If you’re shopping for your first ebike, you’ve probably discovered that prices vary a lot. There are many different styles of bikes where a boost can be applied, such as hybrid, road, mountain, cruiser, tricycle, recumbent, fat tire, folding, cargo, and the style you choose will have an impact on price. But even within a given style, there is a wide difference in prices. If you have a fixed budget, it is what it is, but if you have some flexibility in how much you are able to spend, how much you should invest and what are you giving up by going with a cheaper ebike?
What makes an ebike different from an acoustic bike is the motor, battery, and display. When deciding on which ebike to purchase, your first priority should be to find a bike that accommodates your primary style of biking. Popular bike styles are urban, hybrid, mountain, road, recumbent, folding, fat tire, etc. Second in consideration might be the motor, whether hub or mid drive and the brand of motor followed by the power and range of the battery. The display is far enough down the list that it will probably not be a significant factor in impacting the ebike you select, but it is good to understand the options and determine in advance if you will be satisfied with the display that comes with the ebike.
The bike experts at the League of American Bicyclists recommend you do five things to increase your safety while riding a bike: 1) follow the laws, 2) be predictable, 3) be visible, 4) think ahead, and 5) be ride ready. Let’s focus on the first one, follow the laws. How can you refresh and grow your knowledge of traffic laws? If you live in Illinois, one way to acquaint yourself with rules of the road is take the Bike Safety Quiz.
The Bicycle Film Festival has been celebrating the cycling lifestyle for 20 years. Each year the organizers collect short films with a cycling theme from local and international film makers, artists, and advocates. In the past, these were viewed at movie theaters in over 90 cities around the world. Over one million people have enjoyed the visual feast and shared their thoughts at watch parties and with groups of friends. Not to be deterred by the pandemic, the festival is being celebrated this year virtually by streaming on a phone, tablet, or computer. The Festival partnered with the local advocacy organization, Active Transportation Alliance and two community groups to add a local connection. The Chicago edition runs from Feb. 24 to Mar. 7 and an online ticket is available for purchase on the Bicycle Film Festival website.
Few people get excited about the topic of safety but it is something we all know we need to take seriously. During a pandemic we are told to be safe by washing our hands, disinfecting surfaces and wearing a mask. At the workplace we take steps to understand hazards and wear protective equipment. At home we lock our doors and windows, shovel our walks of snow and if we have small children, cover electrical outlets and hide cords. In the car we wear a seat belt and follow traffic laws. On the bike, there are also safety protocols, like wearing a helmet and being predictable. But there is one safety practice that is widely recommended even before beginning to ride.
A well-maintained bike is a beautiful thing. You will be able to ride further and with less effort, and the bike will last longer between mechanical issues. Regular maintenance will reduce the likelihood of a catastrophic failure that might leave you stranded, or worse yet, injured. But according to Christopher Wallace, bike mechanic, educator and speaker at the Feb. 10 virtual meeting of the Chicago Cycling Club, even if you are handy with tools and have the basic knowledge to perform preventive maintenance on your bike, there are instances when collaborating with the professionals at a bike shop is the best thing you can do to keep rolling.
Bike frames are made from a variety of materials, the most popular being steel, aluminum, titanium, carbon fiber, and even bamboo. If you are looking for a new bike for commuting, running errands or adventure cycling to exploring new parts of the city, each choice has advantages and disadvantages for price, ride comfort, durability, style, and maintainability. While bike brands usually have standard materials they like to use for their bikes, if you look around you can usually find the bike style and frame material you prefer in a hybrid, road, gravel, mountain, or ebike. Which frame material is the best choice?
The single most important thing a cyclist can do to keep a bike running at its best is to clean and lubricate the bike chain on a regular basis. This is within the skill level of even the most elementary rider and is a low-cost procedure—it only requires at a minimum some bike lubricant and a rag and can be performed indoors in an apartment or garage or outdoors in any environment your bike is in. There are different levels of cleaning from basic, to moderate, to deep cleaning and which procedure you use will depend on the condition of your drive train and how dedicated you are to bike maintenance.
One of the upsides of the COVID-19 pandemic is a boom in outdoor recreation. Activities such as hiking, cycling, boating, fishing, camping, picnicking, and winter activities (skiing, snow shoeing, snowboarding, tobogganing) have seen increased interest. Participation in outdoor recreation usually hovers around 50% of the population, but last year it increased to 69%. As stay-at-home restrictions have relaxed, many people discovered that outdoor pursuits are an appealing response to living with COVID-19. The desire to focus on health and wellness and make the best of these trying times has resulted in more people getting outside to play.
If you are a year round cyclist biking in the harsh conditions of winter you will find these have taken a toll on your bike’s performance. Even if you do not bike when there is snow, ice and salt on the ground, you might someday get caught in the rain or dust and road debris will build up on your bike. Even though bike frames will resist water and grit, dirt can creep into the components and get trapped in the moving parts. A little soap, water, and lubricant applied on a regular basis will boost your bike’s efficiency. But there are some things you should do to get it done and done faster and others you should not.
Sharon Kaminecki and others comment on adventures in bicycling and other stories