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.
For those looking to hit the trails instead of the pavement, Yamaha has you covered with their new YDX-TORC electric-assist bicycle, which is powered by a souped-up version of their mid drive known as the Yamaha PW-X center drive motor system, which the company claims offers the extra power needed for more adventure and exploration on the trails, including a fifth power assist setting. As a more powerful e-bike, the YDX-TORC also demands a higher price of $3,499.
This thing is also kitted out with a full SRAM groupset, RockShox Yari RC front shocks, Custom Fox Float suspension at the rear and enormously punchy SRAM disc brakes at the front and rear. Fundamentally, it's a mighty off-road machine with pro-spec kit that introduces a new style of trail riding, allowing adrenaline junkies to ride further, climb harder and descend faster than ever before.
Prices have rarely been this low, with perhaps only the Xiaomi Himo electric bike that we covered costing less, at $261. Of course that e-bike is only available in China for now, unlike the Stark Drive Mini that can ship to the US, albeit for an extra $200 shipping fee. (Spoiler alert: I was able to procure a Xiaomi Himo via a friend in China, and assuming I can get it into the country, we’ll have that review coming up.)
The other thing to consider is that this is a Kickstarter project, so you aren’t directly purchasing from the company, but rather “backing the project” in exchange for a bike. Technically, Stark Drive, or any Kickstarter creator, could cut and run with the money, leaving their backers without legal recourse. In this case though, Stark Drive has already run a successful crowdfunding campaign for their previous bike and demonstrated their ability to deliver, so this is probably at least somewhat safer than a brand new Kickstarter start-up.
On the road, it takes only a few turns of the pedals to activate the Vado’s motor and get it up to speed. In Turbo mode — the bike’s highest level of pedal-assist — the Vado reaches speeds of up to 28 miles per hour, after which the electric drive system automatically shuts off to conserve power (and abide by local law). A built-in LED readout on the handlebars allows riders to monitor battery life, check current speed, and track calories burned while also being able to glance at distance traveled. The Turbo Vado Mission Control app (iOS/Android) also connects to the bike via Bluetooth and allows riders to further tune their ride and adjust the bike’s settings.
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.
Of course the specs are nuts. Shimano Deore XT Shadow+ drivetrain, Magura MT4 hydraulic disc brakes, Mach 1 rims, and Schwalbe G-One tires make this not only an incredible commuter, but really a solid racing bike if you want to challenge another ebiker. The G-One tires I just love. They’re slick enough to keep you up to speed, but have a good amount of knobiness so that you can handle bad weather.
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.
It’s impressive just how traditional a finish they’ve achieved for a pedal-assist bike, especially considering the motor uses Kinetic Energy Recovery to charge itself (like F1 Cars). Firing up the motor is achieved by back-pedaling three times (while travelling over 8mph). It’s a neat idea, and a clever way of doing away with those cables and switches, but in reality it’s fiddly. Riding in the city we occasionally felt ridiculous on a busy street pedaling backward rather than forward to kick off the assist. It’s also a chore getting the bike to speed and going through the motion to activate in tight spaces such as underground garages or on an incline.
On the other end of the pricing spectrum (although not as high-end as possible) falls the Riese & Muller lines. The Nevo line, which features a Bosch motor, hydraulic disc brakes and speeds up to 28 mph also has a roughly $5,000 sticker (a variety of models allows for a cheaper price). Using a carbon belt and Nuvinci grip shifter, maintenance worries lessen. The German-made premium models are hand made to specifications and comfort reigns supreme.
The wiring could be better, but I think I’m going to make some adjustments to that myself. It’s also worth noting that the motor is in the rear hub just like a basic commuter ebike. This will affect the way it feels, as bottom bracket motors give a more seamless “pedal assist” experience. Of course, this bike seems like it’s made as practical transportation. To me, anything that gets cars off the road is a good thing so lets take it for a ride.
The entire drive system is neatly incorporated into the bike's design for optimal weight distribution and the ultimate in sexy design, while users control torque and power output, which peaks at a surprisingly punchy 530W, via a cool Mission Control App that can also be programmed to a time or distance parameter to ensure there's enough power to get you home.
Pedal Assist Electric Bikes, also known as "E-bikes," are bicycles that have an electric motor to assist riders. The motor is powered by a battery and only assists the cyclist when he/she is pedaling. Electric bikes come in many different styles including commuter, recreational, step-thru with low-entry frames, cargo and mountain. They all have one thing in common: e-bikes are very simple to ride – if you can ride a bike you can ride an electric bike!

E-bikes mostly use motors and battery options from a few major suppliers: Bosch, Yamaha, Shimano, and Brose. A few other brands exist, but are less reliable or powerful. Some, like the Yamaha system, have more torque and others are quieter. But generally all four make good options. Look for motor output (in watts) which will give you an idea of total power. But watt hours (Wh) is perhaps a better figure to use—it takes into account battery output and life to give a truer reflection of power.
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