Why Buying a Cheap Big-Box Store eBike Might Be A Good Idea
Are you looking for an eBike to commute? Have you been on the fence about whether or not it would be worth it to spend more money on a higher-quality eBike or save your money and buy a budget bike instead? If so, then this blog post is for you!
We are going to talk about why buying a cheap big-box store eBike might be a good idea for you, compare 4 budget eBikes that might be right for you and explore what determines the price of eBikes. You don’t have to break the bank if you want a decent commuter bike.
Five reasons why buying a cheap big-box store eBike might be right for you!
The price is affordable for YOU
eBikes are a perfect vehicle for commuting, exploring and getting some exercise. But they tend to be expensive. However, you don’t have to spend thousands to get an eBike with fancy components and features you don’t need just to ride around the city.
If money is tight then consider buying the best budget eBike you can afford from one of your local big-box stores.
You just want to pootle around the park or the local area
You’re not looking to do cycle marathons or extreme mountain biking, you just want a cheapish runaround to cycle to work or college, cycle around the block, do a few errands, hang out in the park with friends and you need or want a little bit of power to help you do that.
If that’s the case then you don’t need anything really special. A 250 or 350 watt motor may be all the oomph you need.
It’s still just about possible to get away with something around the $500 to start out with. But you do get what you pay for.
You want to dip your toe in the water first before making a huge financial commitment.
Rather than spending big money on your first eBike, maybe you want to see if eBikes are right for you.
It can be a tough market when it comes to finding the right bike, – especially nowadays with the chronic worldwide shortages – so before taking the plunge and investing a couple of grand on a more expensive model why not just grab something cheap from a big-box store?
You want a cheap eBike as a project
If you’re a hands-on person then upgrading a budget eBike’s componentry over a period of time can be a worthwhile project.
Replacing various bike components such as the drivetrain, the gears, brakes, tires, etc can be a fun hobby and can prolong the life of the bike itself. Improving comfort factors like the saddle or handlebars or simply the handgrips can also help in increasing your enjoyment of riding the eBike.
A cheap eBike is an ideal starting point for someone with a “can do” attitude.
You want a backup eBike
You already own one or even more specialist eBikes for specific activities like mountain biking, gravel riding or long distance tours and you want a budget eBike for “closer to home” run of the mill activities like going to the shops or commuting to work or college.
So let’s have a look at what kind of big-box store eBike you can get for under $1,000.
Four Budget eBikes Worth Considering – Comparison Table
What determines the price of an eBike?
Broadly speaking there are three key areas that determine the price of an eBike
i) The bike frame materials ii) The bike components. iii) The electric side of things – size and/or power of the battery and motor
A bike frame made from titanium or carbon fibre will be lighter and exceedingly more expensive than a bike made from aluminium or steel.
A steel frame is the heaviest of the available materials and as such will generally always be the cheaper option. Most affordable eBikes are made up of aluminium frames with some manufacturers opting for the cheaper steel to make the bike even more financially accessible.
The forks on budget eBikes are typically steel or aluminium whereas more expensive models can be carbon fibre.
An eBike with unbranded or entry level branded components such as Shimano or SRAM derailleurs, shifters etc will be much cheaper than branded top of the range components.
An entry level Shimano derailleur will set you back around $25, whereas a top of the range could be as much as $700 – close to the price of a budget eBike!!
The same goes for shifters – an off-brand shifter may only cost $15 while named brands can cost upwards of $100 and are deemed better quality.
The braking systems on budget eBikes are more likely to be V-brakes or other type of rim brake whereas more expensive eBikes will have disc brakes.
Disc brakes offer greater stopping power owing to their mechanical advantage, increased braking surface area, and less vulnerable calipers.
Hydraulic disc brakes will generally be found on expensive top of the range models, whereas mechanical disc brakes will be found on more mid-range eBikes.
Some budget eBikes will offer mechanical disc brakes just on one wheel while offering some type of rim brake on the other as a compromise.
Included accessories will also have a bearing on the overall price of an eBike. Such items include LCD/LED display units, integrated front lights, bells or horns, mudguards/fenders and bike racks etc. Budget eBikes may include some or indeed none of these.
The three main electrical components that make a bicycle an eBike are the motor, the battery and pedal assist system or throttle.
The motor: The smallest motor comes in at 250 watts. The largest motor available now exceeds 1500 watts. (NB This doesn’t necessarily mean that 1500+ watts is street legal.)
The greater the number of watts the more powerful the motor is and…. the more expensive. Budget eBikes tend to come with 250 or 350 watts rear hub motors which are adequate for general day to day riding.
There are two main types of motors – the hub motor fixed in the middle of the rear or front wheel and the mid-drive motor fixed around the crankshaft and pedals. eBikes with hub motors are generally cheaper than those with mid-drive. And front hub motors tend to be cheaper than rear hub motors.
The battery: This is measured in watt hours for comparative purposes.
One of the first questions generally asked about a battery or an eBike is “how far will the battery take me” ie what is it’s range or “how long will the battery last before needing it to be recharged?” What we need to be aware of is that manufacturers and retailers stated range of their batteries are based on ideal conditions.
In the real world a rider’s size, the terrain that is ridden, the type of riding, the weather conditions all have a huge effect on how long and how far an eBike can travel on one charge. Take two people of completely different sizes and weights, riding the same bike on the same route for the same amount of time – the battery results will be completely different.
It is generally accepted that the best way to compare power and range of different batteries is by looking at watt hours (Wh).
Watt hours are calculated by multiplying the battery volts with the amp hours(Ah) eg 36volt x 10Ah gives you 360 watt hours compared to a 48v battery with 16Ah which gives a very respectable 768Wh
The higher the Watt hours the longer the battery will last before needing to be recharged. Also the more expensive it is to buy.
The higher the number of amp hours the greater the range of the eBike and the more expensive it is.
Most budget eBikes will use 36volt batteries with Ah ranging between 8Ah and 12Ah giving between 288Wh and 432Wh
The quality of the motors and batteries are generally consistent across the range of eBikes. However you will generally pay more for brands such as Bosch or Yamaha motors and Panasonic or Samsung batteries.
Pedal Assist System (PAS): These will give between 3 and 5 levels of assistance while you pedal. Level 1 being the least help and the top level being the easiest level which is good for hill-climbing. All eBikes – budget, mid-range and top-of-the range will offer either a PAS and/or throttle only setup.
Nakto Skylark/Fashion Folding eBike
Battery:360Wh Estimated range: 25 miles Motor: 350 watt rear hub Gearing: single speed Wheel: 20″
The Nakto Skylark Folding eBike is the ideal way to take your daily ride! With a strong aluminium frame and up to 250 lbs. carrying capacity, the Nakto has everything you need for commuting around town or pedaling over the countryside on an outdoor adventure. With it’s single gearing, 3 levels of pedal assist and throttle, anybody can ride this with ease. It comes with a full complement of accessories including a removable rear rack that makes it easy to carry all your bags on your commute, front and rear lights and even a horn. The telescopic seat and handlebars allow for quick adjustments to make your ride more comfortable.
When not in use, it folds down to a compact size making it perfect for storing in your trunk, under the desk or in a corner of the room! It’s portability also makes it easy to carry on and off public transport.
Growl VA630 Mountain Bike Style eBike
Battery:480Wh Estimated range: 50 miles Motor: 500 watt rear hub Gearing: 21 speed Wheel: 26″
The Growl has a cool mountain bike look. With its aluminum alloy frame, 21 gears and front suspension this is one sleek machine that will see you through any light trail effortlessly. The upright positioning of the handlebars makes it easy to navigate those tricky bends.
Reaching up to 50 miles on a single charge the Growl is also great for daily commuting. The large LCD screen helps you to monitor your mileage and battery usage so that you can gauge how much juice you have left to return home from your ride.
Kemanner 26 inch Electric Mountain Bike Style
Battery288Wh Estimated range: 25 miles Motor: 250 watt rear hub Gearing: 21 speed Wheel: 26″ PAS: 3 levels plus throttle
The Kemanner 26 inch Electric Mountain Bike is a great bike for commuting and leisure. It features a 250W motor and Shimano 21-Speed gear, which can help you climb up any hill easily. We wouldn’t recommend this for serious mountain biking though. The bike also has a high strength front suspension fork to make your ride more comfortable so that nothing stops you from getting out on those light trails! The powerful LED headlight will give enough light at night or early morning.
Swifty Electric Mountain Bike
Battery:345Wh Estimated range: 30 miles Motor: 250 watt rear hub Gearing: 7 speed Wheel: 27.5″ PAS: 3 levels + walking mode
The Swifty mountain bike is sleek, sophisticated and light weight. With a Panasonic 36V 9.6AH Lithium ion battery, not only is this lightweight battery quiet and environmentally friendly but it also gives an impressive average range of 30 miles on one full charge. No need to worry about those long journeys to work or the shops for any essentials. The high quality componentry with lightweight alloy frame ensures all journeys are smooth and uneventful. Very popular in the UK. Read reviews here
So the combination of the eBike frame, components and the electrical system is what determines the price of any eBike. So long as we have realistic expectations, a cheap big-box store eBike is a viable option.
Common reasons for getting a budget eBike are:
- The price fits your budget
- You want a basic eBike for straightforward commuting or leisure rides
- The eBike isn’t going to be used for extreme activities
- You’re a DIYer who wants to upgrade the bike as a project
Depending on your specific needs, budget eBikes can be just as good, if not better than their more expensive counterparts.
Whatever eBike you eventually buy, you may need to factor in the cost of a good eBike specific helmet
Last update on 2023-12-01 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API