Viking E-Bikes, Vol. 5: Wrap-Up

eprodigy-bikeI can’t believe it’s been 10 weeks!

This is the 5th and last post in my series on my experience with the Viking E-Bikes program, offered by my employer, Western Washington University, a program promoting electric bicycles as a sustainable transportation alternative.

As I mentioned in my first post in the series, the program provides participants with a loaner e-bike, specifically the eProdigy Jasper pictured here, for the length of a 10-week academic term, asking only that the participants write a little about their experience, to be shared on the Rider Stories page of their website.

In my 3rd post, I made a simple Good and Bad list, with my findings up to that point, and as promised, here are my updated and final observations:

The Good

  • Staci at Earl’s Bike Shop — the shop contracted to perform maintenance on the Viking E-Bikes — is awesome! When I needed to return the bike a second time, with suspicions that the calibration was off, Staci offered to pick the bike up at my home, which was a huge gift. As mentioned, with the bike being so heavy, I’m unable to put it on my car’s bike rack, and also unable to get it in the car, and so I would otherwise have had to ride the bike to the shop and then get a ride home. Staci then delivered to bike back to my home when the work was complete. Like I said: awesome!
  • As for the calibration, it turns out that this was indeed the problem. Somehow, the bike’s computer had been switched from MPH (miles per hour) to KMH (kilometers per hour) and this threw everything off. I don’t fully understand the technology, but I suspect that if the bike is set to KMH the sensors on the brakes and gears need to be calibrated differently than if the bike is set to MPH. Sure enough, the first ride out once the bike was recalibrated to MPH was a dramatically better experience, from shifting gears and power assist levels, to using the throttle.
  • The power assist is simply exactly what I need in order to continue to be a bicycle commuter, and I REALLY want to be a bicycle commuter, as I feel SO much better leaving the car at home and reducing my carbon footprint. As mentioned previously, the 5-mile each way commute, with hills in both directions, would be prohibitive without the power.
  • As also mentioned previously, several other features of the bike were very much appreciated: the upright riding position, the suspension, the fenders, and the built in rear rack with provided pannier were all great.
  • The battery, while unfortunately heavy, was more than adequate for my daily commute. I suspect that I could even get two whole days use out of it before recharging, but I opted to just bring the battery in every night and charge it.
  • Jillian at Viking E-Bikes is awesome! She gracefully put up with my complaints about the bike and was very responsive, making arrangements for getting the bike to and from the shop in a very timely manner.
  • The Viking E-Bikes program is a GREAT idea! It’s incredibly useful to have 10 weeks to ride and evaluate an electric bike, especially considering that it’s several thousand dollars to buy one. Normally you’ll get one or two test rides. Getting to take the bike home every night allowed me to experience the entire commute routine many times, in various weather conditions, and I even was able to fine tune my route in order to reduce time spent in traffic.

The Bad

  • The eProdigy Jasper is simply not the bike for me.
    • Weight
      • At nearly 55 pounds, I found it really cumbersome to move around; I was unable to put it on a rack on either my car or a bus and unable to put it in my car
      • Power assist was needed on the flats to compensate for the weight, and I could only ride without any power assist at all when descending a hill
      • I have concerns about the weight as a safety issue: in a situation where a sudden danger presents itself, it’s hard to imagine being able to maneuver the bike as nimbly as can sometimes be needed in order to avoid accident and injury
    • Geometry
      • While it is true that I enjoyed the upright riding position of this bike, which is partially the result of the bike’s geometry, I do suspect that the geometry plus the weight contributes to the overall clumsy experience riding, that feeling of a lack of nimbleness that evoked safety concerns as I mentioned. I’ll need to test this theory when I test ride other e-bikes.
    • Lights
      • Love that the front headlight is powered by the bike’s battery, though the mount isn’t well-designed. The screw where the light pivots comes loose very easily due to vibrations of the bike.
      • Also, it seems silly that a rear light is not provided and powered also by the bike’s battery: I REALLY don’t like burning through AAA batteries.

So, I handed my bike in this morning and I was a little sad to do it

It didn’t help one bit that this had to be done on the first day of spring, as the number of rainy days decrease, the daylight hours increase, trees are exploding with buds and blossoms…

…heavy sigh.

But, I’ll probably be buying my own e-bike soon, so hopefully I’ll be back in the saddle before too long.

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