PEBL versus Elf

Give credit to the Elf for pioneering the concept of a solar-powered trike that can replace gas-guzzling cars for commuting and shopping locally.

A few years later, the PEBL was created as the Elf competitor. Last spring, however, Elf shut down their production and is currently seeking a financial rescue that may or may not come. Since hundreds of Elfs were sold over the past six years, it’s not difficult to find a used one on the Internet, often at a fraction of the $10k cost of buying a new one. The Elf started at half that price, but the cost kept rising as improvements were made and features added. Although the Elf is bigger and wider, remarkably, it weighs much less than the PEBL, which means it’s also easier to pedal. In fact, if the battery gives out, and you don’t have an outlet to plug into, or time to let the solar panel refill the battery (something that takes hours and hours), it’s not that difficult to operate the Elf on pedal power alone, something that would be far more difficult with a PEBL. My Elf also came with a variable transmission that’s far superior to the standard 8-speed transmission on the PEBL.

But on just about every other feature, the PEBL blows away the Elf, mostly due to its suspension system. The Elf works fine on flat level roads with no potholes, but the ride can be bone-jarring over bumps. The antler arms can also be difficult to wrestle over bumps. Not so with the PEBL, which is easily steered with one hand. The Elf has a more recumbent position, while riders are more upright in the PEBL. I prefer upright, but some others may prefer a more recumbent posture.

You won’t find many used PEBLs for sale, and the trike probably holds its value better, although if you are bargain hunting, it’s easy to locate a used Elf for a few thousand dollars, a great deal since many two-wheel ebikes cost over $5k. The PEBL battery is easier to charge and holds more juice. Also, the Elf has an open floor and unfinished interior, while the PEBL is fully enclosed and carpeted. The PEBL is more narrow and has a shorter turn radius, but that may also make it more susceptible to rollovers.

The PEBL is a four-season bike easily ridden through rain and snow, unlike the Elf which is designed for warmer weather. Remarkably, the price between the two was not very far apart, which accounts for the PEBL being a better value for the money, as well as a better-built bike.

As for modifications, I replaced the Elf mirrors with larger ones that folded in completely. On the PEBL, I put Batman logos over the BB logo on the front and seat. I’d urge BetterBike to explore a better logo. The Elf logo was stylized letters for Organic Transit, but many see it just as a “T” for “Tesla.” The PEBL also needed a strip of clear tape on the rear hatch hinge because it leaked rain water into the cabin.

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