“Urban Commuting” and E-Bikes at the Big Shows…

Well, Eurobike — Europe’s largest bicycle trade show — kicked off yesterday, and as many of you know the U.S. equivalent Interbike is coming up in a few short weeks.

A few of us are signed up and ready to go for our annual coverage of Interbike for and our sister site…this will be the first year that I get to join RL and Moe and the other folks from Now that we’re signed up to attend, we’ve been getting bombarded by dozens of previews, press releases and invitations to vendor meetings at their respective show booths. It’s a great “sneak peek” at what we can expect at the show.

Overwhelmingly, the press releases for both Eurobike and Interbike focus on so-called “urban commuting” bikes (less racy, more practical) and electric/electric-hybrid bikes. Supposedly, this is the big year when E-bikes reach a sizeable market penetration into the U.S. They’re already wildly popular in many Asian countries and there is a decent market in Europe, but currently they still hold a tiny percentage of the U.S. interest. That’s fixin’ to change, if the PR is accurate…

What do YOU think? Are E-bikes going to take off here in the U.S.? Are there still too many skeptics here? Rest assured, we’ll be taking a look at the offerings at Interbike and sharing our thoughts with you…and will hopefully get to report on some promising technologies. Stay tuned!



    I don’t know what uptake is like in your city, but here in London Ontario I’m seeing more and more of them. I don’t know why, but I think they’re gonna be extremely popular, but in a faddish kind of way that tails off sharply in a few years. Total hunch, fully prepared to be dead wrong.

  2. Ghost Rider

    Ranty, I get the exact same feeling! Certainly the technology (battery life, range between recharges, etc.) needs to mature a bit before these bikes can be considered “here to stay”. I am pretty intrigued by the concept, no doubt.

    I have yet to see an E-bike in the flesh here in Tampa — what I HAVE seen a lot of recently are these horrible two-stroke motor kits on Wallyworld bicycles…loud, smoky and irritating. And up on the sidewalk!

  3. ha1ku

    I think there is definitely a market for the non-cyclist commuter. Anything that helps our society adopt an alternative perspective to getting around I’m game for.

  4. cafn8

    I have personally only seen one or two “in the wild” here in New Jersey, ever. The feeling among non-cyclists seems to be that the price for a decent model is so high that a used car could be bought for not much more money (at least from an initial purchase point of view, which is what people focus on.) In our car-centric culture, the car wins out. Comitted cyclists, who would not balk at spending $1000+ dollars on a bicycle, generally know poor quality components when they see them, and would not pay top dollar for a bike with low end parts just to get a motor. The price point seems to be the key (assuming people actually want to get out of their cars.) Unfortunately, department store disposable bikes have made the expected price point so low in the US that even the chintziest budget electric will seem expensive to the people who would find them most attractive.

  5. Ben W

    The bikes are nice and getting nicer. We’ll see more advanced electronics working their way into bikes, it’s inevitable. I’ve certainly seen more of them around Seattle, but I wouldn’t consider it a major trend yet.

    The problem with electric bikes, really, is that they’re still bikes. For most people, riding a bicycle just isn’t *that* hard. Some people are fitter then others, sure, but just getting somewhere on a bike won’t kill anyone. Lots of people say they don’t want to get to work sweaty, but it’s just not that big an issue to deal with. More often then not, I think they’re just plain scared of riding in traffic. Better infrastructure, more accommodating employers, and better educated motorists… I think these things are what it will really take to get hesitant bike commuters off then fence and onto their bikes.

    So electric bikes will appeal to a small minority, and they’ll eat them up. But I don’t think they’ll have a substantial impact on bicycle commuting statistics.

  6. Gardengnome

    I don’t think there’s going to be a large market for them. A more than zero market yes, but the cost is as much as a decent used car, and for ‘cyclists’ the stigma of ‘wimping out’ is likely too great to overcome. I do think electric bikes have a place and a use (longer commutes, lots of loads, hilly commutes, etc).

  7. Ghost Rider

    Y’all are presenting some good points — but I still wonder why e-bikes are so popular in other countries but not yet in ours. Is it the price? The technology?

    I am the first to admit that I was a naysayer in the beginning — but I realized that all along I believed that riding a bicycle is a piece of cake for anyone. Of course, this isn’t the case; it can be quite hard for those out of shape or with some other health issue. I thought “well, e-bikes are for cheaters”…and I wonder if this is a commonly-held belief?

  8. Gardengnome

    In the US, there are two conspiring factors against ebikes (imo). 1) they are ‘cheating’ from the macho-american crowd. and 2) Cost, from the non-cyclists (if a decent one is $2,000 so is a used car).

    It doesn’t mean these are rational/well thought out viewpoints, but they are where people are coming from.

  9. Rider

    Interesting … E-bikes face a struggle against the culture here in the USA … Americans don’t ride bikes, for many reasons. Pedaling is the least of them, so a non-pedal (or barely pedal) option won’t make a big difference.

    In Europe, bikes are seen as transportation. Not so in the United States — that’s the big difference and the big drag on market momentum.

  10. Josh Lipton

    While electric bikes may not take off in the US as a whole for quite a while, with the momentum that they have going, perhaps they could attain critical mass one community at time. We’re considering opening up a division of our business focused on bringing electric bikes into our community and trying to figure out how to build up the momentum to make our community an electric bike community.

  11. BluesCat

    I’ve seen two here in Phoenix, and I believe a number of things conspire to keep e-bikes from being successful here:

    1) Phoenix is a sprawled out, relatively “new” city, and unless you are able to charge the bike at work, there isn’t enough battery power in the ones I’ve seen for the typical commuter to make a round trip to work and back without pedaling.

    2) Because of 1, above, the automobile rules and our streets are wide … and fast; very intimidating for even seasoned cyclists.

    3) The heat here is death on car batteries, I would imagine it would be the same for these batteries if the bike is left parked outside.

    4) Phoenix is located in a “red state,” and the conservative element here sees transportation by bike as something only for the poor and for the Liberal Hippie Element. (Senator McCain is one of the co-authors of “Out of Gas,” a manifesto which disses the idea of bicycles as viable transportation.)

  12. ToxicHaste

    I dunno, gang, I’ve been pretty happy with mine:

    Wallyworld and Amazon’s been offering a pretty decent selection of ebikes on the cheap. That aside, I think consumers will embrace the technology *after* people feel safe riding bicycles on US streets. That’s still kind of a tough argument here in SoCal. Then again, back when gas hit four bucks a gallon, I saw quite a few of these things on the road so who knows.

  13. Ron

    Don’t ignore the Down-Economy & Backlash to BP’s “GUSHING-GULF” It’s not largely about The-Bike nor Low-Entry-Cost to Used-Cars
    …with their corresponding High-Insurance cost…vs 2-Wheeled Alternatives. Statistically, most folks really DON’T “Commute” all that far from Home, many as few as 3 to 15 miles Round-Trip!

    Aside from an emerging host of other contributing factors, it appears to me (& others) this will become much-less of a Fad & so much more of an absolute TREND…which will Lower-Prices etc.

    Besides, “eBikes-Empower” all of us, especially when we really need it: for going uphills, and more “Reserve-Energy” in Hot or Cold weather or even when a bit Too-Fatiqued…plus for all those Aqing Boomers trying to stay-fit…perhaps.

    Aside from all this, just consider all the many Recreational-Use
    possibilities the latest eBike Technologies are likely to Introduce in our “Car-Culture”. Like going to Starbucks or Mcdonalds by taking the eBike…instead of adding to pollution?

    In USA we-like our Cars, Sports, Movies, Fast-Food…& Bicycles!

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