Published on July 8th, 2018 | by Kyle Field0
My Month Commuting With An eBike (#CleanTechnica Review)
July 8th, 2018 by Kyle Field
Back in when I was in school, I rode my bike miles and miles each day. It took me to school, around in the local mountains and to all of my various sporting events. Looking back, I realize that it was a great way to stay in shape but it didn’t feel like a workout at the time. It was generally lots of fun and very practical.
All of that changed when I bought a car. All of a sudden, it was easy to travel for miles and miles. I found that I would just start out on a drive on my day off work, driving for hundreds of miles with no real destination in mind. I would end up in new towns, driving on new freeways and exploring the vast landscapes of California. It was 4 hours to the nearest border, so we ventured into Mexico for the occasional holiday. Gas was cheap and I had money, so driving was a great way to see the world.
I eventually went on a road trip from Southern California up to Vancouver, Canada, just for fun. I loved to drive but more than that, I loved – and still love – to see new places.
I’m 38 now and I find myself being drawn back to biking. Before our home burned in the fires last year, we lived up on a hill, so I have been casually searching for an ebike that would be a good fit for commuting, mountain bike riding and casual riding with my family. My excuse was that we lived up on a hill and that anywhere I’d go, it would all be downhill, making the afternoon commute home all uphill. It’s simple, but that fact kept me from embracing biking as a means of getting around for years.
The condominium we are renting while we rebuild is near the beach, where the land is flat, making it perfect for biking. Our family has been given a few bikes and I’ve been fortunate enough to have had a few different ebikes to review over the last couple of weeks. The challenge is that now, we live ~25 minutes away from the school my children attend, near our old home. We wanted to keep them there to minimize the disruptions to their routines as they have friends, schedules, and the like that we’d love for them to keep.
Finally, the summer is here, meaning the kids go to stay with their grandparents during the week, giving me precious time to test out my longstanding plan to commute by bike. Of course, I work remotely, so I have to fabricate an excuse to leave, so I head off to a local coffee shop back in our hometown of Ventura, California. That makes the ride itself pointless but does serve to replicate a commute and helps me to both get out of the house and to stay in shape at the same time.
Which brings me to my first point. Biking to work might seem like an insurmountable challenge, but stepping back to look at the many benefits is a fun way to justify doing it. My first justification was that it was only ~10 minutes extra each way for me to ride to ‘work’ at the local coffee shop. I look at that as my workout time which means I spend 50 minutes riding 13 miles each day…but it really only takes me 20 minutes extra. Being able to use my getting to work time as an actual workout is a very efficient use of my time and gets my workout for the day in.
Second, my Prius would have burned just over one quart of gasoline to get me to the coffee shop and back, which at today’s pricing is just under $1. That’s not a lot, but it’s fun to think that I save $1 each time I ride to work and back.
Those savings stack on top of the real savings of not having to own, insure, maintain, and park a car, which can very easily mount up to thousands of dollars per year. If you’re saving thousands of dollars per year, it isn’t too much of a stretch to say that you could spend a few thousand in one year to buy a nice ebike to make the commute a reality.
Biking to work or school is also a great way to see your city from a new perspective. Being in a car allows you to ignore what’s on the side of the road and even what’s next to that. I specifically notice now that most of our bike paths in Ventura and Oxnard are extremely poorly maintained. To build up a biking culture, good quality, safe roads are a must and that takes work. Biking around is the best way to identify what the real problems are and to start dreaming up real solutions. Come with me, be a dreamer!
I’m not a strong biker, and the first ebike I reviewed, the Gazelle Easyflow, gave me the confidence I needed to head out to make that commute the first few times. There is a a strong side wind that blows in from the ocean along the majority of the commute both ways and a headwind for part of it. The ebike doesn’t do all the work for me, but it does allow me to get where I’m going faster.
I can choose to ride in an easier gear, with no assist from the electric motor, all the way up to high assist. I typically ride with the high assist when I’m commuting and still end up sweating a bit by the time I get to the coffee shop. I could take it easier and take a few extra minutes but I like the workout. It’s half the point, after all.
As I discussed at length in my review of the bike, the Gazelle Easyflow is a fantastic ebike for commuting, as it is very comfortable, making longer rides less wearing on my rear end. It’s also a durable bike with a very solid rack on the rear that easily holds my backpack or an additional set of bags made for a bike. That takes the load off my back and puts it squarely back onto the electric motor, making my commute that much easier. As I get in better shape, I aspire to use less of the electrical assist…or maybe just use my not-so-jello-like legs to get there that much faster.
What’s even more exciting is that there are all shapes and sizes of ebikes being developed now that lithium ion batteries are so cheap. There are electrified road bikes, mountain bikes (I’m looking at you Tedd), commuters, city bikes, kid bikes, fun bikes, and cargo bikes. I’d encourage you to go look around to at least try a bike that could be a good fit for you and seriously consider giving biking a shot. It has been way more fun and way more pleasurable than I had originally thought. I’d wager that you would find the same to be true.
Over the last few weeks, I have supremely enjoyed exploring new ways to get around and feel that the new modes of electrified, partially electrified, or completely manual zero-emission forms of transportation that are being developed are changing the way our cities will work. I don’t want my kids to take cars to work when they’re my age, even if they are fully autonomous and get you around for pennies on the dollar. It’s so much more fun to get out and try a new mode of transportation to get to work. Better yet, invent a new way to get to work. The world is your oyster and the future is now. Let’s get to work on making it a reality!