Commuting by bicycle, though laudable, can be hard work. So it makes sense to supplement your human pedal power with a little electrical help, especially if you have a hilly route to the office or no desire to arrive to a meeting in any kind of a sweat. This is where the ever-growing market of electric bikes comes in. Fortunately, gone are the days of the hugely expensive, unreliable first versions, which were never taken seriously anyway. Now the choice is vast, the prices are reasonable (on the whole) and performance and range has in general been greatly increased. Here, we takes a look at six of the best e-bikes available right now, each being the ideal option for a specific kind of commute. You may also be interested in our guide to the best folding bikes.
China's experience, as the leading e-bike world market, has raised concerns about road traffic safety and several cities have considered banning them from bicycle lanes. As the number of e-bikes increased and more powerful motors are used, capable of reaching up to 30 miles per hour (48 km/h), the number of traffic accidents have risen significantly in China. E-bike riders are more likely than a car driver to be killed or injured in a collision, and because e-bikers use conventional bicycle lanes they mix with slower-moving bicycles and pedestrians, increasing the risk of traffic collisions.
Kalkhoff enjoys an enviable reputation by virtue of a long and revered history based upon obsessive craftsmanship and insistence upon only the most indestructible and ecologically attuned processes, materials and components, together with the most stunning and intuitive technologies available. Their bikes are over-engineered to over-perform and yet stubbornly maintain value over time.
All Kalkhoff bikes come with lots of extras: hub or motor powered front and rear lights, bells, fenders, chain guards and racks. Some include a built-in quick-lock or a rack-mounted pump. There are a number of features available for the discerning cyclist, whether it's the Magura hydraulic brakes, the B&M super-bright hub-powered headlight, the top-of-the-line Shimano internal hub or derailleurs or the three-layer powder-coated paint process.
Range is a key consideration with e-bikes, and is affected by factors such as motor efficiency, battery capacity, efficiency of the driving electronics, aerodynamics, hills and weight of the bike and rider. Some manufacturers, such as the Canadian BionX or American Vintage Electric Bikes, have the option of using regenerative braking, the motor acts as a generator to slow the bike down prior to the brake pads engaging. This is useful for extending the range and the life of brake pads and wheel rims. There are also experiments using fuel cells. e.g. the PHB. Some experiments have also been undertaken with super capacitors to supplement or replace batteries for cars and some SUVS. E-bikes developed in Switzerland in the late 1980s for the Tour de Sol solar vehicle race came with solar charging stations but these were later fixed on roofs and connected so as to feed into the electric mains. The bicycles were then charged from the mains, as is common today. While ebike batteries were produced mainly by bigger companies in past, many small to medium companies have started using innovative new methods for creating more durable batteries. State of the art, custom built automated precision CNC spot welding machines created 18650 battery packs are commonly used among Do-it-yourself ebike makers.
E-bikes are zero-emissions vehicles, as they emit no combustion by-products. However, the environmental effects of electricity generation and power distribution and of manufacturing and disposing of (limited life) high storage density batteries must be taken into account. Even with these issues considered, e-bikes are claimed to have a significantly lower environmental impact than conventional automobiles, and are generally seen as environmentally desirable in an urban environment.
What a treat to do business with the folks at Hill Topper. I now have two commuter units one in Idaho and one in Denver my average ride is 25 to 35 miles. I have been riding for about 15 years but being the age of 80 I needed a little help the past few years. I researched electric bikes a few years ago even rode a couple here in Denver but I wanted my own personal look and feel. So about five years ago I found Hill Toppers. What a treat first the units are the best but that is part of the good part the people at Hill Toppers are the very best to work with and enjoy. I had to have a knee replacement last July well thank god for my bike it was the best therapy I could ask for. When in Idaho I get to ride along the Snake river what a treat knowing that I have this unit to help if the wind or rain shows up. When in Denver I cover a lot of area as they have wonderful bike trails all over the area. I ride all of the downtown area and the Cherry Creek dam up and over it takes some effort to get that done but with the help of Hill topper it is a beautiful ride up and overlooking the whole of Colorado. Thank you Andrew,Charles,Sam,Mark.
The Super Commuter is very aptly named. The 350w Bosch motor will help you sustain speeds of up to 28mph, and the burly, 2.4-inch wide, Schwalbe Super Moto-X 650b tires will keep you secure on even the roughest city streets, and Shimano Deore hydraulic brakes provide ample stopping power. Fenders provide welcome protection from road spray so you arrive at your destination fresh, integrated lights are critical for post-sunset riding, and a side-view mirror hanging on the left side of the handlebar gives a great view of traffic around you. After all, you can ride at the speed of urban traffic on the Super Commuter.
All three road bikes receive their power from Yamaha’s PWSeries SE motor that comes with four levels of support: ECO+, ECO, STANDARD, and HIGH. The mid-drive motor supplies a maximum of 70 Nm (52 ft-lbs) of torque and cadence support up to 110 rpm. The motors are designed to provide assistance up to 20 mph (32 km/h). Any faster, and it’s all you providing the power.
Electric bikes are categorized by classes: Class 1 ebikes are pedal-assist cycles with a top speed of 20 mph. (Some localities have banned Class 2 and Class 3 ebikes, which are throttle on demand.) The trick to using a Class 1 bike is to, well, pedal. “If the pedals stop, the bike doesn’t go,” says Saltvold, who describes using an ebike as akin to running on a moving walkway in an airport terminal. Whitaker notes that customers say they switch off the pedal-assist to get more exercise, then turn it back on when going up a hill or wanting to increase their speed.
E-bike usage worldwide has experienced rapid growth since 1998. In 2016 there were 210 million electric bikes worldwide used daily. It is estimated that there were roughly 120 million e-bikes in China in early 2010, and sales are expanding rapidly in India, the United States of America, Germany, the Netherlands, and Switzerland. A total of 700,000 e-bikes were sold in Europe in 2010, up from 200,000 in 2007 and 500,000 units in 2009.
More powerful pedelecs which are not legally classed as bicycles are dubbed S-Pedelecs (short for Schnell-Pedelecs, i.e. Speedy-Pedelecs) in Germany. These have a motor more powerful than 250 watts and less limited, or unlimited, pedal-assist, i.e. the motor does not stop assisting the rider once 25 km/h has been reached. S-Pedelec class e-bikes are therefore usually classified as mopeds or motorcycles rather than as bicycles and therefore may (depending on the jurisdiction) need to be registered and insured, the rider may need some sort of driver's license (either car or motorcycle) and motorcycle helmets may have to be worn. In the United States, many states have adopted S-Pedelecs into the Class 3 category. Class 3 ebikes are limited to <=750 watts of power and 28 mph.
Tackle your daily commute with ease or go for a weekend cruise in style with the Gazelle CityZen T10 e-bike. And don’t worry about those thigh-burning hills; the Bosch motor offers four assist levels—Eco, Tour, Range Sport, Turbo—making hills a breeze and the Lithium-Ion battery provides a range of up to 85 miles in Eco mode. The bike is one of the first to use Bosch's new integrated battery, which is concealed in the downtube. The matte black paint and classic, step-through design give a classic look while fenders, pannier racks, and integrated lights add practical functionality. The bike is easy to maneuver in city streets, but still has assist up to 28mph so you can cover a lot of miles and power up steep hills. There's a suspension fork too. It's not at the level of something you'd find on a mountain bike (or even some better e-bikes) but it takes the edge of some potholes and curbs.