Whatever enthusiasts think of electric bikes, they are not going away. In Germany last year, 42% of all bicycles sold were electric assist machines. In the Netherlands the figure was 20%. I’m for anything that encourages people to get on two wheels, even if they are simply looking to flee the car. If pedal assist gets people to work, the market or the coffee shop on two wheels, so be it.
Out of all bikes on the road, electric bikes are the most in need of robust high quality equipment; especially wheels. They have to hold up machines weighing as much as 70 lbs. They have to cope with rider and motor transmitting the same power as an Olympian, all the time. If your wheels lack robustness, an electric motor will point it out fast.
One of my favorite hubs for use on an electric assist bike is the Nuvinci N380. It’s sufficiently strong for most production electric bikes; at 2400 grams, it’s not light - and doesn’t need to be. I have used one of these hubs on my regular commuter and didn’t feel that it was holding me and my lunch box back. After all, hubs sit at the center of the wheel and rotate slowly compared to the rim.
Talking of rims, I chose to build the featured wheels with Sun Rhynolite rims. I first got to use these rims in 1996 when I was managing and wrenching for the Outland VPP MTB team. Our downhill racers – Kathy Sessler, Jeremy Purdy and Lynn Allen - all rode the season on Rhynolites without a single problem (on V-brakes, no less). In fact, Jeremy won the Reebok Eliminator on those rims. The story “The 500 dollar brake cable” is retold on my blog; anyway, I digress. These rims are 27-28 mm wide, so they hang onto a tire such as a Schwalbe 700 x 38 pretty darn well. I built the front wheel with a Shimano Alfine dynamo hub; its 3.0 watt output is adequate to power a 2.4 watt headlight and a .6 watt taillight. Drag is a little more than that of a higher quality hub such as a Schmidt Son 28, but it costs about half the price. American-made Wheelsmith 14 gauge spokes with brass nipples and spoke washers round out the package.
Look no further than this for problem-free electric assist cycling!