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A good thing gets better

Cris Olds on her “commuter.” Photo courtesy of Cris Olds.

We ride bicycles for the feeling of freedom, for the joyful fun, and sometimes for transportation. But what if the hills in your town are discouragingly steep and suck the joy from your ride, or the distance to your work is insurmountably far for a bike commute? Maybe you have a health condition that no longer allows you to safely or comfortably mountain bike the trails or keep up with your spouse on your Sunday spin together.

Consider the electric bicycle. Just add a battery to the already elegant bike, and cyclists can go farther, faster and longer, while still actually pedaling.

There are three categories of e-bikes, based on their maximum assisted speed. Class 1 motors provide pedaling assistance up to 20 mph; Class 2 are throttle-assisted, meaning the motor works without pedaling but only up to 20 mph; and Class 3 are speed pedal-assisted like Class 1 but can achieve speeds up to 28 mph. For all classes, the maximum legal output in the U.S. is 750 watts.

The International Mountain Bicycling Association considers e-bikes motorized vehicles, which must adhere to regulations saying that e-bikes can be ridden only on trails allowing motorized vehicles. Kerry Wood, Trails & Wilderness Program manager with the U.S. Forest Service, clarified that in the East Mountains, e-bikes are welcome on the Cedro, Tunnel, and Otero trails, among others. “The designations you would look for are ‘Trails (or roads) open to all vehicles,’ ‘Motorcycle,’ and ‘Trails open to vehicles 50 inches or less in width.'” The fine for disregarding these designations is $150 for the first offense.

Big business in bikes

“Bikes are the most popular form of transportation on the planet and still outnumber cars,” said Bruce Ponder, owner of Loko Bikes & Scooters in Albuquerque. “Adding a motor and getting a bike to do a little more is a good thing.”

“The category of e-bikes is the fastest growing bike category there’s ever been in this $100 billion industry,” Ponder added. “Electric bikes now comprise almost a third of that industry which had been almost exclusively Chinese-made before the last three years. The technology was heavier, more poorly made, with lead acid batteries, and is now more refined.”

Why ride electric?

I am an avid mountain biker, a mediocre road rider, and an occasional bike-to-work commuter. The e-bikes intrigued me. I wanted to ride to work without having to change my clothes from sweating up the hills and to put one less car on the road and in the parking lot.

After hours of online research and numerous calls to local bike shops, I chose a Voltbike Bravo from a Canadian dealer with a solid reputation for low cost, quality bikes. Now, I ride the 11-mile round trip to work several times a week – it’s super convenient and a blast. And I still often ride my other bikes.

Cargo family commuter

A friend in Los Alamos has two small children, “combined they add close to 100 pounds to the bike.” She wanted to be able to drop them at school on her way to work on a bike.

“For the bike to be a viable daily option, we needed the electric cargo bike,” she said. “The kids have space to sit and they love riding it.”

Her family gets by with just one car since my friend rides about five miles daily round trip. While commuting and running errands in town on the Yuba Spicy Curry, she gets a lot of queries about this unique-looking bike.

“I tell people that I’m way more likely to ride because of the e-bike,” she said. “I don’t think about not wanting to go up the hills.”

Mountain biking with added oxygen

Richard Castillo suffers pulmonary hypertension, a condition which is aggravated by altitude, so he really shouldn’t be mountain biking. When he raises his heart rate with exertion, his pulmonary vessels constrict and his oxygen levels plummet, which could likely cause a heart attack.

He quit mountain biking when his condition was diagnosed, but he missed the riding and sharing the activity with his wife who is also the nurse who diagnosed him. “The e-bike has been a real game changer – it helps keep my heart rate down, and the exercise I can do now keeps my heart strong, buying me more years down the road,” he explained.

Castillo carries an oxygen concentrator in a fanny pack that lasts up to four hours with a second battery. A guy mountain biking with an oxygen unit attracts the attention of passersby even more than the electric mountain bike does. “Everyone I encounter on the trails is super supportive,” Castillo said. “Older people we see when riding say their day is coming when they’ll need an e-bike to stay on the trails doing what they love.”

Electric happiness

“You’ll either love it or you won’t,” was what Wendee Brunish’s wife told her before buying her the most expensive, blinged-out electric bike possible. The verdict? Brunish loves her German-engineered Riese & Muller.

“We’re outdoor people already, but my goal was to get exercise,” Brunish said. “Also, reducing my carbon footprint matters.”

W e ride bicycles for the feeling of freedom, for the joyful fun, and sometimes for transportation. But what if the hills in your town are discouragingly steep and suck the joy from your ride, or the distance to your work is insurmountably far for a bike commute? Maybe you have a health condition that no longer allows you to safely or comfortably mountain bike the trails or keep up with your spouse on your Sunday spin together.

Consider the electric bicycle. Just add a battery to the already elegant bike, and cyclists can go farther, faster

and longer, while still actually pedaling.

, based on their maximum assisted speed. Class 1 motors provide pedaling assistance up to 20 mph; Class 2 are throttle-assisted, meaning the motor works without pedaling but only up to 20 mph; and Class 3 are speed pedal-assisted like Class 1 but can achieve speeds up to 28 mph. For all classes, the maximum legal output in the U.S. is 750 watts.

, which must adhere to regulations saying that e-bikes can be ridden only on trails allowing motorized vehicles. Kerry Wood, Trails & Wilderness Program manager with the U.S. Forest Service, clarified that in the East Mountains, e-bikes are welcome on the Cedro, Tunnel, and Otero trails, among others. “The designations you would look for are ‘Trails (or roads) open to all vehicles,’ ‘Motorcycle,’ and ‘Trails open to vehicles 50 inches or less in width.'” The fine for disregarding these designations is $150 for the first offense.There are three categories of e-bikesThe International Mountain Bicycling Association considers e-bikes motorized vehicles

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