I was at the Shanghai bicycle and e-bike trade show over the weekend, and I have news to report. Everybody knows that cars are edging bicycles off the road in China, where swarms of Flying Pigeons and Forevers once ruled the streets.
So here’s the news: The variety of two-wheeled vehicles coming out is vast. I was focused on electric bicycles, and my day at the show was pretty much just in the two mammoth pavilions where e-bike manufacturers were set up. But just in that area, the variety is amazing. There was everything from an electrified push-scooter like kids used to use six or seven years ago to e-scooters, virtual e-motorcycles and cargo- or passenger-bearing e-tricycles, mainly for rural people. Then there are the folding miniature versions.
The folding e-bikes come in all varieties. Check out that battery pack above. It goes in front of the handlebars. The manufacturer says it’s good for up to 50 kilometers (close to 30 miles).
It was interesting to hear how Western and Chinese consumers of e-bikes have vastly different tastes. Westerners (mainly Europeans) want something that looks as much like a bike as possible, with a discreet battery. Many Chinese want something that looks as much like a scooter or motorcycle, and as little like a bicycle, as possible.
Apparently they want to get away from the era of the bicycle. The e-bike may be a good stepping stone. After all, some 16 million were sold in China last year. That’s a lot.
A note on regular bikes: I watch ‘em on the streets of Beijing, and sales of folding conventional bikes but must just be soaring. These are made for dense cities. Their wheels are small (meaning they don’t go fast), but urban people are buying them like crazy. They are all over.