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What I learned at the Portland Electric Bike Expo

Posted by on May 23rd, 2016 at 10:22 am

Keola Munos with A2B's heavy-duty lineup.(Photos: M.Andersen/BikePortland)

Keola Munos with A2B’s heavy-duty lineup.
(Photos: M.Andersen/BikePortland)

As Jonathan wrote on Friday, this weekend’s Electric Bike Expo has been a milestone for Portland, a metro area that offers a rich bike-friendly culture but also has enough hills that many people are effectively shut out of it.

Enter e-bikes. And enter the expo, a free event outside the Lloyd Center movie theater that brought in vendors from around the country. As an e-bike newbie — I’ve written about them plenty but only ridden one before — I spent a few hours there on Saturday to see some of the products and talk to the customers and sellers. Here’s a quick tour of what I found.

Trek’s urban e-bikes

david studner

The first seller I spoke with Saturday was David Studner, Wisconsin-based product manager for city bikes at Trek. It’s great to see pedal-assist e-bikes being treated as just one more segment of that product category. Their new Trek Conduit+, which goes for $2,999, comes with built-in automatic front and rear lights:

conduit plus

and a rear cargo rack:

conduit plus rack

They’re also offering the Lift+, which sells for $2,799 and offers an extremely upright seating.

lift plus

“I don’t care if you have a carbon fiber $7,000 bike — you cannot average 25 mph.”
— David Studner, Trek

“It delivers on a promise that this is what a bike should feel like to someone who hasn’t ridden a bike in a long time,” Studner said.

Or for a bit more cash you can get the XM700+, which has a 28 mph top speed, enough to more or less keep up with car traffic on many city streets.

“I don’t care if you have a carbon fiber $7,000 bike — you cannot average 25 mph,” Studner said. The XM700+ retails for $3,499.

Studner doesn’t personally specialize in mountain bikes, but we took a moment to talk about the state of e-bikes in mountain biking. He made the interesting argument that bikes should eventually be regulated not based on their equipment but on the behavior of their users.

“Every car in America is capable of breaking every posted speed limit,” Studner said. “With the current state of mountain biking, there’s nothing to say an aggressive biker can’t bomb down a certain trail.”

KTM: Mountain biking specialists, thinking ahead

ktm bike 2

Fans of mountain e-bikes say they have huge promise both for mountain biking (apparently they make the climb slightly easier) and for e-bike retailers. But there’s that nagging fact that many states and the federal government restrict their use on off-road trails.

“People are like an e-bike weighs more. I’m like, no, what if you had a rider that was 20 pounds heavier? You could say the same thing for a fat bike. Fat bikes wear the same as an e-bike.”
— Freddy Viera, KTM

Freddy Viera of KTM respectfully disagreed with Studner, saying he thinks the country is moving toward allowing Type 1 mountain bikes — no throttle but a pedal assist of up to 20 mph — on almost all mountain biking trails.

“Having a speed limit and a governor that can’t be turned off is a good idea,” he said. “If you don’t have some sort of limit, the liability for the parks is going to be higher.”

Viera, who lives in Miami, described himself ruefully as “the No. 1 hated guy right now on the mountain bike trail, because I’m an advocate” for e-bikes, he said.

“The wear and tear on the trail is dependent on the rider,” Viera explained. “People are like an e-bike weighs more. I’m like, no, what if you had a rider that was 20 pounds heavier? You could say the same thing for a fat bike. Fat bikes wear the same as an e-bike.”

Ultimately, Viera said, every vehicle is only as sensible as the person using it.

“If you’re driving your car going too fast in the rain down a mountain, at some point you’re going to be like, oh fuck, I’m going too fast,” Viera said.

KTM offers three Type 1 mountain bikes, all with mid-drives (at the pedals) to improve their handling, ranging from $4,295 to $5,370.

ktm hybrid

freddy viera ktm

As I wrapped up with Viera, Jonathan Crutcher (right in the photo above) got back from a test ride of KTM’s hardtail.

“It’d be nice if it went a little bit faster,” Crutcher said. “Other than that, it was awesome.”

Price buster: A $1200 e-bike

EG Athens 250 tyler desjardins

At the booth of southeast Portland shop Cynergy E-bikes, I saw the EG Athens 250, which retails for a startling $1,199.

“It’s pretty uncharted territory,” Cynergy’s Tyler Desjardines said. “At least for an e-bike that isn’t…” He trailed off.

“Shit?” I offered.

“You can say it, I can’t,” he said. “You talk about failure percentages, this is the best bike. They go out the door and they never come back.”

I asked Desjardins what the price secret was. Basically, he said, it’s the entry-level components, including rim brakes. (Desjardins mentioned that if he had his druthers, EG creator Wayne Hui would also make a version with hydraulic disc brakes.)

Desjardines said the 54-pound Athens 250 doesn’t make major sacrifices on its battery, which puts out 250 watts and offers 40 miles per charge.

Sleek beauty: The Faraday Porteur

faraday

Cynergy was also showing off an e-bike that doesn’t look like an e-bike: the Faraday. With its batteries slipped up the downtube (they’re accessible through the bottom bracket) and basic controls beneath the seat, Faraday looks and feels simple. Its carbon belt drive keeps the service costs down.

“I call it the iPhone of e-bikes,” Desjardines said.

The Porteur retails for $3,500; the cheaper S version uses a chain drive and costs $2,499. For this weekend, Cynergy had it outfitted with a bamboo-trimmed front rack ($225) and a leather U-lock holster ($85).

Local pioneer: The eBike Store innovates on service

wake

Wake Gregg with the $2,000 Juiced Rider.

Portland now has a jaw-dropping seven e-bike specialty stores. At least, that’s the count from the guy who started the first one.

“About a third of our customers are getting out of their car.”
— Wake Gregg, eBike Store

Wake Gregg, who founded north Portland’s eBike Store after a 2008 trip to China, said competition has brought pluses and minuses but on balance it’s forced him to keep coming up with new ideas. His latest is a new roadside assistance program and rapid-service guarantee.

“About a third of our customers are getting out of their car,” Gregg said. When an e-bike is your primary vehicle, Gregg said, you need to be ready when something goes wrong with it. So, to accompany this weekend’s show, Gregg rolled out what he said is Portland’s first service maintenance plan for e-bikes. For $195 per year, he’ll be offering:

• 24/7 roadside assistance from the Better World Club, including up to two rides of up to 30 miles
• up to 10 flat repairs per year
• unlimited immediate brake, shifting or seat adjustments
• a free tune-up

For another $90 per year you can upgrade that tune-up to an overhaul, plus a 10 percent discount and a free loaner bike for scheduled services and emergencies.

Among other one-less-minivan type products, Gregg showed off the Juiced Rider (pictured above), a longtail with a throttle and 330 ounds of cargo capacity (not counting the rider) that gets 60 miles of median range assuming three hours at 20 mph. It retails for $2,000.

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A2B’s motorcycle-inspired lineup

a2b lineup

A2B is a distinctive brand that originated in the United Kingdom but has also put down stateside roots.

“It was one of the first purpose-built e-bikes in the U.S.,” said Keola Munos, the western U.S. sales manager.

“These actually took a close resemblance to World War II motorcycles,” Munos said. “That’s how a lot of my customers relate to it — it’s just a little motorcycle.”

Though as long as the top stays below 28 mph, Munos noted, they don’t require a driver’s license.

The oldest, sturdiest A2B model is the Octave, named for an aviation pioneer who worked with the Wright Brothers. It weighs 90 pounds and offers dual battery capacity (it comes with one). Each battery has a 15-20 mile range and retails for $3,500 to $3,800. Their newest version, not yet widely available, is the $5,000 Entz, which offers an option between automatic or manual shifting.

a2b folding

But the A2B’s leading model in the U.S. is its folding Kuo electric bike, which goes for $1,700 and offers an 18-20 mile range at up to 18 mph speeds. Munos said it’s about 60 percent of his business, thanks to popularity among people who combine it with RVs, airplanes and boating.

Opening politicians’ eyes

rich fein cynergy

Rich Fein of Cynergy, left.

There wasn’t enough time to get to every vendor, sadly. But as I was wrapping up my round and getting ready for a few test rides of my own, Rich Fein, the owner of Cynergy E-Bikes and a co-organizer of the expo, flagged me down.

Fein wanted to make sure we didn’t neglect another benefit of the show: a visit that Milwaukie Mayor Mark Gamba had arranged so various regional elected officials could try using e-bikes — and realize that as they spread, they have the potential to open biking as a regular transportation option for many more people.

“I took them on a ride up Alameda Ridge,” Fein said. “They got really giddy. They really got it. … Nobody understands these bikes until they’re on them.”

Fun on the test-ride track

I expect to be in the market for a longtail e-bike in a few years myself, so before things wrapped up Saturday, I wanted to try getting some time in a few saddles — but first I got a few shots of other folks shopping or enjoying themselves on the temporary circular track that had been set up in the Lloyd Center movie theater’s parking lot.

getting ready

helmet dude

classy customer

two riders

downhill gal

older downhill

uphill kid

waving kid

Among the great things about this event was that it was attracting people I don’t see at many of the bike events I attend: more women, more older folks, speakers of more languages (I think I overheard four) and more variety in people’s colors and cultures. I don’t know what the reason might be. But organized bike advocacy can sometimes feel like a small tent. If e-bikes can help us build a bigger one over the years to come, that’ll be exciting.

CORRECTION: This story was originally published with the price of the Faraday Porteur S as $2,700. The price is $2,499. Sorry for any confusion.

— Michael Andersen, (503) 333-7824 – michael@bikeportland.org

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Hello, Kitty
Subscriber
Hello, Kitty

I have no “moral” problem with e-bikes, (and I think they can be very fun to ride) but I can’t help but feel uneasy when I see someone cruising in a bike lane at high speed on what seems to be a low-powered electric motorcycle in the form of a bike. On the other hand, we’ve always had speed differentials between cyclists. Nonetheless, e-bikes may become more of an issue as they gain popularity.

Planenut
Guest
Planenut

I’m sold, the only thing holding me back is the price. I did attend this weekend and rode lots of different bikes, I even have a favorite picked out. As I am getting older, the grind going up the Glenn Jackson bridge into Vancouver after a long day at work is really becoming a drag. This “drag” can be significantly reduced with an ebike and I would still have my other bikes for recreational riding. Who knows, maybe I would even get rid of my car, wouldn’t that be great

dan
Guest
dan

USFS has, at times, used “motorized’ and “mechanized” interchangeably when referring to mt. bike access; typically when trying to justify denying said access. I would imagine e-Mt Bikes will further muddy that water.

GlowBoy
Guest
GlowBoy

Yikes! On the comments about mountain biking. On road, it makes sense to allow e-bikes on bike oriented facilities because they mostly operate at a fundamentally much lower speed than motorized vehicles. So it makes sense NOT to consider them motorcycles.

On trails, though? The distinction between an e-bike and a motorcycle is much less clear. I doubt we are moving towards a situation where e-bikes are allowed on all MTB trails; more likely (and hopefully), we will find them banned on all MTB trails.

“Fat bikes wear the same as an e-bike.” Bullcrap. Weight is not the only issue (erosion or otherwise) that e-bikes raise on trails.

Jon
Guest
Jon

It is very disturbing to see eBikes sold to be used on single track trails. Anyone that likes to bicycle in the woods on single track trails should be aware that motorized bicycles used on mixed used single track will be the quickest way to get human powered bicycles banned from trails everywhere.

Jimmy M D
Guest
Jimmy M D

Interesting perspectives but the main point missing is the all the fun ebikes are to ride. The newest shop in town is the Pedego ebike store downtown. They rent them so you can try before you buy. http://www.pedego.com

J_R
Guest
J_R

As a sailor for more than fifty years I’ve witnessed the invention of personal water craft and the accompanying degradation of civility on the water. It appears to me that the increase in the ability to go fast effortlessly has allowed all manner of idiots to take to the water with little understanding of the effects of waves and weather and the impact on other users, such as canoes, sailboats and even swimmers.

I rather expect e-bike will lead to similar behavior issues on MUPs and bike lanes. Futhermore, for those choosing to replace their autos with e-bikes, I expect rather a lot of road rash due to the users’ inexperience with road hazards such as wet pavement, slippery manhole covers, gravel, etc. It will be really easy to attempt a corner under wet conditions at 15 mph with catastrophic results.

I hope for the best, but am fearful of the possibilities.

Herrsprocket
Guest
Herrsprocket

When at the Expo, the topic of Oregon electric assisted legal speed limits came up a number of times, sometimes during the “presentation” of the vendor, or from my own inquisitions regarding such matters. I repeatedly kept hearing the 28 mph speed limit as the legal end of the speed range, and then those limits were restricted to paths or lanes. The answers varied, with some saying the limit was 20mph in general but that there were places where it can be 28. Even during the discussion present here on the forum, I see that other folks also have the impression that 28 is the limit here in Oregon.

California, Oregon, and Washington all have rather progressive laws regarding the legal status of what is an ebike and what their limitations are with regard to speeds, power and places they can be used. Those 3 states “used to be” very similar in their definitions with regard to ebikes. However, California just passed a new bill ( that went into effect this past January), that redefined the characteristics of various ebikes and the consequent laws that pertain to “each” category. There are 3 “types” of electric assisted bikes in California with the first two being in one way or another being limited to 20 mph. The third allows speeds of 28 mph.

As far as I know, Oregon (ORS. 801.258) and Washington both “still” have their limits as being 20 mph (with slight wording differences, but really the same intent). If someone knows otherwise that there are codes or statutes that show that the legal speeds allow and specifically state a 28 mph limit, please step forward to help us keep this discussion on an “informed” track, so that we may make assertions and opinions on more knowledgeable information.

Since I asked specifically what those “Oregon” laws were and kept getting what I believe to be California laws told back to me, I think that the vendors need to be clearer to their specific audience so that we aren’t misinformed and we can have a more lucid understanding of what is applicable here in our backyard.

I for one applaud the ushering in of an alternative transportation modality such as what the ebike offers and would like to see that market/mindset mature and proliferate.

Anne Hawley
Subscriber
Anne Hawley

I attended the event and found my ideal ebike among the four I tested. Now to start saving my money to buy it. I’d never ridden an e-assist bike for more than a few feet in a parking garage, so it was very convincing to really give one a while around the larger course, with the ramp.

I went from vendor to vendor looking for a large enough step-through frame to even get on and test (a small-frame “lady’s” bike is like riding a clown bike for me). One guy–the eMotion rep, I think–said “We don’t make a large frame. We switched to vanity sizing last year and now instead of small-medium-large, we sell extra-small, small, and medium.” Ugh.

I was surprised (not agreeably) that they had no bike parking when I went at opening on Friday afternoon. It says a lot about who their target market is, I suppose. The place was packed, though, so clearly it wasn’t an issue for most.

DC
Subscriber

Thanks for the nice report, Michael. I was there Saturday and noticed the same thing: more people of varying types than at usual bike events. And other than the obvious draw for older riders with less strength, like you I couldn’t figure out why…

Portland's Electric Bicycle Shop
Guest

Rain Waters
This is nice and clear;
NO
MOTORIZED
VEHICLES
Recommended 1

Au Contraire!

Oregon Law Electric assisted bicycles are Bicycles not motorized vehicles. Here is the law.

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.

Phil Richman
Subscriber

Having just glanced down at my odometer yesterday I realized in less than a year I’ve ridden (without sweating) over 3000 miles on my electric assisted Big-Dummy that has a governor on the assist at 20MPH (the legal limit). For me “20 is plenty,” I only feel speed-deficient for brief moments of time in limited areas of town mostly along the Vermont & Newbury Bridges on Barbur Blvd in the mornings or evenings. When I inevitably pass the cars stopped at the Terwilliger or Hamilton stoplight this deficient feeling quickly reverses into joy and satisfaction that only comes from being outside and pedaling. From hauling Gerald Fittipaldi on the Thursday Night Ride last week to taking my partner on dates across town or our children to school or activities the ONLY regret I have for not owning an electric-assisted bike is I did not do it sooner. Shout out to Splendid Cycles for changing my life for the better almost 4 years ago.

dan
Guest
dan

it’s interesting, the eBike marketing language, in my opinion, is quite similar to that used for selling cars-

“BH Emotion’s Neo Jumper stays true to the Neo range and combines elegant design & electronics to give you the perfect off road ebike experience. It offers a full suspension frame on 27″ off road tires ensuring you stay stuck to the harsh terrain and also ride in comfort.

The revolutionary RDS system delivers a smooth and progressive amount of power to the rider. You have access to 4 different riding modes including Eco, Standard, Sport & Boast via the LCD control unit on the handlebar.”

GlowBoy
Guest
GlowBoy

I’d prefer that the statute limit e-bikes to 15mph in assist mode, rather than 20mph. That’s plenty fast on flat and uphill bike lanes.

And 28mph is insanity. If you can go nearly 28mph under power, you’re on a motor vehicle, no matter how the law defines it.

Herrsprocket
Guest
Herrsprocket

Here is the information that I have regarding the Oregon laws and statutes that are relevant to electric assist bicycles (copied directly from the Oregon Laws dot org site and is also verbatim in Ray Thomas’s Pedal Power: A legal guide for Oregon Bicyclists):

ORS 801.258 “Electric assisted bicycle.”
“Electric assisted bicycle” means a vehicle that:
(1) Is designed to be operated on the ground on wheels;
(2) Has a seat or saddle for use of the rider;
(3) Is designed to travel with not more than three wheels in contact with the
ground;
(4) Has both fully operative pedals for human propulsion and an electric motor; and
(5) Is equipped with an electric motor that:
(a) Has a power output of not more than 1,000 watts; and
(b) Is incapable of propelling the vehicle at a speed of greater than 20 miles
per hour on level ground.

814.405¹
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.

I can find no reference or statute regarding the 28 mph limit, nor any clear legal citing with regard to speeds beyond 20 mph whether pedal assisted, no pedaling, etc. If someone can please elucidate us with a specific legal code, statute, or ordinance, that information would be very helpful in keeping the conversation in a consistent fact based dialogue. Since I have referred to Oregon State Laws, perhaps there is a city ordinance that I am unaware of that deals directly with electric assist issues and specifically addresses the speed limits of ebikes, whether they are on the roadway, a bike lane, or a MUP.

As one can easily see, there are concerns regarding the speeds and safety of the cyclist and the fellow road user when it comes to the use of the ebike as a tool for transportation. We will have a much clearer dialogue and can work forward if we have all the correct information. Again, if someone can cite exact laws or ordinances beyond what I have listed above, that would be very helpful.

Cheers

Hopeful
Guest

I’ve test ridden ebikes at Splendid (Bionx 350- loved it) at Clever (Stokemonkey- hated it) and at the Ebike Store (Don’t remember).

Every time I’ve asked staff about electric assists I’m told that their product is ‘The best’ and that everything else out there is inferior. Maybe this is a good place to ask: Where should I look for a pedal assist (Like the Bionx 350) where I can get a ‘Working man’s’ electric assist similar to the Bionx 350 for cheapest? I want to put it on a 2015 Edgerunner. Also, I’ve been told that it would cost me 2000 to buy an electric assist and have it installed. How is that possible when I can buy an entire electric asserted bike for under 1300?

Hopeful
Guest

I’m not looking for a $1300 Ebike. I’m looking for a safe and respectable electric assist add on to my edgerunner that won’t cost $2000.

Clint
Guest

Hopeful, Check out Luna cycle for inexpensive high quality diy ebike components. They have the bafang for $535 and you can get a decent size battery with quality cells for under $500.

B. Carfree
Guest
B. Carfree

While I don’t own an e-bike and don’t intend to buy one for a couple of decades, I’m thrilled that they are finally making inroads here in the US. A couple of things that excite me have already been mentioned, like getting more people to ride and their ability to bring riders of widely varying abilities together (couples, families, etc). I’ve been seeing some hefty folks riding out in the local hills with their e-bikes the last couple of years and it is clear that this is not something they would have done without some assist. Their smiles as they ride along light up my world.

However, the real game-changer for me is that we may find ourselves with a large number of folks riding along at 20+ mph. This will eventually force traffic engineers to stop designing bike infrastructure as though everyone rides at 8 mph. Also, if we get a similar boom in use as Asia and Europe, our narrow little gutter lanes will become so obviously inadequate that we just may get some real road space.

B. Carfree
Guest
B. Carfree

I did have to laugh at the quote from the Trek rep. who said one couldn’t average 25 mph on an unassisted bike. When I was much younger, I averaged 25 mph for 200 miles on a 1981 Trek touring bike. Also, my 25 mile each way commute almost never took me over an hour each way. While it is likely quite true that very few people can ride at those speeds, it seems silly to say it is impossible.

Brian
Guest
Brian

Bring on the E-bike army! They make great draftees.

John Liu
Guest
John Liu

One thing I wonder about: if the goal is to get around without effort, then rather than get an e-bike, why not simply get a (modern, four stroke) scooter?

The scooter will allow the rider to go on any road other than a freeway, matching car speeds. It has no range restriction. It likely has a legshield, mug holder, and can be fitted with a windscreen. It has a real headlight, brake light, turn signals. It has wide tires, suspension, hydraulic disc brakes. At 20+ mph, it will handle and stop better than most e-bikes. And said scooter will cost less than almost every e-bike mentioned in the article.

For example, a Honda Metropolitan 49 cc scooter goes 35 mph, gets >100 mph, costs about $2,300 new (street price). If you are okay with some obscure Chinese makes, you can get a new scooter for $1000.

Granted, you can’t ride a scooter in bike lanes. But you don’t need to, because you can ride it in the traffic lanes. As BP readers know, there happen to be a whole lot more traffic lanes than bike lanes in the city.

Thus, I think another reason that e-bikes are not taking off, besides those already mentioned, is that the commercial brands are offering e-bikes with very poor value for money.

$4000 for an e-bike that is far slower, has poorer handling, offers far shorter range, and is less comfortable than a $1000-$2000 scooter. An e-bike you can’t even ride at car speeds or in the traffic lanes, but yet is too heavy (60-90 lb!) for the target market to comfortably pedal unassisted, or even to carry up some stairs or hang on a MAX train hook. And riding that e-bike won’t do a darn thing for your waistline or heart.

Doesn’t add up. Overpriced niche product. Draws lookers, but when they do the sums, few buyers.

chris
Guest
chris

these look fun and useful, but not really in the price range of the working class, (sadly like most of portland these days). i guess i’ll just be content with getting sweaty on my $100 ugly late 80s rockhopper until they start showing up used on CL in a few years.

BPJ
Guest
BPJ

I would think they’d be able to put handle and seat warmers on e-bikes. I agree on the comments for more road space and, generally, slower cities of neighborhoods – walkable. The further one gets from that, the more you miss in life. I wouldn’t mind a 14 mph e-assist, either.

Steve
Guest
Steve

I’ve seen a few posts here about the high prices of ebikes. And it’s true, most of them (the better ones, anyway) will set you back at least $2,000. But there are still some decent choices for less, like the EG Athens 250 for $1,200, the GenZe bike for $1,500, or any of a number of kits that can be added to standard bikes.

Obviously these less expensive bikes won’t appeal to everyone, but for casual riders who are just wanting to “get into the game” to try an ebike for a year or two, these cheaper options may be entirely viable.

I recently test rode the GenZe myself and was impressed with it. And as soon as I’m able to convince my wife SHE should be impressed with it too, I’ll buy one. 😉 I live in Beaverton, just four miles from my office. I dislike taking 3,000lbs of steel to work with me everyday, and an ebike (I have bad legs from military service) would help me get one more car off the road. Now, as for the lack of suitable bike lanes in Beaverton…that’s an entirely different story.

Walter
Guest

Nowadays, we can use e – bikes as a vehicle to experience thrilling adventures.

Dori
Guest
Dori

QualDude, my personal experience writing on bike pads is as you say. The people who ride fast and dangerous are not the E bikers, they are the road bikers who travel at about 24 to 27 miles per hour. They cut very close to you as they pass by and most of the time they don’t let you know that they’re going to pass you. So it really comes down to the person riding the bicycle or the e-bike. It’s the individual not the type of bike they are writing that can be the problem.