Wednesday, June 23, 2010

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.


  1. Nice piece!

    It's great to hear how an electric motors are lowering the barriers to bicycling for Portlanders. I think the City's ambitious Bike Plan 2030 and Climate Action Plan goals will NOT be met without people like Gretchin and bikes like Rose!

    Can't wait to read more profiles. Maybe even me one day...

  2. thanks, scott! i'm excited to read more profiles, too -- maybe even yours someday. :)

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