Weight: The biggest practical difference between an electric bike and a standard one is the weight. Those batteries and motors are heavy! Of course, the weight is more than offset by the power assistance, but if you have to manually lift or maneuver your bike a lot, this will be a consideration. And if you cycle long distances, don’t forget that if your battery runs flat, the extra weight will make riding even harder.
"What? That’s an e-bike?" tended to be the first reaction we got to the Cooper. There’s very little (bar the oversized rear hub) that says e-bike on the ‘E’ at all. Cooper have taken a traditional gauge Reynolds 520 steel frame and dressed it with a practical mix of (surprisingly effective) Tektro caliper brakes, Sturmey Archer crank and chainring and topped it off with Brooks Cambium C17 All-weather saddle. They’ve then paired it with a Zehus All-in -One electric hub, so there’s no leads, no external battery, not even an on and off switch.
ELECTRONIC CONTROL The Zero-Smart-Start speed controller delivers ease of use and smooth drive control and offers a multi-function variable speed output. It is state of the art, producing consistent efficient power. The automatic Pedal Assist mode produces a power burst that dramatically assists the pedaling effort. The Zero-Smart-Start electronic throttle control allows the rider to relax and not pedal at all.
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.
Back to the bike. I’ve gotta be honest, it doesn’t look half bad. The battery fits into the downtube, which is way better than those crazy brackets you see on cheap ebikes. The welds are also smoothed over, like an old Aluminum Cannondale. The drivetrain is a mix of parts, with Shimano Altus in the rear. Altus is a mountain bike groupset, but on the very low end.
The second type of electric bike is a much smaller, often foldable unit designed for convenient urban (or suburban) commuting and for easy storage in minimal space. These compact electric bikes are perfect for trips of a few miles, and many are small and lightweight enough to be carried onto trains or buses, allowing their rider to make use of multiple types of transportation in a single trip, and to store their bike in a closet or even under a desk at work, at school, or at home.
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).