You know the saying, “What you see is what you get?” That’s pretty much the case here: An e-bike or "pedal-assist" bike is a pedal bike with an integrated electric motor that adds power when you pedal. It's not like a motorcycle, moped, or motorbike, because it doesn't have a throttle or engine. Think of it like when you get the rocket boost in Mario Kart (except it lasts for more than three seconds).
I tested the Sduro 8.0 towards the end of last year (there's a new range out for 2018) and was surprised by its nimbleness. You expect e-bikes to be less maneuverable than their acoustic predecessors, but, pelting down some bespoke forest paths near Pedal & Spoke in the Surrey hills, I found I completely forgot that there was a box of electronic EPO on my frame. Partly, that's because the battery is cleverly integrated into the frame to decrease drag; mostly, it's because the suspension is soft and the steering nimble, much like a normal mountain bike.
All three road bikes receive their power from Yamaha’s PWSeries SE motor that comes with four levels of support: ECO+, ECO, STANDARD, and HIGH. The mid-drive motor supplies a maximum of 70 Nm (52 ft-lbs) of torque and cadence support up to 110 rpm. The motors are designed to provide assistance up to 20 mph (32 km/h). Any faster, and it’s all you providing the power.
So instead of giving US companies breathing room to manufacture their own e-bikes, the tariffs are largely just hurting the US electric bicycle industry by preventing it from importing and selling affordable e-bikes, without solving the underlying reasons causing US e-bike companies to choose not to manufacture their e-bikes in the US in the first place.
There remains an element of myth around them, however. For some, it's cheating; for others, it's like riding a motorbike. Neither is true. Electric bikes offer battery-powered assistance, which means the engine gives you a power boost when you pedal. While this jacks up the price, they're a simple, quick and fun way of commuting, exploring the countryside, or even going off-road.
And then add in all of the other e-bike parts including motors, batteries, throttles, speed controllers, etc. All of these parts are mass-produced in China. They simply aren’t available in the US and no one is designing them or manufacturing them. The US would likely have to start by reverse engineering the Chinese products and learning how they produce them. How’s that for irony?
The Ancheer comes with outstanding Shimano Tourney gears in 6 x speeds. This gear system is one of the best in the business. Similarly the front-rear disc brakes are perfectly effective and will bring you to a safe stop even from speed. Speaking of speed, the maximum is 16mph and the bike will travel anywhere between 17-23 miles on a single charge. The battery charges up in 4-6 hours, which is the same for virtually all e-bikes.
Though aside from the extra battery and abundance of included accessories, Riese and Muller’s use of a Gate’s belt drive means no shifting of gears, no greasy maintenance, and much higher durability. If you have the money to spend, Riese and Muller’s Delite nuvinci is one of the best on the market and an ebike we just couldn’t get enough of during our own tests.
“First, Taiwan and China have been building almost all the bikes for the entire world for the past 30-40 years. They have ecosystems and two generations of tradesmen that result in the best bikes in the world. Look at all the top brands—Giant, Specialized, Cannondale— they all make their top end bikes in China and Taiwan. Even look at the Italian brands and you’ll see they build their frames in China and Taiwan and paint them in Italy.”
Both land management regulators and mountain bike trail access advocates have argued for bans of electric bicycles on outdoor trails that are accessible to mountain bikes, citing potential safety hazards as well as the potential for electric bikes to damage trails. A study conducted by the International Mountain Bicycling Association, however, found that the physical impacts of low-powered pedal-assist electric mountain bikes may be similar to traditional mountain bikes.
Should an e-bike actually look like an e-bike? Vanmoof think so. With a design and engineering sensibility that’s more Silicon Valley startup than heritage bike brand, Vanmoof is probably the most WIRED of the bikes on test. And the Electrified S has a host of features to prove it. The Bluetooth/proximity activated e-lock (with tamper sensor) that’s built into the frame is a clever innovation, although we're not sure this would be enough theft protection for inner city areas, (where the Vanmoof’s striking design stands out like a jewel on the bike rack). However, for €7 a month, if your bike is stolen, Vanmoof will track down your bike – or replace your bike with a model of the same age if they can’t retrieve it.
Because e-bikes are capable of greater speeds for longer periods of time than standard bikes, you want extra control. Wider tires provide traction and some bump absorption with little penalty. You also want strong brakes to slow you (and all that extra weight) easily. It's worth looking at the quality of the brakes and investing in bikes with better ones if you can.