1) What is an ebike?
An ebike, also known as an electric bike, is a regular bike with the addition of a motor, battery, and display. These additions are designed to assist a rider. It’s a bike with a boost.
2) What type of people should consider an ebike?
An ebike is ideal for anyone who wants a workout (studies show you get 94% of the aerobic benefit compared with riding a non-assisted bike), wants to arrive less sweaty and exhausted, haul a heavy load, have a sense of certainty when you will arrive for an appointment, ride with a faster friend, get outdoor exercise even with physical limitations, reduce auto trips, and extend biking into the colder months.
When you think about bicycle advocacy today, what comes to mind is probably the work of the non-profit groups and passionate individuals who work with elected officials and municipal transportation agencies to get more bike lanes and trails—bicycling infrastructure. This is certainly one of the things they do, but there is a lot more. According to Kevin Dekkinga, Director of Membership at the League of American Bicyclists and guest speaker at the May 11, 2021 meeting of the Chicago Cycling Club, this national advocacy group was founded in 1880 in Newport R.I. around the issue of infrastructure—they were proponents of the good roads movement that advocated for changing the gravel and dirt roads and creating smooth, paved surfaces that could be used for the high wheel bicycles that were popular at that time. Kevin quipped that the League was involved with gravel before gravel was cool! Fast forward to the present and the League is still advocating for infrastructure for bicycling, but they also have in their mission to educate and encourage and have the programs to support it.
May is National Bike Month again this year as it has been since 1956. Promoted by the League of American Bicyclists and organizations across the country that include community groups, bike clubs, and workplaces, and it shines a spotlight on the many benefits of cycling. Now that we are at the beginning of the traditional high cycling season in many parts of the country, this month is a great time to think about what cycling means to us and our communities and to encourage others to give it a try. There are special events and challenges though out the month, so if you want to be inspired and add more cycling to your life, now is the time to begin.
If you have an electric bike you know it is more expensive than a non-electric bike so if you want to leave it unattended at any time, you will need a good locking system. While most of the techniques for bicycle security carry over, there are some factors unique to an ebike such protecting the battery, display, integrated lights, wiring harnesses and the wheel that might contain the motor that you should take into consideration to assure your bike is still there and operational when you return to where you left it.
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.
Sharon Kaminecki and others comment on adventures in bicycling and other stories