Monday, March 29, 2010

Wet Weather Chic: What I Like

Its another rainy day here in Portland, after a great Saturday and a spotty Sunday. As I was riding in this morning, I decided I'd do a quick rundown of my heavy weather wear.


adidas Men's Samba Classic Soccer Shoe,Black/White,10.5 MAdidas sambas. Almost waterproof, and very durable. In heavy rain I get a little leakage through the tongue slot, but not too bad. I carry a an extra pair of socks, too. I have a pair of nylon overbooties as well, but rarely use them.

Arc'teryx Men's Alpha SV Bib CZArcteryx ski bibs. A bit of overkill and time-consuming to don, but completely waterproof. Full length zippers make pockets accessible, and snow gaiters keep water from the ankles. Not as breatheable as I'd like for regular riding, but nice for ebiking.

Showers Pass Elite 2.0 JacketShowers Pass Elite 2.0 rain jacket. Pricey, but hands down the most valuable piece of rain kit I own. The thoughtfulness that went into the design of this garment is readily apparent, and I anticipate enjoying it for a long time to come. I think this picture is of the women's model; I wear a men's, but you get the idea.

Yes. Handknit felted wool liner.

Planet Bike Aquilo Full Finger Glove Small BlackGloves, Planet Bike's Aquilo. Not waterproof, but I don't have a terribly long commute.

Lowe's contractor safety glasses. Sometimes they fog when it gets really cold, and wipers would be nice, but they're better than rain drops in the eyes, which I really really don't like.

What do you wear when its wet? Any great tips for keeping warm, dry, and comfortable?

Saturday, March 27, 2010

The eBike Store - Robbed!

Early in the morning of Sat, March 27, The eBike Store at Vancouver and Alberta was robbed. Someone threw a rock through a window and grabbed a blue eZee Sprint. However, in their haste, they apparently neglected to steal a battery. So if you see a blue step-through frame ebike with no battery, it could be stolen. Here's a shot of the broken window with an identical model/color Sprint, and a product shot of a silver version of the same bike. Updates posted as they become available.

Friday, March 26, 2010

First Look: The (wireless!) Shadow Ebike

Ebikes are generally recognizable by the wires that, well, carry the "e". This can be a weak link in the system, given the conditions the wires are subjected too - weather, temperature fluctuation, UV radition, flexing, etc. I've only seen a few wires fail, but the opportunity is certainly there.

Enter the Shadow Ebike. Designed by Daymak out of Toronto, Canada, its a completely wireless bike - braking, throttle, and pedal assist sensors all transmit to a controller/battery/motor encased in a dished wheel. Spec'd with a 500w 36v motor, it also features regenerative braking and a USB port for charging your electronic necessaries on-the-go. Unclear from the website are front or rear hub, and battery amp-hour capacity.

As a concept bike, I love this! A friend and I recently speculated that the next step forward in ebike technology would be wireless, and lo, here it is. This design is similar to the lauded Copenhagen wheel, and could suffer a similar potential issue.
I'll admit only a basic understanding of wheel physics, but a quick perusal of Wikipedia provides a good overview of the concept of rotational mass - its not only the weight of the wheel that matters, but also where that mass is located distance-wise from hub, eg a lighter rim is better than lighter spokes. I'd have to actually ride one of these to see if its true, but from this armchair its seems like putting the heaviest item on an ebike, the battery, that far outboard of the hub would make for a less efficient wheel.

Unrelated, I'd be nervous riding a bike with electric brakes. What happens in case of a dead battery in the lever? Throttle and pedal sensors dying I'm OK with - its still rideable, but brakes. I'm sure they've thought through this eventuality; but I'm still skeptical.

In short, nice concept, a couple open questions about execution. Available in a limited run of 300 units for June delivery. Listed at $1499 (unclear if this is USD or Canadian; Google says $1499 Canadian is currently $1471 USD).

The Third Eye: My Review of the Helmet-Mounted Mirror

Shortly after starting my ebike career, it was clear I needed some sort of mirror. I debated between bar mounted and helmet mounted mirrors. As I don't wear glasses, glasses-mounted models were easy to eliminate. Helmet mounted mirrors seemed attractive in concept, but having dropped Mrs. PDXebiker's bike with a bar mounted mirror and breaking it, I knew I'm not nearly coordinated enough to have a bar mounted mirror.  When I asked at my LEBS what they would recommend, their recommendation was unequivocal - the EVT Safe Zone Helmet Mirror. Built by Efficient Velo Tools out of Vancouver, WA (and thus local!), it was only carried locally at the Bike Gallery, so off I went.

The Hollywood Bike Gallery location had them in stock, and even helped me install it while in the store - no packaging to take home. Once the mirror was installed (easy with zipties through ventilation in your helmet) adjusted(intuitive), I quickly fell in love with the mirror.


Easily transferable across the fleet.
Encourages you to wear your helmet.
Easy to scan entire lane by turning head.

I had no idea my helmet bumped into so many things - but its easy to re-adjust.
Walking through doors takes some getting used to.

Available locally at 6 locations of The Bike Gallery and The eBike Store and online at Bike Tools Etc.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Book Review: The Art of Wheelbuilding

The Art of Wheelbuilding: A Bench Reference for Neophytes, Pros & Wheelaholics

One of the great things about ebikes is that they are, fundamentally, bikes. Core bike technology is time-tested. We may add motors to our hubs, but our wheels are fundamentally the same, and wheels have been the same for years.

I know that sometime I will have to relace my hub motor to a better rim, as well as to upgrade spoke quality. I can do a passing job truing that wheel, but I'm a bit intimidated about completely relacing it. To address that, I recently read The Art of Wheelbuilding by Gerd Schraner. Though inteneded more a bench reference than a casual read, I read all the way through it, and look forward to using it as a reference. The writing is clear, the diagrams are helpful, and its got a copious selection of sizing charts. Though it was a library book - one with quite a waiting list (so I rushed to get it back quickly) - I could see picking up a copy when the wheel rebuild commences.

Of course, I'm also considering a wheelbuilding class through Gracie's Wrench. Another alternative would be one of Portland's custom wheel builders, like Epic Wheel Works. I might have to think about this some more...

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Ebikes: The Science Friday Perspective

On Friday, March 19, 2010, NPR's Talk of the Nation Science Friday did a segment called "All Aboard the Electric Bikes". Host Ira Flatow spoke with Ed Benjamin, Chairman of the Light Electric Vehicle Association (LEVA) and Bert Cebular, founder of NYCeWheels.

Benjamin called in from the Taipei International Cycle Show, where, he reported, ebikes were making a significant presence, "perhaps the most important topic at the show this year". Electric bikes are sensible in China, and many people are stepping up from an un-powered bike, he reports. He claimed that some areas of the US (flat, dense) are more suited to ebikes than others (hilly, less dense) and that the adoption of electric bikes is inevitable.

Sanyo Eneloop Electric Bicycle Bike CY-SPA600NACebular, calling in from NYC, reported business up 100% over last year. He reports compact folders sub-50 lbs are very popular. Fitting a bike to a customer requires some physical adjustment, as well as some lifestyle questions (eg, length of commute, amenities at either end of the ride, do you need to go upstairs? can you charge at work?). With this information, Cebular can narrow down a customer's choices to two-three models from 20+ in stock. Flatow asked if most people expect to not have to pedal; Cebular replied that they don't want to sell motorcycles and that all their models have functioning pedals, so as to not take away the exercise benefits. Cebular's price range is $1500-$3800, with the Sanyo Eneloop currently being the most popular model. Flatow balked a bit at the price, but realized that with an electric bike, you get what you pay for, and the quality is probably worth it. Benjamin confirmed the veracity of Cebular's advice.

Jamie, riding an Optibike in San Francisco. $11k! But comparing an Optibike to a cheaper Chinese model is like comparing a truck to a Ferrari.
BionX PL-350 Kit with Pre-Built 26" WheelEric in Berkely, not a rider, but a DIY'er interested in a kit. Benjamin recommends the Bionx 36v 350w with LiManganese battery, carried in local retailers and available online, and that there are 25 people making kits, with selections at lower prices.

Benjamin stated that in order to make ebikes more popular, we need to rethink they way we move - that transportation is not synonymous with car. We're coming off a 70-80 year love affair with the car, and we've marketed the automobile as our sole transportation. Electric bikes have advantages - the biggest being they don't burn petroleum fuels. Americans are price sensitive, and we're early in learning we can't afford to continue our love affair with the car, as it is consuming too much of our personal and national resources. Electric bikes are one part of the new transportation mix - train, metro, bus, normal bicycles, electric bikes, electric scooters - all have a place.

Flatow said its important to feel safe - we need bike paths, secure parking. Benjamin responded that America is quietly and persistently investing in bike paths, but we still have a long way to go - the Dutch can get around better on bikes than automobile. Another advantage is that by Federal law, an ebike is a bicycle, with all the rights of a bike, and a bike is a very privileged vehicle

Dennis in Iowa - has a Bionx retrofitted to a Trek frame. Use it to go up and down a hill and bike in town.

Benjamin reported several hundred thousand ebikes in the US, and lots of positive stories about their use.

Flatow inquired about parking. Benjamin can fit 10 electric bikes in the space of 1 car in his garage.

Fuel efficiency? Around town Benjamin claims 13 cents for 20 miles of electricity. This is less efficient than a train, but much more efficient than any ICE personal transportation.

Oliver in Woodside - doing a cross-country electric bike tour to promote awareness
Tweet - With increased popularity, will laws change? The laws recently changed in favor of ebikes - HR727(2003) officially made electric bikes of specific parameters legally bicycles.
Terry(63) in San Francisco - Professional Bionx conversion. San Francisco hills no problem, and he rarely drives. He gets lots of questions.

Benjamin stated any competent bike store could make the conversion; in fact most probably have already done them, and that getting a conversion professionally done can be a good idea.

Flatow inquired as to range; as little as 8-10 miles, some with as much as 40-50m. Range depends on a variety of factors, including battery size, efficiency, how much a rider pedals, and age and condition of bike and battery.

Finally, Benjamin concluded that there both lots of big companies in the market, there is also a "flock" of little guys, importing ebikes, and that its an exciting time in the market.

Local bike seller Kalkhoff live-tweeted the broadcast.

eBikes at Pedal Nation

Several local (and not local) ebike companies will be at The Bicycle Show in a few weeks. With their booths located close to the demo area, this is a great opportunity to check out several different brands and models of ebikes, and compare them side-by-side. And since ebikes are still bikes, there will be tons of other vendors there, as well as the usual expo-style instructional sessions.

The Bicycle Show, April 10-11, 2010 at the Oregon Convention Center, $7 admission, though there are a limited number of free tickets available.

The eBike Store
Emoto EV
Hebb Ebikes
Kalkhoff USA

I'm also curious if we'll get a glimpse at Shimano's promised but unseen ebike-specific components.

(If you're an ebike exhibitor and I missed you, please let me know so I can add you in!)

Monday, March 22, 2010

Who Likes Planet Bike? I Do.

Planet Bike Beamer 3 LED Bicycle Light with Quick Cam Bracket MountAcross our fleet, Mrs. PDXebiker and I probably own a dozen Planet Bike (hereafter PB) lights, from the small blinkies to the 3-led model. I've always been happy with their lights - cheap, functional - everything a light should be. But I didn't think much more about them as a company. But then things changed...

Planet Bike Full ATB Front and Rear Bicycle Fender Set (60mm Wide)In response to a question from Mrs. PDXebiker regarding replacement bike lock keys, PB responded by replacing 3 ulocks with newer, more secure models. Then, I installed several pairs of fenders across the fleet, and was impressed at their quality, function, and value. When I found my fingers getting cold at the beginning of this winter, I was more than willing to try out a pair of Planet Bike gloves, specifically the Borealis.Planet Bike Borealis Fall/Winter Full Finger (Medium)

They were good gloves, and kept my hands pretty warm. Nicely windproof, warm and dry. I only got cold fingers riding in sub-20 temperatures. The fleece liner was nice, but had a tendency to fold in on itself, making it difficult to insert your fingers fully into the glove. But as they broke in, it seemed to happen less often.

After a season of use, I noticed the neoprene near the velcro was starting to separate, perhaps as a result of pulling them on firmly in order to properly set the lining. I mentioned this off-hand in my LBS, and without a second thought, the gloves were replaced. Great!

Unfortunately, this pair had the same liner issue. On a temperate late winter evening, frustrated that the liner wouldn't co-operate, I cut the liner out. Impatient, yes, but it was cooling off, getting dark, and I was ready to get home. As I rode home, I realized that as Spring was coming, I probably didn't need the weight of a winter glove. Time for a new pair of gloves!

I hadn't planned to consider Planet Bike gloves, having had issues with the previous pair, but based on her good experience with them previously about locks, Mrs. PDXebiker wisely insisted I contact PB and let them know. Without a second thought, they offered to replace the current pair, either with the same model, or a different model. I requested their Spring-weight glove, the Aquilo.

Planet Bike Aquilo Full Finger Glove Medium BlackImagine my surprise some days later when I received not only the Aquilo, but also a replacement pair of the Borealis gloves! Planet Bike, you've got me for life.

(Oh, and they sponsored's coverage of the National Bike Summit. PB may be based in WI, but that's local activism at its best. Thanks guys!)

Updated, 3/23:
Now with pictorial goodness! Thanks, DanR.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Review: Rainmates Rain Chaps

As Winter set in last year, I dusted off the ski bibs and braced myself for the coming rain. The chain guard on my ebike negates the need for ankle straps, and they were sufficiently breathable and warm that they made winter riding quite comfortable. They were a bit bulky, though, and took some time to put on, but a warm dry ebiker is a happy ebiker.

Then Spring arrived. There were more days when it might rain than days when it was actually raining. Granted, you can carry alot on an ebike, but lugging around full ski bibs based on the chance of rain was kind of ridiculous, but getting caught in a spring shower without some leg protection was downright chilly.

Enter the Rainmates! These roll-up front chaps offer moderate moisture protection, and can be easily worn "just in case" - inconspicuously rolled up. They attach with a belt at the waist, 2 straps from groin to waist (it reads more awkwardly than it really is), and 4 reflective velcro straps, 1 on either thigh, 1 on either calf. They separate at the knee for lighter conditions. Unlined, they roll up quite compact and easily fit in a bag.

They work surprisingly well! I'll admit I was a little skeptical at first, but the first light rain, I put them on in <20 sec, and was still dry when I got to work. They're easy to put on, effective in all but the downiest of downpours, and dry very quickly. But it wouldn't be a review if it didn't have some quibbles: a slight (very small, really) screen print drip of orange on the waistline doesn't affect core functionality and could be easily removed - I guess since I haven't removed it, it doesn't bother me that much. Once, when dismounting, I snagged a strap on my seat and the elastic came unstitched, but this could be easily repaired (I haven't, of course, which means it probably doesn't bother me that much). There have been a few times I've wished I had the full protection of the bibs, either to be a little drier or a little warmer, but this Spring, the Rainmates have been a great addition to the ebike wardrobe. Here's is a video on the Rainmates website demonstrating how easy they are to put on.

"Sweet Action!"s:

"Not So Nice"s:
Only available in black
Light stitching on elastic strap pulled loose
The product name screened on the side is really big, and bright orange.

Available locally at The eBike Store, $44, and online at Rainmates.

Addition, 3/18:
Also available locally at Clever Cycles for $50.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Ebiking Safely, Thanks to Gracie's Wrench

Last night, I had the opportunity to take an ebike-focused bicycle safety class, courtesy of The eBike Store. Led by Tori Bortman of Gracie's Wrench, the class is a free service offered by Wakefield Gregg, owner of The eBike Store, to all his new ebike customers. It was a great chance to review some general bike safety rules, and some ebike specific ones as well.

We started with basic bike checks that should be performed before any ride, with the addition of batteries and wiring points. This led into a review and discussion of the Oregon Bicyclist manual and the rules of riding in a bike lane, taking a lane, and turning safely. Tori stressed that making ourselves visible and predictable is vital to riding safely, whether on an ebike or a regular bike.

Tori's casual style yet encyclopedic knowledge of bikes and bike safety, as well as years of experience riding and wrenching made her a great instructor. Obviously, her skill as an instructor far outstrips my photographic skills.

All of the participants in the class were looking to their new ebikes as a way to get out of their car, get more exercise, and build strength/fitness. Now we'll all be able to do that, and a little bit more safely.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

One Woman's Year of the eBike

Local blogger April Streeter writes on

"My Year of "E"
That's why I decide to document my first year of e-biking, to see if a) I lose or gain any weight b) ride more or less than I habitually have done (imperfectly measured by a rise or fall in my Zipcar bills, and c) find a noticeable increase in my electric bill from frequent charging of the bike (estimated to be just a few cents per charge, which takes 3.5 hours).

My starting weight was 115. My first week of biking I rode 33.4 miles. Zipcar miles = 0. Happiness factor = high."

Its great to see another ebiker out there - keep us posted on your year of E!

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Take That, Schwalbe!

I'm doing a long term test of a Schwalbe Marathon Plus on the front wheel of the ebike. Schwalbes are notoriously flat resistant, so I wasn't sure how to put it through its paces. A ride down Marine Drive to Cascade Station and back up Killingsworth didn't seem like enough of a test, so I'm going to ill-advisedly invoke karma:

Gosh, I haven't had a flat tire for a long time!

That should give the Schwalbe a good workout. I only hope the back tire, used as a control, is up to the challenge.

Its been less than a week, and the highly reflective brake dust is already starting to build up.

Update, 3/20:
Cripes, I'm having a heckuva time re-seating the bead in this tire uniformly. I don't have tons of experience seating beads, but I know the wubba-wubba feel, and I know what to do to correct it. This tire doesn't seem to want to respond. Maybe its mocking me for some undeserved sidewall wear. Otherwise, more glass, no flats!

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Rockin' the Sanyo Eneloop: A First Look

Sanyo Eneloop Electric Bicycle Bike CY-SPA600NAThe Eneloop, debuting at 2009 Interbike and shining at the 2010 Consumer Electronics Show(CES), is Sanyo's latest foray into the ebike market. Citing their bike/electronics origins and experience with battery technology (indeed, "Eneloop" is also the brand name for their line of rechargeable batteries), they describe it as "a cross between sustainability, stability, freedom and flight". Sanyo recently donated an Eneloop for use in the city motor pool, so having heard the hype, I was very excited recently when I got a chance to test ride one. First, the product details, then a few impressions.

The Bike
A lithium ion 26v 5.7 ah battery mounted amid-ships drives a 250 watt front hub, a rider powers a 3 speed internal hub in back. There is a torque sensor at the rear hub that supplies power proportionate to rider effort - the more you work, the more it helps. A curvaceous step-through frame on fairly narrow 1 3/8" tires makes for a fairly light ride. Thoughtfully, a full complement of lights come standard, as does an over-sized rear rack and (removable) full metal fenders. The Eneloop is one of the rare ebike models that uses regenerative braking; I don't have a lot of experience with regen - it will be interesting to see how it works! Top assisted speed is 15mph.

The Ride
Maybe its because they're the 2 test rides I've done (yeah, I'm kind of new at this), but it seemed to ride very similarly to the e-moto model I recently tested. I found smooth engagement of pedal assist across all 3 levels of assist - very little/no lurching as the motor engaged. The riding position was farther forward than I prefer/am used to on an ebike, and I found the handlebars a bit narrow. Granted, some of the riding position issues I had could be addressed through seat height/handlebar adjustment. The hand grips were very comfortable, and braking was strong. I'm used to a thumb throttle; at first I tried to "fool" the sensor into giving me the amount of power I'd use with the throttle, but I quickly found it was best to let the system work the way it was designed. The 15mph top speed left me comfortable on quiet bike boulevards, but when merging into a bike lane during rush hour traffic I'd have liked a couple more mphs.

Elegant frame design
Sanyo's commitment to building market awareness
Light weight
Smooth power delivery

"Um, yeah, about that..."s
Personal quirks re: riding position

"Can I let you know later?"s
Regenerative braking

The Sanyo Eneloop currently retails at $2,300 on I couldn't find any local bike shops carrying them.

Update, 3/13:
Best Buy at Cascade Station is carrying the Eneloop, as well as some other ebike models. List price, $2200. Here's a poorly composed picture of said bike:

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Not necessarily ebiking, but interesting nonetheless...

Tooling along as I was commuting this morning, I was pleasantly surprised to approach a co-worker, also bike commuting. The juxtaposition of riding with someone I usually interact with in a work context was interesting - it was a great opportunity to get outside the usual roles and talk/decompress about the work environment.  As we crossed the Steel Bridge, I reflected on the fact that she'll soon be in Mexico on vacation, but today, we're sharing the same lane.  Lucky her!

We tried to be courteous to our fellow riders - narrowing to single file as the road constricted or coming to a stop sign, for example, but still managed to get a good chat in as we rode to work.  If we'd both been in cars, that wouldn't have happened.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Belated poorly written review - E-moto ebikes

I hadn't planned to write a review of the e-Moto bikes when I visited with them recently at the NorthWest Bike Expo, so I have neither notes nor a photograph (I'd like the notes, I'm sure you would like the photograph). But of course, they're online, so check them out here.

Here are my impressions - a full line of ebikes (mtn bike, cruiser, commuter, folder), aluminum framed. They're generally 24v batteries, so practical speed is probably around the 15 mph range, which is a little underpowered for the domestic market but do claim a 25m range. The smaller form factor battery, though, makes for some interesting battery placement - the mtn bike mounts the battery at the head tube, for instance. The midframe mounted battery looks to be a clean installation. They spec both front and rear hub motors across their product line, all with torque-sensing pedal assist. The company started with more traditional scooters, but found distribution to be a challenge, and added the ebike line. Riding in a circle in the Expo's demo area (which e-Moto sponsored, thanks guys!) is admittedly nowhere near a complete test ride, but based on that, I'd say it seems a legitimate consideration. Most of their models come nicely accessorized with lights, built in locks, and some models come with baskets pre-installed.

My request for a local distributor went unanswered, but they do show for sale at REI and Sears, as well as other retailers. Columbia Scooters is listed as a local dealer, but as they're a scooter-only shop, I'm not sure they would carry the ebike line.

Nicely accessorized

24v battery could be underpowered

Updated, 3/6: Columbia Scooters let me know that they do not carry the e-moto ebikes, just the scooters.

Updated, 3/13:
Best Buy at Cascade Station is not currently carrying the E-moto line.