The Chainlink

While preparing to go to Interbike last fall, I was inundated with eBike marketing e.g. test rides, meeting requests, cocktail party invites, etc. I was a bit overwhelmed by the seemingly huge marketing dollars being put into promoting eBikes compared to anything else at Interbike (including fat bikes). Serious hype. 

I love riding my bikes and have never considered eBikes an option so I was quick to dismiss the marketing in an effort to focus on bikes and gear developed for women. It was my first Interbike and with all of the bike eye candy and sweet gear, this helped me stay on task. That said, I still looked at a few eBikes, talked to a few of the vendors and got a kick out of electric fat bikes - successfully combining the two big Interbike hypes. I'll admit, I was taken with the sheer variety of fat bikes including a fat bike tandem, carbon fat bike, and of course, the sexy Wednesday fat bike by Surly. I'll save that topic for another day...

I left Interbike wondering if there was something I was missing. Months later, I think it's still a worthy topic to explore. I know there are people who use eBikes for long distance commutes which is still much more "green" than driving a car and they still get a good workout in. I believe the homemade lawnmower-sounding versions are probably influencing (negatively) opinions like mine. Maybe that's not fair? 

So I wanted to bring up the topic to get your thoughts. What do you think about eBikes? Do you own one? How's it working out for you? Why did you choose an eBike? Please share your thoughts on the topic. Maybe this year I'll take a few for a spin so I can see what it's like to ride.

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I took my folding bike to a large shop for service a few days ago and was amazed at the selection of e-bikes I saw there. It's not something I've seen in my little neighborhood shop. I haven't been that interested in trying one. Folks I know who have expressed an interest are usually older and/or have a physical disability that limits their ability to ride without assistance.

Wonderful. So glad to hear there is a way to have your wife join you on your rides. Please let us know how it goes if she does buy an eBike. 

George: In Europe, the big dog is Bosch in this market.  If you look for e-bikes with Bosch systems, you can be assured that at least the e-bike motor/logic/power-train part is about as good as it gets.  My experience was that on windy or hilly days, having the e-assist made a significant difference in my overall ability to ride to work in comfort.  They are pricey and the battery and motor adds 20 pounds +/- but the bikes still roll along pretty easily with the motor assist.  In other words, with the motor assisting, it still feels pretty nimble and rolls along nicely.

I was one of a team of testers for SRAM's version of a couple of different e-bike systems for about a year or so.  I definitely saw many advantages.  E-bikes are especially suited for those who want alternative transportation and are not regular or dedicated bicycle riders.  I am aware that in Europe they are quite common and a significant percentage of the commuter population.

As for me, I found them to be too heavy to be fun to ride, but on certain days I preferred the e-bike over a commuter type bike.  When set up properly, they are wonderful and very utilitarian, you have lots of lighting options, can carry a lot without suffering, still have nice acceleration, and you don't get as tired.

I was very tempted to take the eFat Bike out when I was at Interbike. Having some help up some of the steep climbs (being a flatlander by birth) sounds like an excellent option. :-)

I have been using an ebike for about 5 years, they are quite fun. I have 6 of these ebikes, that I have  built from scratch, excluding the motor. I have used them on Lee Diamonds neighbor rides, the Late Night ride and the Bike the Drive. I use 1 set of batteries (24v to 72v) to power these bikes. I have a couple front wheel drive and others are rear wheel drive. I have not tinker with the non-hub drive yet. Wheels range from 16 inch to 26". I have gotten 30 miles out of 1 pack of batteries and always carry another spare pack. Average cost per bike about $1500, mostly because my bike componets are good quality. Motor cost under $500 and batteries about $300 per pack(48v@10A).

   do I use a pedal bike, Yes, that would be the other 11 bikes.

  pictured is my twin 16" ebike

eBikes can be a viable option for 'Cycling Seniors'. I may consider it one day soon. $2,500 isn't that bad.
Yasmeen, are you sure the homemade lawnmower sounding ones you refer to are actually E bikes and not gas powered bikes?

As for E bikes, I bought my girlfriend one (the Townie Electra Go)- it turned her from a casual biker to a much more frequent biker. She loves it, and has had no issues with it.

Explaining eBikes and the law from

I don't view e-bikes as bicycles.  Nobody takes an e-bike out and goes, "Hey, this is so nice I think I'll turn the power assist off and just pedal."  Without the motor, an e-bike is a heavy, ungainly piece of machinery that no one would want to ride.  To me, a bicycle is fully human-powered.  Once gas or electricity become involved, that vehicle has an entirely different character.  Not necessarily a lesser character, but a different character.

That being said, I have nothing against e-bikes.  In fact, I generally like the idea.  For the elderly and/or infirm, or for those with long commutes, they could be a godsend.  What I think, though, is that e-bikes will be adopted by lots of people who are capable of riding a bicycle, but too lazy to put forth the full effort. In other words, people like me.  If I had an e-bike, I think I'd become dependent on that motor and my already somewhat feeble attempts at cycling would be diminished even further.  I can see the streets and paths becoming filled with faux-cyclists who are taking the easy way out.  

What might be cool would be bicycles with switchable rear wheels, one motorized and the other not.  Maybe there are some already.  That way, you could use the bike as a bicycle or an e-bike depending on the length and difficulty of the ride, your energy level that day, etc.  For example, maybe you would do the 20-mile commute to work as an e-biker, but do your weekend recreational riding as a bicyclist.  Something on the order of the mythical Copenhagen Wheel might lend itself to this type of versatility.  Of course, it may be that I'll see a flock of unicorns cycling down Dearborn before the Copenhagen Wheel actually comes to market.  Also, alas, I fear that if I had one, I'd go down that slippery motorized slope and never return.



For my girlfriend at least, it helped ease her entry into cycling and inspired her to buy another, regular bike. She still uses both- the regular one when she wants more of a workout, and the E bike for rides she wouldn't otherwise attempt with the regular one.

I'm thankful the option is there as someone with no drivers license & no desire to waste money on a vehicle that would require one that wouldn't get much use. I've got over 7200 miles on mine already for 33 mile roundtrip commute. Because it's limited to 20mph it's not really faster then my non ebike. I especially like it for winter since I don't have to exert myself as much which helps when breathing in the cold air & the extra resistance from winter layering.



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