Evelo: a series of unfortunate events

Evelo Orion E-bike

My Evelo Orion electric bike recently passed 1500 miles on the odometer. If things had gone according to plan, I would’ve hit this milestone in just over two months of commuting to work. Simple math shows that a mere 5 days of riding would clock in at 185 miles. I originally purchased this bike in late September 2015. So why am I reaching 1.5k miles 6 months later?

To answer that question we need to rewind to late October. After a crazy two weeks of international travel and moving, we finally settled into a routine. It was a cold, rainy autumn day and I had a team meeting at 8:30AM. I was 10 miles into my commute, slogging up a soggy Maryland hill when my right pedal started to wiggle. Pulling over, I determined that the entire right crank-arm was a few turns from falling off. With 8.5 miles ahead of me to work and a 2 mile walk to the metro, I was in quite a pickle. Thankfully, a co-worker was nearby, on his way into the office and had his work van which could house my monstrosity of a bike (this will become an issue again). I made it to my meeting, but now had a serious bike issue on my hands.

I borrowed a work truck to get the bike to the shop where they took a look, assuring me that that crank-arms can come loose from time to time. He advised that I routinely tighten it before it gets loose and sent me on my way.

The next day, less than 2 miles into my commute, the crank arm came loose again. Thankfully the return walk home was much more feasible. The bike shop took a look: The crank arm’s square bolt hole was rounded off. In the moment we chalked it up to poor workmanship and replaced the crank arm. Evelo picked up the tab and off I went. At this point, through the course of repairs and needing to lug my bike to the shop, I was approaching December without a single full week of riding under my belt.

Good crank-arm on top. Rounded out/damaged one on the bottom.

Good crank-arm on top. Rounded out/damaged one on the bottom.

I made it to work one more time. On the way home, at the halfway mark, the right crank arm came loose. This time I didn’t have a coworker to pick me up. The Metro was over 3 miles away and wouldn’t allow bikes until 7PM (it was close to 4PM). I had 10 miles to home. Uber XL was my only option. Turns out the Orion eBike will just barely fit in the back of a Suburban SUV with the seats down. That ride home clocked in at $81! That’s a pretty expensive emergency ride home. Thankfully again, Evelo picked up the tab.

John @ Evelo decided it was time to replace the whole spool. Something about the tolerances and machinery of the spool were stripping crank arms left and right. He shipped me a new spool and new crank arms. According to John, replacing a the spool is pretty complicated, akin to changing the transmission on a car. Capital Hill Bikes had recently completed another spool replacement for Evelo. John wanted them to do mine as well. So I motored down to the bike shop in Capital hill (and yes, I really did motor – cranked the electric throttle for 3 miles, feeling like a tool the whole way). The repairs were relatively quick, taking less than an afternoon. I biked home thinking my troubles were finally behind me.

Nope. On my first post-repair bike commute, as I entered the bermuda triangle of bike commutes (Somewhere between Rockville pike and Tuckerman road. This is the half-way of my commute and almost all of the breakdowns have occurred in this 2 mile stretch), my pedal fell off. Upon closer inspection, Evelo bikes have right and left side specific pedals. My bike-shop bro (and he was a bro, let me tell you) had installed the pedals in reverse, causing my one pedal to thread off. This time the breakdown occurred within a mile of the metro, so I was able to motor to Grosvener-Strathmore and weasel my way onto a rush hour train with my bike. There it sat at work until I could get the right tools to remove the pedals and reinstall.

Or not. It turns out that Bikeshop Bro stripped the threads of the crank arms when installing the pedals incorrectly. Evelo ships me new pedals and new crank arms. I take them to the local bike shop to install.

Before I can test ride the bike, we get the mother of all storms, Snowzilla 2016. I wait a few more weeks for the snow to thaw and the bike paths to become navigable (Hey Maryland, Bike paths need plowing too!).

I commute to work, and *holds breath* wait for it, NOTHING BREAKS!

That was 2 month ago. I waited to write this post. I was terrified of jinxing something. But now, with 1,500 miles on the odometer, I think I’ve past the hurdle.

Believe it or not, I would recommend Evelo. Despite the mechanical problems, many of the mistakes and hiccups were attributable to local bike-shops screw ups. The whole time Evelo shipped me new parts, paid my bike-shop bills and even covered my $80 UberXL trip.

Later this month I’ll write an in-depth review of the bike itself.

Oh yeah, one more thing did break, but it didn’t have a bearing on the operation of the bike. The plug to seal the charging port broke pretty much immediately. Electrical tape resolved it easily enough: