The cold weather is setting in, but before the temps plunged I had a chance to put some miles on a big, brassy Nomad 1 fat tire e-bike, the latest creation of the California startup Velotric. Though new on the scene, Velotric knows its bike riders. That’s no surprise because the person heading up the firm is Adam Zhang, co-founder of Lime and the leader of the Lime hardware team from 2017 to 2020.
Know Your E-Bike Riders
E-bikes get some ribbing from cyclists who prefer to pedal without any assistance from an electric motor. The most frequent comment I’ve heard is something to the effect of e-bikes not giving you the same workout as pure pedaling — or any workout at all, for that matter.
That’s not the point, though. If you are looking for the most effective workout per minute, look elsewhere than an e-bike. They are meant for other things, like commuting for example.
Based on my experience of not being able to manage the time or muscle to deal with a 20-mile round trip daily commute over a series of hills on pedal power only, e-bikes make a huge difference. They make zero emission commuting more do-able for people who can’t walk or use mass transit. They make it more financially accessible for people who can’t afford an EV. They can also turn a dreary routine into a fun ride, especially with the added bonus of being able to park at your workplace doorstep instead of detouring to (and paying for) a parking spot for your vehicle.
Also regarding the use of e-bikes for daily commuting, if you don’t have bike lanes on your commute (raises hand), my safety advice is to go with the biggest, loudest-looking e-bike you can find, along with a helmet, reflective clothing and lights, of course. The Nomad 1 they sent me to test came in eye-popping yellow. Seriously, I could hear it screaming from the box. Along with the muscular silhouette and ultra-fat tires, this is a bike that stands out in traffic.
Actually, E-Bikes Are Good For Your Health
Local shopping is another activity where e-bikes offer a good zero emission option. When your packages are too heavy to carry by hand, you could load them up on a regular bicycle, but if your final destination is a house at the top of a steep, nasty hill, an e-bike comes in handy.
For those of you involved in get-out-the-vote activities during election season, e-bikes also make it possible to get more door-to-door canvassing done compared to walking from house to house. In terms of saving time, e-bikes can also stack up well against driving from address to another, especially in suburban areas where the homes have long driveways. You can ride right up to each door instead of parking at the curb and hiking up.
Running errands and going out with friends are a couple of other situations in which one might appreciate having a zero emission mobility option that does not involve arriving at your destination panting, sweating and smelling. If you can think of others, drop us a note in the comment thread.
Meanwhile, Velotric takes note of evidence that a trip on an e-bike can provide at least some level of workout. In a company blog post published last week, Velotric links to a study showing that e-bikers can achieve a “healthy level of activity” as defined by the World Health Organization and the American College of Sports Medicine. The company also pitches e-bikes as a low-impact workout option for seniors.
So, What About The Nomad 1?
Yes, what about it. The Nomad 1 is a big, fun hunk of bike. It’s also beautifully engineered and easy to manage, despite its size. I’m only 5’3″ and I had no trouble maneuvering the Nomad 1 Step-Thru around my backyard for assembly, then over to a nearby parking lot for a quick tryout. Note: the Step-Thru is recommended for people sized 5’1″ to 6’4″; there is also a High-Step version for people 5’6″ to 6’9″.
I test all my e-bikes on a long, steep, straight uphill stretch of road to see if I’d recommend more tryout time before tackling a steep upgrade. The Nomad took the Hill of Doom test in stride. It sailed right up with little to no effort on my part, except for whatever muscles were needed to keep the pedals in motion.
The rest of my usual test ride consists of 10 miles or so up and down a hilly road that winds around the local nature preserve. The Nomad 1 battery is crazy powerful. After checking out all five power modes for the first mile or so I focused more attention on the Shimano 8-speed gearshift, because I like shifting gears. There is nothing like the satisfying sound of a bicycle chain clunking into place. Also they give you something to do with your right hand. There are some pretty steep hills in that nature preserve, but with an assist from Shimano I didn’t have to reach beyond power mode 3 after that first mile.
Before we move on, here are a couple of tips on the Nomad 1.
Number 1: If this is your first e-bike, go to a big parking lot somewhere and ride around for a bit to make sure you know how the power modes respond when you’re in different gears.
Number 2: This bike was pretty easy to assemble at home. The only trouble I had was holding the handlebars in place while tightening the mount. The solution was simple, I propped the front fork on a chair so the mount was facing slightly upwards. The handlebars are embossed with crosshairs so it was easy to fine-tune them into position.
Bikes, E-Bikes, & Liberation
Of course, no e-bike review would be complete without a mention of the pivotal role that bicycles have played in the gender equality movement.
Bike riding was a male-only pursuit in the early days of cycling, until the invention of the step-through frame enabled riding in full skirts. As Susan B. Anthony famously exclaimed in 1896, “bicycles have done more to emancipate women than anything else in the world (h/t to Conde Nast Traveler).”
That still goes for the US, but women elsewhere in the world are still waiting for their moment of two-wheeled emancipation, the most recent example being Iran.
Here in the US, women continue to enjoy two-wheeled, zero emission transportation at will. As for how long that can last when six of the nine justices on the Supreme Court are determined to dig up the past to justify the present, your guess is as good as mine.
Follow me on Twitter @TinaMCasey (for now).
Find me on Mastodon at @Casey@mastodon.green (energy and clean tech) and @Casey@masthead.social (energy, clean tech and ESG).
Image: Courtesy of Velotric.
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