Biking is back. It’s one of the few approved outdoor activities in many cities—and with fewer cars on the road to spoil the fun, millions of people are hopping on bikes to enjoy the sense of freedom that only spinning on two wheels with the air flowing through your hair can bring.
Philadelphia has seen an increase in biking of over 150% during the COVID-19 outbreak, New York City’s Department of Transportation reports a 50% increase in bikes on all East River Bridges compared to this time last year, and London has implemented temporary bike lanes that could become permanent after the lockdown is lifted.
All these factors make this the perfect time to invest in the new breed of smart, stylish electric bikes. For too long, e-bikes have been large, heavy and unattractive—but the next generation of tech-savvy and design-forward two-wheelers is upending the e-bike’s clunky reputation and ushering in a new era of transportation.
"We are dragging bike manufacturing out of the bike industry and into the consumer tech space," says Taco Carlier, co-founder of VanMoof. The brand manufactures high-tech, feature-rich e-bikes—and their latest model has sold over 10,000 units since its launch in late April.
The N.P.D. Group confirms the rising popularity of electric bicycles—this past March, e-bike sales shot up 85% compared to the same period last year.
Electric bikes used to be regular bicycles with a motor attached to the hub, but now they are being designed as high-tech, high-performance vehicles—and you don’t need a license, insurance, or registration to ride.
Don’t want to arrive at your destination hot and sweaty? Pick a bike with throttle assist and it’ll do all the work for you. If you need a little boost while climbing hills, pedal assist can get you over the hump.
While these bikes are pricey, there are few ongoing costs such as those associated with other forms of transportation—and could there be a cleaner, greener, more socially distanced way to commute once we all head back to the office?
VanMoof’s newest e-bikes, the S3 and X3, take city cycling to a new level. Dubbed the Tesla of e-bikes by The Verge, VanMoof hides all the electric components inside a futuristic triangular-shaped frame—so there are no dangling wires or unsightly motors.
This third-generation model features an improved range (up to 90 miles), a turbo boost mode, and an automatic four-speed, customizable e-shifter. It’s a pedal-assist bike, so there’s no throttle—but the 350W motor will give you a boost for speeds of up to 20 mph.
A smartphone app lets you customize your lights, horn sounds, and alarm setting—and you can track your rides and lock down your bike remotely should someone try to steal it. If someone does manage to pinch it, VanMoof’s Bike Hunters will track it down for you—or give you a new one.
Faraday’s $2,000 Courtland e-bike has style in spades, with a streamlined frame that screams vintage modern while hiding away its electronic components.
A peddle-assist bike, the Courtland has a 25-mile range, 8 gears, and a top speed of 20 mph. With swept-back handlebars, it lets you ride more upright, cruiser-style—and at 40 pounds, it’s much lighter than many e-bikes.
The motor uses an onboard algorithm to continually alter performance to your needs, and an accompanying smartphone app can control the built-in LED lights, show your location, and adjust your speed. It also offers a GPS-based theft recovery system.
Biomega, the Danish purveyor of high-design bicycles, has a line of OKO e-bikes that start at $2,7000. Iconic, stylish, and sleek, they sport ultralight carbon frames with integrated batteries, 250W motors, and four levels of pedal assistance. OKO’s clean, Scandinavian look is courtesy of KiBiSi, the Danish design group founded by architect Bjarke Ingels.
The Coleen Mariniere e-bike, with its cross-form frame and sleek lines, was inspired by a bike designed by French architect Jean Prouvé in occupied France during World War II. The French-made electric bike’s form may harken back to the early 20th century—but its function is all modern.
A transflective display set inside the handlebar stem can be viewed in direct sunlight, and it shows incoming call, text, and phone notifications—and sports a USB port to charge your phone. A smartphone app allows you to unlock the bike, track trips, and find your ride if it’s ever lost or stolen.
Coleen e-bikes also feature integrated lights, four assistance levels, and a removable battery pack (so you don’t need to haul the bike upstairs to charge it in your house). The Mariniere has a 60-mile range, a 522 watt-hour battery, and some customization options.
At CES this year, Coleen unveiled a new model called the Compose that can be completely customized. Prices start at $6,4000, and you can pick the color, power, handlebars, gearbox, braking system, and other features.
The retro-inspired Super73 Z1 offers the look and feel of a vintage motorcycle, but with the operational power of a high-end electric bike. With a top speed of 20 mph, a 25-mile range, and a stainless steel frame with a vinyl seat fit for two, the bike may give you some James Dean chills as you putter in to work.
It’s a throttle-assist only e-bike, so you either coast along pedal-free, or power it yourself (there’s no pedal-assist mode).
Set to be released in June, Super73’s $2,200 S2 sports some extra smarts, including an LCD display that connects to a smartphone app for turn-by-turn directions. It has a 40- to 75-mile range and offers pedal-assist or throttle-only modes.
The S2’s dramatic styling and internal cable routing make it look like a true crossover motorcycle slash e-bike - a motorbike.
If you really want that motorbike thrill without all the noise and gas, Vintage Electric’s Roadster boasts a whopping 1,123 watt-hour battery that takes you up to 75 miles, and it can reach assisted speeds of up to 36 mph (on private property only due to e-bike regulations).
This $7,000 pedal- and throttle-assisted e-bike combines performance, comfort, and beauty in its hydroformed aluminum frame with more than a hint of a modish moto spirit—even if it does weigh in at a hefty 86 pounds.
Vintage Electric’s slightly tamer model is the Cafe. For just over half the price of the Roadster, it has a 750-watt rear-hub motor and it’s decorated with laser-etched wood inlays.
The Cafe’s vintage-inspired aesthetic is married with modern smarts—a Bluetooth-enabled controller monitors the bike’s performance to give you the pedal-assist power you need.
The Fuell Fluid is a crowdfunded e-bike designed by Erik Buell, a pioneer of motorcycle racing technology. Working with Frédéric Vasseur of the Alfa Romeo Formula 1 team, they developed this utility tool of e-bikes.
The $3,900 Fluid gets up to 125 miles of range, and it features a super high-powered motor, dual swappable batteries, and a carbon belt instead of a chain for its 8-speed geared hub.
Its custom aluminum alloy frame and 3.2-inch color screen (which displays speed, pedal assistance power level, and battery level) are very futuristic looking, and it also has a USB smartphone charging port and a 4-digit PIN code to prevent theft.
Agnelli Milan Bici manufactures modern electric bikes out of vintage bike parts in a workshop in Abbiategrasso, near Milan, Italy. An antique furniture restorer by trade, Luca Agnelli uses vintage motorcycle petrol tanks to house electric batteries fitted to old bicycle frames made from the 1930s to the 1980s.
The company makes about 10 pedal-assist e-bikes a year, and each one is unique. Prices run from $12,000 to $42,000, international shipping is available, and the company will take custom orders.
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