The AM1 e-bike is a minimalist bike with a boost

e-bike on shoulder
© AM1 on Kickstarter

It's already blown through its Kickstarter target, perhaps because people are realizing that this is all you really need.

There is an interesting electric bike on Kickstarter. The AM1 is not very powerful; it only has a 200 watt motor. It doesn't go very far compared to many e-bikes -- only twenty miles or so. It's not very fast; the motor will only get you to 15.5 mph (24 kph).

But it doesn't weigh very much at thirty pounds, and doesn't cost very much at about US $665 and it looks pretty much like a normal bike. As Carlton Reid of BikeBiz notes:

How come this e-bike is so cheap? It's no-frills – there are no gears, no fancy LCD screens, and the frame and the battery are lightweight compared to other electric bikes.

It also is pretty much all most people need in an e-bike. In Europe, where e-bikes have been around for a while, there are rules that set limits on power and speed, and the motor is engaged by pedalling rather than a throttle, so this bike isn't too much of an outlier there.

When I have tried to make the case that these limits are sensible, a lot of American e-bikers tell me that it is not enough, that North Americans travel longer distances, or the hills are worse, or they have a need for speed, or that Americans are heavier and need more power, or that they need a throttle because pedalling is hard.

Perhaps for some people that is true (and disabled cyclists have complained that they need a throttle), but for the great majority, what they need is a little bit of help on a commute, to deal with hills or the fact that they are really just a bit tired at the end of the day and want an easier ride home. As the AM1 designers note:

The motor gives you a boost when you really need it. The sensor in the pedals delivers smooth, controlled power relative to the speed of your pedalling. Pedal slower to slow down, faster to speed up.

In the USA, where everyone seems to think that everything is an e-bike, you get problems like this where big electric scooters are in the bike lanes scaring everyone and even the police don't know what an e-bike really is. You get bikes with 750 watt motors racing down the bike lanes at 30 mph.

The AM1, on the other hand, is a simple little thing with a rear hub motor and a removable bottle battery.

The AM1 is a lightweight motorised bike. It looks like a bike, handles like a bike, weighs the same as a bike but rides like you're freewheeling downhill with a tailwind....It brings together the lightweight handling and simplicity of a single speed bike, with the effortlessness of an electric bike. It has a lightweight 20-mile battery that easily covers an average commute of 8.5 miles each way with plenty of range spare to meet your friends after work.

AM1 in Living Room© AM1 on Kickstarter

Honestly, this makes so much sense. The AM1 is a bike with a boost, not a motorcycle. In many e-bikes the frame and the battery get so heavy that it is a slog to run it without the motor; it becomes self-defeating. The AM1 is light enough that you should be able to happily ride it just as a bike, even with only one gear. It reminds me of an e-bike we showed a couple of years ago, Troy Rank's Maxwell bike; I wrote at the time:

This is, I believe, the real future of e-bikes. They are for people who need a little more range, perhaps a bit of a boost in hilly terrain, who don't want to arrive at work drenched in sweat. They make bikes accessible to more people of different abilities and ages. They truly enhance the bike rather than try and be something else.

The Maxwell bombed on Kickstarter; people complained it needed gears and was underpowered. Three years later, the AM1 has raised ten times its goal. Perhaps people are coming around to the idea that when it comes to power, speed, and cost, less is more.

The AM1 e-bike is a minimalist bike with a boost
It's already blown through its Kickstarter target, perhaps because people are realizing that this is all you really need.

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