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.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Racing eBikes: At Least My Jacket was Yellow

A few weeks ago the professional bike racing world was aghast at the accusation that an elite racer used an electric motor to pull ahead and later win a stage of the Giro de Italia. In this context, electrifying your bike is clearly cheating - but what an interesting bit of technology the Gruber Assist is!

That weekend also saw the Oregon Human Powered Vehicle Association sponsored ePower Challenge. Held at Portland International Raceway, it's a great opportunity to check out other people's ebikes, talk about the latest in ebike technology, and meet new riders. Auto racing is a test bed of cutting edge automobile technology; from what I saw, the same holds true for ebikes.

I entered the race in the unmetered, upright unfaired category. The velomobile racers are an intense lot - I was lapped several times during my 7 lap race. Other than the occasional passing, I was largely riding by myself for the majority of the race. PIR's a great course; even if you're not competitive (and I wasn't), it's fun to ride. Years ago, my grandfather got to drive his Ford LTD around Indianapolis Motor Speedway; it's nice to carry on a family tradition of sorts. It would be great to see a bigger "upright unfaired" class next year, even if we're not very competitive.

ePedalpalooza - What are Your Plans?

Well, we're almost halfway through Pedalpalooza - the eBike Ride is over, and it might not rain. Rain much more, anyway. The eBike Ride was great; did it inspire you to go on other rides as well? It inspired me - I've been on the following other rides:

Tiny Home Tour
A fun jaunt around NE Portland to look at small houses and ADUs. There's a SE version this weekend; highly recommended.

Accupuncture Ride
I was just riding to a food cart when a group of people rode by. I caught up and inquired, turns out they were the Accupuncture Ride. I trailed for a couple of blocks.

Hidden Routes of NE Portland
A great tour of little-known shortcuts and alternative bike routes around N and NE Portland. Do you know about the shortcut from Commercial to Freemont?

Mrs. PDXebiker and I are also considering the following rides - we'll probably skip the World Naked Bike Ride, though.

Fort, Food, Fort


Tandem Ride

Costco Run

Sunday Parkways (here's my preview of the route)

Saraveza's New Belgium Bike Party

What about you? What rides have you been on, and what are you thinking about going on?

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

What to Test Next?

So I'm wrapping up my latest review (adding picturey goodness), and am starting to wonder what I should think about testing next. So I'll throw this question out there - what do you all think I should test next? And, if you've got access to one that I could borrow for a week, so much the better!

(I probably won't be testing a Stokemonkey equipped bakfiets for a week, but for a hop around the block, it was a hoot!)

Final Report: The Kalkhoff Pro Connect Sport

I rode the Kalkhoff Pro Connect Sport for several days recently. I thoroughly enjoyed riding this bike, and I've come away from the test ride with some thoughts. I'll fill you in on the particulars of the test, and then share my thoughts.

The Pro Connect Sport is the sportiest model of the Kalkhoff line, though it shares Panasonic electronics with the rest of their line. It's a mid-drive system - the 250 watt motor drives a small sprocket behind the front chainring. The 26 volt/10 amp-hour battery is mounted mid-frame, behind the seat tube and in front of the rear fender. It locks securely to the frame; there is no outlet for on-bike charging, so the battery must be removed to be charged. The battery is small, weighs ~5lbs, has a convenient carrying handle, and a 5-point charge indicator. It's mountain bike style frame and straight handlebars lead to a fairly aggressive riding position, especially for an ebike. As a regular bike, it's a very nice bike, albeit a bit heavy at 47lbs; without the battery or powered off, it doesn't have any of the heft that many other ebikes do. It includes hard-wired front and rear lights, and retails for $3,399.

I had 2 initial questions regarding the kit that comes on this model. First, I was surprised not to see disc brakes on a bike in this price range. Peter, Kalkhoff USA's head mechanic, explained that this choice was intentional - they'd opted for hydraulic rim brakes for better brake articulation and power. They work very well, though they don't have an electric interrupt to disengage the motor when the brakes are applied, which can be a nice feature. Second, I was surprised that the rear wheel was equipped with a 9-speed derailer rather than an internal hub; other models in the Kalkhoff line have internal hubs. Again, as this is their performance model, they opted for the better performance/weight of the derailer system. Also, due to the additional length of the frame to accommodate the mid-frame battery, this ebike doesn't fit well on Tri-Met bus bike racks.

The Pro Connect Sport is the first torque-based pedal-assist ebike I've ridden. There are sensors built in to the pedals that detect how hard you are pushing them, and deliver a proportional amount of motorized assist. The extra hit of speed is a compelling reward - I found myself eagerly pedaling a little harder to get that little extra bit, as well as to avoid the feeling of the motor turning off when you stop pedaling. It's like the bike is saying, "Well, if you're not working for it, neither am I" - and there's no way around it. In contrast to unpowered bikes, it's better to not downshift when climbing - "mash don't spin" is the way I think of it. With the assist engaged, it's easy to tool around at 17-18mph; I found my top speed to be about 22mph, which is consistent with The Oregonian's experience.

The worst case scenario range test was a challenge - due to the torque sensor assist design, in order to get the motor to work it's hardest, I would have to work my hardest. On a single charge, at the highest assist setting, in top gear, I managed to get 34 miles. Any technique used to extend your range, eg a lower assist setting, could significantly extend this. Kalkhoff's sales material claims up to 50 miles on a single charge; due to its sportiness, I find that a bit of a stretch for the Pro Connect Sport, but I think it's entirely possible for the balance of their line.

One of the most remarkable things about this ebike is that Mrs. PDXebiker liked it; she quickly broke into a smile as she started off in the lowest assist level and moved up to the highest level. She found the assist was more intuitive and less obtrusive than other ebikes she's tried - granted, her regular bike is a mountain bike, so its a form factor she's comfortable with. This may be the case with other torque-sensing pedal assists; it will be interesting to see.

That's what the Kalkhoff did for me as well - it reminded me of a more bike-like experience. It might make you work a little harder for your fun than other ebikes, but it encourages you and meets you halfway. It provides a little extra power when you need it, and truly seamlessly fades into the background when you don't. A lot of the design naturally flows from that starting point: with less assist comes lower battery requirements, which can mean a lighter frame, which can mean more range, etc. Yes, it is an expensive ebike, there's no way around that - but it's a very nicely equipped bike, and it rides like one. This ebike will appeal to people that already like riding a bike, and who appreciate that with regard to bike quality, you get what you pay for.

Motor feedback encourages active pedaling.
Nicely equipped with top-end components.
Also serviceable as a regular bike.


Battery must be removed to be charged.
Charger is fairly large, making it difficult to carry on bike.
Price. But I'm an admitted cheapskate.

Update, June 18
My review is of the 2009 model. For 2010, the motor is upgraded to 300 watts; all things being equal, I'd expect to see a little more acceleration, a slightly higher top-end, at the expense of some battery life. Not a bad upgrade, in my opinion.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Thoughts about eBike Range Measurement

As I've been testing new ebikes, and planning more tests in the future, I've been trying to think of the best gauge of range. It's a common question among people shopping for ebikes, and it's one of most often asked of me by the e-curious. Usually, battery capacity is measured in amp-hours; I've also seen measurements in watt-hours and "up to" mile ranges. Amp-hour is a fairly straightforward metric, but it's mile range I've been thinking about; after all I don't want a 10ah battery, I want an effective range. A range estimate usually includes caveats such as "if you pedal as well, and work more at starts and stops, you could get up to XX miles out of a charge". If I never actually turned the motor on, I would get an infinite range from a single charge. But that's not why we ride ebikes, is it?

My current thinking is that the best measure of range is a "worst case scenario" (hereafter WCS). Put another way, if I do as little work as possible and use the battery as much as possible, what's the lowest range I can expect?

Upper distance measurements proffered by ebike manufacturers often have a lot of caveats (flat route, 150lb rider, full tires). Instead of applying these caveats in order to get to that upper range, I like to think of it as applying the caveats to extend the WCS range.

Finally, don't forget, if you ride an ebike, you'll eventually ride on a dead battery. The best way to prevent this is ABC - "Always Be Charging". Your battery will thank you!

And finally-finally, what's your assist type (pedal assist only, pedal assist/throttle combo, throttle only, other), voltage, amp-hours, and WCS scenario range? My primary ride is throttle/36v/10ah, and I get about 18 miles, WCS. Throw your answer in comments, please!

Shortly after publishing this, I found an iPhone app "Ebike Calculator" that claims to calculate ebike range. Sadly, it's for a later version of the iPhone software than I have, so I can't attest to its accuracy. Anyone have a newer iPhone want to download it and check it out? It's free!

Keeping Dry: My New Rain Poncho

It's been a rainy June in Portland, to say the least. We received an average June's worth of rainfall within the first four days, normally stalwart Portlanders resorted to (gasp!) umbrellas and only the threat of a wet Pedalpalooza convinced the weather to break. And break it did, giving up a weekend of beautiful sun for the opening of Pedalpalooza.

By the following Tuesday, it was raining again. And I was pretty happy about that.

"What!?!" you say. "That's borderline sacrilege!" It may be - unless, of course, you've got a new piece of rain gear you want to test. Which I did.

I'd seen rain capes on bikes around town, but it was only on a recent tour of the North Portland Greenway that I was able to see one up close. Jack pulled his cape out to handle the light sprinkling we got as we left Swan Island and merged into the rail right-of-way. It seemed the perfect solution - enough to keep dry, but still ventilated enough to be comfortable. I searched high and low, and found only 2 items: 1) a waxed canvas version from Carradice in the UK, and a much cheaper version from Campmor. It being an untested concept, I went with the cheaper alternative. And then the rain started in earnest. So I bided my time for the right conditions.

The rain cape is suited for the start of a light rain, as it obviously offers no protection from street splash. It's as easy to don as pulling it over your head and slipping your fingers through the elastic loops; the version I have includes a hood, which I haven't had to use. It rolls up quite small, and in hi-visibility yellow, makes it very easy to see a rider.

Over the course of a ride, water does tend to pool in the front, so occasionally you have to dump it. The internal loops are a bit narrow for my cruiser-style handlebars, and since your hands are linked together, signalling for turns takes some getting used to, but quickly becomes intuitive. In short, it's another great alternative to staying dry while riding.


Easy to put on.
Small packed size.
Bright yellow.

If it rains a lot, you're probably going to get wet.
Turn signals take some getting used to.
Thumb loops are a bit narrow for cruiser handlebars.

While looking for links for this post, I came across this pattern for those who may be craftily-inclined. Also, the Center for Appropriate Transport in Eugene, OR, offers a similar model.

@GDorn on Twitter responds that he's used a poncho as well, though water repellance wears off, its not very aerodynamic, and "it makes me look like a duck."

Saturday, June 12, 2010

The eBike Ride Report 2010

(I was working on this longer post with pictures, but if you rode with us, please comment below! Thanks all, I had a great time!)

We assembled between noon and 12:30 at The eBike Store, caffeinated, chatted a bit about route selection and other considerations, and headed out. With as diverse a mix of participants as ebikes, we found a large vacant lot, and played musical ebikes, getting to try out as many as we liked. I liked the tandem recumbent, with the highest number of freewheels per rider as I think I've ever seen. I also got to ride a new Ohm ebike, and rode a 48v ebike for the first time. Which bikes did you like?

We left the tests, and headed into the Pearl via the Broadway Bridge. Traffic was light as the Rose Parade had already ended, though we missed couple parade riders in the confusion. We managed to stay fairly well together, and arrived at our next stop, Kalkhoff USA's showroom. Water and gummy bears enjoyed by all, we waved goodbye to a portion of our recumbent riders, and headed downtown.

I'd heard there was going to be a Steel Bridge lift; unfortunately we were just in time for it. Rather than waiting, we opted for a slow meander down the west bank path, and returned to find the Steel Bridge down and traffic cleared.

We had a minor technical issue with an overheated motor controller; while futzing with a cold pack from the first aid kit, the controller cooled off enough to resume our trip. We ducked into Sol Pops on Williams for a quick refreshment, and eventually returned to The eBike Store.

As you see in the comments below, it sounds like everyone had a great time! We'll have to try to all get together again soon.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Sunday Parkways Preview: North Portland Sunday Parkways

The second of five iterations of Sunday Parkways arrives in North Portland on Sunday, June 27. Having a full battery and some time on my hands, I recently set out to check out the route. I've also added some highlights I'll be checking out along the way.

Overall, I really like the route. It does a good job of largely sticking to signed bike boulevards, highlighting existing bike infrastructure you may not be familiar with, and connecting the parks with very convenient routes. The route itself is flatter than the NE version, so I didn't really see a preferred direction to ride.

I began heading W on Ainsworth. The MAX tracks shouldn't be a big issue, but for inexperienced riders, it's worth being careful. The Delaware-Willamette Blvd section is wide and tree-lined. Willamette Bluff is not to be missed - the view is incredible, and the folks at North Portland Greenways will be soaking it in, and sharing their vision of an Esplanade-like bike trail from downtown to Kelly Point Park. Kaiser Permanente will also be handing out free pedometers, to help you track your recommended 10,000 steps/day.

The transition from Willamette to Villard and Bryant may be a bit tricky, but there will be police manning the intersection. The west end of Bryant is probably the roughest pavement on the course; indeed, there are freshly paved alleys within view of the cracked roadbed of Bryant that are in better shape. The long northern leg on Wabash is a wide and sharrowed bike boulevard. I'd highly recommend a stop halfway for a refreshing Mug'o'Pickles at the Mock Crest Tavern on Lombard Street.

There isn't anything published regarding activities planned at Trenton Park, but I imagine it will be crowded. Winding through the northern vestiges of Portland brings us to Kenton Park. Kenton Park was crazy-busy last year; I'm sure it will be again this year. The eBike Store and Kalkhoff will be there demoing electric bikes, and the CRC will be giving away Portland/Vancouver bike maps. If I don't make the Fort/Ford/Fort Ride during Pedalpalooza, I plan to pick up a map and finally make the ride across the Columbia.

Leaving the fun craziness that will be Kenton Park, the route parallels downtown Kenton for a ways; these are some of the narrower streets on the route, but they feel wider than 37th Street on the NE route last month. Realigning with the east end of Bryant (which is in remarkably better shape than the west end), we arrive at Arbor Lodge Park. Singing Planet will be here demoing their Pedego electric bikes, and talking ebike tours.

Heading east on Bryant, there are a couple turns that bring us to the Bryant Street pedestrian overpass. This bridge is frequently a choke point on other rides, but I think its worth it for the cars on I-5 below to see the segregated bike traffic. And if you're looking for off-road riding in Portland, the alleys in the area offer some challenging double-track trail riding.

Bryant and Congress bring us to Peninsula Park, after a policed dogleg crossing over Rosa Parks Way. Peninsula Park, like Kenton, is going to be hopping. While there, check out Best Buy's tent, where they are demoing electric bikes and scooters.

Its a Sunday Parkway.
Maybe the rain will have stopped!
___(insert your favorite here!)___

"Maybe next time"
None. What's not to like? (that said, be careful on MAX track crossings, at the Bryant St Ped bridge, and the Congress/Rosa Parks intersection).

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Freebies at Pedalpalooza

OK, I'll admit it - I'm a sucker for free. Offer me something for free, I'll eagerly take you up on it. Local popsicle purveyor SolPops frequently tweet-offers free pops (though I had to do the "truffle shuffle" for one recently-I eagerly swapped dignity for mango-lime). Grand Central Bakery occasionally tweets offers for free loaves of bread; I'm a regular. In short, I get 'free'.

In reading this year's Pedalpalooza ride guide, I was struck at the number of events that involve something free. And I don't mean potluck, where sure, you don't HAVE to bring something, but poaching a potluck is seriously lame. Here's a rundown of Pedalpalooza events that, at least according to the description, purport to offer something free:

(Don't forget The eBike Ride Sat., June 12. And of course, with Pedalpalooza, the fun is always free.)

Thursday, June 10 (hey that's today!)
Bingo Masters Coffee - free coffee to people on bikes every Thursday during Pedalpalooza.
Splendid Cycles Grand Opening Bash "Food and beverages provided"

Friday, June 13

Breakfast on the Bridges - free donuts
Bicycle Film Fest - free "PeeWee's Big Adventure"

Saturday, June 14
More free PeeWee at the Portland Rock Gym. Maybe smores?

Sunday, June 15

Scrapper Ride - free bike decorating materials

Wednesday June 16
Lubador Libre - free chain lube! 8-9am, Broadway Bridge

Thursday, June 17

Crullers and Coffee
Free coffee at Bingo Masters

Friday, June 18
Breakfast on the Bridges - free donuts!

Saturday, June 19
Pedal-Balloon-za! Free balloons, courtesy The Lippman Co.

Tuesday, June 22
Mocktails and Hors D'oeurves Off the Bridges - free snacks

Wednesday, June 23

Coffee on Clay

Thursday, June 24
Free Food Ride (Or: What's Fun About Bike Fun)

Friday, June 25
Breakfast on the Bridges

Bike-In Movie at the Hawthorne Hostel - "The Wiz" Pre-movie live music and food

Saturday, June 25
St John's Bike-In Movie "Breaking Away"

Monday, June 7, 2010

A Week With: the Kalkhoff Pro Connect Sport

Since Joe Rose at the Oregonian recently published a story highlighting his experience with the Kalkhoff line of ebikes, I've been interested in trying one out myself. This week, the team at Greenlight Bikes, who distribute the Kalkhoff brand in the US, agreed to let me run one through its paces. I'm looking forward to it, and virtually comparing notes with Joe.

Are there any particular things you're interested in learning about the Kalkhoff ebikes? Specifically, I'll be riding the Pro Connect Sport, which is their top-of-the-line model. Some things I'm particularly interested in:

1) 26 volts. I've only ridden 36v systems, so I'm interested to see the difference. (Corrected from 24 volts.)
2) Mid-drive. I've only ridden hub motor systems.
3) Related to the above 2 items is range - pedal assist seems to generally improve battery range over throttled ebikes, and mid-drive leverages the advantages of the gearing. The Kalkhoff USA website claims up to 50 miles per charge, so I'm curious to see what my "worst case scenario" range will be.

After completing the week-long test, I'll try several of their other models for briefer test rides, and see if my observations are applicable across their line. And I'll keep you posted as the week goes by.