I have learned a lot about electric bicycles lately since I have been wrestling with my insurance company, trying to convince them that my ebike is not a motor vehicle. It seems that insurance companies can do whatever they want, despite California state law, but that doesn’t subtract from my life-changing mountain bike that, even at my advanced age, I can actually pedal up and down the mountain, allowing me to enjoy our beautiful surroundings, get some exercise and get around town while our car sits in the driveway.
It was a surprise to me that such vehicles exist, so I thought I would share what I learned over the past few months.
Electric bicycles are apparently really big in Europe but starting to gain in popularity here. An article in the LA Times this week mentioned that Yamaha will begin to sell ebikes here in 2018, hoping to add to the 250,000 we sold last year, 70 percent more than in 2015. You may have seen the “60 Minutes” segment about hidden electric motors that some Tour de France contestants were suspected of using, undoubtedly a major impetus behind the technology that has been developed to add a little boost to leg power.
The bikes commercially available now are grouped by California into three classes: 1) in which the motor adds a boost to pedaling up to 20 mph after which you are on your own; 2) which has a throttle that will get you up to 20 mph without pedaling, and, 3) is equipped with a throttle that gets you to 28 mph without pedaling.
Mine is a class 1; it feels just like a regular bicycle except I couldn’t get my regular bicycle up some of the hills between our house and downtown. Personally, I distrust the bikes with throttles; why not just get a moped? Me, I’ve got a bicycle and I love it.
Is it any doubt that we have too many cars in California? Even though I grew up in Chicago, driving in the cities here is still a shock — gazillion lanes in each direction, average speed 80, a dense, dark fog hanging over any valley you can see. If there were a high-speed train between here and San Diego, we might buy a golf cart and sell our car. Well, probably not; there is Costco.
But it would be nice to pollute less and it seems pretty senseless to fire up our car to go 2.5 miles into town for the mail, groceries and hardware. The perfect solution: an electric bicycle. I pedal like crazy, huff and puff while hoping not to have a heart attack, but can get there and still speak in coherent sentences after a few minutes. How great is that?
Of course, ebikes aren’t cheap. The good ones start at about $2,500 and are made in Germany, though other manufacturers, like Yamaha, are getting into the act. Considering the advantages to health and air quality, it might be worth looking into. Don’t forget to buy a backpack.
Dr. Kluzak, an Idyllwild resident, is board certified in Anatomic Pathology, Obstetrics and Gynecology. He also is a freelance photographer for the Town Crier.