Ride the Lightning
Local Expert Discusses Cyclists Going Electric
Though some fundamentalists consider electric bikes or electric assist bikes (in which the motor adds to the momentum along with pedaling) “cheating,” they can extend the time cyclists can physically ride a bike by decades, and expand the bicycle’s utility in ways that opens up whole new fields of commuting, travel, even business, by making it possible to convert deliveries or operations to a bicycle that would have been previously impossible. This makes them electric bikes of the best paths forward for the lower-carbon future we must create if our climate is to survive, and at average prices of $1,500-$3,000, a pretty affordable one relative to reinventing our entire energy infrastructure.
Also, OMG, they’re like, super-fun.
The Messenger spoke with Jerry Solomon, owner of Ashland Electric Bikes, about the biggest questions and issues people have when considering making the switch to an electric or electric assist bike.
RVM: What tends to spark people’s interest in electric bikes?
JS: For the most part, people are wanting to get out of their cars. Do the right thing. Be green. Just be more efficient in their traveling. And they realize that they already own regular bikes, and they’re just sitting in their garage. And if it weren’t for that last half mile up the hill to their house, they would ride it. But what I see is that pretty much everyone ends up using it far more than they thought when they came in the door. Because once they have it, the wheels start turning for new ways to use it.
RVM: What is the average range and charge time?
JS: Charging takes 3-6 hours max. Everything we carry in the store gets at least 20-30 miles on a charge. Some get 60 on a charge. That 20-60 range is pretty much the market these days. The bikes that advertise themselves as being the lightest, usually that’s at the cost of the range. It’s a wide range, 20-60. The 20-mile side is if you’re relying almost exclusively on the motor. The 60 is if you’re helping the motor. It’s kind of the same with cars. The range anxiety. But I rarely have someone come back and say it isn’t enough.
RVM: How long is the batteries life span?
JS: About five and a half years.
RVM: Is an electric bike something that can be easily maintained beyond charging?
JS: If you’re having electrical problems, you want access to a qualified shop. The good news is that we don’t have a lot of problems at any level. We do more regular bike maintenance on any given week than we do electrical work.
RVM: Can you still ride electric bikes if the batteries die?
JS: The motor and batteries adds about 20 pounds. If you had to climb hills, it might feel like a load of groceries. But riding around on the flat, you won’t notice. I tell people, it’s 20 pounds, but for that 20 pounds, you’re literally getting Lance Armstrong riding on the back. It’s the power of a professional cyclist.
RVM: What is the biggest concern people have about electric bikes?
JS: I think they’re wondering if they’ll use it enough to justify the price. They come in thinking that it’s a luxury. To me, it’s a staple. You got food, you got transportation. In America, we view our bikes like toys. But in the rest of the world they see it very differently. I think when people come in and try it, you see that perspective shift and they realize, this isn’t a toy, this is a really good deal. Three thousand dollars gets you a really nice electric bike as opposed to someone else’s kinda sketchy used car.