My Ebike

Photo of bike

Introduction

My commute to work is about 3 miles through the city of San Francisco. The weather stays around 50-60 throughout the whole year, it’s infrequently rainy, and the road on the way to work has a decent amount of bicycle infrastructure. I prefer to bike to work for a couple of reasons. Mainly, it allows me to get to work at a predictable time. Using Lyft Line or the bus adds variability into my schedule that can often exceed 30 minutes. If I commute using those methods, I have less time to sleep/prepare for my day and I have to spend more time commuting. So, I like to use my bike. Plus, I get to get some fresh air and it’s fun to see the city by bike! However, recently I’ve found that after a long day of work, the last thing I want to do is spend 20 minutes pedaling back home in the dark.

Solution

My colleague recently recommended to me the BBS02 electric bike kit from Luna Cycle. He has been commuting on a mountain bike that he converted to an electric bike and he said it was working well for his commute. After some investigation, I found that the BBS02 is one of the most popular ebike motors in the ebike community. I also found that it is generally reliable, easy to install, powerful, and a good value for the money. I debated myself on whether I should get it for a couple weeks, but eventually I splurged. The motor and battery cost me $970. I also added on a powerful front headlight and rear light to replace my weak blinkers for another $80.

Installation

I nervously waited for the kit to arrive, and when it finally did, I took my bike (a Schwinn Volare Road Bike) to a local bike store to have the kit installed. The hourly rate for the mechanic was $60, and they said it would take about 1-2 hours to install. It ended up taking 2 hours, so I paid them $120 for installation, and I had my first ebike! Before they would give me my bike, the owner of the store took it for a safety run on Market Street. When he came back from the safety run, he seemed pretty shocked at how fast it could go. Most of the bikes they sold at the store were about 350W and the kit is 700W which was probably the reason why he was so emphatic about making sure to take proper safety precautions. Riding back home for the first time on my bike, I could tell that this was a new machine.

Impressions

Riding an ebike for the first time changes the bike fundamentally in that it becomes something that can be driven, not just ridden. In that sense, it almost becomes like a moped or an ultra-lightweight motocross bike that just happens to have pedals. It’s hard to describe the feeling of biking without pedaling, but cycling purists be damned, it is fun! Suddenly any part of the city is accessible to me faster than public transit or if I called a Lyft. For commuting within a city, it cannot be beat (unless you live in a city with crap weather). Every day, my commute feels like a pleasure rather than a chore. Even though externally, the bike looks similar to its original form, it is truly totally different.

Caveats

  • I have to avoid locking my bike outdoors now due to it’s increase in value.
  • More mechanical complexity in the bike, the possibility of more expensive maintenance costs.
  • It’s still too easy to get seriously injured or die on SF streets as a biker due to limited biking affordances. Riding defensively is a must.

Budget

Base Bike

Extras

Total: $1,470

Lessons Learned

  • It’s surprisingly easy to make your own ebike.
  • Having an ebike improved my commute drastically.
  • Commuting by ebike has changed my perspective on what areas of the city are possible to live in now.