E-Bikes: The New Bike on the Block

July 12, 2018News, Sustainability

Kristin Eggen, Communications Specialist

This month, I caught up with Josie and Travis from Decorah Bicycles (DB) to hear about their E-Bikes, a new form of bicycle transportation that could be an innovative tool for those looking to decrease the carbon footprint of their around-town transportation.

KE: Hi Josie, I’ve recently noticed a sign advertising E-bikes at Decorah Bicycles. I’m just going to ask straight out: what is an E-bike?

DB: Great question! There are several styles of “e-bikes” and basically, it means that it’s a bicycle that has a rechargeable battery-powered electric motor of some kind that helps to propel it forward. Specifically, we have a style of e-bike called a pedal assist. This means that it doesn’t have a throttle, and will only assist you while you are pedaling; it doesn’t go by itself.  You have to pedal the bike in order to make it go forward, which is great, as you still get a workout like on any other bike. In short, you can go further, faster, and with less strain on your body if you choose to use the assistance, of which there are 3 levels, along with no assistance at all where it’s all you and no motor assistance. Even without the assistance turned on, our customers comment quite frequently about how easy the bikes ride without the motor, which is good to hear about a 48lb bike!

KE: Sounds like a great new offering!  What inspired you to start carrying them?

DB: We’ve had inquiries over the past several years, and we were skeptical at first if e-bikes would be a good move for us to make. We investigated what our two brands offered: Trek and Specialized. We didn’t want to simply jump into carrying e-bikes due to demand, we had to make sure we could go with a product that we felt was reliable and that would be easy for us and our customers to use. We felt that the Specialized Turbo Como 2.0 and Specialized Turbo Vado 2.0 were excellent choices.

KE: Have you had much interest so far?

DB: So much interest! It’s really been amazing. We’ve had locals as well as out-of-town visitors coming in to rent them. It’s a great way for folks who have never been around the Trout Run Trail to finally see the scenic views, but without having to walk or feel completely wiped out. We’ve had folks who very seldom ride bikes come and rent them because they now have the ability and energy to go and visit various other places around town during their rental period.  It’s a great way to get around town and always get the best parking too!

It’s truly been awesome to see how e-bikes have given more folks confidence with riding (in general) and to give them the option of using their car less because they are now able to bike up steep inclines.

KE: The Energy District is all about energy efficient transportation, especially when the energy can be generated from clean and local energy. It sounds like folks can easily charge these batteries using their own renewable energy sources. How much energy does a charge take? And how far can it go?

DB: It’s a 460 Watt-hour battery. How long the battery charge lasts is one of the trickiest questions to answer because it is so variable. It ultimately depends on several factors: what mode of assistance you’re using, what gear you’re in, how hard you’re pedaling, how much elevation you’re riding, rider weight, wind resistance, tire pressures, etc. Roughly, our Ebikes are rated for 25 to 60 miles of usage on a charge depending on what assistance level you’re using.  
We’ve had folks rent our pedal assist bikes and ride the paved trail one time around and use less than ¼ of the battery life.  Sometimes they go twice around to see the trail in both directions! This is something that’s hardly ever happened in the past without Ebikes, so it’s really cool to see people taking advantage of the assistance and getting so much more out of their rental time.  Most of these folks are using the Eco mode or Sport mode for their ride or using the Turbo mode very little. (There are three levels of assist: Eco, Sport, and Turbo.)

KE: Is there a way readers can try out an E-bike before buying one?

DB: Most definitely! We always offer free test rides, and if you’re interested in trying one out for a longer period of time, we offer rental. Most of the folks who are really curious about how an e-bike can work in their world will rent for a month at a time. We allow customers to use 100% of their rental dollars towards the purchase of a bike for up to 30 days after they’re done with their rental period..

KE: Is there anything else you’d like to tell us?

DB: For those who are skeptical about e-bikes, rest assured, we were too. I mean, we love cycling and what it can do for the body, mind, and spirit. We realized that there were many folks out there who love cycling but may simply have limitations. Why not allow these folks to experience the joy of two wheels? Why not offer someone an option to commute by bike vs. driving the car every day? You can’t knock something before you try it- so we encourage you to stop in and try one out. We’ve had several folks ride one even though knew it wasn’t for them and suddenly realized they knew someone who could benefit from pedal assist!  We are really excited to see how this style of bicycle can transform the lives of the folks who ride them.

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