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Bicycle Power with Pedal-Assisted Electric Motors for Long-Distance Commutes

Bicycles are one of the most efficient human powered machines.
Riding a bike can be a joy!
However, not everyone in our community is able-bodied enough to ride up our hills or go the long commuting distances from rural home to the urban market on our hilly roads or in our often dark, cold & wet climate.
The new bicycle technology that combines the efficiency of the human powered bicycle with the technology of a power-assisted electric motor & a rechargeable battery extends the population that can bicycle for errands or commuting.

We are researching to find a quality electric-assisted bicycle that would be useful to for long distance commutes & for running errands, while getting exercise but not exhausting ourselves with hills & distances. We want to choose something that is first a quality bicycle, and second has a state-of-the-art motor & battery that can allow us to go over 30 miles without a charge.

I know there are many models that can be useful for getting around town if you live & shop & work in the urban zone, but I have so far only found one brand that would be useful for longer distances, steep hills, and be able to put on the buses.

My favorite pedal-assist bicycle so far is called the Ohm brand.
I've test ridden the Sport 700 this spring and found it extremely responsive, especially going up hills!
The controller can 'sense' the amount of effort I put on the pedals in relation to the gear I'm in.
"Ohm uses BionX drive technology with Molicel Rechargeable Li-ions cells and are truly bicycles with multiple gear cogs. The bikes produce zero emissions during operation. Each Power pack consumes about one kilowatt-hour of energy while recharging" -
These bicycles also use hydraulic disk brakes.
Electric assisted bicycles in Europe are often called "PedElecs"

One of our friends commutes on his Ohm bike from Whitbey Island to his office in Seattle.
He & his wife plan to market these bicycles on their website at www.seattleelectricbike.NET .
Here is their email-

(Ask me if you need their phone number or want to be contacted to schedule a test ride next time they are in Whatcom County).

This spring I called many bicycle shops and was told they did not sell any power-assisted bicycles.
But now at least one local bike shops offers an electric bicycle. The model I saw there was a Torker brand, but I was unimpressed with its 3 gear hub or its battery.
REI has a brand they are selling, but when I last checked they did not have a model to see in B'ham.
Also, the online picture looks similar to some of the other asian made bicycles that do Not fit onto buses because of their extended wheel base (due to the battery being designed to be between the rear bike tube & rear wheel).

We will most likely go with obtaining an Ohm cycle brand unless we find something better, that is not more expensive.
(And our friends have the Sport 700 on sale through December 09, before the newer models come out).
It is also possible to add an Ohm motor with battery & controller to a bicycle you currently use....but that is not something I can recommend, as I prefer the safety & durability of the hydraulic disc brakes that come with the complete Ohm bicycle.

One of my previous concerns, even though I used to work as a bicycle mechanic, was finding a local bike shop that would do repairs on an electric bicycle. I have now found a bicycle mechanic that is willing to work on an electric assisted bicycle that has hydraulic disc brakes.

Bicycles can be built to last a lifetime with occasional part replacements. (My favorite bike is still my 1980's Univega touring bicycle). One of my concerns environmentally with the electric assisted bicycles is asking what the true environmental & social cost to build them is, how long do the batteries last, and how can they be safely recycled for another use when they no longer function.

That is also 'the question' I like to ask with anything I'm thinking of bringing home.

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Comment by Heather K on April 13, 2010 at 10:50am
Excellent aritcle on electric assisted bicycles on WordChanging website (thanks Rob) at-
or discussion at TW

"Vehicle electrification is an energy storage problem, not a propulsion problem. Electric motors are much more efficient than fossil-fueled engines, but storing electricity is dramatically harder than is storing liquid fuels."........

"Among transportation cyclists, as among recreational cyclists, being human powered—not electric or gas-powered—is a point of pride.....buying an electric bike is not simply a choice of cost, convenience, and functionality. For better or worse, it’s also a statement of who you are. E-bikes are a product for a somewhat different market than regular bikes. But their spread isn’t helped at all by the fact that existing bike culture among both sport and transport cyclists is antithetical to e-bikes. This barrier is substantial, because bike culture affects not only individual attitudes but also access to and support for e-bikes."....

"So, go ahead and buy an electric bike—or an electric car—if you like. Surge up hills. Haul bigger loads. Replace some more car trips in your own life. Sing the body electric. I might do the same.
But let’s not get distracted from the real work before us, which is to change the rules by which we get and sell fossil energy, and by which we build our streets, neighborhoods, and cities.
Electric vehicles aren’t the answer to our prayers. We are."

(The above portion of an essay is a distillation of Alan Durning's excellent five-part Sightline series, The Parable of the Electric Bike - )
Comment by Heather K on April 5, 2010 at 1:05am
An opportunity to try out the Ohm bicycle, that is similiar to my pedal-assisted bicycle, will be available this coming Saturday, April 10th, at the B'ham High School.

My Ohm bicycle runs both on people power, and the battery is charged with 100% green energy from solar, wind, & bio-composting energy through our local utility we are one of the 3% in Bellingham that chooses to go fully 'green' on our electic bill. ( I hope all Transition Folks will consider this!).

The quiet electric motor in the rear hub, only assist my pedaling when I'm going slow up a hill, or it senses I need a little pedal-assist when I'm going long distances.

If anyone wants to schedule time with, while they are tabling at the Unleasing event, please send them an email. ( ).
The owners are friends who used to live & work in Bellingham, and now live in the Transition Whidbey Island area!
Other wise you can ask for a test run during the April 10th Great Unleasing event.

I plan to ride my pedal-assist bicycle in the parade this Saturday so look for me there!
Comment by Heather K on January 2, 2010 at 4:29pm
Bicycling with a pedal-assisted electric bike is a great choice if you bike long distances where there are lots of hills, and if your body type needs a bit of assistance going far & steep distances!
I made my chose on a brand - Ohm Sport XS 700 that is sold by my friends at

Now when I pedal uphill, I feel like Lance Armstrong......except I'm over 50 and female!
The bicycle is really fun to use, especially along steep hilly roads!

I'm now focusing my research on lights & reflective vests to have my body be visible far distances to speeding cars during these NW Pacific dark & rainy days where twilight begins around 4pm and I'm biking during rush hour or in the evenings along unlit county roads.

Fanatic Bikes has great bike lights and offers 30% discount to users of the local Smart Trip program.
And, their lights are much cheaper than REI! They even offer lights that include a small solar panel to recharge, or can be recharged plugging into your computer.
(One of my friends who choose their store to buy her new bike, said they did the best job of fitting her petite female body to a bicycle.) They don't sell pedal-assist bikes, but they can do the repairs on the bicycle components, like the newer hydraulic fluid brakes.

I will spend more time learning & riding & accessing the new Ohm bike this spring- ( after I return from working/teaching/walking in tropical gardens this winter.)
More info to come!
Comment by David MacLeod on November 25, 2009 at 6:12pm
Good post Heather! Keep us informed of any further research and decisions in this area. I might be interested in doing a test drive sometime.
Comment by Heather K on November 25, 2009 at 4:28pm
Bicycle carts that pull behind the bicycle is another item to consider obtaining or building.

When I used to do extensive touring, and when I was one of the few bicyclist commuting back in the 80's/90's, I just used self made panniers & a square milk boxes to transport.
(I'm not sure they even made the bicycle carts back then, and they are very expensive).
Each person I speak to who has used the carts, tells me it makes transport of goods easier than the weight being on the bicycle itself.

Thanks for your response Judith! The experience of having the assist going up a steep hill is amazing! I felt like I was flying up the hill versus having to get off the bike and push-walk.
Comment by Judith Culver on November 25, 2009 at 10:46am
Hi, Heather, thank you for such a thorough post. And for all your research. I haven't started looking yet but know that some sort of electric bike is in my future. I would like to be included next time they are in Whatcom Co.

We are 6-8 miles away from Ferndale shopping and no way to get home with a load without a serious hill. I'm 63 and going strong but I will need an assist in the future. I know it.

Thanks again, Judith

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