"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.
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There remains an element of myth around them, however. For some, it's cheating; for others, it's like riding a motorbike. Neither is true. Electric bikes offer battery-powered assistance, which means the engine gives you a power boost when you pedal. While this jacks up the price, they're a simple, quick and fun way of commuting, exploring the countryside, or even going off-road.
This bike impressed me right when I saw it. I love that Haibike offers spec-heavy options with the Yamaha PW system. I think the PW system gets a bad rep sometimes for being less powerful than the Bosch, but to be totally honest not everybody needs the power of a Bosch system. Haibike makes up for the lower torque of the PW system by offering a premium Shimano Deore XT drivetrain with 20 speeds. This is great for riders who want to stay in the action a bit more, but still not arrive sweaty and out of breath.
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).