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Thread: Build, or buy?

              
   
   
  1. #1
    teddillard
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    Build, or buy?

    It seems like a good question. Should you build your own, or buy one of the new production bikes?

    It's always a question that has come up occasionally here, even back in the ElMoto v1 days when you really didn't have much to choose from, but now that you have good choices from Zero and Brammo, and it seems they're both expanding their lines, the question becomes more important.

    I also realize we have a much bigger group now, made up of a lot of people from some very diverse backgrounds and interests in electric motorcycling, not just building them.

    The discussion started on Travis' thread and I'm beginning to think it's worth revisiting. So I'm starting it here.

    Thoughts? Are you a builder, or a buyer? Or both? Why? Do you feel like the quality is there, in a commercial bike? Can you compare a garage build to an off-the-shelf product? How about what Hollywood Electrics is doing - offering customizations of stock bikes? Suppose you had unlimited time and money, would you build a Lightning or buy one from, well, Lightning? (assuming that's what you'd consider a dream bike). As much as I love working on my bike, I fantasize about that when I'm buying lottery tickets.

    I've been pretty strident about my opinions, so I'll spare you and won't rehash them here... suffice to say I prefer the terms "hand-made custom" to most any other way of describing my stuff...
    Last edited by teddillard; 30 September 2013 at 0900.

  2. #2
    Senior Member Skeezmour's Avatar
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    I'm 100% a fan of both. I have built many EV's from scratch. (my job) and now work to bring custom production electric motorcycles to market. If I won the lottery (think big) I would probably buy a Brammo, BRD, Lightning and a Zero. Sad that would still be less bikes then I have had at one time.

    I think the option to build your own with parts from production EV's is a SWEET option. Or even to hod rod or customize a factory electric.

    My $.02

  3. #3
    Senior Member mcf12's Avatar
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    Build, or buy?

    Agreed with Skeez. I am loving current setup here. I have a zero which is a pretty reliable daily driver that's fun and relatively cheap. Stripped down xu is reliable, light $6k city commuter bike after tax credits.

    I am also on my second build. A "hand-made custom" conversion of a Suzuki single cylinder 650. Build here: http://www.elmoto.net/showthread.php?t=2312

    I really like getting to take my time on the build and still know I can ride electric without always rushing to get my "custom" road worthy after every session.

  4. #4
    Moderator Nuts & Volts's Avatar
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    I'd build it. Researching parts and planning things out is too much fun. I also always have something I want to do better. That way I'll end up with a "new" bike every year or so. If I buy a Empulse (I prefer them over Zero if I had the money) I would want to have it for 5 years before getting a new one. I also would want the support I get with a production bike, but if I go modding it then I'll void most warranties haha. 2-5 years from now I'll probably have a production bike too so that when I make another upgrade to my build I still have something to ride. And a production bike will probably stand up more to riding in inclement weather. Close to freezing or rain are a no-no for the quality/level of build my R6 is at. I hate thinking I don't have the options to ride those days.
    Whats under my tank may shock you!!! R6 Build, Blog/, [/URL] OSU Current webpage

  5. #5
    Electric Warrior CaptainKlapton's Avatar
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    Very timely questions.
    I am most certainly a builder, I tend to be much more comfortable with and proud of the things which I know the ins and outs of. For me, this comes form dismantling, modifying, designing and finally reassembly. Though the offerings from Zero and Brammo are quite good, I would miss the process of the build, highs and lows. But if I had the money, it is highly likely that I would buy one of the production bikes. It most certainly would not be left stock, but I could learn a lot form seeing/riding/modifying a pre-assembled bike.

    On the other hand, I fully understand the want to simply purchase a machine and ride it, as I was once in that school of thought.

    As for the comparison of quality, I believe it simply comes down the the tools, time and dedication available to the builder to focus on his/her bike. I believe a home built bike can compete with the production bikes in a big way(John Brittin for instance). Some things are very hard to get your hands on if you are not a company or university, but a lone builder is less likely to worry about the few extra dollars for a better part because in the production of 1 there is little to be lost by doing so.

    I think Hollywood Electrics has a good idea in customizing production bikes, it gives a nice grey area. I would consider one of those over a bog standard bike if I were buying production.

    Now if only Zero and Brammo offered kits too much liability probably...

    Just my $2/100
    "Never let schooling interfere with your education."
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  6. #6
    Empulse R #24 frodus's Avatar
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    Re: Build, or buy?

    I'd build if I had more time and i think i wanna buy now that I'm exhausted. Lol. It was fun to build and I'm sure I'll build again but for now I think this is the direction I wanna go.

    The quality of a DIY can vary wildly. My first build was welded steel and a slapped-together motor mount with lead and a golf cart motor. If I'd have finished the "upgrade" as I wanted the pack would be near OEM quality and all the parts would communicate and integrate with a dash display.... I don't think I could touch the quality of a manufactured elmoto... They have some great resources to engineer things and since they buy more the cost comes down. Even with all my custom stuff and parts and the fiberglass, custom battery boxes... I can't hold a candle to brammo or zero... And it would likely cost me more to match the performance.

    Now a custom build like an older cafe is another thing. That's more focused on custom and I don't think there's a comparison. The customization is what its all about and I think Harlan offers something that gets you the best of both worlds.
    Last edited by frodus; 22 January 2013 at 1645.
    Travis

  7. #7
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    As Ted already knows, I am a buyer. I just never picked up very much knowledge about electrical technology. I can understand things that I can see move, but electricity needs a different mind set and different education than I received. My one course of electrical physics taken 50 years ago, along with my semester of computer programming using an IBM computer with vacuum tubes, programming with FORTRAN and punch cards, just puts me into the side of if I want it, I'll have to let someone else build it. I think if you want to see electric motorcycles become more mainstream, you will need more people like me (a little knowledge is dangerous) to support this new industry with cash, while the rest of you can work on your IC to elmoto modification projects. You will no doubt learn a lot, but you really have to have the knowledge, talent and skills necessary to build your own elmoto. Most people do not have those attributes.

    I have always been kind of fascinated that this board has so many brand-name sub-forums for manufactured elmotos, yet most people who post here build their own and rarely post on the Brammo-to-Zero forums. I kind of wonder how that came to be? It appears that the site developer had both builders and buyers in mind when the elmoto board was designed. I think there is room for both types.

  8. #8
    Senior Member protomech's Avatar
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    For many here, designing and building an electric motorcycle (whether converting an existing bike or ground-up fabrication) is an end to itself. It's an awesome hobby to have for the reasons detailed above; there would be no Brammo, no Zero, no Lightning etc if this drive to design and build did not exist.

    For others, riding electric is the end goal. Until as recently as 2009 riding an electric motorcycle could be virtually defined as riding a custom creation - production motorcycles simply did not exist. Even when the first generation of production electric bikes from Brammo and Zero arrived, they had significant shortcomings: awkward appearance (YMMV), relatively slow, sub-highway top speeds, and relatively small battery packs.

    The 2012 Zeros - in my heavily biased opinion - marked the beginning of a second generation of production elmotos, with 60-80 mile ranges at realistic speeds, top speeds well in excess of highway speeds, and maintenance-free brushless motors. Brammo's Empulse landed at the tail end of 2012 with even more range, much more power, integrated J1772 charger, and the much bally-hooed six speed transmission transmission. The Zero bikes were still pretty awkward looking, and the Empulse had lost a bit of the concept's sex appeal .. but now there are viable production alternatives to a custom build.

    Production bikes also have a large advantage in terms of the resources spent on powertrain prototyping & design, reliability, and testing the bikes in numerous conditions. The round of recalls for Zero's 2012 lineup (BMS waterproofing, controller/motor encoder drift, and brake-light illumination) are ample illustration that production does not mean fault-proof, of course..

    I suspect most people have goals that lie somewhere in between. I'm curious to see if more people start modifications with a production electric design as Terry @ offthegrid has done.. particularly as used bikes show up at affordable prices.
    2006 Suzuki GS500, sold
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  9. #9
    Old EV Racer EVcycle's Avatar
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    Yes.....
    EV Ed
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  10. #10
    Senior Member Hugues's Avatar
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    I never rode a motorbike, never owned one, ICE included.
    Ok, I have a 3Kw mountain bike for the daily commute and weekend fun ride.
    Never really considered buying an electric motorbike except for 2 days last summer when my project was dragging at the bike shop. I was thinking to buy one like Brutus or Sora. But what would I do with it in the middle of winter in the garage ? Probably tear it down to parts and upgrade it LOL.

    So for me it's 90% building and 10% riding. Until I actually learn to ride, then maybe my perspective will change. But the only motorbike style that really kick my butt is the fat ass custom Harley look. And this cannot be purchased today. Wonder why , probably not enough demand for this, a little niche market I guess, a niche I would like to explore one day maybe.
    Regards from Switzerland
    My 2.5 Upgrade Thread

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