Go to any bike path these days and you’ll notice a trend: a lot of the bikes whizzing past you are electric!
That led me to take a look at the rise in popularity of electric bikes, which have seen quite the boost during the pandemic.
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First stop: Bike Attack, an electric bike shop that’s been operating near Venice Beach for over 20 years.
“It’s fabulous, it clears up your mind, it gives you exercise,” said Ericson Monsalud, owner of Bike Attack. He says electric bikes are so popular right now there’s a waiting list for most models.
An electric bike looks like a standard bicycle, but it has a battery and motor. There are models that look closer to a motorcycle or moped and then models that look more like a traditional bike. It’s really a matter of preference and specs.
Speed and range are two top considerations. Many bikes can go between 30 and 90 miles depending on the battery, top speeds can reach 24 miles an hour.
“I always suggest 18-19 miles that’s really enough,” explained Monsalud.
One key suggestion from Monsalud: before you buy, think about how you will service the bike. Electric bikes are new and you might have questions, so he says it’s a good idea to think about where you will go for help if you need assistance.
One big thing I learned about electric bikes – you pedal to make them go. Most offer assistance levels that you can adjust. The higher the level, the more “boost” you get as you pedal. Alternatively, you can turn off this assistance completely with some models if you’d rather get even more exercise.
Monsalud says electric bikes are great for anyone with mobility issues, a sports injury or bad knees.
To get some real hands-on time, VanMoof sent me their S3 electric bike to try out, which is basically the Tesla of e-bikes. It’s slick, connected and looks futuristic but also you know something electric is going on with it. It sells for $2,198.
It arrives in a giant box, semi-assembled. I had to put on the front wheel and attach a cable, which proved to be the trickiest part of the process. I couldn’t get the cable to tuck away properly, but I eventually got it to work.
“The tech is completely integrated with the bike… so it recognizes you, it has automatic lights and alarms, it has a great anti-theft tracing system and we also have a team of bike hunters that will hunt down your bike if it’s stolen and retrieve it for you,” explained Austin Durling of VanMoof.
There is a bit of a learning curve figuring out the high-tech features of the VanMoof, but once you do, riding it is actually amazing. It’s like the coolest bike you’ve ever been on, but when you pedal, there is a smooth electric assist to guide you along.
My favorite part is the boost button on the right handlebar – press it and you get an immediate push forward with torque that reminds me of being in an electric car.
“It really helps you sort of re-discover the neighborhood of the city you live in, everything from your commute to running errands to meeting up with friends feels like this new adventure that you’ve never had before,” said Durling.
I couldn’t agree with this more. The more time I had with the VanMoof, the more I would ponder all of the places I could take it instead of a car.
I was going to breakfast with some friends on a Sunday morning and I actually fired up Apple Maps to see a bike route I could take to the restaurant. Soon, I was one of those riders who had their bike prominently parked near my table. (Although the VanMoof has a built-in locking mechanism, I would still recommend a dedicated bike lock.)
Overall, my experience shattered my pre-conceived notions about how bikes should be traditional and not electric. You can have the best of both worlds.
“It takes cars out of the street… it just makes you want to do exercise and makes you look forward of doing it again and having a good time,” concluded Monsalud.
Electric bikes run anywhere from $500 to over $2000.
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