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The Future Is Now — New Bike Gear For 2014

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E-Bikes — The pioneers of the e-bike have their work cut out in North America where they exist in a “grey” legal area in several states. Laws read that the bikes must disengage their motors when the brake is engaged. E-bikes are stuck in a 1950s world of moped legislation.

Love ‘em or hate ‘em, e-bikes are rapidly evolving into effective machines

Nobody knows quite what to think of these things. Are they motorcycles, capable of damaging trails or jeopardizing land use relationships? Are they cheater bikes, without a place in the “real” cycling world? Are they like a Segway, with little more utility than to get you somewhere you could already go if you just exerted yourself a little? Are they only for older riders looking to extend their cycling career, or for injured riders trying to get back on the horse?

Manufacturers propose they are their own beast, assisting all different types of cyclists from commuters to tourers to mountain bikers. The biggest player behind the category is BOSCH, the same German engineering firm responsible for your power tools, electric steering in your car, or injectors in your truck. They are working with about 50 OEM bike brands already, making E-Bikes of all kinds. They get you farther, faster and have become standard fare across Europe where the E-bike is a popular tool for travel.

We rode the Haibike Xduro Nduro Pro until the sun went down in Deer Valley and got to see areas of the valley that we never accessed using the other bikes there. It was great fun. Begin pedaling, the BOSCH system measures your speed, cadence and wattage 1000 times a second and puts a virtual hand on your back depending on what level of assistance your left thumb requests on the bar mounted LCD display.

An assisted ascent high into this gorgeous trail was a highlight last week at Deer Valley

The bike did leave some room for improvement. The bars were embarrassingly narrow. The bike felt heavy during occasional short gaps in power delivery. The LCD interface was not particularly intuitive—perhaps it was user error, but it seemed to selectively ignore my input commands. With that said, it was one of the most smile-inducing test rides of the spring. I want one. Haibike is the first company to deliver the Bosch system to the U.S., with bikes hitting floors this week.

We look for E-bikes to first start to make their way into the commuting realm in cities like Seattle, San Fran., D.C., and similar cities where driving and parking your car especially sucks. In the MTB realm, early adopter toy lovers will recognize how fun they are, as they use them to see more and more of the beauty of our parks and trails. Gravity riders will likely learn to love E-bikes to get their full suspension rigs up into mountains that are not lift served. Families in which the slower riders in the group want to join the party will also find a reason to love E-bikes. They are a diverse lot, as diverse as regular bikes.

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