Thank you all so much for your comments about your feeling on electric bicycles. Electric assist bikes were huge at Eurobike and they were pretty big at Interbike this year. A lot of you expressed interest, so I went around and talked with several of the electric assist bike vendors including BionX, Currie/iZip, Schwinn, UltraMotor/A2B, and even Tianjin Flying Pigeon Electric Bicycle Manufacture Co., LTD. Surprisingly, Flying Pigeon wouldn't allow me to photograph their electric bikes, which were among the nicer looking e-bikes at the show.
I didn't see bikegonewild's favorite -- Pi in San Francisco -- but I tried out a BionX equipped Specialized and one of the UltraMotor A2B e-bikes. There's some question on whether these powered devices are "bikes" or not, but there's absolutely no question that these are tons of fun. Here's Annie Fike of The Bike Rack in Washington DC trying a BionX equipped bike. Her shop serves the messenger and urban cyclists in DC, and even she thinks these machines are fun.
Tim Grahl and I talked about electric bikes, and we decided we'll cover them in a series of articles over at Commute By Bike in the coming weeks. We'll profile some of the products that he and I think are interesting and we'll talk about how bike retailers are responding to (or resisting) this growing market.
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Sigh. How many thin people do you see on electric bikes in N. America? Case closed.
At least electric bikes are cleaner and simpler to work on than mopeds. With the electrics I'm sure a lot of things don't get repaired, really. Fried modules simply get replaced. Still, the bikes are heavy and bulky, unbalanced and hard to manage when partly disassembled. They're too heavy for a typical bike work stand. Many small shops or shops whose market area demands a lot of floor space devoted to non-cycling merchandise will have difficulty accommodating the space-hogging electrics along with everything else.
@jamesmallon - yeah, no. I'm 5'7"/126 after losing 12 lb commuting on an electric bike, which I ride due to knee problems.
I think what you're getting at is North Americans tend to be overweight and I'd agree (along with the studies that show it). Maybe folks who are out of shape will find electric bikes the start to a healthy lifestyle.