Fun free rides in rain or shine By Nicolas Zart
The seaside city of Long Beach kicked off a successful start of the 2017 Electric Bike Expo circuit this year, offering a staggering 140 electric bicycles for public test rides. From roving bands of curious teenagers to smiling senior citizens riding with face-wide smiles, it was obvious that the e-bike has landed!
The expo was hosted by the Electric Bike Association and will continue throughout the country in order to reach out to the public while communicating best practices for e-bike business that need to remain competitive and profitable.
ALIVE AND KICKING
I’ve been covering the world of electric vehicles (EV) for a decade. The enthusiasm and innocence of the early 2007–2008 are becoming increasingly harder to find in the automotive industry. Although breakthroughs and good news abound, new releases are far and few between. This is not the case in the e-bike world where electric bicycles better themselves year after year. To be fair, the electric motorcycle world still carries a lot of that juice, but the e-bike clearly holds the torch. It was impressive to see how many in the industry shared with each other, going as far as telling some of their potential clients that another company might have a better product for them. This was a welcome relief.
One of the reasons the e-bike industry is doing so well is that, perhaps, it is away from the constant scrutiny of mainstream media. It might also have to do with the fact that investors don’t make the same harsh demands they do with mainstream electric carmakers. Either way, this leaves this bubbling e-bike industry enough room to innovate, listen to what people want and need, and simply deliver in a creative way.
It was fun watching senior citizens endlessly riding around the track. Many of them simply would not come back into the booth. They were clearly enjoying lap after lap of effortless pedaling fun. The EV grin was also shared with a younger generation more accustomed to stripped-down single-gear bicycles who were impressed with these pedal-assist bikes. Overall, the greatest sign of enthusiasm was to see how many braved the rainy Sunday to ride the electric bicycles on a wet track.
THE BASELESS CHARGE
It was bound to happen; the question did pop up: is riding an e-bike cheating? Away from knee-jerk Puritanism, electric bicycles serve a bigger purpose and wider audience than other regular bicycles. Folks looking to get back into shape, those coming out of surgery or simply senior citizens wanting to access a fun and efficient way to ride a bicycle, e-bikes answer many needs. I get a good workout riding my GenZe. I know that although it assists me, I push harder on an e-bike than with my regular Trek. Overall, e-bikes open up the industry to a different audience that overlaps the traditional bicycle one.
E-bikes are not only fun and different, but they serve a wider purpose. They are efficient locomotion tools for city dwellers to the casual weekend strollers.
RUNNING THE GAMUT
Unlike its four-wheel distant cousins and to a certain point electric motorcycles, the e-bike world offers a lot of competition. It might be a little daunting and overwhelming walking into an expo showing off 140 different types of e-bikes, but the revelation here is that the industry offers a wide range of bikes for every type of consumer.
I started off with one of the most reputed e-bike-makers—Bulls. Adam Anderson, who is in charge of sales for the U.S. and Canada, greeted me in a friendly way and explained what Bulls does unlike any other company.
Bulls makes some of the best high-end e-bikes available on the market. Geared for the more affluent market, Bulls e-bikes deliver quality and performance. I set out to test ride the E-Stream Evo FS 3 27.5+, which sports a Brose 250-watt electric motor and a 37-volt,17.5-amp-hour, 650-watt-hour battery pack. Needless to say, I came back with a permanent EV grin itched on my face. The obstacle course was easily met with power, stability and an overall stellar feel. The Bulls climbed on top of the simulated bumps while sending enough feedback that didn’t overwhelm me. I was particularly impressed with its smooth torque delivery that never felt abrupt, nor took me by surprise. This is a well-refined and -developed bike offered at $4699.
The next e-bike I then test rode was Bulls’ excellent Lacuba Evo E8, which impressed me further as a high-end street bike and perfect for city commuters. The e-bike was buttery smooth. It picked up enough speed effortlessly, making it a great contender for longer rides to work, or leisure. Offered at $3999, Bulls addresses a more discriminating clientele that wants top-notch quality and performance.
THE SEAMLESS SMARTMOTION
Next up was the SmartMotion booth where I rode the Catalyst e20, which sports a Samsung 36-volt 14.5-amp-hour with a 250- to 350-watt motor. I was highly impressed with how ergonomic the bicycle was. It has an integrated controller and LCD neatly sunk into the top part of the frame instead of on the handlebar. While some bicycles require a little time getting used to them, the e20 felt comfortable from the get-go. It eagerly accelerated in a straight line, matching the intensity of my pedaling effort without being intrusive. It also handled the obstacle course with bravado and felt very maneuverable at all times. This is a fun bike you can take anywhere, which starts off at $2599 and reaches $3199 for the upper end.
THE GOCYCLE HAS LANDED
And then there is Gocycle. It’s hard to explain what it feels like to see a Gocycle for the first time. Is it a bicycle, a foldable bike, a Jetsons futuristic rendering? So, where are the cables? Where is the speedometer on the handlebar, or the Shimano derailleur we are so accustomed to? You won’t see any of that here. The Gocycle was engineered so well, it looks as seamless as its performance.
We were fortunate enough to have Gocycle designer Richard Thorpe in attendance. Richard’s passion for designing bikes is obvious, and I walked away greatly impressed with the engineering he took with this decidedly unique bicycle. A magnesium body holds everything within and is foldable, including the very light magnesium wheels that detach themselves in a flash.
Riding the Gocycle G3 doesn’t require much time as far as riding a bike is concerned, but more as to how the e-bike rides along with you. The G3 sports a lithium-ion, 13.5-amp-hour, 22-volt battery pack pushing out about 300 watt-hours coupled to a 500-watt continuous electric motor. The gear-less three-speed system calculates how fast you are going and pedaling and adjusts the gears seamlessly. All information is neatly tucked along an LED strip inside the handlebar. It’s a perfect system for visual thinkers. There are no levers to push, no selectors to use and the bike does it all in a discreet way.
The best part of it is that it takes a minute to fold into a 3-foot by 5-foot space you can then put away. I calculated six of them would fit in the trunk space of a Tesla Model S, making this Gocycle the perfect last-mile solution for many. The Gocycle G3 starts out at $4449 and tops out at $4899.
Another booth that had an impressive display of e-bikes was Emotion, and the bike I rode first was the Evo Big Bud Pro AWD. As a car journalist, I’m used to all-wheel drive, but I had never experienced this kind of fun on a bike. The Evo Big Bud Pro AWD was easy to hop on and get going. I suspected its big tires would make it quirky and heavy to handle, but a generous 350-watt rear motor and 250 watts in the front wheel made this bike oodles of fun accelerating in a straight line, even while cornering. This is the bike you can take to the beach if you don’t mind sand everywhere—on wet surface, mud, gravel. Whatever you throw at it, it will take it and bring you along for a fun ride at $3499.
“It might be a little daunting and overwhelming walking into an expo showing off 140 different types of e-bikes, but the revelation here is that the industry offers a wide range of bikes for every type of consumer.”
The other bike I test rode that particularly impressed me was the EasyGo Race Ultralight—a stripped down, single-gear e-bike that is meant for city dashing. It was a fun, fast and efficient e-bike to ride. This is the ideal dash-between-traffic, “late for a meeting, have to cover distance in a minimal amount of time” bike. Its $1299 price made it one of the most affordable e-bikes at the event.
There were many more companies showing off their iterations of what an e-bike should be—ranging from front-loading cargo to back. OHM was there showing off its excellent lineup, as well as Elby and Tempo. Tempo showed off a stunning carbon-framed e-bike that was fun to throw into corners on the track. It would take a few articles to cover the incredible amount of e-bike test rides offered at the Electric Bike Expo of 2017. Overall, the Electric Bike Expo of 2017 will show off an industry that is brimming and booming with innovations, giving you access to 140 e-bikes to test ride, as well as choice, choice, choice.
2017 EXPO DATES
Long Beach, California
– February 24-26, 2017 – Long Beach Convention Center
San Francisco Bay Area, California
March 24-26, 2017 – San Mateo Event Center
Salt Lake City Area, Utah
– May 12-14, 2017 – South Town Expo Center
– June 23-25, 2017 – TBD
July 21-23, 2017 – TBD
– August 18-20, 2017 – Portland Meadows Race Track
– October 13-15, 2017 – TBD
– November 3-5, 2017 – Philadelphia Convention Center