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.
Yes, you read that right – north of £4k for a bike. But then, this is basically the top end of the mountain e-bike market, and you do get a lot of bike for your buck: a Yamaha Lithium battery, masterful Magura brakes, mud-slaying tyres, and – my favourite flourish of all – a hydraulic seat post that you can adjust on the move (surprisingly useful when navigating tricky downhill trails, as it means you can depress the saddle out of the way with the press of a button).
Controllers for brushless motors: E-bikes require high initial torque and therefore models that use brushless motors typically have Hall sensor commutation for speed and angle measurement. An electronic controller provides assistance as a function of the sensor inputs, the vehicle speed and the required force. The controllers generally allow input by means of potentiometer or Hall Effect twist grip (or thumb-operated lever throttle), closed-loop speed control for precise speed regulation, protection logic for over-voltage, over-current and thermal protection. Bikes with a pedal assist function typically have a disc on the crank shaft featuring a ring of magnets coupled with a Hall sensor giving rise to a series of pulses, the frequency of which is proportional to pedaling speed. The controller uses pulse width modulation to regulate the power to the motor. Sometimes support is provided for regenerative braking but infrequent braking and the low mass of bicycles limits recovered energy. An implementation is described in an application note for a 200 W, 24 V Brushless DC (BLDC) motor.
Cargo bikes and city bikes are common in the e-bike space, but until recently we haven’t seen that many performance road bikes. The Giant Road E+1 is a pedal-assist performance road bike that’s made for more than just commuting; the powerful motor can rank you up to 28mph very quickly on the highest setting so you can rip the flats, join your local group ride, or blast through the mountains with far less effort than a traditional road bike. Don't expect it to feel like a 16lb race bike when you lean it into high-speed turns, but the endurance-oriented geometry allows for an aggressive position on the bike and keeps the it nimble and agile at high speed.
Electric Bike Conversion Kits are prepackaged sets of components designed to fit on a normal bike and convert it into an Electric Bike. These kits make it easier for end-users to find compatible, functioning parts and purchase them all together. A kit can range from a complete system that includes all the small parts you need, to DIY kits that include only a few parts and leave the rest up to the user.
Having never ridden one before, I took a few electric bikes out to review in Central London and was an instant convert. For a commuter, they're ideal. While you still feel you've done exercise, the assistance means you won't arrive at work in a hot and sweaty state. The power boost whenever you start from a standing position is ideal for a speedy getaway at a traffic light with buses and lorries right behind you. And you'll get a nice ego boost every time you effortlessly ride past a struggling regular cyclist.
With its chunky, plus-sized tires, at first sight, the E3 Peak Plus seems like a cross between a hardtail mountain bike and a fat bike. It’s good looking: the mid-drive motor and removable, lightweight battery fit in nicely with the lines of the bike, making it look more like a standard mountain bike than other models. Unlike many mid-range e-bikes, it also comes in three sizes — handy if the usual one-size-fits-all approach doesn’t fit you.
Electric bikes and E-bike kits (bikes with electric conversion kits) are part of a wide range of Light Electric Vehicles (LEVs) that provide convenient local transportation. Generally designed for one person and small cargo capacity, electric bike range, speed, and cost are moderate. For most of us, the majority of our trips are less than 20 miles - within the range of most e-bikes considering the latest advances in affordable lithium batteries. Clean, quiet, and efficient LEVs offer the advantages of an extra car without the burdens.
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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.
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If you are a regular bicyclist who wants to add some excitement to your rides or wants some help with those hills, a full sized electric bike is the way to go. If you are considering a bike as a means of transportation more than an outlet for amusement, then a smaller, folding electric bike is the convenient choice. In each category, consider the speed and range you want, as these factors impact price.
With asthma, the commuter was just what I needed to get up these hills in the DC area without having an attack. With the 20 miles range, that gets me though my day, I can almost get about 35 miles in, since I only use the assist for hills, and I call any incline a hill. It came in two days, was very easy to install. I did it myself. It took me over an hour because I was scared, and watch the video over and over. Before I install this, I never did any work on my bike, not even changed a flat. When I do group rides, people notice that I'm no longer the last person up the hills and tell me to slow down! They are impressed that I was able to installed it myself. I brought this in Feb. 2017, had one problem with the on/off switch which customer service addressed, sent me a new switch and instructed me on how to install it myself. They actually sent two switches, other than that, I had no problems with it. Great customer service that stands behind their product, great product, equals happy customer.
Riding position: You also may wish to check out an e-bike’s riding position before investing in it. For short trips, the riding position might not make much difference, but for long journeys, the upright "Dutch" style with pulled-back handlebars is very comfortable – particularly for tall riders. The same goes for mountain bike styles, though these bikes are not often designed to actually go off-road.
As a counterbalance to the cute utilitarian bikes above, the Specialized Turbo Levo FSR Comp is a big, bad, and burly mountain bike. With 27.5-inch wheels, massive 2.8-inch tires, 150mm of travel in the front and 135mm of travel in the rear this bike is made to shred. The Specialized 1.3 Rx Trail-Tuned motor is designed specifically for off-road riding and features a double freehweel design that disengages the gear box at top speed to reduce friction while ripping downhill. The low center of gravity and stout parts make this one a relatively nimble handler that is ready for the rowdiest downhills.