A look at the cost and vagaries of electric bikes.

Over the last year, I’ve written a couple of times about the electric bicycle, mentioning it as a possible player in the search for “non-car” ways of getting around town. Well, a couple of months ago, I decided to stop talking the talk and start walking the walk. Or in this instance, start biking the bike. So I bought one.

There are a few ways one can go in the world of electric bikes. My pal in Fresno, who bought his for $1,000 a couple of years ago, has a bike that affords the following options: You can pedal without assistance from the battery, you can pedal while getting a push from the battery, or you can just sit on your big fat can and let the battery do all the work. He pretty much loves the thing and rides it to work regularly, which in Fresno is a fairly flat 15 mile round trip.

This spring, we were chatting about electrics, and he told me he had recently test-driven the two new models introduced by none other than good ole Schwinn, said he loved ’em, and almost bought one on the spot. When I got back to Reno, I went up to Bicycle Bananas, where they had both. Neither of them are what you would call cheap. One goes for $1,700, the other for $2,000.

The Schwinns are a bit different in their approach. You have to pedal the bike to keep the battery running; you don’t have the option of sitting there and letting the battery take over. Once you get it going after a few pedals, you feel the noticeable boost of the motor kicking in. And then, you’re breezing along. That’s a good word for it. Breezing. On a flat street, you quickly get up to 15 to 20 mph. It’s a bicycle with some “giddyup” in it, and it’s quite fun. On one trip, from downtown Reno to the intersection of Moana and Kietzke via Arlington and a lot of side streets, I had the pleasant feeling of “whooshing” around as I made my way. In fact, when I got to my destination, I was slightly disappointed that I hadn’t pushed my heart and lungs more. It was almost too much of a cruise.

Make no mistake, if you lived in the hilly northwest, for example, you would get a pretty darn good workout on one of these Schwinns. But for folks in the less hilly zones of the Truckee Meadows, well, you could really have a ball with one of these bikes in terms of visiting a pal, getting a haircut, going out for lunch, or picking up a prescription. That kind of stuff. Another bonus is the realization that when you’re on a bike, you connect with the town. You see and notice so much more than you do when you’re sealed off from the planet in your car. I mean, there are some nice yards in this burg!

Oh yeah. Cost per mile, in terms of fuel. Our cars these days cost anywhere from a dollar to three dollars every 10 miles, depending on the relative mammothity of your ride. The electric bike racks up 10 miles for about 3 cents.