I just bought a super-cheap electric bike from China. It was a bad idea

It’s no secret that most electric bikes come from China. Sure, there are high-quality e-bikes built in Europe and even a few in the US. But not the ones with the price tags that make you go, “Honey, how can we afford not to?!” And that’s exactly the story of my latest weird little e-bike purchase. Say hello to the Mihogo Mini, an ultra-low-cost electric bike direct from China.

If you weren’t nervous about this yet, wait until you hear this. Not only is this a super-cheap US $397 electric bike, but I didn’t even buy it outright. Yesterday I just “purchased” it on Indiegogo, a crowdfunding platform. That means I didn’t legally buy it, but rather I “backed” the campaign. Now it’s the responsibility of this mysterious Mihogo company to hopefully send me the bike, but they’re under no legal obligation to do so. Welcome to crowdfunding!

A quick disclaimer: This is of course not a sponsored article of any kind – I wouldn’t do that. I don’t know Mihogo or anyone at this company, I’ve never heard of them before I found the Indiegogo campaign, and I’ve never contacted them or talked to anyone there. They probably don’t know I exist, other than that I’m now on a list of people they owe an e-bike to. So in an effort to head off the ignorant comments claiming these are paid articles or something, please understand that this is the opposite situation. I merely had a bad idea to send them my money and see what happens, that’s all. And I figured it might be interesting for anyone who doesn’t want to take that risk themself to follow along with me.

Okay, disclaimer out of the way. Let’s get into this.

mihogo

So here’s what the Mihogo Mini appears to be. Based on the Indiegogo page and the spec sheet, it looks like I’m on the list to maybe eventually receive a small-format folding e-bike that rocks teeny-tiny 12×2.125″ tires, has a 350W hub motor in the rear wheel, and touts a top speed of 22 mph (35 km/h). I assume that top speed is measured downhill.

The tiny e-bike gets powered by a surprisingly high-capacity 48V 16Ah battery (with claimed Panasonic cells). The 768Wh capacity battery is said to be capable of providing a range of 70-100 km (43-62 miles), though I fully expect that to be an overestimate.

The total weight is listed at 19.5 kg (43 lb.), and it claims a ridiculously high weight capacity of up to 200 kg (440 lb). I expect that if I loaded it up with that much weight, it would break. Not the first time. Probably not the second time. But I don’t think it would last very long. Much more expensive and nicely designed e-bikes have broken in half before, and there’s no way a $397 e-bike can claim to be as strong as a Tern e-bike that basically had to create new tests to find its load limit. For it’s part, Mihogo tries to back up its weight capacity claims with a weirdly upbeat video showing off some FEA analysis and a pile of frames as well as what appear to be pre-built bikes. But honestly, who even knows when you get into a grab like this?

The bike looks pretty small, and it is. They say it is “optimized for riders between 150-190 cm tall,” which in screeching eagle freedom units translates to 4’11” to 6’2″. I’d love to see someone on the upper end of that range try to sit on this bike. Personally, I’m conveniently in the middle of that range at exactly 170 cm (5’7″), so I think I can make it work.

When it comes to the price, to be honest I didn’t pay US $397 for this. I must have a taste for the finer things in life, because I sprung for the Mihogo Mini Pro – an upgraded version priced at US $447.

From what I can tell, the only hardware upgrades on the Pro version are a color screen and a slightly brighter headlight that appears to be powered from the main battery pack on the bike instead of from its own internal battery that needs recharging.

Both of those are nice upgrades, but not really worth US $50. If I’m being truthful, I paid one crisp President Grant extra because I wanted it to be yellow. The “cheap” version for US $397 only comes in gray or red. The “pro” version comes in both of those colors as well as purple, yellow, and blue.

Don’t judge me – if you drive a Tesla and it’s not the base model color then you did it too.

mihogo bike colors

I’m not expecting the e-bike to be amazing by any stretch of the imagination, so I’d at least like it to look good. And that yellow color, it really pops.

If you know anything about me, you’ll know two things: I have a penchant for buying weird EVs from China (so also don’t think this is in any way anti-China; nearly all my e-bikes came from China and the country can and does build awesome stuff), and I also like brightly colored bikes.

I also think that brightly colored bikes are an extra safety feature, making riders more visible to cars. And when you’re riding an e-bike built by the lowest bidder, you’ll take any extra safety points you can get.

At this point, you’re probably wondering why I even wanted this thing. Even though I don’t expect the bike to be a miracle of engineering, I still like the design enough to risk US $447 on it.

The split frame looks like a cool way to carry things between your knees (I should have sprung for the US $39 frame bag).

The tiny suspension fork should add a small amount of comfort.

The folding handlebars will make it easy to stash in a closet or under a table in my small apartment.

The big battery will offer even more range than most leading e-bikes found in the US these days.

Basically, despite its admittedly odd design, it’s got several features that actually sound promising.

mihogo

And the little bike even claims to come with EN15194 safety certification from TUV Rheinland. That means that among other things, it conforms to certain battery safety standards.

That certification seems dubious to me though because the speed and power limits, not to mention the inclusion of a throttle, would normally preclude that European certification. Perhaps they have a second model for US-based customers.

But mostly, I’m just here for the adventure. It looks like a fun, weird little e-bike for cruising around the city. Something that can get you around at reasonably fast 22 mph speeds, has pedals in case you run out of battery mid-trip, and doesn’t break the bank.

So I hope I actually get the bike in the end. But I know this is a risk, and so I’m treating it like an adventure.

It’s not my first Indiegogo purchase. I’ve actually made three purchases on the platform in the past. The first was for a weird little Xiaomi e-bike. It cost me US $261 and it showed up several months later. It was awesome and I actually enjoyed using it until I sold it when I moved. The next was an even weirder tiny electric scooter. I paid US $544 for it and it was also awesome. I still have it, and I’ve been meaning to do a whole other video about it.

My third purchase didn’t go nearly as well. I got too cocky from my first two purchases and bought a $2,000 electric motorbike from BlackTea Motorbikes. In the end, the company #%$!ed me royally. They held my money for nearly three years while presenting delays as being pandemic-induced (fair enough) but then ultimately decided they just wouldn’t ship any of the bikes ordered by North American customers since they couldn’t find a way to ship them cost effectively. Meanwhile, Europeans got their bikes.

They did refund my money, admirably enough. They also refunded it quite quickly after the announcement. But I have a sneaky suspicion that it’s because I’m an e-bike journalist and they didn’t want me on their bad side. Let see how well that works out for them.

Notice the disclaimer making sure I understand that if I get bent over an e-bike by this company, it’s on me

Anyway, my point is that I’ve bought from Indiegogo before and I’m used to the risk. I’m in this for the experience as much as for the bike. It’s an exciting thrill ride before my real ride ever shows up. For example, the campaign is currently at just over US $58,000 raised. They say if we get to US $70,000 we’ll all get a free frame bag (the one I should have added for US $39 during checkout).

Which is actually my real goal here. If I convince enough of you to join me, I’ll get that free bag.

Just kidding. Please don’t buy this bike. Seriously. If you’re reading this and you’re like, “Hmmm, I have a spare $397 burning a hole in my pocket…” then please put your phone down, splash some water on your face, and go for a walk outside. I don’t want anyone reading this right now to do what I’m doing here. It’s not a good idea. I’m not even linking to the page. I can’t stop you from finding it on your own, but I’m not going to make it any easier for someone to risk their money.

This very well may end with me losing my US $447 and never getting a bike. People have been screwed out of much more on Indiegogo. Please don’t be dumb like me. I’ve never heard of this e-bike company before, I have absolutely zero trust in them and you shouldn’t either. A decent chunk of why I’m even doing this is for a learning experience so that others don’t have to. If it works, you can enjoy the ride with me. If it doesn’t, it’s a small price to pay to warn others of the pitfalls of random fly-by-night Indiegogo e-bikes.

Lastly, while I’m giving you the straight talk here, listen to this doozy. It’s been a while since my last Indiegogo purchase, and I now see they’ve added something called an “Indiegogo Tip.” They suggested I add $50 as a tip, just for fun, I guess. Not to the Mihogo bike company, mind you, but rather to the Indiegogo platform itself.

Clicking through the “wtf?” question mark next to the tip selector brings you to a page that explains, “When you add a tip on to your transaction, you are supporting Indiegogo directly and furthering our mission to bring ideas to life through the power of community.”

Oh help me, Rhonda.

You Indiegogo execs can go right ahead and stub your little toe hard into a coffee table. You already charge these companies 5% of the funding they receive as the cost to use your platform. You made $13 million last year. What are your expenses? Website hosting and a subscription to an offshore customer service hotline? I’m not helping your C-level team each buy another boat. I tip my barber. I tip my delivery rider who brings me my food order. If it’s raining, I tip him or her exorbitantly. But you’re not getting a tip for checking emails from your yacht.

Fortunately, you can reset the Indiegogo tip to $0 by clicking “other amount,” but they don’t make it very clear at first that you can do that.

Okay, so here we are. I’m in for US $447 and supposedly have a yellow Mihogo Mini Pro with my name on it.

The estimated delivery is October 2023. I can already tell you that won’t happen. They’ll be late, if they deliver at all. In fact, if a yellow Mihogo shows up at my door before the end of October, I’ll ride it down the boardwalk wearing nothing but a frilly tutu.

As confident as I am that they won’t have my bike to me by their self-imposed timeline, I do have at least a decently good feeling that my bike will show up at some point. Sure, I can be cynical. But sometimes in life you just have to put in a little faith. If not, then what are we all even doing here?

If there is one thing you can be sure of, it’s that I’ll be back to let you all know how this saga plays out. Feel free to place your bets in the comment section below. Here we go!

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