Riding the Electric Bike Wave
Electric Assist Bikes are here to stay, and access to an e-bike suited perfectly to you has never been greater. Read on to find out why so many people are riding the electric bike wave and why you should too!
A short history
Lately it seems like everything is becoming powered by battery. From mainstream vehicles, to household vacuums and power tools, and of course, all of our personal devices. It may seem like bicycles were slow to catch on to becoming electrified. Electric bike history stretches back almost 130 years, but efforts for production-level electric bikes didn’t take root until the early 1990’s, when a Swiss company named Pedelec attempted the first production ebike. By the late 90’s, other American bicycle companies were riding the electric bike wave and manufacturing models under their own brand names.
Y’all remember the Segway? This was the first transportation vehicle somewhat resembling a bicycle to use Lithium Ion battery cells. Because of the high cost of Lithium mining, a Segway in 2001 cost $5,000. While Segway as a company had somewhat of a tragic ending, the company that acquired Segway currently sells balancing scooters with similar performance for $800 today. Economy of scale has given rise to a new era of electric assist bicycles and scooters.
The three principal technologies that emerged to make modern e-bikes possible and popular are:
1) Affordable, high-energy lithium-ion batteries.
2) Software-enabled electronics to control synchronous motors.
3) Serviceable, light, and high-torque motors.
Modern e-bikes found in bike shops throughout America are truly awesome machines that are available to anyone, either to rent or for purchase. Rebecca Branle, co-owner of Lititz Bikeworks says “we have so many folks in our community that have embraced electric bikes. It feeels good to see a group of e-bike riders pedal up and stop for coffee in a place like Slate Cafe or Dosie Dough” Rebecca is the Executive Director for Venture Lititz, a Main Street accredited organization responsible for preserving the history and natural beauty of Lititz while working to maintain a thriving downtown. “Bicycle infrastructure is key to economic growth in towns like Lititz, and having the Warwick to Ephrata Rail trail here is a real blessing for us. We see e-Bikes all day on the WERT and we know the people riding them are supporting our small businesses”, says Branle.
Riding the Electric Bike Wave
Consumers have more (and better than ever) electric bike options to choose from these days, which means the current boom for e-bikes isn’t going anywhere soon. Manufacturers are working hard to develop technology on the low end to keep prices in check. “We’ve seen some companies really emphasize entry-level e-bikes that are high quality and affordable, which tells me the manufacturers are listening to the consumer.” says Mark Branle, founder of Bikeworks. “Sticker shock was common during pandemic shortages, but now models are streaming in that are more in line with what consumers can afford”, adds Branle. Price points for a wider audience will give way to more people pedaling away on an e-bike. Still if you are on the fence, Mark encourages his customers to rent an e-bike any chance they can, especially when on traveling on business or family vacation.
The COVID-19 pandemic seems to have accelerated our thirst for outdoor activities, and the cycling industry is no exception. Consumers who bought during the pandemic are upgrading and some are now considering e-bikes. If you haven’t test ridden an electric assist bike, take the time to visit your local bike shop and through a leg over one. Most shops are low pressure, and the good ones with experience in e-bikes will take the time to explain the difference between each model and how it meets your needs and fits into your budget.