Bike of The Week: Ebikes

Faith is like electricity. You can’t see it, but you can see the light. – Anon.

As an American living in Europe, I carry this mental checklist of things to keep, and things to leave behind when I return home.  In the keep column would be the latest crop of electric bikes (Ebikes) that are sprouting here.

Ebikes are not scooters:  They are mopeds, and only assist the pedals.  The rider must provide some input.  Nor are they as heavy as scooters or mopeds.  Typical Ebikes weigh between 35 and 50 lb.  They are clean and quiet.  Though something of a novelty  in the USA, Ebikes are gaining market share exponentially here in Europe.  From what I’ve seen, it’s mostly elderly, affluent riders who constituted the majority of first-generation Ebike owners, and rightfully so.  These are people who may not be up for hills  or riding for more than five miles, and have $2000 + to spend on an Ebike.

The second wave of newer designs are a little more hip, targeting commuters and those looking for something a little faster than traditional bikes.  We’re not talking you’re mama’s 250W commuter.  No, these are max. legal 1.2kW pavement-rippling tire shredders.  Oh, and if you talk to the right guys, you can get get hi-po chips to SIGNIFICANTLY increase output beyond the legal limit.

How do I get one, you ask!  Well, go to the Great Cathedral in Cologne, then head towards the river.  Along the way, you will find Eco Mobility.  They have been in business for a few months and specialize in custom frames and Ebikes.

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Markward Kayser, the owner of Eco-Mobility.de is catching the next wave.  What we have here folks, are visions of the future.  Some of his bikes are his own custom frames, others represent the cutting edge of Ebike development.  Mark loves to take a customer’s vision and bring it to life in real steel.  He also has a penchant for eye-bulgingly fast machines in search of a new kind of tire, somewhere between bicycle and motorcycle.

More pics after the break.

A wheel builder’s nightmare, but what a looker!

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Not quiet laid-back enough for you?  Check out this ape-hanger rig.  No, I can’t imagine a 50 mile ride on this, but cruising downtown?  I know, it looks like some mutant Stingray from the ’60s, but put a hi-po motor in this sucker and you will have the last laugh!

Painted in “girls only” pink, this bike lacks a motor and is kid sized.  But it’s unlike any you will find at the local bike shop.  Extravagant?  Sure.  It’s also a pretty cool calling card for a custom frame builder.

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Taking cues from 1950′s cafe racers or maybe a straight-four Indian,  This bike exudes a muscular, retro motorcycle feel, updated with a modern Li-ion powered electric motor.  It’s not a stock production bike.  Mark likes to find excited customers and help them translate that excitement into tire smoke!  But it’s about more than simple performance.  The guy is into the look and feel as well.

Okay, let’s cut to the chase.  How fast is fast?  Well, you’re looking at it.

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No, it’s not Bonneville fast; but it is quickest around a street course, for more laps than the closest competitor.  When the dust cleared at this year’s Eurobike competition for Ebikes, this one smoked ‘em all.  The nearest competitor was 10 laps back.  Straight-line speed is +70kph.  The disk brakes and full suspension are a necessity for this road rocket.

Okay, let’s take a few breaths, get centered, and return to “the real world.”  What about the average Joe who wants a 21st century ride to work with low emissions, a small footprint, and some exercise without getting pitted out?  Presented for your consideration is the GoCycle.

Brainchild of former McLaren Cars design engineer Richard Thorpe, the GoCycle is relatively light weight, comfortable, and portable.  Operating a simple mechanism, the rider can quickly fold the GoCycle into a compact form that fits in a supplied carrying case for transport on a train, plane, or car.  Rear suspension makes it relatively comfy on pavé.

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Like all new technologies, these Ebikes challenge preconceived notions of what a bike should be.  In the end, bikes are tools, specific to the needs of people and constrained by the technologies available.  They are also fun!  They liberate the spirit as well as the body.  I hope Americans do not dismiss new visions of cycling, and by clinging to the past, concede the markets and manufacturing opportunities of the future to others.  Besides, why should Europeans have all the fun?!?

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1 Comment

Filed under bike of the week, culture, gear, general interest, urban bike

One response to “Bike of The Week: Ebikes

  1. Hi John, you are right. Not only for the environment or as a mobilizer. It’s fun, it’s fast, it’s design, inspiracy and last not least: express your lifestyle. Come and visit us! Best regards from cold but sunny Cologne.

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