Test Driving State-of-the-Art E-Bikes on the Streets of New York City

Next ride: the pedal-assisted VanMoof S3 ($1,998). Before I had even left home, there were several moments of white-hot panic when, despite careful instruction from the hipsters in the Williamsburg showroom, I entirely blanked on how to unlock the bike post-charge, and a skull symbol flashed on the matrix display, accompanied by a piercing alarm: Pity the prospective bike thief. (So confident are VanMoof in their security technology that they also guarantee to track a stolen bike, or replace it) Luckily my friend Alex had arrived on a Citi Bike to help troubleshoot. I decided to try out my erstwhile office commute, to the barely remembered One World Trade Center. I seemed to be expending some effort, so we dismounted and Alex took a look. He shifted me from pedal-assist level 1 to 4 and pointed out the Turbo Boost button, and at this point my life on two wheels changed. The VanMoof glided on air, enabling me to dart across junctions, effortlessly bound up hills, and sail past sluggish fellow travelers (all I needed was a Lycra onesie). Now I could enjoy the views, and all I can say is that there must be a lot of home gyms in Manhattan. Never have I seen such bodies: joggers bounding by with what looked like armadillos strapped to their stomachs but on closer inspection turned out to be, well, their stomachs. Chastened, I moved down to pedal-assist level 1.

Up next was the Charge Comfort ($1,499). This time Thomas borrowed the VanMoof, and by the end of the trip he had ordered one for himself. Our destination: socially distanced roof-terrace drinks in West Harlem. The British-born Charge reassuringly resembles my old Raleigh, with leather-look seat and handlebar tips. It is practical, too: The battery pack slots under the luggage rack and can be removed to charge. We rode up Eighth Avenue past all the sidewalk restaurants that have so transformed the experience of the city, and into Central Park. At bicycle level, the park is especially beautiful, and I had never experienced its unkempt upper reaches.

I went home after dark, joining the Hudson bike path at 125th Street, where at ten o’clock the action was hopping. There were friends and families enjoying cookouts, music playing, lovers courting—it was a 21st-century Seurat come to pulsing life. Exulting in all these signs of joyous human connection, I realized that I was falling in love with my city all over again. When I arrived home, I salvaged that B. Spoke suit from the fashion-discard pyramid and hung it back in my closet.