Electric bikes are setting the cycling industry and community abuzz. Manufactures are excited about this “new segment” of the market and are quick to point out the virtues of electric bikes for facilitating commuting and a greener lifestyle, as well as bringing non-cyclists into the fold. The cycling community is quick to point out that, technically, electric bikes could be considered a motorized vehicle—it does have an electric motor afterall—and thus, shouldn’t be allowed on trails designated for human power only.
In reality, it seems both of these perspectives have merit. With this conflict in mind, I agreed to review Haibike’s XDURO Trekking RX. As a long-time cyclist, I went into this review siding most closely with the community’s skepticism. At the same time, the idea of having some assist during my 14-mile round trip commute this winter had a lot of appeal.
On my very first commute, it was clear my electric assist fantasy was every bit as good as I had imagined. Bosch’s sophisticated Performance mid-drive system used on this Haibike is impressively engineered with an easy-to-use human interface and smooth, reliable power output. The 350 Watt electric motor roughly doubles the output of the average in-shape cycling enthusiast, so it really is quite speedy. Speedy, at least up to 19 mph where the system begins to taper off assist prior to cutting out altogether at 20 mph.
Governing maximum assist speed to 20 mph has been a legislative maneuver to manage the small but growing demand for e-bikes. My home state of Pennsylvania recently legalized e-bikes for on-road use, utilizing the definition “pedalcycle with electric assist” in the process. What hasn’t yet been fully addressed is the legality of using e-bikes on non-motorized trails-to-trails-style trails.
At this point, it’s a little bit of a wild-west scenario. As I currently understand the situation, these regulations are to be made on a case-by-case basis by the locality with jurisdiction over any given trail. Most of these local entities haven’t yet ruled on the pedal assist issues since there has been little need to do so to this point, largely due to the limited number e-bikes currently in circulation.
But, as e-bikes like this become increasingly widespread, it will be interesting to see how these bikes are managed. After spending time on the Haibike, I’m convinced e-bikes can play a vital role in lessening our reliance on fossil fuels for transportation.
Look for the complete review of the Haibike XDURO Trekking RX in issue #35 of Bicycle Times. Subscribe by April 30, 2015 to have that issue delivered to your home or electronic device.