Fully Charged

Without a doubt, looking back on 2018, I can easily say that it was an incredible year for e-bikes. Between the many new brands entering the market and so much new technology coming in, the industry just continues to grow.

I got a great preview of new products coming down the pike by virtue of companies sending me their latest and greatest bikes and parts to be considered for the Interbike Innovation Awards. A few things were so new that they didn’t even have all their functionalities yet. I’m also privy to some products that are so new that I can’t even talk about them yet. At any given time, I’m under at least a half-dozen NDAs (non-disclosure agreements) that keep me from talking about new bikes and products until that manufacturer is ready. With the longer lead times of print, it’s good for me to know that news ahead of time.

BIGGER AND BETTER

This was the year of the 500 Wh battery. There are higher-capacity batteries, but most of the batteries on the main systems like Bosch and Yamaha went from 400 to 500 Wh, and that 25-percent increase means a lot in terms of range and usability. On the e-mountain bike side, I occasionally go with a group of fellow e-bike riders on what we like to call “two-battery rides,” where we do long rides with lots of climbing that require carrying an extra battery. Sure, carrying an extra 9 pounds of weight in your hydration pack, along with nearly that same weight again in water and tools, is a pain. And, I can tell you firsthand that crashing with that heavy pack adds a lot to that impact. With the 500 Wh battery, I’m able to use just the one battery, as even a 25–30-mile ride in steep mountains still works fine without switching.

“More companies have joined the e-bandwagon, and they’re realizing that e-bikes are the future.”

More companies have joined the e-bandwagon, and they’re realizing that e-bikes are the future. One company found that their sales in units were made up of 11-percent e-bikes, but that 11 percent made up 50 percent of their profit. That’s significant enough to make any company decide to shift production to produce more e-bikes. 

I’m looking forward to what’s coming in 2019. Haibike’s Flyon motor will shake things up with 25 percent more torque than any other major motor on the market. We’ll see if that starts a torque war with the “Big Three” motor manufacturers.

HIT THE ROAD

Hopefully, the German motor-maker Fazua will get its motor certified for U.S. sales soon. I’ve ridden that motor, and it’s impressive, though I still think that many of the drop-bar bikes should be Class 3 motors, not Class 1. After all, roadies aren’t known for maxing out at 20 miles an hour. Motors like the Fazua and the Ebikemotion X35 hub motor are just the beginning of small assist motors for road bikes. 

Speaking of going fast, some of the most surprising e-bike news of 2017 was the announcement that the UCI will be holding an e-bike World Championship event in August. Getting official UCI rainbow jersey recognition so early in the lifetime of e-bikes is a major achievement. Although the rider selection is all national team-based, we’re really curious how the UCI is going to organize the event per battery power. Interestingly, as of now, the UCI has no scheduled races for e-bike racing. Will a e-road bike version be too far off in the future? 

GROWING PAINS

I live in Santa Monica, and the areas I love to ride test bikes, like the beach bike path and the Santa Monica Mountains, have been made off-limits for e-bikes. This is ignorance on the part of local lawmakers. I discussed this at length in the December 2018 issue, but the short version of the story is that when electric scooter-share programs began here, they were eventually banned from the beach bike path. When this became unenforceable, the people in the city who opposed them wanted them banned everywhere. 

The city council and the police decided that to make it enforceable, they had to ban anything electric from the beach bike path, including electric-assist bicycles. It virtually shut down the local Segway tour business. It made it easier for law enforcement to deal with the situation. It means I have to do test rides on bike lanes until I get to Venice, where anything goes on the beach bike path, including pedestrians, which in Venice can mean just about anything! 

California State Parks Angeles District Superintendent Craig Sap closed backcountry trails and roads in the Angeles district to e-bikes, although they are still allowed in developed parts of the parks, like campgrounds.

“The dramatic growth and popularity of electric-assisted or -propelled bicycles within the Angeles district are impacting the unique trail and backcountry experiences afforded by the district,” Sap said. “E-bikes are an emergent technology generally inconsistent with the park experience that may have negative impacts on the special resources and regional wildlife found within the district.”

He’s going to hold out until the California State Parks Department of Parks and Recreation adopts statewide e-bike regulations. And we all know the speed of legislation.

Until that time, I’ll have to keep traveling a long way in my truck to take my e-bikes to where I can legally ride them. Talk about an unnecessary waste of gas and production of exhaust emissions. When will they learn? Hopefully soon! 

If you have a story as to why you love e-bikes, drop me a line, because I want to hear from you. Until then, get out
and ride! [email protected]


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