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The ‘best e-bike ever’ soon available to the masses

Posted by on July 10th, 2012 at 2:47 pm

The Faraday, shown here at the Oregon Manifest
field test in Portland last September,
will soon be available as a production bike.
(Photos © J. Maus/BikePortland)

Back in September, when the entries in the 2011 Oregon Manifest Design Challenge competition were revealed, one bike in particular caught my eye. It was the “Faraday” electric-assist bike built by a California-based team made up of design firm IDEO and bike company Rock Lobster.

With its drop-dead good looks (inspired by French porteur bikes from the 1940s and ’50s), functional utility features, and super e-tech wizardry, I went out on a limb and dubbed it the “best e-bike ever”. Today I learned that the bike has become the first ever Oregon Manifest entry to go become a full-fledged brand and go into production.

According to the Faraday Bikes website, the bike will be available for purchase on July 18th. I haven’t heard what the retail price will be, nor do I know who’s behind the brand; but to me, the larger significance is that this bike could catapult e-assist into the mainstream, and it was born at the Oregon Manifest.

If you haven’t noticed yet, electric assist is catching on in American cycling circles. For years, e-assist has toiled on the fringe, its requisite bulky battery packs attached to less-than cool bikes. But that’s starting to change. The technology behind e-bikes is developing quickly. The batteries are getting smaller, they’re lasting longer, and most importantly the bikes they’re being put on are getting cooler (and in America, something must be considered cool before it is adopted into the masses).

The Faraday by IDEO-Rock Lobster team-2-77

The Faraday by IDEO-Rock Lobster team-10-82

E-assist has proven its worth in the quickly growing cargo bike market (you have not lived until you’ve ridden a bakfiets or other big cargo bike with an e-motor) and I’m starting to see a lot more e-bikes on local bikeways from specialty brands like Kalkhoff and others.

The Faraday has clearly struck a nerve. A friend on Twitter today even used the word “sexy” to describe it. The company themselves calls it the “ultimate electric propelled utility bike” (a trademarked term). Word has it that Adam Vollmer, who lead the Faraday design team, has left his job at IDEO to launch the new company.

For the folks behind the Oregon Manifest event; the launch of the Faraday is great news. Their goal was to spur lasting innovations and design breakthroughs for utility bikes within the bike industry. A new bike company based on a bike from their event has to be considered the ultimate mark of success.

“To see a prototype with the breadth, nuance and consideration of the Faraday actually go to market is remarkable and gratifying,” said Manifest board member Shannon Holt today. “We’re incredibly proud to consider that we have sparked the birth of a bike that radicalized the perception of what an e-bike could be.”

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  • michael downes July 10, 2012 at 3:20 pm

    It is a lovely bicycle no doubt but the rider position looks awful. I wonder if the rider had to watch out he didn’t catch his knee on the handlebars every time they took a sharp corner. Either stupidly short top tube or poor choice of stem & handlebars. Let’s hope they change that for production.

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    • Scott July 10, 2012 at 3:36 pm

      I think you are mistaken about that. Next time you ride, watch how much you front wheel actually move when you turn. It is super minute in a full 90 degree turn.

      I have ridden porteurs from 3 or 4 different companies and never experienced what you describe.

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    • tonyt
      tonyt July 11, 2012 at 8:41 am

      If you look closely, you’ll see that his right foot isn’t even on the pedal. It looks like he’s just mounting (or dismounting) the bike and is far forward of his eventual position on the saddle.

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  • Craig Harlow July 10, 2012 at 3:44 pm

    Jonathan, did you mean to dispaly the same photo twice?

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  • resopmok July 10, 2012 at 4:36 pm

    The “rider position” isn’t really correct in the photo since the bike is not being ridden. It’s attractive enough, though my aesthetic differs a bit, I like that the battery is small and looks easily serviceable. Also, the fenders don’t look particularly practical in the eyes of this daily commuter, though they are certainly better than nothing. I didn’t see a price estimate at all, but if I had to guess, I’d imagine it would retail $2k-$3k? For a lot of people, that’s a lot of money for something that transports only one person. I’d like to see the better technology also applied to an everyman’s e-bike, something we can get for $1000 or less.

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    • BURR July 10, 2012 at 5:06 pm

      good luck with that, basic multispeed non-electric utility bikes of any quality are already approaching $1K

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  • Andrew K July 10, 2012 at 5:28 pm

    Wow, I love it.

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  • dwainedibbly July 10, 2012 at 5:32 pm

    A 250w motor isn’t going to set any speed records, which is keeping with the idea of a light assist. Is there any information available about the Amp-hrs, voltage, & chemistry of the battery? I didn’t see those details on the web site.

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  • Rick July 10, 2012 at 5:40 pm

    I like it, but my fear is only the 1% can afford it.

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    • Greg July 11, 2012 at 12:20 am

      Hey long past time that we got the 1% to actually do something useful for a change 🙂

      Build enough of these to lower the cost to something reasonable, work out the inevitable (and expensive…) early adopter bugs, make them socially acceptable (just listen to the whiny comments from folks here where you’d think people would be *behind* something that could make utility biking more mainstream), and we’re one step closer to actually having a critical mass of support for the bike infrastructure we want.

      Sounds pretty good to me, regardless of whether I can afford one!

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    • Chris I July 11, 2012 at 7:16 am

      It will be a lot cheaper than a car. I think intelligent members of the 99% can justify the cost if it means they don’t have to buy a car.

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    • jered July 11, 2012 at 8:36 am

      Maybe they could have them built in China or start up a new factory somewhere labor and materials are less expensive (that China labor rate increases every quarter)…

      Oh wait, then I wager you’d whine about your miracle sub $1000 electric assist bike being exploitative.

      Total no win argument. Haters… bla.

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  • Rick July 10, 2012 at 5:49 pm

    I actually think that bike is too small for the rider in the picture. It does look awkward. As for myself, seems I’d have to reposition the handlebar with an adjustable stem and/or a stem riser.

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  • Jon July 10, 2012 at 7:26 pm

    Nice motorcycle. I hope they stay off non-motorized paths.

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    • tonyt
      tonyt July 11, 2012 at 8:54 am

      They’re coming and they will help bring that many more people into the bike fold. They typically don’t go faster than bikes do and to expect them to stay away from bike facilities is just wrong-headed. Imagine some person forced out of a bike lane by bike bullies and then harassed by a driver who sees them as a biker refusing to use the bike lane.

      There ARE some motorized bikes that do go too fast for the facilities (I rode behind a motorized recumbent a while back and wrote a post about it )

      Certainly an etiquette will evolve in much the same way that those of us who remember being out on the road alone, had to adapt to so many others on bikes.

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    • Greg July 11, 2012 at 5:30 pm

      The law disagrees with you. “ORS 814.405 Status of electric assisted bicycle. An electric assisted bicycle shall be considered a bicycle, rather than a motor vehicle, for purposes of the Oregon Vehicle Code, except when otherwise specifically provided by statute.”

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  • bendite July 10, 2012 at 7:57 pm

    I call these mopeds.

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  • Andrew K July 10, 2012 at 8:31 pm

    To those calling this a moped, please do some research and maybe even try riding one. I promise you would no longer call it a moped.

    This bike is clearly stated as a “pedal assist”. In other words, it doesn’t put out any energy unless you are pedaling. It also doesn’t help you go any faster, it just makes pedaling easier.

    It is nothing like a moped at all. Pedal assist bikes ride just like every other bicycle out there.

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  • Bill Stites July 10, 2012 at 9:49 pm

    This bike is beautiful, and much lighter I’m sure than any ebike I’ve ridden.
    Yeah, this is not going to be a powerful bike, but that’s fine. There is clearly a fair amount of misconception out there about how much power ebikes provide. Even in Oregon, where 1K watts are allowed, they are not as fast as you might think. I like that they reduce trip time, since they help me be faster on hills and accelerating from a start.

    Pedal assist is a vague term; they call them ‘pedelecs’ in Europe, where there is a requirement that the rider is pedaling during electric assist. There has to be a sensor so the electric motors cannot be activated without pedaling. Not so in the US; in fact most ebikes here are simply throttle activated, and independent of pedaling. I like this arrangement because the mixing of the two power sources is all up to my brain, and can be orchestrated to maximum effect. The idea of running electric-only all the time and laming the pedals is not realistic, as the battery range isn’t there yet. And most folks riding ebikes are genuinely interested in pedaling. Indeed, the mantra is “pedal all the time, and use the electric assist intermittently”.

    That battery is very small – even with Lithium chemistry, the range will be limited but perhaps adequate for around town. Wonder how many amp-hrs? 5? I think those motors are typically run at 24V, but we will be running the same motors at 36V on a new project soon.

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  • gl. July 10, 2012 at 10:00 pm

    faraday, PLEASE create a stepthrough model (and maybe one with a back rack, too), and i promise you i will find a way to buy one. i have been waiting for an ebike to be this pretty!

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  • Spiffy July 10, 2012 at 10:10 pm

    Adam Vollmer owns the internet domain so it’s probably him…

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  • annefi July 11, 2012 at 6:14 am

    I second the step-through request.

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    • aaron July 11, 2012 at 8:24 am

      and the rear rack request!

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      • Alan 1.0 July 11, 2012 at 8:39 am

        And lights. But I don’t see any way to increase seatpost adjustment besides a collection of seatposts.

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      • Paul Smith July 11, 2012 at 10:38 pm

        I’m actually getting a heavily Portlanded out Ahearne electric assist bike to review for Momentum next week, that has both front and rear racks and is a porteur. Probably costs ridiculous $ but I can’t wait to ride it

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  • Jeff Bernards July 11, 2012 at 6:55 am

    I converted a bicycle several months back (story in BikePortland). It has changed my life, the range I’m willing to bike instead of drive has doubled maybe tripled. I haven’t ridden my new Surly in months (that’s killing me). It has allowed me to leave my car at home for weeks at a time. It may not be for the bike purist, but for someone reluctant to get out of their car it’s a logical solution. I did 42 miles of riding on July 4, that’s over 4 hours of pedaling, I would have taken the car but I didn’t have to. Wind power is generated mostly at night, I’m (in theory) taking wind power and converting into transportation, that’s gold. Anyone who has ridden my bike is considering getting one for themselves. It’s a transportation option that’s hasn’t really been explored yet. It’s a people powered hybrid so don’t poo poo it before you try it. I converted my bike for $1200, the battery last 3000 recharges that’s about 5-7 years. If the power assist bike takes cars off the road, we should all cheer that. Those of you who have the time and energy to ride everywhere, I’m envious.

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    • Chris I July 11, 2012 at 7:22 am

      Wind and hydro power. Power demand is lowest at night, and utilities hate it. Electric bikes and cars charging at night will allow utilities to ramp up production from more efficient baseline sources like hydro, and cut back on short-term demand sources like natural gas. Ideally, the utilities would have a way to change power rates based on the time of day. It will be lower at night, encouraging even more e-bike and e-car charging. We will get there some day.

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      • Spiffy July 11, 2012 at 8:41 am

        most utilities already offer a package where you pay less at night and more during the day…

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        • Chris I July 11, 2012 at 9:47 am

          PGE might be different, but my company, Pacific Power, charges based on demand. If your energy demands vary greatly throughout the day, you pay more. This is along the same lines as a time-based charge, but not the same thing.

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    • A.K. July 11, 2012 at 11:31 am

      Frankly I’d love to see more e-assist bikes out there. If it gets people out of cars for all the short trips we take, it’s fine by me!

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  • XB July 11, 2012 at 9:33 am

    nice coincidence. just yesterday i was looking at the core77 design awards for transportation (because of revolights — another bike product i am interested in) and saw farraday had won a runner up. congrats to them all around!

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  • Aaron July 11, 2012 at 9:42 am

    Looks nice but I can’t imagine this will cost less than $2500.

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  • Beth July 11, 2012 at 10:06 am

    As with any developments, this is both a harbinger of change AND only the beginning. E-assist is not “coming”, it’s HERE. The grayer the population gets, the more of these bikes we’ll see on the roads. Obviously, any etiquette (and legislation, because that’s coming, too) will have to evolve in response to situation as they arise.

    Meanwhile, it’s a very pretty step in a good direction.

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  • Steve in Holland July 11, 2012 at 10:37 am

    Nice to see they added a ” Bagagedrager” (bike carrier, luggage carrier) they are almost the standard over here in The Netherlands. The Dutch even sing songs about them >> <<Youtube link to Gers Pardoel – Bagagedrager.

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  • whyat July 11, 2012 at 10:46 am

    Looks cool, and I try not to be a hater (here I go anyway), but 26 inch wheels? Ouch. Super curious about the price.

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    • 9watts July 11, 2012 at 11:51 am

      “but 26 inch wheels? Ouch.”
      Now what the heck is wrong with that? I’m missing something.

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      • whyat July 11, 2012 at 1:40 pm

        Choice of tires. Way more tire options for 700 wheels.

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        • matthew vilhauer July 11, 2012 at 2:07 pm

          700c tires are fine if you are in/near a town/city with a bike shop. in rural areas you’d be hard pressed to find a 700c tire of any kind. the larger tire diameter in relation to road hazzards is better with 700c wheels(one of the reasons i’m not a big fan of folding bikes) but 26″ rims can be much more durable and tires easier to find.

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          • 9watts July 11, 2012 at 2:10 pm

            Craigslist has tires in all sizes. Good prices too.

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            • whyat July 11, 2012 at 2:57 pm

              I’m referring to the selection of tire types that are available for any given rim size (versus price). In general (IMHO) you have many more choices of tire sizes and styles with a 700 rim. You can go anywhere from a 700×19 to a 700×40 and choose from slick, cross, city, racing, training tires etc. Last I checked (which was about a year ago) you really couldn’t get a really skinny 26 inch tire (1 inch being about the skinniest). There may be exceptions to this now, and one could also debate the merits or drawback of skinny tires, but that’s a whole other conversation. You also have a larger selection in wheel types in 700, though the IGH on this bike would limit those options regardless of wheel size. I like 700 wheels because of the versatility in tire choices available for this wheel size (and the better rolling ability of the larger wheel). Just my 2 cents.

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              • Scott July 12, 2012 at 9:25 am

                That’s just plain wrong. The only options that you have in 700c that are not readily available in 26″ is colors. So if you are shooting for bright colors, you will have to look a bit harder. If you want creams, tans, browns and greys for 26″ then sky’s the limit.

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  • CaptainKarma July 11, 2012 at 11:22 am

    I’ll go to e-assist when they yank my license for being too old, as some on this forum would advocate. But by then we’ll have the hover-boards , I suppose.

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    • Brad July 11, 2012 at 12:11 pm

      Not hover boards but, affordable plug-in electric CARS with AC, a Beats by Dr. Dre sound system, Internet connectivity, heated leather seats, and all of the comfort stuff American commuters crave! And, they will be marketed as SAFE and GOOD FOR THE PLANET! Heck, they are building a Tesla showroom at Washington Square as we speak. Only filthy hippies and poor people will use bicycles.

      (SARCASM ALERT! No need to reply with cut-and-paste articles from Grist, Momentum, or excerpts from James Kunstler essays.)

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  • Brad July 11, 2012 at 11:29 am

    Ummmm…e-bikes are not cool.

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    • Chris I July 11, 2012 at 11:55 am

      Zero hipster cred.

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  • spare_wheel July 11, 2012 at 11:47 am

    I think e-bikes are a great idea for people transporting cargo or those who have disabilities. Nevertheless, I worry about a technology that makes every day transport easier. There is a very dangerous physical activity deficit in the USA.

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    • Opus the Poet July 11, 2012 at 8:49 pm

      Pedalecs will actually help on that front, as they are calibrated to put out power as a fixed multiple of the rider’s pedal input. Also using the EU limit of 250 W instead of the US Federal limit of 750 W or the various state limits that range from the Federal limit to unlimited so long as pedals must be turned to get power (TX), makes sure that a large portion of the power comes from the rider’s legs because there just isn’t that much coming from the motor.

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  • Lee July 11, 2012 at 11:57 am

    It’s a decent looking ebike and I like the cargo shelf. A 250w motor is barely enough to even say it’s assisted though. Very small lithium pack …. about 5 miles range from the size of it. If It’s over $1000 it will be overpriced for what you get as the motor and battery pack that size together along with a controller can easily be bought for about $500 and used with just about any 2 wheel bike.

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  • bill burns July 11, 2012 at 12:58 pm

    Really liking this bike and the e-assist! Hope it doens’t cost an arm and a leg. Would be hard to justify a bike like this for over 1K without wanting to just get a newer road bike instead.

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  • PorterStout July 11, 2012 at 1:20 pm

    The ebikes may not be for many of the folks reading this board, but that isn’t really the segment of the population they’re targeting. They’re looking to attract people who aren’t riding bikes now because they don’t want to arrive at work sweaty, or don’t think they can do their chores on a bike, or for some other reason believe they can’t ride a standard bike. Someone mentioned aging of the population, for example – these things could be huge in ten years. I think it’s great.

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    • Chris I July 11, 2012 at 1:37 pm

      Or people that ride mopeds. If we can convert moped drivers to e-bikes, I believe it will save lives and greatly reduce emissions in our cities.

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  • Hart Noecker July 11, 2012 at 1:42 pm

    I look at this and marvel at the design, and understand the usefulness of assist when hauling hundreds of pounds, yet I don’t see this being fitting that role. Seems like trending towards more powerful motors to do less work pedaling and we’ll wind up just making motorcycles that are invading bike lanes. We want to reduce consumption, not give a give to utilities who want to profit more in the off-peak hours. I’ll stick with human powered transit, and I’d encourage others to do the same.

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  • El Biciclero July 11, 2012 at 4:22 pm

    E-bikes are great. The more of them that are out there, the easier it will be to tell myself, “that guy must have an e-bike!” any time I can’t catch up…

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  • Opus the Poet July 11, 2012 at 8:15 pm

    The 250 Watt assist and pedelec control means it can be sold in most EU countries. I would like to see what the test results from riding around PDX were like, a hilly ride is the biggest test for an assist bike.

    Also this article has attracted a lot of discussion in the power-assist Yahoo group.

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  • GlowBoy July 11, 2012 at 11:31 pm

    If you’re just riding a solo bike without major cargo in Portland’s core, you may not see the appeal of such a bike.

    But even as a pretty dedicated human-power-only cyclist, I have to admit I see the appeal of having some help getting over the west hills on the way to work in the morning.

    Most of these bikes are still limited to 15mph or so except on downhills, so I don’t see them as much of a threat to our bike lanes.

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  • Doug Morgan July 12, 2012 at 2:59 am

    This story is missing too many key details. Battery Range and recharge details, speed, cost, weight? Just the facts Man, Just the facts.

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  • Will July 12, 2012 at 12:03 pm

    Nicest e-bike ever? Not even close, the Specialized Turbo is far more desirable for the real world.

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    • jb July 12, 2012 at 8:39 pm

      In the real world, desirable bikes don’t have large “Turbo” stickers on them.

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    • Greg July 18, 2012 at 12:41 pm

      wow, nearly twice the price at 5,500 euros

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  • bill burns July 17, 2012 at 4:00 pm

    They just posted the Price today.. A Whopping $3,800!!!!! For tha tkind of money I could buy a way sicker road bike. Sorry faraday, maybe next time.

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  • Johnw July 18, 2012 at 10:27 am

    The bike does have a nice design and some good features, like the bamboo fenders and double kickstand. The small battery is discreet and the weight is impressive for an e-bike. It is missing some basics like lights and a chain-guard (useful but not cool, however these guys could design a cool one). Also with the small battery, the range of 10-15 miles is very low compared to the industry. Add some groceries or a hill and that range will drop to sub-10.

    The closest competitor is the Kalkhoff Sahel which costs $600 less, yet comes with dynamo-powered lights, better brakes and most importantly, 40 miles or range.

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    • Opus the Poet July 18, 2012 at 11:37 am

      The prototype on display at the contest had headlights integrated with the front rack, did they not make the transition to the production model?

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  • Troy August 2, 2012 at 7:56 pm

    You’re paying for the cutsey consumerism look. Better off going to ebikestore and getting a real ebike (one that actually has some power and distance)

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