The electric bike revolution is here
Electric bikes (“e-bikes”) were, for a long time, something the Chinese understood, but few Americans bought. And so, for a long time Americans dominated the world when it comes to owning bicycles, but their actual use was low – two-wheelers were mostly sitting in the garage, with flat tires.
But Covid changed all that. People wanted to venture outside and cycling was a safe option. It turns out that the electrically assisted electric bicycle was an ideal solution for many people (including the elderly) who appreciated the help in climbing the hills.
Sales of e-bikes in the United States increased 139% to reach US $ 681 million for the year-to-date ending in April, compared to the same period in 2020, according to market research firm NPD Group.
“Sales of e-bikes have been growing for more than five years in the United States,” said Dirk Sorenson, sports industry analyst at NPD. âThere is appeal to a wide range of consumers, from the new rider to someone who wants to conquer a tough race, or the returning rider who is unsure of their riding skills. “
In Europe, progress has been even greater. According to the EU Mobility Atlas, sales of assisted bikes in the Union are expected to increase from 3.7 million to 17 million per year by 2030. At this point, e-bikes could sell better than cars in the EU. EU (only 9.9 million units last year).
Americans have a huge choice when it comes to e-bikes, with prices ranging from US $ 1,000 to US $ 15,000 and up. There are three basic types: Type 1 is pedal assist, which means you have to pedal to start the engine (maximum assisted speed, about 20 miles per hour). The Type 2 has an accelerator, which means it looks more like a motorcycle (also a top speed of 20 mph). The Type 3, with an assisted top speed of 28 mph, is the fastest legal e-bike, with electric pedals.
Penta sampled three very different bikes, from Pedego, Cannondale (Bosch) and Vintage.
From the middle there is the Cannondale Tesoro Neo X Speed (US $ 4,100), which uses a 250-watt Bosch drive unit and 625-kilowatt-hour battery. It sits on 28 inch wheels and can hit 30 mph, so definitely a Type 3, but without a throttle. The range is 72 stellar miles.
Older e-bikes often have a removable battery, but it’s built into the Cannondale. This one has 12 speeds like a standard bike, with easy up / down levers. It’s not the most powerful e-bike, so you have to downshift to get up the slopes. The engine is relatively noisy, but not annoying. A second battery can be added to increase autonomy.
The brakes are hydraulic discs, like on a car, and they are one of the nicest features, stopping the bike very gradually and safely, even in panic situations. The whole bike feels solidly built and stable, rolling on fat Schwalbe Big Ben tires. The display (also Bosch) is good for speed and state of charge.
Claudia Wasko, vice president of Bosch e-bike systems, said in an interview that the company started in the European e-bike market in 2009 and now has over 100 brands using its systems (with prices starting around 2,000 USD).
âElectric bikes have proven to be an ideal and safe solution for individual transportation during the pandemic,â Wasko said.
Go upmarket, there is the limited edition Vintage Shelby (US $ 7,249). Only 300 copies of this bike, under license from the American company Shelby which manufactures the Cobras, will be built. This bike, which looks a bit like a twin-cylinder motorcycle from the 1920s or 1930s, is built for speed. It can reach 36 mph (beyond Type 2) and has a cruising range of up to 75 miles, with a charge time of 4.5 hours.
The Shelby is a lot of fun to drive and very fast. It has both pedal assist and a hand throttle, which worked like a turbocharger to move the bike forward or over big hills. It has so much torque that shifting gears is unnecessary. Instead, there are five power modes.
It has hydraulic disc brakes like the Cannondale and a regenerative brake to recover energy from the battery. Like the Cannondale, it has an adjustable front suspension with 60 millimeters (2.3 inches) of travel. It’s a bit heavy at 86 pounds, but lightens up on the road.
The Vintage is a Type 2 electric bike, which means 20 mph, but it has a special key that activates race mode up to 36 mph. âOnce you’re in race mode, the bike is classified for off-road use or on private property only,â says Vintage.
Andrew Davidge is president, founder and designer of Vintage, which he launched shortly after graduating from high school in 2010. âPerformance is important to us as a company,â he says. Penta. âMost of our people have some racing experience. We are constantly upgrading new technology and our older bikes are backwards compatible which means they can be upgraded to the latest specifications.
Davidge said most e-bikes have 500 to 750 watt-hours of power, but “with us it’s 1,200 watt-hours – and our bikes can deliver that kind of power for a long time.” In race mode, that means 35-40 miles range, but 70 is possible if users use the lower power settings. Vintage bikes blur the line between electric bikes and motorcycles.
Like the Cannondale and the Shelby, the Suburb of the town of Pedego the bike has big tires, a very sturdy (and a bit heavy) frame and a very reassuring ride quality.
The Pedego has a removable battery, and removing it makes it easier (if not possible) to ride without power assistance, but also to replace the battery when it dies. The electric bicycle does not have pedal assistance and only uses the accelerator.
Although this is older technology, it climbs hills, with a very good range. The PÃ©dego are well supported by a dealer network and start at around US $ 1,600. Prices peak with the Elevate model, around US $ 5,400. There are folding Pedegos, tandems, belt bikes, mountain bikes and cargo bikes.
Michael Heslin, owner of the Pedego store in Norwalk, Connecticut, tells PentaâSince the pandemic, people have 1,000 reasons to ride e-bikes, and they use the unspent money from their gym memberships and vacations to pay for them. Our biggest hurdle right now is meeting demand. Supply chains are stretched.