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Why Ride an eBike?

by Paul Strauss
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I’ve been riding bicycles for years, doing all of the hard work of pedaling all this time. It makes for great exercise, but it’s not necessarily the most efficient way to commute. Electric bikes (or “eBikes”) offer power assistance to make your ride faster and less exhausting. I recently spent an afternoon with the folks from Bosch eBike Systems to learn about their eBike powertrains, as we went for a ride along the Chicago Lakefront on one of the most beautiful days of the year.

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If you ride a bike to the office, you know that you probably need to bring a change of clothes – after all, you don’t want to be all sweaty sitting there at your desk. That’s one of the big advantages of an eBike. The added boost the motor provides can significantly reduce the amount of effort you need to put in on your ride, and therefore you’ll sweat a whole lot less. eBike motors like the ones from Bosch can provide anywhere from 40% to 300% assist to your level of effort. Simply choose a driving mode on the digital controller, and the bike adjusts to provide different levels of assistance.

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eBikes don’t just reduce effort, they can increase speed. I normally pedal around 10 to 12 mph on my regular bike, but with an eBike motor in place, it’s easy to achieve speeds up to 20 mph, with performance models cranking out speeds up to 28 mph. Plus, eBikes come in all kinds of styles, from rugged mountain bikes, to urban road bikes, and everything in between to suit your particular bicycling needs.

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You can still get a great workout on an eBike, but it gives you the versatility to go further or faster too. One thing that happens to me all the time when I ride my regular bike, is that I take a nice long ride on a trail, and by the time I get to my turnaround point, I’m too exhausted to pedal all the way back home. This is no problem with an eBike. You can ride out at a low level of assistance (or none), then increase the assist for the ride back home. They’re also great for those times when you encounter a steep grade and your muscles aren’t up to the challenge. If you live anywhere with lots of hills, your legs will thank you for buying an eBike.

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Bosch makes several different drive units to suit a variety of bicycling styles, including ones designed for everyday riding or a quick, sporty feel. Unlike some eBike systems, the Bosch drive unit is integrated into the crank mechanism, providing a smooth, natural ride, and an optimal center of gravity. Riding with one of these modern drive units feels so natural that you’ll just think you have superhuman strength. It’s definitely not like riding on a moped or motorcycle where you’re controlling a throttle. Instead, the system simply detects how hard you’re pedaling and adds to it. It’s slick stuff, and feels great at any speed.

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Of course, one question I get about eBikes is about how long you can ride between charges. The simple answer is that there’s no simple answer. Your speed, level of assist, terrain difficulty, and even your body weight can affect range. That said, with a Bosch PowerPack 400, you can go up to 110 miles, and the Power Pack 500 can go up to 135 miles, but that’s with the lowest amount of assist, and on flat roads. For me, I was seeing ranges around 60 miles in touring mode – which provides 120% increase to your pedaling effort. That’s certainly more than enough range for most situations. Recharging is pretty quick too – it takes between 3.5 and 4.5 hours to fully charge an empty battery pack, so you can definitely get it done while sitting at your desk during the workday.

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If you’re interested in checking out an eBike for yourself, I suggest heading to a local bike shop and asking for a test drive. Here in Chicago, I like Kozy’s – and highly recommend looking for bikes with Bosch drivetrains. They’re the smoothest and most natural feeling eBikes I’ve ridden on, and available in bikes from a wide variety of manufacturers, including Fuji, Electra, Raleigh, Trek, Tern, EMotion, KTM, and many more.

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