Friday, October 29, 2010

Kalkhoff USA Donates Ebike to City of Portland

Mayor Sam Adams and the new Kalkhoff Agattu
On Thursday, October 28, Green Light Bicycles, the US distributor of Kalkhoff electric and traditional bikes, donated one of their Agattu ebikes to Mayor Sam Adam's office. Included in the donation were some additional accessories, including a bag for the handlebars, a ulock to supplement the built-in rear wheel lock, and a complementary bag of their custom coffee roast, “e-spresso”.

When considering which model to donate, Kalkhoff USA asked for feedback from the staff on the other ebike in the Mayor's office, a Sanyo Eneloop. The Agattu was selected because it's a bit larger than the Eneloop, has a bit more speed, and finally, staff requested a step-through frame. It's a comprehensively equipped ebike, with dynamo-driven front and rear lights, the aforementioned rear wheel lock, and an integrated bell in the brake lever, something I missed in my original review. It retails for $2,499.
The city's new Agattu ebike.
Following brief remarks, Mayor Adams took the Agattu for an inaugural spin around the plaza in front of city hall. Todd Seres, from Kalkhoff USA, helped staff members familiarize themselves with the operation and use of the new ebike. They seemed enthusiastic about ebikes, and reported often using them to ride to meetings – an additional one will increase the options available for them. I suggested they add ebikes to the city's Women on Bikes curriculum, as well. Do you have any other ideas for ways the city (and Metro, who offers ebikes in their motor pool as well) or other organizations could use ebikes as shared vehicles?

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

The eBike Shelf: Mastering Cycling, by John Howard

I didn't expect "Mastering Cycling", by John Howard, to be completely relevant to people on ebikes, as it's targeted to Masters class (30+ years of age) racers, but I was pleasantly surprised to find several chapters with some good tips for anyone on an ebike. Turns out the title has a double meaning - it's both about Masters racing, and about perfecting your skills as an everyday cyclist.

Written by a cycling racing coach with many years of experience and an impressive array of clients, Mastering Cycling is an easy read, and it has some good take-aways. In particular, I found the chapters on Bike Setup and Perfecting Bike-Handling Skills to be particularly interesting. Many, if not most, ebikes aren't configured or designed to the perfect racing form. Likewise, many cars aren't designed to be F-1 stars. Understanding the compromises made between optimum efficiency and comfort or cargo-carrying capacity helped me understand my riding preferences, and make some subtle, yet significant changes.

To the cycling racer, chapters on nutrition, seasonal training, and race strategy would no doubt be vital information to build a successful Masters racing season, or career. To the ebiker, it's also useful to know what the racers we often ride with are anticipating in terms of traffic flow.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

The Last Hurrah: NW Portland Sunday Parkways

The fenders are on the bike, it's starting to get dark early, and I pulled out the heavy rain gear. That can only mean one thing - summer's drawing to an end. But we're not done yet!  This Sunday is the final of the five Sunday Parkways planned for this year. This month we explore another new-to-Sunday-Parkways neighborhood - NW Portland, as well as Old Town, China Town, and even a bit of downtown.  Here's a summary of ebike-related activities at each park, and details on the traditional ebike meetup.

At Couch Park, look for Best Buy's signature tent, and check out their electric bikes and scooters. Then, brace yourself for the ride up to Wallace Park on NW 25th and Pettygrove.

In the shadow of Chapman School, Wallace Park should be busy - indeed, most of the vendors will be located here. Check out ebike demos at The eBike Store tent, as well as Kalkhoff Bikes. The hills of NW Portland would be a great venue to check out the hill-flattening capabilities of ebikes.

With all the action in Wallace Park, let's plan on a meetup at 11am at the Kalkhoff tent. The one-way downtown loop is only open from 11am to 1pm, so we'll likely head there first.

If you're riding to the NW Sunday Parkways and would like some company, I'm joining a group meeting at Florio Bakery on NE Rosa Parks and Grand (1 block east of MLK) at 10am to ride in together. We'd love the company.

Friday, September 3, 2010

Meet an eBike Builder: Bill Stites, Stites Design

Bill Stites, c. Stites Design
At Southeast Sunday Parkways, as our Intersection Superhero shift drew to a close, our replacement rode up on an impressive recumbent tricycle. Closer examination showed that it was also a mid-drive ebike. It's rider, Bill Stites, and I exchanged contact info, in hopes of talking ebikes again soon.

Bill is more than an ebike rider; he's an accomplished designer and builder of ebikes and trikes. His company, Stites Design, shares a workspace in Southeast Portland with several design and fabrication companies, and enjoys the synergies that often emerge from sharing space with people with a mix of skills and experience.

The New Truck Trike, c. Stites Designs
His latest design is the Truck Trike, a modular trike with a flat bed that can be reconfigured specifically  to carry heavy or bulky loads. The each rear wheel is driven by a 36 volt motor, while the front wheel is driven through Bill's own StitesHub. This unique product transmits pedal power to the front wheel via a top-mounted universal joint, which has also appeared in other Stites-designed bikes.  Photos from the design and build of the Truck Trike can be found here  -  fortunately, the prototype was sold to local bike delivery service B-Line that I wasn't able to see one on this visit. B-Line has been putting the Truck Trike through vigorous testing - in fact, early testing of the Truck Trike suggested improved rear brakes. While we were speaking, Bill demonstrated his solution, a motorcycle-grade disc brake, mounted to the hub via a bracket and plate he designed and machined himself. The disc is nearly as large as the 20-inch BMX-style tires used on the Trucker Trike. When asked if he'd producing more Truck Trikes, he said, "Yes, I plan to build them in-house, leveraging Portland's great network of bike and part builders. For example, the Truck Trike uses Epic Wheelwork's products."

"I have to run in a meeting."
Bill started his second career designing ebikes after leaving his previous one as a chiropractor.  Once you know this, a lot of little touches in his workspace make a lot more sense - for instance, a model of a human spine occupies a prominent position on one of his workbenches, workstations include mats for better comfort while standing, and his preferred desk work position - while walking on his treadmill.  "Sitting is really the worst position for your spine; it's basically direct compression. Besides, it's good to get some additional exercise in while working," he said.

His early designs included a variety of recumbents, trikes, and a very interesting modulated trike. This design combines the benefit of trike stability with the efficiency of being able to lean into a turn. The pivot can also be locked out, turning it into a traditional trike. Past designs are literally hanging from the rafters; indeed, it obvious that Bill is as prolific as he is focused.

Increased swept area should improve brake performance.
While the brake upgrade continues on the Truck Trike, Bill's not losing momentum on other projects, including  mounting an ebike kit midframe on a smaller-framed bike, and designing a new, more ergonomic front end for the Truck Trike, which will feature a more comfortable riding position without sacrificing any power. "We're seeing a lot of different forces come together at the same that increasingly make light electric vehicles valuable solutions. An aging population, increasing petroleum-based transportation expenses, and denser urban living are just a few of these. It's going to be exciting to see how the industry evolves."

Thursday, August 26, 2010 Guest Post

I'm happy to say that I'm a guest poster on today. My post, "eBikes, the Law, and You" is a brief summary of federal, state, and local laws regarding ebikes and their legal usage on the streets of Portland. Check it out!

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Charlie Sorrel, "Shimano STEPS Up with E-Bike Component Set", WIRED, June 21, 2010

Sorrel reviews the new Shimano ebike component group. Commenters question price, complexity, and battery capacity, but it looks like an interesting set of hardware.

7 positive
2 negative

"16 Electric Bikes That Help with the Pedaling", The Daily Green, June 13, 2010.

The staff at The Daily Green round up a gallery of 16 ebikes that "help you do the pedaling". Unfortunately, most of the comments were from dealers/resellers posting multiple copies of the same comments.

18 total comments
 6 positive
1 negative

Chuck Squatriglia, "Go From A2B on an Electric Bike, Praying the Battery Doesn’t Die", WIRED, 8/13/2008

Continuing my on-going informal survey of ebike press, and the comments people post, today Squatriglia positively reviews the A2B ebike for Wired Magazine, and spam comments aside, generates a good response.

37 total comments
15 positive
16 negative

Reading: "Carjacked: The Culture of the Automobile and Its Effect on Our Lives"

Photo c. D. Woodard
On Thursday, August 5, Catherine Lutz and Anne Lutz Fernandez spoke to a group of about 15 people at Powell's Books on SE Hawthorne Street.  They discussed their new book, "Carjacked: The Culture of the Automobile and Its Effect on Our Lives". They've wound up a cross-country, book tour (car-free, of course), with subsequent stops in Seattle, WA, and Vancouver, BC.

The idea to write "Carjacked..." came about, they said, through a related series of events, some tragic.  First, they both switched lifestyles - Anne moving from an urban area to a suburban neighborhood, and Catherine making the opposite change. As they adjusted into their new lifestyles, the changes each experienced prompted a deeper conversation between them.  And tragically, at around the same time, they lost several close friends (to whom the book is dedicated) to automobile accidents. They sought to answer the question - if cars are apparently so bad for us, how did we end up in the situation we are in?

C. Lutz records a recent Sprockettes performance.
Bringing her experience as an anthropologist to the table, Catherine has great insight into how this happened culturally.  Anne complements this with a keen business insight. The fact that they both have educational experience at both the primary and secondary levels is reflected in a thoroughness yet easy readability. The book is well-documented with endnotes, quotes from extensive interviews, and sheds light on some commonly held (and in some cases, intentionally created) misperceptions about our relationships with the automobile.

Here are some interesting facts from their research:

* Americans spend, on average, 18.5 hours per week either driving or riding in a car.  In a year, car owners spend $14,000 a year on direct expenses related to their cars, commonly the second greatest household expense, and approaching the greatest household expense in some areas.

* Their research further indicated that rather than providing freedom for their owners, cars actually accelerate the economic disparity in society. In fact, a car is not freeing or empowering, it is impoverishing.

* Cars create carnage. 40,000 people die each year in car-related incidents.  Additionally, 2.5 million people are injured in cars; these injuries can affect the quality of life of the victims for the rest of their lives.  More people have died in car accidents in the history of the US than in all our wars combined.

* The "Public Transit Diet" - by opting to take public transit or other forms of active transportation, people can easily drop between 5 and 10 pounds of weight.

* Fuel efficiency is not, on average, improving. The Model T, when introduced, got 28 miles per gallon. The modern average fuel economy is 24.7 mpg.

* Electric cars are not the answer to car culture - their experience (Anne owns a Toyota Prius) has been that the only thing they change is the source of power for propulsion. Granted, there are benefits from switching power sources, but that won't move us away from a car-centric culture. Also, they think, the electric car is something of a red herring, in that car companies are saying they're constantly just at the horizon, but "in the meantime, please buy this SUV".

When asked about what can be done to move Americans from a love/hate relationship or a sense of ambivalence to their cars, in addition to the recommendations that they make in their final chapter, "A Call to Action", they recommend we overcome the ingrained car culture through awareness and education.

Monday, August 23, 2010

First Look: The Kalkhoff Sahel

Sahel Pro Disc enjoying the Esplanade.

With the launch of their 2010 line of ebikes, Kalkhoff also announces the introduction of two new models, the Sahel Pro Disc and Sahel Comp.  Based on the same 26v 250 watt Panasonic electronics as the rest of their line, it does demonstrate a new line of thinking for them. I was lucky enough to get to test ride a pre-production sample model of the Sahel Pro Disc.
The most striking difference between the Sahel Pro Disc and the Pro Connect Sport, their top-of-the-line model, is the wider tires.  These seem to afford a smoother ride, and are more forgiving in a roughly-paved urban environment. The Sahel Pro Disc also features an 8-speed internal hub, and titular disc brakes.

Though not as aggressive as the Pro Connect Sport, the Sahel Pro Disc's riding position is still fairly aggressive. It does lack the integrated bar ends of the Pro Connect Sport; however, I didn't really miss them. Riding the Sahel Pro Disc was enjoyable - the shared electronics make it cohesive with the rest of the Kalkhoff line - the tires are a bit more comfortable. The lack of front suspension was noticeable, but also afforded better feel for the road. Integrated lights are a nice touch, and the disc brakes do ensure reliable and responsive stopping.

Sahel Comp, with Xtracycle, c. Kalkhoff USA.
In short, the Sahel is a well-designed product. It's different enough from the Pro Connect Sport, and indeed, the rest of the Kalkhoff line, to merit it's own position.  At launch, it is available in Pro Disc configuration, reviewed here, as well as the Comp edition, which is distinguished from the Pro Disc model by a step-through "Wave" frame, hydraulic rim brakes in lieu of discs, leather grips, and a Brooks leather saddle. Kalkhoff USA is experimenting with an Xtracycle-equipped version of the Sahel Comp, an interesting Teutonic take on the Japanese "mamachari" ebike.

The Sahel Pro Disc retails for $3,449; the Sahel Comp lists at $3,399.

New for 2010: Kalkhoff USA Launches New Models, Upgrades Current Line

Kalkhoff USA recently announced new additions and changes to their product line for 2010. They reflect a refreshed approach to the American market for ebikes, as well as targeting a broader audience for ebikes.

Sahel Pro Disc, courtesy KalkhoffUSA
The biggest news is certainly the launch of 2 new models, the Sahel Pro Disc and Sahel Comp.  The Sahel Pro Disc seems to me to be a more urban-friendly version of the Pro Connect Sport, with disc brakes and fully integrated lighting. It sports an aggressive riding position and wider tires - better for crossing railroad tracks and providing a somewhat smoother ride. The Sahel Pro goes a step farther, sporting a step-through frame, leather hand grips, and a Brooks leather saddle. I rode a pre-production sample of the Sahel Pro Disc recently - I'll be posting a more comprehensive review shortly.

The bars, top center, indicate real-time assist level.
Changes also come to the Pro Connect Sport and Pro Connect models. The Pro Connect Sport is now also available with SRAM's Dual Drive technology - a nine-speed rear derailleur coupled to a 3 speed internal rear hub, yielding a total of 27 available gear ratios. Both Pro Connect models have been upgraded to a 300-watt motor from last year's 250-watt model, as well as 2:1 power assist.  The additional power also comes with an upgraded "dashboard", which includes a power meter, detailing in real time how much assist the motor is providing. Not merely good to know; this information helps enable a rider extend their range by monitoring battery usage. I would expect some impact to range due to the increased power, but I can't estimate what that impact will be.  I briefly rode the new Pro Connect Sport recently, and the additional power is a seamless and welcome addition. Sadly, the ergonomic hand grips with integrated bar ends have been replaced, but the new grips are fairly comfortable, too.

The entire line of Kalkhoff ebikes receives an upgrade in color selection as well. A somewhat more muted palette, the new colors might make the Kalkhoffs a bit harder to pick out in a crowd, but also reflect a commuter's sensibilities in color selection.

Xtracycle'd Sahel Comp, c. KalkhoffUSA.
Kalkhoff USA is also researching an Xtracycle-equipped version of the Sahel Comp model, with a Tasman Wave to follow. A USA-only offering, the addition of the Xtracycle vastly increases the load-carrying capacity of the ebike; the reassuring stopping power of hydraulic brakes is a necessary feature when carrying larger loads.

Kalkhoff USA is hosting an open house at their Pearl District showroom (528 NW 11th) this Thursday, August 26th, from 5:00 to 9:00 PM. Drop in, enjoy a complimentary bratwurst (they are German ebikes, after all), and check out the new additions and changes to the Kalkhoff ebike line of offerings.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

The PDXebiker Retreat

The staff and I are taking a few days away from the blog for our annual retreat, so you may not see much activity for a few days. I know there have been other quiet periods, but at least I'm announcing this one ahead of time. In the meantime, keep your batteries charged and your eyes on the road!

Saturday, August 14, 2010

The eBike Shelf: Effective Cycling, by John Forester

Effective Cycling, by John Forester, is a copious book that explores many angles of cycling and cycling culture.  Often lauded as the authoritative source for beginning riders as well as those with more experience, he posits that "Cyclists fare best when they act and are treated as drivers of vehicles." From this starting point, he builds a convincing argument, supported with instructional tips and years of experience, about riding and integrating safely with traffic.  I still like separate dedicated bike infrastructure, but this book helped me think more critically about how I ride with traffic.  Though lacking in any content about electric bikes, it's a great general guide book, and a valuable reference source.

Review: Riding the Rest of the Kalkhoff Line

Sometime ago, I test rode the top-of-the-line Kalkhoff Pro Connect Sport for a week. I was impressed with its component mix, accessories, performance, and overall quality.  I was interested in trying the remaining models in their line, and I recently spent a sunny, if cool, afternoon test riding several models. Since the electronics and batteries used (the 250-watt 26 volt Panasonic mid-drive system) are the same across their product line, I was fairly comfortable that I could make a good comparison based on a shorter ride. Here are my impressions of the rest of their line:

Pro Connect
One step down from the Pro Connect Sport, the Pro Connect lacks the reassuring stopping power of the Magura hydraulic rim brakes.  It does feature a similar aggressive riding position but changes rear hub spec to the 8-speed Shimano Alfine hub; at $2,999, it is $400 less than the Sport model. At this price point, though, I think the upgrade to the Sport model is well worth the money. The Pro Connect is available in both a diamond frame and a "Wave" (step-through) version.

Tasman in "Wave" frame-way
Suggesting a slightly more upright ride, the Tasman is also outfitted with more comfort-related accessories, like a fully encased chain and a skirt guard on the rear wheel, as well as the hydraulic rim brakes. The Tasman retails for $2,799, and also comes in a diamond and Wave frame styles.

The Agattu is the comfortable around town cruiser, and is only available in Wave frame style.  Like the Tasman, the Agattu also features dynamo hub powered front and rear lights, as well as suspension seat post and gel saddle. It retails for $2,499.

So what's my overall impression?  I think I prefer the Tasman - it's got the solid brake performance, is nicely accessorized, and I prefer the riding style over either Pro Connect model. That said, they're all solid ebikes. This is all very subjective - the best way to figure out which one you prefer is to ride them all. To further the utility of an around-town bike, I'd suggest adding a security chain, and consider permanently mounting at least one basket.

Leander Kahney, "As America Implodes, The Bike Industry Booms" WIRED, 9/26/2008

Wired Magazine explores the popularity of ebikes as people increasingly look to alternatives to autos.

73 total comments:
14 positive
9 neutral
12 negative

Meet an eBike Builder: Dan Woodard,

Where the magic happens... (courtesy D. Woodard)
Some people think about ebikes are merely a form of transportation; some people just think about ebikes.  Meet Dan Woodard, the co-owner of ElectricBikeBuilding, LLC, and the prodigious producer of instructional ebike construction videos, found at He thinks about ebikes a lot.

After years in a variety of other industries, Dan's ebike career started with a Yuba Mundo cargo bike, which he converted using an Crystalyte hub motor.  This completely displaced his car usage; but Dan found it to be a less than ideal design. A constant tinkerer, Dan resolved to create a better ebike. Having just started a business, he really wanted to inexpensively create a better ebike. ""I'm on a tight budget, I can't afford a complete frame jig setup or expensive tools. But I find I can still build functional ebikes using simple tools, and a little creativity. I want to share that knowledge with others on my blog."

This magic happened...(courtesy D. Woodard)
His next bike, a mountain bike sporting 48 volt lead-acid batteries (read: heavy!) he found to be unwieldy due to battery placement.  His solution? Chop the frame, extend the rear triangle, and place the batteries there, effectively lowering the center of gravity of the bike.  The result? NoPonder, an ebike that regularly turns heads where ever it goes. During the NoPonder build, which is thoroughly documented here, Dan took some time off to attend a frame-building class at the United Bicycle Institute(UBI). "The instructors and quality of instruction was superb," Dan says, "I really enjoyed using their setup - it was a very busy two weeks."

This magic is happening...
Each of Dan's models clearly builds on his previous experience and learnings.  His current project, "Short Hopper", is a bike he's optimizing for, as the name suggests, short trips around town. He's designing it to be transit-friendly, fun to ride, and easy to maneuver around a bike rack. He's currently researching hub motors; I'm very curious to see what he eventually decides on.

An admittedly quiet sort of guy, Dan is as comfortable talking about the finer points of fork design, welding techniques, the sociology of ebikes, or his cats.  I've found his instructional videos to be of great value, clear and easy to understand, and I appreciate his subtle style.

Do you know anyone else out there building electric bikes?  Do you have a build you're particularly proud of?  If so, I'd love to talk to you about it.

SE PDX Sunday Parkways eBike Meetup: 11am @bestbuy in Laurelhurst Park

It seems we're running through our Sunday Parkways this year so quickly - it's hard to believe we're already rolling into Southeast Portland!

If any Portland ebikers want to meet up and take a lap together, let's meet at the Best Buy tent in Laurelhurst Park at 11am. If I don't see you there, I'll see you on the route.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Guest Post: eBike Pete on "Hey Avid Cyclists, Electric Bikes are OK!"

This is a guest post from Pete Prebus from Electric Bike Report. Pete is passionate about promoting the electric bike as a viable alternative to driving a car.  He has been an avid cyclist and bike commuter for over 20 years and is really excited about this new branch of the biking world.  Pete enjoys riding his electric cargo bike to commute to work and run errands around town.  Pete grew up in Eugene, Oregon, and currently lives in the bike-friendly mountain town of Flagstaff, Arizona.  You can find Pete on Twitter and Facebook.

Are electric bikers “cheating”?  Should we consider them cyclists? If you’re an avid cyclist you may have pondered these questions or you may feel strongly that they are “cheating”.  I have been an avid cyclist for over 20 years and I can relate to some of these questions.  Overall  I think that electric bikes are great for the sport as well as they are one of the most energy efficient ways of getting around.

Electric bikes are a great introduction to regular cycling.  It seems that there are a number of people who think the idea of cycling is great, but when it comes down to it they may have tried it and been frustrated with how difficult it is to climb the hills and ride into a head wind.  They may have also tried to ride with friends or significant others who are avid cyclists and end up frustrated because they can’t keep up with them.  The electric bike is a cool way to get an idea of what cycling can be like with out having to worry about some of the strenuous obstacles normal cyclists have to deal with.  Electric bikes allow you to cruz up that steep hill and enjoy the quite ride on two wheels!    

Who knows, some people may end up getting into regular cycling after they realize how much fun riding a bike can be.  Once you get a taste of how fun and freeing riding an electric bike can be, it can lead to other more hard core things like.....wearing lycra!  Maybe not, but you probably see what I’m getting at.  Having more avid cyclists in the world is not a bad thing!

Imagine more people using electric bikes instead of driving their cars all the time.  I know there are a lot of tough commuter cyclists out there that pride themselves on riding in any kind of weather and dealing with the worst traffic.  I applaud you for that and I think it is great!  In you’re eyes the electric bike may not provide that toughness, but it is better than people driving cars all the time.  The cool thing about electric bikes is that a little power assist (equaling less sweat) encourages more people to ditch their car for a small trip around town or their commute to work.  The electric cargo bikes are a great way to take it a step further as a car alternative (replacement?).

Electric bikes also make it possible for people who cannot use a regular bike to enjoy cycling.  Some people may not be able to enjoy a traditional bike because of physical limitations and/or age.  Breaking down this barrier with a little help from an electric motor helps people enjoy the fun of riding a bike again or for the first time.

If more people become “E” cyclists, more people will be aware of the issues that all cyclists face on a daily basis.  Let’s face it, life as a cyclist can be a little tough sometimes.  If you are a road rider you have to deal with cars getting a little too close to you on the road or an angry motorist yelling at you for some reason.  If you are a commuter you have to worry about cars cutting you off as they speed ahead of you just to slam on the brakes and turn into the shopping center.  If you are a mountain biker you have to worry about trails being closed to bikes.  The more people who are part of the cycling world in one form or another the better, because there is power in numbers!

What this all boils down to is that electric bikes are a great way to get people into and excited about cycling.  The more people that are familiar with the cycling world the better.  Cyclists face many issues and having more people that understand and support cycling is a good thing.

Do you think electric bikes are good for the cycling community?   Do you have any points to add?  I’d like to hear from you.  Please leave a comment below!


Pete Prebus from Electric Bike Report

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Review: The OMSI eBike Charging Station

View of OMSI from the new charging station.
As first reported over at, OMSI, in cooperation with PGE, Sanyo, and InSpec Design, has installed an electric vehicle charging station, partially powered by solar power collected on-site. This is in addition to an existing 2-spot electric vehicle charging station immediately north of the Museum.

Weather-resistant outlet mounted to bike rack.
Located in the parking directly east of OMSI, the kiosk is easy to find.  There are 2 choices to lock and charge your ebike: there are covered (but not enclosed) standard bike racks, with weather-resistant 110v AC outlets located with 8-12 inches of the lock ring.  If you've brought your charger with you, it's a straightforward process to plug-in and recharge.

Secure off-bike charging.
The other alternative is a fully enclosed locker.  These closely resemble the lockers at airports or bus stations, but for one addition - 2 110v AC outlets inside the locker. These lockers are rented for 50 cents; when I inquired, OMSI indicated they hadn't established a time limit yet. There are 6 lockers - the top lockers in each group is signed as including a Sanyo charger, but currently they only have outlets.  Including the charger is an interesting idea - it's obviously a sales point for Sanyo, as if you've purchased one of their bikes you won't need to carry your charger with you.  The ticket sellers just inside the museum are happy to make change.  The lockers are approximately 12 inches square, so if you have a particularly large or oddly shaped battery, you may want to verify it will fit before committing yourself to using them.

Another potential ebike charging station.
An interesting opportunity exists in the parking lot directly north of the museum, at the previously installed LEV charging station. As the picture shows, there is a bike rack near these outlets, but trailing wires across a busy sidewalk isn't really viable. The addition of 2 staples in closer proximity to the outlets would help maximize the use of these outlets as well.

Upon hearing about the station, I was curious as to how well it would work in practice. Shortly thereafter, I found myself needing to make several stops downtown, and knew that the full round-trip distance was at the limit of my battery range. Unfortunately, I wasn't going to be at a single stop long enough to significantly recharge.  So I opted to ride in on battery power, drop the charger and battery in a locker, and continue my errands - under solely my own power, and a little over 10 pounds lighter. Business concluded, I returned to the kiosk to a full charge, and an easy ride home. I will admit, though, I was initially disappointed at having to pay for parking (isn't that one of the advantages of a bike?), but the added security of the locker, I found, was well worth it.

So barring errands, what are some other usage models?  In addition to my above trip, I could easily see this kiosk displacing driving downtown to see a show, for example, and a boon for waterfront festival-goers. Sure, you'd still have to walk or pedal a bit, but it will be lots easier than driving and parking.  In fact, I've used it twice this week already, but in that time I haven't seen anyone else using it.

Touring Portland with the Authors of "Carjacked" - on eBikes

I was lucky enough to get some time with Catherine Lutz and Anne Lutz Fernandez to ride around Portland recently.  The sisters are in town to promote their book "Carjacked: The Culture of the Automobile and its Effect on Our Lives", and wanted to see some of the sights, as well as try out some ebikes. I was happy to join them.

We met at Pedal Bike Tours and rented a mix of ebikes. After a quick orientation to the ebike's operation and riding in Portland traffic, we were off.  An easy warm-up through downtown led us over the Hawthorne Bridge to OMSI, to check out the new ebike charging station.  By this point, Anne was already sold on the ebike as an effective (and fun) transportation alternative. Dan Woodard of Woodard Cycles, local builder of custom ebikes, joined us, and we headed back into downtown, and checked out Kalkhoff USA.

Catherine and Anne dealt with bridge lifts, the Broadway Bridge closure, and the constantly shifting construction for the Streetcar extension like pros. We headed into NE Portland, fortuitously happening upon a Sprockettes show. Catherine, the consummate anthropologist, was fascinated. Eventually, we prised her away from what may be her newest research topic, and continued to The eBike Store. A short visit here, and we returned downtown.

I was surprised to discover that we'd been gone almost 4 hours. We covered about 12 miles, and returned the ebikes with plenty of charge remaining in the batteries.

Catherine and Anne are presenting tonight, August 5, at Powell's on Hawthorne, at 7:30. Several ebike riders are planning to meet at the pub in the Baghdad Theater at 6, prior to their presentation.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

eBike Meetup for Carjacked presentation

Several ebikers are planning to see Catherine Lutz and Anne Lutz Fernandez speak about their new book, "Carjacked: The Culture of the Automobile and Its Effect on Our Lives" at Powell's on Hawthorne and SE 37th, at 7:30pm.

Since we'll all be in the area, we decided we might grab a bite to eat or a beer at the pub in the Baghdad Theatre, starting around 6pm. Please feel free to join us!

Monday, July 19, 2010

Thursday, July 15, 2010

East Portland Sunday Parkways eBike Meetup

Are you planning to ride in the East Portland Sunday Parkways this Sunday? Interested in meeting other ebikers? Let's try to meet at The eBike Store tent at the Lents Park vendor row around 11am and say hi. I may not be on my ebike, but I'd be honored to ride a lap or two with any of you. Leave a comment if you plan to join us, or just show up.

Update, 7/18/2010:
Thanks to all who showed up for the ebike ride - it was great to see you all! That was fun - I think I'll repeat it for the SE Portland Sunday Parkways.

Review: Bike, Scooter, and Chopper Projects for the Evil Genius

I recently read "Bike, Scooter, and Chopper Projects for the Evil Genius" by Brad Graham and Kathy McGowan, not sure how much ebike-related content it would have. I was pleasantly surprised at the writing style, but it didn't have a lot of ebike info in it.

What it does have, though, is great in-depth instructions on how to build your own, well, as the title describes, bikes, scooters, and choppers, as well as trikes. Several of the projects detail the installation of electric components as part of their design, but they're not all pedal-based, and thus not street legal.

One thing I did really like about the book, though, was that the author gave thorough instructions and pictures about building some pretty fundamental pieces. You may never want to convert a car rim to a spoked bicycle wheel, but if you do, he's got the play-by-play.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Andrew Price, "What's Your Take on Electric Bikes?",, 2/12/2010.

Price thinks Los Angeles may be a great place for an electric bike, then asks his readers what they think.

5 positive
2 neutral
5 negative

Friday, July 9, 2010

East Portland Sunday Parkways Live!

The East Portland Sunday Parkways is Sunday, June 18th. First, if you're even slightly considering volunteering for a Sunday Parkways shift, step up! They are desperately in need of volunteers. Mrs. PDXebiker and I are both doing an intersection shift - help us help make this a successful extension into new Sunday Parkways territory!

Unfortunately I won't be able to pre-ride the East Portland Sunday Parkways route this year, but I will direct your attention to some ebike-related fun at each of the parks along the route. The East Portland is a new area for Sunday Parkways. It's a shorter route at only 4.5 miles, but manages to connect 4 parks and offers an additional 1.5 miles on the Springwater Trail. It also includes some time on the I-205 bike path, which I've been interested in riding since it opened, but haven't made it down that way yet. This will be the perfect excuse.

Lents Park, once considered for the location of a new pro baseball stadium, is a good place to start. The route follows the southern boundary of the park; here you'll find The eBike Store and Kalkhoff Electric Bikes. Drop in and say hi.

Bloomington Park, in the center of the route, has the most vendors setting up there. Best Buy will be there, at the epicenter, sharing their line of electric vehicles.

Ed Benedict Park is co-hosting Sunday Parkways and the East Portland Expo with live music, vendors, and free health screenings. Singing Planet Ebikes will have their Pedego rental ebikes there.

Don't forget that Springwater loop - with the number of events going on, the promise of good weather, and a shorter route, this one could get pretty busy, and the Springwater Loop might be a good alternative to the street route.

In short, I'm looking forward to East Portland Sunday Parkways - it's going to be a great chance to ride in a part of town I've never been. Any PDXebike readers planning on riding?

Updated, 7/12/2010:
Due to construction, the Springwater Corridor loop won't be open for Sunday Parkways. As an alternative, they recommend a short trip down to the Ramona Street Fair.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Cars as Metaphors for eBikes

I've been thinking a lot lately about cars as metaphors for ebikes. Initially, I'd thought I'd try to avoid calling a particular ebike "the Ferrari of ebikes" for example, or a similar comparison. I really struggled with this - ebikes are not cars, so why should I compare them to cars?

But realistically, people shopping for ebikes are most familiar with cars as a means of transportation. And it's a rich metaphor - for example, here's how I would describe my ebike, using a car metaphor:

"It's my dad's old truck, but I replaced the old straight 6 with a v8 and better tires. I haven't done a new paint job, so it still looks like a '57 truck, albeit with a bit more power. It's my daily driver."

I've found, though, that once you own an ebike, it becomes much more personal. That said, if you had to apply a car metaphor to your ebike, what would it be? Or do you prefer to avoid using the ebike-as-car metaphor?

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

April Streeter "My Year of E...", Treehugger, 3/15/2010

(Much of the impetus behind starting this blog was to raise awareness of ebikes as legal and viable forms of transportation, for both current and aspiring riders. As such, I'm going to start keeping a finger on the pulse of attitudes towards ebikes online. It's completely subjective, of course, but it could be interesting to see how it plays out. I'll summarize the article and tally positive, neutral, and negative comments. To be fair, I won't consider the author's or my comments in positive/neutral/negative counts.)

"My Year of "E" or, Joining the Electric Bike Revolution," author April Streeter writes a quick summary of her new Eneloop. Initially skeptical regarding ebikes, the climb sells her, and she sets out to document her first year on an ebike.

13 total comments as of 6/29/2010:

6 positive
2 neutral

J David Goodman, "Born in China, Electric Bikes...", NYTimes, 1/31/2010

An examination of ebikes in China, and their (currently illegal) presence in NYC.

42 positive
32 neutral
21 negative

April Streeter, "Should eBikes be Banned?", Treehugger, 9/8/2009

Streeter presents us with 4 key learnings from China's experience with the growing ebike market.

10 positive
7 neutral

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

J David Goodman, "Despite Ban, Electric Bikes Gain Favor...", NYTimes, 10/20/2009

Goodman reports on increased popularity of ebikes, particularly among food delivery services in NYC.

20 positive
8 neutral
10 negative

Charlie Richman, "Elusive E-Bikers!", Momentum, 5/1/2010

Richmond briefly writes about ebikes, recognizing that people on ebikes are often riding solo, and hard to pick out.

5 positive
1 neutral
1 negative

DL Byron, "eBikes Aren't Cool", Bikehugger, 2/1/2010

In response to a quote from the editor in chief of Bicycling Magazine, Byron suggests she should meet some ebikers before speculating as to how to market to them. I suspect the title is tongue-in-cheek.

7 positive
6 neutral

Jonathan Maus, "Is Portland and America Ready for Ebikes?",, 1/29/2010

Maus looks at ebike presence at tradeshows, local shops, and recent legislation, and asks "Is 2010 the Year of the Ebike in America?"

29 positive
7 neutral
11 negative

Farhad Manjoo, "How I Learned to Love My Electric Bike", Slate, 5/11/2010

A Bionx conversion kit creates "delusions of liberation" in the author's mind. He calls range estimates "dodgy". Author responds several times in comments.

119 total comments:
35 positive
40 neutral
18 negative

Lloyd Alter, "Are Electric Bikes Still Controversial?", Treehugger, 7/29/2009

Treehugger sets up a poll regarding ebike acceptance. Among over 1000 respondents, 62% are in favor, 6% don't like them, and 31% express a conditional maybe.

22 comments + a poll:
17 positive
1 neutral
4 negative

Trevor Reichman "Is My Electric Bike Lame?" Treehugger, 8/16/2009

Due to the heat of an Austin summer, Reichman adopts an ebike, and gets mixed results from other riders. Author no longer rides an ebike, but would if confronted with a similar commute situation. Comments generally positive, with a couple scoffers thrown in for good measure.

51 positive
11 neutral
10 negative

Monday, June 28, 2010

Jose Formoso, "Electric Bikes are Blowing Up...", Wired Magazine, 8/19/2008

After a slightly misleading title - ebikes are "blowing up" in the sense of becoming popular - Formoso compiles a list of 8 ebikes Wired is going to test. Comments tended to the "check out this brand/store/etc!"

15 positive
3 neutral

Sami Grover, "Why Haven't Ebikes Caught on Yet", Treehugger, 3/18/2010

A brief summary of Alan Durning's "Parable of the Electric Bike" series of Sight Line posts.

17 positive
13 neutral
8 negative

Heidi Swift, "Ebikes, Awesome or Awful?", Grit and Glimmer, 5/25/2010

The author admits she's ridden - and enjoyed! - an ebike, and she concludes that she doesn't care if it's a bike or not as long as it's one less car on the road.

17 positive
6 neutral
0 negative

Joseph Rose, "For Real: Road-testing Three eBikes in Portland...", Oregonlive, 5/27/2010

Rose reports on his experience test riding three Kalkhoff ebikes and about the ebiking experience in general. Column delivers fewer comments than previous story, and less vitriol.

10 comments (less mine):
1 positive
5 neutral
1 negative

Joseph Rose, "Pedaling Purity: PDXebiker...", Oregonlive, 5/24/2010

Joseph Rose introduces me to the world. Sadly, comments devolve into name-calling. A couple interesting legal and behavioral questions discussed, but mostly it's unrelated to ebikes. Also, axoplasm's comment to this post was the seed behind this series of posts.

21 positive
47 neutral (asking for more detail, ranting about something not ebike-related)
14 negative

North Portland Sunday Parkways

(I'm not a good photographer under the best of conditions, and this Sunday Parkways I was riding in a larger group that made it a bit more difficult to stop and take photos; I think you'll quickly see what I mean.)

Sunday Parkways, North Portland style kicked off promptly at 10am as traffic was diverted away from the route. We started much the same my route preview went last month, starting in Peninsula Park and riding south and west, ie, clockwise. As we rode through, we slowed to check out the Brammo e-motorcycle on display along with some ebikes at the Best Buy tent. Farther along, we saw The eBike Store and Kalkhoff USA set up next to each other; I tried to get a shot of both in the same frame. You see how well that worked out for me.

The Willamette overlook was easily the most stunning view on the ride. Farther along at Arbor Lodge Park we cruised by Singing Planet Ebikes. I got a pretty good shot of the graffiti chalked in front of their booth. Intentionally, of course.

Coincidentally, Saraveza was throwing a party for the New Belgium brewery. Scanning through my photos, I realized I was going to need some photographic filler. Here's a shot of the drum kit bicycle being played, and the rotating tricycle. You can pedal pretty fast on that thing, but you won't get very far. You will, however, quickly get dizzy.

Early results I heard were an estimate of 23,000 people out riding, eating, doing, watching, and soaking up some great sun! Based on congestion on the route, I wouldn't disagree with that estimate - wisely, there were signs to walk our bikes across the Bryant/I-5 pedestrian overpass. I saw at least 4 ebikes, including a Bionx-based hand-cranked trike, and an ebiker on a non-ebike. Up next, the East Portland Sunday Parkway. Held in conjunction with the East Portland Exposition, it should be well-attended. It will also be the first Sunday Parkways that travels along a MUP.

Volunteer to be an Intersection SuperHero!

eBikes Success Stories: John and his Optibike

John has been riding his Optibike for a couple years. John and his ebike lapped me at the OHPV's ePower Challenge race recently; I then briefly got to ride his bike around the parking lot after the race. They're nice ebikes, driven through a motorized bottom bracket. MSRP starts at around $9,000, though they are currently on sale, and occasionally offer factory reconditioned bikes from as low as $2,995.

PDXebiker: Why an ebike; why an Optibike?
John: I bought an ebike to increase my speed and decrease the exercise and time required for an approximate 30 mile commute from Portland to Gresham and back.
I bought the Optibike because it has the range and speed to do the above, and off road, too. It's a tremendous mountain bike.

How do you use your ebike? Does it displace car/bus/other bike use? How many miles/week, or do you even keep track?
I primarily use the bike for commuting but any quick trip with good weather anywhere in town is very easy.

In practice, is range an issue? Ever had a dead battery?
Range is not an issue with the Optibike - 50 miles is doable and more I imagine if you were to hyper mile the ride. The Opti is more efficient than the drum drive type of bikes you see on nearly all other E bike brands.
I did have a dead battery once, on my first ride! The bike was delivered with a faulty battery and was quickly replaced at no cost to me, although I was apparently the first customer to change out a battery "in the field". Usually they last about 30,000 miles.

What do you really like about your ebike/ebiking? What solutions really work for you?
Speed, power, and the appearance of youth. It makes me feel twice as fast, twice as strong, and half as old.

What do you not like about your bike/ebiking, and what do you do to mitigate that?
I love ebiking but many in the cyberworld do not share my feelings. In the real world, I suppose having an Opti is isolating in that I go very fast and who would be able to keep up comfortably? Lance? Nope, he puts out about 500 wattts of power I'm told and I can put out more than that pedaling hard in the lower power setting. So, I always ride alone.
I do have many other bikes, mountain and road bikes - I've cycle toured since 1971, done Cycle Oregon a few times and built some custom machines, too. They are all different bikes and they are all great.

John's also an Ambassador for the Optibike brand; drop him a line, he'd be happy to set up a test ride.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Those Funny Gutters: eBike Ramps that Work

I was recently walking around PSU campus, and came across a set of stairs with little "gutters" along the side. I was perplexed - it didn't look like any runoff would selectively divert itself into these gutters.

Turns out, they're called bike stairways, and designed to make it easier to wheel your bike up or down the stairs. These particular stairs are in an area to small for a ramp, so this is the alternative. I tried them out, they work pretty well; given that ebikes tend to be heavier than their non-assisted counterparts, I'd say they're especially beneficial for people on ebikes. The metal surface can be slick, even when dry, so be careful when it's a bit wet. They also require leaning your ebike to clear the handrail, but there was no sidewall scrubbing, even with fairly wide cruiser tires.

Obviously, this would work better for an ebike with a throttle, not just just a solely pedal or torque based application. The Kalkhoff Pro Connect Sport I recently tested had a separate throttle specifically for this purpose.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

eBike Friendly Infrastructure: The Mississippi Hill

Usually, ebikes can integrate well into most existing bicycle infrastructure; there are exceptions (like hanging bike racks). However, there is some bike infrastructure to which ebikes adapt particularly well - in this irregular and occasional series of posts, I'll share my thoughts on some of them.

The Mississippi Hill is an alternative for the North Portland-bound ebiker to the Interstate and Williams bike lane. There is no bike lane striped on the southbound (downhill) lane, because bikes coasting downhill can keep up with traffic fairly well. The northbound, or uphill lane, was striped with a bike lane recently, and I frequently find myself using it. Even with the lane, perhaps due to the steepness of the hill, I don't often see other riders here. With the combined muscle and motor output, its a straightforward climb on an ebike. If I do pass another person on a bike climbing the hill, I try to be particularly careful about passing them in the main traffic lane - I know how much work they're doing, and I like to stay out of their way.

I've been riding the Mississippi Hill more frequently since Williams is being resurfaced. Apparently, Mississippi was on the same list of streets to be resurfaced - while riding home last night, I discovered it has been ground down in preparation for repaving. A short time with a rough ride is worth it for a newly surfaced bike lane here.

I frequently see a person on a gas-powered bike riding up this hill as well. He usually passes me.

Update, 6/23/2010:
The repaving is done, new signage in place, just waiting for the official striping. It's a nice, smooth ride.

eBike Success Stories: Meet Gretchin (and Rose!)

I'm starting a series of posts highlighting local ebikers. If you're an ebiker and would like to share your story, drop me a line and let's chat!

Meet Gretchin, our first eBike Success Story. Gretchin's bike, Rose, is an Electra Townie, with a 7-speed internal hub and rear coaster brake in the Hazy Lilac colorway. Gretchin regularly logs her rides online; I've enjoyed seeing where she and Rose are traveling.

PDXebiker: Why an ebike; why a conversion?

Gretchin: I had considered an electric bike before I bought Rose, but all of them were ugly or seemed unreliable and cheaply made. A year of unassisted biking while living on a hill led me to seek adding an electric assist option. One place I visited made it sound very difficult and told me it would require permanently modifying my bike, which I was unwilling to do. So I was thrilled when the eBike Store came along and made the process incredibly easy. Wake really understood that I loved my bike the way she was; I just wanted to make her even better. So we added an eZee conversion kit to Rose in 2009.

How do you use your bike? Does it displace car/bus/other bike use? How many miles/week, or do you even keep track?

I was a fair-weather cyclist, which means my bike didn't really get used all that much. Even after adding the eZee kit I was still riding irregularly and in a fairly short range. After a long trip I decided to ride daily, though, and I am positive that decision would not have been possible without the conversion. Now I've ridden more in 2010 than all my previous years COMBINED. Now it feels weird to ride to a single destination in a car. Now it feels weird to drive a car within a 10-mile radius. And I say this as someone who really loves her car. :)

In practice, is range an issue? Ever had a dead battery?

Range is a big concern for me because for all her virtues, Rose is a heavy bike -- and wherever I go, the return trip will be uphill. I also live in outer SE, miles away from anything interesting. I upgraded to a higher-capacity battery the first time my battery died, and it's made a big difference in my range and confidence level. I'm still testing the limits of the battery, but for now I don't like to go more than 30 miles without a chance to partially charge at some point. My longest ride so far has been 43 miles (with an hour charge halfway through while at a cafe). That probably doesn't sound like a lot to some bicyclists, but it opens up almost the entire city of Portland to me!

What do you really like about your bike/ebiking? What solutions really work for you?

I love the Townie's "flat foot" riding position: it lets me feel comfortable and in control at all times. I also love my Wald bike baskets: I got two Timbuk2 cargo totes to fit inside the baskets, which are waterproof and easy to slip in and out at various destinations.

I also love exploring: biking overlays another layer of knowing over a city. I love how biking keeps me in the moment. Biking is one of the only forms of exercise I've ever enjoyed: ebikes are sometimes accused of "cheating," but I bike a lot further and a lot more often because of it. I have found biking to be a requirement for my mood maintenance, especially during the winter.

What do you not like about your bike/ebiking, and what do you do to mitigate that?

I dislike it when the controller overheats or dies unexpectedly. Usually it's just a matter of waiting a few minutes until it cools down. I'm looking for a place to move it so that it's functional AND aesthetically pleasing.

I'm unable to hang her on a MAX hook because she's too heavy -- and heavier since the conversion. Similarly, because her weight is distributed strangely, transporting her by car poses some challenges. But I guess that just encouraged me to bike longer distances in all kinds of weather.

It's also unfortunate that some people are hostile to bicycles (and ebikes!). I try to be a bike ambassador to everyone: pedestrians, motor vehicles, and other bicycles.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Shimano to Unveil eBike Component Group

More details about the long-awaited Shimano ebike component group are emerging, and they're saying they'll officially launch at the Eurobike in September. has the most complete coverage I've seen thus far; as Shimano claims to have test units in the hands of manufacturers, perhaps we'll hear more details soon. Named STEPS (Shimano Total Electric Power System), it's pretty much everything you need, except a frame, to build an ebike.

Not surprisingly, coming from Shimano, the group is a tightly integrated and well engineered set of components. They've built a torque-sensored front hub motor, rear rack battery system. The system includes regen braking, integrated lights, and on the upper end, electronic shifting. As it's a front hub system, there remain a wide selection of rear drive and brake options, from internal hubs to derailers, even the plush NuVinci continuously variable transmission. Designed as a system, Shimano has integrated a lot of functions into other units, like shift buttons on brake levers, which could lead to a very clean look.

The Shimano system was clearly designed to be globally legal, and thus stops providing power at about 15mph; this could be a challenge in the US market, where assist limits are 20mph.

A 4ah battery is an interesting choice. At 24v/250w, that pencils out to a sub-10 mile range, which is pretty low. It's a good looking battery, though, incorporating a rear light, much like the battery in the new Gary Fisher cargo ebike.

Implementation details aside, it's exciting to see another manufacturer, especially one as steeped in cycling as Shimano, enter the ebike market. Panasonic, eZee, and other ebike hardware manufacturers should welcome a new rider to the peloton.

Update, 6/19:
The small battery size may well be an artifact of TSA regulations regarding flying with lithium batteries. TSA limits are 100 watt-hours, see additional regulations here.