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Crazy Fat E-Bike Pricing Exposed

February 1, 2017
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How can essentially the same bike sell for $2449 and $4898? Read on.

This is part 1 of a 2 part story…. Next week read up on part 2: “ Crazines of  Mountain Ebike Pricing Exposed”

by Patrick M.

DISCLAIMER and FULL DISCLOSURE STUFF: The owner of electricbike.com, Eric, is also the owner of Luna Cycle. Eric did not contribute any input into this article. The author of this article is not an employee of Luna Cycle, nor does he have any financial interest in that business. Also, I am not affiliated with any of the other businesses discussed in this article. The opinions expressed herein are those of the author, and do not necessarily represent those of electricbike.com. Or anybody else. This is not a comparison riding test of each bike – I didn’t ride the bikes listed here – my e-bike riding experience is limited to the Kuberg FreeRider and a KHS 4 Season 500 / BBSHD. It’s a comparison of features, specs, and pricing – the data culled from many public sources – for some groups of similar bikes.

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Efficient Market for E-Bikes?

“Efficient Market Hypothesis” – it’s a term I remember way back from many moons ago in my Economics classes at Michigan State. In a nutshell, this theory supposes that in an economic market for a particular asset or commodity, the price of that thing will be determined purely and correctly by supply and demand – if the market is “efficient” for this asset. An efficient market means one where all the buyers and all sellers have full information about each other and the asset. But mainly, what I think it means is that buyers of a particular item have full information about the pricing of that item in the market – they have looked at (and are aware of) all possible sources where they can obtain this thing, and knowing all possible information, they make an informed decision – and presumably purchase the thing from the seller who offers  this particular item for the lowest price.

In a free market economy, this rewards sellers who offer a lower price (and lower profit margin) because more people buy from the lower-priced seller. Sellers who charge a high price for the same item, in theory, should go out of business because buyers who have all information would not buy from them, they’d buy the same item from the lower priced seller. Markets aren’t all efficient, of course, and the same item can sell at different places or times, for a different price. Back before the Internet, there were lots of inefficient markets, because it was a lot harder to learn about all possible prices for a certain thing. Some people even make a living off these price differences, using their time, or noggin, or possibly privileged or secret information, to find things selling at a lower price in one place, buy those things, then sell them at a higher price somewhere else. That’s called arbitrage. Since the ‘Net got huge, though, I thought inefficient markets had pretty much disappeared, because anyone can now check prices from many sellers with just a few mouse clicks.

So – why the whole paragraph with my admittedly foggy memory of an economics lesson? Because when I started shopping for my first e-fat bike – and was deciding whether to do a DIY build, buy a “hot-rod” shop bike (like Luna Cycles or HPC), or a factory built e-bike, this term kept coming into my head. I was seeing wildly varying prices for what essentially appeared to be the same bike. Some companies were selling this bike for much more that what I knew the components to cost, some were selling for prices so low I wondered how they could do it and stay in business, and in-between these extremes, I saw a mishmash of price variation that simply boggled my mind.

That means, I thought, the e-bike market must be incredibly inefficient, if sellers could stay in business charging (in some cases) nearly double what other shops offer the same bike for. Or charging $1000 for less than 5 minutes of time programming a motor controller. It must mean, I thought, that buyers of these higher-priced bikes must not have full information about the e-bike market. After all, if they did, why would they spend so much more on an equal (or in some cases, inferior – at least performance-wise) bike? I decided that I needed to make some comparison charts to really see what’s what.

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Confessions of a Cheapskate – I mean, someone who loves Bang for the Buck

A little background – I have always been a big fan of products, and companies, who offer incredibly good price-per-performance ratios. I get most excited not when I see the latest-greatest megabuck item in a particular category that I am interested in. What really gets me excited is the subsequent product that comes out and provides 85% of the performance of that megabuck item, at 50% of its price. I wrote for two magazines about home entertainment and technology back in the early 2000s. The articles I wrote for the magazines focused on products that provided the best bang for the buck. I always got excited when I found something that provided way more performance than its price tag would suggest.

So, with this predisposition for maximizing bang for the buck, several months ago I started searching for an e-fat bike (or e-mountain bike, I wasn’t sure which I wanted to get). I just knew I wanted something motorized that could go off-road on the trails near me, that was fun to ride, and had a decent amount of power. OK, a LOT of power. I knew from my experience with e-scooters that the amount of fun you have riding them is directly related to how powerful they are – slow scooters, not so fun. Mid-powered scooters (for me, 1000w) – pretty fun, but I always wished for more. Crazy fast scooters (1500w and above) – ridiculously fun. I had purchased the Kuberg FreeRider, fell in love with it, and wanted to have an off-road motorized bike that offered good performance – but didn’t look like a motorcycle. I wanted to maintain good relations with my fellow trail-users, and while I’ve never had any negative confrontations with others there while riding the Kuberg, I just wanted to get something more stealthy, something that looks like a regular bike, that me or my girl could ride on the local trials without offending anyone (hopefully).

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What I’m Comparing

First of all, I think this article is already too long. It would become waaaaay longer by analyzing all the dozens, maybe even hundreds, of e-mountain and e-fat bikes on the market now. Add to that the seemingly endless supply of new startup e-bike companies on crowd funding sites like Indiegogo, and this comparison could become unwieldy. So, I decided to limit my comparison to bikes that are currently on the market and for sale right now (no crowd-funding pipe dreams),  motorized fat bikes and mountain bikes, because that’s what I am interested in. I chose the bikes that I felt are most relevant to me, ones that in most cases I’d actually consider buying.

In some cases, I’ll compare prices and features where basically the same bike is available for sale from more than one retailer. I’ll also compare by price level, looking at what kind of bike is available if you’re shopping at a certain price point. There are three kinds of e-bikes:

1. Factory-built bikes: These are e-bikes that come designed and pre-built by already established bicycle manufacturers, such as Specialized or Haibike for example. These often use mid-drive motors, many supplied by Bosch. Many of them that I’ve seen are very sleek and polished-looking, some with the battery compartment integrated into the frame downtube. Most factory bikes I’ve seen are very expensive compared to shop bikes or DIY.

2. Shop bikes: These are e-bikes sold by “hot-rod” shops which take existing bikes and retrofit them for electric use, installing all components for the end user. In some cases, these shops specialize in high-performance or high-power options, offering bikes that provide significantly more power than most factory bikes have. Shops in this category would include Luna Cycle, HPC (Hi-Performance Cycles), and Lectric Cycles.

3. DIY bikes: In this case, the end user buys the bike, and all the components (motor, battery, display, etc.) separately and assembles the bike himself. This is usually done for one or all of 3 reasons: a). to save money over the cost of an assembled shop bike or factory bike, or b). for the satisfaction of building the bike themselves, or c). to modify the bike’s components for even higher power/performance that a Shop or Factory bike can offer.

In one chart I calculated both DIY (Luna) and DIY (Chinese) pricing. Here’s what this means: for the DIY (Luna) calculation, I take prices of all components used for the bike from the Luna Cycle site. For DIY (China), I try to locate, as best as possible, the same components to buy directly from China, usually by Aliexpress. The main difference here is that Luna recommends and sells 52v battery packs as a way to eek the most performance out of the Bafang BBSHD mid-drive, while almost all Chinese sellers offer only 48v battery packs for the same motor. 52v hasn’t caught on yet with Chinese sellers – so in the pricing calculations, I am comparing a 48v battery pack from Aliexpress vs. a 52v battery pack from Luna, but I try to match the type of cells and amp-hour rating as closely as possible.

The prices listed were current as of 1/23/2017, and sourced from the vendor’s web sites. All prices include shipping (shipping price is listed separately, where applicable) for a USA buyer, but don’t include sales tax. Tax will usually apply if you are purchasing from a shop in your home state. Outside US buyers – you’ll have to add applicable shipping costs, and import duties, to come to the total pricing for you.

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Let the Charting Begin – “Budget” e-bikes: $1500 or less

In some cases, I’ll compare prices and features where basically the same bike is available for sale from more than one seller. I’ll also compare by price levels, looking what kind of bike is available from different sellers, for a given budget. Let’s get started at a price level I learned is considered “budget” in the e-bike world – $1500 and below. So, say you’re looking for your first e-mountain or fat bike, you want to dip your toes into the e-bike pond, and not spend more than $1500. What are your options? Well, my research found there’s a surprisingly large number of choices at the ‘budget’ end of the spectrum.

The Sondors can be modified for a lot more power

SONDORS

I’ll start with the controversial crowd-funded bike that really started the lower-priced revolution. Much has been written about this bike already, especially two great reviews by Eric right here on Electricbike.com, and also by Karl at Electricbike-blog.com. I won’t repeat what they have already said, but try to add my perspective to the Sondors, looking at it from someone new to the e- fat bike world. The main selling point, of course, is its incredibly low price – but to the advertised prices you must add $194 in shipping. Also, if you order from the Sondors site, there is a 90-120 day delay to receive your bike. If you want a Sondors now, I located several sellers on eBay offering them for higher than the MSRP – in most cases, $1000-$1100. Hey – there’s a really good example of arbitrage: you can buy a bunch of Sondors bikes for $800. Then, sell them on eBay for $1000 each. After shipping cost, eBay fees, and PayPal fees, you might even make 20 bucks per bike!

From all my reading about the Sondors, here are the main points that stood out about this bike for me. First, Karl said the power is simply too weak on this bike, and it can’t handle much more than a 5% grade in stock form. And it’s almost impossible to pedal yourself once the battery runs out. Contrasting that, though, in Eric’s article on this site, he gave a quite glowing review of the Sondors, noting its equipment was amazingly well-spec’d for the price – and the design showed the bike was thoughtfully planned out. He didn’t find it quite as much of a tortoise as Karl did – but he did uncover one huge potential benefit of the Sondors: it can easily be hot-rodded. Early modders like Eric discovered that by upgrading the battery to higher capacity and amps, and by replacing the controller, the bike went from a slug to one with really zippy performance. Luna Cycles then developed a line of aftermarket performance-enhancing parts for the Sondors, which really increased the power and performance of the bike. For a hot-rodded version, the total cost isn’t bad at all: about $800 for the basic Sondors after shipping, plus an upgraded battery/controller/display for about $550, puts you at approximately 1350 bucks for a really good-looking bike (to most people) that doesn’t perform like crap.

Pros:

Lowest base price on the market

Can be modified with higher-performance parts from Luna Cycle – larger batteries, better controllers, even a 3000w Cyclone motor

Good-looking, attention-getting

Good components for the price

Steel frame and fork can handle greater power levels

You can upgrade components over time, as budget allows

Cons:

90-120 day lead time after ordering, or pay above MSRP from eBay

Somewhat sketchy history of company’s crowdfunding campaign

Cannot climb hills at stock power level (according to Karl at electricbike-blog.com)

Hard to pedal when battery dies

Because underpowered, not good for single track use – more a beach cruiser

ADDMOTOR MOTAN M-550

This is the first bike I found when I began researching e- fat bikes. Because it’s sold on Amazon, and I am a huge Amazon.com devotee. So naturally, that’s the first place I looked when shopping for an e-bike. I didn’t expect to find the ultimate high-performance machine there, of course, but it was a start.

What I found was the Addmotor line of bikes. This Chinese manufacturer sells several e- fat bike models, both direct to consumer and on Amazon. What really struck me when I started looking at their bikes was that the top model (not compared here, as it’s over $1500) has a custom-built hard battery case that fits within the frame triangle. To me, this gave it a slick, finished look that other bikes with just a plastic bottom-tube mounted pack, or a velcro-mounted soft battery case, don’t have. Also, I read the customer reviews for their bikes, and the feedback from owners was overwhelmingly positive.  I was almost ready to pull the trigger and buy one of these, but a little voice inside my head kept telling me: “It’s only a 500w hub motor. You know yourself – you know you won’t be satisfied with that little power. You’ll use it for a couple months then want something more powerful, and that money will have been wasted.” As tempting as it was to get a ready-made bike that others seemed to love, I listened to that little voice inside, and – thankfully – didn’t purchase a 500w hub motor bike. (I did contact the manufacturer, though, and suggested they upgrade their bikes with either more powerful hub motors or a mid-drive like the Bafang BBSHD.)

Pros:

Lower-priced than many e-bikes

Nice-looking design with anodized rims

Great customer reviews

Decent components for the price

48v li-ion battery, not 36v

Comes mostly pre-assembled

Easy to buy, no DIY required

Cons:

500w hub motor is underpowered for power-hungry riders

Not easily user-upgradeable for higher power levels

The 48v pack is only10.4Ah, won’t provide very good range

RAD POWER BIKES RADROVER

I learned about the Radrover while doing research on e- fat bikes. I found some positive user reviews, as well as YouTube videos that praised the bike. I don’t have any personal experience with this bike, so everything here is based on all the information I’ve gathered about the bike.

First, to me, it’s a nice-looking bike. It looks like a polished, finished product – not something thrown together in somebody’s basement. It has that familiar hydroformed aluminum frame shape originated by the KHS 4 Seasons line of fat bikes (more about these later), and all the components are high quality for the price point. The 48v 11.6Ah battery pack has a 30A continuous BMS and uses Samsung 29E cells, the 15A continuous/22A peak controller sits on the seat tube, and the bike is powered by a geared Bafang 750w hub motor. I like that the manufacturer’s site provides lots of specifics and detailed technical info about the bike – even what cells are used in the battery pack and the amp rating of the controller. They’re not trying to hide some of the bike’s details like certain companies do. To me, the Radrover looks like a step up in the level of components over the Addmotor M-550, for the same price. Actually, for $1500, it looks like a surprisingly good bike to me for the money. I’d love to try one out sometime to either prove or disprove this gut feeling. And, the company’s co-founders were just featured in Forbes Magazine’s 30 Under 30, if that is important to you.

Pros:

Low price

750w geared hub motor is not as underpowered as some other bikes

Cells used, and specs for BMS and controller, are disclosed by the company

48v instead of 36v system

Has 5-level PAS and half-twist throttle

Frame appears to be the same as KHS 4 Season line of bikes

Has a suspension fork (unbranded)

Cons:

750w is still significantly less than the 1500w (or more) of BBSHD mid-drive

Can’t be easily modded/upgraded by the end-user

Top speed limited to 20mph

Weighs nearly 61 lbs.

DIY – MONGOSE DOLOMITE & LUNA CYCLE COMPONENTS

When I first started researching this market, and began reading about DIY bikes on Endless-Sphere and later on the Luna Cycle site and YouTube page, I thought DIY’ers were a little bit crazy. I understood that some people wanted the absolute most power possible, and for them the challenge to custom-build a high output battery pack or hot-rod a motor by overvolting it or feeding it more current was worth the time and effort. But for the average buyer, at first I couldn’t understand why someone would embark on a do-it-yourself e-bike build when, seemingly, you could buy a pretty decent already assembled bike for about the same price. Then – for better or for worse – I started reading more and more about the DIY e-bike phenomenon and became hooked.

I realized that DIY’ing lets you customize things how you want – for example, what size chain ring you want to install at the motor, depending on if torque/acceleration or top speed was more important to you. You could choose to install a gear sensor, and decide if you wanted a brake sensor to cut the power when brakes are applied. You can decide exactly what battery pack fits your needs best. It’s more work, of course, but you can achieve much better performance than most factory bikes in terms of motor watts, battery capacity and continuous amp output, and top speed.

But most of all, I learned that the true innovators in this field – the people who continue to push the envelope of performance and what’s possible in the e-bike world – are all DIY’ers. They started out that way, because bikes available years ago were woefully underpowered, and DIY modding was the only way to give them more power and performance. And they continue that way today. So, I learned, there’s a certain spirit in the DIY world that matched my philosophy of not only trying to get the maximum performance possible, but also of trying to create the best performance bang for the buck. I realized that I can’t call myself a real hard core e-bike enthusiast until I built some parts for my bike from scratch, modified something, built my own battery pack. Have I done this yet? Well, to be honest, no. I did complete a BBSHD installation on my first e- fat bike – a KHS 4 Season 500. But I haven’t modded anything yet – that’s coming soon. So, for now, I can’t call myself a real hard core e-bike guy.

This brings me to the Mongoose Dolomite & Luna Cycle components DIY option. In my research, I saw that Luna does not offer a complete e- mountain or fat bike for under the $1500 cutoff for this category. But – what if you purchased a cheap bike – let’s say, the popular Wal-Mart special Mongoose Dolomite – and then proceeded to build an e-bike yourself, using high-quality parts? How would that compare to the other lower-priced options? I had to put the numbers together to see how it’d add up. But the bigger question here – once this bike is finished, have you ended up with something better than the pre-built $1500 and under e-bikes on the market? That is the real question, and the only way to decide it is to do a head-to-head riding test, for example comparing the RadRover with the DIY Dolomite. I would love to do this comparison sometime, so if you own a RadRover, or a Dolomite with all Luna components, please drop me a line. For now, I’ll just base my opinion on personal experience with the Luna components, and reviews I’ve read from Dolomite owners and DIY’ers who have done builds on this bike.

With that said, here’s what I did: first, take the Amazon.com price of $219 shipped for the Dolomite (this seems to be the same as Wal-Mart’s price). To that, I added the cost of a good-quality – but cheap as possible – component package from Luna Cycle. My emphasis was on a great battery pack and motor. The Luna package consists of the following:

–BBSHD mid-drive motor, Hot Rod program (off-road use only)

–100mm bottom bracket size

–Stock, hideous, atrocious 46 steel chain ring (I know, we’re on a budget here)

–Luna full-color LCD display

–Thumb throttle

–Bafang brake handles

–Shark Pack 52v GA 13.5Ah battery (huge expense, but absolutely worth it)

–48v 3A Luna Charger

Total Luna package price: $1239.95. Total for everything, with all Luna parts and the Mongoose: $1458.95. Luna charges $45 for USA shipping, so the total with shipping is $1503.95 – just over my $1500 cutoff. You could substitute the b&w LCD display and save $45.00, putting the combo under $1500.

What you end up with from this combination is a fast, powerful, long-range e- fat bike with a very high quality motor and battery, but a not-so-great drivetrain and brakes. While the bike will be tremendous fun to ride – with way more power and speed than any similarly-priced e-bike (plus a high-quality battery with genuine Panasonic GA cells), it may be just as dangerous as it is fun. That’s because the cheap brakes, drivetrain, and cassette were never meant to handle more than the 350w or so a human rider will put into them. So while it can be done for under $1500, you’d probably be much better off spending a couple hundred bucks more to upgrade the brakes to some good, big hydraulic ones. And after that, look at upgrading the chain, derailleur, and cassette to something more sturdy.

Pros:

1500w of power, great acceleration and hill-climbing ability

30+mph top speed

Great battery – long range, 30A output, with genuine Panasonic cells

The most power and performance you can achieve at this price point

PAS and throttle control

Power enough for riding in sand, snow, and off-road single track

BBSHD can later be upgraded for more power by changing controller/battery

52v system gives more top speed/power than 48v (or 36v)

Others have done this – you can watch videos or read forums for help with the DIY build

Cons:

Time and effort for building bike yourself, but can be rewarding too

Heavy steel frame and fork = heavy bike

Rest of bike’s cheap components were not made to deal with 1500w of power, may be dangerous

Should probably upgrade the brakes at same time of build, other parts later

Even after spending $1500, you still have a Dolomite

But look at the bright side, when you eventually decide to upgrade (which you will do), you can pull those great components out of the bike and install them into your next build

DIY – MONGOSE DOLOMITE & CHINA-SOURCED COMPONENTS

Here, I am just looking at the cheapest possible way to achieve a 1500w BBSHD Dolomite fat bike with a decent, 30A continuous 48v li-ion battery pack. (As mentioned earlier, the great majority of BBSHD battery packs sold in China are 48v; 52v hasn’t caught on there yet.) In this case, I am using basically the same type of components as sold in the Luna kit, but sourced directly from China at the lowest price possible. By doing this, of course, you have some big trade-offs for the small savings achieved. Mainly, that being the battery pack purchased from China can’t be guaranteed to include real, authentic, and not fake name-brand cells. Some packs which advertise ‘genuine Panasonic (or Samsung) cells’ actually use no-name Chinese cells, wrapped in a counterfeit Panasonic (or Samsung) wrapper. Also, you don’t get the support or customer service of a US-based company.

Pros and cons of this build are similar as listed above, except for comments regarding Luna, with the following additions:

Pros: cheapest possible price for a 1500w BBSHD build, also some countries are more ‘buyer-friendly’ in terms of import duties, for getting items from China rather than the USA (I’ve heard some Chinese sellers ‘cheat’ and ship their batteries in a box that says something other than a huge battery inside – to avoid paying hazardous-item shipping fees.)

Cons: Long lead time to receive, you don’t know if you are getting real cells in the battery pack, questionable pack build quality, lack of after-sale customer support, or ever trying to return something to China

So for this example, the battery pack is 48v, from a seller that seems to have a good reputation on Aliexpress (Passion eBike Store) and claims to use genuine cells. Other components (BBSHD kit with steel sprocket, color LCD, no gear or brake sensor, Bafang brake levers, etc.) are kept the same and also purchased from a reputable Aliexpress seller (Eunorau Ebike Shop).

Some notes on this build: First, it was super-hard for me to find a good-quality, 48v Chinese pack that is rated for 30A continuous. This is absolutely essential if you ever want to program your BBSHD for 1500w (30A) using a programming cable, and described by Karl in his excellent article here. I’d highly recommend getting a 30A continuous pack, because even if you don’t think you will need 1500w now, you may change your mind later – and a 30A pack will let you have more power in the future. There are cheaper packs available – I even found Shark Pack-looking batteries for under $300. But at this price, you surely aren’t getting a pack with 30A continuous capacity, and you’re probably getting Chinese cells as well. Most Aliexpress packs are 10A or 15A continuous, designed for 750w systems like the BBS02.

After much battery research, I decided on Passion eBike Store, mainly because they’re one of the few sellers that offers Shark Pack-type batteries with a 30A continuous output – and claims to use genuine cells. This 48v, 11.6Ah, 30A continuous pack sells for $499.99, with free shipping to the USA. They also offer both higher- and lower-priced options – another 11.6Ah pack for $431.98 (23.2A rated discharge), and a 17Ah pack for $629.98 (30A rated discharge). So the total completed bike price of $1374.49 could be higher or lower, if those alternative batteries were chosen. For the BBSHD, I chose what appeared to be the most reputable Aliexpress seller for this kit and spec’d a 100mm BBSHD kit, with the 850C color LCD display. This package normally sells for $690 – which would make the completed bike price increase to $1408.99. But on the day I checked prices, they were having a 5% off sale, so the price was reduced to $655.50, with free US shipping.

In summary, the total I came up with by sourcing components from China was $1374.49 including the bike. That represents a savings of only  $129.46 over buying the components from Luna Cycle ($94.96 savings when the BBSHD isn’t on sale). And remember, it’s for a lower voltage and Ah battery pack (52v/13.5Ah vs. 48v/11.6Ah), so I’m not exactly comparing apples to apples. For me, it’s worth it to pay the small premium for the Luna parts – you are assured that you’re getting genuine cells, and you have the support of a specialist high-performance e-bike shop in the USA.

WWPD – What would Patrick do?

So, if I wanted to get into the e- fat bike world, and my budget was ‘only’ $1500, what would I choose? This is the hardest category to answer this question for, because there’s such a plethora of choices in the sub-$1500 category – and there are many more bikes at this price level I didn’t cover here. One thing is missing – Luna doesn’t yet offer a ‘budget’ complete sub-$1500 fat bike. If they ever did, I’d be really interested to see how it compares with the other bikes I listed here. Because I’m a power freak, and a speed freak, I’d have to choose the DIY Mongoose route with Luna components.  

And I did do a DIY build – just with a different bike. I admit it – at first, I was a little intimidated to go the DIY route. But I’m happy to say that I completed my first BBSHD install successfully, all by myself, on my KHS 500 fat bike. Yes, there were a couple very loud swearing moments – especially when that BBSHD tube wouldn’t fit inside the KHS bike’s bottom bracket. (I ended up sanding the inside of it vigorously, to shave off a little material.) But after it was all done, and the bike worked, I did find it rewarding.

Each of the other bikes has their attributes – that Radrover does look tempting, and I was surprised how upgrade-friendly the Sondors is, making it much more desirable. But I know myself, and know that I’d never be satisfied with a 350w, 500w, or 750w hub motor. Yes, it’s power enough for a pleasant pedal-assist and to cruise along at 15-18 mph. But I like off-roading, and tearing up and down gnarly single tracks (I’m an old motocross guy, after all). And I know that for this kind of use, for me a 500w hub motor just wouldn’t cut it.

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Mid-Level e- Fat Bikes

The next group up: Let’s call them “Mid-Level” fat bikes. Let’s say you have a little bit more than $1500 to spend on an e- fat bike, or you simply are a bicycling enthusiast, and you value having a bike with higher performance and better-quality components. Or – maybe you walked into your local bike shop, saw a really cool-looking factory e-fat bike, and wanted to investigate it. Then you looked at the price tag and saw it – $7500! – and thought “what the #@$&”???? E-bikes look really cool, you think, but not for the price of a decent used car. So you’re interested in them, but only if you can find something at a more down-to-earth price.

This section of comparisons is where it gets really interesting for me – because it’s looking at not only different competing make & model mid-level bikes, but also basically identical bikes – sold from different vendors – at wildly varying prices. Is there some benefit, some added value given in the much higher-priced bikes? Read on to find out.

LUNA CYCLE KHS 4 SEASON 1000

The shiny apple-green KHS 4 Season 1000 was my introduction to Luna Cycle in November 2016. I somehow stumbled upon their video describing this bike during my original research into e- fat bikes. Man, I thought, that thing looks really nice with its green metalflake paint and the huge 4.9″ tires. And the more I learned about the mechanicals, I began to understand the reasons why a mid-mounted motor is better than a hub motor – especially for off-road use. And I learned that not all battery packs come with genuine cells, nor can they all handle the amp requirements for a powerful mid-drive bike. But, I thought, it costs a cool $1000 more than the other e- fat bike I was considering, the Addmotor M-550. Was it really worth the difference?

I won’t go into the history of how Luna Cycle formed, or their position in the e-bike market – because if you’re reading this site, you probably already know all that. Suffice it to say, I learned that their business (and life) philosophy matches mine – embracing high performance, and believing in the best bang for the buck. And the short version of their place in the e-bike market is that Luna sells bikes and components at lower margins and lower prices than most (if not all) other non-factory e-bike shops. This selling at lower prices has brought them quick growth and success, but it hasn’t made them too many friends in the industry – most of whom were happy with the way things used to be. That is, little innovation and very high profit margins – supported in many cases by uninformed customers who didn’t know the real cost of the parts going into their e-bike, or thought there was some magic voodoo of putting a working high-performance electric bike together.

So, back to the Luna KHS 4 Season 1000. This bike provides huge bang for the buck – besides the hydrofomed aluminum frame and cro-moly fork, it has quality components like a SRAM drivetrain and Hayes hydraulic brakes. It features the BBSHD – but here available in three power configurations: 750w/1500w stock (street-legal/off-road use), as well as with Luna’s exclusive 2500W/50A Ludicrous controller for the BBSHD. Luna, and others, have discovered that the BBSHD’s internals are very beefy and can actually handle way more power than the motor’s stock 750w rating. Different e-bike modders have pushed the limits of the BBSHD, feeding it up to 52v/60A, and even 72v/50A.  Last year, Luna developed the Ludicrous controller for the BBSHD, which is only sold with complete e-bike kits. Karl, in his blog, praised the additional power output of the Ludicrous controller and said that in over 6 months of heavy testing it worked perfectly – nothing broke. One thing I must mention: if you decide to purchase a bike from Luna with this controller, be sure to axe the Shark Pack battery. Instead, you’ll need to upgrade to a triangle battery pack that provides at least 50A continuous output, because that’s what the Ludicrous requires. A 30A pack will not let you unleash the controller’s full power.

Any cons to buying from Luna? Well, one thing I can mention is that due to their low margins, e-bikes purchased from Luna don’t offer any warranty, except for guarantee of not being DOA. You can purchase a separate warranty – a 1-year replacement parts warranty for this bike costs an additional $400. Also, Luna’s shipping price for the bike is a rather high $150.00. I have read from a some buyers on Reddit about kind of long lead times (10-14 days) for receiving their bikes, this could be due to Luna being busy. Finally, if you’re lucky enough (or unlucky, depending on your viewpoint) to live in the sunny state of California, you get hit with nearly 10% additional for sales tax. Anyway, bottom line – the bike is great for the price. Let’s get on to my pros and cons:

Pros:

High-quality KHS bike platform

Components – brakes, drivetrain, rims, handlebar, etc. – are all good quality

1500w BBSHD can be upgraded to 2500w with the Ludicrous controller

Battery pack made in USA with genuine name-brand cells

BBSHD settings are user-programmable with an interface cable

Includes color display and tool kit

Doesn’t use stock hideous chainring

Professionally assembled

Cons:

No included warranty (except DOA); a 1-year warranty is an additional $400

Components, while good, are not top-of-the-line

No suspension fork or rear shock

Ludicrous upgrade will also require upgrading battery pack, at additional cost

You may want to upgrade the tires, and/or cassette, in the future

HPC TITAN 1500w FAT BIKE

This is where the comparisons got really interesting for me, and when my eyes popped wide open in disbelief at what I was seeing. I had to check my facts and prices several times to make sure I was seeing things right.

Let’s start with this disclaimer – I’m not a customer of Hi-Powercycles and I’ve not yet ridden any of their e-bikes. All information/opinions here are gleaned from information on their site, videos I’ve watched, and reading numerous reviews and shop experiences written by owners of HPC e-bikes. Let me start with what I’ve learned are some pluses about HPC: First, HPC customers seem to overwhelmingly be a happy, satisfied, and loyal bunch. I’ve read comment after comment on both forums and Facebook from HPC owners who wax poetic not only about how much they love their HPC bikes, but also about the awesome customer service they’ve received from HPC. So, from what I’ve read, their customers are very satisfied with both the bikes and the service from HPC. Next, I have to say that HPC makes some sexy-ass, good-looking high-performance e-bikes. Their Revolution bike is absolutely gorgeous; I start salivating every time I see it. The Typhoon looks like a hot-rod bike that came from an evil genius mad-scientist’s workshop, in the best sense. And their SuperMundo is just nuts. Ride that on the Venice Beach boardwalk and see how many thumbs-up you’ll get (hint: a lot). And unlike Luna, the company provides a pretty generous 36-month limited warranty for their e-bikes, including free labor and replacement for defective parts, for the first 12 months. HPC has also been in the e-bike game a long time, longer than pretty much all other competitors.

But for the purposes of this comparison, I’m not looking at their super high-end e-moto bikes, I’m comparing mid- and upper-mid-priced e- mountain bikes and fat bikes. And while HPC’s customers may generally be very satisfied, I was shocked when I started looking into the company’s pricing structure.

We’ll start with this, the Titan 1500w Fat Bike. Looking at the spec sheet, it seems very similar to Luna’s KHS 4 Season 1000 bike. But examining it more closely, I realized this bike is based on the lower-priced  (and lower-spec’d) KHS 4 Season 500. How do I know this? I own one, but besides that, I looked at the KHS web site. The specs listed for the 2017 4 Season 500 include the same Shimano derailleur, shifter, and cassette as this bike has. The KHS 500 has 4″ fat tires while the 1000 has 4.9″ tires, as well as a SRAM drivetrain. HPC appears to have replaced the 500’s stock crappy mechanical disc brakes with the well-reviewed Magura MT4e hydraulic units. So the 500 is a bit lower-spec’d than the 1000. What’s the price difference? Well, checking on bikecraze.com gives pricing of $1149.97 for the 1000, and $949.97 for the 500 – so the 500 is a $200 cheaper bike.

Comparisons with the Luna KHS 4 Season 1000: The frame and fork seem to be identical. As mentioned, the HPC appears based on the 500, so it has that bike’s lower spec’d drivetrain. Both this bike and the Luna use the 1500w BBSHD mid-drive, and both have hydraulic brakes along with a bottom-tube mounted battery pack. The HPC has a black & white LCD display, while the Luna comes with a color LCD. HPC also ditches the hideous stock Bafang metal chain ring for an aftermarket ring. HPC’s bike uses a 48v battery pack instead of 52v. The standard battery pack has 576wh; I spec’d the upgraded 672wh pack for a more direct comparison with the Luna bike (its 52v GA shark pack has 702wh). But this upgraded pack costs an additional $200 from HPC. Cell type and max. A continuous for the pack is not listed on HPC’s product page for this bike. Higher-power options, like an aftermarket controller, are not offered.

So, here’s why my eyes were bulging wide open after learning about both bikes: HPC is selling a very similar bike to the Luna 4 Seasons 1000, only it’s based on the $200 cheaper 4 Seasons 500 chassis. Both bikes have either identical – or nearly identical-performing – components (the main difference being the HPC’s 48v battery pack vs. 52v for Luna). So, the prices for both bikes should be about the same, right? Well, not quite: The Luna, as mentioned, comes out to $2449.95 shipped. The nearly-identical HPC Titan 1500w costs a jaw-dropping $4898.00 shipped. That’s not a 10%, 25%, or even 33% difference. That’s almost exactly double the price – nearly five grand – for essentially the same bike! Granted, HPC’s bike has a warranty and Luna’s does not (except for DOA), but is that worth a $2500 premium? For the same money, you could buy a 2nd bike from Luna and just keep it for spare parts in case something breaks. Dear reader, you read that right: in a free-market economy, in 2017, two competing sellers are offering nearly identical products for both $2449.95 and for $4898.00. OK, once you’ve digested that, here are my pros and cons for the HPC Titan:

Pros:

High-quality KHS bike platform

Components – brakes, drivetrain, rims, handlebar, etc. – are all good quality

1500w BBSHD powertrain

48v, 14Ah battery pack

Past customers seem to be very happy with HPC bikes and customer service

Doesn’t use stock hideous chainring

Professionally assembled

Includes a 36-month limited warranty (first 12 months free replacement & labor for defective parts)

Cons:

Ridiculously high price

Components, while good, are not top-of-the-line

Based on the cheaper KHS 4 Season 500

No 2500w upgrade available

Battery pack cells used, and max Amp output, are not stated

48v system rather than 52v

Did I mention the price?

RAMBO R750C CAMO BIKE

I found the cool-looking Rambo Camo bike in my search for e-bikes, and I immediately thought it looked great, in a tough, bad-ass sort of way. Aimed primarily at hunters, as a tool to aid in retrieving game, the R750C is sold by Rambo direct-to-consumer, on Amazon.com, and at Cabela’s sporting goods stores. In my research, I found widely varying prices for the same R750C bike: buying directly from the rambobikes.com site, the bike is $2995, plus $158.66 for ground shipping. Cabela’s sells the bike for $2595, and I found the lowest price on Amazon.com, at $2076 with free shipping. But looking at Amazon’s historic prices for this bike, it was originally sold for $2995, then later for $2500, before the current lower price. And knowing Amazon well, there is no guarantee the price won’t go back up.

The bike looks to have all the key ingredients for a high-performance e- fat bike: mid-drive Bafang motor, frame-mounted lithium battery pack, aluminum frame, and disc brakes. And the camo paint scheme definitely adds a unique and ‘manly’ visual style to the bike. The R750C does have lower-spec components, like the Shimano TZ31 7-speed cassette and BB5 mechanical disc brakes. The motor appears to be a BBS02, not the BBSHD, so it’s limited to 750w maximum output. The 48v battery pack has a fairly small 10.4Ah capacity and Samsung cells. So, the R750C’s performance seems to be limited by its 750w motor and the smallish battery pack. That said, I read a number of owner reviews for the bike on Amazon, and the Camo’s owners seem to absolutely love this bike. Some are using it for its stated purpose of hunting, but others have given it typical e-bike duties like riding on-road and trails. One owner said the bike’s hill-climbing power was surprisingly good, and he liked the 9 levels of PAS. I did speak to one person familiar with the bike, who said the throttle programming is weird – the amount of throttle power available is dependent on the PAS level chosen. In other words, in lower PAS settings, you have a lower percentage of full power available with the throttle. I have the feeling, that most R750C owners have never felt the pull of a 1500w (or 2500w) BBSHD mated to a 30T Mighty Mini chain ring! They certainly are enjoying this bike, but in part their praise of the bike is blind because they haven’t had the chance to experience a similar but more high-performance bike. And maybe for the same price, or even less.

My feeling is that, at $2076, it’s a decent bike for the price. Sure, the components are cheap, and you’re limited to 750w, but the Rambo is an easy buy on Amazon.com or at your local Cabela’s.  However, for the direct-sale delivered price of $3153.66, it’s not such a good deal. You could get a BBSHD-equipped, 2500w Ludicrous version of the Luna 4 Seasons 1000 for less money, with a better battery pack to boot. That said, at $1499, the RadRover might be cross-shopped with this bike too. It also has a 750w motor and entry-level components. Sure, it’s a hub motor, but the RadRover is quite a bit cheaper than the Rambo. My feeling: If you’re going to spend $2076 on this bike, save up a couple hundred bucks more and upgrade to the base version Luna 4 Seasons 1000, it’s a vastly better bike with more power and better components. If you’re going to spend $3166 on this bike, well, then I can’t help you. But if so, maybe I can interest you in something nice from HPC for only a couple thousand bucks more?

Pros:

Mid-drive Bafang BBS02 motor rather than a hub motor

Great reviews from existing owners

48v, 10.4Ah Samsung battery pack

Cool camo paint job

Easy to buy on Amazon.com or at Cabela’s

$2076 current Amazon price is less than almost all other mid-drive fat bikes

Kenda K-1151 tires are pretty good – I got the same tires to upgrade my KHS 500

Cons:

Cheap components will probably need to be upgraded for serious riding

BBS02 limited to 750w max

Small battery capacity

48v system rather than 52v

DIY – KHS 4 SEASON 1000 & LUNA CYCLE COMPONENTS

All the info I wrote above, in the previous DIY Dolomite & Luna section, still applies here. The difference, of course, is buying a KHS 4 Season 1000 bike yourself, then sourcing all components from Luna and completing the build. Why would someone do this? I think the main reason would be to save money, of course. However for many DIY’ers, there is a huge satisfaction attained from putting the e-bike together and seeing it work. I won’t make a separate section for DIY’ing this bike with direct-from-China components, all the same info still applies, and you’ll only end up saving 100 bucks or so. Better to buy from Luna.

Anyway, let’s get to it. Luna components are the same as mentioned in the previous DIY build (Mongoose Dolomite), except for the following changes to better match the component list of the complete Luna e-bike: display is upgraded to the color LCD, chainring is upgraded to the Luna aluminum adapter and 42T sprocket, and a programming cable and Luna tool kit are added. The total cost of the BBSHD kit from Luna with a 52v 13.5Ah GA shark pack, and these add-ons, is $1299.90 plus $45 for US shipping.  For the bike, I found the largest online US seller for KHS bikes appears to be bikecraze.com. On their site, the KHS 2017 4 Seasons 1000, 19″ size, in green, is offered for $1149.97. Bikecraze does not offer shipping for all bikes on their site, but for those they do list shipping, the cost is $40, so that’s what I added to the price. Total shipped price, excluding tax: $1189.97. Total shipped price for everything: $2534.87. If you are looking closely, yes, you read that right: it will actually cost you more to DIY build this bike than to buy it already assembled from Luna Cycle! How they do that, I don’t know. But so much for the myth of huge savings by doing-it-yourself. It may have been true years ago, but at least in this case you actually save money by letting Luna do all the work for you.

Pros:

High-quality KHS bike platform

Components – brakes, drivetrain, rims, handlebar, etc. – are all good quality

1500w BBSHD mid-drive

Battery pack made in USA with genuine name-brand cells

BBSHD settings are user-programmable with an interface cable

Includes color display and tool kit

Doesn’t use stock hideous chainring

Others have done this – you can watch videos or read forums for help with the DIY build

Cons:

No savings from doing it yourself

Time and effort for building bike yourself, but can be rewarding too

You can’t buy the 2500w Ludicrous controller separately for a DIY build

Components, while good, are not top-of-the-line

No suspension fork or rear shock

You may want to upgrade the tires, and/or cassette, in the future

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Upper Midrange e- Fat Bikes

Here I’m comparing higher-level spec’d e- fat bikes, with better drivetrain, brakes, rims, and other components than the lower-priced group. Two bikes in this group are identical KHS 4 Season 3000 models, which I compare with a higher-end HPC fat bike as well as going the DIY route.

One big decision to make at this price level (and above) is whether to choose a fat bike with a solid fork, or a suspension fork. You may miss having front suspension on trails or rough single-track – even in just a short couple weeks riding my KHS 4 Season 500 build, there were many times going over bumps that I really missed having front suspension. This problem can be alleviated a bit by lowering the PSI in your tires – fat bikes can run as low as 7PSI, or in some cases (like deep snow), even less. A seat post with built-in suspension, like the ThudBuster, can also help. Keep in mind, however, that the lower you run your tire pressure, the greater the rolling resistance. This reduces acceleration, top speed, and battery life. A solid fork will certainly save you money over a suspension fork, and weight – the “standard bearer” of fat bike suspension forks has long been the RoxShox Bluto, which costs $500-600. But recently, some lower-cost alternatives have come to market – I’ve seen some no-name suspension forks selling for under $150, but their quality is yet to be seen.

LUNA CYCLE KHS 4 SEASON 3000

All my previous comments about the 4 Season 1000 apply here, except of course that the 3000 is a more expensive and higher-spec’d bike. The 3000 features a SRAM X7 drivetrain, SRAM cassette, and Hayes Prime Sport hydraulic brakes. The other main differences is that the 3000 has an aluminum fork, and aluminum rims with cool triangle cut-outs, both I suppose to save weight. Karl from electricbike-blog.com reviewed this bike and absolutely loved it, so much that he bought one for himself.

Pros:

High-quality KHS bike platform

Components – brakes, drivetrain, rims, handlebar, etc. – are all very good and a step up from the 1000

1500w BBSHD can be upgraded to 2500w with the Ludicrous controller

Battery pack made in USA with genuine name-brand cells

BBSHD settings are user-programmable with an interface cable

Includes color display and tool kit

Doesn’t use stock hideous chainring

Professionally assembled

A very good bike for the money

Cons:

No included warranty (except DOA); a 1-year warranty is an additional $400

No suspension fork or rear shock

Ludicrous upgrade will also require upgrading battery pack, at additional cost

E-RAD 2015 KHS 4 SEASON 3000

During my research, I found another e-bike shop, called Lectric Cycles, out of Las Vegas. This shop sells a combination of factory e-bikes, including some amazing looking (and amazingly expensive) bikes from popular European brand Haibike, as well as “hot-rod” bikes with motor/battery conversion kits installed on existing mountain or fat bikes. I can’t tell you much more about Lectric Cycles, because I all know about them is what I garnered from their site.

I chose this bike to compare, because it’s another KHS 3000-based conversion kit bike. However, Lectric Cycles specifies that this is a 2015 model 4 Seasons 3000, not the 2017 bike. Although the mid-drive brand is listed as “e-RAD”, it must be a BBSHD as it’s rated at 1000w, plus it looks exactly like a BBSHD. The bike’s base price is $3295, but that only includes a 432wh, 48v / 9Ah battery pack. To make the comparison more fair, I spec’d a 672wh 48v battery pack along with a 5A charger, which brought the price up to $3755 without shipping. Lectric Cycles makes no mention on their site of the cells used, or the maximum continuous amp output the BMS will support. They also list the bike as having an 11-speed cassette, while KHS’s spec for the 2015 model shows a 10-speed SRAM PG-1030 for the bike. The total delivered price of the e-RAD is $3,855. And while that’s a lot more than the similar bike from Luna, it’s downright cheap compared to the next bike I’m gonna discuss.

Pros:

All previous KHS 3000 pros apply

Looks to have a Lekkie chainring

Professionally assembled

Still a very good bike

1 year warranty on motor/battery

Cons:

About $1000 more than the Luna version

48v battery, not 52v

2015 model

1000w, but probably can be user-upgraded to 1500w with programming cable

HPC TITAN PRO 1500w FAT BIKE

And the interesting price comparisons between similar bikes from Luna and HPC continue… this time, there’s an even more incredible price gap.

Let’s cut to the chase. I looked closely at this bike’s specs, and it appears to be a KHS 4 Season 3000, with an added RockShox Bluto 100mm suspension fork. I compared the spec list with this bike and the 2017 4 Seasons 3000 from KHS’s site, and almost all components – drivetrain, cassette, tires, handlebar – are the same. HPC does advertise the SRAM X9 shifter for the bike, whereas KHS lists the X7. It appears HPC has again upgraded the brakes, this time to Magura MT5e quad caliper units. But the biggest upgrade, of course, is the addition of the RockShox Bluto fork to the bike. This fork, purchased separately, will run you about $500-600.

I again spec’d the larger 672wh battery pack to provide a closer comparison to the Luna bike, however it’s still a 48v unit rather than 52v. Now, of course, the Luna bike does have one detriment compared to the Titan Pro – it’s lacking the Bluto shock. So for comparison’s sake, let’s add that to the delivered price of $2749. Allowing $600 for the fork, this makes a total of $3349 for the Luna KHS 4 Season 3000 with the Bluto fork.

So, we’re at $3349 for the Luna configuration. What’s the nearly-identical bike from HPC cost? $4000? $5000? Nope, try an eye-watering $6898 delivered! In this case, the HPC bike demands a premium of more than double the Luna bike price, almost seven thousand dollars. Again, for that extra $3549, HPC does offer a generous warranty, whereas with the Luna bike you get only a no-DOA warranty – 1 year of coverage will add $400 to the bike’s price.

Pros:

All previous KHS 3000 pros apply

HPC has upgraded brakes to Magura MT5e quad piston

Upgraded RockShox Bluto suspension fork

Past customers seem to be very happy with HPC bikes and customer service

Doesn’t use stock hideous chainring

Professionally assembled

Includes a 36-month limited warranty (first 12 months free replacement & labor for defective parts)

Cons:

Ridiculously high price

No 2500w upgrade available

Battery pack cells used, and max Amp output, are not stated

48v system rather than 52v

Did I mention the price?

DIY – KHS 4 SEASON 3000 & LUNA CYCLE COMPONENTS

All the previous information regarding the KHS 4 Season 1000 build still applies here. Again, I won’t make a separate section for DIY’ing this bike with direct-from-China parts, savings would still be only about $100 over buying components from Luna.

The Luna component list is the same as I spec’d for the 4 Seasons 1000: display is upgraded to the color LCD, chainring is upgraded to the Luna aluminum adapter and 42T sprocket, and a programming cable and Luna tool kit are added. The total cost of the BBSHD kit from Luna with a 52v 13.5Ah GA shark pack, and these add-ons, is $1299.90 plus $45 for US shipping.  The 2017 KHS 4 Season 3000 is sold for $1729.97 at bikecraze.com, plus $40 shipping. Total shipped price, excluding tax: $1769.97. Total shipped price for everything: $3114.87. Again, it’ll cost you more to DIY build this bike than to buy it assembled from Luna! This time, the difference is even more, about $365. I still don’t understand how they can do it. But as someone who would love to buy this bike someday, I am sure glad they sell it at such a ridiculously low price.

Pros:

Same pros as previously mentioned for Luna KHS 4 Season 3000 bike

Others have done this – you can watch videos or read forums for help with the DIY build

Um… a sense of accomplishment?

Cons:

Spend over $300 more to do it yourself

Time and effort for building bike yourself, but can be rewarding too

You can’t buy the 2500w Ludicrous controller separately for a DIY build

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Full Suspension e- Fat Bikes

First, let’s look at the general differences between factory bikes and high-powered shop bikes like the Ludicrous Full S Fat. As a power and performance freak, it’d be easy to point to the chart and say “Look, see – these 2 factory bikes are typical underpowered and overpriced trash. You can get 2 Ludicrous Full S Fat bikes, with 10 times the power, for the price of one Specialized Turbo Levo.” But I think that’s an oversimplification. The first issue is – why do most factory bikes have such low power? The very popular Bosch motor systems run at 250w/350w, and the Yamaha used in the Haibike has just 500w. The main reason is government regulation of e-bikes, and how different countries (and different states in the US) categorize e-bikes by their power level and by whether they are pedal-assist only or throttle. In the UK, to be street legal, e-bikes are limited to only 250w. In the USA, the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Act set the limit for street-legal e-bikes to 750w. But state laws vary widely in their laws as to how e-bikes can be used on public streets. The large bicycle manufacturers, like Specialized and Bulls, so far have sold most of their e-bikes in Europe. And they feel the need to tow the line with regulators, and provide low-powered bikes to meet Europe’s strict power limit requirements.

As far as being very expensive, on this point I agree that most factory bikes are ridiculously overpriced compared to competition from independent e-bike shops. But keep in mind, they are almost all sold through a dealer network, and must include a full warranty – and these add greatly to the cost of the bike.

The design of a factory bike like the Turbo Levo, and its intended function, are completely different than a bike like the Full S Fat. These bikes are designed to be mountain bikes first of all, with nimble handling relatively light weight. They assume you’re looking for a mountain-bike experience, not a small electric motorcycle experience, and to that end they provide pedal assist only. You must be pedaling, putting in human power at all times, for them to work.

One point that supporters of factory bikes point out is that the mid-drives they use (such as the Bosch) are much more refined and intuitive to use than the BBSHD. This is mainly because the Bosch has a torque-sensing pedal assist system that’s more responsive and natural-feeling than the BBSHD.  Before I got my BBSHD, I never realized how its pedal assist works. I always thought pedal assist meant the bike takes the power you are putting into it, then multiplies that by the assist level setting you have chosen. Kind of like becoming a bionic man, just multiplying the amount of  power you are putting in. While the Bosch drive does work this way, the BBSHD does not. It uses a much more rudimentary cadence sensor, not a torque sensor, and I found that the pedal assist does not feel very natural. After some experimenting, I set the power amounts for each PAS level much lower than the factory setting. I realized that I prefer to use the throttle about 80% of the time, and when I do pedal I like to feel like the motor is helping me very little.

Also, supporters of the Specialized Turbo Levo would point out that, for the higher price, this bike has much higher-level components than the Full S Fat. It has a great (and expensive) RockShox fork and shock, the drivetrain is better, and the brakes are much higher-end, all combining to give the bike a more nimble, more responsive feel. Fans of the Specialized feel that comparing the Full S Fat to the Turbo Levo is like comparing a Dodge Hellcat to a Lotus Elise – the Hellcat is an overpowered, knuckle-dragging ape, which the Elise is an agile, nimble, refined racehorse. That said, I believe most big factory manufacturers of e-bikes have left a gaping hole in the marketplace for higher-powered, high-performance electric bikes. Shops like Luna, HPC, and Lectric Cycles have come into the market to fill that need, and I’m very glad they did.

Brief thoughts about the 4 bikes listed here:

Luna Ludicrous Full S Fat – This is a beautiful-looking bike, with its anodized blue (or red) rims, matching grips, pedals, and Mighty Mini chainring. At 2500w, with a high-output 50A continuous 17.Ah battery pack, it’s a power monster compared to all the other bikes here. What really stands out to me about this bike: the beautifully-designed hard case for the battery. This looks far better than the old velcro-mounted soft frame packs, and gives the bike a sleek, finished, almost e-motorcycle kind of look. Yes, the components like fork, drivetrain, and brakes are at the cheaper end of the spectrum. But for only $3199 including the upgraded battery and 2500w Ludicrous controller, I think it’s a bargain. Especially since I tried spec’ing a similar DIY build and came up almost $2000 more, and that was with only a Shark Pack battery and standard 1500w BBSHD.

Specialized Turbo Levo FSR Expert 6Fattie- Like many Specialized bikes, this is a thing of beauty. The very slick battery pack is built into the bottom frame tube, giving a stealthy appearance – many wouldn’t even know it’s an e-bike. However, this attractive design choice has a drawback – the number of cells and size of the pack are severely limited by space inside the frame tube, so you end up with only a 36v/14Ah pack – just 504wh of capacity. This plus-size tire bike (26×3.0″) has a Brose Trail Tune drive system, with 250w nominal power. The Levo has very high-level components including a RockShox Pike RC fork and 11-speed SRAM XX1 gearset, but also carries a very premium price tag of nearly $7500.

Haibike Sduro FullFat Six- Also very good-looking, this $5299 full-suspension e- fat bike has many high-end components as well. Featuring a RockShox Bluto fork, Magura MT5 brakes, and a Shimano Deore XT drivetrain, the FullFat Six is designed for great handling. The Yamaha drive unit provides 500w of power, but it’s still a 36V system with only 396wh of capacity.

DIY – Salsa Bucksaw GX1 & Luna Components- This was an eye-opener. I tried to spec out a good-quality, full-suspension fat bike with good components, that would fit a battery pack inside the frame triangle. And I wanted to see if by DIY’ing, there was any way to beat the Full S Fat’s $3199 price. After a lot of searching, I decided to base the build on the Salsa Bucksaw GX1. This is a well-reviewed bike with an aluminum frame and very good quality components – it has the RockShox Bluto fork, and a Monarch RT shock. SRAM GX1 brakes are used, along with an 11-speed GX1 drivetrain. I found the bike for $2799 online, but this was for local pickup only. The best price for the bike from a shop that offered delivery was $3499. So I knew I was in trouble, already above the Full S Fat’s price. The comparison isn’t totally fair, however: the Bucksaw GX1 is a higher-spec’d bike that the Luna, with higher-level components. The Bluto fork alone costs $500-600. To the GX1, I added the full Luna BBSHD package described earlier, with the 52v 13.5Ah GA Shark Pack and the Mighty Mini chainring. In total, this bike ended up costing $4899.85 including shipping. I’m confident the finished build would be a very good-performing bike, but it’s also nearly $2000 more than the Full S Fat – and keep in mind this is without that bike’s 2500w Ludicrous controller or the larger 50A, 17.5Ah battery pack.

  • Roshan Thomas

    Would be more complete if the article covered the first mid-motored ebike in the market – the Biktrix Juggernaut. It’s been around since 2014 when none of these other bikes existed. The Juggernaut has now been over 5 revisions and has top of the line components like Deore etc. and is priced starting at $2399.

    • Will Bain

      Yep, it’s a sick ride, all right. Solidly built, good looking, and well supported. I have about 1000 miles on mine so far, and it still thrills. Thanks, Roshan!

    • Mitchel Barry

      Hello, I bought a Biktrix Juggernaut almost a year ago. I did a ton of research, and the Juggernaut came out on top. One of the main reasons I bought, was the good review in Electric Fat Bike Blog. I love my Juggernaut. Sturdy, very dependable, looks good and is a big attention getter. I spend almost as much time answering questions about the bike as I do riding it, and I have put over 1400 miles on it so far. I live in Wisconsin. Lots of snow, and cold weather. I’s been out every day. Below zero, a few times below minus 10 degrees. It hauls my very generous frame with full panniers (over 300 lbs total). She’s my main transportation. I would buy another one, but this one is gonna last a long time. One flat tire is my only slowdown. Roshan is there to answer all my questions no matter how dumb. Also the cost was very attractive compared to anything else, and still is.

  • erik b

    Good article which really illustrates the wide range of options and prices depending on what type of bike you want and how much you want to spend. Of course, it also demonstrates why Luna is pissing off everyone 🙂

  • EdB

    Hi guys. Great post! But I might take issue with a few of the conclusions…

    I’m an ebike addict. I have a Luna 52V 1300 Watt ‘Fang conversion on a Marin full suspension donor bike running beautiful top of the line Hope brakes. 700 Wh battery. There’s prolly a $grand worth of suspension and $600 of brakes right there. It’s awesome….ish.

    I also have a Specialized Turbo S. One of the early ones. $6K when new, overpriced then I agree. They gave me an extra battery when the new 504Wh one came out, so I ended up with 2 x 504 Wh batteries (they swapped out the old 400Wh one). It came with two chargers, one travel (slow) one home (high end, fast, silent). I put shocks on and a Thudbuster.

    The Specialized Turbo S I bought is now $4K with suspension, a decent suspension seat post, and 560 Wh. To build to that level you’d need at least a $2K donor bike, $1200 worth of Bafang & some skill/tools, and it won’t look anything like as good. You can get a standard one for $2500. That’s a great bike.

    I’ve tried lots of ebikes now…and here’s the thing. (I weigh 210 lbs and live near hills).

    When I use my ‘Fang on full power it does about 33 mph for about 10 minutes then it gets hot and the voltage drops massively. Go up a short hill at that speed and it’s getting too hot to touch. When I use my Turbo at full power it’ll do 17 miles at 27 or so mph. Doesn’t even feel warm on the same hill – though the Turbo is much slower. The nominal output on the Turbo is 250 but we all know it’s banging out 450 or higher. Then efficiency. Efficiency on the drive train (battery-controller-motor) makes a big difference. Talking to one of the senior guys at Bosch he pegged end to end power on the Bosch at 85% and the Bafang at about 60 – assuming it’s not too hot. The torque figures for the Bosch are crazy, the Brose even higher. Having ridden them I can tell you the Bosch and Brose both feel more powerful at a nominal 500 than the ‘Fang does at 1300, and they’re using much less power.

    Also while you can push the ‘Fang up to 52V to get more power the motor cadence becomes faster than you can spin the crank. Not ideal at all.

    4 years in the Turbo still runs perfectly. The Magura brakes are excellent. The paint is super high end. The gear shift is perfect. The ‘Fang has needed a number of repairs. The battery sparks when you plug it in. The upgraded charger I bought from Luna doesn’t work anymore. I had to fart around and buy stuff to get the gear change good. The battery rattles. Extra learning curve…probably $500 in cost….some tools…broken chains while building…broken derailleur.

    Don’t get me wrong – I love Luna, I love the Bafang, I love these kits!

    I’ve also tested the $4K Trek MTB. It’s wayyyyyyyy better than my home build. The power stops at 20 which is annoying but irrelevant offroad. Bulls do some GREAT stuff around this price point with high end full suspension and 28 mph. (And 675 Wh). The handling is sublime, nothing rattles. Way better than a home build.

    Torque sensor makes all the difference offroad. The ‘fang 750 doesn’t have it. I love the software changeability on Bafang but you get bored of it.

    There are some awesome Haibikes at $3700….full suspension…Bosch motors…slick gear changes…less chain damage…nicer displays….

    If (and it’s a big if) you have the skill to build you can buy a donor bike for a grand and end up with something great for $2500. But it won’t look as good, drive as well, or be as reliable as a $3500 factory build (if you shop around). That’s what the extra grand buys you.

    1 last thing: Over 750 Watts is illegal. Just saying, I doubt anyone would know but…it’s illegal on the road. Why bother being illegal? You don’t need to be.

    Any faster than 28 mph you’re not stealth, the battery dies quick, and your leg power is more or less irrelevant. 30mph needs triple the power as 20.

    Now I see you’re talking Fatbikes and I’m not, but the same thing applies. If you have the cash get the factory ones (quit picking the most expensive comparisons!). If you like to get your hands dirty buy a kit…but it won’t be as sophisticated.

    Given the choice when I had road tires on both? I nearly always took the Turbo.

    • Arcanum

      Which Bafang do you have? The BBS02s are known to have heat issues, particularly if you push them over their rated 750W. The BBSHDs are generally much, much better. The entire housing is basically a giant heat sink, it has more robust windings in the motor, the internal reduction gearing is better chosen, etc. If you haven’t, you might want to give one a try. On the other hand, you’re correct that spending more money on an integrated system has some benefits in aesthetics and fit-and-finish. Possibly reliability as well, but possibly not.

      Also, regarding >750W being illegal: It depends entirely on the state and local laws (if you’re in the US). In some states, all ebikes are illegal on public roads and trails. In some states, the limit is 750W, as you say. CA has a graduated system. Some states have limits related to moped power that allow a bit more power. Don’t rely on the common 750W advice on the Internet; know your local laws.

      That said, you’re right that going fast attracts attention and murders your battery. Depending on context, I’d argue that even 28 is going to attract attention.

      • EdB

        Yep – BBS02. I’d love to try the BBSHD. When my 02 wears out I’ll switch. For the money it’s a great piece of equipment!

        Some States they’re illegal?! No kidding…

        You need way more power to do 30 than 20. Not a linear relationship by any means as I’m sure you know.

        I’d love to see some stats on efficiency from these motors and controllers too.

  • Great article. I’ll add that you’re not going to be happy trail riding on singletrack with any prebuilt bike for less than $1500. If you want to trail ride in that price range you’ll need to build one yourself.

    I love the Ludicrous controller and I believe that a fatty with a Ludicrous controller is currently the best value out there.

    HPC also has a very loyal customer base that don’t seem to mind paying more.

  • Shepherd Ginzburg

    Wow! The prices in this article are all crazy high as far as I’m concerned.
    I run what the author calls a Hot Rod bike shop (eBike Adventure), and my prices are consistently about 30% less than those listed for equivalent machines. Although nothing listed here is very comparable, last week I sold a Dolomite conversion with two wheel drive, dual 1,000 watt hub motors, dual 30 amp sine wave controllers, 24 amp hour 54.6 volt, LG M26 18650 cells battery pack, Custom install all electronics in custom built aluminum case, and upgraded brakes to 203mm for $1,900 complete.
    My entry level bikes start at $575 out the door, and I never sell anything I wouldn’t ride myself.
    I think there are others besides myself offering similar prices as well.
    Don’t be fooled into thinking that you must pay motorcycle prices for a quality eBike.