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Call me lazy, but one of my favorite things about electric bikes is that you don't have to work very hard to get very far. For throttle operated e-bikes—where you twist the grip like a motorcycle or continually push a button for some juice—you can cruise as long as you hold onto the throttle. Of course, for lazy people like me, the throttle can be too tempting to not use.

For that reason, I've really been enjoying Espin's pedal-assisted e-bike that's designed specifically for commuter biking. The San Francisco-based startup sent me their "Flow" model to test-ride for two weeks, and what I like best is how it not only looks like a regular bike, it also gives you a bit of a workout like a regular bike.

Espin's Flow is an e-bike that does not look like an e-bike.

Don't get me wrong—the Espin is fast, powerful and you're unlikely to break a sweat even as you reach speeds of up to 25 miles per hour. The more I pedaled, the faster I zoomed along, making it an addictive and exhilarating ride. Most people couldn't even tell it was electric.

The Espin has assist levels from 0-5, with the higher numbers giving more oomph. A zero rides like a traditional two-wheeler while a 5 lets you zoom around and even tackle hills. The assist lasts for about 2 seconds after you stop pedaling.

An easy-to-read control hub displays distance, speed and battery life. By holding down the central power button on the left handlebar, you can switch on a powerful LED light allowing for night-time rides.

I was very impressed by the bike's 418 Watt-hour lithium ion battery which can be entirely removed with a key and plugged into a wall. So if the battery dies while you're on the road you can just remove the battery and maybe plug it into, say, a coffee shop outlet and wait while it charges. The battery is hidden in the middle of the bike's aluminum alloy frame, making it look more like a regular bike. It takes about about 4.5 hours to fully charge, but in the two weeks that I've intermittently ridden the bike, I haven't had to recharge it a single time. The company says the Espin has a range of 25-50 miles on a single charge. The battery is expected to last about 2-4 years or around 500 charge cycles.

Here's another cool thing—and it came via fluke. My boyfriend, on a ride home on the bike from the bar, took a jump on a ramp and caused the chain to slip off. Much to his amazement, the assist still worked without a functioning chain and he zipped all the way home without any pedaling.

"That's a feature I would pay for any day," he said.

At $1,888 the Espin, is an affordable e-bike option. And, at 48 pounds it's also a lighter ride, when others can weigh more than 60 pounds.

"Espin was created out of necessity. When we first came up with this idea, we were struggling to find a performance eBike for ourselves that would be great for getting to work, but also looked stylish and didn't break the bank," said Josh Lam, co-founder of Espin, in a statement. "Many eBikes have a bulky battery and have high price tags. We knew there was a better way to create something that people could afford and really consider as their daily ride. We put form and function together to make a cool, stylish, affordable bike that happens to be electric. No more sweating on rides to work!"

My one criticism is the assembly process. While the company touts that the bike can be put together in less than 15 minutes, it took a friend and me several hours to assemble. That being said, the company was helpful with my questions and linked me to an online tutorial.

Some other specs include a rear-mounted luggage rack, 350 watt motor output and 45 Nm torque. The Espin also comes in a sleek "Sport" model. Both the Flow and Sport are available in black and white. A $300 discount is also going on right now.

You can now walk or cycle across most of the state of Missouri. Gov. Jay Nixon has opened a 47.5-mile extension to the Katy Trail, effectively creating one continuous hike-and-bike path from the St. Louis area to the outskirts of Kansas City.

"You'll be able to go 287 miles on an incredible asset," Nixon told the Kansas City Star at the ribbon-cutting on Dec. 10 in Pleasant Hill, a suburb just south of Kansas City.

According to the governor's office, the new section of the trail follows the corridor of the old Rock Island Railroad for 47.5 miles from Pleasant Hill to Windsor, where a junction connects to the rest of the Katy Trail State Park.

At 287 miles, the Katy Trail is now officially the nation's longest rails-to-trails project, besting the 253-mile John Wayne Pioneer Trail in Washington state. Rail-trails are ideal because it converts unused or abandoned rail corridors into recreational areas for the public. The Katy Trail sits on the former Missouri–Kansas–Texas Railroad.

Tyler Month, vice-president of the Pleasant Hill Chamber of Commerce, told radio station KCUR that the new stretch of the Katy Trail acts like a bridge to smaller communities.

"We're off the beaten path as far as highways go," Month said, "so this attracts a different group of organizations and individuals to our town that would not have otherwise come here."

The scenic and mostly flat trail follows Lewis and Clark's path along the Missouri River. The nearly 300-mile, uninterrupted trail features plenty of nature, Missouri River bluffs and picturesque communities along the way. Horseback riding is also allowed on a 35-mile section of the trail, from Sedalia to Clinton.

The extension took the Missouri Department of Natural Resources seven years to construct at a cost of $15.5 million, KCUR reported.

Plans are underway to extend the trail even further. Imagine someone biking from Jackson County on the state's western border all the way to the iconic Gateway Arch on the eastern border.

Nixon said the trail is "eerily close" to reaching that goal.

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Electric bikes are a great way to zip around town with less pedal power, but they have two problems. First, the machinery can make them heavy or bulky. Second, at some point, they will run out of juice.

But Austria-based VELLO BIKE has solved these two problems with its innovative VELLO Bike+, the world's first self-charging electric folding bike that gives cyclists ultimate freedom.


The lightest self-charging folding e-bike in the world.VELLO BIKE

The bike claims to be lighter than most folding e-bikes on the market—the titanium model weighs about 24 pounds, and the chromoly frame model weighs 26 pounds.

It can easily fold down to just 72 x 53 centimeters, or suitcase size, making it easy to store in tight spaces, such as under a desk or in the trunk of a car. You don't even have to carry it—once folded it can also stand on its own, meaning you can just wheel it around. The bike's patented magnetic release makes it quick and easy to fold.

"A self-locking magnet allows hands-free folding, which makes it very different from a typical folding bike with complicated hinges to open," company co-founder and designer Valentin Vodev said. "They don't tend to be very user-friendly as the folding process is lengthy and can be frustrating."

Vodev was given a Red Dot award, an international product design and communication design prize, for the bike's innovative design.

"I always try to take a novel, previously unexplored approach in my designs. This mostly results in unconventional solutions, which I can then turn into innovations. In my opinion, design is a mixture of logic, aesthetics and art," he said of his work after being given the award.

As for its self-charging feature, the bike's integrated lithium-ion battery can be completely recharged just by pedaling or braking, the developers claim. Using its Integrated Kinetic Energy Recovery System, the VELLO Bike+ converts mechanical energy into electricity to power a 250-watt motor.


Kickstarter

"You can ride up to 15 miles per hour for unlimited mileage in 'self-charging mode,' or in 'turbo mode' up to 18-30 miles on a full charge without any effort," the company says. "As soon as you stop pedaling, the motor will stop pushing. The generated power depends on several factors including the bike speed, the pedaling speed, the road slope and the selected power mode."

The bike comes with its own smartphone app with features such as a custom dashboard (to see your speed, miles, battery, etc) and an option to lock the bike remotely.

"Riding performance was also essential to us in the development of the VELLO BIKE+, it feels and rides better than most of the existing folding bikes on the market," Vodev said.

The VELLO Bike+ has already blown past its €80,000 ($87,863) Kickstarter goal with 18 days to go. Prices start at €1,599 ($1,756) on Kickstarter and will ship anywhere around the world.

Watch the bike in motion here:

By Kelly McCartney

Leave it to Germany to build a bicycle autobahn that connect 10 cities within its borders. The goal? To take some 50,000 vehicles off the actual highways and make commuting by bike a much easier—and safer—proposition.

RS1

The idea was sparked six years ago when a cultural project caused the one-day closure of the road between Duisburg and Dortmund and more than three million people flooded the road on bikes, skates and feet. Last December, Germany's first stretch of bike highway opened for business between Mülheim an der Ruhr and Essen. Eventualy, the Radschnellweg will link 10 cities and four universities with 62 miles of bike highway.

The bikeways—and parallel pedestrian paths—are completely separated from the vehicle lanes, with a 13-foot width, tunnels, lights and snow clearing because safety and accessibility issues are two of the biggest obstacles to biking. Coupled with Europe's blossoming affection for electric bikes and Germany's limited proximity between cities, the Radschnellweg stand to attract a new wave of pedal-powered commuters. Frankfurt, Hamburg, Berlin, Munich and Nuremberg are also undertaking bike-related feasibility studies in order to curb traffic and pollution in those urban areas.

Of course, the Germans are only the latest to enter the bike highway fray. The Netherlands started building their 20-strong network of bikeways 10 years ago and continue to expand it, while Denmark focused their efforts on Copenhagen. Norway will soon be getting in on the action too with bikeways connecting nine cities.

This article was reposted with permission from our media associate Shareable.

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