Posted by Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor) on May 3rd, 2012 at 12:31 pm
Chronic foot pain threatened to make cycling unbearable for 56-year old southeast Portland resident Jeff Bernards. Now, after installing an electric-assist kit on his bike, he's riding again. And loving it.
Bernards is a veteran of local bike events. Years ago he started the "Get Lit" program to give out free bike lights to those in need (the program has since been taken over by the Community Cycling Center). He also loves leading bike tours. He's taken a group of Portlanders on a three week bike tour in Death Valley, California and he's led numerous overnight bike trips to Oxbow Park. More recently, Bernards has worked tirelessly to get a ban on studded tires on the Oregon ballot.
This man never quits, and his feet have paid the price.
Then about six years ago, while leading a bike tour around Mt. Hood, Bernards suffered an overuse injury on his foot due to some awkward pedaling on a long climb. He was later diagnosed with plantar fasciitis. The pain subsided for years, he says, but when his studded tire ban effort ratcheted up, he found himself walking all over town gathering petition signatures.
"When we got the Studded Tire Initiative signature sheets I hit the streets hard, too hard," Bernards shared.
All that walking re-ignited his plantar fasciitis. Walking has been painful for him since December and since then he's been driving almost everywhere. "I basically haven't bike for four months."
Bernards had never ridden an e-bike until a recent trip to Paris, where he rented one on a whim from a bike shop to visit the sites. He loved being able to keep up with auto traffic. In what he calls "the most dangerous city" he's ever biked in, the power of the e-bike made him feel, "a little less vulnerable."
When he returned to Portland, Bernards did some research on e-assist kits and ended up at The eBike Store in north Portland. With the help of e-bike expert and owner of The eBike Store, Wake Gregg, Bernards ended up purchasing a 350 watt, geared front-hub motor kit from a company called eBikeKit.
Bernards decided to upgrade to a 48 volt, 20 amp hour battery to go with the motor and he had a custom battery case made. The battery was about $700; but it's good for 3,000 charges and Gregg says it will get about 30 miles each charge. Bernards figures he spent about $1,200 total on the system.
He picked up the bike last week and, judging from his smile and his first impressions, it was worth every penny.
"I went to the hardware store last night and filled my panniers with stuff," Bernards told me via email yesterday, "Then I hauled it home, without the car, which I would have taken before I had the new e-bike."
With its powerful battery, the bike really has some pick up (I gave it a whirl myself through the streets of Old Town last week and it was quite a thrill). Bernards sees it as "an affordable electric car," especially when he attaches his trailer for extra cargo capacity.
And for those purists who still look down on electric-assisted bikes; Bernards says, "Hey, we're all getting older. Last year at this time, I just finished riding 700 miles from Death Valley to San Diego. Less than a year later, I could hardly walk."
— Is that thing legal? I thought you might ask. Read our post from August 2010, E-bikes, the law and you for more on the legality of e-bikes.