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  1. #1
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    Commuting with Pedal Assist

    Hey all,

    I'm a student at San Jose State University, and I have a project that involves bike commuting, and I was wondering if some of you guys and gals could chime in their thoughts on commuting with some sort of pedal assist?

    There are tons of option out there yet I rarely see anyone using them.

    What are your reasons for not using them?

    Or if you do use them what was the greatest factor in getting one?

    Thanks all,

    Bryan D.

  2. #2
    7-speed doomsday prepper ThermionicScott's Avatar
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    You mean like electric assist?
    Quote Originally Posted by chandltp View Post
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  3. #3
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    Quote Originally Posted by ThermionicScott View Post
    You mean like electric assist?
    Even gas, but mainly focusing on the commuter rather than leisure riders.

  4. #4
    Daily Rider Robert C's Avatar
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    In Ashland, OR they are a constant sight. However, Ashland is very steep and a lot of the people riding would not be cycle commuting without the assist.

    As far as not seeing them, you may just not be noticing them. The electrics are quiet, they are generally being ridden at normal cycle speeds, and, based on what I have seen, most users are pedaling them along with the assist; they are not motorcycles. You may have to watch a bit closer.

  5. #5
    Super Moderator no1mad's Avatar
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    E-bikes are heavier and cost more, and also prohibited on some mass transit systems. More parts that could fail, aren't user serviceable by some, and extra money to replace. Components of the system may or may not be available even 5 years from now, depending on the technology...
    Quote Originally Posted by Cyril View Post
    Ride what and in what manner pleases you. Those that mind don't matter, and those that matter don't mind. srsly.
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  6. #6
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    Quote Originally Posted by no1mad View Post
    E-bikes are heavier and cost more, and also prohibited on some mass transit systems. More parts that could fail, aren't user serviceable by some, and extra money to replace. Components of the system may or may not be available even 5 years from now, depending on the technology...
    But other than that, they're wonderful, right?

  7. #7
    Senior Member Nitram612's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by no1mad View Post
    E-bikes are heavier and cost more, and also prohibited on some mass transit systems. More parts that could fail, aren't user serviceable by some, and extra money to replace. Components of the system may or may not be available even 5 years from now, depending on the technology...
    Yep. More parts, more problems. The majority of mechanical problems the average commuter will experience are easily fixable with minimal knowledge and tools. Throw an engine into the mix and you just took out a huge part of what makes bicycle commuting convenient. Even if you can still pedal with a disabled engine you are still carrying around all that dead weight.

  8. #8
    Senior Member Seattle Forrest's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by bryan_d View Post
    Or if you do use them what was the greatest factor in getting one?
    I really want one of those, because then I could get really fat. Exercise is for chumps.
    Don't believe everything you think.

  9. #9
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    A bicycle is a human powered vehicle - as far as I'm concerned, an electric bike isn't a bicycle...but it's closer to a moped or motorcycle.

    It might be a good option for people who are trying to get in shape, and have a very long commute to work which they would be unable to complete without some assistance. In a sense, I feel it could be a stepping stone to unassisted biking. There's one guy in my office - he's lost a ton of weight biking to work on his e-bike, and he tells me he eventually plans to take the motor off, because he feels he's fit enough now to ride without it.

    For most of us though, human power is just fine.

  10. #10
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    Quote Originally Posted by Robert C View Post
    Ashland is very steep and a lot of the people riding would not be cycle commuting without the assist... they are generally being ridden at normal cycle speeds, and, based on what I have seen, most users are pedaling them along with the assist; they are not motorcycles.
    Really good points there, here in San Jose the majority of our roads are fairly flat unlike your area. And when you say they are ridden at normal cycle speeds are we talking about the speeds of a "daily commuter who races on weekends aka fast" or something different?

    Quote Originally Posted by no1mad View Post
    E-bikes are heavier and cost more, and also prohibited on some mass transit systems. More parts that could fail, aren't user serviceable by some, and extra money to replace. Components of the system may or may not be available even 5 years from now, depending on the technology...
    Thanks for your input. I actually have been in the market for a bike with a motor and tooled around on the A2B and totally agree that it is way too heavy; I would hate to pedal that thing around when the battery died. So then, how would a lighter system of pedal assist influence your thoughts on the subject? For instance what it weighed only the same amount as 2 full water bottles?

    Quote Originally Posted by hiyer1 View Post
    A bicycle is a human powered vehicle - as far as I'm concerned, an electric bike isn't a bicycle...but it's closer to a moped or motorcycle.

    It might be a good option for people who are trying to get in shape, and have a very long commute to work which they would be unable to complete without some assistance. In a sense, I feel it could be a stepping stone to unassisted biking. There's one guy in my office - he's lost a ton of weight biking to work on his e-bike, and he tells me he eventually plans to take the motor off, because he feels he's fit enough now to ride without it.

    For most of us though, human power is just fine.
    I really appreciate your comment here. Your story regarding your co-worker is a very interesting one, and it's one of the main reasons why I like this upcoming project; people without the "trained" muscles are probably going to get put off by the idea of commuting, and I really like what you said about removing the motor when he's fit enough. Do you think it would be much trouble to ask your co-worker if he would have started riding in the first place without that motor?

    Thank you all for the responses and if there was anything else you would like to add please do not hesitate. The more the merrier!

  11. #11
    Lentement mais sûrement Erick L's Avatar
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    I don't use one because I don't really feel the need for it and I would get lazy and fat-ter.

    On the other hand, I think E-bikes are the future of commuter vehicules, especially velomobiles for those who want protection from the elements. Right now though, they aren't well-known, some look like pieces thrown together, and are associated with old people. In other words, they're "not cool".
    Erick - www.borealphoto.com/velo

  12. #12
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    Quote Originally Posted by Erick L View Post
    I don't use one because I don't really feel the need for it and I would get lazy and fat-ter.

    On the other hand, I think E-bikes are the future of commuter vehicules, especially velomobiles for those who want protection from the elements. Right now though, they aren't well-known, some look like pieces thrown together, and are associated with old people. In other words, they're "not cool".
    I see your info and also having lived in Canada myself (BC/AB) I realize the merits of an enclosure. But regarding your comment on degrading health from the use of pedal assist, what if the system didn't work unless you were actually pedalling? The effort would be less but the effort would still exist.

    Thanks all!

  13. #13
    derailleurs are overrated bigbenaugust's Avatar
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    I see a couple of guys going in the opposite direction on E-bikes a day... always the same two guys. One of them switches to a regular bike in inclement weather, which I found interesting. When he's on the e-bike, he always has the worst smug expression on his face, so I was pretty shocked to see him on a regular bike on a chance-of-rain day. The other is an older, larger gentleman whom I saw yelling at a roadie passing him the other day:

    "What are you doing, you can't pass me! You don't have electricity!"
    (As far as I could tell, the roadie smoked him anyway. But as a regular reader of children's books, I found the rhyme hilarious. )
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  14. #14
    coprolite fietsbob's Avatar
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    #1 you're in San Jose California, the Petroleum fueled Car is King in America.

    Know they sell well in NL, and manufacturers all offer PedalElec bikes .

    I have experienced, those winds off the North Sea, can blow hard,
    over the Low Country.

    LBS, here, sells several a month..
    Last edited by fietsbob; 03-08-12 at 11:50 AM.

  15. #15
    nashcommguy
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    My reason for not using one is called a cassette. One can get a phenomenal spectrum of gear choices that would allow one to climb a wall if necessary. Cogs as big as 36t and chainrings as small as 22t. And if that's still not a low enough gear to traverse a given hill one can always resort to 'switchbacks'. They involve wheeling back and forth across the road to cut down the angle of the hill. Wouldn't recommend trying the technique in traffic, though.

  16. #16
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    Quote Originally Posted by bigbenaugust View Post
    I see a couple of guys going in the opposite direction on E-bikes a day... always the same two guys. One of them switches to a regular bike in inclement weather, which I found interesting. When he's on the e-bike, he always has the worst smug expression on his face, so I was pretty shocked to see him on a regular bike on a chance-of-rain day. The other is an older, larger gentleman whom I saw yelling at a roadie passing him the other day:

    "What are you doing, you can't pass me! You don't have electricity!"
    (As far as I could tell, the roadie smoked him anyway. But as a regular reader of children's books, I found the rhyme hilarious. )
    The comment you had with the one who switches to their regular bike when the weather turns foul makes me wonder what the reason would be? I know most systems are pretty weather proof. But from what I gather these two you speak of are not real "cyclists" but just commuters?

    Thanks.

  17. #17
    derailleurs are overrated bigbenaugust's Avatar
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    But back to pedal-assist systems, I did once test-ride a recumbent trike that had such a system (back when the Hasso Plattner Institute of Design at Stanford were my neighbors). It only worked when it was switched on AND when you were pedalling. Holy cow, I felt like Superman whipping around the courtyard on that thing.

    I have no trouble wearing just a helmet at a 15-17mph pace. But with the assist, I'd have no trouble breaking 25, where extra safety apparatus might be required, which might in turn interfere with pedalling.
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  18. #18
    derailleurs are overrated bigbenaugust's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by bryan_d View Post
    The comment you had with the one who switches to their regular bike when the weather turns foul makes me wonder what the reason would be? I know most systems are pretty weather proof. But from what I gather these two you speak of are not real "cyclists" but just commuters?

    Thanks.
    They probably only ride their bicycles for the purpose of commuting. I will not open the 55gal drum of worms about whether or not they fit a particular definition of "cyclists". Heck *I* only ride on the weekend a handful of times a year (have one group ride, one metric, and a birthday ride scheduled this year, and that may be it).
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  19. #19
    Senior Member Hendricks97's Avatar
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    My next n+1 is an electric pedal assist cargo bike. With groceries, my youngest son, and enough decent hills, my wife wouldnt be able to do it without the assist. Id probably even have a hard time doing it. They are heavy and I havent figured out how to get it up the stairs into the house though (and where to put it once in the house), but since I dont have a garage and I dont want to leave it outside, I havent purchased it yet. For commuting though? I wouldnt bother, just HTFU.

  20. #20
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    Quote Originally Posted by fietsbob View Post
    #1 you're in San Jose California, the Petroleum fueled Car is King in America.

    Know they sell well in NL, and manufacturers all offer PedalElec bikes .

    I have experienced, those winds off the North Sea, can blow hard,
    over the Low Country.

    LBS, here, sells several a month..
    Very interesting, and it's why I am excited about this project because we (living in the US) or going to have to wake up and realize that cars aren't always going to be feasible. I think your comments regarding headwinds is a crucial one, because I'm willing to bet that even true roadies would appreciate a little umph when their on their way to work, or am I wrong? Thanks.

    Quote Originally Posted by nashcommguy View Post
    My reason for not using one is called a cassette. One can get a phenomenal spectrum of gear choices that would allow one to climb a wall if necessary. Cogs as big as 36t and chainrings as small as 22t. And if that's still not a low enough gear to traverse a given hill one can always resort to 'switchbacks'. They involve wheeling back and forth across the road to cut down the angle of the hill. Wouldn't recommend trying the technique in traffic, though.
    I used to ride my old 29er in SS but now ride 1x9 so I see your point. And I like that you brought up the zig-zag technique and how its not usable during traffic so how does this scenario change your thoughts on a peddle assist system? I appreciate your chiming in.

    Quote Originally Posted by bigbenaugust View Post
    But back to pedal-assist systems, I did once test-ride a recumbent trike that had such a system (back when the Hasso Plattner Institute of Design at Stanford were my neighbors). It only worked when it was switched on AND when you were pedalling. Holy cow, I felt like Superman whipping around the courtyard on that thing.

    I have no trouble wearing just a helmet at a 15-17mph pace. But with the assist, I'd have no trouble breaking 25, where extra safety apparatus might be required, which might in turn interfere with pedalling.
    I think you and most others on this board could get in real trouble with a pedal assist because you already have the muscles to be fast, but would that recumbent system be as sketchy for those that just want a car alternative?

    Thank you all for being involved!

  21. #21
    Junior Member
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    Quote Originally Posted by Hendricks97 View Post
    My next n+1 is an electric pedal assist cargo bike. With groceries, my youngest son, and enough decent hills, my wife wouldnt be able to do it without the assist. Id probably even have a hard time doing it. They are heavy and I havent figured out how to get it up the stairs into the house though (and where to put it once in the house), but since I dont have a garage and I dont want to leave it outside, I havent purchased it yet. For commuting though? I wouldnt bother, just HTFU.
    Thanks for that. I actually have yet to consider the application of pedal assist for a cargo bike scenario, and you bring up great points regarding load. How would you feel about this pedal assisted cargo bike replacing your main vehicle? In a sense it does become your commuter vehicle? Thanks again.

  22. #22
    coprolite fietsbob's Avatar
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    Stoke Monkey was built around using the space left behind the seatpost
    of Xtracycle conversions ... and big dummy frames.

    motor is driving the left side of a crossover tandem crank.

    Many bike companies offer the option of a Hub motor in a Longtail,
    Trek is one ..

    you need the cooperation and enthusiasm of the wife ,
    to replace the car with something without a heater.
    Last edited by fietsbob; 03-08-12 at 12:36 PM.

  23. #23
    Senior Member Hendricks97's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by bryan_d View Post
    Thanks for that. I actually have yet to consider the application of pedal assist for a cargo bike scenario, and you bring up great points regarding load. How would you feel about this pedal assisted cargo bike replacing your main vehicle? In a sense it does become your commuter vehicle? Thanks again.
    Im hoping it will replace the 2nd car. Unfortunately with our needs, we will always need one car. It will never replace the commuters though since theres no need for it when Im going to work alone or my wife is going to her job alone. Thats why its an n+1. It will join the road bike, the fat bike, the hybrid(bad weather/small cargo), the tandem, the wifes hybrid commuter, the kids bikes, etc.
    Last edited by Hendricks97; 03-08-12 at 12:38 PM. Reason: typo

  24. #24
    derailleurs are overrated bigbenaugust's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by bryan_d View Post
    I think you and most others on this board could get in real trouble with a pedal assist because you already have the muscles to be fast, but would that recumbent system be as sketchy for those that just want a car alternative?
    Perhaps not. We would need to find some of those people and check.
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  25. #25
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    Quote Originally Posted by fietsbob View Post
    Stoke Monkey was built around using the space left behind the seatpost
    of Xtracycle conversions ... and big dummy frames.

    motor is driving the left side of a crossover tandem crank.

    Many bike companies offer the option of a Hub motor in a Longtail,
    Trek is one ..

    you need the cooperation and enthusiasm of the wife ,
    to replace the car with something without a heater.
    Thanks for mentioning the Stoke Monkey, I did not know about those. And luckily for me CA has some pretty good riding weather so heaters are always needed. If I were still in Calgary however...

    Quote Originally Posted by Hendricks97 View Post
    Im hoping it will replace the 2nd car. Unfortunately with our needs, we will always need one car. It will never replace the commuters though since theres no need for it when Im going to work alone or my wife is going to her job alone. Thats why its an n+1. It will join the road bike, the fat bike, the hybrid(bad weather/small cargo), the tandem, the wifes hybrid commuter, the kids bikes, etc.
    Thanks. Between my girlfriend and I we only use one car and see your point because our cities were designed with only cars in mind.

    Quote Originally Posted by bigbenaugust View Post
    Perhaps not. We would need to find some of those people and check.


    Thanks again all, and anything helps.

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