The New Commute

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Jim Wilson/The New York Times

If they displace congesting and polluting four-wheel alternatives, they are worth a look:

E-Bikes Are Having Their Moment. They Deserve It.

The benefits of owning a battery-powered two-wheeler far outweigh the downsides, especially in a pandemic.

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Credit…Jim Wilson/The New York Times

Many of us are entering a new stage of pandemic grief: adaptation. We are asking ourselves: How do we live with this new reality?

For many Americans, part of the solution has been to buy an electric bike. The battery-powered two-wheelers have become a compelling alternative for commuters who are being discouraged from taking public transportation and Ubers. For others, the bikes provide much-needed fresh air after months of confinement.

So it’s no surprise that e-bikes are now as difficult to buy as a bottle of hand sanitizer was a few weeks ago. In March, sales of e-bikes jumped 85 percent from a year earlier, according to the NPD Group, a research firm. Amazon, Walmart and Specialized are sold out of most models. Even smaller brands like Ride1Up and VanMoof have waiting lists.

That’s a remarkable shift. For many years, e-bikes carried the stigma of being vehicles for lazy pedalers and seniors. The bikes draw power from a battery and motor to make pedaling significantly easier. You can also accelerate with the press of a button, transforming cycling from a strenuous exercise into a joy ride.

“I was convinced that e-bikes would completely change cities all over the world in the next 10 years, but it seems like because of this crisis, suddenly it’s all happening in the next three or four months,” said Taco Carlier, the chief executive of VanMoof, which is based in Amsterdam.

If you are contemplating an e-bike purchase, there are trade-offs to consider. For one, the battery packs and motors add bulk. For another, these ostentatious bikes may lure thieves.

To find out what you get for your money, I tested two different e-bikes on the streets and steep hills of San Francisco over the last two weeks. Both can be ordered online: VanMoof’s $1,998 S3, an internet-connected smart bike, and Ride1Up’s $1,495 700 Series, which is more like a normal bicycle with a battery and motor.

After the tests, I’m totally sold. E-bikes, I concluded, are for people who want to get around quickly with minimal effort — and that’s a large portion of the population. Here’s what you need to know…

Read the whole story here.

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