have platforms and racks to
help carry multiple kids, lots
of groceries or even a movie
star’s fan mail. Because
they’re built for carrying more
than just you, when you load
more stuff onto them, the
weight is distributed better
to ensure the bike’s handling
isn’t badly affected.
Power ratings are some
indication of what kind of
boost you’ll get from a bike,
but actually riding a few
different types and brands will
give you a much better idea
of just how much assistance
you’ll get. Some are set up
to give you a seamless, slow surge
of power, while others can almost
slingshot you forward at full assist
levels. You can always select a lower
assist setting, but if you get to a steep
hill with a small motor, expect a lot
more effort on your part.
If it’s your first time riding an electric
bike, you’re in for a treat. Everyone
who gets on one is thrilled by the pedal
assist. Reading about it or hearing
about it is one thing, but the first time
you swing your leg over a bike and
pedal is a visceral experience. Your
mind and body immediately get it, and
you can then imagine the freedom
you’ll have with the bike. You will start
riding your bike to places you never did
before and using it for errands. Heck,
you’ll create reasons to go ride!
If you already have a bike, you
can get a bolt-on kit like the BionX.
It includes a new rear wheel
with the direct-drive motor
built in and the frame- or
rack-mounted battery system.
BionX uses a gear-less, direct-drive hub motor system.
That means that the power
generated is transferred
directly to the rear wheel.
Direct drive is very quiet but
fairly large and heavy. Your
other choice for hub motors is
one with a geared motor, using
a smaller motor inside the hub
spinning three planetary gears
to drive the hub. These are
smaller, usually more efficient,
Mid-drive motors sit near the bottom
bracket and add assist to the front
sprocket of the bike. Torque can be
increased by changing gears at the
hub (e.g., shifting to a lower gear on a
climb). These are usually built into the
frame. With a purpose-built frame, the
mid-drive motor and battery system are
integrated into the downtube, giving
the bikes a balanced look.
The BionX mounts to the bottle-cage bosses on a traditional
frame. They may not fit step-through frames.
The Stromer ST-2 is a serious-looking commuter with state-of-the-art technology. If stolen, it
will even alert you, and you can remotely lock up the rear wheel.