Electric bikes: the secret of the “boom”

The market for pedal-assisted bicycles is now booming, with significant annual growth rates. Let’s see how these innovative vehicles work, and find out the reasons for their unexpected success.

 

You wanted a bicycle? Now you… no longer have to pedal it.

A little tweak of the famous proverb describes a phenomenon that will have purists turning up their noses, but the fact is that we cannot ignore the continual and rapid rise of pedal-assisted bicycles.

A recent survey reveals that these “hybrids” enjoyed an approximate 100% growth rate in 2016.

Whatever way you look at it, there are more and more of them around, and there has to be a reason.

A real “boom” that’s more than merely a “fashion”, cannot simply be explained away as an eccentric fad for the lazy; it’s obvious that behind the figures of this sudden success, especially in the MTB world, there is some important benefit to the user.

First off, the big advantage is pretty obvious: an e-bike is a eco-friendly vehicle that’s less tiring than a bike when desired, but which doesn’t have the running costs of a scooter.

It’s ideal for getting around in city traffic and is just perfect for relaxing leisure rides with the family; but it’s also appreciated by more “extreme” bikers, who can safely tackle distances and gradients that would otherwise be out of bounds.

 

How does it work?

First of all, we mustn’t confuse electric bikes and the pedal-assisted kind.

The former, less common type has an electric motor and an autonomous acceleration system independent of any pedals; it’s a kind of electric scooter and has the same requirements regarding registration, license plates, insurance, etc.

It’s an entirely different story with pedal-assisted bikes. These special bicycles are supplied with a removable, domestically rechargeable battery and have a “smart” electronic control unit that activates the motor only when the cyclist is pedalling.

In practice, the motor does not completely replace pedalling but simply “supports” it; by law it must have a maximum power output of 250W and turns off automatically when the bike reaches 25 km per hour. Of course, it’s always possible to disable the assistance and use the bike in the traditional pedal-powered manner.

Certainly, this system offers an easy way to handle steep climbs, but on the other hand, it also encourages you to work, as the motor action is calibrated with your pedalling mode: the more power you produce, the more electric assistance you get.

 

Recipe for success

The labour saving idea is certainly the driving force behind the popularity of e-bikes, but that alone does not explain the explosion in popularity. The two different but equally important reasons concern technical and aesthetic factors. On one side there is the state-of-the-art technology, with long-life batteries and compact, light motors hidden inside the frame; on the other side there are the increasingly sophisticated designs and attractive lines that make the bikes enjoyable to use. On the weight side it must be said, however, that the top models won’t be less than 18-20 kg overall. Price? In line with traditional high-end bikes.

Going back to the concept of pedalling pleasure, given that the e-bike means greater freedom of movement, if you want a new total comfort experience, the ideal saddle choice for this kind of bike would be models like the new e-saddles by Selle Italia. These saddles are capable of “amplifying” the feeling of well-being and comfort on any track.

Summing up, we still hold the view that cycling is basically about effort, sweat and conquest; but if this new “culture” of cycling can help bring more and more enthusiasts to our wonderful sport, well, bring it on! We will only be too happy.

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