Urban Tribe - Ride with your kids in front.

Interbike report: Electric bikes and a new twist on the bakfiets

Posted by on September 26th, 2008 at 1:37 pm

This new cargo bike from Madsen Cycles, will be available in Portland soon. Retail price is $1,299.

I’ve spoken to two of my roving reporters from the floor of the Interbike trade show in Las Vegas this morning. One of them is Joel Grover, the head buyer for Bike Gallery and a 20-year veteran of the bike industry.

Grover says in all the years he’s attended Interbike, he’s never seen so much excitement for the commuter market. “Just a few years ago,” he said, “this whole show was about high-end race bikes…there’s still plenty of those, but what everyone’s talking about is bikes as transportation, commuter bikes, utility bikes… it’s going off!”

Grover’s not alone in his assessment. Headlines and reports all over the web are making it clear that Interbike 2008 is the official dawn of the Commuter Age.

I asked Grover if he’s come across anything new that we can expect to see in Bike Gallery’s showrooms this fall. He told me about two very interesting bikes that will significantly change Portland’s bike lane landscape.

Bike Gallery is now an official dealer of Madsen Cycles. Grover seemed very high on the design and said the bike (which is manufactured in Asia) can carry up to four small children (the bucket comes with a removable bench seat and two seatbelts) or six-eight bags of groceries with a load capacity of 600 pounds.

This is the non-bucket version and it retails for $1099.

It comes in two versions, with a polyethylene bucket straddling the 20″ rear wheel or with a long rear rack. Grover says the bikes will be in stores by November.

The similarities between the Madsen and the traditional dutch bakfiets (popularized in America by Portland-base Clever Cycles) are clear, but the lower price of the Madsen ($1,299 vs $3,500+ for a bakfiets) might make it more appealing to budget-conscious bikers.

Tom Knipe, who’s in Vegas to drum up sponsorship partners for local events as part of his job with Good Sport Promotion, said he spoke with someone at Madsen and asked why they decided to put the load in the rear (instead of the front, like a bakfiets). According to a rep for Madsen, they wanted to make the design “accessible for everyday riders” and they feel that “the bakfiets feels a bit intimidating with the wheel out front.”

For following in the footsteps of such a legendary design like the Dutch bakfiets, Madsen is confident in their bikes, stating on their website that, “We are not the first to place a load on a bicycle but we are the first to do it right.”

The A2B electric bike retails for $2,699.

Another new development for Bike Gallery will be their first-ever offering of an electric-assist bike. Calling it the best design he’s seen so far, Grover has decided to bring in A2B electric bikes from Ultra Motors. These bikes are getting a lot of hype at Interbike and from their looks, and from the $150 million company backing them, I’m not surprised.

Grover says the bike costs about the same as a 50cc motor scooter but it only costs about 5 cents to recharge the battery and you can go 20 mph for about 20 miles on one charge. He also added that the best part is, unlike a moped, you don’t need a license or insurance and you can ride on the sidewalk (unless you’re downtown, where bikes are not allowed on sidewalks).

The Madsen cargo bike is sure to be a hit in Portland. This is a city where bakfiets, Xtracycles, and Yuba Mundo longtail bikes have all sold out at one time or another.

And, with Bike Gallery becoming the second shop in town to stock an electric bike (Bike n’ Hike sells the Giant Twist), and with a local entrepreneur looking to set up an e-bike only dealership (more on that soon), it’s safe to say that e-bikes will be much larger part of the mix by next spring.

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  • toddistic September 26, 2008 at 3:09 pm

    There’s nothing bicycle about an electic assisted bicycle.

    I would prefer to not share the bike lane with people not using their own human power to move. It’s the equivilent of sharing the bike lane with a moped. Further, I think it leads to a slippery slop arguement where you now have people operating motorized vehicles in the bike lane which could lead to licensing of bicycles (see! they have motors too!) and greater regulation.


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  • ghd September 26, 2008 at 3:24 pm

    Very cool — the Madsens are very promising — can’t wait to get my hands on one.

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  • jeff September 26, 2008 at 3:45 pm

    Ugh, electric bikes?

    I can just see all the DUI losers with no DL back on the road, drunk, with no insurance on these things.

    Nice one, Bike Gallery.

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  • RonC September 26, 2008 at 4:30 pm

    What’s all the hate on electric assisted bikes about? Clean transportation, quiet, no sweat required. Buy ‘green’ electricity from the power company, and you have a pretty nice personal mobility solution. Runs about the same speed as a human powered bike, so no big deal with radically different speeds in the bike lane. Yeah you don’t get the same exercise benefit if you don’t pedal, but on hot days don’t you sometimes wish you could just get somewhere without getting all sweaty? Seems like another nice option for low-impact transport around town. Maybe a little on the spendy side, but still interesting.

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  • Daniel (teknotus) Johnson September 26, 2008 at 4:37 pm

    From what I have heard all electric assist bikes have a limiter that keeps them under 20 MPH for legal reasons. I frequently get going much faster than that, though admittedly not uphill. Normally I wouldn’t want such a thing, but it would have been great when I wasn’t in good enough shape to ride all the way to work, and back every day. What I did at the time was alternate days between biking, and taking trimet. Now that there frequently isn’t any bike space on busses/max I think this could be a great thing for people trying to get started with bike commuting who just aren’t in good enough shape to just switch.

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  • Thomas Le Ngo September 26, 2008 at 4:51 pm

    Cascade Cycling on N Killingsworth and Vancouver sells Izip electric bikes as well.

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  • toddistic September 26, 2008 at 4:54 pm

    Ron C @ 4

    I couldnt disagree with you more. Electric assisted bikes will lead to regulation and licensing of bicycles. It’s not a bicylce, its a moped, just like the gas powered ones with pedals on them.

    Thanks “bike” gallery, maybe you could start selling vespas next.

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  • jack September 26, 2008 at 5:13 pm

    toddistic @6

    you don’t need a liscense for mopeds with 50cc engines so why would you need them for an electric only bike that is on par in power with a moped with a 50 cc engine. and why are you hating on people that want to ride a bike but aren’t as physically capable (ie. elderly, disabled, lazy fatazzes, etc..)

    this also an additional option to get car commuters to get out of the cage and on something that isnt as likely to kill you if you have an accident with it

    thanks bike gallery for bringing biking to those that want but can’t without ‘assistance’ and promoting choices in alternatives to car commuting

    ps. re: liscense/regulation – dont fear change, embrace and crush it

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  • RonC September 26, 2008 at 5:24 pm

    toddistic #6

    I understand your concern, but I think you might be over-reacting a bit. The issue of whether or not this type of electric assisted bike needs to be licensed and insured has already been addressed by the state legislature. There are specific wattage/speed limits etc. that apply. I see no reason to be overly concerned about a carry-over to 100% people-powered transportation. On the other hand, mopeds generally have the capability of going considerably faster, are ofter heavy polluters, and are quite noisy. Not anywhere near the same animal, and Oregon state law treats them quite differently. I would encourage you to keep an open mind to this option. I know it’s not for everyone, but certainly not as inherently evil as you initially inferred.

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  • Tom September 26, 2008 at 7:05 pm


    What if the electric bike riders promised to stay out of the slippery slop? That way you could have it all to yourself. I think these bikes were designed for the road anyway.

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  • Aaron September 26, 2008 at 7:34 pm

    I have to agree with the anti-electric crowd. These are MUCH better than cars or motorcycles, but there is already a lot of animosity towards cyclists. ‘Bikes’ that can go even up to 20mph can be very dangerous. The average bicyclist travels at 10-14mph. So the difference is marked. They should be allowed, but not in bike lanes and DEFINITELY not on sidewalks.

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  • Opus the Poet September 26, 2008 at 10:49 pm

    Just think of a legal e-assist bike not as an electric motorcycle but as a small tandem with a light and very enthusiastic stoker. TX law on e-assist requires no faster than 20 MPH without pedaling but allows up to the posted limit with pedaling. I haven’t researched the OR law on the subject, but the feds allow up to 750 Watts and up to 20 MPH, which some have interpreted as even with pedaling and no power assist you can’t go faster than 20 MPH. One manufacturer even goes so far as to activate the motor in reverse to keep the cyclist from riding faster than 20 MPH downhill… But the system is powerful enough to take a 150 lb rider uphill at 13% grade and 18 MPH, until the motor burns out, or the rider decides to start pedaling.

    I’m an experienced cyclist experimenting with power assist in a through-the-gears system with “only” 500 watts of assist. I pedal most of the time and use the assist mostly to get up to speed as quickly as possible and for holding speed up hills. You would not believe how much using a motor to do fast-twitch work lets me extend the cruising range of my slow-twitch muscles. I am now limited more by my ability to remain on the bike seat than I am by my muscles, and I’m only using a tiny amount of electric power. I have 24V 8Ah of Sealed Lead Acid batteries, of which only 4Ah are actually usable because of the limitations of the SLA chemistry. I guess with something like LiFePO4 in the same 24V 8Ah I could get close to 200 miles of range with pedaling on my system, compared to 120 miles comfortably and 150 miles that wore the skin off my tailbone without e-assist. And for those who either can’t or won’t ride a “regular” bike e-assist is the only way we are going to get them on a bike short of at the barrel of a gun.

    And I am a firm believer that bikes don’t belong on sidewalks, assisted or not.

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  • Ken Wetherell September 26, 2008 at 11:22 pm

    I appreciate the arguments on both sides of the issue surrounding electrically-assisted bicycles. From a pragmatic standpoint, however, I am in favor of electrification whenever it reduces or removes the need for a motorcycle, car or truck.

    Those with an interest in this subject will want to read the awesome story posted by Todd Fahrner of Clever Cycles last month:

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  • wsbob September 26, 2008 at 11:34 pm

    Especially here in Portland for people that commute between Portland and Beaverton, an e-assist bike could be just the ticket to enable some riders to go over the hill on their bike rather than fool with the bus or MAX. I haven’t forgotten the talk I had with a guy that showed up in his recumbent last summer at Jamieson Sq. His bent had a e-assist rear hub that he used to climb from Goose Hollow to the zoo on the shoulder of Hwy 26.

    Seems like a great idea to me, but I certainly also hear the downside to e-assist bikes others commenting have raised. The potential benefits may outweigh possible hassles related to dealing with the incidence of people creating problems with these machines.

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  • JayS. September 27, 2008 at 3:24 am

    I think that bike looks fantastic!! I am curious about the seat etc for kid hauling. Looks cool

    “The similarities between the Madsen and the traditional dutch bakfiets … are clear”, Aside from the sweet looking stand, I think comparing it to a bike with a box sticking out three feet or more in front of the rider is just wrong. On the streets of Portland and probably most of the North America having the driver in front makes a huge amount of sense.

    On the apparently more interesting topic… On a recent trip to VAncouver B.C. I saw lots of E-assist bikes. They are becoming more and more popular here too.

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  • Perry September 27, 2008 at 7:01 am

    Re: Electric bikes, consider that the population is aging and that some of us will have trouble cycling up hills and longer distances. I am not using an electric bike right now, but I’d like that option open for later. It’s all about power and speed. Electric bikes are nothing like the scooters I see out on the road. In many cases, you don’t even know a bike has an assist until you see some geezer staying right there with you on a hill…and he is not even working at it.

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  • Shane September 27, 2008 at 7:31 am

    I have to say, ten years ago I would have been very excited to have seen the Madsen bike… heck maybe even 4 years ago. But right now I look at it am pretty non-plussed. Maybe that would be different in person but the photo just doesn’t excite me.

    I own an Xtracycle and a Long Haul (by Jan of Human Powered Machines in Eugene). Both carry about two hundred pounds, The X in the back, the Long Haul in the front. I’ve also owned and worked at Cargobike Courier Companies for 5 years and have ridden about 20 different styles of cargobikes with capacities up to 1,000 pounds (just so you know where I’m coming from here).

    *Once you get over 300 pounds it’s better to have three to four wheels, whether that is a trike or a bike and a trailer. 600 pounds on a bicycle- doable but not easily or safely so why build one with that capacity?

    *In hauling precious cargo (like kids) I prefer the interaction of riding with them in front, especially the little ones.

    *A simple rack won’t get you very far. You need a good strapping system, a container, or bags. This is why I don’t get the Yuba either, sure they are cheaper but you’re always trying to use bungees or whatever to hold things to it. The Xtracycle side bags work. This tub might work but boy is it not pretty. And the rack is pretty small too- for a big load I like a flatbed.

    *Ten years ago when I was riding Long Hauls (yes, he’s been making them here in Eugene for 15+ years) I first saw an Xtracycle and I thought it looked strange too- why pull your load when you can push it? Now I love riding my Xtracycle. So maybe I would like this design if I tried it…

    *As with most bike designs this is being done already- the 8 Freight , made by one of the great bike designers, Mike Burrows, is out of the UK but it’s design never enticed me either. An advantage is that the load doesn’t get in the way of steering or visibility- stack it as high as you want. Oh wait, there’s another disadvantage here- higher center of gravity is very bad.

    *8 speeds and 600lbs? 8 speeds and 100 pounds is tough enough. Sure I’ve seen a 500 pound cargo bike with a fixed gear- but that was in Amsterdam! Maybe Portland is Platinum but it’s not flat!

    *So again, that’s just my nitpicking from what I like in a cargobike and why I probably wouldn’t choose a bike like this. Some folks will probably find that this works for them and like the price point- great! The more folks riding utility bikes the better and at this price point some folks might use this as a great “entry level” cargobike.

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  • JH September 27, 2008 at 7:32 am

    Although this electric bike has peddles and gears the thing weighs 70lbs. The reality of someone actually peddling this thing is slim to none. Mopeds and scooters are viable transportation options, but should not be crossbred with bicycles. Having these things on bike paths and bike lanes is dangerous.
    By selling these things the Bike Gallery is doing an injustice to the local bicycle community.

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  • LBS employee September 27, 2008 at 8:49 am

    I work at a shop that sells the Giant Twist mentioned above. I can’t speak for any of the other brands listed, but the Twist’s motor stops assisting the rider at 15mph. Beyond that it’s pretty tough to pedal that thing any faster without the assistance of the motor (trust me – I’ve tried!). The speed argument above (20mph) does not apply to this particular model.

    We’ve sold it mainly to folks who want to depend on their two-wheeled transportation as their primary vehicle every day. These folks keep their cars parked at home when they are riding their electric-assist bicycles, and it would not have happened

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  • LBS employee September 27, 2008 at 8:50 am

    . . . . for them without this technology.

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  • Tbird September 27, 2008 at 9:53 am

    note: Bakfiets are 3000 not 3500 as stated above.

    The Madsen has some appeal no doubt. In addtion to the valid points made by Shane my concern is the manner in which the load is bifurcated by the box. The ones I’ve seen have adivision down the center line requiring odd shaped or large loads to be placed on one aide or the other, not good. Ever ride with an unbalanced load? It sketchy at best. Now when you add the large capacity aspect it becomes even sketchier. The front loaders like the Long Haul or Bakfiets have an open flat surface for loading. This makes almost any load much more managable. My other concern is no rain cover. With cargo and kid carrying, a rain cover is a neccesity, especially here in PDX. If you can only use it in sunny summer weather then it’s really no good here. The exposed long drivetrain is also another reason to be wary. When you have along chain line like this it is crucial to protect the tire from contact with chain and protect the chain from the elements. In this instance an internal hub and chain case are needed. Otherwise the end result is more frequent and higher costs associated with maintenance.

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  • toddistic September 27, 2008 at 10:45 am

    i’ll give the pro-electric crowd a chance to rescind their opinion once they have to deal with these motorized vehicles on bike lanes, springwater cooridor and more importantly, when you get buzzed by one. if it has a motor, its not a bike PERIOD. thats why bikes are called “human powered” machines because there isn’t a motor.

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  • Blair September 27, 2008 at 12:00 pm

    No one who buys one of these is going to ever use those pedals (unless their charge runs out), so why bother putting them on? Oh I know, it’s to get around regulations, so they can still call it a bicycle.

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  • Human-Powered Human September 27, 2008 at 1:35 pm

    Thank you SO MUCH, “Bike” Gallery, for bringing these budget-minded Segways to our city’s sidewalks and bike lanes.

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  • wsbob September 27, 2008 at 1:40 pm

    There isn’t simply one single way that e-assist can or likely will be used. To me, that bike pictured above, the A28, is ugly and doesn’t look like something many people would want to pedal. Contrast this with the Giant Twist that looks like a real bicycle and something people could imagine pedaling on their own power.

    A lot of things might influence the degree to which a person riding an e-assist equipped bike might decide to use their own muscle power on such a bike; range of the assist system, distance to be traveled, steepness of the terrain to be covered, level of physical conditioning the rider is interested in acquiring.

    Complete reliance on the e-assist will dramatically reduce the range such bikes are capable of.

    Improvements in the technology may increase the range and power of these systems. Some people are probably going to want to use it be speed freaks, or just lazy, but it seems way early in the game to conclude that this behavior will represent that of all the people deciding to use products having this technology.

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  • Tom Knipe September 27, 2008 at 2:00 pm

    I think bike advocates should follow electric bike technology with keen interest for two reasons:

    1) baby boomers, and
    2) hills and distance

    Bicycles with electric power assist have potential to make cycling more accessible for an aging population that may be less physically fit. They also make cycling more appealing for people who would like to commute by bike but for whom hills on their commute are a barrier, or who have a commute over…say, 10 miles.

    It’s about more people riding bikes who might not otherwise choose to ride.

    The comparison to motor scooters is off for two main reasons:

    1) internal combustion engine vs. electricity (which can be produced cleanly via wind, solar or other non-polluting sources of energy), and

    2) the power assist technology in most of the promising models that I saw at Interbike (like the 2009 Giant Twist) only kicks in when the rider also pedals.

    Also, concern about electric bike users causing danger, congestion, etc on bike lanes and paths for non-electric bike users is misplaced. While they may travel faster in some instances, there are ALREADY cyclists traveling at many different speeds using bike facilities. It will always be incumbent upon everyone to respect other roadway/path users. More importantly, more bicycles on the road (and yes, these things do look and feel like bicycles) will continue to increase motorist awareness and make it safer for all cyclists. Because of the pricetag, I’m also guessing that most of the people who buy these things will be older, fairly well-off individuals, which may make them less likely to behave like yahoos.

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  • Jeff Ong September 27, 2008 at 6:13 pm

    I’m a little shocked to see everyone viewing electric bikes strictly from the standpoint of how they will affect our daily commutes, rather than the potential good they can bring to the world. I identify more as someone who has chosen not to use a car than as “a bicycle advocate.” I support people walking to work/the store/whatever, taking the bus, or skateboarding as much as people riding there. If e-bikes are what it takes to get people out of their cars, it’s fine with me.

    As far as the impossibility of pedaling a “70 lb. bike,” my unloaded Xtracycle is 45 lbs, and it often weighs in at 150+ with a load. I won’t be winning any time trials on it, but it’s certainly a reasonably swift, efficient way to get around.

    I think electric *assist* vehicles, like this one, have even more to offer than all-electric bikes — not sure I’ll ever be in the market for either, but they’d be great for my parents, or my less bicycle-crazed friends who still don’t want to spew toxic gases every time they need to run over to Trader Joe’s.

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  • Jeff Ong September 27, 2008 at 6:15 pm

    That said, it is a pretty homely bike! Way to resurrect the scintillating aesthetics of the Trek Y-frame…

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  • Eileen September 27, 2008 at 9:59 pm

    The Madsen looks promising and definitely feels more within reach for us single-mom types than a bakfiets. It is still ridiculously expensive for people who live without disposable income and is one of the reasons bike commuting is not really a viable option for most working class families. I know it seems counter-intuitive, but if you HAVE to have a car to get to work (as in my case), what else are you going to do?

    As for the anti-electric folks, which is it, do you want to see fewer cars on the road or not? When options appear that make bike commuting realistic for people who are intimidated, out of shape or have health issues, you want them outlawed. Pretty hypocritical if you ask me and pretty snooty too. Sometimes I think the “hardcore” cyclists of Portland want all the roads for themselves and just send the rest of us underground. Come on guys, what do you want?

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  • BURR September 27, 2008 at 10:29 pm

    sniping at e-bikes, way to isolate yourselves. but who said cyclists were politically savvy in the first place?


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  • zilfondel September 28, 2008 at 12:36 am

    I think the real fear is that if e-bikes do become as popular as they are in countries like Japan and China, and they do end up wooing people from their cars, us human-powered-humans are going to end up literally being passed by Grandpa while pedaling in the bike lane.

    Oh what a terrible thing change is.

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  • zilfondel September 28, 2008 at 12:39 am

    “Sometimes I think the “hardcore” cyclists of Portland want all the roads for themselves and just send the rest of us underground.”

    Err, bingo. Its called entitlement, and you can see it in the arguments on the site coming from the pro-bike anti-bikelane viewpoints.

    …no hard feelings to anyone.

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  • Osage September 28, 2008 at 6:21 am

    The purists should realize that electric cycles bring biking to a new audience, but it also gets them peddling. It gives the bikers more community which improves their ability to get a positive bike policy enacted.

    Maybe try it and you will like it, or your friends will anyway, and yes, people who aren’t perfect purists may be able to enjoy the trails also. Reasonable limits, we are all for. Bike purity with an attitude, not too helpful, it is a big world out there.

    The electric bike is becoming one of the key profit generators of the bike industry in Europe, and with 70 million Chinese riding them we can assume they serve a purpose. It makes people who might not be biking feel like kids again, maybe you need to look at this with fresh ideas, it has the potential to be high fun, high utility real transportation.

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  • dcu September 28, 2008 at 8:41 am


    You sound like McCain. Open your mind. bike good…car bad… .
    Eveyone’s conncerned with the what if”s. stop being scared.

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  • Bagel September 28, 2008 at 10:51 am

    JH @ 18: “Actually peddling [sic] this thing is slim to none”? Tell that to anyone who has toured by bicycle. That’s why it has gears.

    toddistic @ 22: How is getting buzzed by an electric bike any worse than getting buzzed by an Escalade? Or a non-motorized biker on the Springwater?

    I’m all for getting more people out of cars and onto bikes.

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  • Joel Grover September 28, 2008 at 11:16 am

    Thanks Jonathan for keeping your readers up to date on some new cycling choices offered at Interbike. While I am certainly no expert on everything, I do know that these two bikes are unique and exciting. Moreover, I really appreciate the open debate and the comments as I believe this will ultimately lead to a more informed community.
    First….The Madsen Urban Utility Bike while not the perfect bike for everything, it will do a lot of things well for a lot of people. I like the 20” rear wheel. This gives the bike a lower cargo position and a certain extra ruggedness and stiffness in the wheel where a larger wheel would raise the cargo higher on the bike and need more maintenance over the lifetime of the bike. Also, I thought the bucket looked a lot better in person than the photo. It is made out of Low Density Polyethylene (the same material many plastic kayaks are made out of)-so it is tough, has a good strength-to-weight ratio and is relatively cheap to make. What none of the photos on the website really capture is the inside of the bucket. It is split in the middle to straddle the rear frame and rear wheel of the bike. This allows two smaller children to sit side by side on the rear seat or one larger child with a leg on each side of the bucket. The display model at the show in Vegas even had an optional second seat right behind the rider where you could carry an additional 1 to 2 children. The seat even has seat belts to strap the little tikes in. Alternatively, you could also remove all of the seats and make it a cargo only bike. As for the weight carrying concerns, I would agree with Shane in comment #17 that 600 lbs is a lot of weight and not very realistic for most because even a short, very slight hill would render the bike unridable for the average person. I just consider the 600lb limit a vote of confidence in the durability of the bike for those carrying half of that weight. As for the cargo forward or rear debate, each has their strengths…and yes the interaction with the child sitting in front is an obvious plus! …But the weight rear designs all seem to be less expensive for those on tighter budgets. As for questions about a cover, stay tuned as the folks at Madsen are in development of a tent like cover that will be useful to secure the contents of the bucket and keep everything dry. Lastly, I thought the Madsen bikes look really stylish with some really nice colors (checkout the website link above).

    Second….While I realize that E-Bikes are controversial they do fill a growing niche as the population of our society ages and the price of traditional gas powered transportation increases. I for one encourage debate and value all of the comments on all sides of the debate in this thread. My contribution to the debate is that we should all realize that not everybody has the physical (or even sometimes emotional) capacity to ride a human powered bike. I encourage everybody to think about that fact and feel a little empathy for those that are not as physically gifted. With that being said, The Bike Gallery has always attempted to be accessible to people of all abilities-this will allow us to widen our product selection and cater to this under-served demographic. Considering the alternatives to an electric bike, such as exhaust spewing mopeds or 49cc motor scooters, the E-bikes by comparison seem fairly benign. The A2B perhaps is not the perfect e-bike for everybody; it does have many serious advantages over similarly priced gas powered 49cc scooters. First and foremost is the fact that it is a real bicycle. Yes it is heavy when compared to a human powered only bike but, it is not so heavy that it prohibits one from contributing a significant amount of power to the forward momentum of the bike. Secondly it is hard to over look the “five cent refill” and lack of carbon pollution when compared to the alternatives. Lastly, and most importantly in my mind, it is the company behind the product that has caught my attention. With $150 million in venture capital and long-time bicycle industry executive Skip Hess involved in the project (GT, Schwinn, Giant, Electra) I believe Ultra Motor will be successful in this growing bicycle transportation category. The Bike Gallery’s previous reservations in this market segment included concerns that there were very few choices that could support the dealer and the consumer in a way that is needed to successfully launch new technologies and products into the market. I believe that Skip knows the bike market and industry well and that will help this company, their product and their bicycle dealers to succeed.
    While I agree that E-bikes are not as green as a regular bike, the E-bike is a far cry from the alternatives our society has embraced. Personally I do not imagine I will own an E-bike any time soon, but that does not stop me from advocating the concept as something good for our society. When considering the perfect storm of geo-political events we are facing: economic crisis, peak oil, climate change, obesity and traffic congestion, it is clear to me that the bicycle can help solve many of our problems and help lots of people…..the E-bike can help close the gap for most of the rest. Thanks for letting me contribute.

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  • Alan September 28, 2008 at 11:53 am

    I’m really disappointed by the narrow-minded views from some of the anti-electric crowd. Electric bikes, ridden responsibly (at bike-like speeds and observing all of the traffic laws that apply to bikes) are neither evil nor anti/non-bike. And to the extent they get people out of cars, that’s a good thing for bike riders and everyone else.

    For the past 2 years I have split my riding between a motor-free folding bike and an electric motor-equipped Trek. The latter will get me going up to 18 mph if the terrain is flat and there’s no headwind. It’s considerably slower going into the wind or uphill. And I pedal frequently, partly because what else am I going to do with my feet when they are resting on pedals, but also because when I starting up from a full stop, traveling at low speed in crowds, or going uphill, the pedals are more useful than the motor.

    So if you don’t want a motor on your bike, that’s fine, but keep your ideas of bicycle-purity off of my body and my bike. I’ve spent 48 years pedaling and my knees sometimes need a break. I think you would rather ‘share the bike lane’ with me and my electric-bike than ‘share the road’ with me and my minivan.

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  • eli bishop September 28, 2008 at 3:39 pm

    i’m really excited the bike gallery is looking into electric-assisted options. when i bought my first bike two years ago, i was really hoping to get a cute bike with an electric assist because i live in a hilly area with fast traffic and i would feel more confident about getting out on the bike more often. i love my townie, but i’d love it even more with an assist. 🙂 alas, this bike is ugly, but if it’s successful enough maybe the tech will eventually migrate to a cuter bike…

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  • seth September 28, 2008 at 5:48 pm

    an electric bike is one step closer to a human powered bike, and if that gets people out of their cars and into the bike lanes that is a good thing.

    I highly doubt that these things are going to get so popular that they crowd out human powered bikes. Plus, the electic bikers vote too, and would likely support bike-centric initiatives.

    Face it – some people just aren’t in shape enough or are too intimidated to go on their own power, so the electic bike could be a good way to get people to transition to a bicycle.

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  • Matthew Denton September 28, 2008 at 11:25 pm

    The question with electric bicycles is who rides them? Are they people that would normally ride regular bicycles, or are they people that would normally drive? If it is people that normally ride regular bicycles, then sure, hate on them all you want. But if it gets drivers out of their cars and onto a bicycle, even if they never pedal the thing, I think there are a lot of good that can come out of that from getting more paths/lanes/etc and more parking, to more political clout, to more awareness of automobile drivers to bicyclists. And all of those sound like good things, so…

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  • Matt S September 29, 2008 at 8:09 am

    Those of you complaining about electric-assist bikes have probably never tried one, and you probably live somewhere relatively flat.

    I have an electric-assist cargo bike (xtracycle). I live in a town which is quite hilly. For example, I live at the end of a gravel road, 0.4 miles, 12-15% grade. The kids who live on this road push their bikes up — I ride my fully loaded cargo bike up. And yes, I am middle-aged, and woefully out of shape.

    In this town, a cargo bike would not be practical without electric assist, unless you are an amazing athlete.

    You must pedal the electric-assist bikes that I am familiar with. If you don’t pedal, the range is just too small. On steep hills, which are common around here, I must pedal to maintain speed (e.g. 10-12 mph up a 10% grade).

    In flat areas I find that electric power is not really needed, and will usually just pedal. However, with the bike loaded, I sometimes use power to accelerate from a stop. This saves some gear changing and gets me up to speed more quickly.

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  • toddistic September 29, 2008 at 9:59 am

    “You sound like McCain. Open your mind. bike good…car bad… .
    Eveyone’s conncerned with the what if”s. stop being scared.”

    My point is and always will be that a bicycle is human powered, you put a motor on it and it ceases to be a bicycle. It becomes something else.

    It’s pure semantics… in my opinion. BTW, I’m an Obama supporter / contributor so I think I know where my allegiance is 🙂

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  • Coyote September 29, 2008 at 11:03 am

    I have mixed feelings about e-bikes. E-bikes do not belong on sidewalks and separated bike paths. It is great to get people out of cars, but I believe we are destined to make the same mistakes with EVs and LEVs we did with cars. After you have lived with an e-bike for a few days, you cannot help but think wouldn’t it be great if it went 40 mph for 40 miles instead 20 at 20? Oh, and I would like to not be rained on too. Pretty soon you are right back where you started when it comes to livable streets, and the use of public space.

    Fortunately the technology is not there yet. Batteries, controllers, charging technology, and our electric infrastructure will cause electric vehicles to be slower and shorter range than fossil fueled vehicles for the foreseeable future.

    I applaud Bike Gallery for carrying the A2B. Let’s get some of these things on the street and see what challenges they present. Hopefully it will be a long time before the value represented by the $2,700 A2B approaches my roadster that I have had for 30 years.

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  • Bill Stites September 29, 2008 at 1:19 pm

    As a rider of an e-bike for the last few years, let me chime in with some real experience.

    First, e-bikes are about ‘supplemental’ energy – I still pedal all the time, and most other e-bike riders I know do also. So, it’s not only about enhancing limited physical or emotional ability out on the road, which is great, but for me, it’s about increasing my AVERAGE SPEED so I get to where I’m going faster.

    I was actually surprised that I don’t get even more time advantage – I was initially anticipating that I might halve my travel times. But the reality of being on the road with traffic controls, and other users, sets in. I would guess that I average about a 20-30% reduction in ride times.

    Let’s be clear that this is not neck-jerking power, it’s more like someone pushing on your seat. We have been spoiled by the amount of power in fossil fuels, and if you wanted to match that, you’d need to carry a prohibitive amount of batteries. There is a sweet spot of added weight to added assist; my system [with an expensive Lithium Ion battery] adds just 20 lbs. to the bike – not bad. Also, pedaling increases the range considerably, to about 35 – 40 miles. And, if you run out of batteries, you can still get home on human power alone.

    BTW top speed on my system is about 21 – 22 mph, and will dog down on hill climbing; so pedaling up hill is still required unless you’re content to go slowly in a low gear.

    The system I use has a real-time throttle actuated by your thumb. I use the electric power to accelerate, and for hills; and more if I’m heavily ladened with cargo. The human body is very happy with a consistent pedaling cadence for inputting human power, so the electric assist just smooths out the peak power requirements of my journey.

    I’ve also noticed some nice safety benefits – the ability to accelerate on demand can get you out of gnarly intersections quicker; when riding down narrow streets and encountering an oncoming vehicle [car/truck], you can accelerate to an area without parked cars, for example, and feel better about head-on passing.

    One negative aspect to safety, is that motorists can be surprised by your speed. For example, if a car is at a stop sign and I am cruising along the right of way, I’m careful not to approach too quickly as they may pull out in front of me thinking they have more time.

    I suppose I ought to toss in a disclaimer since I do design and manufacturing work for both Stokemonkey [of Clever Cycles] and Ecospeed here in Portland. Nonetheless, this is a super-efficient and very green contribution to our transportation choices.

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  • SkidMark September 29, 2008 at 4:03 pm

    I would want a double-wall 48 spoke rim underneath the load-bearing end of a bicycle that is supposed to be able to carry 600 lbs. I’m sure their Taiwanese manufacturer will be glad to spec one if they ask for it. Can’t wait to see what Joel has to say about this bike.

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  • Ryan September 29, 2008 at 9:08 pm

    We have a bit of electric assisted bikes down here in Corvallis and nobody can really tell a difference. They fly under the radar. I even got to ride one and yes it takes human power, it is kind of like a strong tail wind. Then there are the uphills, awesome. Way less effort but not much more speed.

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  • Stochelo September 30, 2008 at 7:47 am

    I have a personal dislike of power-assisted bikes; but if an electric bike replaces a car on the road–good thing!
    Bravo, Gallery.

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  • Sasha September 30, 2008 at 11:28 am

    Yesterday coming up Broadway from downtown, a fellow on what looked like an electric vespa (no pedals) pulled out of the car lane and into the bike lane to bypass traffic.

    He then pulled into the bike cutout to get on Williams; the light changed and he zipped down the road, weaving in and out of the bike / car lanes. His vehicle could take him the speed of traffic (~30mph) but he didn’t seem comfortable riding with the cars.

    Usually I yell at people on mopeds who are in the bike lane, but I wasn’t sure what to do this time.

    What qualifies a vehicle for the bike lane?
    What about electric wheelchairs or “rascals”?

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  • Abbey September 30, 2008 at 11:45 am

    I bike to work on a regular basis which works for me. But I often end up using a car in the evening to get to where I need to go because it’s more practical (longer distances, unknown routes/hills). I think an e-assist bike could be something that allows me to keep the car parked much more often. Though, an e-assist cargo bike sounds more ideal so that I could replace those trips too.

    I don’t think anyone’s going to replace trips that they bike all the time with e-assist bikes. They will replace car trips. Sure it could be annoying in the bike lane, but I get people whizzing by me in the bike lane all the time anyway.

    The purists should stop whining about it. The way to get more bike infrastructure is to get more people on bikes, and different things work for different people. The last message you should be sending to drivers who are thinking about using e-assist bikes is that they shouldn’t switch because they aren’t bikey enough.

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  • Jake September 30, 2008 at 12:54 pm

    Ebikes are coming, in about 5 years gas will be around the $8-10/gallon range. Many people will be using ebikes to replace car trips.

    And they won’t care about the guy with the messenger bag riding a fixie who is pissed because he’s being passed by a 70 year old on the hawthorne bridge.

    So elitists, start working on your problems with change now, it will make it easier in the future.

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  • Joe Doebele October 1, 2008 at 1:34 am

    I rode the Madsen one night at Interbike when the bucket was filled with almost 200 lbs. of ice and soft drinks. I loved the ride and the handling–and then I almost cried when Jerrod Madsen told me he’d just signed an exclusive deal with Bike Gallery. But good for both of them, good for the industry, and good for Portland. The kids-in-the-back problem can be largely taken care of with a handlebar mirror or two, which, for this and other reasons, I recommend strongly to anyone who buys any kind of cargo bike in the first place. In fact I’ll soon be mounting them as standard equipment on all the Mundos and bakfietsen I sell at the soon-to-open Joe Bike (portlandrides.com for now).

    As competent and sure as the Madsen is, I agree that the rear wheel ought to have 48 spokes, to which I’d add a 14-mm axle…both of which the Mundos have, by the way. As for 600 lbs., I’ll believe it when I see it, not because a rear wheel couldn’t take the load but because our hearts and quads couldn’t get it up hills and bridges without falling over sideways. Mine, anyway.

    As for the e-assist discussion, all I can say is that everybody I talk to is asking me about adding e-assist to cargo bikes, so no matter what your opinion, if it works it’s going to happen. I’m working on an e-assist for both my Mundos and bakfietsen, and will be proud if that makes cargo-hauling by bike a more practical alternative to cars for a wider range of people.

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  • jimbo October 1, 2008 at 11:48 pm

    Buncha whiners-
    I thought you all wanted motorists to be more open minded about bicycles and to “share the road”, Now you are all up in a knot because you are the ones not being open minded.
    Not everyone can ride several miles on their own power. I would imagine someone with one of those cargo haulers would really like to have an electric motor hauling a load up Interstate Ave.
    I’m ok with it as long as it dosn’t turn out like that minibike craze a couple of yrs. ago, that was just awful and I was so glad to see them get those of the streets. Still like any bike the rider has to be in control and use good judgement. what is the stopping capability on these? I would guess it is somewhat diminished with the extra weight? Maybe they should be registered and insured if there is more risk of accident? Definatly not a sidewalk thing. Helmets yes. daytime headlight- probably since that is what is safer for motorcycles. It’s an interesting scenerio to track.

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  • Eileen October 2, 2008 at 8:48 pm

    Joe, you are making me covet a madsen. I wish Santa Claus were real…

    So my question is, how far apart are the kids sitting if you have 2 in there? Mine have reached the age of bickering and I would need them more than arm lengths apart – preferable with 9 point harnesses (the extra 4 for hands and feet).

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  • […] Bikeportland cover interbike, and report on the Madsen, which they liken to a bakfiets. Looks more like an upsized 8-Freight to me, but I don’t know if they are well known in the US. […]

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  • TheElectricBikeGuy October 5, 2008 at 6:54 pm

    Hello.I live here in portland and this year I have built my first electric bike.
    Let me start by saying that I freely admit to not being a cyclist.I am a geek.I am not lazy(I challenge any of you to duplicate my work and call me lazy).”Cyclists” are not the only folks who get to enjoy bicycles.I invite you all to actually research this and learn that most electric bike enthusiasts are custom builders.Also this is not something super new(asia has been successfully utilizing them for about a decade).I deserve to ride just as much as the rest of you.Also any electric bike you can buy wont do more than 20 and the guys in spandex clear that everyday.So next time im passing you(I dont like to ride in the bike lane BTW)silently on my little BMX remember ive got as much right to “One full lane” as the rest of you.

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  • Duke October 5, 2008 at 7:04 pm

    I like ebikes! Don’t fear the future.

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  • John January 25, 2009 at 8:04 pm

    I own a human electric hybrid bike the Optibike and I commute 14 miles one way on it from Portland to Gresham. It has about a 45 miles range on one charge and if i pedal really hard I can go over 35 mph. I always pedal, I get a real workout I just go almost twice as fast as my old bike. I slow down for people walking, slow bikes, horses, and anything else in the way. I love it. I like stopping because starting is so much fun. I used to run some stop signs on my road bike, now i never do. I’ve ridden the Bike Gallery A2B and its a tank compared to the Optibike which i compare to a sports car.Unfortunately the Opti is exspensive but its the best money I ever spent

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  • Dave January 31, 2009 at 8:54 am

    I see a lot of good arguments here on both sides. I see a lot of negative impact references to the “Portland Riding Community” and the disservice that will be done them by allowing eAssist bicycles on the same road bed as bicycles. Boo hoo. The PRC that is whining the loudest are the arrogant, rude, inconsiderate people that do ride on the sidewalk, zig in and out of traffic and generally act like the much maligned backside of a horse? Or are you referring to the thousands of people trying to make ends meet with 2 gallon gas, higher taxes and fees on cars and just the general insanity that is life in America? Look at the technology on it’s merits and ignore the dogmatic negativity of the “can’t really handle change” crowd. Work multipliers are essential to civilization. Bicycles are the perfect machine. Cheerfully moving your happy fat carcass down the road for a small expenditure of energy. Powered by otherwise sedentary individuals that reap the benefit of cycling by living longer. I digress only because in reality, for all your efforts on behalf of the environment, the universe will just randomly delete you.

    Lets remember what’s important here.

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  • John March 15, 2009 at 11:22 am

    I recently asked the Cycle Oregon Forum what they thought about Electric Assisted Bikes on Cycle Oregon and in response I was accused , insulted and finally threatened with death and destruction of my bike. The moderators of the forum did nothing.

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  • Dan August 1, 2009 at 12:38 am

    I find Todd’s attitude offensive. I’m a 300 lb guy who wants to find a way to reduce my car usage and work myself back into shape. (Long ago I used to be good for 50 mile hauls.) An electric assist bike is the perfect thing for me, especially living in close proximity to several ball-buster hills. My goal is to keep my heart rate constant no matter the grade on which I travel, and a hill assist will keep me from having to walk the bike up 20% grades. That will make for a more effective aerobic workout.

    For me the choice is between my Honda Civic and an electric bike for everyday commutes. It gets me exercise and takes a car off the road. And I’ll tell you that the chances of me actually riding an electric bike I buy are at least 10x that of a non-motorized bike.

    The road is for everyone, Todd. I thought that’s the mantra cyclists preached. If you can’t bear to look down your nose at lowly me, then find a velodrome. People like you do a disservice to cycling advocates everywhere.

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  • Dave August 4, 2009 at 5:55 pm

    BRAVO Dan!

    I am sick to death of the “more aerobic than thou” attitude of the zero body fat crowd. I have congestive heart failure and building and riding my E-assist bike has been good for my mind and body. I sold my car to buy the stuff to build my bike. That was at 422lbs. I have lost 175 lbs in the last 3 years. Now, at 250lbs I go everywhere on my bike. I designed and built with my own hands! I would think these folks would applaud rather than denigrate our efforts! At least we put our money where our mouth is! Unlike these “purists”. They don’t share the road, are incredibly rude to pedestrians and other drivers and riders. I’m hoping that one of these mouthy stick people will get a clue! Lippy people are annoying, offer nothing to the conversation.

    There is enough ugly and stupid in the world, ask yourself if you’re a contributor or a mitigator?

    If you look hard enough you can find the negative in everything. I am astounded by the CO2 being expelled on a non issue.

    I paid a little over $2000 to build my bike. I didn’t pay that much for my last car! Absolutely NONE of the electricity to charge my bike came from the grid. I produce my own power with a browns gas generator. (It’s running this computer and everything in my shop.)
    I don’t understand the bickering over this. The only thing I can come up with is these folks are afraid. Pure stink-eye jealousy that’s all it is.

    Grow up and learn to share people. Or we will all surely suffer for our hubris. Don’t yell at each other! WORK TOGETHER!

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  • DR September 25, 2009 at 1:40 pm

    Todd and all the bike purist-

    U sound frumpy and a bit elitist. Bicycles with clean green assist: get over it. I think it is a bruise to your ego to think of a middle aged man, in work clothes, pedaling right behind your lycra butt in the bike lane, only to cruise past you on a hill.

    The bike purist are dogmatically scitzo:
    1. First they say ebikes are heavy, slow and for lazy people, and that they can ride “faster” on their road bikes. For most ebikes, a light road bike will indeed outrun them on the flat and a fit guy on hills too. Great, be happy.
    2. Then they say how dangerous it is for bikes to go 20mph! oooohh.

    regulation : ebikers don’t want it anymore than naturalist, and they fight it.

    I ride an ebike for commuting 45 miles a day – a fast one. I get a good 50 min workout, 2x a day…very lazy mind you. I average 22-28mph to save time…so dangerous, but ok if on a road bike. Don’t you wish you did? I have enough time and energy to do this 3-5x a week, and not cut into much family time, like I would on a “Slower” pedal only bike,carrying lunch, clothes, etc.

    Many roadies ride without their lunch. I guess that’s why I get to eat theirs as I pass them buy…..

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  • Ross December 8, 2009 at 4:10 pm

    Sad to see all the hate for e.bikes by the bike-fascists.
    Y’all must be young’uns.
    Wait ’til you’ve hit sixty years of cycling life and your knees aren’t what they used to be…talk to us then.
    Not everyone is…you. Everyone has differing needs or their transport and for their bodies.
    Relax, be happy that there’s one less car or truck on the road, and welcome more cyclists on the paths, some who wouldn’t be there WITHOUT electrics.
    I’ve helped some alter-abled folks hit the paths with electric drive who before had felt bound to their cars.
    Get over yourselves already!
    Read the Federal bicycle laws too while you’re at it.

    Like with anything; some will abuse what they’ve got; go too fast, ride disrespectfully; you don’t need electric power to be disrespectful or idiotic.

    a satisfied e.biker, now with happier knees.


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  • Dave December 9, 2009 at 12:40 am

    Good on ya Ross! These snot nosed spandex wearing fascists will be our age some day and will know what pain is. I’ve been riding for 46 years my knees are NOT what they used to be. Try that hill between 82nd and 92nd on SE Holgate without e-assist. It’s nice to know that soon there will be more of US then there are of them. We’ll just have to teach them manners that obviously their parents never bothered to teach them.

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  • Ross December 9, 2009 at 10:49 am

    Hi Dave,
    Sorry I brought out the ‘f’ word in my post; overkill really. Should be saved for special occasions 😉 god knows we’ll have plenty of opportunities.

    I’m simply annoyed at the closed-mindedness amongst some cyclists and cycle shops.
    It’s almost like when they banned recumbents from racing…because they were so much faster than uprights. That was eons ago, but there’s still heavy biases.
    People say to me all the time..”but isn’t that cheating?”…hunh? I guess it depends on what game you’re playing. If you’re playing the “broadened and sensible transport options” game, it’s not cheating; if you’re playing the “only my way is pure enough” game, OK, it’s cheating; but I don’t wanna play that game!

    Roll on!

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  • Dave December 9, 2009 at 11:14 am

    What “F” word are you referring to? Federal? No Worries! At least the knuckleheads at the top of this thread are quiet. For now.
    I have just about completed my long wheel base ‘bent. 26″ wheels 8’ between the axles. It pedals smooth as silk through all 7 gears and rides as smooth as silk. 48v 20ah LiFePo battery with a Crystalyte Cruiser motor. On my Trek 7000 it’ll go 53 miles at 15mph between charges.
    On the LWB ‘bent it should be wonderful! I’ll be adding a second battery later. At 19lbs for the battery and 21 lbs for the motor/wheel and 40lbs for the frame for a total of 80lbs, and it’s not gonna fit on the TriMet rack. But that’s the point. I don’t want to ride around on a 48 foot disease vector all day long! I just dress (warm!) for success and off I go. Grocery store, Dr. appointments, etc for pennies a day!

    Be Safe Everyone! Be polite and share the road!

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