The buzz on bikes

You can feel it these days, and you can see it. A serious momentum-shift in the mindset of many American drivers as millions look to bail-out of SUV City and make the morph into more reasonable, efficient mobility. Nothing like that first 100 dollar fill-up/bitchslap at the local Shop ‘n’ Shoot to get your attention!

So we get all this chatter about hybrids, biodiesel, ethanol, hydrogen, etc. All well and good. There is one alternative transportation mode, though, that you don’t hear much about. An alternative that makes an absolute TON of sense, especially for the millions who live in urban situations AND who might want to have a little fun once in a while. There’s a surprisingly large presence of electric bicycles on the Internet, which tells me that somebody somewhere must be buying the dang things. Once you read about them, you can see why. Here’s the basic concept, nutshell style: Picture a good old regular-lookin’ bicycle. On the vertical back frame is a sleek little compartment, which holds the rechargeable electric motor.

The operating philosophy of most electrics is simple: You ride the bike as you would ride a normal, non-electric (acoustic?) bicycle, with the power coming from you and your storehouse of calories. When your personal power source starts to wane, you can then call upon that motor to give you a bit of a boost or to just completely take over, all with the flick of your thumb. That motor can motate, too, with most of those found on electric bikes capable of speeds of 15-20 mph on a flat street. Recharging is simple, as you just plug in at home for a few hours. Next day, you’re ready to do it again. The cost of operating a good quality electric bike? About three-tenths of a cent per mile. The range on most decent models is usually from 40-60 miles, which should be more than adequate for your basic city dweller.

Other advantages would have to include major reduction of parking hassles and a very probable benefit to both the muscles of your ass and the functioning of your lungs. If you want to make the bike more utilitarian, that’s easily done with the addition of baskets and carts. Would you use the electric for that big trip to Costco? No. You’ll still want the Dodge Diplodocus or the Chevy Schitthaus for that job. But light errands are certainly do-able. How much for one of these progressive people-movers? You can find ’em for as little as 250-300 bucks, but something tells me the smart shopper should figure on at least 500. Also of interest is that none other than Schwinn is coming out with a line of electrics in two months, and the word is they’re gonna be aggressive with them. If that’s the case, the buzz on e-bikes might be picking up a bit in the near future.

Google “electric bikes” for lots more on pedal power.