For the past few months, I’ve been preparing for a trip through Scotland and England. If you’ve read any of my other lifestyle posts, then you know that I think the absolute best way to explore an area is by bicycle. So, when I was planning my trip, of course I decided to do an electric bike tour. I’ll be doing a John O’ Groats to Land’s End ride, approximately 900 miles. Let’s talk about the best electric bikes for bike touring.
One of the biggest misconceptions about e-bikes is that you're not actually doing any work when you ride one. Not true. Thanks to that battery-powered motor, E-bikes are heavy! So if you turn the assist mode to low or off, you're still putting in plenty of effort. Many commuters have found that traveling home from work with assist off (when they're not in as big of a rush and don't mind getting sweaty) is a great way to fit exercise into a busy schedule.
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.
Ironically, not only would a US e-bike manufacturer need to import the raw materials for their frames, but they could still be subject to import tariffs that the Trump administration has placed on imported steel and aluminum from China. Thus, the e-bikes could end up even more expensive than just US-built e-bikes, as customers would also have to pay for the higher cost of the imported raw materials.
E-bikes use rechargeable batteries, electric motors and some form of control. Battery systems in use include sealed lead-acid (SLA), nickel-cadmium (NiCad), nickel-metal hydride (NiMH) or lithium-ion polymer (Li-ion). Batteries vary according to the voltage, total charge capacity (amp hours), weight, the number of charging cycles before performance degrades, and ability to handle over-voltage charging conditions. The energy costs of operating e-bikes are small, but there can be considerable battery replacement costs. The lifespan of a battery pack varies depending on the type of usage. Shallow discharge/recharge cycles will help extend the overall battery life.
The environmental credentials of e-bikes, and electric / human powered hybrids generally, have led some municipal authorities to use them, such as Little Rock, Arkansas with their Wavecrest electric power-assisted bicycles or Cloverdale, California police with Zap e-bikes. China’s e-bike manufacturers, such as Xinri, are now partnering with universities in a bid to improve their technology in line with international environmental standards, backed by the Chinese government who is keen to improve the export potential of the Chinese manufactured e-bikes.
Gearing: none (many hub motors, one motor revolution = one wheel revolution), fixed gear reduction for more torque, varies when geared motor drives the chain through the bicycle gears which increases torque about 50% (in low gear) for better hill-climbing and offers better top-end speed (in high gear) than direct drive systems using motors of similar wattage.
On a trip to Palo Alto last year, we had the chance to ride Specialized’s pedal-assisted Turbo Vado and the model is still our favorite ebike on the market. Utilizing a 350-watt motor and 604-watt-hour lithium-ion battery, the Turbo Vado is capable of traveling a whopping 80 miles on a single charge, which should be more than enough for any daily commute with plenty of miles left over.
Beach cruiser fans rejoice with the Raleigh Retroglide iE Step Thru. Cruise the boardwalk with maximum style and minimum effort as you enjoy the perks of a 350 watt motor and a top pedal-assisted speed of 20mph. Enjoy the comfort of an upright riding position thanks to the backswept handlebar and take advantage of the cargo-carrying capacity, thanks to the rear rack, to run errands around town or commute to work. With a claimed range of 35 miles, the Raleigh Retroglide is a great choice for anyone who wants to add a little speed to daily cruise.