What makes an electric bike an electric bike – as opposed to an electric motorcycle, and as opposed to a regular bike? People have been adding motors to regular bikes since forever. That is how we got motorcycles. We all instinctively know the history of how bikes turned into motorbikes. Now we have a revolution in technology with electric motors. Here is my rough attempt to chart the relationships on a page.
The first motorcycles were really just bike frames with motors strapped on. If you look at vintage photos of these predecessors to modern motorcycles, the skinny tires look ridiculously inadequate for the job. The early flat track racers of the 1920s were bigger, but not by much. When bigger motors were married with bigger tires and bigger frames, the modern motorcycle emerged. For a long while, the branches of bicycles and motorbikes diverged. Bikes developed their offshoots: BMX, mountain bikes, road bikes, fixies, etc. And motorcycles developed their off shoots – too many to even list, but notable here are two: the café racer bikes and minibikes.
In the 90s, I started noticing an increasing number of bicycles with loud two stroke engines on the bike path that I used to commute to work. I hated those things and though they had no place on the path. But it was a trend that I think fed into what became the advent of the electric bike.
Super 73’s electric bike was not the first by a long shot, but they did succeed in marketing their bike as a super fun lifestyle product and creating a blockbuster. It is very obviously an adaption of the classic minibike frame. That is, with one exception – it carries the power source on the top, in the same position of a motorcycle’s gasoline tank.
When I ride my S-1, I enjoy its speed and its maneuverability. It reminds me of being 13 years old pushing my little 1970s motocross bike around. With its fat tires, it also feels like a cousin to the mountain bikes I used to race. The bike is a lot heavier than a bicycle, but it is a lot lighter than a motorcycle. That makes it a lot of fun!
This leads me to my final thought. With Super 73's new range of bikes, I have heard one industry insider say that he thinks they have stopped making electric bikes. They are making something else. Fun toys with two wheels and electric motors, but not electric bikes. The new 5 inch tires on the S-2 are closer to motorcycle tires than bike tires. And the R-Series is sort of a golf cart version of a dirt bike – that is, electric and low power compared to the real deal. If you want to jump berms or shred a trail with an electric mountain bike with full suspension, the main-stream bike builders now make those. Even Santa Cruz has entered the market. If you want an electric motorcycle, those also now exist. None of this is intended to disparage Super 73. I love those bikes. And I, like everyone else I know, cannot wait to see what they make next. I am just, currently, not sure where to put them on the chart – and maybe that is a good thing.