OK, I'm a convert. Mass adoption really could change urban and suburban transportation.
I've written before about how e-bikes could transform our cities, and yet, strangely, I had never actually ridden one. That changed this weekend when I had the opportunity to meet up with e-bike expert/retailer Don Gerhardt, and take a ride on a Magnum Ui5 Urban Hybrid Bike.
And boy, was I impressed.To be fair, given this was my first ride on an e-bike (except for the ELF), so this write up should be considered more of a comment on/review of the product category (e-bikes) versus the product (the Magnum). Still, as I shot up a hill from a standing start, and without the slightest hesitation about keeping up with traffic, I found myself agreeing 100% with Lloyd:
As someone who has ridden primarily for transportation, not exercise, for the last 20 years—and also as someone who regularly wimps out and takes the car when the North Carolina heat gets too much—I was struck by how effectively a bike like the Magnum cancels almost any of my usual excuses for not biking around town. It's sturdily built, it has in-built lights and luggage carrier, a really nice comfortable ride, premium-feeling components, and as much or as little electric 'boost' as you see fit to add. While purists will no doubt still scoff at 'cheating', I can't help but feel that e-bikes could get a whole lot more people out of their cars and onto a saddle.
And the more bikes there are on the roads—electric or not—the more our cities and suburbs will cater to them.
Another nice feature of the Magnum, alongside such convenience items like a tool-free adjustable handlebar stem, was the 'pedelec' assist mode, which Don tells me is more commonly used in Europe. Essentially this senses your effort on the pedals and uses an algorithm to provide boost proportionate to that effort, adjusted according to the level of assist you've set it at. You can still use the 'throttle' to add extra boost, or use it in throttle-only mode—negating the need to pedal—but this feature does make it feel, to this newbie at least, a lot more like riding a regular bike. (Albeit with a certain amount of super powers.)
Like I say, I'm no expert on the subject so I'll refer you all to a more detailed video review below. But even as someone who had expected to enjoy e-bikes, and was already sold on their general utility/value, I'm left considerably enthused for how these machines really could change urban transportation for many of us. Of course, to do so we need ongoing investment in decent bike infrastructure, as well as common sense rules and etiquette about who rides what where. Don was very vocal about the need for e-bike riders to treat the rules of the road with respect, and their fellow road users with courtesy. There are going to be a lot more e-bikes around in the near future. So let's not go giving them a bad name.
The Magnum Ui5 retails for $1699 MSRP. Not cheap, compared to a regular bike. But this is NOT a regular bike. If you're on the East Coast, you can get one from Don Gerhardt here. Otherwise, check out Magnum E-bikes for more details.