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The Storm eBike: An Inexpensive Answer to Gridlock?

Dan Tynan
Yahoo Tech

Photo: Storm eBike

Stuck in bumper-to-bumper traffic again? Tired of being crammed like cattle into a subway car? 

An Indiegogo campaign launching Monday may help change that. The Storm eBike is a basic two-wheeler with a battery-powered motor that could make your daily commute a breeze.

Read our followup story: A $500 eBike? Not so fast.

“It’s the Tesla of bicycles,” says company co-founder Storm Sonders (yes, that’s his real name). But the Storm eBike doesn’t come with a Tesla-like price. At an introductory price of $499, it lives at the low end of the range for electric bikes, which can cost $3,000 or more.

(That introductory offer will expire in a few days; the expected retail price is closer to $1300.)

I got to take one for a short spin outside Yahoo’s San Francisco offices.

Unlike traditional electric-assist bikes, which require you to pedal first before the motor kicks in, the Storm is fully electric. A gentle tap of my thumb on the accelerator, and I was hitting the max speed of 20 mph in less than 50 yards. Hydraulic disc brakes brought it to a swift stop.

While the eBike’s 350-watt motor still doesn’t have enough oomph to conquer San Francisco’s steep hills without a pedal-powered assist, it’s a whiz on city streets as well as the twisty canyon roads of Malibu, where the company is based, says Sonders. Superfat 4.6-inch tires are designed to let you ride on the beach or in the snow as well as on pavement, he adds.

If you run out of juice or need to climb a hill, you can always pedal, though hauling the single-gear, 45-pound bike up a grade by yourself will definitely earn you your fitness points for the week.

According to the company, the eBike will run for 90 minutes or 30 to 50 miles on a charge, and it recharges in a standard 120-volt outlet in about 90 minutes. The battery is removable, so you can bring it inside to charge and take it with you when the bike stays locked outside.

The Storm eBike should be available to the public sometime in June. But Storm is not the only company trying to reinvent the two-wheeler. In December, two San Francisco entrepreneurs unveiled their own prototype “Tesla of bikes,” the Bolt. There’s also the $949  Copenhagen Wheel, currently available for preorder, which can transform any bike into an eBike.

Then there’s the question of who can ride them and where they can do it. The answer depends on where you live. In California, for example, you must be 16 or older to drive an electric bike. You need a driver’s license to drive one in Utah. Climb aboard an eBike in New York City, and you risk a fine of $3,000 or more — the Big Apple strictly forbids the use of electric-assisted bicycles on public thoroughfares.

Check with your state’s department of motor vehicles before you climb in the saddle. And please, always wear a helmet.

Note: This article was updated to more accurately reflect the eBike's actual retail price and its crowdfunding vehicle.

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