Carbon fiber is pretty hyped up, but for the cost of many frames, honesty it’s just not worth it. I see people spending $4000 on a carbon fiber frame that probably cost a few hundred bucks to make in China. It’s your money, do what you want with it, but you can buy a lot of ebike crap for $4000. I predict some smart ebike retailer will start selling alloy fatbike frames with Ultra Max brackets built in and make a killing on them.
Consumers will move away from frame packs and toward downtube & fusion batteries
For a while, it seemed like frame packs that mount to water bottle holders would dominate the ebike scene. Over time we’ve seen less and less frame pack ebikes and more ebikes with integrated downtube batteries and custom fusion packs that fit neatly into the triangle of the frame. There are a lot of problems with frame packs that downtube and fusion batteries don’t tend to have. The big disadvantage is that you can’t just put a bunch of frame mounting brackets on all your ebikes and move your frame pack from one bike to another as you need it. What people are willing to pay for, they will get, and it seems like the days of frame packs may have come and gone.
I will continue to be a public nuisance
Last week I got thrown out my gym for the first time ever. My biggest prediction of 2018 is that I will continue to create problems everywhere I possibly can. If you think that you’re immune think again, no one will escape the annoyance of my need for more power and speed. I think in the end the only thing will stop me is a big lawsuit or a tree in my path. Lets hope neither one happens in 2018.
Well, there you have it, my predictions for the 2018 ebike world. Will any of them come true? Time will tell. In the meantime, the most important thing you can do is get the hell away from your computer and GO OUT AND RIDE.