For years, riders have been making fun of others who mount mudguards, a rack and a fixed headlight on their bikes. Admittedly, these home-built creations usually aren’t very attractive, but there is a reason why many riders do it anyway. For them, their bike is more than just a piece of sports equipment or a status symbol. They use it in their day-to-day lives and for that, above all else, it has to be practical. Ever more manufacturers are catching on and offering complete, everyday eMTBs, which, compared to trekking bikes, are well suited for light off-road use too. On top of that, the wider tyres and longer travel of the new breed of SUV bikes offer additional safety in urban environments e.g. on kerbs, railway tracks or on wet, dirty roads. Oh, and they look really good too, as proven by the SCOTT Axis eRide we recently reviewed! The most prominent representative of this new breed is Haibike’s new FLYON series.
Last year we found a very low-priced (under $600 at Amazon) bike made by Ancheer. Overall, it made some good compromises to get down to the $600 price point but I had some issues with the build quality, the power of the motor, lack of display on the controller and size of the battery. This year a new low-cost Amazon ebike from Rattan seems to have answered many of my concerns.
In China, e-bikes currently come under the same classification as bicycles and hence don't require a driver's license to operate. Previously it was required that users registered their bike in order to be recovered if stolen, although this has recently been abolished. Due to a recent rise in electric-bicycle-related accidents, caused mostly by inexperienced riders who ride on the wrong side of the road, run red lights, don't use headlights at night etc., the Chinese government plans to change the legal status of illegal bicycles so that vehicles with an unladen weight of 20 kg (44 lb) or more and a top speed of 30 km/h (19 mph) or more will require a motorcycle license to operate, while vehicles lighter than 20 kg (44 lb) and slower than 30 km/h can be ridden unlicensed. In the southern Chinese cities of Guangzhou, Dongguan and Shenzhen, e-bikes, like all motorcycles, are banned from certain downtown districts. There are also bans in place in small areas of Shanghai, Hangzhou and Beijing. Bans of "Scooter-Style Electric Bikes" (SSEB) were however cancelled and in Shenzhen e-bikes may be seen on the streets nowadays (2010–11).
Electric bikes are a green alternative to driving a vehicle. Studies carried out in several towns and cities show that the average car speed in rush hour traffic can dip as low as 18 to 20 mph. Electric bike speed can be as high as 15 mph. With an electric bike, you can reduce pollution, improve fitness, and still arrive at the same time as your car-bound colleagues.
The first regularly produced device resembling the modern bicycle was unveiled in 1818. It was called the Dandy Horse. The two-wheeled ride-on Dandy Horse was the brainchild of German inventor Baron Karl Drais, and it featured a handle bar, a padded seat, and two inline wheels of nearly equal size. What it did not feature were pedals; this was a "running machine," thus its name in German, Laufmachine. The Dandy Horse saw only a flicker of popularity, and was largely an historical footnote within a handful of years, though its design is nearly mimicked in the child's balance bike of today.
Whether squeezing onto the 4 train or pedaling through Lower Manhattan, I notice a few curious glances at the bike with the big battery in the center of the frame. This is not surprising; e-bikes are huge practically everywhere but the US. According to the latest figures from the Confederation of the European Bicycle Industry, e-bike growth in the UK is up from 40,000 units in 2016 to 63,000 in 2017.
Today I’m looking at the Rattan Challenger 350W ebike. It can be found for under $680 at Amazon (after Electrek coupon code 5AIDO2GB) shipped and includes free assembly at a local bike shop. I assembled mine at home however in about 15 minutes with the graciously supplied in box hex tool and wrenches. It is pretty straight forward – the hardest part was bolting the front light on.
It is important to note that if a vehicle has an electric motor greater than 500 watts and is capable of powering the vehicle when traveling at a speed greater than 32 km/h and it does not have a CMVSS compliance label it cannot be registered unless the owner can prove, by having the vehicle certified by an engineer, that it is safe for operation on NB highways. Also, not all vehicles are suitable for operation on NB highways and it could be that the vehicle in question may not be a motor driven cycle or a bicycle and cannot be operated on the highway at all.
Great question… a real world situation from someone doing their best to follow the law but also be realistic about time/distance. What follows is my opinion on the matter based on lots of electric bike riding experience, this is not legal advice. You can probably ride with electric assist across the dirt way with no issues and avoid any negative response that might arise as long as you’re polite to other cyclists and pedestrians and pedal along without going too fast. If someone called you out about it you could easily hop off, walk your bike and explain that you use the assist to help make your commute possible or possibly, like me, you have a knee injury and it’s difficult to pedal through softer terrain like gravel. Another different approach might be to shut the bike off completely before entering the gravel section, you could even take the battery off and put it in a backpack or as mentioned earlier… just walk the bike. Imagine if you had a motorized dirt bike and were just pushing it along a sidewalk… this kind of vehicle definitely is not allowed on sidewalks or most gravel paths like the one you’re describing but if you were escorting it carefully, you’d be honoring the spirit of the law and if an officer or pedestrian jumped out and started questioning you about your “motorized vehicle” it is my feeling that a genuine explanation and apology or request for guidance would go very well. I personally have never had issues riding electric bikes in part because I am thoughtful about how I use them. I do occasionally switch them off and sometimes I get off and walk. I have asked police in many cities across the US what they thought about ebikes and in every case I have received positive interest and support with guidance to ride safe with a helmet and follow traffic laws in the street. I hope this helps and I wish you well, it’s nice that you care enough to ask and I hope you’re treated well by others out on the road. The flip side of this response is that I have been harassed, yelled at and even swerved at by automobiles when riding bicycles and electric bikes. This usually happens in the evening after work lets out when traffic is heavy and I’m riding on the shoulder or in the street (where marked to do so) and I believe it has to do with territory, testosterone and socio-economic standing more so than laws or anything like that.
In 2012, two e-bike advocates completed the first 4,000-mile (6,400 km) transcontinental e-bike tour from New York to San Francisco to advocate for e-bikes in major cities across the U.S. Pedego Electric Bikes is the best selling brand in the U.S. Many e-bikes in the United States are standard bicycles converted using a kit. In general, the kits include the motor (the majority of which are hub motors built into the front or rear wheel), a speed controller, throttle (usually twist-grip or thumb throttle), necessary wiring and connectors, and a battery. Several U.S. companies offer conversion kits which also offer advanced lithium battery packs. Major manufacturers also offer complete e-bikes. Trek offers a line of e-bikes using the Bionx system in which the rider programs the controller to determine how much effort the motor will give in response to rider effort, from 25% up to 200% of the rider's power. This system ensures a minimum level of rider participation and is also used to comply with many European laws mandating partial human effort before the motor engages.
China has experienced an explosive growth of sales of non-assisted e-bikes including scooter type, with annual sales jumping from 56,000 units in 1998 to over 21 million in 2008, and reaching an estimated fleet of 120 million e-bikes in early 2010. This boom was triggered by Chinese local governments' efforts to restrict motorcycles in city centers to avoid traffic disruption and accidents. By late 2009 motorcycles are banned or restricted in over ninety major Chinese cities. Users began replacing traditional bicycles and motorcycles and e-bike became an alternative to commuting by car. Nevertheless, road safety concerns continue as around 2,500 e-bike related deaths were registered in 2007. By late 2009 ten cities had also banned or imposed restrictions on e-bikes on the same grounds as motorcycles. Among these cities were Guangzhou, Shenzhen, Changsha, Foshan, Changzhou, and Dongguang.
And let’s not forget the economic advantages of owning an e-bike. The annual cost of running a new family car is, on average, about $9,000 per year. Running an electric bike costs around $400 per year. And while filling a gas tank costs around $30, recharging an electric bike battery costs only about 50 cents. A tank of gas may get you further, but not 60 times further!