Report on my New Electric Bike: #1
I’ve been telling you that I was going to get an electric bike for while now and at the beginning of May I finally decided to do it. Because they are so expensive I didn’t want to just throw my money away by buying a top-quality bike and then discover I hated it; but I didn’t want to buy a cheap bike that worked so badly it didn’t give me a true picture of what owning an e-Bike would mean. I finally ended up buy one of the lowest cost e-Bikes on the market. My thinking was if I found out I hated it I could sell it and not lose too much. On the other hand, if I loved it, I could sell it for not too big a loss and buy a higher end bike.
While browsing e-Bikes on Amazon.com I stumbled across the perfect beginner’s bike for me. It is a Currie TrailZ e-Bike which cost $499.99. All the reviews on Amazon and on other sites I found said it was an amazingly good bike for the low price. I would have ordered it from Amazon, but they were out-of-stock when I was ready to buy so I found a local dealer in Prescott who carried them and bought it from them instead.
I also wanted to buy a bike that is in a practical price range for many of you, my readers. I know many of you don’t have thousands of dollars lying around to spend on a bike. But most of us can save $50 a month for 10 months and be able to afford this bike, (or even $25 a month for 20 months and then buy it). I’m hoping that in a year or two it can save me enough in gas and wear and tear on the van to pay for itself. I think that is very realistic. Here is the Amazon page on the bike I bought:
The bottom line: Without the electric motor, I would have taken a regular bike for a ride and been so discouraged by how hard it was and I would never have ridden it again. But with the motor, I can use it as a crutch while I build up my strength and stamina. After that I will only use the motor for the hills and for long distances. So my goal for right now is to ride the bike every day and use the motor as little as possible to build up my comfort on a bike and my leg strength and stamina. I don’t have any doubt I can do that because my consistent walking has given me a base of fitness to easily build on. If I am satisfied with a cheap bike with almost no experience, strength or stamina, how much more would I love it with a high quality bike and decent physical ability. I’m looking forward to finding out!
Why did you want a bike?
More often than not, I’m camped from 4-8 miles from shopping and I hate driving the van in for that short a trip. But it is much too far to walk and also too far for me to ride a bike as out of shape as I am. But there are lots of good reasons I would ride a bike if I could:
- I’d spend a lot less on gas.
- I’d avoid a lot of wear and tear on the van
- I’d pollute less and do something very good for the earth.
- I’d be much healthier!
- It would be fun!
With a list of advantages like that, how could I not want to ride a bike!!
Why not just a regular bike or a 2-Stroke gasoline powered bike?
I want a bike to be able to haul freight. On the way to town I will carry my garbage on the way back I will carry 2-5 gallons of water plus groceries. That could easily weigh 30-60 pounds plus towing a trailer to carry it all in. I’m an old fat guy and I will never be able to do that on a non-motorized bike. My good friend Brian bought a 49cc, 2-Stroke motor kit and added it to his bike so I considered doing that instead. After watching Brian’s experience I decided I didn’t want one for these reasons:
- They are fairly expensive
- They are difficult to mount on your bike and I am not a mechanic!
- I think their quality is low so their long-term reliability is nill. Again, I am not a mechanic and I don’t want to fuss with the thing.
- The gas tank on Brian’s bike was always leaking and I’d have to carry it inside my van.
- It stinks and pollutes like crazy!
Honda makes a small motor that is often mounted on bikes, so I would consider buying a bike with one of those already mounted. But that would have been more expensive than a good electric bike. And I would still have to buy, store and carry gas for it. With my solar power, an e-Bike provides free and non-polluting transportation for the rest of my life; to me it is a no-brainer!!!!!
Was it hard to start riding a bike again and does the motor really make it easier?
Yes, it was very, very hard! When I was a kid I rode a bike every day and thought nothing of it; those days are long gone!! Five year ago, when I first hit the road again, I bought a bike to take with me and after my first few rides I was so discouraged I knew I wouldn’t put in the time and effort to build up my strength and stamina so I sold it. The electric motor has changed that!
The first few feet after you launch the bike from a stop are the hardest because you have no momentum; you have to get it all with your legs which is hard even in your lowest gear. Then you have to work hard after each gear shift to build up to speed. But with an e-bike I just give the bike a little shove and step on the pedal and then hit the throttle. The throttle does all the work of getting me up to speed and then I work up the gears to top speed with very little effort. The 450 watt motor on my bike has an amazing amount of torque, it really shoves me forward! After it has me moving; maintaining my speed in a high gear on level road is not that hard, so I may not use the motor again. Then, if I hit a hill I use the motor to maintain my speed because right now I don’t have the strength or stamina to do it myself. The motor takes all the misery out of riding a bike and leaves all the joys and advantages! (Except the misery of my butt on that tiny seat, more on that in a later post!)
How much pedaling do you have to do?
Right now it is my goal to build my fitness level, so I am doing as much pedaling as I can. But, even after my fitness increases, I will continue to minimize the use of the motor. That way I can do longer rides with less effort. In other words, right now an 8 mile ride is all I can do and I still have to rely on the motor quite a bit. In a year I want to be able to go on a 20 mile ride and use the motor about the same amount and come home less tired. A year after that maybe I can do a 40 mile ride, use the motor about the same amount and be even less tired afterwards. The more I pedal, the longer the battery will last and the further I can go on one battery charge.
How fast can an electric bike go and how far can you go on the charge in your battery?
E-Bikes are regulated by the Federal and State governments. By law they have to have a motor smaller than 750 watts (mine has a 450 watt motor which is larger than most) and a speed of less than 20 mph. That way they fall under the laws regulating consumer devices like non-motorized bicycles. If they go faster than 20 mph they become a motor-vehicle and fall under the laws regulating cars and motorcycles, so all e-bikes have governors that keep their speed below 20 mph.
You have to understand that e-Bikes aren’t like motorcycles, they are bicycles and you are going to have to pedal them. If you try to use the motor as your only source of forward motion by not pedaling, even the best battery on the best bike won’t take you very far. The assumption is that you will use the motor to launch you up to speed and then use it again on hills. If you ride that way you can expect to get a range of 15-40 miles off one battery depending on the quality of the bike and the battery (in a very hilly area it might be much less, on a very flat area it may be more). Because my bike is a very low end bike and I am not very fit, I think I would be lucky to get 5-10 miles out of one Sealed Lead Acid Battery. For that reason I bought two batteries. My thinking is to use one battery on the way into town and then switch and use the other battery on the way out of town.
What kind of batteries do e-bikes use and which one is best?
This is a complicated subject and all depends on how much money you have to spend. The cheapest batteries are Sealed Lead Acid (which I assume is an AGM). It is just like the house battery for you van, only smaller. They have the advantage of being cheap, but they are also heavy and have a limited life—mine only claims 200 discharge cycles and weighs 17 pounds. The next step up is Lithium batteries which weigh half as much and can easily get double the cycles. There are numerous types of Lithium batteries and the best can get up to 1000 cycles and still have 40 miles range. But the lithium batteries are very expensive. A spare SLA battery for my bike cast $150. Currie makes a replacement Lithium battery for my bike that costs $350 and another very high quality lithium battery for it that costs $500. So when my batteries fail, I can buy a whole new bike for the price of one high-end lithium battery! Right now it has all left me a little confused; this is something I will work out over time. If you have the money there is no doubt that lithium is better in every way. But I can buy three SLA batteries for the price of one lithium battery; is that still better?
Here is a direct replacement SLA battery from Amazon for $108
Here is a direct replacement Lithium battery from Amazon for $362
How are you carrying it?
I have more room than most, so I just carry it in the van between camps and then it is outside in camp. If you have a limited amount of room, you can carry it on a bike rack or there are numerous small folding e-Bikes available.
Why did you buy a girls bike?
Because I am an old fat guy who doesn’t care what people think of him!! I’m not kidding, that really is the answer! I am not as limber as I once was and throwing my leg over a bike seat is hard for me. Plus I have a very short inseam and a long torso which makes straddling a bike a very unpleasant experience on a men’s bike. I am very glad I bought a step-through bike and every bike I ever own will have one.
Can I convert my old bike to electric?
Yes! There are numerous kits to convert your old bike. I’m afraid I don’t know much about them, but Amazon sells a kit from Currie to turn your bike into my exact bike and it is very highly rated on Amazon and it only costs $327. Find it here:
Remember, I make a small amount of money from any purchases you make from Amazon after you click-through from my sites–and best of all it costs you nothing.
This post probably doesn’t answer all your questions, but there will more posts to come as I ride more. I will keep you informed about my progress.