How e-Bikes Will Improve Your Commute
As traffic continues to get worse and worse in and around almost every American city, bicycle lanes are popping up everywhere. Washington, D.C. now has 56 miles of bike-only traffic lanes, all not only extremely well marked, but designed with barriers so autos can’t enter them at all — so-called “protected” lanes. Washington will add nearly 8 more miles to its bike lanes this year and create numerous bike-only commuter routes that incorporate city street lanes and rails-to-trails-type bike pathways.
There are more than 400 miles of bicycle lanes in New York City and about 25 miles are added each year. The master plan calls for 900 miles of bike lanes.
As great as bicycles are, especially for getting around town, the limitations of commuting by bicycle are legion. They obviously don’t work well in snow, and no one wants to be caught in a thunderstorm on the way to work. In the summer, one may need a shower after peddling up a few monumental hills on the way to work.
High-tech tires can reduce slipping dramatically, light rain suits for covering up while biking have reached an extraordinary stage of design and bikes now come with clever options for covering the chain entirely so it can’t rub off on your work clothes or replacing it with a belt-drive mechanism. You can even get a fairing to cover the entire bicycle, making it a lot like a light car.
The Pedego City Classic Commuter Ebike often garners top ratings from bike reviewers. It offers five different levels of electric motor assist for climbing hills and going as fast as a moped.
That progress leads me to something you can find in every good bicycle shop now — e-bikes. E-bikes have electric motors and batteries to power them. The range of what’s available has expanded dramatically in just a few years. At the most basic level, you can buy an electric-motor wheel kit from a number of companies — including Samsung, Panasonic, VPower and Hill Country.
You get a new front wheel with a motor built into the hub, a battery pack that attaches to the frame or the seat post, a cable to connect them and a speed control button for your thumb on the handlebar. The entire kit can be installed in five minutes and offers exactly the assist you need for climbing hills effortlessly and sweat-free for up to 40 miles. The cost for many such kits is below $500 complete.
But that’s just the entry point in this new world of effortless cycling. Major bicycle manufacturers like Specialized now offer incredibly powerful and sophisticated bikes with 500 watt-hour 48-volt lithium ion batteries that can send you flying at speeds in excess of 30 miles per hour for hours on end. In fact, the most innovative manufacturers are now making bicycles that are essentially illegal in the United States, where self-powered bikes are supposedly limited to speeds not exceeding 28 mph. I don’t think the cops are on the lookout for these lawbreakers.
We’re rapidly coming to a crossover point at which electrified bicycles with fat 29-inch tires and sleek fairings look more like motorcycles than bicycles. As fairings for these new e-bikes get more in demand for increased speed and protection from the elements, the only difference between a high-end electric bicycle and a light electric automobile will be that one of them has only two wheels.
To your health and wealth,
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