Cycling · e-bike · Life

8 Reasons Why You’ll Be Riding an E-Bike in the Future

Current battery technology gives most affordable e-bikes a range of 20-40 miles (32-65 km). This puts the average errand well within the e-bikes range. It also makes commuting more attractive. Most bicycle commuters don’t go far beyond 10 miles, but an e-bike changes that paradigm.

The average speed of an e-bike is 50% faster than a regular bicycle. What would take an hour and a half on a regular bike only takes an hour on an e-bike. This makes commuting longer distance more attractive and practical.

The price of gas only seems to go up. Every day you ride your bike is money in your pocket that you’re not spending on gas.

No, e-bikes are not as much exercise as a regular bike, but they do provide a decent cardio workout. If you’re feeling frisky, you can turn the motor power down and choose to pedal harder. Why pay money for a gym, take hours out of your week, drive to said gym, just to get the exercise you could get from combining your regular routine with an e-bike?

Sweat, or the lack, thereof
With and e-bike, you have the option not to exert yourself so much that you need a shower at the end of your ride. Bike commuting often requires a shower and change of clothes before you can really get to work. E-bikes eliminate the sweat factor. You lock your bike and go to work in the clothes your rode in. Plus, you usually have the best parking spot at the building.

Wide Appeal
Cycling brings to mind a particular picture of some Lycra-clad, weekend warrior slowing down traffic on country roads while pretending he’s in the Tour de France. E-bikes don’t fit in that niche. They are for a broader audience. No special clothing is required. Exceptional health is not a prerequisite, either. If you have minor health concerns that would keep you off a regular bike, an e-bike mitigates those problems. Almost anyone can confidently mount an e-bike and make a 10 km run.

The prices of e-bikes are coming down. Direct internet sales and standardization like common battery designs are putting the prices of e-bikes on par with regular bikes. Even conversion kits are becoming reasonable. You might find converting your regular bike to an e-bike to be a practical alternative.

The shear joy of cruising down the road in the open air is intoxicating. An e-bike is great for capturing that childhood feeling of freedom, but in a practical, adult-minded way. The simple chore of getting groceries becomes an opportunity to breath in some roadside honeysuckle and speak to some neighbors you’ve never met.

Life · traffic

An Argument For the Idaho Stop

As many drivers will tell you, usually in angrily posted internet comments, roads were built for cars. This factoid comes from the latest New York Times bestseller, The Big Book of Thank You Letters to Doctor Obvious. The lanes are car-width. The speed limits are car-powered. The loop-induction traffic signals are car-weighted. Yes, it’s all very obvious that roads were made for cars.

Also made for cars are traffic-calming devices. Traffic-calming is the concept of creating a safer environment for all road users. It mainly consists of narrowing lanes and putting obstructions like speed humps (“sleeping policeman” for you Brits), islands, and curves into the traffic flow. The intended result is to slow the speed of cars and make drivers aware of other road users. Note that pedestrians and cyclist have no need for speed-reducing devices because they are rarely traveling above the speed limit.

Here in The States, we haven’t fully embraces the roundabout. We have opted for right-angle intersections with light or sign control. This makes the stop sign a ubiquitous fixture on American streets. For example, my neighborhood, which has only one connection to the highway, consists of four longish streets and seven cul-du-sacs. There are fewer than 300 houses. All traffic is local since it is essentially a dead-end. The speed limit is 25 mph as are most residential areas. There are 15 stop signs, not including the one at the main highway. Every single traffic sign in my neighborhood is a stop sign. I have to ask, “Why”

The only conclusion is, the stop signs are there to interrupt cars so they don’t build up speed past the 25 mph limit. If there was some other device, say a computer controlled car, that ensured the cars never got over 25 mph, every intersection could be controlled with a simple yield sign. The fact is, most drivers treat the stop signs as if they were yield signs because it makes no damned sense to come to a full stop to turn right when the only possible cross traffic is coming from two houses that have driveways to the left, on a dead-end street. The rolling or “California” stop for cars is alive and well. It’s normally a perfectly safe exercise and the only penalty is if a cop sees it.

The Idaho Stop
The name derives from a recent change to the Idaho traffic code that allows cyclist to treat stop signs as yield signs with the caveat that if another vehicle is already stopped at the intersection, they have the right-of-way. It’s not as crazy as it first sounds. Since bicycles are moving at a car-relative slow speed, the cyclist has more time to assess the intersection and continue without stopping if the assessment is “all clear.” Idaho recognizes that stop signs are traffic-calming devices designed for cars. The Idaho Stop doesn’t give cyclist carte-blanche to run every stop sign. It doesn’t give them the right-of-way at all intersections. It simply puts the responsibility for their safety in their hands and allows them to continue unimpeded if they can do so safely.

The next time you see a cyclist cautiously run a stop sign, remember that most stop signs are simply traffic-calming devices for cars. The next time you see a cyclist jump a red light, consider that they have probably waited through 3 cycles without a green light because they can’t trigger the loop-induction sensor. Indeed, roads were built for cars and what quickly followed were devices to make drivers behave. These devices don’t always apply to non-car traffic.

Share the road and keep chasing the odd, little happy.

Cycling · e-bike · exercise · Life

Decisions. Decisions. How I bought an E-bike.

Like with all things, buying a bike has to meet a need. You have to ask yourself, “Why do I need or want this bike?” Bicycles can serve multiple needs, but normally there is one, paramount requirement that will trump all others. When I began my search for alternative conveyance, I was seriously considering a small scooter like the Honda PCX150. I weighed the pros and cons and seriously thought about my needs when e-bikes entered the mix.

What floated to the top of my needs list was commuting. I really wanted to get out of my car, at least a few days per week. I calculated the savings in gasoline and found that a $1500 e-bike would pay for itself in about 2-3 years, depending on how many days per week I commuted. At that point, I was still vacillating between a gas-powered scooter and e-bike. The health benefits to cycling, even on an e-bike, obviously outweighed the scooter. So e-bike 2, scooter 1.

The thing that made me finally settle on an e-bike was the fact that my wife and I camp often. We have a travel trailer and love getting away 4 or 5 times a year, even if it’s just to a local campground where I can still make it to work. While camping, I enjoy hiking, but having another activity like cycling as an option finally did score the final point in the e-bike’s favor.

So there’s my criteria for my decision.
1. Save gas and maybe the planet.
2. Commute to work without needing a shower.
3. Get some exercise, but not kill myself.
4. Have a little recreational fun.
5. Maybe my wife will like it and use it a little.

Now the search for the right e-bike was on. There are as many different choices as there are buyers. Getting it right is a matter of research, research, research. I read hundreds of product reviews, looked into dozens of different companies, and watched an endless stream of Youtube videos, especially the Electric Bike Review Youtube channel.

The first thing I learned is that there are a lot of cheap, Chinese bikes with a motor and battery slapped on them being pawned off as really, cool e-bikes. I even saw one company get outed on Youtube when their oh-so-slick model was found on a Chinese wholesaler’s site. The Stateside company was just slapping cheap batteries and iffy motors on them and selling them with a slick ad. I’m not naming names, but the company rhymes with Bave Wikes.

The second thing I learned is there are different motors (mid-mount, rear-wheel, etc.) and different advantages/prices for each. There are even different types of assist sensors, cadence being the most common, but even then the number of magnets can vary in those sensors. The motors commonly vary from 250 to 1000 watts, too. So finding the right power output for battery life was another research project on the side.

Thirdly, I learned there is pedal-assist and throttled features. Not all e-bike have both and I wanted a model that did. I still wanted to pedal for the exercise, but I needed a throttle that could take over if the commute was making me sweat too hard. My number 2 requirement was not needing a shower when I got to work.

Lastly, I was stunned to see the price variance. $579 for a cheapy model on Amazon. $579? A decent Li-ion battery is going to cost $400-$500. How can that be a decent product at $579? Flag on the play! $2500 for a really nice commuter-oriented model. Looks good, but $2500 is getting into “my wife is going to kill me” range. $10,000?! Holy smoldering tire fire! Oh, good, it’s illegal for road use in my country because it has a 5 KILOWATT system and can do 65 KPH (40 MPH). Crikey those Aussies live dangerously. I guess when everything in your country is trying to kill you, doing 65 KPH on a bicycle is the least of your worries.

I don’t even know where I found the company I finally ended up buying from. It’s all still a blur of websites, blogs, and videos. RadPowerBikes had 4 products to choose from, all for different purposes, 3 models at $1499 and 1 at $1599. It was easy to zero in on their commuter model and match it with my needs. Sure, their fat-tire Rover looked cool and tackled the trails, but I was tackling asphalt. The RadCity came with fenders (a must for commuting and staying clean and dry), a standard rack (a bonus for commuting and not wearing a backpack), a rear-wheel 750 watt motor (enough to give me the boost I needed), and a battery that promised a 20-40 mile range (enough to get me to work and back if necessary even without recharging at the office).

So, that’s how I made my decision and I’m sure someone out there is going through the same process. An e-bike isn’t a one-off purchase. You’re going to sink some serious money into one. Your decision should be weighed and measured before investing. Outline your needs and wants and match those to the endless companies and models available. There’s no one-size-fits-all unit out there. When budgeting, keep in mind that you’re going to spend another $200-$500 outfitting your bike with safety, comfort, and emergency equipment. Find a price you’re comfortable with, but if it comes down to price versus quality, choose quality. Those cheap, Chinese models, no matter how well disguised, will break your heart every time.

Keep chasing the odd, little happy. You might catch it on a bike.

Here you can see some of the gear I outfitted my bike with.

Here you can enjoy the wonder of a Christmas morning in March as I unbox my RadCity.