Today I spent 3 hrs test-riding ebikes in SF, having done tons of research on this board and elsewhere. The store is new (in this location), friendly, and knowledgeable, selling ONLY ebikes.
Here are reviews based on an admittedly short test ride in each case, i.e. 15 min or so, but the ride included a 3-block-long steep SF hill, up and down of course:
1. Kettler Twin: I love the comfy upright stable ride and had high expectations for the Panasonic in-line motor, but was disappointed. The gear shifting was not good on the steep uphill. The first time up the hill I had put the bike into first gear after starting the ascent but absolutely could not accomplish the ride after 2 blocks and gave up--and it turned out the bike was actually still in 3rd gear although it showed first gear. If we put it into proper gear before beginning the ascent, we could be sure it was really in first gear. But it seemed pretty weird that we couldn't be sure the bike was really in first gear when it said it was! Then when it was truly in first gear it was much more assistance, but not enough for me. It was still simply too much work for me to pedal up the hill. Because I have some medical restrictions I can't just treat this as a problem to be solved by sweat and time--I have to have a not-too-laborious ride. I guess these bikes are not made for really steep hills like we have here (someone on this board already warned me about this!). It's a really heavy bike, which gives it the stability I like, but just made it too hard to get up that steep hill. I did like the internal gears (is that what one calls it when you twist the handlebar to change gears and you don't have to be pedaling?) and the nicely covered chain. It only has 3 levels of assist which felt a little primitive.
2. Kalkhoff Tasman: Very similar to Kettler, a little sportier. Same problems with shifting while riding uphill, and just not strong enough for 'our' hills and my reconstructed hips. Required even a bit more pedaling than the Kettler. I was really surprised by this, I had thought I'd be taking home a Kalkhoff for sure. My husband felt like you had to actually turn the whole front wheel of the Kalkhoff briefly to the side to get the gear shifting to work on the hill. All of this was totally not what I expected given what I had read on this board about Kalkhoffs.
3. BH Emotion Volt (folding electric): After the lumbering Kettler, this was a peppy little thing that zipped off as soon as I started pedaling and made it up the hill much more easily, but not without some good effort on my part. I was surprised at how much I did like this bike. I was more nervous going downhill with those small wheels and I felt like I would not feel as secure riding the bike on the crappy street surfaces where I live. I liked this bike but felt like I'm more of a standard-wheel person. It's fun, about 42 lbs, pretty powerful, but not stable enough for me.
4. Ohm Urban: This was great. It just breezed up the steep hill while I pedaled lightly along. It is not a light bike but felt like one when I rode it. Before trying it I didn't think I'd want a bike with a throttle, because I imagined it making the bike into something like a Porsche scooter, but the throttle was great--a subtle but definite boost up that steep hill. Also I LOVE the way the regenerative brakes totally slow you down when going downhill--I didn't have to touch the brakes while going down the very steep hill if I set the regen to highest power. This was a perfectly smooth ride, no problems shifting, no problems modifying assist level. I will still need to pedal to get uphill but it is totally doable.
I have some small complaints about the Ohm, or at least things I preferred about the other bikes:
a. Kettler's step-through was more comfortable for me; Ohm's big bulky battery in the step-through area (whatever you call the area between the seat and the handlebar post) makes me swing my leg around the back of the bike to get on and off. I have a slightly restricted hip mobility so this is a real thing, but I can manage the Ohm well enough. I wish the battery were just a tad lower somehow.
b. The way to change gears is annoying--there are three gears to control on the left, 7 on the right, and you use thumb on one side to increase, finger on the other side to increase, it is just not intuitive to me. Clearly I just don't understand gears, but I figure this is just a matter of habit to learn. I also like the twisting/internal gears better, where you don't have to be peddling to change gears. But the gear-shifting is not at all intuitive and I like the simple twist model where you can see easily what gear you are in.
c. Related point: on the Ohm you can't see what gear you are in very easily because the screen blocks the view of the right-hand gear indicator, and the bell on the left does that too. So I found myself pressing on right side and left and not sure what I was increasing or decreasing or how those are related to each other. And in fact, how ARE they related to each other?? Any tips on this are welcome!!
d. The buttons for increasing and decreasing the motor's assistance level and for using the throttle are all small and too close together. Ohm should in my opinion make them bigger and more spread out for a more ergonomic and comfortable interface.
Nonetheless we left with the Ohm, and I'm psyched to ride it around! I'll post a lengthier review in a few days if people are interested. I think the biggest learning-curve issue is figuring out how to use each of the three aspects of managing the power--the assistance level, the gears, and the throttle--and how to use them together for the right feel and most efficient power. Again, tips welcome on that.