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The History of The Electric Bike

The History of The Electric Bike

When was the first electric bike invented? Well, you may think they’re a recent invention, but the first concepts date back to 1895. Let’s first look at the origin of the bicycle and work from there.

Image credit: Bloomberg

The First Bicycle

In 1817, a man named Karl Drais built the first official two-wheeled transportation contraption. His invention was essentially a bike without pedals, and it weighed approximately 48 pounds. It became known as the Draisine or Running Machine, and it was immensely popular in Europe and eventually The United States. The excitement, however, was short-lived because Draisines were accident-prone since they didn’t have any pedals and moved exclusively by the rider pushing off the ground. Various Governments banned the Draisine, for safety reasons, as they were likely difficult to stop.


The First Ebike

Image credit: Cycle History

On December 31, 1895, American inventor Ogden Bolton Jr. was granted what appears to be the very first patent for a battery-powered bicycle. It featured a rear wheel hub motor, with a 10-volt battery, and appears to have had a rear brake, which looks so much like the modern road bikes. Some modern e-bike manufacturers have taken a step back to their traditional roots - with one notable example being the 2021 Rize Fixie.

Photo credit: Rize Bikes

The 2021 Rize Fixie resembles the very first electric bike of 1895, but it thankfully has added essentials like pedals, a crank, and weighs just 34 lbs. It also comes equipped with front and rear hydraulic brakes, an advanced 36-volt integrated hidden battery, a 350 Watt motor, belt drive system, torque sensor, headlight and other modern features.

Image credit:

On December 28, 1897, H.W. Libbey of Boston, Massachusetts was awarded a U.S. patent for a bike that featured a double electric motor placed within the hub of the crankset axle, and the bike appears to have had a massive battery that would have been extremely heavy. This patent doesn’t clearly show where the riders feet would have been situated but the bike looks like it would have been pretty comfy with its massive seat and beach cruiser handlebars.

Photo credit: Grace’s Guide

In 1897, the Humber Company built an electric tandem bike and there are publications that suggest this e-bike was used in the Bol d’Or bike race in Paris, France, as a front pace setter. This vintage tandem e-bike actually has pedals and cranks, and looks like it had enough batteries to power a small house! With a 750-watt motor, this old school e-bike supposedly could reach speeds of 40 mp/h (64 km/h), which makes sense when you factor that two grown men would have been peddling this, in unison. 

Photo credit: Grace’s Guide

In 1898, Mathew J. Steffens patented a rear-wheel drive electric bicycle that used a unique driving belt that went all the way around the outside the wheel.And, in 1899, a U.S. patent by John Schnepf depicted a rear-wheel friction “roller-wheel” (shown above) that was situated above the rear wheel. This bike shows the growing pains of technology but it is also an incredible example of ingenuity.

Photo credit:

In this photo (above) from 1932, we see a Philips & Simplex electric bike with a heavy steel frame and ginormous lead-acid battery. It also shows a front headlight, bell, seat suspension, and proper fenders.

Photo credit: Wikipedia

We couldn’t find any info related to this image (above) but it looks like it’s something your neighbor might have ridden to the Enchantment Under The Sea Dance, back in good old 1955. It doesn’t have any pedals and might technically be an electric motorcycle. It appears to have a rear license plate which is added evidence that this isn’t an e-bike.


Other advancements

In 1969, G.A. Wood Jr. developed the fractional horsepower motor, and in 1980, there was supposedly a solar powered e-bike that helped keep the battery full. In the 1990’s, torque sensors, power controls, and pedal-assist technology were invented and dynamically changed electric bicycles, forever. 


In Closing

Today, there are possibly hundreds of millions of electric bikes on the road and it’s incredible to think this all dates back more than 125 years, to 1895. Thanks for reading! To learn more about Rize Bikes, please check out our website ​and follow us on​ ​Facebook and Instagram​ for​ updates, promos, and product info. If you have any specific questions, please don’t hesitate to call the Rize Sales Department toll-free at: 1-888-600-1545. Phone lines are open Monday-Friday 9am-5pm PST or email


RIZE BIKES is based in Vancouver, BC, and we’re a Direct-to-Consumer company which means you can purchase directly from us. We’re getting ready to release 15 newly designed models that largely offer dual battery configurations which will allow riders to travel an estimated 160+ kms using the pedal assist function and we even have one model that has surpassed the 200km (125 mile) barrier, which is revolutionary for the industry! If that isn’t enough, RIZE is becoming well known for its torque sensors which measure how hard you’re pedalling and automatically adjusts your motor to offer just the right amount of help. Additional features like fenders (14 of our 15 new models, come with large fenders) will guard you against rain, snow, and/or mud. We also offer free water bottle holders and rear racks on most models, as well as dual suspension on select models.

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