Electric bikes are here in a big way. Liberated from some of the normal constraints of standard bike design like weight and gearing, e-bike design has exploded; if you can imagine it, someone has built it. From cargo bikes to city bikes, messenger bikes to mountain bikes, road bikes, and even beach cruisers, there is something for everyone. The beauty of e-bikes is they make the joy of cycling accessible to so many people in so many ways.
I wanted to love the Bike Friday Pakit, which is available for order with a custom-made frame. It has a unique fold (a sort of cross between those of the Brompton and the Birdy, with the rear tire rotating under), and with the front tire and the handlebar mast removed, you can pack it into an oversized backpack and bring it almost anywhere, even on a plane. It’s also the only bike we tested that can accommodate more petite riders (kids or little people) from 4-foot-5. But although it’s made in Oregon of good components—a Shimano Claris derailleur, Schwalbe tires—our testers thought it somehow felt less secure on the road, and the fenders I ordered kept rubbing on the front tire and getting caught on curbs. (If you go with the Pakit, don’t get the fenders.)
The Tern GSD is designed to carry up to 400 pounds, while keeping its footprint the same as a standard ebike. A stepthrough frame adds to the versatility and ease of use, especially for smaller riders, and a slightly longer wheelbase adds stability. Magura disc brakes provide confident stopping power, even when the bike is loaded. Tern also offers an assortment of accessories to customize your ride. Price not available.
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.
More powerful pedelecs which are not legally classed as bicycles are dubbed S-Pedelecs (short for Schnell-Pedelecs, i.e. Speedy-Pedelecs) in Germany. These have a motor more powerful than 250 watts and less limited, or unlimited, pedal-assist, i.e. the motor does not stop assisting the rider once 25 km/h has been reached. S-Pedelec class e-bikes are therefore usually classified as mopeds or motorcycles rather than as bicycles and therefore may (depending on the jurisdiction) need to be registered and insured, the rider may need some sort of driver's license (either car or motorcycle) and motorcycle helmets may have to be worn. In the United States, many states have adopted S-Pedelecs into the Class 3 category. Class 3 ebikes are limited to <=750 watts of power and 28 mph.
Moulton - this rugged British bike with a full suspension appears to be designed to compete with full-size bikes and win - the Moulton holds the world speed record for bicycles of conventional riding position at 51 MPH. The Moulton's unconventional cruciform "separable, not folding" frame is made of a lattice of small diameter tubes that make the bike light yet stiff and efficient. Its small high-pressure tires actually perform better than full-size tires in a variety of ways. The newest versions also offer a fully adjustable handlebar that allows the bike to adapt to urban, touring, and racing uses. The more you learn about this bike, the more it seems to be designed not so much to travel compactly (which it is) but actually to be superior in design, performance, and versatility to a standard frame bike. A typical Moulton weighs about 22 pounds and separates to take up about as much space as other small folding bikes, although folding time/size is not touted for this brand. Prices range from under $1500 up to $8000. www.moultonbicycles.co.uk.
Pedelecs are much like conventional bicycles in use and function — the electric motor only provides assistance, for example, when the rider is climbing or struggling against a headwind. Pedelecs are therefore especially useful for people in hilly areas where riding a bike would prove too strenuous for many to consider taking up cycling as a daily means of transport. They are also useful for riders who more generally need some assistance, e.g. for people with heart, leg muscle or knee joint issues.
At the time of this writing, Dahon had just completed a Kickstarter campaign for its 35th Anniversary Curl, a high-end folding bike that operates similarly to the Brompton (though the company is very sensitive about that comparison). The campaign claims that the bike will be “not just a refinement of what has come before – it represents an almost total overhaul that completely changes the riding experience of folding bicycles.” We’re eagerly awaiting its production so we can test one.
The pedal assists feature is especially convenient for when you run out of battery or simply want to ride it as you would a standard bike. It has seven speeds thanks to the best Shimano 7-speed derailleur. Also, the bike features a LED seat post that’s adjustable and has an integrated tire pump. Its battery is the rechargeable Samsung 36V 8.8AH battery. It takes about 5-5 hours to charge, and once it’s fully charged, the bike can go as far as 30-50 miles. The Enzo e-bike features a storage bag and an aluminum rear rack. It folds easily, and it’s lightweight and compact enough so that you can carry it anywhere from upstairs to your office, or inside public transportation.
The 20-inch Schwinn Loop, Amazon’s best-selling folding bike at around $200 currently, isn’t really designed for commuting (despite the Amazon verbiage). It has a bulky step-through frame, and in our tests it offered a heavy, sluggish ride—Citi Bikes (those blue three-speed bike-share behemoths) often passed me on the bridge, and I had no hope of fitting it through the subway turnstiles. If you plan to use your folding bike regularly, do yourself a favor and spend more.
As for tech specs, the Mariner D8 comes with a forged aluminum crank (according to our experts, more long-lasting than the pressed/riveted steel or aluminum that manufacturers sometimes use to cut costs) and a Shimano Altus rear derailleur (an upgrade to the Tourney on the previous D7 model), which offers good quality for the price. The D8’s tires, Schwalbe Citizens, are about on a par with the just-okay Kenda Konversions seen on the D7. Finally, and possibly most telling, our cyclist testers gave the Mariner D7 a unanimous thumbs-up, saying it “felt most like a real bike.” Although they weren’t able to test the D8, I was, and the ride quality hasn’t changed.
This is list of the best performing, best value electric bikes for 2017 / 2018. For each category I list two models, the first recommendation is based on performance and the second is based on affordability. As you explore the list and get to know EBR, check out the ebike community forum for more personalized feedback. Share your height, weight, budget and intended use (along with bikes you like) to get advice from actual owners and moderators.
This relative newcomer from the Banbury-based Hummingbird team pairs a streamlined, glossy carbon-fibre frame with a fast fold. The USP here is its weight: at just 6.9 kilograms, it can comfortably claim the title of lightest folding bike on the market. It’s a delight to ride, too: on the road it offers a stable, highly responsive ride, although the lack of suspension rattles the teeth over craggier terrain. Its innovative Swinglock folding system enables the anodized aluminium swingarm to pivot neatly around the bottom bracket, keeping total fold time down to around 15 seconds. One drawback: at 117cm, its folded length exceeds the size of some rail networks’ luggage compartments, so research is advised before committing to this beautiful but pricey model.
But that doesn’t mean the Oyama can’t fold as well as the rest of them. In addition to the standard two points of folding, one at the middle of the frame and one at the handlebars, the Oyama also has a third folding point at the top of the handlebars. That one allows the handlebars to rotate forward and make the bike just a bit smaller in folded form, and also helps to protect the brake levers, display and other goodies mounted on the handlebars.
Folding bikes weren't sold to the public until the early 1970s. Revenues were sluggish at first. Eventually though, these bikes caught on, thanks in large part to a competitive rivalry between Brompton, Raleigh, and Dahon. These three manufacturers, in particular, increased their advertising budgets, thereby creating awareness and an eventual uptick in profitability.
Where the motor is mounted will influence the performance and ride characteristics of the bike. A front hub motor leaves the rear hub free for all gear options and if the battery can be mounted at the rear of the bike, the whole ride will be balanced. However, having so much weight on the front wheel will make you feel bumps more and negatively influence the steering. Also you may encounter traction problems when cornering on wet roads or riding uphill.
Another type of electric assist motor, often referred to as the mid-drive system, is increasing in popularity. With this system, the electric motor is not built into the wheel but is usually mounted near (often under) the bottom bracket shell. In more typical configurations, a cog or wheel on the motor drives a belt or chain that engages with a pulley or sprocket fixed to one of the arms of the bicycle's crankset. Thus the propulsion is provided at the pedals rather than at the wheel, being eventually applied to the wheel via the bicycle's standard drive train.
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E-bikes use rechargeable batteries and the lighter ones can travel up to 25 to 32 km/h (16 to 20 mph), depending on local laws, while the more high-powered varieties can often do in excess of 45 km/h (28 mph). In some markets, such as Germany as of 2013, they are gaining in popularity and taking some market share away from conventional bicycles, while in others, such as China as of 2010, they are replacing fossil fuel-powered mopeds and small motorcycles.