Flywheel | August 15, 2022
Featuring the top 5 used vehicles of the week and exploring the theory of disruptive innovation and micromobility on 4 wheels
Welcome to Flywheel, a weekly exploration of the used side of owned micromobility. Each newsletter will highlight five of the most interesting used vehicles being sold in the market followed by an observation of trends emerging in the industry.
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This week’s features are a utility bike, a compact cargo bike, two commuters, and a cruiser. The observation of the week explores the theory of disruptive innovation and micromobility on 4 wheels.
Top 5 Vehicles of the Week
The RadRunner is a class-2 compact utility ebike dubbed “simply one of the coolest all-around do-anything types of e-bikes" by Electrek. The RadRunner is a hybrid of the payload capacity and large rear rack of a cargo bike and the smaller frame and 20” tires of a commuter bike, making it more approachable, nimble, and sporty. Rad Power furthers the practicality of the RadRunner by offering passenger package (rear seat, foot pegs, and wheel skirt) that integrates neatly with the rest of the chassis to hold a second rider. The powertrain consists of Rad Power’s standard 68Nm rear hub motor and 672Wh battery pack. This listing was bought just over a month ago and is being resold because it is too small for the seller. The seller makes a point to note that “as a person who is fairly comfortable with working on bikes, it took me over an hour to assemble everything, and there were some parts that were pretty annoying.” Vehicle assembly is a particularly big pain point for vehicles mailed directly to customers because D2C manufacturers have a difficult balance to strike between easy assemblability and compact shipping form factor. Customers also need to feel comfortable that they have assembled the vehicle properly, given that improper assembly can be a huge safety concern. Some manufacturers or bike shops offer services to build your vehicle for you. However, these services are often quite expensive, making used vehicles that are (usually) pre-assembled for no additional charge a compelling alternative. Listing can be found here.
The ZX is a class-2/3 commuter from Supeer73’s entry level, city-oriented Z-series. Compared to the Z1 that kicked off the Z-series, the ZX costs about $600 more but has a much more comfortable seat and chassis, a larger battery pack that is now removable, and a suspension fork. Given that many riders complained that the Z1 was underwhelming and underpowered for anything other than casual joyrides, these are welcome upgrades that provide a much better performance than most commuters. The ZX has a powertrain consisting of a 750W rear-hub motor (Super73 does not publicly release motor torque info) and a 615Wh removable battery pack, and features a smart display that shows riders turn-by-turn navigation, basic telemetry, and ride modes. Listing can be found here.
The CERO One is a class-1 compact cargo bike designed to be extremely modular and easily customizable. CERO uses a proprietary cargo system compatible with the vast CERO accessory ecosystem, which significantly simplifies the option paralysis many riders face when trying to accessorize their vehicles. Inspired by Japanese mail mamachari bikes, the One has a small frame with a larger back wheel and smaller front wheel. This makes the One feel much more maneuverable and stable when banking than most cargo bikes. The powertrain consists of a 60Nm Shimano STEPS E6100 mid-drive battery and a 504Wh battery pack. This listing has low usage (Flywheel estimates ~600 miles) and comes with an oversized front rack and a few cargo boxes. Curiously, this listing is one of the many that makes a point to emphasize that the seller will accept crypto currencies (From the seller: “Shiba Inu Crypto preferred.🐕”). Listing can be found here.
The Aventon Pace 500 is a class-3 urban commuter-cruiser hybrid popular for its value. Despite selling at a budget price point of $1,699, the Pace 500 has better performance and more thoughtful design than many of its class-3 competitors. The powertrain features a 50Nm rear-hub motor and a 557Wh battery pack. The pedal assistance is intuitive and smooth, and the payload capacity is a segment leading 400lbs. The Pace 500 is also super sleek, with a lighting system (including automatic brake lights) and battery pack that are directly integrated into the frame. There aren’t really any great ebike app experiences in the market, but Aventon has one of the better software experiences. The app and ebike integrate well together, and there’s a very active rider community that can be accessed via the app. As the seller puts it, “the Pace 500 feels like it should cost more than it actually does.” Listing can be found here.
The Raleigh Venture iE is an approachable class-1 cruiser. Designed for casual riding, the Venture iE’s step-through frame, lighter weight, and downtube mounted battery back give it a lighter and more balanced ride. Its lighter weight is mostly due to the powertrain. Featuring a Bosch Active Line Cruise 40Nm motor and a 400Wh Bosch Power Pack, both components are lighter variations of Bosch’s powertrain systems. This unfortunately also means that the lighter motor and battery setup is less powerful than average Bosch systems on cruisers, but that’s really not much of a concern for the casual riding this bike is designed for. While this is an excellent vehicle for cruising around your neighborhood, there are a number of suspicious signs in this listing to suggest it is a scam or stolen vehicle. There are no real pictures of the vehicle being sold (only stock photos from Raleigh’s website), the battery key is supposedly lost, and the vehicle is being sold for ~$1,600 less than MSRP and ~$1,500 less than this model’s average resale value. However, in the off chance prospective buyers are able to verify that this is a real listing actually owned by the seller, this is an incredible opportunity to buy a high quality vehicle at a staggering discount. Listing can be found here.
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Observation of the Week
The theory of disruptive innovation and micromobility on 4 wheels
David Zipper recently wrote an article that makes the case for golf carts as the future of transportation. He points out how golf carts have powerful advantages over cars in that they are lighter and slower (and therefore less dangerous in a crash), accessible to those that are unable to drive, significantly cheaper, and less polluting.
Whether it be golf carts, pods, neighborhood EVs (NEVs), or any other term, looking at four-wheeled (and occasionally three-wheeled) micromobility vehicles as evolutions of ebikes and scooters leads to a similar conclusion.
Clayton Christensen’s theory of disruptive innovation “describes how firms that introduce rudimentary products can eventually overrun established players by systematically improving the products until they meet the needs of mainstream consumers, generally at low prices.” Applied to micromobility, this theory suggests that “rudimentary products” like bikes will evolve to solve more and more of the needs that cars overserve. (Read Horace Dediu’s essay on Disruption for a deep dive on this).
This evolution is particularly evident in the growing popularity of cargo bikes. Ebikes allow you to move further and faster than pedal bikes, and cargo ebikes are an evolution that allow you to move with more cargo or passengers (usually children) than regular ebikes. Four-wheeled micromobility vehicles allow you to evolve one step further and solve even more problems overserved by cars: higher cargo capacity, ability to transport multiple adult passengers, accessibility for those that can’t ride ebikes or would find it difficult to maneuver large and heavy cargo bikes, and weather protection.
To increase the adoption of four-wheeled micromobility vehicles and make them more price competitive, it’s useful to further this theory and think of them as bigger, evolved ebikes as opposed to smaller cars. Relying on the ever-maturing ebike supply chain as opposed to borrowing from the lower end of the automotive supply chain allows you to make significantly more affordable four-wheeled vehicles (~$5K vs ~$10K).
Thinking of these four-wheeled micromobility vehicles as larger/evolved ebikes also allows us to ensure that we design proper infrastructure around them. Although they don’t belong in most bike lanes due to their size, they certainly don’t belong in the car lane either given that they are usually moving at the same speed as ebikes. Framing them as larger ebikes emphasizes that they should be treated as vehicles closer to bikes than cars.
Ending this newsletter with some four-wheeled micromobility I observed in action just this past weekend:
That’s it for this week. Thanks again for joining, see you next week!
- Puneeth Meruva
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