The first Bike Outside of 2011 is the bike of the future, at least according to some bike industry types. Electric assists are supposed to be the next big thing in cycling as baby boomers lose leg muscle and resolve to parasitic nanorobots activated by the musical stylings of Jethro Tull. I may have misheard a detail or two as the industry type/ E-bike apologist was explaining this (he was a tad dull) but that's really the gist of what he was saying.
I've never ridden an E-bike, though I do get asked about them periodically (usually by Baby Boomers, actually). I visited a shop that specializes in them during my Portland sojourn. The staff and customers were all very friendly, and really, really excited about electric bike power. I would have been unsurprised if one of the shop customers handed me an E-bike tract and attempted to convert me on the spot.
While I confess to desperately longing for an electric assist during my ill-fated journey to Coventry this past September, I'm normally not particularly drawn to them. That's neither here nor there, really. The important thing is that it got the owner of this particular bike out and about in the wake of Hartford's first decent snowfall of the winter. The owner of this step-through Schwinn seems to be a regular at the Behind The Rocks shopping center where I spotted it, as the security guard who rolled up to see what I was doing knew too much about the owner and the bike to have retained it all from a single conversation.
The front hub motor seems like the most popular setup in the E-bike universe. It kind of makes it look like the bike has a drum brake up front. (especially some of the larger ones). The few I've seen (including this one) have been equipped with rim brakes, but I feel like a hub that large ought to have a brake built into it as well. I'd like to build an electric motor hub into a 20" wheel (perhaps for a Cycle Truck or an unnecessarily ungainly folding bike) The giant hub-to-rim ratio with tiny spokes would end up looking like the front wheel of an old racing Norton, which I consider to be a good thing. I'm not holding my breath for people to beat a path to my door for custom e-bike wheels, but with MSRP's for bikes like this Schwinn in the $2,000-$3,000 range, I can see the appeal of retrofits and DIY conversions.