The Nuvinci hub system is the best geared hub that I have ever used. There is literally no maintenance to be done on this drivetrain. I’d recommend buying it with the Gates Carbon belt because you’ll never run into issues like the chain falling off. You operate the Nuvinci system with a grip shifter and can of course shift even when you’re not moving.
We rode the Vado through the gauntlet, including some of the steepest hills in Palo Alto, and it easily handled everything we threw at it, maintaining a steady 20 miles per hour even on the most daunting of ascents. The bike also handles well on downhills and is both nimble and quick on city streets and paved trails. It’s even comfortable to ride for extended distances, which is vitally important for any bike built for urban settings.
Above all, the Brompton is a lot of fun to ride in urban settings. Its powerful enough to breeze up hills with near zero effort, but feels nimble. As with any Brompton, you probably won't win a half-mile sprint on it, but thanks to the pedal assistance, you most certainly will get off to a flying start. The reason it stands above other electric bikes is that Brompton has worked out how to apply power assistance to your pedalling so it feels natural. It also doesn't feel so much like it's trying to fight you once you reach the maximum, 15mph assisted speed.
Built by a company that’s made cycling equipment for more than four decades, the Vado feels more like a traditional bicycle than almost any other ebike. Its frame and components have been tuned to provide a familiar experience, making it easy for new and long-time cyclists to jump on and start pedaling. Specialized’s heritage shines through nicely, helping separate itself from the competition in an increasingly crowded ebike market.
After you decide which style of e-bike you want, consider the class. In the US, there are three classes defined by the type of assist and how fast the motor will propel you. Most electric bikes sold are class 1 or 3. Class 1 bikes have a motor (max 750w) that assists while you're pedaling, up to 20 mph. Class 3, also known as “speed pedelec” can also have up to a 750w motor, but it can assist you up to 28mph. Both of those are allowed in most states and cities without license. Class 2 have throttles that don't require you to pedal to get a boost. They're allowed on most streets, bike lanes, and paths, but less popular than the other classes and not covered much here (because we still love to pedal and the greater distances pedal assist bikes can cover).