Two days ago was the first day of Spring. And this being Arizona–Northern Arizona–we had a snowstorm yesterday.
I’ve been testing out an Ohm XS 750 e-bike. On these icy, snowy roads, this bike made my commute easier in ways I hadn’t anticipated.
You may be shocked to learn that the editor of Commute by Bike has a bike commute of less than two miles when utilizing shortcuts. I also have some latent motorcycle skills that I come out from time to time.
Many promoters of e-bikes love to pitch how easy they make hills, but they usually mean uphill.
Right out of my driveway, I have a long downhill of about a quarter mile. The bike lane was full of icy slush. Using the Ohm’s BionX controls, I was able to switch into regenerative mode–not because I wanted to charge the battery, but because I wanted that motorcycle engine braking effect that helps maintain control on a slippery hill. This is better than riding the brake, which is more likely to lock unexpectedly and cause a slide.
I felt a lot safer–so safe that I rode with one hand so I could take a picture. (I didn’t want the speed to be reading zero miles per hour. I did it for you, Dear Reader.)
Then there’s the shortcut on my commute where I need to push the bike uphill a short distance between two parking lots. I can ride this gap when there’s no snow, but it’s my least favorite part of my commute when there is snow–especially when the snowplows create a five-foot wall right where I need to pass through.
The BionX system is pedal-assist only–no throttle. But there’s a little red button below the handle grip, placed inconveniently behind the shifter, that sends power to the rear wheel. I used this to help me push the bike over that pile of snow.
My second shortcut involves about 50 yards of single-track that connects a Baptist church parking lot to a cul-de-sac in the next neighborhood. When there is snow on this path, I have always had to put my foot down. But the Ohm kept pushing for a second when I had to stop pedaling to maintain balance. That made the difference, and I was able to keep my feet up and stay balanced through through this gap.
As I said, I have a fairly short commute. I don’t mind pushing my regular bike 50 yards through the snow. But if this snow-covered path were a mile long instead of 50 years, it would probably be a deal breaker. Without an e-bike, I’d probably drive or take the bus.
Lots of e-bike enthusiasts speak about how they will get more people on bikes–people who might not otherwise get on a bike. It sometimes sounds like they’re rationalizing. But this morning I became convinced that e-bikes may keep fair-weather bike commuters on their bikes–and out of their cars–when conditions are less than ideal.