In the year 1885, a British man named J.K. Stanley introduced what can fairly be described as the first modern bicycle. His Rover bike had wheels of equal size in the front and back and used a chain connecting the pedals and the rear wheel as a propulsion system. It was often marketed as a safety bike in contrast with the unstable Penny Farthing, and was a smashing success. The company went on to develop motorcycles and automobiles, remaining in business until the year 2005.
Featuring Bosch’s newest CX Drive motor, the Trekking has enormous torque (that equals acceleration) compared with the rest of the bikes on test. From a standing start the Haibike reaches the 15.5mph European speed limit in seconds. Pair this with mid-sized 27.5in wheels and laid-back mountain-bike geometry, and you have a grin-inducing almost motorbike-like riding experience. This is accentuated off-road, where a rider’s lower average speed is under the motor cut-off point for more of the time, so suddenly the hefty Trekking makes complete sense.
Even though it’s a hefty amount of money to fork over upfront, LaLonde says you’ll likely save money in the long run. If you use public transportation, do the math to see how much you could save over time. If you choose an e-bike over a car, you’re foregoing auto maintenance, gas, insurance, parking fees, and potential tickets, LaLonde adds. “So while there’s sticker shock for a first-time bike buyer, it can still be cost-effective.”
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.
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.
We rode the Vado through the gauntlet, including some of the steepest hills in Palo Alto, and it easily handled everything we threw at it, maintaining a steady 20 miles per hour even on the most daunting of ascents. The bike also handles well on downhills and is both nimble and quick on city streets and paved trails. It’s even comfortable to ride for extended distances, which is vitally important for any bike built for urban settings.
This article first appeared in Electric Bike Report in June of 2013. Since then, we’ve made some changes to our motor selection - our Direct-Drive motors are now all High-Torque 6x9 wound, so they run slower (approximately 15mph at 36v or 20mph at 48v), and our Geared Motors have been replaced by a 500w version, (approximately 20mph at 36v or 28mph at 48v). The Direct-Drive is now our Heavy-Duty motor and the...
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.
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).