by Doug Bardwell
They’ve been doing it in China for over 20 years. Europe followed suit shortly after. Now America is joining the party, and could be on a trajectory to once again be one of the world leaders. We’re talking about electric bikes and their growing popularity.
Background of E Bikes
In 2012, the USA bought about 70,000 e-bikes (motorized bicycles). In 2013, that number more than doubled to 159,000. If the present trend holds, America will buy 276,000 during the similar period in 2014.
According to a Light Electric Vehicle Association (LEVA) report, about 2/3 of current sales are for low-priced bikes. Anecdotally however, consumers seem to now be interested in the better quality bikes, batteries and motors that are presently available.
Baby boomers seem to be leading this group with the disposable income needed to purchase them, and the desire to be able to ride farther and faster than possible with just human power.
E bike debut today
It’s those better quality manufacturers that brought their bikes to a media event in Hamburg, New Jersey where journalists were given the opportunity to try out a number of different brand e-bikes on a hilly mountainside resort. ChargedUp brought media and manufactures together for a day of hands-on testing of e-bikes, wearable technology and portable outdoor gear.
Many bikes are stock, off-the-shelf hybrids or mountain bikes that have been fitted with the e-bike battery and motor. Others are built from the ground up as an e-bike and can be had in various sizes and power ratings. Most e-bikes come with pedal assist power but some come with “throttle” mode that propels you along with no pedaling required. The pedal assist feature works extremely well as I was climbing hills all afternoon at 12 to 14 MPH without even breaking a sweat.
Following are a number of great bikes seen and ridden at the show. Stay tuned for more in-depth reports for a number of them.
The iZip E3 Path model from Currie Technologies seems to be possibly a perfect choice for seniors just getting into an e-Bike. It feels like being on an ordinary bike and comes with a silent, gearless 500W hub motor that really moves. With the motor mounted on the back, you can still carry your water bottles on the frame. Like them on Facebook in May and maybe win one free.
Most e-bikes have a display that shows 1, 2, 3 or 4 bars of battery life left. The iZip E3 Path goes one better showing not only the life left, but the expected range you’ll be able to go depending on the various gearing you choose. Brilliant!
When using throttle mode, you need to keep the throttle grip turned to the speed you want. After a while that can get uncomfortable. iZip overcame that problem by allowing you to press the Cruise Control button and then releasing the throttle. Now you can change hand positions at will without the bike slowing down.
If you are looking for a compact bike, one that you could conceivably take anywhere, look no further than the Mariner 7 from ProdecoTech. This may look toylike, but it’s built super tough and is really enjoyable to drive. Featuring 20” rims, this little speedster is equipped with an 8-speed drive train and a 36V 300W front wheel drive motor that works as pedal-assist or throttle only.
The 2,000 cycle battery is guaranteed for two full years (no proration) and will send you along your way at speeds up to 18 MPH. When you reach your destination, flip open two levers and the bike folds down to fit in the smallest car’s trunk, a boat or an airplane.
BionX specializes in electric motors and batteries that can convert any bike into an e-bike. Their motors are completely quiet and vibration free, giving you the feel of unadulterated bike riding. When going down hill, you can actually shift the motor into regenerative braking mode and recharge the battery as you slow down. I rode a Specialized hybrid, fitted with the BionX system and fell in love with the performance.
The utility of the Yuba Mundo Cargo Bike is exceeded only by the number of ways you can outfit it. MaxDelivery.com just ordered 16 of them to handle their deliveries in crowded Manhattan. The slightly longer frame also makes for a smoother and steadier ride. Powered by BionX.
The Mundo Cargo Bike can be outfitted for work or play. The rear carrier is long enough to mount two child carriers and the optional Towing Tray will allow you to retrieve any bike with wheel sizes from 16” to 29”. The double kickstand makes the bike super stable while loading it.
The M1 Erzberg comes from Pete’s Bikes, who has been selling e-bikes for ten years now. This bike comes with two Panasonic water-bottle batteries (which they claim will last up to seven years before needing to be replaced) and a 250W wheel-hub motor.
The M1 Secede is one unique, split-frame designed bike that literally breaks into two for storage or transportation. Open the cover, flip a latch and lift the hook to separate the two halves. Inside, mini hooks match up on either end to split the brake cable and derailleur. Genius German engineering.