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10 Innovative Electric Bikes

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I'm pedaling my bike as fast as I can downhill to build momentum for the uphill climb ahead, but despite my efforts, I don't get very far, even as I shift into low gear. Conceding defeat, I twist the right-hand throttle and quickly motor up the grade.

Behold the power of the electric bicycle, a motorized variant of the traditional bike that is already hugely popular in China and Europe and is making headway in the United States.

Maybe the best evidence of the e-bike's growing popularity is the increasing sophistication of the design. While early models sported a heavy, black brick battery strapped above the rear wheel, the new breed integrates the battery into the frame or cleverly disguises it as, say, a water bottle: both an aesthetic improvement and a means to a more balanced ride. Suffice it to say, this is a field ripe with innovation.

The bikes come in two styles: Pedal-assist models engage the motor while you keep pedaling, varying the assistance according to a level you determine on a control pad; motor-assist models, which allow you to forgo pedals in favor of a throttle to control speed, are more akin to scooters. Cycling purists may scoff, but for our money, the motor-assist types are the most fun to ride.

Key features to look out for on both include regenerative braking, which recharges the battery during, for instance, downhill runs, and battery cycle rate, a widely varying measure of how many times the battery can be recharged before it requires a replacement. Bonus perks like cradles for smartphones and USB ports make a ride even more enjoyable.  

The bikes, however inventive, are not without controversy. In New York, for example, overzealous restaurant delivery people's use led to a ban last year. But in most cities, e-bikes are viewed as being no different than their un-motorized siblings. Here's a look at ten of the coolest rides.

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