E-bikes on Kickstarter and Indiegogo

September 6, 2015

Kickstarter and Indiegogo are the best-known “crowd-funding” sites. If you need money to start a business, and a bank won’t give you a loan…sometimes you can raise a surprising amount of money from crowd-funding. This last year, a lot of people who believe they could make it as an electric bike retailer have tried crowd-funding, so there’s a wide variety of ebike selections that you can buy from these start-ups. There is risk involved, but…if you are an early adopter and pay up front…you might get a good deal on an ebike that arrives several months later.

If you see a product on a crowd-funding site, and you like it…the price is usually much cheaper during the start-up campaign, compared to the retail production price later.



The Sondors E-bike (originally called “Storm”) has permanently changed the E-bike landscape in North America. You can read our story on the Sondors E-bike here. I’m starting this list with the Sondors campaign because they raised over …six…MILLION…dollars!

That number came as a shock a LOT of people. The bike itself is not very special. Walmart is retailing a single-speed fatbike for roughly $200, and since Sondors advertised that early-adopter would be able to get one of their electric fatbikes for a little over $600 (plus shipping), that meant the electric power system would retail for roughly $400. For that price, it has low power and short range, but…it really works, it really is an electric fatbike, and…they really have started delivering them to customers who had paid the price a few months before.



One of the features of the Sondors bike that the public has really responded to is the triangle case in the center of the frame, and how it hides the wiring. It seems like a small thing, but customers really like this a LOT.

The final product that has been delivered to customers and has been tested, and it is not impressive, but…that entire funding campaign was a wake-up call to ebike manufacturers and retailers, and if they are smart, this new development might make them a little nervous. Two commonly mentioned E-bikes (due to advertising and PR) are the $6000 Specialized Turbo, and the $6900 Stromer ST2. They are both wonderful high-quality products with great performance, but their high prices make them very slow sellers.

Don’t write me an angry letter because those two upscale bikes should not be compared to a very basic and entry-level performing start-up like the Sondors…that would be missing the point. If you are an E-bike business that didn’t catch the fact that…over 10,000 customers sent their money into Sondors, without knowing if they would ever receive any product at all…the developments in the new E-bike economy will not be kind to you.

Isn’t there a middle ground? Let’s take a look at some of the other crowdfunding efforts, to see what kind of an E-bike you could get for your money.


Karmic Koben

Their Kickstarter is over, and they had their listed goal met in less than a week. As of September 2015, they are still accepting pre-orders for this E-bike, with $1500 being the least expensive model (which will be around $1800 retail once they are in full production). When I checked today, they were at $259,000.



The Karmic Koben


It uses the popular Bafang BBS02 mid drive, which allows the motor to use the bikes gears. The base model weighs 36 lbs, and there is also a carbon fiber frame option that costs more. With both the motor and battery in the center of the bike, this model should handle quite well.


Rad Rover

This Indiegogo campaign only needed $40,000 as a goal to get mass-production pricing on an electric fatbike built to their spec. The reason they only needed that fairly small amount is because the guy who is starting this electric fatbike campaign (Mike Radenbaugh) already owns a long-standing and successful bicycle shop in Seattle, Washington.



The Rad Rover fatbike. It uses a rear geared hubmotor, which is oil-filled to aid cooling.


As of the writing of this article, they had raised $320,000, which far exceeded their $40,000 goal. The rear-mounted geared hubmotor uses 48V, and the system is rated for the US-legal 750W lower limit. Now that the campaign is over, the retail price of the base-model Rad Rover is $1500, which is still not bad. I rode the prototype at the 2015 Interbike convention, and I was very impressed with its performance on mild hills and flat land.



This crowd-funding campaign is using both Kickstarter and Indigogo, which I didn’t know was possible. If you pay for one now, the price is $999, but that will be $1800 after they finish, which ends September 21st (so there is still time). As of September 5th, they have raised $16,000 of their $35,000 goal.


The Vela electric bike.

The Vela electric bike.


The battery is hidden inside the fatter than normal seat-tube. Even so, it still is pretty stealthy, and few people would give it a second look if you were pedaling down a bike path on this E-bike.


Biktrix Juggernaught

I was skeptical about this start-up. I assumed the Kickstarter campaign was to raise enough money to simply be able to get bulk-purchase pricing breaks on a fairly generic fatbike frame, and the Bafang BBS02 mid-drives. You get a much better unit price if you pay up front for 100 frames, instead of ten. Companies like this come and go, but after I met them at the 2015 Interbike, I have to admit I am very impressed. If they were selling stock, I would invest with them (and I don’t say that often).

They are on solid financial ground, and they are even developing new models, including a proprietary feet-forward comfort cruiser. When I rode their prototypes, the first question out of my (smiling) mouth was “did you get an early prototype BBT02?” (with a torque-sensor, instead of the standard speed sensor). I have found out that the delay of power application on the stock BBS02 is considered a safety feature, so power is not applied until you have started to pedal (or applied a throttle).

Biktrix has made a custom adjustment to the firmware of the BBS02 controllers that they bought, and the power comes on almost instantly, and with a smooth ramp-up. I saw one other company at Interbike that had done the same thing (Lectric Cycles from Arizona).


The Biktrix Juggernaught

The Biktrix Juggernaught


Their project was successfully funded on December 23, 2014, with nearly $69,000, well above their modest $50,000 goal.


Faraday Porteur

Back in July of 2012, the Faraday Porteur had won several prestigious design awards, and then launched a Kickstarter campaign in order to fund full production. They eventually raised $177,000


The Faraday Porteur

The Faraday Porteur


The Faraday Porteur was widely considered to be one of the early successes for Kickstarter campaigns. This very attractive and light E-bike mounted the battery cells inside frame tubing, which helped hide the fact that it was an E-bike. It may not seem to different than many other similar bicycle frames, but…there are very subtle styling choices that make this E-bike one of the most beautiful we have seen, and the company is committed to making sure every part on every bike is made to the highest level of quality that is possible.


What does all this mean?

I don’t think that anyone who gambles on a new company is expecting great customer service, and often…new products made by a start-up will have some bugs to work out. That being said, it is clear that this year has been a turning point for electric bikes in North America.

If the large established businesses that are selling electric bikes are going to focus on the high-end E-bikes (with higher profit per unit), then…small businesses like these crowd-sourced examples will step in to fill the $1,000-$2,000 model demand in the market.

There is definitely a market for high-performance and high-quality E-bikes, to customers who will pay a little more to get good customer service. That means the prices for that segment of the market will always be higher, but there are millions of potential customers who don’t need a “Mercedes” E-bike.

Someone is going to step-up to the plate and at least try to serve the potential customers in this market segment. The next time gasoline prices in the US spike-up, there will be a flood of small E-bike retailers entering the market.


Written by Ron/spinningmagnets, September 2015

Grew up in Los Angeles California, US Navy submarine mechanic from 1977-81/SanDiego. Hydraulic mechanic in the 1980's/Los Angeles. Heavy equipment operator in the 1990's/traveled to various locations. Dump truck driver in the 2000's/SW Utah. Currently a water plant operator since 2010/NW Kansas

  • The Karmic stood out from the others in my opinion because it had an option for a Nuvinci CVP transmission and it was a mid drive. The power level was still too low to consider but I think it’s interesting that so many people are willing to gamble such large amounts of money on complete strangers. Remember when you are contributing money to a campaign you are donating them money and they are under absolutely no obligation to provide you with the promised ‘perk’.

    Gamble on.

  • George Sears

    I thought Saiki and his partner split up, and that was the end of the compression battery (Koben). They are using a pack supplier for the bike, third party. Karmic made some odd decisions. Apparently they were trying to nail down access to the Bafang Max, but started the campaign without an agreement. Then they got an agreement, but by then there were other issues and the bike was pushed out from October to March.

    Most of the campaigns have run into serious problems. The Sondors bike was apparently completed after a decision was made to not pay the ad agency around a half million dollars. That money, apparently, went into the bikes. Mr. Sondors is being sued by Agency 2.0, and A2.0 basically merges into IGG for many purposes.

    The cleanest campaign was the RadRover. They seemed to want to move beyond the IGG and CF structure with their RadWagon cargo bike, but the commitments are not being made. Can anyone build a business or brand off a CF campaign?

    I think potential campaigners may be looking beyond the windfall of the Storm, taking a long and hard look at CF. Can anyone possibly project their costs? If nothing else, what approach will they take to shipping batteries? I think the cost structure will change, is changing, and maybe CF can mature.

    The Sondors taught a lesson about volume and low margins. But gee, how to get both? Surely the industry, Accell and BH, will respond in some way? For me? I’ll build kits and control costs in that way.

  • Marc F

    Have you heard of anyone coming out with a “high end” ebike on kickstarter or elsewhere?
    By high end I mean 1000 watts minimum, modern battery’s, nu vinci, carbon fiber or similar cool stuff, either retro looking or suspension mountain bike style?

  • Marc F

    What happened to PI Cycle? Their high end model looked promising.

  • Gwen Andersen

    I would like to mention Shocke Bikes. I bought one of their bikes, I got it on time, it meets its promised specs, and has enabled me to bike to work. It gave me what was most important at an affordable price. It also looks incredible. In three years if I still work at a company I can safely reach by bicycle (the company may move) I may well upgrade to a Gates Carbon belt and a much lighter bike. We are making such technical advances that I really like the idea of going affordable now and waiting for higher end later.
    The businesses that have been made possible by crowdfunding thrill me. It is such a wonderful way to test an idea’s marketability before sinking all of one’s assets into it. I love that GI Bike was created by young, clever people from Latin America (Argentina). The campaign failed but generated so much attention that they got outside funding and they are going to try again later this month. I love that other young people, also from Latin America (Chile) created the Yerka and were able to get funding to create the bike. Many brilliant thinkers do not have the assets or access to assets that would allow their businesses to happen without crowdfunding. With crowdfunding I can buy a camera/bicycle light to make cycling safer (Fy6 and Fly12).
    I think these campaigns have also made the wider community more aware of the existence of electric bikes and may help us transform our transportation systems in cities around the world, improving personal health and finances.

  • Bike_on

    I was interested in Maxwell Motorbikes, on kickstarter, making a 28lb city bike, designed by Troy Rank, world record holder. Unfortunately, it didn’t get legs.

  • dudeman44

    They’re missing a good one that I’m on in Indigogo, the Fusion bike. 2000 watt motor, full suspension mountain bike and it runs on AGM style batteries. Looks nice and it’s fast, but heavy with those batteries. No problem, I’m heavy too, I need all 2000 watts out of that motor. Should start shipping next month ( October ), can’t wait.