Riding bikes is fun. The wind’s in your hair, and you’re right out there in the environment. Not like in a car, where the all the glass and plastic make a drive to the store like watching reality teevee.
On a bike you travel at a nice pace to see all the things around you. Walking, the stimuli comes at you too slow. In a car, the details whiz past you in a blur.
But riding bikes is hard. Especially up hills. Or into the wind. Or if you’re out of shape.
Welcome to the 21st century. Technology has taken the pain out of cycling with new pedal-assist bikes. These are bikes with motors that augment your pedaling. There’s no twisting throttle, like on a motorcycle. Instead, the motor engages when you push the pedals. The harder you pedal, the more the motor boosts your effort.
Maybe you want to go riding with your friends, but they’re all lycra and spandex coated fitness models who log thirty miles a day on their bikes, and a double century on the weekend. Maybe you blew out your knee fifteen years ago, and you haven’t quite got around to getting back in shape yet. Maybe you racked up a DWI coming home from your twentieth class reunion and the judge took away your license but you still have to get to work. You, then, are a candidate for a pedal assist bicycle.
There are reasons to not ride a pedal-assist bike. Maybe you want to race. Races, generally, don’t let cyclists use motors. Or maybe you’re a bike tourist. That pedal assist bikes only have a range of about 60 miles between charges. Or maybe you don’t have the jack. Pedal assist bikes are kind of expensive.
They look, mostly, just like regular bikes. The down tubes are generally fatter, to accommodate the battery. On older models, the rear hubs are sometimes as big as a fat stack of pancakes, to accommodate a torque sensor and a motor. Newer models put the motor between the pedals. All that extra equipment makes them heavier, so lugging them in and out of your house might be a problem, and your car’s bike rack might collapse under the load and spread you fractured e-bike all over I-10 like a bike parts yard sale.
Crazy Cat Cyclery sells Specialized pedal-assist bicycles. (Crazy Cat is also one of El Chuqueño’s advertisers.) Sal Hernandez, the manager at the University store, says they sell the e-bikes almost as fast as they order them.
“We have five coming in, but three of them are already sold,” he said. “We have one in stock.”
Specialized makes pedal assist bicycles for mountain biking and urban commuting. The mountain version is called the Levo, and the Urban commuting version is called the Vado. Both come in three models, with options affecting top-speed and battery life. Prices range from $3200 for the base level urban commuter to $9500 for a top-of-the-line mountain bike.
“We’ve sold about 15 mountain bikes, and about 30 of the urban commuting models,” Sal told me. “I just borrowed one to grab lunch, and I didn’t even break a sweat. The pedal assist bikes really level out the hills.”
Here’s a short video Specialized is using to promote the Vado pedal assist bike. “It’s you,” the tagline say, “only faster.”