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Open Forum : Electric Bicycles for Commuting

by Bike Shop Girl

Electric BikeIn the past weeks I’ve talked about the new Trek Ride+ lineup, that are electric assist.  As I’ve received many emails and comments about electric bikes I wanted to hear your input.

  • Do electric bikes kill the thought of cycling for you?
  • Do you think more folks would get started bicycle commuting if they knew it would be slightly easier with these bikes?
  • If you have an electric bike, what is it and what are your thoughts?
  • What’s your thought of electric assist vs electric?
 
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31 Responses to “Open Forum : Electric Bicycles for Commuting”

  1. rjk says:

    While I have no interest in electric bicycles per se, I do have an interest in putting more bicycles on the road and more people looking to a bicycle to get someplace instead of the default behavior of getting into their Chevy Tahoe for the half mile trip to wherever. While I’d like to think that electric assist bikes might put even a few more people on the streets, I don’t think the physical difficulty of cycling is as much of an impediment as the issue of feeling safe while riding. From that point of view, I don’t think electric assist bikes make much difference.

  2. Rob Prouse says:

    While commuting this year, I have seen several new people commuting by electric bike. I am not interested in getting one myself, but I think it is great that it is getting more people out of their cars. It gives us more advocates for bike lanes and bike safety.

    My only concern is that I see many of these riding on sidewalks (which unfortunately is legal here.) I don’t blame them, the roads around where I live are very dangerous and scary for new cyclists, but it is an accident waiting to happen. First, cars don’t expect or look for things moving that fast on the sidewalk when they pull in or out. It is also very dangerous for pedestrians. A few accidents could turn public opinion even more against cyclists in general.

  3. Soulfull Commuter says:

    I haven’t seen any around my area. Even though I do 10 mile commute each way mostly on green way trails, I see very few bikes now that summer has passed.

    A friend had an electric bike he used to commute, but it did not work very well. The electric part kept breaking and it was really too heavy to enjoy riding without the assist. He ended up sending it back. He does not ride a standard bike instead, so he is someone who would commute by electric bike, but not regular bike. Some of these newer models might ride a lot better, but the price is pretty high.

  4. Chris mcnally says:

    Great topic!

    My sister gave me an electric bike when I was recovering from a leg injury. It was a joy to be able to ride again, even commute. I also found that even on the hottest, most muggy summer day in NYC I could arrive at work without breaking a sweat.

    I have always commuted by bike, but with the electric assist I felt my range extended further. I might not normally visit a friend who lives 15 miles away by bike but with the electric I would.

    I especially think an electric bike is good for older people. Personally I know a grandfather who drove his car 10 blocks to his son’s place daily, until he got an electric bike then he rode. Some people who are used to driving will never change straight from a car to a bike, but an electric bike is a good transition.

    Because you can pedal, and you really need to pedal to go fast, eventually I think all electric riders pedal, and so they get some cardio benefit. Eventually they may just pedal and stop relying on the battery.

  5. Bigger Dummy says:

    I have considered getting a StokeMonkey electric assist for my Big Dummy cargo bike, as it is quite heavy (70lbs or so) and doing my 50km round trip “unstoked” can be a chore. I use it lots for short trips in the neighbourhood but would use it more for the work commute with an e-assist.

    There has been a ebike pilot implementation here in Ontario that has ruffled many feathers this past summer. The concerns have mostly been raised about the scooter style ebikes being used on recreational pathways and sidewalks. It seems those inclined to buy them are not comfortable riding in traffic and have misinterpreted the traffic laws to believe they can drive these devices on sidewalks as well. In addition, many of these newer ebikes can attain speeds more like the gas fueled versions and are heavy, making other pathway users nervous about them.

  6. Andy says:

    While I personally don’t want an electric bike or feel any need to use one, I think that anything smaller than a car is a step in the right direction. I have now seen or met about 10 people with electric bikes here, most of which I believe do not use regular un-assisted bikes. This small city is basically a 2 mile wide downtown with 2 mile hills in all directions, so electric bikes are a great way to get up the hills without driving.
    I would cringe to see them on sidewalks though. Any vehicle that can regularly go over 10mph does not belong on a sidewalk.

  7. SurlyBee says:

    I put an electric assist on my Big Dummy when I moved out to the country, where the closest grocery store is 8 miles away. I have to buy animal feed which is always 50 pound bags and do my grocery shopping so I am often pedaling over 125 lbs, plus my weight.

    Since getting my eZee Hub I have not used a gas powered vehicle to go into town once in 4 or 5 months. I have to use a truck to haul cattle and drive to the big city over 80 miles a way, but not for a 20-mile commute.

    I am 54, so not too old or too young, but we suffer from very high winds many months of the year and there are some long grades on the way to town, so I feel better using the electric assist. Today in 17 miles I used 1.6 amp hours out of a possible 10, so that means most of my trip was done the old fashioned way.

    I think anything that will get more cyclists on the road and reduce the number of cars is a good thing (short of gasoline bike engines!)

  8. Rob Sayers says:

    I like anything that gets people out of cars and on to bikes. I think electric or electric assist bikes are a great way to get people started riding whose fitness may not be good enough to ride a normal bike very long. That sounds strange I know, but thats a constant reason I hear for not riding more. My commute is only 10 miles round trip, and many people think that is a long distance.

    If electric bikes are what it takes to get people more active, than great. I wouldn’t own one personally, but I ride lots live in a fairly flat area.

  9. velorob says:

    I commuted for about 2 years on a conventional racing bike. This year I got an electric bike. I use it for active rest. I still commute most days on my regular bike.

    Do electric bikes kill the thought of cycling for you?

    No. I can say, because I still pedal my ebike, it is just like I am riding a base miles but moving faster. The experience is the same.

    Do you think more folks would get started bicycle commuting if they knew it would be slightly easier with these bikes?

    I do think they would, except that the Trek is expensive for entry level commuter. I think companies like eZip have a better chance at bringing new commuters in. (I don’t work for them by the way) I got mine for $200 on sale on Amazon but I think MSRP is like $500. I mentioned my ebike to a friend that used to ride. Next time I saw him he had purchased a converter kit and now he rides his ebike everywhere.

    If you have an electric bike, what is it and what are your thoughts?

    I have an eZip MTN Trailz. It is basically the bike pictured above with a blue frame that is more traditional mountain bike geometry. Max speed for the motor is 15 MPH and the motor has 400 watts. However it is heavy at 75 lbs with the 20lb one SLA battery attached. The range is 15 mile flat and 10 miles with about a 1000 feet of climbing. Any hill with more than a 6% grade and the motor will need my help. You can add another battery but I do not need it. I did add street tires and quick release front wheel and misc other upgrades.
    I think ebikes are great. They serve a purpose in my garage that is one less day I have to drive my car. If I am sick, tired or just not feeling it. My eBike is still an option. And I agree, the more people needing bike friendly streets the better. Some people ask me “what’s the point” when I tell them I have an ebike. I explain that it is a blast to get some exercise getting to work. Just because some days I get there with the help of an electric motor vs training 100 miles a week does not make a difference to me. I prefer the conventional bike but the ebike gives me another option.

    What’s your thought of electric assist vs electric?

    My ebike has the option for both. Plus I just test rode the Trek+ FX which only has pedal assist. For me, I prefer the throttle. Mostly because I can control the output. I know when I am pushing it so I can adjust the throttle to the amount of effort I want. A new cyclist may want to have pedal assist like the trek has. The trek was an awesome bike but I felt I had less in control of the assist. I found myself having to work to get the most out of the bike. In the end I would just rather ride my regular bike than get pedal assist. The best analogy I can give is that a throttle is like a manual transmission in a car and pedal assist is like an automatic. A manual is more fun and control but an automatic is less customization and more mass appeal.

  10. Dwainedibbly says:

    I live in a part of the country where the weather in the summer is hot & humid, even at 7am. With no shower facility at work, a 7 mile commute, and the necessity of being presentable to the public, there is no way that I can bike commute in the summer on a conventional bike. At least I can get some exercise on the ride home.

    I built my own ebike using a motor kit from werelectrified.com and a pile of parts.

    Now that it is starting to cool off, the ebike will get parked until late-April or so.

  11. DonB says:

    The top reason I don’t commute by bike as often as I’d like is I don’t want to put my life at risk in traffic. Between home and work is only a major artery which goes under a highway overpass. No neighborhood road option at that point. Second reason I don’t ride to work as often as I’d like is the sweat factor. I live in Texas. No shower at work.

    The second reason (sweat factor) would be taken care of quite nicely by an ebike or e-assist bike.

    The first (top) reason (risk of life and limb) won’t be helped at all by any bike as long as I’m going significantly slower than the 45 mph traffic of the 4 lane road (with no shoulder) that I must be on to get to work. For that reason, I think the best possibility for me would be to get an electric motorcycle. That way I could keep up with traffic and feel safer than on a bicycle. Zero motorcycles, by the way, are starting to market reasonably priced motorbikes. We’ll see… (I do ride a gas powered motorcycle, so it wouldn’t be tough to make that transition.)

    Alas, my bicycle riding (first love) is mostly not commuting, but instead, trails and unpopulated county roads on weekends and days off. I’m trying to commute more now that the weather is starting to cool off, but now it’s raining a lot. :-/

  12. Brian Shannon says:

    I’m currently borrowing the Trek 7.3fx from the shop, which we got for the purpose of showing people how much easier the electric assist can make a commute. I was a bit skeptical about the idea at first, because I had previously tried out Giant’s electric assist bike and hated it. It was extremely heavy, had poor geometry and was overly complicated- specifically meaning it would have been extremely hard to fix a flat.

    The Trek however has a quick release front wheel and a simple bolt on rear axle, and is light enough to carry up and down stairs at home (or office) It also assists up to 20mph, so someone like myself who is really into riding can really get some sort of enjoyment out of riding a little faster. It’s definitely a push to get it over 20, but that’s part of the fun!

  13. Brian Shannon says:

    Somehow it submitted, I’m not done!

    I don’t think the electric assist takes away from the joy of cycling, because you are still doing some work. If you are a serious cyclist, you can use the motor to you advantage by getting a decent work out in without wiping yourself out on the way to work. If you’re just interested in getting around, it makes it super easy to go a little faster, which I feel helps in situations where the roads are narrow- the less you are working the more you can focus on your surroundings and be safe, and get through those areas quickly too! I certainly hope to see more people interested in ebikes, as I think they are a great idea and will hopefully get some people into traditional cycling as well.

  14. Lo says:

    I could see doing something like this for errands/groceries/etc in my area. Groceries and local shopping are all within 5 miles on roads that I regularly ride on my roadie. However, the thought of climbing some of the hills with panniers of groceries really is not appealing. Electric assist, I’d probably not take the car for short trips to the store unless it was raining.

  15. Bob Baxter says:

    I met a fellow on the Cowboy Trail, in northern Nebraska, who was riding an E trike. He had suffered severe spinal injuries several years ago and could barely walk with the aid of two canes. His goal is to ride every rail to trail in the country, and he has done several so far. I rode about 10 miles with him and he was able to run 8 to 10 mph. To say I was impressed and inspired is an understatement.

  16. Jeff Moser says:

    I got a chance to ride a Giant Electric Assist at the local shop. I was expecting a ride that felt like a scooter or motorcycle, but it still felt like a bicycle. Since the motor was only assisting while I was pedaling, I still had to do work to move the bike. It was similar to walking up an escalator…you’re still working, but getting more done with less. The bike also had a few settings for dialing in how much assist you wanted.

    I live in a small, relatively flat city, so the bike wouldn’t make sense for me; however, if I lived in a very hilly city, like the SF Bay Area or Seattle, it might be nice to have. Especially if you were beat after a long day at work and didn’t feel like a big climb. Or as some other commenters have said, carrying a lot of weight.

  17. Barry Korman says:

    check out my blog – regarding retro reflective to help keep riders safer at night or in the dark.
    Barry

  18. Ger says:

    For my 8 mile or so round trip commute,I’ve been using my Synergie “Vivace” ebike folder for over 2 Years in dry(ish) weather..not always easy here in N.Ireland! I don’t have “workout” hills on my route,but I do pedal with the assist on inclines,rather than overworking the motor, for better range and some adrenalin..counting a commute on the bike as a car or taxi trip (on my own) saved,it’s paid back the purchase price near 4x by now..wouldn’t recommend a Lead acid powered machine,though..too heavy.

  19. Scott says:

    Electric assist bicycle may change the world.

    A system like bionx allows you to keep your existing bicycle, as well as much of the “spirit” of normal bicycle riding. These systems weigh from 12-17 lbs.

    You have more customizable systems based on the more powerful crystalyte hub motors. These systems can achieve speeds of 50-60 mph. They are generally very heavy, requiring more powerful batteries, as well as compromising the normal feel and handling of typical bicycle riding.

    My favorite, and most expensive, is the Optibike. A complete solutions with all the advantages and few of the disadvantages. The only drawback being a cost of $8000-$15,000.

    Another, more obscure, product that I admire is the stokermonkey. This is intended only for xtracycle equipped bicycles.

    These are some of the best solutions that I have found in my research. There is a lot of Chinese produced garbage in between.

  20. John says:

    I bought a BL26 kit from werelectrified.com I’ve had it for over 6 months now and haven’t had an issue with it since. Well I leave to work 20 min earlier now, but I’m saving so much money in gas! I live in the LA area and this saves me from the horrible traffic we have here. Sometimes I think I get home faster on my bike then being stuck in traffic in my truck. And the best part is that I bought a cheap bike at a garage sale so everything came out as a pretty good deal. Has anyone else bought one of these kits before?

  21. Monkete says:

    Hi,

    I bought a kit from ampedbikes and works decently well. Here is some footage of me riding it.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ugaqlA3R8FA

    I would recommend to ride an e-bike to get an idea of how it feels before you build one. There is a lot to learn before you make it ride the way you like it.

    Cheers,

  22. FALCON EV says:

    e-bikes come in different flavors depending on what the rider needs.
    FalconEV offers a broad selection.
    I mention this since all the other ebike suppliers were already mentioned.

  23. Target has some really nice bikes for as low as $88.00 and make a perfect bike to install an electric bike motor kit. Wilderness has a great kit but there are other options such as the Pegasus Power kit. If you haven’t seen it, it is really worthwhile taking a look at it. Some of the new features are mindblowing. you might like the idea of being able to lock your battery to your bike. Check out my blog http://www.busyblt.blogspot.com

  24. Anton says:

    I bought a wisper 905 city (its an English marque) a few months ago in New Zealand, and can’t recommend it highly enough. I’m new to cycling, and it is the highlight of my day!

    Its not a cheap option, but having it all integrated in a purpose built frame has its advantages.

  25. Tim says:

    The electrically assisted or motorized bicycle brings truly low cost powered transport and answers the fitness challenges and time pressures of twenty first century living.

  26. Roger Mckinley says:

    check out these electric bikes san francisco

  27. Mike Schneider says:

    Can anyone tell me how much pedalling one mile recharges the battery on an electrical bike?

    • Ted Johnson says:

      Mike: Not all e-bikes have a regeneration feature. It’s not really the point, although many people ask that question. When riding a bike with a BionX kit, for example, in full-regenerative mode on a flat surface, it feels like your dragging a bag of cement behind you. The regenerative value is minimal — although it would be a great workout.

      I wouldn’t recommend getting an e-bike with the expectation that you’d never charge it using an external source of energy.

  28. Hi, I’m Doug Synder from San Fransisco. I’ve been interested in electric bicycles for a long time and promoting their use around our country and the world, it’s the best way I know of to reduce impacts from fossil fuel burning. I’ve now started importing electric bicycle items for resale in the USA and have chosen to focus largely on getting a suitable range of electric bicycle conversion kits, have made a few sales but it’s very early days at the moment. I’ve linked up with the Solar Bike team in Australia to fast track getting a decent product and also because I like their renewable energy take on things but I’ll also be looking at getting other kits specific to the market base over here. If anyone has any information they can share on what they’d like in an electric bicycle conversion kit or is interested in getting one themselves then please let me know so I can take everything into consideration. Products I’m able to offer now are here http://www.solarbikeamerica.com and http://www.california-ebike.com I would be very happy for any advice for this enterprise. Thanks in Advance, Doug.

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