Friday, March 30, 2012

Friday News And Views

Specialized Turbo E-bike (Image courtesy of Specialized Bikes)
 If you hadn't heard, Specialized Bikes just launched a Euro only electric bike recently.  The big deal on this was the claim that it goes 28 mph.

Yep. That's the take away that was put out there on this "bike". (And I use that term loosely.) The thing is, it is a poor excuse for a motorbike, and a very poor excuse for a bicycle, (which it isn't, technically.)

I'm not picking on Specialized here, but on electric powered bicycles in particular. These are contraptions based on bicycles with motors. You knew them as "mopeds" back in the day. Same thing now, just that the type of motor has changed is all. They failed back then in the U.S., and they will fail again here today.

Here are a few reasons why that is.
  • Weight: As a "bicycle", these are heinously heavy. You wouldn't pedal a bicycle without a motor on it that weighed 40lbs or more, right? Why? Because bicycles can weigh a whole lot less. (I won't even get into the dollars/weight ratio here.)
  • Because they are heavy, you'll likely need to have that electric boost, and rely on it most of the time. This pretty much kills the electric "bike" as a bicycle.
  • Okay, so if it has a motor, and you use it most of the time because you have to since it is sooo heavy, then is it a good motorcycle. No. It isn't. 
So, why on earth would anyone want one of these here in the U.S.? Good question. And Specialized isn't selling theirs here. Good decision. In Europe, these make sense, because their countries are compact, things are narrower, smaller, and there are shorter distances between the places you want to get to, which all add up to a place where e-bikes make some sense.

In America? Where commutes are measured in hours? Not so much. Even if you do live in an urban area, where would you feel safe riding an e-bike? You can't ride them on "non-motorized" paths, so you are stuck out in the street.

Then you have the price, which is north of 5G. can buy a "real scooter" for half as much. One with turn signals, brake lights, and one that has a lot more range and goes faster than any e-bike. Then you have to wonder, why not just get a motorcycle proper? The "e-bike" is just weird, really.  The mere fact that they focus on motor power in the marketing just devalues these as bicycles in the first place.

And as far as being "green"? Yeah- whatever. Lithium-Ion battery? Gimme a break.

Check it out- A real bicycle!

The steel bicycle frame- it has been around since bicycles started. It is still here, and it isn't going away. Why? Well, maybe you should ride one and find out. Now- I shouldn't say just any ol' steel frame,  but a good one. Ride a nice, quality tubed, well put together steel frame some time. Then you'll see why steel is sticking around as a frame material.

I rode this here Breezer Lightning Pro around a bit yesterday and marveled at how smooth it felt and how springy it was. It isn't for everybody, but I like that it flexes. Yes. A bicycle should flex.

You hear so much about how a frame set is "30% stiffer than our previous model", and so on. Stiffer isn't always better. Not for components, and certainly not for the rider all the time. You see this getting marketed now in the upper echelon of road cycling. Stiffness isn't held up as the pinnacle of design anymore. Not in many cases. Today you'll likely hear about a new road bike from Trek that will address this very thing- rider comfort. Funny. Carbon fiber, the wonder material, now being tuned for rider comfort. Updated: And here it is. The "Domane"

Anyway, that doesn't mean the "everyday" rider needs a carbon fiber road rocket, because steel does the job as well or better and lasts a heck of a lot longer. Just think about it.

Have a great weekend and ride your bicycles!


Matt said...

I recently switched from a quality steel hardtail to a (much) cheaper hydro-formed aluminium hard tail and I can honestly say, the AL frame is as comfortable as the steel one. I have been riding steel bikes for 20+ years, on and off road, and I bought two AL bikes before this one. Both were stiff, uncomfortable and unpleasant. Since then I have gone out of my way to get steel bikes (not that easy down here in Aus). Those uncomfortable AL bikes were built a long time ago though and new AL bikes are, if not as good, at least very close to steel - even quality steel like Salsa's Kung Fu.

I was surprised, I never thought I would own another AL bike, but I have traded in the steel bike for the AL one and I am as happy as Larry.

Guitar Ted said...

@Matt: Yup- some newer aluminum stuff is getting to feel nicer. I think materials technology has really pushed aluminum to the fore as far as comfort goes, but it isn't as easy to find that comfy aluminum frame. Some look great and are not, while others that would appear to be harsh are actually quite nice.

That hydro-forming and whatever "mother tube" was used really make a big difference, but it is hard for consumers to know which is which.

ScottsHighland said...

Another great post, and it was awesome of you to invite Grant Peterson to guest post the 2nd half of it. :-)

As a Rivendell owner I highly agree on that part.

Matt said...

I don't understand the point of this particular e-bike - seems more like a "because we can" model than anything remotely practical.

Where I DO see e-bikes making a difference is in the cargo bike realm - something that can pick your speed up by even 5mph is going to help a lot, and on a cargo bike it's not like you're going to notice the weight penalty too much anyway.

Matt said...

@Guitar Ted: You are dead right. Local shops and distributors have demo fleets these days and I took full advantage when scouting for my latest bike. Two of the three hard tail AL bikes were comfy, the other was like riding a brick :)

RGB Nameless said...

Electric bikes... They will kill scooters in Europe, Russia, China, etc. Commutes here a lot shorter, than in the USA, plus people live in the appartmens, mostly, not in the houses with garages. You can't park your scooter, motorbike, mopede, or whatever in the apartment. But you can park an electric bike.

And yes, they will used as self propelled transport, not bicycle.

If you move sight from big and expensive brands, you see a lot of cheap chinese parts.
And they do the job.