Thursday, August 22, 2019

Experimenting with E-Bikes

My ride for the week
The options for commuting to campus continue to grow as the options for electric assist devices such as e-scooters and e-bikes continue to grow. 

For many years, I have biked or bussed to campus.  Our present home in the upper avenues is, however, about a 10 minute walk from a bus stop and it sometimes takes me 25 minutes or so to get to campus, which is longer than I would like. 

If I ride my bike, the short but steep return home isn't something that would bother me for a workout, but isn't what I'm looking for every day after work, especially on hot summer days when I'd like to keep my pasty white skin covered by clothes.    

This summer, my son purchased a refurbished e-bike for commuting to his summer internship.  Now that he's back in school, I borrowed his e-bike to give it a try this week.  It is a class 2 e-bike, which means you can throttle on demand and ride with no pedaling.  You can also use pedal assist.  The motor is in the rear hub and the battery in the down tube.  The bike is fully rigid.  Basically, it is a commuter bike. 

The first thing that I noticed was weight.  You don't get something for nothing, and the electric motor, battery, and my odds and ends for work probably bring the weight to nearly 50 lbs (the GenZe web site reports a bike only weight of 46 lbs).  This is about 20-25 pounds heavier than a typical full suspension mountain bike.  It affects maneuverability and it takes time to get used to when mounting, dismounting, stopping at a light, or just pushing it around when you are leaving the garage, shed, office, or porch.  It also affects stopping distance.  The bike has disk brakes, but they are a poor substitute for what I have on my mountain bike and they are stopping more weight.  I am especially aware of this when I'm descending down from the aves.  I break much of the way down Terrace Hills and keep speeds under 25 mph.  

That being said, the 250 watts of power makes for a very easy commute.  On the flats of 11th avenue, the bike can maintain its governed maximum speed of 20 miles per hour with no pedal assist.  False flats and low-angle climbs are relatively easy climbs.  The bike has 5 different assist levels and I usually just keep it at maximum and pedal gingerly.  I'm interested in leisure on this thing, not a workout.  

On the steeps, pedal assist is required.  The ride up Terrace Hills is pretty steep and the bike nearly comes to a halt on throttle only.  With pedal assist, I can maintain 8-9 miles per hour without a great deal of effort.  Yesterday, when it reached 99˚F at the airport, I rode home at about 5 PM in a pair of pants and long sleeves and just barely broke a sweat when I got to the house.  The electric assist plus my own horsepower probably add up to one Tour de France rider, but the bike ain't a Tour de France bike and rather than revving up the diesel, it's best just to pedal moderately, stay in the saddle, and enjoy the ride.  

The bottom line is that I'm pretty impressed and think this is a good option if you are looking for something easier than a regular bike commute.  For my commute, which is marked by steep downhills and uphills, I might like some suspension, better brakes, and a bit more power although that would add to the cost.  

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