People are beginning to notice that electric cars are good from a sustainability point of view, but e-bikes are even better from a materials perspective alone. They are also easier a bit easier to park. That’s why you see loads of them in cities. But, how do they fare out in the suburbs? Here’s a second look at the powerful Soltera from Aventon on a 20-mile suburb-to-city commute.
This Urban E-Bike Loves The Country…
If Soltera rings a bell, maybe you’re thinking of that dead-of-winter review I did last February. It was too cold for a long ride, so I took it on a winding road that winds through the local nature preserve.
That was supposed to be a short ride-and-review spin for a couple of miles out and back, but the Soltera was so much fun I just kept going. I ended up with frozen toes, frozen fingers, and 13 miles on the odometer.
It was well worth the time. The Soltera is billed as a one-gear city bike, but it took every upgrade in my semi-mountainous area in stride thanks to 5 power modes (a throttle is also available but I didn’t need it).
Here’s what I had to say about that:
“The Soltera looks like a purring tiger of an e-bike and the Hill of Doom proves it. The bike cycles through power modes effortlessly and gives you a punchy, springy glide downhill on those skinny tires. I didn’t even notice the absence of a gearshift, and when I got back home I still had almost 80% of the battery in hand, even after liberal usage of the electric motor on the uphill climbs.”
…And It Really, Really Loves Commuting
That still left the question of how the bike would perform on a long (9 miles in) suburban-to-city commute in rush hour traffic, mostly on a 4-lane county road, with no bike lanes. Seriously, none. Not even a “share the road” sign.
So finally, last week the weather warmed up and it stopped raining, and I took the Soltera to work. Without kicking in a power mode, this bike handled the mild upgrades with minimal effort. Where it did need a bit of assist, toggling between modes 1 and 2 did the trick, no need to use modes 3, 4, or 5. A 9-mile ride that started out with 99% battery concluded with 93% battery and no need to change shirts at the office, which is a big deal for people who are expected to show up to work dry.
Depending on your route and your parking situation, an e-bike can also save money, time, or both. The parking garage near my office is a multi-level building and it takes time to divert over there, go up a few levels to find a space, and walk back a couple of blocks to the office. So the e-bike commute took a few minutes longer on the road, but I made up for lost time by parking it right under my office building.
Door to door, the full 9 miles only took about 10 minutes longer by e-bike. That’s pretty impressive considering that I wasn’t pushing for speed.
Also, if you have to pay for parking, that’s something else to consider. And, if there is a logjam of cars waiting to get out of your parking garage at the end of the day, that’s another bad thing you can avoid with an e-bike.
It Also Makes The Impossible, Possible
As for commuting in general, an e-bike can overcome whatever obstacle was preventing you from riding a bike to work. Anyways, that’s my experience. My inbound commute starts at a higher elevation, and the route bumps up and down a stretch of lower hills for about 8 miles before leveling out for another mile or so. That would be a piece of cake on any bike, except if you don’t want to arrive at work in a sweat.
Time is also a consideration. My door-to-door commute by car is about 35 minutes, the Soltera door-to-door only took about 45 minutes. It would have taken me a good hour or more on a regular bike, the difference being that an e-bike enables you to maintain good speed going uphill.
Traffic is another thing to think about. Morning traffic on a county thoroughfare is actually not too bad around 8:30, once the morning school drop-off is over. The evening commute, in contrast, is a mess due to the additional traffic from after-school activities, after-work activities, errand-running, and whatever else.
So, the evening commute is the real test for me, because it involves an alternate route that avoids the county road, but adds an extra two miles and a lot of extra elevation going up and over a mountain (a smallish mountain, but still a mountain).
The Soltera did everything I asked, no matter how steep the grade. Even with all the extra mileage and climbing, I arrived back home with 57% on the battery on a total of 20 miles.
How About A High Tech Air Pump For Your New E-Bike?
For the record, I’m not the only Aventon fan around here. Just a couple of months ago CleanTechnica’s Jo Borrás reviewed the next-generation Aventon Pace e-bike lineup and took note of all the new bells and whistles.
Adding to the fun, Aventon has just paired up with Fanttik to co-brand the company’s flagship battery-powered X8 Apex Air Inflator.
Fanttik is a startup better known for its work in the auto sector, and the e-bike hookup is a natural.
“Utilizing advanced technology and a powerful motor, X8 APEX boasts 50% faster inflation speeds when compared to other inflators with accuracy within ±1 psi. The inflator takes five minutes to fill a single car tire with zero air pressure and has enough power to inflate six 185/65 R15 tires from 0 to 2.4bar when fully charged,” the company enthuses, but don’t worry about popping a tire on your e-bike. The X8 APEX includes presets to prevent such a thing from occurring.
Extras include automatic detection of existing tire pressure, built-in pressure monitoring, a tri-level LED light for night use, and a USB port in case you want to charge your phone on it.
An E-Bike In Every Garage
Of course, riding any kind of bike to work requires a particular set of circumstances, which many people don’t have. Park-and-bike is one way to wedge at least some bicycling into a commute, but that option is not a universal one, either.
Mass transit plus bike is another option, though rules for bringing bikes on trains and buses vary from one jurisdiction to another.
For that matter, commuting by bike is not an everyday event, due to weather, after-work errands and other obstacles.
Still, e-bikes can create an opportunity where none may have existed before. It’s well worth giving one a try if you can. I haven’t checked out the Pace series or other Aventon models yet, but they are definitely on my list.
Follow me on Twitter @TinaMCasey.
Photo: Aventon Soltera e-bike by Tina Casey.