Tag Archives: Ebikes

The eBike Market of Old

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More than three years ago, I went shopping for a new eBike. This was before this blog even existed. My desire was simple; I wanted something heavy duty that could go long distances. I wanted to be able to go places most other foreigners couldn’t as an effort to learn all I could about Changzhou. Part of my comparative shopping process brought me to a massive eBike market on Zhongwu Dadao. The above grainy cell phone pic was from that time.

Eventually, I did buy the powerful bike I wanted. Only, I didn’t get it there. I got three solid years out of that vehicle. In the end, it started falling apart. Besides, the city government was also about to change regulations and enforcement. Larger bikes were basically going to become illegal. This shift has likely had a profound impact on businesses that sell what was essentially electric motorcycles. I can only guess, because recently, I returned to that massive market. It’s a ghost of what it once was.

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What used to be a thriving place that sold electric bikes of all shapes and sizes is now desolate and empty. Three years ago, all of these store fronts were open.

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One could argue that regulations and policies could have had a shaping influence, but it’s quite possible that this sort of death of a place didn’t happen overnight. It seems other markets have been shrinking in size. The digital plaza near Jiuzhou New World Mall seems to have gone out of business the last time I went there. The cellphone markets on Youdian Road downtown are half empty. Even Computer City isn’t quite what it was a few years ago. Given the city’s continuing growth at a breakneck speed, one can’t argue that this is a sign of a bad economy. Still, it is an indication of a change in consumer buying habits.

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As for eBikes, the current shift in regulations and enforcement does mean one thing. The demand for super bikes clearly isn’t what it was a few years ago, and this old market is now — as I mentioned earlier — a ghost from the past.

The Value of Picking a Good Ebike Shop

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Where I bought my current bike in Wujin. Their mechanics know some English — enough to communicate issues and concerns.

There are definite benefits of buying a used eBike from a departing expat, but there is also reasons to buy something brand new. Those reasons can be saved for another time. If you are new to Changzhou, and you are considering an electric scooter, figuring out where to buy it is important.

You shouldn’t buy such vehicles from a supermarket like Auchan or RT Mart. A colleague at an old school did that, and he ended up paying way too much for something mediocre. However, there is an even more important reason. Every time he had a tire or mechanical issue, he complained to me about not knowing where to take it service. I refrained from telling him “I told you so” several times.

Buying from a specialized shop leads to building a relationship with their mechanics. They get to know your bike specifically and the issues they have worked on in the past.  And if the issues are minor, they will sometimes not even charge you for service. For example, I bought my current ride in Wujin’s College Town. On several occasions, I have returned their with an issue, and the repair has been free of charge. Not once have the charged me for labour and time spent. Ever since I moved to Xinbei, going to other shops for minor upkeep has lead to some sort of bill, even when small.

Window Shopping at a Tianning eBike Market

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People usually say you always fondly remember your first car. The same could be said for China and your first electronic vehicle. The new sense of freedom is immeasurable — especially when you are no longer sweating to death on a crowded BRT bus during summer. The other thing revolves around not having to buy gas. It’s a big deal if you’re an American and you’re used to having to budget for such things.

My first eBike was a 60 volt scooter. It largely got me where I wanted to go, but it the more I got to know the city, the more limiting this bike became. If I was going slowly, I could get from Wujin’s college town to Xinbei and back. However, the battery would be dead after the return trip. Essentially, I could only go 30 kilometers before I had to turn around.  After awhile, that became really limiting, and I started to pondering getting a new ride.

At first, I thought seriously about getting a motorcycle — even if were to burn a fossil fuel. However, the more I asked around, the more of a pain they sounded. Getting a motorcycle license is not exactly easy, they bikes are not cheap, and they are forbidden in certain parts of the city. A motorcycle can easily get impounded if you are in the wrong part of Changzhou at the wrong time of day.

This became a huge concern, especially since I actively thought about leaving Wujin for a job in Xinbei. Eventually, I gave up on motorcycles completely. I realized that if just bought an electric motorbike and paid for extra batteries, I could go the longer distrances I desperately wanted.  Good decision. I also took a job in Xinbei anyway, and a motorbike would have been out of the question.

Of course, this meant paying a lot of extra money than your standard to-the-store-and-back set of wheels. Such things are never bought on impulse, and usually you should have a Chinese friend in tow. However, I wasn’t sure as to what I actually wanted. I did a lot of window shopping, and I used the experience to practice asking questions in Chinese.

Of course, there are plenty of places to look for these vehicles. One of them is in Tianning, right over the bridge from Wujin’s Injoy Mall. The Auchan supermarket is also nearby. It’s a massive market of intersecting roads, and nearly everything can be bought here from bike models to parts and accessories. They even had plenty of specialty bikes with custom designs and decorations. I was specifically looking for 72 volt rides where extra batteries could easily be added.

In the end, I bought my second eBike for someplace other than here.  I opted for a smaller shop near my old employer in college town. Turns out, they had exactly the thing that I was looking for. However, if you are looking for buy a new ride, this huge market would be a good place to start — especially if you live in Hutang. It’s the same B1 stop as Auchan.

I would love to see a guy justify this purchase to his girlfriend or mother.
I would love to see a guy justify this purchase to his girlfriend or mother.

Solving an eBike Issue

At Dalin Temple
At Dalin Temple

I was staring at a statue of a guy ripping off his face, and I was trying not to make a connection to old Clive Barker novels and movies. After all, I was a Dalin Temple in Wujin’s northeastern arm, and the cosmologies of Buddhism and Hellraiser are not exactly the same.  Dalin has a building filled with colorful statues, and I really haven’t figured out what the story is there yet. I just know it was a more playful scene than the bloody recreation of Buddhist purgatory 地狱 I have seen at another temple.

Once I finished my visit, I went outside and got on my eBike. It was time to go home, as I had classes to teach in two hours. I put my key into the ignition, and as I turned the throttle to leave, something snapped. Loudly. My front brake stopped working. When I looked at my wheel, it dangled on a cable.

To say this was a problem would be an understatement. This part of Wujin was 30 kilometers away Hohai University and Xinbei. For a little perspective, Hutang and the parts of Wujin where expats live was even farther. I thought of calling a Chinese friend, but since I am incredibly stubborn and hardheaded, I didn’t want to do that. I could just lock the bike, leave it for another day, and try and find a taxi, but the cheapskate in me would have none of that.  I realized the bike could still be ridden. The back brake still functioned.  So, I rode the thirty kilometers back — but at snail speed. Each time I turned, the flopping brake either smacked against the wheel and dragged against the concrete.

The snapped brake. Took this picture to show a mechanic.
The snapped brake. Took this picture to show a mechanic.

Once home, I tried to figure out replacements. My go-to mechanic works in Wujin, where I bought the bike when I lived the College City area. Obviously, I didn’t want to ride another 30 kilometers and damage the thing even further.  Eventually, I realized that Lippo Plaza had eBike shops. This is the shopping center directly across the street from Wanda. This also means walking distance from my job and apartment.

Unfortunately, NKNY has no presence there. I checked Baidu Maps, and I realized NKNY shops were nowhere around this part of Changzhou. So, I walked from shop to shop, looking to see if any of them sold what were, essentially, heavy electronic motorcycles. Once I did,  I looked at all of their brakes to see if any of them shared the exact same brand and part number as mine. Sure enough, the LVNeng one did.

Thankfully, the guy running the place there offered a lot of help — without knowing a single word in English. Once you have a good translation app, transacting comes easier. Only, that requires both you and the shopkeeper knowing how to use such apps. More recently, I had speed problems and tried using an NKNY shop. That older mechanic didn’t even have a smartphone and communicating bike problems became all the more difficult. So, lesson learned. Next issue, I’m going back to the LVNeng guy first.

LVNeng across from Wanda Plaza
LVNeng across from Wanda Plaza