Biking Reconsidered

Yesterday I rode the whole day without electricity: my electric assist battery ran down and I couldn’t recharge it because I was camped out at one of the dozens of hiker/biker campsites that line the canal. And I paid for it: after biking sixty miles unplugged it was excruciating difficult to continue. So last night I swallowed my pride and instead stayed at the overtly commercial Jellystone campground, complete with life size Yogi Bear at the entrance, so that I could charge my batteries there.

This experience has lead me to wonder “How important is physical exertion to the bicycling experience?” If it were possible to bike without getting tired would more people do it? Would it still be fun? I think it would, and this trip I’m on proves it. I think it’s not the exercise aspect that most people are after, but the humaneness that only lightweight slow narrow vehicles can provide.

  • I love your bike adventures! Also agree that electric assist is the humane way to do it, for those of us who aren’t just out of college.

    My electric cargo bike has been used exclusively for errands during the past year, but I would like to try a bike-based tour sometime. To share that experience with my family, I would need to acquire 3 more electric bicycles. That might not be financially feasible in the short term. Hopefully a rental market will develop – wouldn’t that be fun? I saw electric bike tours being offered in Boston during our last visit, so it could happen.

  • We’re asked to reconsider so much to adopt bikes as transportation, especially a traditional bike:

    * A car is essentially “indoors”, a bike is outdoors
    * Cars have artificial climate control, bikes to do not
    * Cars carry a huge amount of cargo, plus human passengers. A traditional bike carries very little by comparison.
    * Driving doesn’t involve exercise, while biking makes it essential
    * Bikes can be notably slower (although not always)
    * Bikes have a much smaller practical radius

    Further, our communities have developed sprawl which is not easily fixed, so many interesting destinations require distances of travel that were designed for cars. It’s no wonder that many people who are theoretically interesting in biking more feel challenged to actually do so.

    Electric cargo bikes do a tremendous amount to address this gap. They make exercise nearly optional, shorten the travel time, expand the travel radius, allow human passengers, and carry an amount of cargo that’s sufficient for most people 80% of the time or more.

    Plus, the have the efficiency of accomplishing this while weighing 30 to 40 times less than typical cars, recharging for pennies, and requiring no insurance.

    At least, this is the kind of impact an electric Yuba Mundo has had on my own family. We had ridden a comparably-priced bakfiets for about two years prior, but the addition of electric assist has been critical for a lightweight vehicle that truly functions as a car-replacement.

  • I’ll be honest– I originally got into biking as a way to get in shape and get around town as a teenager. My first reaction to electric assist was to think, “uh oh, that sounds like a perversion of the self-reliance that makes bikes so much more awesome than cars”. But you and Mark raise some great points– electric can bridge the gap, especially given that even extremely fit cyclists would have trouble lugging cargo and passengers up steep slopes.

    BTW, I save a lot of time by not having to walk to/from parking lots or earn the $ to pay for the car, so a bike is really faster than it seems at first. Especially if you sidle up along stalled traffic during rush hour to make sure you can get through an intersection in one light. In dense US cities, bikes can often be much faster than cars, even with little or no effort.

  • I find a tandem to be even more versatile. It can carry both cargo and passengers. As for the passengers they are pedalling. I have photos if you are interested.


  • admin

    I have wondered if there are tandems out there where the stoker area could be easily converted back and forth from cargo to passenger use. Or if there there were cargo bikes that could easily attach pedals for a passenger to use. Anyone know of anything like this? Yes, let’s see those photos!