E-bikes without the kitchen sink

The evolution of e-bikes has been like most life-forms and contraptions—more complex, larger, heavier, and yes, more expensive.

But could the process be reversed?

Could there be an e-bike that was small, sprightly, uncomplicated, cheap, and most importantly, one that you could just grab and ride at the drop of a hat?

Because the first e-bikes were expensive, it made marketing sense to load them up with features to increase their perceived value.

Suspension forks were considered essential, and as other do-dads were added for Dad to do things with, the flab expanded and the manoeuvrability began to match that of a 1960 Buick sedan.

Now, new-generation bikes with electric assist are about to hit the market and challenge the old paradigm.

Take the forthcoming new Xiaomi QiCycle, pared right down to basics, but specced up to 20 inch wheels and fully compliant pedalec electronics, and to sell in China for the equivalent of $620.

It’s foldable aluminium frame is comparatively light, helped by the smaller battery hidden in the frame. It should be easy to fold up and hide away in the office or home.

All cables and wires are routed internally through the main part of the frame to provide a cleaner appearance, and built-in LED lights adorn the front and rear of the bike.

Up front there’s a light-sensitive digital display in the stem that adjusts brightness to the ambient light conditions.

The range is 40km, not high by today's standards, but plenty enough to get to work and back each day, and actually amazing for such a small bike.

At this size, efficiency and convenience, it is more a device than a machine.

Maybe that is how we should be thinking about e-bikes. Simple and convenient like an iPhone, at around the same price.

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