The two most common types of hub motors used in electric bicycles are brushed and brushless. Many configurations are available, varying in cost and complexity; direct-drive and geared motor units are both used. An electric power-assist system may be added to almost any pedal cycle using chain drive, belt drive, hub motors or friction drive. BLDC hub motors are a common modern design. The motor is built into the wheel hub itself, and the stator fixed solidly to the axle, and the magnets attached to and rotating with the wheel. The bicycle wheel hub is the motor. The power levels of motors used are influenced by available legal categories and are often, but not always limited to under 750 watts.
There are two basic categories of electric bike, and their uses don't offer equal crossover value. The first category is essentially a normal bicycle that has been outfitted with an electric motor. These bikes are the same size as a standard bicycle, and handle almost identically, save for the obvious benefit of added motive power thanks to a motor and battery.
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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.
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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.
The Espin is powered by a 350-watt motor that’s rated for trips up to 50 miles (depending on the terrain and assist level). Once depleted, the battery fully charges in roughly five hours. Thankfully, Espin makes it easy to remove the battery, allowing you to quickly recharge it at home or in the office between trips. A backlit LCD control hub displays your basic metrics and battery life while in transit and LED headlights add a touch of light when needed.
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.
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).