Having never ridden one before, I took a few electric bikes out to review in Central London and was an instant convert. For a commuter, they're ideal. While you still feel you've done exercise, the assistance means you won't arrive at work in a hot and sweaty state. The power boost whenever you start from a standing position is ideal for a speedy getaway at a traffic light with buses and lorries right behind you. And you'll get a nice ego boost every time you effortlessly ride past a struggling regular cyclist.
It’s only available in one frame size but the low top tube, adjustable seat and more upright riding position make it comfortable for people of different heights. The low-ride cargo rack and smaller (20-inch) rear wheel lower the center of gravity making the bike easier to maneuver. This is a workhorse of a bike that could easily replace a second car for most day-to-day necessities.
Sometimes space comes at the most premium of commodities and the Tern Vektron offers a space-saving folding option. At about $3,400, the sturdy folding joints include a magnet and rubber strap to keep the bike folded. The quick-release pedals (wheels release too) help with storage of a bike that doesn’t give up power with a 20-mph speed that can range over 60 miles. But the best part is placing two in the trunk of a car.
China has experienced an explosive growth of sales of non-assisted e-bikes including scooter type, with annual sales jumping from 56,000 units in 1998 to over 21 million in 2008, and reaching an estimated fleet of 120 million e-bikes in early 2010. This boom was triggered by Chinese local governments' efforts to restrict motorcycles in city centers to avoid traffic disruption and accidents. By late 2009 motorcycles are banned or restricted in over ninety major Chinese cities. Users began replacing traditional bicycles and motorcycles and e-bike became an alternative to commuting by car. Nevertheless, road safety concerns continue as around 2,500 e-bike related deaths were registered in 2007. By late 2009 ten cities had also banned or imposed restrictions on e-bikes on the same grounds as motorcycles. Among these cities were Guangzhou, Shenzhen, Changsha, Foshan, Changzhou, and Dongguang.
Others questioned the weight. The Indiegogo campaign claims the steel-framed e-bike weighs just 45 pounds complete, but that’s highly unlikely, says Court Rye, owner of the Electric Bike Review website. He’s posted an 18-minute YouTube video of his thoughts about the Storm eBike that he says tries to strike a balance of appreciation for the low price point and realistic expectations.
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.
Information about the company’s two co-founders is scant. Storm Sondors has left virtually no trail behind him on the Internet, save for a seldom-used YouTube account. Jon Hopp is a film editor working for a Los Angeles marketing firm. His Facebook account displays photos of two fat-tire bikes virtually identical to the Storm eBike, sporting logos from different manufacturers.
Although ebikes are easier to use in some instances, such as climbing hills, there are safety concerns. Because the bikes are heavier than traditional bikes, balance can be a problem. And, of course, ebikes allow people to cycle at higher speeds than usual. “A normal rider will average between 12 to 15 mph, where an ebike rider will average between 15 to 20 mph,” Abadie says. An increase in the number of deaths of elderly male ebike riders in the Netherlands has been attributed to their overconfidence in being able to ride at high speeds and to mount and dismount the bikes.
The F1-trained engineers at William Advanced Engineering assisted with the electrical parts and the result is a 250W motor that provides pedal assistance via the front hub – which is a highly unusual approach – drawing power from a 300Wh battery pack that sits in a bag and goes on the front where the Brompton luggage rack would normally sit. You can also opt for a larger bag that holds both the battery and your spare suit or laptop or whatever.
Instead, ebikes offer a “gateway” to exercise, says Thomas Whitaker, director of marketing for Faraday Bikes, a San Francisco-based ebike manufacturer. He notes than in their market research, 10 percent of customers use ebikes to recover from an illness or injury. “I think it’s a familiar and fun way to exercise without being hard on the body. People recover and then continue to do more and bike more.”
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?
In addition, Kalk weighs under 155 pounds — less than half of traditional motorbikes. Cake customized parts of the drivetrain and implemented an interior permanent magnet (IPM) motor. On a single charge, the bike travels up to 50 miles and as a bonus feature, maintenance is minimal due to the fact there are few moving parts thanks to its lack of a combustion engine.
E-bikes use rechargeable batteries and the lighter ones can travel up to 25 to 32 km/h (16 to 20 mph), depending on local laws, while the more high-powered varieties can often do in excess of 45 km/h (28 mph). In some markets, such as Germany as of 2013, they are gaining in popularity and taking some market share away from conventional bicycles, while in others, such as China as of 2010, they are replacing fossil fuel-powered mopeds and small motorcycles.
The riding position is racy, and we suffered a numb left hand after 45 minutes of riding due to a combination of the Bullhorn bars and the narrow position adopted to cover the ‘sissy’ brakes in traffic (picking a flat bar model would be more practical for city commuting). The biggest drawback to the Soho is that on a single-speed the 15.5mph cut-off (for all e-bike motors in Europe) left us feeling like we’d been "deserted". Over the cut-off speed we found ourselves dragging that heavy back wheel with no alternate gears to reach for.
If you’re looking for an electric bike with a sporty assist that is effective above a "pootling" speed, this is your bike. The only downsides to all that connectivity? We experienced some random light flashing and occasional beeping on the stationary bike, as well as confusion with the bike not switching on occasionally. In some ways the connectivity is just a little too clever (read complicated) for its own good.
As electric bike options continue to expand, more brands are integrating the battery more seamlessly. That makes them look sleeker (and more like a real bike). Batteries are expensive, so make sure there's a good way lock the battery to your bike if you'll be keeping it outside. Overall weight is important. Some battery and motors can add 15 pounds or more to the bike. With assist, you won't feel that much when you're riding, but you will if you have to carry your bike up stairs or lift it onto a bike rack.