Electric bikes or ebikes, widely popular in Europe and China, are steadily making their ascent in the U.S. bike market. Erik Saltvold, founder and owner of ERIK’s Bike Shop, a Midwest-based chain for bike sales and repairs, says the ebike is the fastest-growing specialty bike in the industry. Last October, market research company NPD Group reported that electric bike sales had grown 95 percent in the 12 months ending in July 2017, with sales totaling nearly $65 million.
One reason for doing so is the way it is powered, which works in a manner that would be familiar to someone accustomed to a manual transmission car. Like a car, you start in a low gear and work your way up as you gain speed. Since the motor runs through your transmission as opposed to applying power directly to the axle, the gear youâ€™re in really matters. The importance of gearing connects you much more to the road and the terrain, which means you are a more active rider than when using throttle-controlled electric bikes.
By 1898 a rear-wheel drive electric bicycle, which used a driving belt along the outside edge of the wheel, was patented by Mathew J. Steffens. Also, the 1899 U.S. Patent 627,066 by John Schnepf depicted a rear-wheel friction “roller-wheel” style drive electric bicycle. Schnepf's invention was later re-examined and expanded in 1969 by G.A. Wood Jr. with his U.S. Patent 3,431,994. Wood’s device used 4 fractional horsepower motors; connected through a series of gears.
E-bikes are one of the latest ways technology is infiltrating the fitness market. Although they may seem techy and confusing at first, they really are just regular bicycles with a little extra boost. To test one, ask your local bike shop to demo a model they have available (pro tip: If a bike shop won't let you demo, don't shop there). Just getting on one will definitely help you understand how an e-bike works and how one might work for your lifestyle and goals.
Because they’re electrically powered, e-bikes sit in a bit of a gray area between bicycles and motorcycles. While some states have enacted specific legislation to state where electric bikes can and can’t be ridden, in other states outdated laws mean they’re regulated as a moped or motor vehicle which can cause confusion over registration requirements, access to cycling infrastructure and how old you have to be before you can ride one.
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.