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Flywheel: Service and Maintenance | Vehicles from Co-op, Stromer, Himiway, Ride1Up, & Pedal
Exploring the importance of service and maintenance in micromobility & featuring the top 5 vehicles of the week
Welcome to Flywheel, a weekly exploration of the owned and used 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 explores the importance of service and maintenance in micromobility. This week’s featured vehicles are two utility/compact cargo bikes, an ultra high-end commuter, a cruiser, and a scrambler.
Observation of the Week
Service and maintenance
The 2018-2021 period saw a massive expansion of the ebike market. Fueled by many new riders being exposed to micromobility as well a pandemic-era boom in demand, many D2C brands flooded the market with affordable new ebikes. However, now that this wave is starting to plateau and many riders are moving past their first time owning an ebike, consumers are starting to focus more on service and maintenance and not just the design and price of a vehicle. When considering ebikes as car replacements, uptime and reliability are of critical importance. Many riders who bought ebikes for the first time over the last few years were caught by surprise when they discovered how difficult it can be to have an ebike maintained, especially if it’s not from a traditional dealer-network brand. Most repair for D2C brands either requires you to ship the bike back to the manufacturer (expensive and inconvenient for both the brand and the customer) or to endlessly search for a bike shop that is willing to service your D2C ebike (many are not). It’s an inadequate experience that is a tremendous hurdle for those looking to replace car trips with micromobiltiy.
We’ve seen the direct effects of this in the recent struggles of many of the marquee D2C brands that have defined the recent era of ebikes. I think that as we evolve into a new era of owned micromobility where riders are more knowledgeable about the total cost of ownership of their ebikes, we’ll see maintenance playing a much more important role in determining what ebike someone buys. This is particularly pertinent in the secondary market. If you’re not confident that the used vehicle, that you often have little health data on, can be easily serviced or maintained, it’s impossible to feel comfortable purchasing it.
I was recently asked where I think the value in micromobiilty is currently accruing. I think maintenance and servicing is a leading factor determining the answer to this question.
From a brand/OEM side, the OEMs with the most serviceable bikes are the ones the value is starting to trickle to. The pendulum is swinging back towards dealer-network brands and away from the D2C brands that have blitzed the market with many new vehicles but haven’t been able to keep them on the roads for as long.
In that vein, incumbent suppliers like Bosch or Shimano are also accruing a lot of the value in the industry right now. With an increased focus on repairability, brands are relying on suppliers with components that technicians already know how to service and are readily available. Bosch is a specific supplier worth pointing out because virtually every bike shop knows how to service a Bosch powertrain. Bike shops are so beholden to the Bosch platform that they often won’t even sell ebikes with other powertrains. I suspect many OEMs will start shifting to the Bosch system, if they don’t already use them in their existing lineup.
Lastly, a significant amount of the value for consumer products more often than not accrues to the distribution channels. In the case of ebikes, you have two channels here benefiting the most.
One channel is big box retailers like Costco or Walmart that are selling very cheap ebikes at relatively high volumes. The expectation for vehicles bought at these retailers is not that of real car replacements, so people aren’t expecting these vehicles to last very long and aren’t expecting to be able to repair them. As such, when these vehicles break down, consumers don’t mind as much since they were cheap anyway and the expectations were low to begin with. This allows big box retailers to continue to sell with little to no repercussions for having no after-sales services.
The other channel is bike shops and bike dealers. They are the de facto retail channel for most dealer-network brands and are able to offer servicing options and a strong customer experience that retains customers for long periods of time, often across multiple vehicles. The bike shop network is highly fragmented and mostly consists of mom & pop businesses, so there aren’t many singular big winners. However, the overarching bike shop network as a whole is accruing a lot of the value in micromobility. One notable exception is REI, who is able to combine a big box retailer-type scale and distribution with high quality vehicles and a massive servicing network across its retail locations.
I still think there’s an opportunity for a vertically integrated ebike OEM that takes the Apple approach to own the vehicle design, distribution, and servicing network. VanMoof was the biggest player attempting this approach but unfortunately fell short. I don’t think that invalidates the approach however. After all, there’s only one Apple and taking on that level of vertical integration is audacious and challenging to say the least. In the meantime, the currently active brand that’s closest to making this happen is REI’s Co-op Cycles. While their vehicles are still built of mostly off-the-shelf components, Co-op still controls a significant portion of the design and it owns both the distribution channel and the servicing network.
I’ll be on a panel at this year’s Micromobility America Conference (Oct 19-20) to discuss the importance of aftermarket, service, and maintenance in micromobility. This is one of my favorite conferences and I make a point to attend it every year. You can use this link to get discounted tickets for ~45% off. Note: Neither I nor Flywheel nor Trucks receive any financial benefit from this coupon, I just think it is a good event and our friends at Micromobility Industries have given us this coupon for you.
For more observations and resources on owned and used micromobility, check out rideflywheel.com/resources.
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Featured Vehicles of the Week
The Co-op Cycles Gen e1.2 is an ultra-affordable class-1 utility bike. REI’s in-house ebike brand Co-op launched its Generation e line last summer as an attempt to offer utility minded riders small cargo hauling vehicles, and the e1.2 is the highest performance model of the lineup. Its powertrain and ebike electronics system is UL 2849 certified, and features a strong 80Nm Bafang rear hub motor and a 672Wh battery pack. Paired with 20” tires and a stepthru frame, the e1.2 is approachable yet capable of hauling a respectable 300lbs in payload. Compared to its sister vehicle, the e1.1, the e1.2 features a front rack and a larger and higher voltage battery pack. However, it does not have a front fork suspension like the e1.1 to help with stability for front-loaded cargo. Co-op Cycles offers a remarkable combination of D2C prices and a dealer-network brand-like servicing network (170+ REI ebike service centers nationwide) that is incredibly hard to beat. REI was already one of the most important players in the micromobility space when they were selling just other OEMs’ ebikes. Their Co-op Cycles brand cements that position even further. This listing has a mileage of 50mi and comes with proof of ownership. Listing can be found here.
The Stromer ST5 is a high-end class-3 hardtail commuter. At a retail price of ~$10K, the ST5 is one of the most premium ebikes out there and its quality is closer to that of a high-end motorcycle than that of your average ebike. Its powertrain features a 48Nm SYNO Sport gearless rear hub motor (controlled by a torque sensor) and a 983Wh battery pack. The motor is one of the best available on a Stromer vehicle. It requires very little maintenance since it’s not geared, and it’s capable of regen braking or “recoup” which reduces brake wear. Given the massive size of the battery pack, the ST5 can also easily hit ~70mi of range even at higher pedal assistance levels. Rounding the powertrain off are a series of other high-end ride components, from hydraulic disc brakes specially designed to cool fast to an anti-shock carbon seat post. Even the vehicle’s software is industry leading. The motor controller can be tuned via the Stromer app, the transmission shifting is electronic, the rear lights shine extra bright when braking, there’s a proximity smartphone bluetooth key, and there’s several anti-theft location tracking features. Even the force sensitive touch screen used to display ride info, GPS, etc. is elegant and sleek. While these software features can be found to varying degrees on less expensive tech-forward D2C ebikes (i.e. VanMoof and Cowboy), they’re not as well implemented as they are on the ST5. This listing comes with a rear rack and its ownership can be transferred with Stromer. While purchasing a $10K ebike is undoubtedly a hard financial decision to justify, this listing for an ST5 with a mileage of only 437mi selling for ~50% of its MSRP is a compelling alternative. Listing can be found here.
The Himiway Big Dog is a moped-like class-2/class-3 utility or compact cargo bike. Its powertrain features an 86Nm rear hub motor and a 960Wh battery pack that is rated for 1K cycles before it degrades to 80% of its original capacity. The motor controller uses a cadence sensor that has a fair amount of lag when determining pedal assistance, so the vehicle is best ridden using its throttle with occasional pedaling when you’re already moving at speed. Himiway used to offer a 30+ mph off-road mode, but has recently limited the speed of the vehicle to ~25mph for safety reasons. In my experience, even those that own an ebike capable of going 28+ mph are rarely going at top speed and are really only looking for speeds slightly faster than 20mph. The Big Dog has both a front suspension fork and 20” by 4” fat tires to make it soft and agile to ride, and its integrated rear rack and center kick stand make it easier to use as a cargo hauler. At a weight of 79lbs, the Big Dog is hefty and harder to maneuver than most other cargo bikes. However, the 6061 aluminum frame feels extremely solid and gives the vehicle an impressive 400lbs payload capacity. This listing is assembled but brand new and has only been ridden for initial test rides. Listing can be found here.
The Ride1Up Cafe Cruiser is a versatile high-performance class-2/class-3 utility cruiser that combines the best of both a cruiser and a compact cargo bike. In addition to all of the classic cruiser finishings (i.e. a plush wide seat, swept-back handlebars, and a stepthru frame), the Cafe Cruiser also features a 150lbs payload-capacity rear rack that is built into the frame and acts as the perfect platform for cargo or a second adult passenger. In fact, Ride1Up even offers a $125 Passenger Kit which includes a quick-release rear seat, wheel covers, and foot pegs. The Cafe Cruiser’s powertrain features a 60Nm Bafang geared rear hub motor and a 720Wh battery pack. To further improve the Cafe Cruiser's rideability, the vehicle even has hydraulic disc brakes, a front suspension fork, and fat 3” wide tires. As with all of Ride1Up’s vehicles, the Cafe Cruiser is an excellent vehicle package that combines comfort and practicality. This listing is brand new in its original packaging yet is listed for ~$400 less than MSRP. Listing can be found here.
The Pedal Electric AWD III is a high-power class-2/class-3 scrambler. Its monstrous powertrain features two 90Nm Bafang hub motors and a high-voltage 1008Wh battery pack (capable of fast charging), which is combined with a dual suspension setup to make the AWD III exceptionally potent for everything from steep urban streets to off-road trails. In fact, to take advantage of the strong powertrain, the AWD III even comes with an extra long seat and rear foot pegs for a second adult passenger. While its speed is capped at 20mph out of the box, the AWD III has an off-road mode that allows it to hit ~32mph. Lastly, the AWD III has a range of practical accessories that are fast becoming standard amongst D2C ebikes, including a rear brake light, turn indicators, and secure locks for both the steering stem and the battery pack. High-speed scramblers have become a controversial topic since they can be dangerous when ridden alongside slower bikes on bike lanes. Particularly for models like the AWD III that have extra large motors or battery packs, the 28+ mph speeds and heavy weights pose significant safety concerns. However, when these vehicles are ridden on streets alongside cars, I think the high-power motors are actually a compelling safety feature because they allow riders to keep up with traffic, even if they’re hauling cargo or a second passenger. Calling these types of vehicles class-3 ebikes places them in a confusing gray area, and there needs to be greater clarification around the regulatory requirements and classifications for vehicles of this speed. This listing was purchased ~16 months ago and has a mileage of 300mi. 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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