- Flywheel: Going car-free in car-centric cities w/ Lava Sunder | Vehicles from Lectric, VanMoof, Revi, Hiboy, & Zoomers
Flywheel: Going car-free in car-centric cities w/ Lava Sunder | Vehicles from Lectric, VanMoof, Revi, Hiboy, & Zoomers
Exploring how to go car-free in car-centric cities & featuring the top 5 vehicles of the week
Welcome to Flywheel, a weekly exploration of the used side of owned micromobility. Each newsletter will highlight an observation of trends emerging in the industry and feature five of the most interesting used vehicles being sold in the secondary market.
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The observation of the week is a guest column by my friend Lava Sunder (previously at Culdesac) on going car-free in car-centric cities. This week’s featured vehicles are two cargo/utility bikes, an iPhone-on-wheels commuter bike, a seated fat-tire scooter, and a kick bike/big wheel scooter.
Observation of the Week
I’m super excited to introduce my friend Lava Sunder (previously at Culdesac), who is joining as a guest columnist on Flywheel this week to talk about going car-free in car-centric cities. Please welcome Lava:
How to go car-free in car-centric cities
Hi! I work with early-stage mobility and proptech companies, and was previously an early-team member at Culdesac. I’m extremely passionate about ebikes, and after living car-free in 3 very car-dependent places (Houston, Tempe, and Los Angeles), I now spend lot of my free time convincing people to ditch their car.
If you’re thinking about going car-free in a car-choked city, here’s my advice:
Buy an ebike: The best way to live car-free in a car-dependent city is to buy an ebike. There are many guides about what to choose (used, new, foldable, cargo), but you’ll almost certainly be happy with whatever you get. If you’re a reader of Flywheel you probably know this, but ebikes are game changers because they help people achieve longer trip distances regardless of fitness level/cargo size/elevation gain. Best of all, they’re often faster than cars - in about 85% of my trips in LA and Tempe, I got to my destination faster with an ebike than I would have with a car. Here’s a thread on some of my favorite ebikes that I like to recommend to new riders.
Nail your commute(s): If you’re serious about living car-free, start with nailing your most frequent commutes. This likely means living within biking distance of your place of work, and getting used to keeping your frequent errands localized. And remember - more than 50% of daily trips for the average American are less than 3 miles (and that includes cities like LA and Houston). If you nail your most frequent trips, the rest will follow.
Get comfortable riding with cars: The two most important things to remember about riding with cars are to claim the center of the road, and use neighborhood streets. Riding on the edge of the road can feel safer, but is counterintuitively often much more unsafe: you have a higher likelihood of getting doored and cars will try to pass you closely. Get comfortable sticking to the center of the right-most lane (unless of course there’s a bike lane). Regarding neighborhood streets - I advise people to use them as a tool to get more comfortable biking near cars. Especially in a city like LA, you can easily beat car ETAs by going through neighborhoods. Once you get reps there, you can work on riding more direct routes on major roads. Here’s a list of the 10 tips I give to people that are new to riding in cities.
Accessorize quickly: The car industry is much more mature than the ebike industry, so when you buy a car, it has all the bells and whistles. Ebikes are not quite there yet and you’ll likely need to accessorize. A framework is to try and approximate a few “core” car features like a trunk, lock, and horn. For a “trunk”, invest in a good cargo solution - I’ve had 3 bikes with mounted milk crates, but you can also get removable panniers like these. For a lock, I recommend investing in a high quality lock (>$50) and getting it mounted to your bike so you don’t have to worry about forgetting it when you ride. Finally, the #1 accessory I recommend for car-centric e-biking is a car-strength horn- it helps you avoid accidents and “speak” car in busy intersections. Here’s a list of my go-to ebike accessories that help with with anti-theft, safety, storage, and ~vibes~.
Embrace “unbundling” your transportation: People love to “What if..” you if you tell them you’re car-free: What if you need to get groceries for a party? Pick-up a couch? Go out of town? But there is no “one-size-fits-all” vehicle. Over 75% of pickup truck owners only use their truck to haul something once a year OR less. Embrace the idea that ebikes are a “one-size-fits most” tool, and unbundle your other transportation needs. Need to pickup a large grocery order? Order it on delivery or use rideshare. Need to buy a couch? Get a TaskRabbit. Need to go out of town? Rent a car. And need to do just about anything else? Hop on your bike and go for a ride.
Shift your mental model of transportation costs: The average American spends more than $10,000 a year on a car, but these are costs that are often front-loaded. Because of this, most people vastly underestimate (by around 50%) how much they spend annually on a car (and conversely - over estimate how much they will spend if they are car-free). When you’re car-free in a car-centric area, you will have to take carshare/rideshare, which might “feel” more expensive. But remember that you’re almost certainly saving money this way, and that you just need to shift your mental model of transportation costs from mostly one-time to mostly recurring.
If you agree with all of this, but are just waiting until your city has more protected bike lanes, I totally get it. Unfortunately, that could take a while, and the reality is that the best way to get cities to invest in bike infrastructure is to get a critical mass of people riding first.
So if you’re thinking about ditching your car, I encourage you to do it, and join the group of people demanding better bike lanes and infrastructure. That’s how we’ll get to the awesome flywheel (!) of people biking ↔ better infrastructure that we’ve seen in Paris, New York, and London.
Good luck & happy riding!
(These are my opinions, and I do not speak for any product or business mentioned here)
For more observations and resources on owned and used micromobility, check out rideflywheel.com/resources.
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Top 5 Vehicles of the Week
The Lectric is a budget class-2/class-3 long-tail cargo bike that offers minivan-replacing capabilities at an unbeatable price. Its powertrain features an 85Nm rear hub motor and a 672Wh battery pack (with additional mountings to install a second battery pack), and is controlled by both a throttle and Lectric’s new “Pedal Assist Wattage Regulation” controls schema that limits pedal assistance levels by power as opposed to speed. Both of these make the XPedition incredibly intuitive and natural to ride and help maximize the performance/Wh. The XPedition has a startling 450lb payload capacity, and comes standard with rear rack cushions and boards. It even comes fully assembled in the box when shipped, so the XPedition truly allows riders to haul cargo or people right out of the box. At a retail price of $1,399, no other cargo bike in the market even comes close to offering this level of utility or performance at such a low price. Lectric has quietly become one of the most important ebike OEMs in the industry, reportedly growing from 8K ebikes sold in 2019 to to 150K ebikes sold in the last year alone. It’s not hard to see why; their vehicles are easy to maintain, extremely reliable, highly performant, and unbelievable affordable. This listing is in like-new condition (Flywheel estimated mileage of ~192mi) and is selling for $100 less than its average resale price. Listing can be found here.
The VanMoof S3 is a class-1 commuter and arguably the best urban ebike on the market. VanMoof is often referred to as the Apple or Tesla of ebikes due to their iconic design, vertical integration, and industry-leading software and electronics. Although the S3’s powertrain, featuring a 59Nm front hub motor and a 504Wh battery pack, is fairly modest, what truly sets it apart is its suite of software and UX features. From anti-theft alarms, Apply Find My integration, and stolen bike retrieval via bike hunters to remote health diagnostics, automatic shifting, and a boost button, no other ebike is as well optimized for urban riding as the S3. S3s are also great vehicles to buy in the secondary market. Sellers can transfer ownership of their S3 to new buyers via the VanMoof app, and all vehicle health data, maintenance records, and peace-of-mind services subscriptions are also automatically transferred to the new owner. The S3 has long been VanMoof’s flagship vehicle, but is now permanently sold out and has been replaced by the S5. This listing for an S3 with only 333mi of usage is listed for $95 less than the average resale price and for $300+ less than similar models available on VanMoof’s used ebike outlet. It’s a great opportunity to get your hands on what will go down as one of the most innovative and trailblazing ebikes in micromobility history. Listing can be found here.
The Revi Bikes Runabout is a class-2/3 short tail cargo bike. As a small ebike that’s only 67” long (shorter than a commuter) and low to the ground thanks to its 20” fat-tires, the Runabout is easy to mount/dismount, is easy to load/unload with cargo, and has nimble handling. Its powertrain features a 90Nm geared rear hub motor and a 696Wh battery pack, giving it a payload capacity of 310 lbs. While this is low compared to most cargo bikes, the Runabout punches above its weight since it combines the zippy handling of a commuter ebike with the powertrain of a larger cargo bike. The Runabout may not be a pick-up truck replacement, but it’s an excellent mini-truck equivalent convenient for quick errands. This listing is being sold by its second owner, and is in excellent condition (Flywheel estimated mileage of 576.43mi). Listing can be found here.
The Hiboy VE1 Pro is a big wheel escooter. With 16” pneumatic tires, a 49” long wheel base, and a wide standing base, the VE1 Pro is closer in size to an ebike and provides a much more stable ride than most escooters. That being said, the steering stem still folds down to maintain the portability of an escooter. Its powertrain features a 500W (~40Nm) rear hub motor and a 480Wh battery pack stored in the standing base, resulting in a 23mph max speed and a ~20mi real world range. The vehicle even comes with integrated headlights, taillights, and brake lights, as well as the mounts for an optional rear suspension. A new class of escooters with 10”+ wheels is slowly emerging and becoming ever more popular as more and more people start to use escooters for regular commuting. These “kick bikes” are a compelling alternative for riders who want the portability and (typically) lower prices of an escooter, but the safety and stable ride of an ebike. This listing is brand new and comes with a full warranty, and is being sold by a Hiboy retailer. Listing can be found here.
The Zoomers Zoomer 1 is a seated performance escooter. Zoomers was previously known as Shared, a shared scooter company in Seattle. The company almost went out of business due to challenges with COVID-19, fundraising, and shared scooter permits, but smartly pivoted in May 2020 to selling their eye-catching escooters D2C and rebranded itself as Zoomers. Zoomers is now cashflow positive and grew to $4M in revenue in 2021 alone. The Zoomer 1 is inspired by the original shared scooter in Shared’s fleet. Its powertrain features a 2kW rear hub motor and a 1.2kWh removable battery pack, which gives rides a max speed of 30mph, a 35 degree grade climbing capability, and a real world range of 30mi. All of these performance metrics are excellent for an escooter, particularly for one that weighs 120lbs. The ride itself is extremely fun and safe given its powerful hydraulic brakes and 12” by 8” wide fat tires, but can occasionally be bumpy because the vehicle has no suspension. There’s also a series of great theft-protection features on the Zoomer 1 like a wireless car-style key fob, an anti-theft lock, and a mechanical key. This listing has only been ridden for 50mi and is selling for less than half of MSRP. Listing can be found here.
That’s it for this edition. Thanks again for joining, see you next week!
- Puneeth Meruva
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