Viking E-Bikes, Vol. 2: Kicking It Off With A Bang!

viking-e-bike-displaySo, this cool thing happened!

I wrote last week that I’d signed up for the Viking E-Bikes program at the university where I work, I initially was supposed to get my 10-week loaner e-bike at the beginning of January, but one of the Fall Quarter riders turned their bike in early, so I got it yesterday!

And not only did I get the bike sooner than I expected, I got one helluva ride on it sooner than I expected.

I’ll explain.

I knew I would be picking the bike up on campus during the day, but I needed to get to campus for work in the morning, and so I drove my car with the bike rack attached, thinking I’ll just take it home and ride it in the morning.

Well, 5pm arrives, I ride the bike to my car, prep the bike rack, I go to lift the bike onto the rack, but I’m reminded instantly that the bike weighs 52 lbs, and with it’s odd geometry…

eprodigy-bike

…it wouldn’t fit on the bike rack even if I could hold it up long enough to secure it.

So, I pop the hatch of my Subaru Forester, lay the back seats down flat, and after risking a hernia and/or herniated disc, I gave up trying to fit the bike on or inside the car.

By now it’s 5:15, it’s dark out, I was supposed to meet someone somewhere about a mile away at 5:15, I call, they are ok pushing that to 5:30, but then I’m supposed to meet someone else, somewhere else, an additional 2 miles away at 6pm, and then finally I needed to go 5 more miles to my home.

I was not mentally prepared for this at all. Despite years as a hardcore bicycle commuter — rain, shine, light, dark, cold, hot — I suddenly needed to ride this e-bicycle, that was totally alien to me, in the dark, cold night, for a total of 7 miles.

Luckily, it wasn’t raining (unusual this time of year in Bellingham), and I did have with me sufficient cold-weather clothing, including gloves, and a headband to cover my ears under the helmet.

So, how did it go?

While I already don’t like a few things about the eProdigy Jasper, the overall experience was…

…exhilarating!

To be able to cover that much ground on a spur of the moment, including several sizeable hills, to make it on time to my appointments and then safely home without feeling like I’d run a marathon, to struggle for a little bit with feeling like I was cheating, using a motor like that, but to then let go of that struggle as I noticed that I was totally getting exercise, pedaling the whole time, using the minimal power assist levels as much as possible … all of that added up to a really fun time!

This morning, as I prepared to ride to work and then pedaled off, leaving the car behind, I felt that familiar, awesome feeling that had sustained me as a bicycle commuter for so many years, that I was doing my part, however small it seemed in the big picture, to reduce my carbon footprint and help usher in the era of transportation based on renewable energy.

As I mentioned last week, I’ll be blogging semi-regularly about my e-bike experience from now through March, so stay tuned for Volume 3 of my Viking E-Bikes series!

 

Viking E-Bikes: Putting The “Bicycle” Back In Fish & Bicycles!

Viking-E-Bike-logo-2gjswx5-200x200When I first started writing Fish & Bicycles, back in 2009, I’d already been employed by Western Washington University (WWU, Western) for nine years, and I was a devoted bicycle commuter.

Rain, shine, even snow…it was a point of great environmentalist pride, as well as the absolute best way to squeeze exercise into a ridiculously busy schedule.

But sadly, over the past two years of my now 17-year tenure at WWU, due to a combination of having moved much further away from campus, some injuries and health issues, and simply a loss of mojo for getting out on a bicycle in Bellingham’s famously wet weather, I gradually stopped my daily bike commute.

Enter, Western’s Viking E-Bike program!

I’ve been considering purchasing an electric pedal-assist bicycle for some time, thinking that the power assistance, only as needed, for the several hills along my 5-mile commute route, would be just the thing to get me back in the saddle, but with price tags ranging from $1,000-$4,000 or more, it was no easy decision.

So, when I learned about the Viking E-Bike program, when I learned that I could apply to have a loaner electric bicycle for an entire 10-week academic quarter, I jumped at the chance, applied, and was just accepted!

I had my orientation this week, in preparation for the start of my 10 weeks near the beginning of January, and I can already tell that this will be an incredible opportunity to evaluate an e-bike, learn how to use one, learn what features I like and don’t like on the eProdigy Jasper bicycle that I’ll be riding (which will guide my eventual purchase of some bike by some to-be-determined manufacturer), and whether or not the power assistance will be enough to get me back to a daily cycling commute.

Given that it’s wintertime, it will be one helluva test, and new rain gear is already on my holiday gift wish list.

I’ll be blogging about my experiences here, so keep an eye out for “Viking E-Bikes” in my post titles!

Buy A Bike, Give A Bike!

#YearInSpace

Bicycle + Treadmill = Genius!

Lopifit-Electrical-Supported-Tredmill-1This, folks, is the Lopifit, and it is all kinds of brilliant.

I stumbled upon this treadmill-bike thanks to a Facebook friend’s post, and given my interest in bicycles AND the fact that I swear by the standing workstation I use at my job, given that I’ve blogged about bicycles numerous times in the past, given that “bicycles” is fully half of my blog’s name, I can’t not write a post about this!

The Lopifit is the brainchild of Bruin Bergmeester, from The Netherlands, and an article from a year ago at the Epoch Times describes the Lopifit origin story:

When asked how he came up with the idea, Bruin explains he works full time and sits all day, so he likes to exercise on a treadmill at home.

One day it was lovely outside and Bruin did not fancy spending time on a bicycle, which meant sitting again, so he thought to himself: “Why not bring the treadmill outdoors?” And so the Lopifit was born.

The article was accompanied by this very short video:

Well, what a difference a year makes!

When the Epoch Times piece appeared, Bergmeester had built five prototypes, and a shop in Utrecht could build them on demand, but now there’s a fancy Lopifit website, the Lopifit has crossed the Atlantic and there are now three dealers in the U.S., and the Lopifit can be yours, in one of five color options, for €1,899.00 or $2162.55 USD.

Commenters online naturally got around to asking the obvious question: Yeah, this seems like a great idea in notoriously flat places like The Netherlands, but how well can it handle hills?

While this may not be enough to convince someone in hilly San Francisco, Seattle, or even here in Bellingham, the Epoch Times article mentions hills directly, claiming that, thanks to the electric assist motor, the Lopifit “runs quite fast and is equally good going uphill”.

Me? I’ll take the orange one!

orange-lopifit

Reason #257 Why I Love Bellingham: Annual Naked Bike Ride

NakedBikeRide-page-001There are MANY reasons why I love my adopted hometown of 20+ years, Bellingham, Washington, and the annual Naked Bike Ride is certainly one of them.

The World Naked Bike Ride is a global event with an interesting dual message, promoting: 1.) cycling for the good of the planet; 2.) body-positive values. Riders in the clothing-optional event display varying levels of skin, based on personal preference, and that skin is often painted. Skin not on display is covered with eye-catching, outlandish costume and accessories.

No, I’ve never participated in the ride myself, and I’ve never even consciously sought it out as a spectator. BUTT, pun intended, many a time I just happened to be downtown when the glorious parade of naked weirdness just happened to pass by.

I am simply happy that I live in a town with people who support and participate in events like this; creative acts of expression, silly, fun, and with an aim to make the world a better place.

Fat Bikes Go Electric

Fat_TireWhen I first heard someone refer to a ‘fat bike’ a couple of years ago, the first thing that popped into my mind, as I’m sure it did for many beer drinkers, was Fat Tire Amber Ale from New Belgium Brewing Company in Fort Collins, Colorado.

Boy, was I mistaken.

As it turned out, fat bikes, ‘fatbikes’, or ‘fatties’, are a type of bicycle originally designed for the ultimate in off-road cycling, sporting fat, knobby tires as wide as four or more inches, allowing the bike to seemingly float on loose sand and snow. They are typically much heavier than mountain bikes, and the tires can be under-inflated in order to absorb shock on bumpy terrain.

Fat-Bikes-Blog-Wide-Tire-Shot-2

But, I described them as “originally designed for off-road”, because a fair number of people have simply found fat bikes to be super cool-looking, they’re increasingly showing up on city streets underneath people using them as commuter bicycles, and even Walmart sells them now.

And, while it doesn’t make me angry, like one blogger I came across, who published a post titled Fat Bikes Are Not for City Riding, You Trendy Asshole You, it does baffle me.

I used to own a mountain bike, with the knobbiest tires I could find, but once I found out that I didn’t have the guts to be a single-track mountain biker, zooming down hills dodging VERY large immovable trees, I retreated to using the bike as commuter transportation to and from work.

In some ways, a mountain bike is a great choice for a commuter. With wheels meant to take a pounding, and mine had front shocks, hopping curbs and dealing with the occasional unavoidable pothole is a cinch. Likewise, here in rainy Bellingham, Washington, the wide, knobby tires offer good traction and less chance of dangerous slippin’-and-a-slidin’.

But, when it came time to replace my bike, I test drove a hybrid commuter bicycle, sporting a mountain bike frame with road bike wheels, the wheels had a larger circumference and the tires were half as wide as the mountain bike, with some tread but nowhere near knobby, they were built to roll, and from the moment I took off on the thing I was blown away!

It.Felt.Effortless! With so much less rubber on the road there was WAY less resistance, and while I occasionally did jump curbs and ride on packed gravel and dirt interurban trails, most of my riding is on asphalt, and this hybrid was a revelation.

I simply couldn’t fathom riding a fat bike in the city … until now.

In the past two days, I’ve come across two new fat bikes, both of them electric, and these could be game-changers for folks who like the fat bike looks and want one as a commuter.

Introducing the radrover and the Sondors eBike:

rad-power-bikesSondors-eBike

Those electric motors could go along way toward compensating for the extra resistance from the extra-wide tires, but it still seems odd to ride a bicycle, intended for sand and snow, in the city.

Whatever floats your bicycle, I guess!