Saturday, April 26, 2014

The tail that wags the beast

When Mike suggested I look into an electric bike for use between wherever the RV was parked and nearby points of interest, I didn’t realize he was pointing me at what seems to be something of a movement.   However that may be, I had my first few minutes on a couple of e-bikes yesterday afternoon, and I was pretty intrigued.

Actually, I had a blast, tooling around a parking lot down in the SE part of town.  You get on one, start pedaling, and the assist kicks in. On most models you can leave it at that: you pedal and your effort is multiplied mightily.  On many models, you can also stop pedaling when you want, and use a hand throttle for speed control.  They all seem to cut out at 18mph, to avoid becoming “motor vehicles” for legal purposes.

But let me tell ya, even cruising around a parking lot at 12-15 mph feels pretty quick.  And fun!  Just being on a bike I felt like a clueless klutz for the first few minutes, but the bike “stuff” came back pretty quick.  I felt a nice slightly-worked-out burn in my legs when I was done, and I didn’t want to return the bike to its corral!  You can vary the amount of electric assist you get, which increases the load on your legs and decreases the draw on the battery.  For RV travel, like I thought, sure!  But I can see going for rides along Tucson’s bikeways just for fun.  And exercise!  My balance issues relate to foot stability, not inner ear problems, so I’m perfectly stable on a bike once I get the hang of it.   So this could be the way to gently and enjoyably get some cardio conditioning and regain some lower-body strength.

Batteries:  two kinds of battery in use.  One is the standard lead-acid battery used in most cars.  Heavy, cheap.  Last about a year in regular use.  The other is a lithium battery, which costs more, lasts longer, is lighter, and recharges faster.

Range and battery life.  The more muscle you put into it (the less assist) the longer the range.  And wind and hills also make a difference.  But something like 20 miles seems to be the most you can expect.  So I could ride it downtown, and back home without being too nervous.  I don’t know about places like cafes where you could recharge the bike a while.  

Because of back and hip mobility problems, the classic thoughtless throw-your-leg-over-the-saddle move just doesn’t work for me.  And it certainly didn’t yesterday wearing a pair of jeans.  But, once I got used to it, a “step-over” frame does work.  What we used to call a “girls’ bike.”  Wikipedia outlines the advantages:

  • less risk of stretching or ripping clothes when mounting the saddle
  • the rider can wear a skirt (also requires a skirt guard and possibly a chain guard)
  • very quick to mount and dismount, so is suitable for delivery bicycles, or any journey with many stops
  • suitable for elderly and others with restricted agility
  • potentially safer than a high crossbar; a rider who loses balance can step through the bicycle without becoming entangled
  • compactness provides a popular starting point for folding bicycles.

There ya go.  I could pretend to be a bike messenger, and not a geezer.  No?  Didn’t think so.

So some kind of step-through frame.  But how do I get it from Point A to Point B?  From my house to a bike path?  From my house to the RV?  One answer is two bike racks:  One which fits into the trailer hitch on the RV, and another which fits on the Hyundai.   A folding bike is also an option, and I’ve located some which would fit in the back of the Hyundai.  I need to learn more about this option. Most of the folding bikes are step-through designs. 

Storage.  In Tucson, I think it lives on the back patio, in the newly-refurbished roofed-over area.   It might, if I could get it through the door, live in the RV when it’s stored.  

When I thought of this as an RV accessory, I figured I’d wait and see after a few RV trips.  But the idea of going for recreational rides around home right now, before it gets beastly hot, is pretty exciting.  And it might be really fun to plan RV destinations near places to bike for an hour or so.

I’ve located on-line resources and forums, as I did with RVs, and so I’ll keep learning. 

Good Stuff!

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