Taking place each summer in the German city of Friedrichshafen, Eurobike is the world's largest cycling trade show. With every company from Marin and SRAM to Scott and Oakley exhibiting the latest and greatest of their offerings, it's also the place to get a handle on new trends.
Tom, Marc and Kate from our team headed over there earlier this week to check it out. What was on every stand? An eBike.
eBikes are still on the cusp of take-off here in the UK, where they have long been viewed as 'cheating' in some way or another. In fact, where eBikes have taken off on the continent, it is not lycra-clad road racers who have swapped bikes to make their training easier, but commuter and city riders who want to get where they're going with the freedom of two wheels and the luxury of not breaking a sweat.
Cycle tourers have bought eBikes to pack longer journeys into shorter windows, and to have the reassurance of a little bit of a back-up boost when the night is closing in and the campsite isn't quite around the corner. Mountain bikers are jumping in with the promise of longer rides and motor-aided stamina on uphills.
Of course, assistance levels are optional and you can go for anything from slight to full assistance, or drop down to none at all. The battery won't last long on full assistance so there's always a fair amount of pedal power that's needed!
Sales of eBikes are booming with 34 million sold worldwide last year. Bosch predicts that, within 10 years, half of all bicycles sold in European core markets (we're looking at you Netherlands and Germany) will be electric. They are forming a big part of changing city transport as governments attempt to steer citizens away from fossil fuels and some countries are offering subsidies on eBikes. In Sweden, riders can receive 25% back on their purchase - up to 10,000 kr (approx. £850).
In Europe they're quickly taking some of the market share from traditional bicycles, while in China they're rapidly replacing mopeds and small motorcycles.
So what are they?
Ebikes are bicycles with small electric motors that boost the rider's own pedal power to make cycling further for longer a whole lot easier. With some assistance from the rechargeable motor, the rider is able to cycle uphill, keep up with city traffic and carry passengers with little extra effort.
eMountain bikes are the fastest growing eBike segment as mountain bikers around the world supercharge their steeds to allow them to go "ride further, faster, and have even more fun". But isn't mountain biking all about sweating it out uphill to make the downhill even more thrilling? MBR says that riders "still have to work for their rewards but, by assisting their efforts, it allows them to wring every little drop of enjoyment out of their rides".
The power assist also comes into its own when the weather worsens and mud takes over the trails. It's much easier to get through boggy patches, up interesting trails and over slippery tree roots with a little bit of help.
What does it feel like to ride one?
Kate had never tried an ebike before, so jumped at the chance to take a couple for a spin while she was at Eurobike. How would she describe them? In a nutshell, and to paraphrase Berocca, "it's like you...but on a really, really good day".
The bikes that Kate tried both offered varying levels of support from the motor - ranging from unassisted to 'turbo'. The bikes' top speeds were, of course, limited but with turbo switched on all Kate needed was a couple of half pedals to reach it...and a pedal every 5 seconds or so to keep it going. So much fun!
At roughly £1000 for a 'starter' ebike, they're a little bit steeper than that old steel number you can pick up on Gumtree, but they are a lot of fun and look set to revolutionise cycling. And if it's sweating in the saddle or distance that has so far put you off a cycle commute, an eBike could be just the answer: a recent survey of 2,000 commuters commissioned by Evans Cycles estimated that by switching from car, bus, tube or train to ebikes, commuters could save an average of £7,791 over five years.
eBikes have come a long way from their heavier, clunkier, more expensive iterations only a few years ago and we can't wait to see what the next couple of years have in store. The future is bright for the eBike.