Michael Barnard is a C-level technology and strategy consultant who works with startups, existing businesses and investors to identify opportunities for significant bottom line growth in the transforming low-carbon economy. He is editor of The Future is Electric, a Medium publication. He regularly publishes analyses of low-carbon technology and policy in sites including Newsweek, Slate, Forbes, Huffington Post, Quartz, CleanTechnica and RenewEconomy, with some of his work included in textbooks. Third-party articles on his analyses and interviews have been published in dozens of news sites globally and have reached #1 on Reddit Science. Much of his work originates on Quora.com, where Mike has been a Top Writer annually since 2012. He's available for consulting engagements, speaking engagements and Board positions.
Not all e-bikes take the form of conventional push-bikes with an incorporated motor, such as the Cytronex bicycles which use a small battery disguised as a water bottle. Some are designed to take the appearance of low capacity motorcycles, but smaller in size and consisting of an electric motor rather than a petrol engine. For example, the Sakura e-bike incorporates a 200 W motor found on standard e-bikes, but also includes plastic cladding, front and rear lights, and a speedometer. It is styled as a modern moped, and is often mistaken for one.
The frame itself incorporates a series of mounts allowing you to easily trick-out the Road E+1 with a rack, fenders, or panniers to more aptly meet your touring requirements. Again, most touring purists will certainly scoff at the mere notion of pedal-assistance, however, individuals looking for more of a guided tour and less of a tour de force will swoon over the Road E+1.
If you really want to see the future take a look at the Fazua Evation, with a battery and motor this system weighs an incredible 4.7kg! The battery only has 250wh, but at 1.3kg you could easily carry a spare in a pack. The really interesting thing about this system though, is the motor and the battery can be removed from the frame, so you really do have two bikes in one.
Mountain bikes have come a long way since the 80s. Rock Shox showed up and eventually everyone had a hardtail bike. Then came dual-suspension bikes for all sorts of riding styles. My choice was a cross-country bike so I could climb fast and descend fast without the need for big air. Brakes have gone from simple calipers, to grippy Shimano V-Brakes, to bomber hydraulic disk brakes. While all this was going on street-focused eBikes were evolving too. It should be no shock that the technologies would merge to create eMTBs. A lot of people who were part of the mountain biking revolution in the 80s are getting older and eBikes allow them to continue the sport they love later in life. Whether it’s riders dealing with health issues or injuries, or simply just getting older, the emergence of eMTBs makes total sense.
When I started looking beyond the legal regulations, I discovered something that further disturbed me: the mountain biking community is predominantly anti-eBike and quite vocal about it. Maybe it’s a minority that is louder online, but either way, I was shocked to see that mountain bikers and mountain bike organizations, such as International Mountain Bicycling Association (IMBA), are against sharing the trails with eBikes. While some of the online community spoke up in favor of eBikes, they were outnumbered by hardliners.
E-bikes remain a subject of controversy in mountain biking circles. You may not be able to take one on your favorite singletrack right now, as most non-motorized trails prohibit them. However, things have been tilting in a more permissive direction. Most recently, IMBA, the sport’s largest public advocacy group, shifted its stance to support allowing access for some pedal-assist e-bikes (those that top out at 20 mph) on some trails. With every major manufacturer making e-mountain bikes, more access is likely only a matter of time. “In a few years, people will realize that electric mountain bikes have no more trail impact than a regular mountain bike,” Benjamin says.
The first thing many cyclists do when checking out a new bike is give it a lift to gauge the weight. You’re in for a little scale shock if you try that with an e-bike. The battery, motor, extra components, and reinforced frame make e-bikes inherently heavier than standard bikes—to the tune of about 20 pounds. Modern geometry and engineering help them handle well despite their weight, and obviously the motor-assist makes the extra pounds disappear when you start to pedal. But you’ll need more muscle to get them on your car rack or up and down stairs.
E-bikes are zero-emissions vehicles, as they emit no combustion by-products. However, the environmental effects of electricity generation and power distribution and of manufacturing and disposing of (limited life) high storage density batteries must be taken into account. Even with these issues considered, e-bikes are claimed to have a significantly lower environmental impact than conventional automobiles, and are generally seen as environmentally desirable in an urban environment.
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However, if your friends are riding a bigger single battery pack, you’ll have to either choose to cut the ride short or conserve battery life while they run in turbo. If your local rides are short, fast blasts but you want to benefit from the ability to take on longer tours, the Sam2 could be for you. We love the Pro version, but it’s also available at a range of price points.
It means you can fit much more riding into one session. Or if you want to cover more distance (as often the best riding spots are quite far apart here in the UK) e mountain bikes are perfect for the job. All the usual MTB configurations are available – everything from wheel size to forks and more, and there’s the choice of hardtail or full suspension electric mountain bike too.
Probably the only readily available, mass-production downhill-specific e-MTBs on the market… well, downhill preferred anyway. Don't be afraid to test the limits on this one! Haibike’s xDuro Downhill’s intention is to assist with the pedal back to the top so riders can self-shuttle, instead of taking chairlifts or vans to the top. If you are Haibike pro rider Sam Pilgrim, you could also use this bike to go upside down over enormous jumps. The e-DH bike is a good idea – who can argue that fewer shuttle buses needed to ferry gravity fiends is a bad thing?
A carbon frame shaves off several hundred grams of weight, of course. However, this is largely irrelevant when it comes to eMTBing. The two major advantages of carbon on eMTBs are, on the one hand, greater freedom in optimising the frame design and, on the other hand, increased stiffness. Thanks to carbon, smooth transitions can be achieved, better facilitating the integration of motor and battery. Unfortunately, the magical black material also has a few potential disadvantages. Carbon has poorer thermal conductivity, which means that heat is dissipated less efficiently with a fully integrated motor, and stiffer is not necessarily always better. Frames and wheels require a certain amount of flex to be comfortable and to generate enough traction through curves. Buying a carbon eMTB can currently only be justified by aesthetics rather than functionality.
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.