Sondors Electric Fat Bike, 2016 Review

February 1, 2016
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Before I start this review,  I would like to establish what we know about the state of the Sondors campaign. The Sondors bike is not sold by traditional methods. It is sold on crowdfunder campaigns. Both Indiegogo and Kickstarter, meaning you pay for the bike months before getting it and there is a chance you can lose your money.

The Indiegogo campaign is over, but some people are still waiting on bikes to be delivered. There is a discrepancy on how many bikes Sondors actually sold in the Indiegogo campaign. Although it looked like he sold as many as 10,000 bikes, the real number is estimated to be 7,500 bikes in the Indiegogo campaign. Recently he started a new campaign on Kickstarter which currently is up to around 2,000 bikes.

According to a recent article on Yahoo, roughly 6,000 bikes have been delivered out of the original 7,500 orders. International orders are currently being delivered from the second wave of production. The vast majority of the USA bikes have been delivered, and many of the bikes that have not been delivered are due to minor glitches with paperwork and such.

Bikes are being delivered according to a priority concerning color first, then region, and as it turns out the time of order did not matter…if you ordered the right color.

Colors in the first wave came out like this. A black frame with yellow rims, Black + Black, Blue + Black, and then finally Yellow + Orange.

They were ocean-shipped to a warehouse in Long Beach (southern California) and then UPS delivered the bikes to the customers doorstep. Shipping costs $194 per bike…we are assuming that the customer is actually paying for shipping from China, which would explain the inflated cost.

Warranty?

The bike has no expressed warranty, but the Sondors company has been good about shipping replacement parts to customers with problems. Pretty much all Sondors customers understand that when you get a bike that is this inexpensive through such a unconventional buying method (crowd funding campaign) you can’t expect the same support you would get if you bought the bike from a retail bike shop, or even an online retail bike shop. Basically, you are getting a bike that should cost more than $2,000 for less than $1,000 and as low as $693 with shipping.  

Sondors Facebook Community

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The Sondors community has bonded together through a facebook page with 3,300 followers and growing. Sondors people are learning one of the joy of electric bike ownership…that it’s actually somewhat fulfilling to repair and upgrade your own bike. The Sondors community shares sources on replacement parts, and it seems most of the time people are opting to upgrade their parts to get better performance.

Also they exchange information on where to buy the latest accessories to make their bike unique. It is the most thriving face book community that I know of based on ebikes. And the energy there is 95 percent positive. The group is run by Sondors riders…not employees of the company (which they have often been accused of). I have experienced the Sondors facebook community first hand, and been on some of their rides. I can honestly say they are a group of ebike lovers just like the rest of us…and if they seem fervent, it’s because they are new ebike riders and are totally excited at the possibilities and the positive change it has made in their life.

Our sister company Lunacycle.com has done an entire category of Sondors upgrades.

Sondors Riders on the Streets

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These guys love their ebikes, they love riding their bikes, and have regular meet-ups. And everyone who sees one and then asks how much it costs are not put off by what they hear. As an ebike rider, when I ride one of my ebikes and people seem interested, and then they ask how much it costs?..and I say something like $3,000 or even $5,000 (depending on the bike I am riding). They suddenly lose interest and are probably turned off by all ebikes in general….

Its a huge difference when you’re riding a good-looking ebike that really attracts a lot of attention…and you get the same questions…how fast does it go? how far does it go? does it charge when you’re pedaling?…and then finally, how much does it cost? When I say $800, they are definitiely interested and don’t think I am a lazy idiot.

New community of riders

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Because the Sondors bike is so affordable, and such a good looking bike, and percieved as such a good value, it has attracted an entirely new community to riding ebikes that otherwise would have never considered it. Most people who already own ebikes are probably not going to buy a Sondors bike because they will think that their ebike has better performance, and there is a lot of negative publicity around that is claiming the Sondors bike is underperforming and is a “you get what you paid for” ebike.

Is the Sondors bike a case of “you get what you paid for”

Absolutely not. If you order a Sondors bike for $700 and you receive it…you got yourself a bargain…As a reviewer and a person who has ridden a lot of different ebikes….I do not know how the Sondors bike can be described as anything less than a bargain. It looks great, rides great, and is made with quality components, and it’s a blast to ride. Do not buy the argument that just because the Sondor Ebike is cheap, its cheap quality. The fact is its better than 90 percent of ebikes on the market at an absolutely  incredible price.   

 

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Sondors Components

I don’t understand why people are saying that the Sondors is made from cheap components. Its not. All ebikes are made from China-sourced components, and if anything, in the Sondors bike I see more quality than I do in the average $2000 ebike.  Here are some examples of the key electrical components:

  • Samsung 36 volt 9-Ah bottle battery (many commercial ebikes do not use brand name cells.
  • Quality Bafang planetary geared hub motor (Bafang is one of  the biggest and most respected names in ebike power systems)
  • Controller from Bafang (standard ebike controller)
  • Pedal assist function throttle  (no reason for him throw this in but he did)
  • Tektro E-brakes (the most respected name in the ebike business)
  • Quality quick release Haigo connectors (some of the best connectors in ebike biz)
  • Super nice and innovative plastic box which puts the battery in the triangle (infinitely better than 90 percent of commercial ebikes)
  • Nice thumb throttle with battery gauge

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As you can see from above…Sondors was not a cheapskate when making the decisions on which components would comprise his bike. He wanted a reliable electrical system, and he delivered. 90 percent of commercially available bikes under $2500 cannot claim to have a better electrical system than this.

But it does not stop here…Sondors made decisions on the actual bike components that show he was not just making an ebike on the cheap. He really wanted a stand-out product to put his name on. You can tell a lot by a man by the bike he built…and I can tell you that the first time I saw a Sondors bike in person, I said “this guy never intended to take the money and run.” And then I said “ This guy cares about his name, and wanted to build a world-changing bike that he could put his name on.

He chose anodized fat bike rims that look awesome and stylish. They have weight-saving holes cut in them (at the time the Sondors bike came out, you could not find rims of that quality for under $150 each and might even be the case still). These rims and tires have a nice nice touch which is a colored liner to accent the holes and make these rims look like they cost $300 each.

5 inch wide fat bike tires

This here is a big statement from Storm Sondors. Every ebike manufacturer I know of would put 3.5 inch up to 4-inch tires to save money. Sondors went over the top and chose the widest fat tires I have ever seen on a bike. Good luck finding a comparable tire for under $100 anywhere.

Anodized parts everywhere

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The headset, hand grips, and seat clamp are anodized a matching color. This is an attention to detail that most  commercial ebikes lack. Not only is the bike color-coordinated with awesome colors, but Sondors does it with things like anodized parts…something he did not have to do.

Attention to detail

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Here is a list of a bunch of good parts where he could have saved a buck, but decided to go with quality instead:

  • Aluminum black pedals
  • Thick padded hand grips for cushy ride
  • Axle tensioners on both sides in the rear….a detail that almost every other ebike manufacturer would forget.
  • Quality crank set made by Prowheel (name brand Chinese component)
  • Kickstand that works great (rare on fat bikes, and he could have sold it with no kickstand and saved a few $)
  • Overly thick anodized handlebars so they don’t look clownish on the rest of the oversized bike. (most ebike companies sale their bikes with crappy not thought out cheap handlebars)

 

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Weaknesses

There is one weak component that I think Sondors missed out on…namely the spokes. If Sondors would have spent a few extra dollars on thicker spokes the bike would be a lot more reliable and robust. Keep in mind if you own a Sondors ebike, make sure to check your spoke tension often because it is a normal occurrence on any hub-powered ebike for the spokes to wiggle loose, but especially on the Sondors because of its cheap thin spokes. 

I won’t chime in with most reviewers who say the Sondors is under-powered because I think most commercial bikes are under-powered, especially anywhere close to this price point.

Of course having to buy from a crowdfunding website is a weakness, and also not having support…But I think those are also good things. That is the reason the bike is such a bargain, and being forced to work on your own bike will give you a better connection to it.

My Ride Report

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I have no complaints how the Sondors bike rides. Like the bike itself, I was impressed with its ride, contrary to what I heard and read in other places. To sum it up I would say: way better than expected.  The bike is torquey, rides smooth, and the single speed set up is stress-free to own (no derailleur to adjust or repair). The bike feels fast enough, and when I have been out on Sondors rides most Sondor riders.

One complaint I have is that I wish Sondors would have gone with a higher-geared single speed to provide a better pedal-cadence at top-speed. That being said if your battery does die on a ride, you have a chance of pedaling your Sondors beast home thanks to that low gear…so it is a compromise.

Poor Performance?

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One thing I always heard about the Sondors is that it had poor performance. Compared to what? All commercial ebikes with geared  hub motors have “poor performance” when compared to an expensive Bafang mid drive bike or to a DIY hub motor hot rod. The Sondors bike stock will put out 450 watts, which is enough to easily get the bike up to its 20-MPH cut off. When I first rode a Sondors, I actually expected it to be a slug (from everything I read and heard). To my suprise, it performs about the same as every other commercial ebike on the market for under $2,500. Not only that, it is easily upgraded because of its excellent configuration, so owners can make it faster in just a few minutes.

Lunacycle.com sales a bunch of upgrade options that can instantly make your Sondors faster and go farther. (check out the Luna Cycle upgrade section)

What about all those Sondors Exaggerated numbers?

Every ebike manufacturer I have known tends to exaggerate numbers. If Storm Sondors would have come forward with honest range and performance numbers, people would have assumed his bike sucks compared to all these other bikes. The fact is, this the elephant in the room that nobody talks about. In  order to compete in the commercial ebike realm you need to exaggerate range numbers. Asking how far you will go on a charge is a silly question anyway, because on an electric bike it is dependent on many obvious factors…and mostly how much the rider is pedaling.

It would be great if someone would do an industry-wide test of all ebikes, with the same weight of rider who would ride until the battery was dead, with no pedaling…but until that happens, there is no fair benchmark on how far an eibke will go. So the best way is to base your ebike purchase on watt hour and  ebike math (read our story). The Sondors bike has a 350 watt-hour battery…and if you want to compare it to another commercial ebike, you should just quickly calculate the watt hours of the bike you are comparing it to. But, please don’t ask the man how far his ebike will go, and then ask his competitor on how far that ebike will go to compare bikes….because then, it just becomes a matter of who will exaggerate the most….and that sucks for everybody. But nobody should knock Sondors for exaggerating range numbers when he was starting out. Almost every other major ebike manufacturer is doing it.

 

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Sondors, a Hot Rodders Dream!

We haven’t mentioned the Sondors frame yet but it’s made from steel. Hotrodders love steel frames because they are strong as hell, bendable, and very modifiable…for example its easy to weld brackets to steel. Sure, its 5 pounds heavier than if it was aluminum…but weight really does not make a big difference on an ebike, which is already heavy as sin.

 

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Steel dropouts on both the front and rear wheel means you can put high powered hub motors on and be much safer than if you did the same thing with alloy drop outs, like what’s on most bikes.

The frame has been drilled with mounting holes all over the bike for mounting  racks, and even includes allen screws….awesome.

Speaking of awesome, The Sondors ebike has an awesome plastic triangle case. Companies such as Luna Cycles you can upgrade to a battery that is 3X the size and 3X the power in the same space and still have room for an oversized controller.

I cannot even stress enough how great this box is for upgraders. The controller is quickly accessible and has quick-release electrical connectors all inside the box. Luna Cycles sells an upgrade sinewave  controller that can pump 1000 watts to the motor, and it’s literally only a 5-minute installation requiring just a screwdriver and no stress. The fact that even if you go with an oversized ebike controller with a rat nest of wires…all those wires will be hidden in that nifty box along with the battery and your Sondors will still look as clean as a stock bike which is a rarity in the DIY scene (read our article on defining the rat nest)

 

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 OK, this has been a glowing review so far, but….

In my first article I wrote last year, I said that the Sondors bike seemed like a bargain…but also that it is a gamble. I stand by that statement now, and it is still a gamble…but not as big of one as before.

Even though Sondors brought in millions of dollars in his indiegogo campaign and hats off, managed to build the impressive bike at the affordable bike he promised. He did all the tooling, travelled to China etc to make all this happen. With the bike finally in production, he made the decision to start a 2nd crowdfunding campaign before the first one was even finished delivering. And he did this 2nd crowdfunding campaign on a different crowdfunder website (Kickstarter, instead of Indiegogo)

Read our article on crowdfunded ebikes

Why did he do this?

Why, with the bike in full production, did he not just start offering the bike for sale from existing stock from his California warehouse? And kick off the Sondors ebike company as a real company.

The main idea for a crowdfunding project is to have an upstart company raise the money it needs to develop a product to kickstart the company and get them on their feet. Sondors apparently accomplished all this. So why resort to another crowdfunding project?

There two possible explanations why, that I can see why he might have done this….

#1 He ran out of money, and did not have enough funds to complete the first Indiegogo campaign promised orders, and needed to start a 2nd campaign in order to complete his obligation.

This may be the case , but at least the guy is trying his hardest to deliver the bikes he promised…because he could legally just take the money and say he failed. And I think its pretty obvious at this point that the guy is not a shyster and at least intended to try to deliver the awesome bike he promised to everyone who paid for one. But there is still a chance he might just plain run out of money, even though he has tried his hardest…and fail to deliver all of the fatbikes.

#2  Maybe he is not in financial trouble at all…But has decided that this is the right business model to sell an ebike. And since he was so successful the first time, why not do the same model again?

In any case, whether it is #1 or #2, the second campaign is by nature going to be more profitable, since the bike’s tooling and development costs have already been made, the bike has been tested by a massive market…and there is obviously a large demand for the Sondors bike. This time around he bound to be more successful and more profitable.

But…is there a chance that the Kickstarter people will not get their bikes they paid for? Yeah sure there is a chance but I am confident they will get them.  The whole idea of investing in a kickstarter project is that it is a gamble…and you are getting an awesome price because you do run the risk of losing your money.

Do I think the Sondors Bike is a Good Gamble?

I wouldn’t have bought into the first campaign on Indiegogo for reasons said in my first article, basically I didn’t believe it was worth the gamble. Back then nobody had a clear idea of what the production bike would be like. 

But now that I have seen the actual bike that this man Sondors made, and know that he has thousands of bikes already delivered, and has developed a good reputation and a solid following, I do not think he will fail to deliver all the bikes that are sold on the Crowd Funding websites.

And I did decide to put my money where my mouth is, and buy into the 2nd campaign on Kickstarter. I am 85 percent certain I will get my bike…and to get the Sondors fatbike for $693 is a good bet. I think the true value of the bike is closer $2000 and figure  I could even ride it for a few months and sell it for $800 (what used Sondors are now going for on Craigslist)

And before anyone says anything…I have NEVER met or talked to Sondors, and I have never met anyone from the Sondors company. I have never gotten anything from them for free or a a discount, but simply appreciate the ebike he built, and what he is doing to kickstart the electric bike revolution by putting thousands of great-looking ebikes onto the USA streets in the hands of brand new ebikers, who without Sondors would not have become ebikers.

Did  the Gamble Pay Off?

I got it!  I got my bike and I love it. It took less than an hour to build, and only 5 hours to upgrade it into my own personalized 40-MPH monster. I can call it the “Luna Storm”

 

Sondor Upgaded Bike 3000 watts

 

Just a few months after I made the gamble, just the other day in fact…I received my bike. The Kickstarter bikes are shipping out much faster than the Indiegogo bikes did…that’s expected, because of course Sondors has already arranged all the tooling and China contacts that go into making the bike months ago and now he is just repeating the order.

I like the color scheme of my new Sondors (although, I ordered black and got grey instead). I am not complaining.  There is this inevitable relief when you get your kickstarter product and you know it would be really out of line to complain to the company to send me the color I ordered and come pick this one up.

I decided to immediately personalize my Sondors and make it more me. Same night as opening the box we hooked a Cyclone mid drive kit   (video coming soon) and a custom shaped 52v  17.5ah  Luna Storm high performance battery , so what I ended up with is a 40-MPH dual-motor monster. I use the hub motor to get to 20-MPH and when I want to go beyond that, I use the Cyclone. I use two controllers, two motors, both off the one battery. In this way I did not need to rebuild the rear wheel with something that has a derailleur. I am able to run the bike as a single speed, and utilize its stock hub motor. Of course I can run the power from the same 52V battery and a upgraded controller, so I get 1100 watts from the Stock Sondors motor instead of the 400 watts I would get without “hotrodding.”  Another article will be coming out soon with video etc on my new Hotrodded Sondors.

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Written by Eric, February 2016

Eric has been involved in the electric bike industry since 2002 when he started a 6000 square foot brick and mortar Electric Bike store in downtown San Francisco. He is a true believer that small electric vehicles can change the way we operate and the way we think.


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