Tuesday Coffee Talk - E-bikes changing the cycling landscape

My new Electric bike from Pete's bike in Boulder

Yes I did it, some will say I turned to the dark side but I like to think of it as the green side, I got an e-bike - an Electric Assist Bike. It's a full on commuter style rig probably coming in around 40 lbs, 8 speed internal hub, lights that run off a generator, fenders and other commuter equipped items. While I've only had it a few weeks I'm already loving it, it has changed commuting by bike for me.

Why? Why get an ebike? As someone pointed out on Facebook, "What's wrong with a pedal bike?" Well, nothing is wrong with a pedal bike, I'm just looking for a faster, easier way to get to work which is about 19 miles round trip without having to get sweaty. I still love to pedal, as lunch time is when I'm able to get out for my training rides but commuting for me is not and will never be training... just transportation. I could use my old commuter bike to ride to work... but with it I rode at best once a week and when I didn't ride I drove my very old V8 redneck truck that was far from green or cost effective way.

In just a few weeks of owning it I'm using it all the time (when the weather permits). In short it is changing the way I use a bike for transportation as it it making it much more convenient to go by bike But I know I still have a bit to learn with owning an ebike and so does society. What does it mean to have ebikes share a common cycling infrastructure in a city? New York is putting the breaks on ebikes as they say "E-bikes are unlicensed, unsafe and unwelcome in our city."

I'm sure there are abusers amongst the early adopters of this technology, just like there are plenty of abusers such as pathletes already on the infrastructure causing problems. The core problem is the speed of the two wheeled device on the path, not the device itself right?

Notice her love for her electric cargo bike

Problems can and will come up I imagine as more and more electric assist commuter, road or mountain bikes start hitting the trails/roads/paths tensions will rise.

Before you start slamming the ebike remember these bikes IMO are vehicles of transportation, not for sport. Commuting by bike has it's challenges but ebikes take away some of those barriers and gets more people on bikes and out of their cars. Just from a saving-the-planet point of view this is a good thing. Then let's add on cargo bikes, those bikes are awesome... and impractical at the same time as you try to haul a 60lb bike with 40 lbs of groceries 2-3 miles over non-flat terrain and a child on the back. That would take a hour to complete!

I know I have a rough road cut out for me to win others over on the ebike... and who knows, maybe in 6 months I'll hate it and want to got back to sweating and showering 3x a day or back to driving my V8. But regardless of me, ebikes are becoming part of the cycling landscape and it could be what gets a large percentage of people out of their cars in onto a bike... and supporting more bike paths, bike boxes, bike parking, and simply more bike love.

News Item: 


I'll do a full review in a few weeks after I have had more time

I'll do a full review in a few weeks after I have had more time with the bike but the short answer is

cost: mine was about $2900 retail (I think). I think you can get them below $2k but IMO pretty much expect to pay between 2 and 3k if you want a good bike.

speed: the assist kicks off around 18-ish mph but beyond that it's up to you and your legs. My most common speed is probably low teens

charge time: FAST. few hours is what I have seen so far

range: Still trying to come up with a good analysis of this. Their marketing department will say 40 miles, but there probably is a big depends that goes along with that statement. Variables include which power level you have it on and for how long and how much you are putting into the equation... battery age.... I have seen 20 miles if ridden hard as in you ran it in medium and high a lot and 40 miles if used low power a lot... but I still am working on this to get a good understanding.

we saw a ton of these in

we saw a ton of these in Switzerland while riding over there. IMO they are a "bridge" that makes bike commuting way more accessible for people who would normally take the car because of barriers like wind, hills, length of trip, etc... By far the most common users were either nattily-dressed business men and women riding them 5-10 miles from outlying areas to the main transit stations, or older folks doing shopping trips in rural hilly regions.

What's not to like?

Kris, you're being too defensive IMHO. Requiring the purity of 100% human power to be categorized as doing the right thing or meeting acceptable lifestyle standards is fundamentalism at its worst. Don't compare the eBike with a bike, compare it with a car, and the environmental and health benefits are huge.

That said I am completely impressed with those human-powered cyclist commuters who strike out in any weather, day-in and day-out. That commitment is admirable, and represents the most dedicated end of the continuum. You are leaders and your example deserves to be applauded.

But I'm not personally likely to sign on for more than the occasional commuting day for my nearly 20 mile each way route. I'm not saying I can't, I'm just saying I likely won't given my overall life responsibilities, interests and patterns. Like Kris, I ride my bikes (road, mountain, track) plenty for exercise and training and social interaction, it's a wonderful thing.

And in an attempt to be conscious of my planetary footprint I've scaled down to a much better mileage car, work a bit more from home, and I'm now thinking about a scooter. I won't save the planet at that rate, but I'm hopefully moving in the right direction.

And I think you are too, Kris. We should focus on the positive steps people are taking, not set uncompromising positions. There's already too much of that in Congress.

I must have set the wrong tone

I must have set the wrong tone because I felt that this was not anti human power bike... I see the ebike as an another alternative to transportation. From me, this expands the range I would normally use a bike for and thus reduces the number of times I feel that my big V8 is needed. Of course I don't need the V8... I could own a better/smaller car....

I guess if I at all feel defensive it is because feedback I have received from others that ebikes are bad

Also think of the your biking commutable range in terms of minutes and not miles. You will (for example) allow for 30 minutes tops one way for bike commuting, anything beyond that may be unreasonable. And with a human bike 30 minutes might equal 6 miles. Now add the ebike and that 6 miles might become 8 or 9 miles... and still within the 30minute mark.

Sorry, if I came across as "It must be this way". Not my intent.

Sign our petition to legalize ebikes on Boulder's paths, etc.

Ebikes are illegal on Boulder's multi-use paths, in public bike racks, and even parked on sidewalks! Only low-powered ones are allowed in bike lanes. We have a petition to
Boulder City Council to fix that: http://petitions.moveon.org/sign/legalize-ebikes-on-boulder We made a presentation to council on May 21 which was VERY well received. Councilman Ken Wilson said it was one of the best presentations he'd seen in his 6 years. Ebikes "level the playing field" for hills, wind, cargo, distance and age, injury or sedentariness.


Absolutely agree! I had to assure my regular bike shop back in New Orleans that the ebike was a replacement for my recently deceased Vespa, not my bicycle...my commute is about 16-17 round trip and in New Orleans heat and humidity it's far too easy to decide to drive my LandRover rather than bike ( although my office is in the French quarter and I usually start the day at the office with road rage at tourists when I wimp out and drive) , the ebike is so much fun that I look forward to the commute, plus with all the road work going on in uptown New Orleans, the ebike is far faster and more efficient than driving! And there are very few days in New Orleans that riding a bike is not plausible....