What if you never rode an electric bike before in your whole entire life, and all of a sudden somebody invited you to test drive five at one time? CleanTechnica got just such an opportunity to do that last week at Newlab, a community of entrepreneurs, engineers, and inventors in New York City. If you are e-curious but a little iffy about your ability to handle the new technology, last week’s adventure proved that the jump from bike to e-bike is easy as pie. So, what are you waiting for?
You Can Have Your E-Bike & Keep Your Fave Ride, Too
Some people are joined at the hip to their own bicycle (raises hand), so the first thing to know about e-bikes is that you have many options, and one of those options is to clip an e-bike converter kit onto your beloved old bicycle.
With that in mind, we headed over to the company CLIP, which has come up with a sleek e-bike converter that is as intuitive as a bike lock. In other words, if you can lock up your bike, you’ll have no trouble snapping CLIP into place on your front wheel. It comes with a Bluetooth controller the size of a bicycle bell, which snaps onto the handle bar like, well, like a bicycle bell.
What they said:
“Designed to upgrade any bike into an e-bike instantly, CLIP is equipping riders with the tech they need to get around easily and efficiently…Instantaneously transforming regular bikes into reliable alternatives to existing transit options, CLIP’s technology allows riders the flexibility to use their existing bike both normally and with an e-assist.”
It’s all true! The CLIP folks had a regular old-fashioned bicycle lying around, and they snapped a CLIP onto the front wheel in less than a minute, which included explaining how it works. Away I went, pedaling at first to get the feel of it and then pouring on the juice with the touch of a button.
This is a perfect ride for a first time e-bike rider, as you get an introduction to e-mobility without giving up the familiar feel of your own machine.
CLIP is also a good buy if you’re concerned about theft or damage when stashing your bike. Unclip it and throw it in a tote bag, a backpack, or whatever you might use to carry your laptop around.
An E-Bike Built For Two
Cycling is a far more social form of mobility than driving a car, and the firm Civilized Cycles takes that idea and runs with it.
What they said:
“Civilized Cycles builds e-bikes big and versatile enough to meet the everyday needs of city, suburban or rural riders: they can comfortably seat two adults or an adult and two kids; have built-in, lockable panniers that can carry up to 50 lbs of cargo securely; and are developed with tech that automatically adjusts the suspension to match the bike’s weight and terrain.”
It’s all true! The idea is to introduce US e-bike riders to the way that people in other countries use e-bikes and motorbikes, beginning with the Model 1. Aside from being a fun ride, the Model 1 is a working family vehicle that gets you to wherever you need to go with cargo, and you can also ferry your kid(s) to school or after-school activities or wherever.
No kids? No worries! The two-adult configuration is designed with couples in mind, so we took it for a spin around the Brooklyn Navy Yard with me in the passenger seat. Have you ever tried to carry on a convo with someone on a moving bike with a gas-powered motor? Well, this is not that. With the noise-free advantage of electric drive, my new friend and I carried on a nice, civilized chat while tooling around the rough-and-tough byways of the Navy Yard.
We deliberately took the bumpy route to check out the suspension, which was smooth as butter, in case you’re wondering.
The bike is packed with lots of other civilized goodies. To cite just one detail, the built-in pannier is designed with a convenient hole for your bike lock, which makes it easy to lock your bike to any nearby infrastructure and it also means that nobody can carry off your ride unless they take the whole bike apart first.
Stay tuned for lots more about Civilized Cycles later this month, as CleanTechnica will get a chance to test it for a whole week in a part of the country that has a lot of traffic and a lot of very annoying hills.
What’s Up Ahead For E-Mobility
We’ll save the other three e-bikes at Newlab (well, two e-bikes and an e-scooter) for the next article, so stay tuned for more on that, too.
In the meantime, consider how much flexibility and opportunity is involved with the CLIP and the Model 1, and you can see how the popularization of the e-bike will bring forth some fundamental shifts in the mobility landscape of the US.
In particular, Ford seems to be moving in the direction of expanding its iconic brand to the world of e-bikes, or for that matter any kind of bike.
Flash back to 2016, and here’s what we said:
“When Ford first began introducing its prototype foldable/transportable/electrified bicycles, the general response from mainstream media was relatively muted, perhaps because not too many auto industry observers knew what to make of the whole pedal power idea coming from the home of horsepower icons like Mustang, GT, and F-150. However, if you have been following Ford’s rebranding as a mobility company and an auto manufacturer, the move into cycling technology makes perfect sense — and it could be huge, too.”
It’s all true! Last summer Ford and Newlab, in partnership with Michigan Central, launched a new “innovation ecosystem” based on the success of Newlab’s Studio model.
“The alliance aims to tackle complex transportation problems related to connectivity, autonomy and electrification,” enthused Ford in a press release, explaining that “a corporate studio sponsored by Ford will kick off this summer to address macro mobility issues, and as part of Ford’s commitment to the local community, a second civic studio will follow focusing on more immediate mobility issues in the neighborhoods around Michigan Central Station.”
E-Mobility & The Missing Ingredient
Aside from the social nature of e-bikes, there is also a broader corporate social responsibility angle that Newlab brings to the table. That’s usually a missing ingredient when the topic turns to gasmobiles, but the the Ford collaboration could change all that.
Newlab explains that it will “draw on talent from its existing community of 155 startups, especially those companies helping make cities more equitable, livable and resilient,” in addition to recruiting local talent.
That dovetails with a number of Ford initiatives aimed at releasing automakers from the baggage of fossil-mobility. Aside from dabbling in e-bikes and other EVs, Ford has amassed a pretty impressive stable of sustainable materials that could come into play for its e-bike ventures.
Among the efforts of note in recent years is a bioplastic collaboration with Jose Cuervo (yes, Jose Cuervo) and an exploration of dandelion rubber.
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Photo credit: CleanTechnica Senior Reporter Tina Casey with her BFF Cannondale, looking forward to trying out the CLIP e-bike converter kit (photo by Tina Casey with an assist from CLIP).
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