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Rec.Bicycles Frequently Asked Questions Posting Part 2/5
Section - 7.17 Electric Bikes

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Date:    Mon, 23 Aug 1999 21:37:27 EDT

Practical transportation for errands and short commutes.

Electric bikes are everyday bicycles with an added battery-powered electric 
motor.  The motor helps you pedal (a lot) whenever you want.  Enjoy that 
cruising feeling all the time - even when you start from a stop, go uphill, 
or buck a head wind.  Electric bikes make cycling quick, safe, and fun!

FLEXIBLE AND UTILITARIAN
You can be riding your first EV for under $1000.  Add a trailer and you've 
got a small, easy-to-use vehicle capable of hauling 100 pounds of cargo over 
five miles at 15+ mph.  Without the trailer and cargo, you and your e-bike 
can easily cover 10 miles at nearly 20 mph.  For most of us, that's enough 
for our local errands.  For some, it will get us to work faster than driving 
- and with less stress.  E-bikes provide advantages of an extra car without 
the burdensome costs.  In addition, electric bikes combine well with bus and 
train for point-to-point transportation.  Multi-car households would do well 
to consider replacing one car and sharing an e-bike.

All electric bikes give your pedaling an assist.  Although capable of pushing 
you along without your help, electric bikes perform noticeably better when 
you pedal.  The average "couch potato" who normally rides at 10 mph can do 
15-20 mph with the same effort for a range of 10 miles before recharging.  

Power is easily activated by a switch mounted on the handlebar - or in 
response to your pedaling.  When activated, the bike immediately responds 
with a nearly silent push.  When you release the switch (or stop pedaling), 
the motor coasts - like "neutral" on a car.  Standard bicycle hand brakes and 
gearing round out the controls. 

TWO BASIC DESIGNS
Electric (or "electric-assist") bicycles come in two basic designs - adaptive 
and purpose-built.  The adaptive type starts with a bicycle and adds a drive 
system to it.  A purpose-built e-bike is a designed from the ground up.  
Adaptives are less expensive, less stylish, and may require installation 
(allow 3 hours if you're familiar with tools; otherwise your local bikeshop 
mechanic will charge about $75).  Purpose-builts offer interesting designs 
and features (like brake-activated tail lights).  Regardless which type you 
use, you don't need a driver's license, vehicle registration, or insurance. 
In California, an electric bike is legally a "bicycle" (CVC 406(b)). 

Rechargeable batteries power the electric drive motors.  Charging requires 
less than 5 of electricity from a standard 110 VAC outlet.  Charging times 
for different brands, however, vary widely.  (ZAPWORLD.COM's DX systems 
recharge in less than three hours.) If you own a bike, you can motorize it 
for as little as $400. Or buy a purpose-built type for up to $1500. 

SAFETY
An electric bike, by California law, is limited to a top speed of 20 mph 
(speed limits vary from state to state).  That speed limitation prevents 
riders from over-riding their capabilities.  The improved acceleration 
provides an extra margin of safety by helping a rider dodge traffic.  The 
extra speed reduces the speed differential between you and cars, allowing 
them more time to see you and adjust.  The extra speed also allows you to 
crest hills sooner, so you spend less time at those vulnerable slow speeds.  
This can be expecially important on freeway overpasses.  Finally, an e-bike's 
large battery can power a big, bright headlight to warn oncoming traffic that 
you're coming.  

For more information and an overview of most e-bike offerings in the U. S.,
see www.electric-bikes.com/others.htm

Electric tricycles (adult three wheelers) are covered at
www.electric-bikes.com/trikes.htm

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Top Document: Rec.Bicycles Frequently Asked Questions Posting Part 2/5
Previous Document: 7.16 Updated Bike Locker listing
Next Document: 7.18 Cycling loaded: bags, panniers, and trailers

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