But electric bicycles—e-bikes—are new territory for me. Broadly speaking, there are two basic options in e-bike land: power-on-demand and pedal-assist. With the former, the rider can control the speed with a throttle instead of just pedaling. Think moped but with an electric motor instead of internal combustion. Pedal-assist, by contrast, requires the rider to do some of the work. The electric motor won't engage unless the rider is pedaling.
Ebike definition in Colorado follows the HR 727 National Law: 20 mph (30 km/h) e-power and 750 W (1 hp) max, 2 or 3 wheels, pedals that work. Legal low-powered ebikes are allowed on roads and bike lanes, and prohibited from using their motors on bike and pedestrian paths, unless overridden by local ordinance. The city of Boulder is the first to have done so, banning ebikes over 400W from bike lanes. Bicycles and Ebikes are disallowed on certain high speed highways and all Interstates unless signed as "Allowed" in certain rural Interstate stretches where the Interstate is the ONLY means of travel.
In a friction drive motor, a small, solid wheel rotates against the side of the tire in order to drive it. The first motorcycles used the same concept, with a motor mounted above the front wheel. The problem is that the drive rubs at the side of the tire. It's inefficient, and it quickly wears the sidewall away. Tires need to be replaced every couple hundred miles. For this reason, you'll seldom see electric bikes with this type of drive anymore.
At just 36V and 5.2 Ah, the battery is not designed for long distance travel. GOTRAX claims the Shift S1 has a range of up to 15 miles (25 km), though that’s only with a lower pedal assist level. If you’re going full throttle, 10 miles (15 km) is a better estimate. But with a battery this small, you could easily charge it at your desk or in the corner of the classroom – lengthening your effective range.
What's the Centros like? Big and heavy, but with enough power to overcome that, it really reminded me of a more upmarket Volt Pulse. You do tend to find that the weightier e-bikes give more of a feeling of speed, even though you're only doing 20mph or so at the absolute most (only up to 15mph with electrical assistance so you'll need leg muscles or a downward incline to get to that outlandish velocity).