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  1. #1
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    Electric vs. tandem for together time?

    I'm pondering the pros and cons of two different options for more family cycling together time: tandem vs. electric.

    My wife likes tootling around on her bike but has a completely different concept of speed and distance than I do. She enjoys the scenery and being outside doing stuff, but isn't going to be leaning in to where she pushes the fitness / exertion aspects of the sport. Now that the kids are beyond the slow crawl to the ice cream store, we don’t have that buffer that prevented me from slitting my wrists at single digit mph. I'm hardly a speed demon, just a regular commuter and medium strong recreational cyclist., I’d like to kit her/us up so that we can enjoy a slightly more significant ride together in both of our comfort zones.

    She has brought up tandems a few times. I’m assuming I'll do all the work and she'll sit back there a little bored and heckling me most of the way. I can live with that, though I don’t see her getting into the whole stoker thing. I’m a little concerned about making what I assume will be a significant investment for something we’re not sure about, in particular since I’m 6’5” and she’s 5’2, so finding something that fits might be a bit of a challenge. Plus another giant thing in the garage.

    I started wondering if an electric bike for her would be a good option. Something that gives her a boost so we can move along at a decent clip easily, I’ll pedal along and get a bit of a workout, and we’ll cover a little ground at a mutually agreeable speed & effort. I figure it might give us a little more flexibility than the tandem, give her something a little less boring than looking at my back, and be a little more manageable with a few hills around. But I’m just speculating.

    Any thoughts?

    FYI, I’m cross-posted over in the Tandem forum, too, at http://www.bikeforums.net/showthread.php?617024.
    Last edited by slcbob; 01-22-10 at 08:07 PM. Reason: added link

  2. #2
    Senior Member nwmtnbkr's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by slcbob View Post
    I'm pondering the pros and cons of two different options for more family cycling together time: tandem vs. electric.

    My wife likes tootling around on her bike but has a completely different concept of speed and distance than I do. She enjoys the scenery and being outside doing stuff, but isn't going to be leaning in to where she pushes the fitness / exertion aspects of the sport. Now that the kids are beyond the slow crawl to the ice cream store, we dont have that buffer that prevented me from slitting my wrists at single digit mph. I'm hardly a speed demon, just a regular commuter and medium strong recreational cyclist., Id like to kit her/us up so that we can enjoy a slightly more significant ride together in both of our comfort zones.

    She has brought up tandems a few times. Im assuming I'll do all the work and she'll sit back there a little bored and heckling me most of the way. I can live with that, though I dont see her getting into the whole stoker thing. Im a little concerned about making what I assume will be a significant investment for something were not sure about, in particular since Im 65 and shes 52, so finding something that fits might be a bit of a challenge. Plus another giant thing in the garage.

    I started wondering if an electric bike for her would be a good option. Something that gives her a boost so we can move along at a decent clip easily, Ill pedal along and get a bit of a workout, and well cover a little ground at a mutually agreeable speed & effort. I figure it might give us a little more flexibility than the tandem, give her something a little less boring than looking at my back, and be a little more manageable with a few hills around. But Im just speculating.

    Any thoughts?

    FYI, Im cross-posted over in the Tandem forum, too, at http://www.bikeforums.net/showthread.php?617024.
    First, if I were you, I'd talk to her to see if she'd be comfortable with an e-bike and, if so, just what type. (Some kits and ready-made e-bikes require that you pedal and power assist only kicks in once the rider is pedaling. Some have a throttle that controls the speed. Some have both.) If you're in an urban area, you may find some LBS that has an electric bike she could test ride. Since she has a bike, you might get a conversion kit and invest more money in a LIFEPO4 battery. If you're wanting to buy a ready made e-bike, be prepared for sticker shock. They're all fairly expensive and have rather anemic performance because they're built for a world market and parts of Asia and the EU restrict motor size and speed much more than North America does. That's why so many e-bike enthusiasts in North America buy conversion kits and build their own e-bikes.

    Here's a good reference (although it's already somewhat out-of-date). http://www.electric-bikes.com/

    Good luck. Let us know what your wife thinks of the prospect of riding an e-bike.

  3. #3
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    Quote Originally Posted by nwmtnbkr View Post
    First, if I were you, I'd talk to her to see if she'd be comfortable with an e-bike and, if so, just what type.
    This is not a stealth operation. She's read in and we're pondering together. So she thinks the prospects are worth prospecting.

    Thanks for the other tid-bits. Obviously there are a great number of details, and the devil is probably in them.

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    Senior Member nwmtnbkr's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by slcbob View Post
    This is not a stealth operation. She's read in and we're pondering together. So she thinks the prospects are worth prospecting.

    Thanks for the other tid-bits. Obviously there are a great number of details, and the devil is probably in them.
    Now that I see where you live, let me add one more issue that you will want to consider. (I spent most of my career in D.C. and gave up riding on the streets there because of increased traffic congestion and aggressive driving. I retired to the far northern US Rockies, I'm west of Glacier National Park, to get away from that type of congestion. Although I love D.C. the logistics of living there were getting worse every year, along with my patience for putting up with it's complications. I spent far too many hours of my life sitting in traffic jams on the beltway.) Drivers don't recognize e-bikes as being different from ordinary bikes and riders have to be cautious about utilizing too much speed. The combination of a driver being unprepared for a fast-moving e-bike coupled with an e-bike rider who may not have beefed up safety systems, like brakes, and who is too casual about the increased danger that speed presents is an accident in the making. If you don't really ride roads, then make sure the trails you may ride don't ban e-bikes. Congress banned e-bikes from trails that receive federal funding unless a particular state specifically authorizes the use of electric bicycles on such trails (Public Law 105-178).

  5. #5
    Jerry the Spinner
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    Quote Originally Posted by slcbob View Post
    I'm pondering the pros and cons of two different options for more family cycling together time: tandem vs. electric.

    My wife likes tootling around on her bike but has a completely different concept of speed and distance than I do. She enjoys the scenery and being outside doing stuff, but isn't going to be leaning in to where she pushes the fitness / exertion aspects of the sport. Now that the kids are beyond the slow crawl to the ice cream store, we don’t have that buffer that prevented me from slitting my wrists at single digit mph. I'm hardly a speed demon, just a regular commuter and medium strong recreational cyclist., I’d like to kit her/us up so that we can enjoy a slightly more significant ride together in both of our comfort zones.

    She has brought up tandems a few times. I’m assuming I'll do all the work and she'll sit back there a little bored and heckling me most of the way. I can live with that, though I don’t see her getting into the whole stoker thing. I’m a little concerned about making what I assume will be a significant investment for something we’re not sure about, in particular since I’m 6’5” and she’s 5’2, so finding something that fits might be a bit of a challenge. Plus another giant thing in the garage.

    I started wondering if an electric bike for her would be a good option. Something that gives her a boost so we can move along at a decent clip easily, I’ll pedal along and get a bit of a workout, and we’ll cover a little ground at a mutually agreeable speed & effort. I figure it might give us a little more flexibility than the tandem, give her something a little less boring than looking at my back, and be a little more manageable with a few hills around. But I’m just speculating.

    Any thoughts?

    FYI, I’m cross-posted over in the Tandem forum, too, at http://www.bikeforums.net/showthread.php?617024.


    I am in the same situation as you. I live in New York and commute everyday 14 miles each way. My wife who is a casual rider does not feel comfortable on the streets even in bike lanes. I think the issue of getting a ebike for my wife is controlling the bike at higher speeds. You need to be comfortable riding a bike at higher speeds. Another issue is I had my brother in from Philadelphia and gave him a ebike to ride. Unfortunately he rounded a turn to fast and went right into traffic. Thank God he was ok and my bike was banged up. My point is going faster requires one to be a better rider. At this point I am leaning towards a Tandem bike.
    Bicycle Commuter from New York City.

  6. #6
    Jerry the Spinner
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    Quote Originally Posted by slcbob View Post
    I'm pondering the pros and cons of two different options for more family cycling together time: tandem vs. electric.

    My wife likes tootling around on her bike but has a completely different concept of speed and distance than I do. She enjoys the scenery and being outside doing stuff, but isn't going to be leaning in to where she pushes the fitness / exertion aspects of the sport. Now that the kids are beyond the slow crawl to the ice cream store, we dont have that buffer that prevented me from slitting my wrists at single digit mph. I'm hardly a speed demon, just a regular commuter and medium strong recreational cyclist., Id like to kit her/us up so that we can enjoy a slightly more significant ride together in both of our comfort zones.

    She has brought up tandems a few times. Im assuming I'll do all the work and she'll sit back there a little bored and heckling me most of the way. I can live with that, though I dont see her getting into the whole stoker thing. Im a little concerned about making what I assume will be a significant investment for something were not sure about, in particular since Im 65 and shes 52, so finding something that fits might be a bit of a challenge. Plus another giant thing in the garage.

    I started wondering if an electric bike for her would be a good option. Something that gives her a boost so we can move along at a decent clip easily, Ill pedal along and get a bit of a workout, and well cover a little ground at a mutually agreeable speed & effort. I figure it might give us a little more flexibility than the tandem, give her something a little less boring than looking at my back, and be a little more manageable with a few hills around. But Im just speculating.

    Any thoughts?

    FYI, Im cross-posted over in the Tandem forum, too, at http://www.bikeforums.net/showthread.php?617024.


    I am in the same situation as you. I live in New York and commute everyday 14 miles each way. My wife who is a casual rider does not feel comfortable on the streets even in bike lanes. I think the issue of getting a ebike for my wife is controlling the bike at higher speeds. You need to be comfortable riding a bike at higher speeds. Another issue is I had my brother in from Philadelphia and gave him a ebike to ride. Unfortunately he rounded a turn to fast and went right into traffic. Thank God he was ok and my bike was banged up. My point is going faster requires one to be a better rider. At this point I am leaning towards a Tandem bike.
    Bicycle Commuter from New York City.

  7. #7
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    Thanks all.

    I'm sensing the trend that there's a lot going on with electric bikes, but that it takes a real committed e-bike enthusiast to dive in and exploit it - at least to achieving any mid-level sort of performance that would put her on par with an average recreational rider (me) without too much effort and training on her part.

    I will continue to explore the possibilities but feel the prevailing winds toward tandems. I appreciate the insights, very helpful.

  8. #8
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    I would at least borrow or rent a tandem. It can be pretty boring being in the back. I found that I just had to slow down when I am with slower riders or hikers for that matter. They never speed up because they aren't bicycling for that reason. There used to be a tandem that had a front recumbent position so the person behind could see over the front person. Haven't seen one for quite some time.

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    Senior Member Stray8's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by crackerdog View Post
    I would at least borrow or rent a tandem. It can be pretty boring being in the back. I found that I just had to slow down when I am with slower riders or hikers for that matter. They never speed up because they aren't bicycling for that reason. There used to be a tandem that had a front recumbent position so the person behind could see over the front person. Haven't seen one for quite some time.
    GladBikers.jpg

    http://www.bilenky.com/viewpnt.html

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    hightekbikes.com has a kit for $330. I think it would be $330 and then maybe get her maybe 3 12v15ah batteries. That'd probably be anothe r$100. About $430 total for everything. She could could go about 22 mph for a distance of about 10 miles without pedaling...more if she pedals.

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