The Classic - Cycle Oregon

Kalkhoff opens e-bike retail store in the Pearl District

Posted by on December 14th, 2009 at 1:57 pm

Kalkhoff E-bikes-4

A customer on a test ride in
front of Kalkhoff retail
store in the Pearl.
(Photos by Adams Carroll)

Back in August we reported that a new e-bike store was prepping to open its doors in the Pearl District. Now, although the dust has not yet settled in their combined corporate office and retail space, Kalkhoff Bikes Portland is open for business. Kalkhoff Bikes Portland is a retail venture of Greenlight Bikes, LLC., the Portland-based importer of German manufacturer Kalkhoff’s line of traditional and e-assist bicycles. The company’s Pearl District storefront is the only one of its kind in the United States and joins The eBike Store in North Portland as the second retail outlet for e-bikes in Portland.

In an interview on Monday, Greenlight Bikes’ Managing Director Eric von der Heyden said that Kalkhoff Bikes Portland will celebrate its official grand opening “sometime in mid to late January” once all renovations to their building have been completed. In the meantime, the Kalkhoff Bikes Portland showroom is open Monday through Friday and is stocked with a shiny new line of e-bikes and commuters ready for a test ride.

Kalkhoff E-bikes-8 Kalkhoff E-bikes-7 Kalkhoff E-bikes-2

“People say ‘oh it’s cheating. Why don’t you just pedal up the hill?’ I would say that driving up the hill is cheating. At least you’re on a bike. It’s great for the environment and you’re still getting exercise.”
— Eric von der Heyden, Greenlight Bikes LLC

Kalkhoff e-bikes are made in Germany and shipped to Portland 98% assembled. Every Kalkhoff comes outfitted with fenders, lights, and a rack. Higher end models include amenities like integrated pumps and u-locks, full coverage chain guards, internally geared hubs, cycle computers, and more.

Instead of a throttle, Kalkhoff bikes rely on pedaling to activate the e-assist. Data from a torque sensor is used to determine the amount of assistance provided by the motor. A control panel on the handlebars allows the rider to fine tune how much assist is provided or even turn it off entirely.

In addition to e-bikes, Kalkhoff offers a range of high end traditional bikes that include the same gamut of commute friendly accessories. Although Greenlight Bikes expects that most of their sales will be made over the internet, all of the Kalkhoff models are in stock and on sale in the company’s Portland retail store.

Kalkhoff E-bikes-9

Eric von der Heyden

According to von der Heyden, e-bikes “bridge a gap between those people who are already going to be on a bike all the time and those people who really don’t see themselves getting around all the time on a bike.” Rather than replacing bicycles, e-bikes are poised to replace cars, says von der Heyden.

“People say ‘oh it’s cheating. Why don’t you just pedal up the hill?’ I would say that driving up the hill is cheating. At least you’re on a bike. It’s great for the environment and you’re still getting exercise.”

I took a Kalkhoff e-bike for a test ride around the Pearl District on Monday. Even in my upright seating position, the e-assist allowed me to tackle hills like I would on my sporty road bike, but without breaking a sweat. I could see this kind of technology being very useful for somebody with a big hill in their commute and no option to shower and change once they make it to their workplace.

Kalkhoff E-bikes-1

The silent e-assist motor adds quite a noticeable punch to your pedaling. During my test ride, I ended up lowering the amount of assistance to its lowest settling. Other riders would likely appreciate additional assistance, but in general, I found the lowest level was more than sufficient for the relatively flat terrain of the Pearl District.

Von der Heyden says that the beauty of the e-bike is that it makes bicycle commuting accessible to an entirely new group of people, ultimately resulting in a better experience for all roadway users. “The more people you get on bikes, the safer it is for everybody, the more bike lanes you’ll get, and the more attention you’re going to get for bikers in general. I think overall it’s good for all bikers–even if you never sit on an e-bike.”

E-bike sales are surging throughout the world, but they’re yet to catch on here in the states. Will 2010 be the year e-bike sales electrify? If so, Portland seems poised to be at the forefront of the market.

Kalkhoff Bikes Portland is open Monday through Friday at 528 NW 11th ave. Check out more photos from our visit here.

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  • Michael M. December 14, 2009 at 2:25 pm

    All other considerations aside (space, rent, customer traffic, etc,), this is one business that might be better suited to, say, a NW 23rd location than a Pearl Dist. location, since hills are closer. Still, welcome to Portland!

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  • driving that train December 14, 2009 at 3:26 pm

    “…the second retail outlet for e-bikes in Portland.”

    Uh, The Bike Gallery and Scoot-on-this should be included in that list. Then there’s Eco-Speed and Clever Chimp which don’t exactly have stores, but they are locally available.

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  • Eben December 14, 2009 at 3:31 pm

    What qualifies as a ‘big hill’? 100 ft elevation? 400 ft elevation?

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  • Jonathan Maus (Editor-in-Chief) December 14, 2009 at 3:31 pm

    driving that rain,

    I was only referencing stores that sell only electric bikes. thanks.

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  • Paul Johnson December 14, 2009 at 4:07 pm

    Never mind the ORS doesn’t let you pedal a moped while under power, and mopeds are prohibited from using their motor at all while in a bicycle lane or cycleway. For all practical purposes, the eBike is useless.

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  • driving that train December 14, 2009 at 4:33 pm


    I’m not sure what laws you are referencing

    Oregon Vehicle Code 814.405: Status of electric assisted bicycle-
    An electric assisted bicycle shall be
    considered a bicycle, rather than a motor
    vehicle, for purposes of the Oregon Vehicle Code, except when otherwise specifically provided by statute.

    It later forbids e-bikes from sidewalks, That’s pretty much it.

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  • Hart December 14, 2009 at 4:35 pm

    It’s not about cheating, it’s about fossil fuels. Electric bikes still run on coal.

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  • KWW December 14, 2009 at 4:41 pm

    I gots to ask, are these German bikes made in Taiwan?!?

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  • patrickz December 14, 2009 at 4:58 pm

    About the “cheating”:
    you’d be “cheating” if you were pretending to be pedaling under your own power and then turned on your electric motor in order to gain advantage over
    someone on a regular bike.

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  • Old Skule Muscle Power December 14, 2009 at 6:38 pm

    Fellow citizens:
    If you purchase one of these mopeds, please keep it out of the bike lane.

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  • matthew December 14, 2009 at 7:19 pm

    hart #7 i’m not familiar with any coal burning power plants in the nothwest. please fill me in if i’m wrong. do you live in texas?

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  • Paul Johnson December 14, 2009 at 7:39 pm

    Matthew #10: PGE, Pacific Power and Summit Power Group all operate coal power plants in Oregon, the largest of which is the Boardman plant in Morrow County. You’d have to be Californian to miss it.

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  • Andy B from Jersey December 14, 2009 at 7:57 pm


    NO! Kalkhoff e-bikes are made in Germany (I test rode one while visiting family in Germany this Summer). I’m almost positive the motor is by Panasonic and probably made in Japan.

    Unlike the US, Germany values its industry and manufacturing. Accordingly I’d say roughly 75% of bicycle products made by German bicycle companies are indeed still made in Germany. Unfortunately many of those are not available in the US.

    By comparison, US bicycle manufactures (along with most of the outdoor recreation industry) can’t seem to find offshore manufacturing fast enough. When I went into a bike shop 10 to 15 years ago looking for mountain biking stuff, nearly all of it was made in the US. Good luck today finding any massed produced items made in the US for your bike.

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  • Paul December 14, 2009 at 8:27 pm

    Excellent if you live in hilly areas. And you’re only cheating when you don’t really need the extra power, or driving a car 🙂

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  • Jim O'Horo December 14, 2009 at 9:53 pm

    Hart @ 7:

    Yes, part (usually less than 50%) of the electricity used to power the electric bike may come from a coal-fired power plant. The advantage comes from the fact that the coal-fired plant is a point source of CO2, so if the coal-fired plant is properly situated, the CO2 has the potential of being recovered and used for other purposes, keeping it out of the atmosphere.

    If one were still worried about the source of electricity to power the bike, it would be possible to have 2 batteries, easily interchangeable, and depending on range, one battery could be sitting at home being recharged form a small solar array while the other was in use getting the rider to work, etc.

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  • Blah Blah Blah December 14, 2009 at 10:02 pm

    I don’t see anything wrong with E-Bikes, but they must fetch a hefty price to pay rent in the Pearl.

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  • JH December 14, 2009 at 10:40 pm

    Welcome to the community, I always thought the Pearl could use a shop like this!

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  • wsbob December 14, 2009 at 11:37 pm

    E-bikes are going to be a good travel option for people having been obliged to rely on motor vehicles to get around. Some models are out there that appear to be reasonably reliable, definitely affordable, easy to ride and store.

    For some people, I imagine these bikes are going to make the difference between riding/commuting from Beaverton into Portland and back, and driving, or taking public transportation.

    The power required to charge batteries is certainly an important consideration. No power generation source is perfect though. Hard to know exactly how the electric generation supply source is going to work out in the long run. There seems to be plenty bad things about it already though. Hydro power was great until used excessively.

    The Boardman coal plant, once read about, should be enough to scare any sane person. The Oregonian has run stories about it. Just trying to recall from memory, so I could be wrong about the following: to fire that plant, every day about 200 rail hopper cars of coal are used/burned up. Think of the huge hole in the earth that’s making.

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  • Hart December 15, 2009 at 2:04 am

    @Matthew #17:

    In 2006, Oregon’s sole coal-fired power plant produced 4.03 million tons of CO2, 9,000 tons of sulfur dioxide, and 5,000 tons of nitrogen oxide; this plant was responsible for 10.0% of the state’s total CO2 emissions. In 2005, Oregon emitted 10.9 tons of CO2 per person, slightly more than half the U.S. average.

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  • Hart December 15, 2009 at 2:07 am

    “I totally support nuclear power. That’s why we should all have solar panels.”

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  • twistyaction December 15, 2009 at 2:22 am

    “Von der Heyden says that the beauty of the e-bike is that it makes bicycle commuting accessible to an entirely new group of people, ultimately resulting in a better experience for all roadway users. ‘The more people you get on bikes, the safer it is for everybody'”

    I don’t look forward to having to share the bike lanes (or the respect which self-powered cyclists have had to earn from cars) with people who otherwise wouldn’t be in traffic, on a bike. These will be people who are, by Mr. Von der Heyden’s definition, inexperienced, and they’re “armed” with extra, silent power. By this logic, attracting new drivers to the road with extra powerful cars will make all drivers safer? Want a supercharger with that Learner’s Permit?

    I’m trying not to come across as a hater, but I don’t think these augmented bikes belong in the bike lane. Sure they’re similar to HPVs in terms of vulnerability, but I just don’t think equipping a less experienced set of operators with the potential for more speed than they can handle will end well. By the time someone’s a fast, strong cyclist in the urban environment, they have generally accumulated some skills and experience to temper that power.

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  • Vance Longwell December 15, 2009 at 7:28 am

    It took me a second to realize what I was doing before I started laughing too hard to do it. I’m searching the internets for precise locations of all Oregon’s electricity production facilities. Maybe not the best time to be conducting such searches, no? Hehe.

    Uh, North Powder Oregon has a 64Kv Cooperative-Generation plant. It’s outfitted to burn hog-fuel at the very least. Pretty sure hog-fuel doesn’t get tracked as straight coal, but it virtually is.

    See how much fun bike-lanes are? Who has to ride in them and when? Who can and can’t ride in them? They trump laws designed to protect you. They strip away your free access to the public right-of-way. And on and on. Man, what’s not to love? All so a demographic that’ll try it once, maybe, and pack-it-in can have their one ride, er, I mean, to grow the mode, ahem.

    As to the topic. Sorry, not too excited about the wholesale-presence of unvetted tech on the roads we all use. Best of luck and all, but I remain skeptical about selling mopeds as bicycles. I don’t buy the argument that they’re unkool ’cause of electricity consumption, that’s negligible and better than a car, yes? I’m affronted from a purists’ perspective and I’m bike enough to say it. Should I approve/disapprove just ’cause I personally don’t like it? No. Plus, I don’t think they could sell, let alone actually sell, enough to impact the traffic dynamic all that much. Hating stuff for no rational, or practical, reason is my domain. Don’t be like Vance.

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  • Math is Fun December 15, 2009 at 8:27 am

    First off, let me make it clear that I have no financial interest in these or any other e-assist bikes. But this sounded like a fun math problem, so here are some numbers.

    A road racer generally averages about 200 Watts of power output over the course of a long ride. That accounts for coasting on downhills. It’s not a perfect assumption, but let’s say that a person on one of these e-assist bikes averages about the same power output over the course of 30 minute commute. And just to be conservative, let’s assume that all of that power is produced by the electric motor (of course, by definition of the word “assist”, that’s not so), and that the motor runs at 75% efficiency. So, that makes for 133 Watt-hr per commute, or 0.133 Kwh. The DOE estimates that 1 Kwh of energy produced by coal results in 2.1 lb of CO2. So, assuming that all of the electricity used to power the commute came from coal, each one way commute would create 0.28 lb of CO2.

    That is the equivalent of running an Energy Star rated dishwasher once per week (assuming 10 one-way commutes per week).

    By contrast, a car getting 15 miles per gallon would burn 1/3 of a gallon of gas on a five mile commute. According to the DOE, each gallon of gas that is burned results in 20 lb of CO2, or 6.67 lbs of CO2 per commute. That’s roughly 24 times more than the e-assist bike.

    Granted, this does ignore all forms of pollution excluding CO2, and coal does burn dirtier than gasoline, but it still illustrates the point that these things are vastly more efficient than commuting by car. And it seems reasonable to suspect that an e-assist bike is much more likely to attract someone who would otherwise be in a car than someone who would otherwise be on a conventional bike.

    As for the safety issue, by the looks of these things, one wouldn’t expect them to be adopted by the thrill-seeking type. Plus, anybody can reach speeds far exceeding their skill level on a conventional bike on a moderate downhill stretch. For the most part, the self-preservation instinct pretty well keeps people in check.

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  • wsbob December 15, 2009 at 11:18 am

    “Sure they’re similar to HPVs in terms of vulnerability, but I just don’t think equipping a less experienced set of operators with the potential for more speed than they can handle will end well.” twistyaction #21

    The range of types of electric assist and all electric vehicles options is already wide and stands to get wider yet. Rather than enabling a high top end speed of say..30 or 40 mph, the idea behind electric assist bikes is to provide the rider with extra energy enabling them to maintain practical speed over for example, a hill, or perhaps to help them finish a portion of their commute where they’d otherwise be unable do to fatigue.

    I’m sure that very vast electric motorcycles and scooter can be made, but that doesn’t seem to be what Kalkhoff Bikes are.

    Some time back, I ran across an article about the use of electric bikes in China and India. What I remember, is that within the last 10 years, many, many people have been buying them up and riding them. At the time, a lot of those bikes were still using lead acid batteries…not so good. It seems that newer battery technology has a possibility of being easier on the environment, and more practical for use.

    At any rate, if assist from an electric power source could bring substantial numbers of motor vehicle driving people to shift to a bike for transportation, a natural critical mass on the streets could be possible. Great numbers of people riding electric bikes on the street going to work would likely make for a legitimate claim to the use of a main lane of traffic rather than jamming up the bike lane.

    That’s probably overly optimistic, but it does seem to happen in those other places in the world I mentioned.

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  • middle of the road guy December 15, 2009 at 12:14 pm

    Will an e-bike rider still feel stop signs are optional?

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  • matthew December 15, 2009 at 12:23 pm

    thanks hart, paul and vance for filling me in.

    boardman and north powder are a bit off my radar as i tend to focus more locally. definately something i should look into. any links or websites for facts and figures would be helpful. comparison to emissions from natural gas fired plants as well?

    having lived in dallas texas in the 80’s i saw the direct impact on air quality of coal burning power plants. perhaps with our rural generating facilities it is a “out of sight-out of mind” thing?

    i’d also be interested to know where the energy that these plants (boardman & north powder) is being consumed. is it used in their local areas or sold to others (ie: california, portland metro area, etc.)?

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  • KWW December 15, 2009 at 1:00 pm

    I don’t look forward to having to share the bike lanes (or the respect which self-powered cyclists have had to earn from cars) with people who otherwise wouldn’t be in traffic, on a bike.

    This is a variation on the good ole’ SUV entitlement argument – I am healthier (suv is larger) than that person riding an ebike (driving a smaller vehicle/or bicycle), therefore I have a greater right to the road.

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  • Mark December 15, 2009 at 2:03 pm

    I recently converted my mountain bike to an e-bike using a kit I purchased from Currie Technologies. I did this as a way to get me to start commuting to work from Beaverton to Portland, which I have never done before. We don’t have showers where I work, and I tend to sweat a lot, so this seemed like a good idea.

    I really enjoy having the assist on my bike. It gives me peace-of-mind to tackle hills on my commute that I otherwise would shy away from.

    When I tell people I have an electric assist on my bike, the first thing they say is “oh, so you’re cheating”, or “isn’t that for old ladies?”. I find it funny that people assume that having an electric assist means the bike is now essentially a moped:

    1) Having an electric assist doesn’t mean I don’t get a workout – I choose to pedal unassisted for 90% of my commute and definitely can feel it. Of course, nobody believes me when I say this. 🙂

    2) Having an electric assist doesn’t mean that I will be going fast or will be irresponsible – in fact, the opposite is true. The electric assist only will deliver up to about 10-12 mph, so if I pedal faster than that, it is under my own power, and not the motor’s. Plus I feel like I am in training with the added weight that the motor and battery carry.

    In the long run, I think having the electric assist is a stepping stone for me to be able to begin to ride into work (and elsewhere) unassisted. That’s my goal, at least.

    I feel that most people will look down upon me for having the electric assist, which sucks, but I know that I am getting more exercise than before and really enjoying my commute.

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  • JH December 15, 2009 at 3:58 pm

    As someone who chooses to commute on a cyclocross bike, I can say that on many occasions I have shared the bike lanes on many occasions with people who choose to ride electric assist bicycles and have never had any problems. I look forward to sharing the bike lanes with many more electric assist bicycles as well as the variety of bicycles and riders that make up the Portland bicycle community!

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  • toddistic December 15, 2009 at 4:30 pm

    Everyone, you can buy ebikes from Best Buy now too! LOL, glad to see some momentum on the anti ebike front. If you want to be a bike commuter, put the work in.

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  • Barbara Kilts December 15, 2009 at 10:23 pm

    My husband has Parkinson’s which plays havoc with his balance. He is now benefiting from riding a recumbent trike with e-assist.

    Keep an open mind for ideas outside of the norm that get people out of their cars. An e-bike rider still gets a workout, is interacting with their environment and is leaving a very small footprint. Ride on & peace out!

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  • wsbob December 16, 2009 at 12:12 am

    Whoo-hooo…Mark #28! Go for it! The description of your need and use of an e-bike is excellent justification for the use of such a vehicle. Yours too, Barbara #31.

    A lot of good can come out of the use of e-bikes. Of course, given human nature’s relationship with most things, some people will inevitably figure out less than helpful ways to use e-bikes. Figure out answers to that tendency when we come to it.

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  • Bill Stites December 16, 2009 at 11:46 am

    For those that think there is so much power available [as if coming from oil], I’ve got news for you. You would have to carry a prohibitively heavy load of many batteries to be able to ‘peel out’.
    And if you were so inclined to ‘floor it’ and hit a whopping 20 mph [OR. state limit], your battery would run down pretty quick.

    E-bikes are an exercise in efficiency. You learn to input power from the various sources – human, electric, gravity – in a dance of application.
    Pedaling is almost always maintained, even with the Ecospeed* system I use, which is purely throttle based.

    * Disclaimer – Ecospeed is a
    client of Stites Design.

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  • KWW December 16, 2009 at 6:19 pm

    It is interesting that the latest headline on this site is about how trips per bicycle are down over the past year. E-bikes are essential, imo, to get ridership up.

    Think about all those people in the west hills who don’t ride because of the elevation gain going home?

    Also think of people east of 82nd, whose roundtrip mileage would be excessive?

    With an e-bike, the radius of possible bike trips increases, probably by an order of magnitude.

    If Portland ever wants to attain the vaunted 25% trips by bicycle status, ebikes will only help the cause.

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  • Ken Wetherell December 18, 2009 at 7:16 pm

    “Riding to work my ass off.”
    “Give me Stokemonkey or give me death.”
    “Live free or die.”

    Just a few of my favorite sayings. Okay, I made one of them up. 😉

    As someone who commutes on a mix of human power only and electric assisted bikes, I wonder why other cyclists who routinely ride with cars (running with the bulls) are concerned by the presence of electric motors on bikes. Are you really afraid? I’m guessing not.

    The “cheating” comments are interesting too. Is this a competition? For most, it’s about getting between points A and B in a fun and healthy way. If it were a competition, the person running naked and barefoot with a pebble under their tongue would be the clear winner from an ecological standpoint. The person on an electrically assisted bike ranks much closer to our naked friend than someone using a car or SUV to make the same trip.

    For some, the issue is more black and white with no room for middle ground. I won’t comment on that position other than to say I’ll stay out of religious arguments. I would guess that most people will keep an open mind, at least until they have tried several variants of this technology and come to a position of knowledge.

    “Ignorance and prejudice and fear walk hand in hand…” I couldn’t resist another of my favorites (from Witch Hunt, by Rush).

    Let’s keep it free and open out there. “Smiles everyone! Smiles!” 🙂

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  • julie January 7, 2010 at 12:47 pm

    Can anyone speak to the maintenance of the Kalkhoff ebikes? Can the average home bike mechanic do minor repairs? Are the costs at a bike shop higher?

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  • Eric January 10, 2010 at 9:49 pm


    The maintenance of the Kalkhoff ebikes is largely like any other bike. Since the motor is part of the central hub, the wheels, brakes, gears etc. are not affected. The battery clicks out with a key and can be replaced. The motor is more complicated of course, but that can be fixed or replaced by us. Not only the motor, but the whole bike is covered by a 2-year parts and labor warranty and a free tune-up is included with each bike.

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  • Glenn January 25, 2014 at 9:22 pm

    Coal fired powerplants are stationary, and can have all sorts of pollution controls (except CO2) on them without paying the weight penalty that a vehicle would. In other words, much less pollution per KWH than any car. And they don’t sit in traffic and idle.

    If anyone is going to quibble about how much CO2 the operation of an E-Bike is putting into the air I certainly hope they live clean and pure, grow their own vegan food on their own land, are barefoot and spin and weave the fabric for their clothes out of their own hair (so no animals are enslaved to clothe them).

    The argument that there is perhaps twice as much embedded energy in an E-bike is slightly more valid. But only compared to a non-E-bike or walking. If it gets someone out of a car and into the open air and interacting with fellow human beings, I’m all for it.

    in the Bramblepatch
    Marrowstone Island
    Salish Sea

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