Feel the Power

No longer considered a novelty, E-bikes are the fastest-growing segment of the U.S. cycling market. Here’s the lowdown on how they have flipped the switch.

36 million
Number of e-bikes manufactured annually on average.

December 31, 1895
The date Ogden Bolton Jr. was granted U.S. Patent 552,271 for a battery-powered bicycle with a “6-pole brush-and-commutator direct current (DC) hub motor mounted in the rear wheel,” according to the internet’s most reliable information source Wikipedia on February 27, 2020. Wiki—and Opitbike founder and blogger Jim Turner—add that the bike had no gears and the motor “could draw up to 100 amperes from a 10-volt battery. Two years later, in 1897, Hosea W. Libbey of Boston invented an electric bicycle that was propelled by a “double electric motor.” In 1898, a cycling inventor named Mathew J. Steffens added a rear wheel drive, which used a driving belt along the outside edge of the wheel. And in 1899, U.S. Patent 627,066 by John Schnepf depicted a rear wheel friction “roller-wheel” style drive electric bicycle.

$81 billion
The amount Americans spend on all types of biking annually, according to bicycle-guider.com.

47%
The amount bike commuting in the U.S. has grown in the last decade (with up to  73 percent growth in the largest cities).

364,000
Number of bicycles produced around the world daily. That’s 15,000 per hour, or 253 a minute, or four bikes per second.

21.8
Percent of cyclists, out of 1,784 people polled by Portland State University, who converted their bikes to e-bikes in 2019—that’s every fifth bike on the street.

40
Percent of trails (totaling 60,000 miles) in U.S. national forests and grasslands where e-biking with the motor engaged is currently allowed.

130 million
Number of e-bikes expected to sell globally between 2020 and 2030, according to The Verge product-review website.

0
Amount of gas it takes to keep your e-bike going when you blow the bank paying your quarterly taxes and can’t fill the car tank.

2017
The year Colorado incorporated e-bikes into its Bicycle Law. The law allowed e-bike riding on roads, bike lanes, and pedestrian paths. However riders may not engage the motor unless allowed by local ordinance. The City of Boulder is currently the only city to allow motors to be engaged on bike paths. Electric bikes must be ridden on roadways and are prohibited on sidewalks. Also note that Class III electric bikes are restricted to riding on public roads only (no bike paths or pedestrian paths).

$4,500
Starting price for a high-end, full-suspension, e-mountain bike at Bangtail Bikes and XC Skis in Bozeman, Montana (such bikes can sell for as much as $12,000), according to journalist Christopher Solomon.

0
Number of tax breaks you get for riding an e-bike to work instead of driving. The Bicycle Commuter Act of 2019, introduced to the House of Representatives last March, could change that, however. You can head to congress.gov/bill/116th-congress/house-bill/1507/text for more information.

August 20, 2019
The date the Interior Department ruled that low-speed electric bicycles would be allowed on park roads, paved or hardened trails, and areas designated for off-road vehicles.

50+
Age of rider many e-bike manufacturers market their products to, as “Baby boomers, aged, between 52 and 70 as of 2016, accounting for approximately 25 percent of Americans. Many of them already love cycling, but cannot ride a bicycle due to health-related issues such as knee and joint pain, heart disease, or exercise induced asthma. Riding can also put a significant amount of stress on the heart, particularly for an older rider. “The electric motor of an e-bike can help the rider compensate in areas where they might need additional assistance,” says Dave Williams of bike-insurance program Velosurance.

28 to 48
Percent that people in Norway who obtained an e-bike increased their cycling trips in a given year.

350,000
Number of e-bikes sold in the United States in 2015, back when they were still considered an evil form of biking by Boulder purists who now tote their two dogs, three kids, Whole Foods haul, and kegs of kombucha between the end of Pearl Street and home.

1992
The year Vector Services Limited offered and sold an electric bicycle dubbed Zike with nickel-cadmium batteries and an 850g permanent-magnet motor. Yet until the turn of the millennium few electric bikes were available for purchase.

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