Sustainable Transportation Part 2: Love at first ride. My e-bike experience.

This is the second article in my three part series on sustainable transportation.

On my quest for sustainable transportation methods, I tried out the new e-scooters and considered purchasing my own for quick trips downtown and commuting to the office.  I had also heard of the newer electric bikes and the bike shop down the street was offering free test drives and a scratch-off coupon with savings.  I love biking and I already own three bikes: a road racing bike, a mountain bike, and a commuter bike.  I mostly ride for fun and exercise.  Typically, I forgo the commute or downtown trips via bike because I don’t want to arrive to a show, dinner with friends, or to the office sweaty.  Would the e-bike be better than the e-scooter to get places in a quick, eco-friendly, and less sweaty manner?

I grabbed my helmet and headed to the bike shop on a beautiful spring day.  The bike shop sells the Trek line of e-bikes and I opted to try the Verve+ Lowstep which is built similar to my regular commuter bike.  I adjusted the seat, turned on the Bosch display and stepped up on the bike.

Within a few spins, I engaged the Bosch Active Line motor and was SOLD.  As I was riding through the parking lot towards the street, I felt as if an invisible hand was helping me along.  The Trek Verve+ is known as an electric hybrid bike, or pedal-assist.  The reason it is called an electric hybrid is because you can still use it as a regular non-electric bike with the motor off, or engage the motor for pedal assistance.  This means you still have to pedal, but you get the help of the electric motor.  Some people describe the feeling as “flattening hills” because the motor gives you the feeling or riding a flat surface when tackling a hill.

Bosch display

The Bosch Active Line motor
on the Verve+ offers 4 settings: Eco, Tour, Sport, and Turbo, each with
increasing power.  The motor settings are
operated by the simple + and – buttons on the display by the left thumb.  You can get between 30-80 miles per charge depending
on which settings you use, weight, terrain, and other conditions such as wind.  I’ve been riding short distances (about 5
miles per day) for a week and I still have a half-full battery.  I can charge from this point to full in 1.5
hours, or from an empty battery to fill in 3.5 hours.  Charging is simple in a standard wall outlet.

The big test was the hill near my house that I trudge up in granny gear even on my lightweight road racing bike.  I wanted to see if the e-bike could help me get up the hill mostly sweat-free.  The Trek Verve+ has a 9 speed shifter, so as I headed up the hill I put the electric motor in Turbo and gradually downshifted as needed.  I made it to the top in gear 3 with relative ease.  So I headed back to the bike store and promptly handed over my credit card.  Actually, I waited the requisite 24 hours before making a big purchase, did some more research, and then went back to get it!  I saved $200 because Trek was having a sale and I had $60 in store coupons, so I added on a rear rack so I can use my panniers (saddlebags).

bike
First day commuting!

Pros:

  • Rides smooth and stable,
    feels like a luxury car
  • Easy to use electric motor
    system
  • Fenders included
  • Headlight and flashing rear
    light included
  • Hydraulic brakes
  • Bontrager outfit
  • Super quiet motor, most
    people won’t hear it
  • The lower end of the price
    range for e-bikes

Cons:

  • No regenerative braking
    to re-charge the battery on downhills and straights
  • The seat isn’t as comfy
    as my other commuting bike
  • Even though it’s at the
    lower end of the price range, it is still expensive

I chose the e-bike over
the e-scooter, even though it is a lot more expensive, for the following
reasons:

  • The e-bikes are made better and last longer
  • The ride is much smoother on the e-bike
  • The e-bike is faster
  • I can carry lots of cargo on the e-bike (laptop, food, books, etc.)
  • I feel more visible and safer in traffic on the e-bike
  • I get exercise on the e-bike

I am very happy with the e-bike
and happy to arrive sweat-free (or less sweaty) to my destination.  I tend to stay in Eco or Tour mode so I still
get a leg workout, but don’t get me wrong, I put that baby in Turbo for the
hills around here!  Now I need to go sell my non-electric commuter bike
and cancel my gym membership.

If you are not into the e-bikes, next month’s Part 3 post will be about the plug-in Prius Prime vs. Tesla Model 3. Stay tuned.

Read Sustainable Transportation Part 1: My e-scooter experience. Is it worth it?

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