Did you hear? Electric bikes are the new green hotness, so sayeth CNN.
CNN.com just wrote a piece titled "Will e-bikes be the new 'commuter cool'?" that highlights some of the benefits e-bike riders see like improved health and having to drive cars less. Husband and wife Keith and Mary Felch of Aliso Viejo, Calif., have cut their car driving by 50 percent and dropped tens of pounds of weight since buying their e-bikes from Optibike.
I can also personally attest to both benefits. I've been riding two electric bikes as my exclusive mode of transportation (save a few bus trips and bummed rides) since mid-summer. I've been pedaling around on the Izip Trekking Enlightened by Currie Tech* and the Classic Comfort Cruiser by Pedego* and have enjoyed a higher level of fitness and have saved a ton of loot from not having to maintain a car (I sold mine when I moved into downtown Portland, Maine, in June).
There's a third benefit to electric bikes that CNN neglected to mention — they're fun (and that's more important than it may sound). Electric bikes are a blast to ride around on. The Comfort Cruiser goes 20 mph on flat ground on battery power alone. When I crank down and pedal I can add another 10+ mph, putting me at the same speed as most cars driving around Portland. Because I (safely) go through red lights, I nearly always travel faster than vehicular traffic from point to point. That's fun.
Cruising up steep hills at high speeds with only moderate effort is fun. Passing serious cyclists wearing spandex jerseys on expensive carbon fiber road machines while on a bike that looks like a 50-pound monster beach cruiser is a lot of fun.
Nearly every person I've put on one of the e-bike comes back reluctantly with a big grin on their face. When people feel the electric assisted acceleration from the Izip Trekking Enlightened, they tell me it reminds them of how fun bike riding was as a kid. Speed is fun. E-bikes are fun.
I've had a few bike snob friends sniff about my e-bikes and how easy it must be to get around town, almost as if I'm cheating. That's one of the beauties of e-bikes, you can take it easy. You can get to work or school without being a sweat sodden mess. But at the same time, you can put the pedal to the floor and get to where you need to go really, really fast, while getting a great workout.
Watch for the explosive proliferation of e-bikes in the United States over the next few years. The strongest growth will come out of cities with strong bike lane systems like Portland, Ore., and Boulder, Colo., but eventually there won't be a town around not filled with people going to and fro on e-bikes.
*- In the spirit of full disclosure and so the FTC doesn't break down my door, I should note that both my electric bikes were provided to me for free for a few months so I can write about and review them. They will be going back to the manufacturer when I'm done with my review period.
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