By Andrea Brown Herald Writer
Plug your smartphone into the USB port, set the GPS and start your engine by pedaling.
The bicycle of the future is here.
It’s a conventional bike with battery thrust. Known as an e-bike, for electric bike, this isn’t a moped or a scooter or considered a motor vehicle by law.
It’s a hybrid of human and motor power to maximize pedal power.
E-bikes look like ordinary bikes. The battery is tucked inside the frame. The motor is quiet and inconspicuous.
Most people won’t notice you’re getting a boost. They’ll just think you are really buff.
“You still have to pedal,” said Grant Harrington, owner of Endurance Sports Northwest in Mukilteo.
“It’s basically pedal-assist. You still get the bike riding experience. When you can’t make it up a hill, the motor kicks in. Downhill, it will keep you from going too fast.”
On flat surfaces, it’s smooth cruising going twice as fast for half the effort.
Riders can feel the juice kick in from the get-go and control the level of assist on the handlebar LCD instrument. It’s like having an extra set of legs doing the work.
Depending on mode, the battery can last four or so hours. Digital screens show how much charge remains, distance and speed. If the battery dies or is powered off, you simply ride the old-fashioned way.
Seattle E-Bikes sales manager Mikaela Bird said e-bikes are popular with commuters, cyclists and retired people.
“It’s not for lazy riders,” Bird said. “Cars are for lazy riders.”
E-bike prices vary by models and options. The high-end Swiss-made Stromer models at Endurance Sports start at more than $3,000.
Seattle E-Bikes carries a variety of brands at the store south of downtown Seattle. “Most are between $1,500 and $2,500,” Bird said. “Last year’s models are $1,100 to $1,500.”
Extra batteries run $400 to $700, she said.
Kits are available to power up ordinary bicycles, but these can run as much as buying a bike already equipped.
Bird said e-bikes give city riders an edge.
“You can go full speed in a couple seconds,” she said. “You are ahead of the game if you have an electric motor. You can go full speed right off at the light.”
Teens are glomming on to the bikes.
“I have sold to parents who got their 16-year-olds an e-bike instead of a car,” Bird said.
Three-wheeled e-trikes are catching on with ice cream vendors and pedicabs to make carting their loads easier.
Bellingham’s Charlie Heggem, who sells a shock absorber for bicycle seats, brings his e-bike in his car on his frequent sales calls along the I-5 corridor.
“I’ve had one for two years. They’re life-changing,” Heggem said. “I park in Seattle and load all my stuff on it and ride around on my e-bike. I do all my work on this thing.”
He uses it on his home turf as well. “I can haul 100 pounds on this thing. My kid. A trailer. I go get groceries, and I can still do 20 miles an hour.”
The best part: “They are exceptionally fun,” Heggem said.
Andrea Brown; 425-339-3443; firstname.lastname@example.org