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Specialized Turbo e-bike gives your ego a boost, too

Commentary: CNET's Stephen Shankland barely broke a sweat on a battery-assisted ride around Paris on a Specialized Turbo e-bike geared for commuters.

Specialized sells a handful of Turbo e-bike models. James Martin/CNET

On a regular bike, I'd be no match for the hardcore cyclist I encountered riding in Paris' bike lanes. But with an electric bike's extra oomph, I had no trouble keeping up, even grinding up hills and sprinting at traffic lights.

I was testing Specialized's Turbo FLR, a lower-end but still pricey e-bike (about $3,300, depending on the exchange rate) aimed at European bike commuters. It was my first time on an e-bike, and the instant power quickly convinced me e-bikes are a smart idea.

I'm not alone in my enthusiasm. Sales of e-bikes around the world are expected to grow to at least 40 million in 2023 from last year's 32 million, according to Navigant Research.

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What's pushing e-bikes into the mainstream? Factors include better batteries and the example set by electric cars with their eco-friendly tech. Plus, city dwellers are always on the lookout for better ways to commute.

I averaged 11 mph on a 52-minute trip. It was no speed record, but I barely broke a sweat. Traffic lights and Eiffel Tower tourists slowed me down, not fitness limits. The extra power is liberating, although lifting the 50-pound bike isn't easy.

The battery has plenty of juice for ordinary riding: My charge level dropped from 76 percent to 50 percent. Regenerative braking on higher-end models can extend your range somewhat by converting forward momentum into battery charge.

It doesn't take long to master the Turbo FLR's pedal-assist technology, which amplifies your pedal stroke power, or to be spoiled by it. Instead of breaking my momentum, stoplights were an opportunity to surge back to speed.

And when I turned off the power and the bike slowed down, I realized I'd turned off my ego boost, too.

This story appeared in the fall edition of CNET Magazine. It has been modified somewhat for its online appearance. For other magazine stories, click here.