Athletics and Recreation

Electric bikes: everything you need to know

Electric bikes: everything you need to know

(upbeat remixed music) – So we here at The Verge
love electric rideables. Hoverboards, skateboards,
scooters, motorcycles, mopeds, unicycles, tricycles, you
name it, we’ve ridden it. But I’m here to tell you
why I think electric bikes in particular are more
than just a fun tech fad. I think they could actually be
the future of transportation. But that said, there’s a lot out there, and you don’t wanna get fooled. So here’s some stuff you
need to know about e-bikes. (downbeat remixed music) Obviously e-bikes are not new. They’ve been around for decades. And if you live in China
or Europe, it’s a good bet that e-bikes are already
a way of life for you. In Europe, for example,
e-bikes have long helped older adults maintain
independence and are just now really blowing up with younger riders. But here in the U.S., e-bikes
are still pretty niche. They only account for a
4% of total bikes sales. Compare that to more
bike-friendly countries like the Netherlands where
there are more e-bikes sold than regular bikes. Overall, experts predict
that worldwide sales will hit $23.8 billion by 2025. But Americans are slowly coming around. Sales of electric-bikes
in the U.S. have grown more than eight folds since 2014. It took a long time to get to this point. Now one of the first
patents for an electric-bike was registered in 1895 by an
inventor named Ogden Bolton. Now Bolton didn’t actually
end up making or selling any of his bikes, but amazingly some of the same
design details can be found in e-bikes today. A rear hub motor with a
battery centrally mounted on the frame. Now I know what you’re thinking. What the hell is he talking about? A rear hub motor, amps and volts. I don’t wanna get ahead of myself. So let’s talk about the
basics before we get to why e-bikes are the
future of transportation. (upbeat dance music) So generally speaking e-bikes are bicycles with a battery-powered
assist that comes through when you pedal or in some
cases use a throttle. Pushing on the pedal
activates a small motor that gives you a boost. So when you’re zipping up a hill or cruising over rough terrain, you don’t have to break a sweat. Twisting a throttle does the same thing but without pedaling. There are two types of motors. There’s the mid-drive which
is located in the middle of the bike usually
between the two pedals. And then there’s the hub
motor which is located in the center of either the
front or the rear wheel. There are pros and cons
to both types of motors. Hub drives have been around
forever and tend to be cheaper and more versatile. They’re really excellent
motors for anyone needing a reliable e-bike for long,
mostly flat commuting. Mid-drives are usually smaller and lighter and can allow for greater
torque than hub drives making them well suited for
hilly areas and off road use. Their center position
on the bike also creates a more balanced ride. And changing a tire on a mid-drive bike is usually less of a pain in the ass. E-bikes also tend to use
different types of sensors to determine how best to dole out power. There are two types, torque
sensors and cadence sensors. Torque sensors regulate the motor based on how hard you’re pushing the pedals, while cadence sensors work
off of how fast you pedal. Good bikes use torque
sensors while the low enders have cadence only, and
a lot of bikes use both. I highly recommend testing
out both types of motors before buying an e-bikes to
see which is the best for you. Think about how you
plan on using the bike. Commuting, off-roading, touring? The better e-bikes brands
usually match the appropriate motor placement with the
type of bike they’re selling. Most mountain bikes come
with mid-range motors while the majority of commuter bikes sold in hill-less Amsterdam are hub based. ♪ They see me rollin’ ♪ ♪ They hatin’ ♪ ♪ Tryin’ to catch me ridin’ dirty ♪ (funky percussion music) Now let’s talk power. Manufacturers will often
offer power ratings for a variety of reasons. Until recently power ratings were a way for bike
companies to dance around Europe’s strict importation laws which prohibited anything
stronger than 250 watts. But now the continent
allows the sale of bikes with way more powerful
motors, which is good because it allows bikes
to be seen as a viable alternative to cars. Still power ratings can
be pretty subjective, and you can probably get
away with just ignoring them. To get a better idea of
how much maximum power you’ll actually feel,
check to see if they list the volts and the amps. Multiply those two together
to get the watt hours or the number of watts that
can be delivered in an hour. This gives you a great sense
of how much range you’ll get. For example, Rad Power
Bikes’ excellent cargo bike the RadWagon has a battery
pack that is 48 volts and 14 amp hours. 48 times 14 equals 672 watt hours. If you’re thrifty with your energy usage, each mile you travel will
cost you about 20 watt hours. Therefore, a 672 watt
hour pack will get you about 34 miles of range. (light electronic music) Alright, let’s talk classes. There are three classes
of e-bikes in the U.S. Class one is pedal
assist with no throttle. Class two is throttle
assisted but with a maximum speed of 20 miles per hour. In a class three, it’s pedal
assist only, no throttle, but with a maximum speed
of 28 miles per hour. In Europe they only have two classes. Class one, which is by
far the most popular, has a maximum speed of
25 kilometers an hour with no helmet required. Class two is 1,000 watt plus motors capable of going 45 kilometer an hour, require a helmet and can’t
be ridden on bike paths. They’re basically motorcycles. So where can you buy an e-bike? Well, your local bike store
is honestly your best bet. You’re gonna get a selection
that’s been curated by the owners, and the
folks that work there are gonna have answers to
all your burning questions. Amazon is obviously another place, but there’s some pretty serious trade-offs that you have to consider. Your bike could arrive pretty banged up. And the companies that
sell e-bikes on Amazon are a little bit ephemeral,
here one day, gone the next. It’s not just Amazon of course. A majority of the e-bikes sold in the U.S. are just cobbled together
from off-the-shelf Chinese made parts that you
can find in the catalog. And if that sounds easy,
it’s because it is. It helps explain why
there are like a billion e-bikes companies on
Kickstarter and Indiegogo trying to impress you
with their flashy designs and futuristic tech. Many don’t come with warranties
or any customer support. And it’s very likely that
you’re buying a Chinese model that’s just been rebranded
for Western marketing and sold at a markup. If you find an e-bike that you like, an interesting test is to
search the bike’s specs on Alibaba to see if something similar is being sold in Asia. It might even be cheaper. Alright, so I promised
to explain why I think that e-bikes are the
future of transportation. So here we go. First, it lowers the barrier to biking. So if you’re someone who’s
older or you’re stressed out about the strains of biking,
it really lowers the barrier, and it’s easier to justify
getting on a bike and just ride. You’re more likely to ditch
your car or delete you Uber app if you know you’re gonna
get to where you wanna go without getting sweating and stressed out. And look, if you’re worried
about electric bikes taking all the fun out of
cycling, well, you’re wrong. A study of the cognitive
and psychological effects of outdoor cycling actually
found the same results for e-bikes and traditional bikes. Let’s say climate change has got you down. Electric bikes are way more sustainable than electric cars. They’re gonna make our
cities more livable, and they’re gonna help
clear up traffic congestion. So as our cities are
becoming more congested, some companies are turning to e-bikes to make their deliveries. Domino’s Pizza recently
announced they’re gonna be using Rad Power Bikes to make pizza
deliveries in some cities. UPS is using electric cargo bikes. German delivery company
DPD is gonna be using these really cute looking mini trucks that are actually e-bikes in disguise. E-bikes are changing
the way that businesses are doing business. (light uplifting music) So the other day I was
riding an e-bike to work, and a remarkable thing happened. Well, first, I wasn’t killed, which, in a city as deadly
for bikers as New York, is a minor miracle. But more importantly I got
to the office super quick, much faster than if I
had taken the subway, and I wasn’t a sweaty, stressed
out mess when I arrived. Here e-bikes are almost exclusively used by food deliver workers,
and it got me thinking about how far behind the rest
of the world the U.S. is when it comes to bikes. We see them more as recreation
than as transportation. Something to be used in fair weather and not in the rain and
the snow like the Dutch do. But come on, our U.S.
women’s team just beat them in the World Cup. Surely we can compete
in the saddle as well. Our streets are designed for cars, and pedestrians and bikers are
really just an afterthought. But e-bikes can open up a whole world, especially for people
with different abilities. Look, they’re not gonna solve everything, but I can guarantee that
once you start riding, you’re not going to wanna stop. Did we make that word up? Is that a real word, rideable? It’s like a lunchable, but you ride it. (laughs) What the hell is that thing? (engine hums) – [Assistant] Maybe it’ll be really quick.

Reader Comments

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *