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.