Watts News
 Published for the members of North Itasca Electric Cooperative
VOL. 21 NO. 7  -  July 2018

A very fun way to get around


The bikes have the fat tires popular on many off-road pedal bicycles today. I ask, “What do you like best about these electric bikes?” Sheila and Galen begin to give me the long list faster than I can scribble some notes. The bikes are very quiet. The rider can travel faster and farther, which is a great advantage for anyone who is trying to get back in shape from a period of less activity. Also, a person who has had surgery such as a total knee replacement needs to work her/his leg muscles back into top form, and the electric bike allows the rider to dial in variable levels of electric assist while s/he applies the remaining effort through the pedals.

electric bike

Sheila said, “I got my freedom back! I can enjoy the beautiful Deer and Pickerel Lake country at 12 miles per hour. It can take the hills, which is a huge advantage!”

There are some serious hills along the East Deer Lake Road, but she can dial in the controls so that the electric motor does all the work for climbing a hill or none of the work or anywhere in between. She can shift to any of the seven sprockets to apply as much muscle effort through the pedals as she wishes.

Our conversation gets into the technical weeds a little. The battery charger plugs into a regular socket in the garage or any room in the house. It would take five hours to charge a totally dead battery, but Galen said that he never runs it down that far. The bike comes with a smart charger which he leaves plugged in all the time, but it won’t overcharge the battery.

The model they selected has very fat tires to provide a lot of stability on the mostly gravel roads in this neighborhood. Do they require a motorcycle license? No, the state’s rules about bicycles apply. The bikes travel and store easily so that Sheila and Galen can take them along conveniently if they go on a long trip in their camper to use them at a state park or national park.

How did they decide on the manufacturer? Galen told me that many brands are available. Most brands have a variety of models. For example, the brand they chose has models with skinny tires, which are more efficient for riding on pavement. “More efficient” translates to longer distances before the charge runs out. The normal range on their model is 20 miles at 20 miles per hour on flat terrain in full electric assist mode.

Whew, there we have many variables to work out. If there are some hills on your route, a little less range; a little less range in colder temperatures; and so on.

Galen says, “We tested a demonstrator, and we were impressed with the design features and solid construction quality. For example, the handle bar moves out of the way conveniently when necessary for carrying on a bike rack or in a trunk. On a regular bicycle, something is always poking out because the handle bar and the front wheel are always rigidly connected at a right angle.”

They put on their bike helmets to depart. Sheila reminds me of the serious hill on our driveway going out, where a couple delivery trucks have become stuck after a winter snowfall.

“No problem for me on this bike,” she said as she zips away.

Return to the July 2018 Issue