You like to bike, but you hate the grind up steep hills. You want a good, outdoor workout but not a punishing one. You also want to do errands without having to drag around 2 tons of steel that we call a car. And, of course, you want easy parking. You also want to shrink your carbon footprint and be good to Mother Earth.
There's an answer to all these wants: an electric-assisted bicycle or “e-bike” — one that still has 18 gears and is “still a bike and lets you have a workout,” says Ashland Electric Bikes owner Jerry Solomon.
“It's so much more fun than driving; it takes all the pain out of it,” says Stephen Gagne, who bought a pair of e-bikes for himself and his wife, Cyndy.
“I feel like it liberated me to this whole other world,” she says. “It's the nicest thing he's ever given me since we got married 26 years ago.”
Like a lot of Ashland residents, the Gagnes live up a hill. They like pedaling around town, but that last mile is brutal, which used to keep them from using bikes for exercise at all.
On an e-bike, the motor can carry the rider (without pedaling) about 20 to 30 miles at a maximum legal limit of 20 mph. But the rider also can pedal it, so the more energy put into it, the more exercise the rider gets, the more “juice” is left in the battery and the farther the bike can go.
An e-bike functions like a regular one, but it has an extra 30 pounds of battery and motor, so without some help from electric power, it will be harder to ride than a standard bike.
“Going on the flat and pedaling seems like you're going downhill,” says Stephen, “and going uphill and pedaling seems like going on the flat.”
Operating an e-bike is simple. Hop on and pedal a few times, then turn the right-handle power feed, and it accelerates like a car, so it goes safely with the flow of traffic, notes Stephen. A governor keeps it to the legal limit of 20 mph.