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Commuting With an E-Bike
 bikerjohn member offline
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posted 6/25/2014
at 10:57:25 AM
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Perhaps this is not an open topic. I haven't seen much discussion in BJ forums on Electric bikes. They are a growing segment in the world of cycling. They are an ecological, economical alternative to other types of motor vehicles. Don't misunderstand me here, an electric bike needs to be pedaled if you are planning to commute with any efficiency. These bikes don't work well if all you intend to do is sit and steer. If sitting and steering is your desire get a motorcycle. The comparison here is between Electric and non-electric.

The beauty of e-biking, is an ability to ride your speed and style with a faster average speed than when you pedal a non-electric bike. I'm not talking about cycling less effort per hour. For me, it's all about less effort per mile, -more miles per hour!

Tuesday was a fast morning commute(19.3 mph moving speed), and a faster(19.8 mph moving speed) afternoon commute! That's a total of 35 miles in less than 1:47. The southbound leg of the afternoon commute was into 14 mph southerly winds! That's all 238 pounds of 60 year old me, moving my way down the road going to work and back 2X in a day -on an electric bike.

Along with electric assistance, perhaps the commute speed average was due to favorable winds(when heading northbound), along with a high cadence pedal effort. But balancing the whole commute effort was the ride back. Those Southerly portions of the commute were into a modest elevation rise and strong headwinds. Elevation and South winds are definitely a major factor slowing my commutes when using a non-electric-assist bike. Honestly though, biking into the wind with an electric bike can be pleasurable.

So sweet it is commuting with an E-Bike! While it is no substitute for social rides, an electric bike raises ones ability to commute faster with less effort per mile. Speed with less effort can be a substantial reason to commute by bike! A dedicated cyclist whom doesn't commute by bike because of the time involved needs to consider the e-bike option.

A bike with a 350 watt front hub motor, significantly neutralizes unfavorable winds. Even with having the most upright profile, and the heaviest configuration of any commuter bike, an e-bike can get you to a destination quick and safely. The energy capacity of an entry level e bike like the Zurich, assists pedal effort and momentum of a rider. Easily enabling a 230+ pound cyclist a capability to leisurely travel over 40 miles, averaging 16+ mph on a fully charged 36v12ah battery. No question in my mind that an electric bike is a very capable method for anyone to consider for commuting. The future is here now. E-biking is an alternative for economical transportation needs.

 BikeLady member online
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posted 6/25/2014
at 11:30:39 AM
post #1 viewed 2525 times
I wanted to embrace e-bikes, because there is a segment of the population for whom they would be a benefit.

Unfortunately, this is what I have observed so far: they are heavy and awkward, they are unreliable (we've had a warranty claim of some sort on every e-bike we've sold, except the two that are at a vacation home and probably never get ridden), and the number one reason people give for wanting one is because they want to cycle without effort, completely ignoring that part of the joy of cycling is the empowerment one gets from getting to a destination under one's own power.

It also concerns me that the battery assist could allow people with limited cycling experience to be going 20 mph. The potential for tragedy is high and we don't need to be giving Opus any more fodder for his thread!

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posted 6/25/2014
at 12:57:16 PM
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I saw a person at Bike the Drive that did the ride on an e-bike (a pretty flat ride so not the typical case for having one). I think he worked for a distributor who was trying to bring this bike to market in the United States from its established market in Europe.

They sound like they would have their place but obviously BikeLady has superior practical experience with a number of them than I do. In my opinion the best use would be to supplement pedal power on uphills but they do have the disadvantage of heavier weight so there would need to be some assist to break even on the flats.

E-bikes may not be quite ready for mass market use yet but they certainly seem to have great potential for the expansion of cycling into more transportational categories like commuting or shopping. My view on transportation is that more options are better so that we can minimize the need for trips to be made in single occupancy vehicles that aren't primarily human powered.

There have been some interesting discussions of the law as it relates to e-bikes regarding whether or not one needs a motor vehicle license to operate one. I believe the general concept is that if the cycle is principly powered by pedalling one does not need a motor vehicle license but there can be some grey area here.

At the risk of addressing a touchy topic, my opinion on e-bikes related to BikeJournal is that it would be nice for there to be a category for e-bikes so that one could filter out miles ridden on e-bikes for comparison purposes.
post edited on 6/25/2014 at 12:42:43 PM

 vkan member not displaying online status
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posted 6/25/2014
at 1:18:57 PM
post #3 viewed 2506 times
...It also concerns me that the battery assist could allow people with limited cycling experience to be going 20 mph. The potential for tragedy is high and we don't need to be giving Opus any more fodder for his thread!
-- posted by BikeLady


That's my concern too. Easy/easier high speed is a great enabler, for good or ill. In the end, it's not so much the vehicle, but who is driving it. Interesting times are ahead.

A few weeks ago, I got to test ride an ELF hybrid pedal/electric trike and while it was interesting and I mostly pedaled to see what it was like without the motor, it just didn't feel like cycling to me. Maybe it was the three wheels, maybe it was the enclosed experience (and the strange noises you don't get on a simple bike), maybe it was the motor or some combination of all of it. I've had plenty of experience on recumbent trikes though so it probably wasn't so much that.

Other than the strange feel of it, the other thing that disturbed me was the owner's lament that the local MUP's bollards prevented him from easily entering/exiting the MUP while riding the ELF. He sounded like an experienced cyclist/motorcyclist so I wasn't worried about him in particular. But so many people on discussions of the ELF seem to be very interested in using these motorized vehicles (about the size of a Smart ForTwo?) on MUPs, or rather away from roads and other, bigger motorized vehicles--I just don't see that working out very well if volumes (and speeds) increase.

If electric bike/trike use and speeds increase, I hope that means more people will be riding on the road as vehicles following the rules of the road rather than sidewalks or MUPs as fast pedestrians with wheels for feet and generally no rules in use (kids running wild, dogs on long leashes, general obliviousness to the existence of others and surroundings, etc. that prevail).

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posted 6/25/2014
at 1:24:48 PM
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There is probably a link out there somewhere but has there been any type of endurance comparision for e-bikes? I'm thinking of some sort of trans-conteniental run with minimum outside support like the Great Race.

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posted 6/25/2014
at 1:55:48 PM
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Most states limit speeds to 20, 25, or 30 mph. Any faster on level ground and you need a title, plate, registration, and license. I know Illinois was 30 mph but the ebike people got it lowered to 20 mph.

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posted 6/25/2014
at 2:15:49 PM
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maschwab - for clarification, are you refering to the top speed in electric mode only with no pedalling? Otherwise, there are plenty of riders who can go well over 20 mph on level ground without any e-assist.

 maschwab member offline
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posted 6/25/2014
at 3:05:51 PM
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In IL, ebikes are required to stop assisting at 20 mph. If you can pedal faster or have a tailwind or downhill, you are restricted to the posted speed limit, 55 mph in unposted rural areas, or 30 mph in unposted urban areas (or as your state laws specify).

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posted 6/25/2014
at 10:46:16 PM
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Long distance travel with these is problematic. One of our OHPV club members toured across the US with an e-assist trike with Cargo Monster modification. She became really expert at finding outside plugins on supermarket walls, etc and timing her meals, etc with recharging, but it became a major hassle. There were also equipment reliability problems with the e-assist.

I think the final blow came when she was touring from Portland down to the coast and someone called the bomb squad when they found her battery pack recharging in the rest room. She now tours on a conventional Scorpion FS-26 trike with no e-assist.

She did have a falling out with crazyguyonabike.com where she used to blog her tours. The owner took exception to the assisted riding and they had a total falling out. She now blogs on her own independent site, to the loss of the membership of crazyguyonabike.

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posted 6/26/2014
at 2:03:27 PM
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Thanks Kirk: I have a neighbor building a tadpole electric assisted bike/trike. His motivation is OK by me. He is an experienced cyclist who rides recumbents when he can. He has MS and is limited a bit in some activities. His motivation for building an electrically assisted tadpole is to have more horsepower for getting through intersections and I suppose some local hills around rock creek/bethany/oak hills area.

He is an engineer and it is keeping his mind occupied while doing the project. Anyway it keeps him busy for the moment.

 bikerjohn member offline
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posted 6/26/2014
at 2:23:04 PM
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...It also concerns me that the battery assist could allow people with limited cycling experience to be going 20 mph. The potential for tragedy is high and we don't need to be giving Opus any more fodder for his thread!
-- posted by BikeLady


That's my concern too. Easy/easier high speed is a great enabler, for good or ill. In the end, it's not so much the vehicle, but who is driving it...

If electric bike/trike use and speeds increase, I hope that means more people will be riding on the road as vehicles following the rules of the road rather than sidewalks or MUPs as fast pedestrians with wheels for feet and generally no rules in use (kids running wild, dogs on long leashes, general obliviousness to the existence of others and surroundings, etc. that prevail).

-- posted by vkan


First let's understand that an e-bike is not going to make an inexperienced operator travel uncontrollably at 20 mph. The point is that cycling at speeds of 20+ mph requires a certain level of expertise! And the average "non-bike" commuter, changing over to any bike, Electric or not, is going to be on a learning curve. Are E-Bikes more dangerous because an inexperienced would-be bike commuter is using one to cycle to work? I think not! Improper observance of road rules, in any motor vehicle or bicycle can be dangerously reckless.

From my perspective as a commuter with experience biking to work in cities, e-biking is superior to other motor vehicle traffic from every sensibility. E-bikes are more maneuverable in traffic. E-bikes enable an ability to accelerate and maintain speed with the flow of traffic. Any average cyclist would easily adjust to commuting by e-bike without regard or concern for handling issues.

As far as bike weight, that too is a non issue unless there is a reason or need to carry the bike. The 57 pound e-bike I use requires no special effort to maneuver than any of my lightest non e-bikes.

With this e-bike I can maintain speeds that would wear me down on a non e-bike. I am able to maintain a 20 mph cruising speed on the e-bike as easily as I maintain 13 mph on a non e-bike. Actually, if I could maintain a cadence of 100 strokes per minute my average speed would be close to 24 mph!

And as for reliability, the judgement from here is yet to be rendered. But with 750 miles on my e-bike, so far so good.

Service being a potential issue, it is wise buying from a reputable bike shop. Dealing with a bike shop is easy, either local or on-line. Perhaps the on-line transaction is more of a cost effective value. That's what works for me. I have no complaints with purchasing a bike over the internet, un-boxing, assembling, tuning and adjusting it, then using it for rides.

The concern that newbies might not handle the speed capabilities of an electric bike as well as an experienced cyclist, really is a minor issue of training. Perhaps bike shops could set-up e bike road courses and weekend demos -teaching the finer points of bike commuting in general? I would bet that is a potential sales tool as well. And as far as manufacturers gaining reliability for their products, it seems they have arrived -with brush-less electric motors, torque and cadence sensors, and lithium-ion batteries.
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