I've logged a lot of time on motorcycles, and a lot of time on mountain bikes.
So I approached my first "electric bicycle" with the same skepticism that I employed in the minutes before I sat on my first electric motorcycle.
That lasted 30 seconds into my first ride, by which time I was a convert.
The instrument of my bicycle conversion was an electric Shima, from the German manufacturer A2B. It was followed up by a similar revelation astride A2B's Alva+.
The Shima and Alva+ did for me what performance enhancing drugs did for Lance Armstrong. I put a little of my mettle to the pedal and -- zoom!
With only a minor amount of effort I was moving 17mph on flat ground, as I breezed along the L.A. River. On a downhill, with only a little more energy expended, I was going 28mph.
I felt like one of the triplets in "Triplets of Belleville" and rode happily for about two hours, logging about 25 miles total, without breaking a sweat, before returning to the barn.
Both the Shima and Alva+ are "pedal-assist" bicycles. They use Shimano deraileurs and hydraulic disc brakes, and weigh about 70 pounds. A tidy dashboard has readouts for MPH and battery life.
They are powered by a 36-volt lithium-ion battery, which looks like a shoebox and rides over the back fender, and runs a 500-watt motor housed in the rear hub.
That combo creates impressive on-demand power. Depending on where the rider has set the controls, the power comes on as soon as the pedaling starts or when a "throttle" is engaged. You can ride without pedaling at all, or pedal and ride very fast.
The top speed on the Shima is said to be about 28mph. The Alva+ is a little lower. Range on both bikes is said to be about 40 miles, with five to six hours required for a complete recharge. (And the shoebox battery detaches easily, so you can take that, and not the whole bike, to where the power is.)
I enjoyed several daily commutes, turning my roughly 15-minute automobile ride into an easy 25-minute bicycle ride -- though the uphill sections I encountered going back home required more effort from me than the downhill sections I had heading to work.
The bikes are both well made and solid, and very easy on the eyes.
But be prepared for a little sticker shock. The Shima retails for $3,799, the Alva+ for $3,399.