Justin and Anne-Sophie have been on the road in Europe for about a week now, catching as much sun as they can on the Suntrip. Since the start of the trip in Lyon and the official start of the race in Chamonix, they have been trending on a more southerly route towards Turkey and Iran. As they get used to the style of travel and the nuances of riding a three-wheeled solar vehicle all day they have had their ups...

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.
With a chain drive transmission, a chainring attached to a crank drives the chain, which in turn rotates the rear wheel via the rear sprocket(s) (cassette or freewheel). There are four gearing options: two-speed hub gear integrated with chain ring, up to 3 chain rings, up to 11 sprockets, hub gear built into rear wheel (3-speed to 14-speed). The most common options are either a rear hub or multiple chain rings combined with multiple sprockets (other combinations of options are possible but less common).
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Front-Mounted Hub Motor can be found on pre-built bikes or on custom conversions. Mounted to the front wheel, this is the easiest configuration to setup if you’re converting a standard bicycle since there’s no derailleur or chain to worry about. And since most e-bike conversions include batteries mounted to the rear rack, using a front hub motor helps equalize the weight of the bike and makes it easier to handle. But there’s a small risk the motor could cause the front forks to brake. That’s why it’s vital you only use a front hub motor on a steel fork. For pre-built bikes, this shouldn’t be an issue since the motors are usually lower-powered on steel forks.

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.

The Riese & Müller Load Touring HS is billed as “the ultimate minivan of e-bikes,” and it holds up to that claim. With a low center of gravity (aided by the 20-inch front and 26-inch rear wheels), the Load is easy to handle. Tektro hydraulic disc brakes add control, and front and rear suspension provide comfort. The Bosch motor offers an assist up to 275 percent of your effort until you hit 28 mph, when it cuts out. Two 500Wh batteries give you 12 hours or more of range at full power. It’s capable of toting up to 220 pounds of pets, people, and less-animate cargo. R&M also sells a double child seat for kids up to age 6 and a child-seat fastener for your youngest passengers.
If you are an experienced rider this is actually annoying as hell. Personally, I tend to leave whatever I'm riding in a high gear all the time, because my body is like a powerful machine, and I found the way it slowed my escape from the lights quite disconcerting. For beginners, it could be useful, but it's worth remembering that the whole point of e-bikes is that the motor helps you along anyway, so I do really question the usefulness of this.
Because the power is applied through the chain and sprocket, power is typically limited to around 250–500 watts to protect against fast wear on the drivetrain. An electric mid-drive combined with an internal gear hub at the back hub may require care due to the lack of a clutch mechanism to soften the shock to the gears at the moment of re-engagement. A continuously variable transmission or a fully automatic internal gear hub may reduce the shocks due to the viscosity of oils used for liquid coupling instead of the mechanical couplings of the conventional internal gear hubs.
While I would have loved to see some higher end components such as disc brakes or built-in lights, the bike still works well for what you get and is a pretty good value for the price. One missing component that I feel would make a big difference is a kickstand. I’ve never seen an e-bike that didn’t come with one, outside of ultra premium multi-thousand dollar road and downhill e-bikes that try to save every gram of weight. But for a commuter, a kickstand is pretty important. You can always add a cheap $7 kickstand from Amazon, but I would have preferred they save us the step and include their own cheap kickstand.
Every person riding a bicycle, electric personal assistive mobility device, electric power-assisted bicycle, moped, or an animal or driving an animal on a highway shall be subject to the provisions of this chapter and shall have all of the rights and duties applicable to the driver of a vehicle, unless the context of the provision clearly indicates otherwise.
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