The idea of even getting on a bicycle may seem strange to most of us who haven’t traveled on two wheels since we were old enough for a driver’s license. While avid suburban conditioning fans may ride 10-speeds, for most of us bikes are just a distant memory unless our kids or grandkids are riding them.
They shouldn’t be. New models with electric power assist not only make bikes a lot more practical for a lot more of us, they open up new uses uniquely suited to two-wheel transportation.
Among the most obvious, for those of us in outdoors-crazy Alabama, is the potential use of off-road E-bikes in hunting, fishing, wildlife watching and camping pursuits.
E-bikes make it possible to travel miles into difficult terrain on trails that are too narrow for full-sized vehicles, and to do it in silence, with almost no impact on the habitat or the wildlife. This gives them a huge advantage over noisy four-wheel ATV’s, a favorite of many hunters in deer and turkey seasons.
Scouting for turkeys becomes far easier because it’s possible to roll along at a steady pace, maybe double or triple your walking speed, while calling with a diaphragm call in your mouth and listening for a response.
And getting to a distant deer stand without alerting every deer close by also becomes far easier when you can travel the woods on a noiseless E-bike rather than in a truck or ATV. Add a single-wheel bike cart and you’ve also got an easy way to carry your deer out, without the long drag back to the truck many of us have faced.
When it comes to fishing, add a rod holder and the bikes make it possible to ride long distances along streamside trails to reach distant honey-holes, or to travel the woods to your remote pond quickly and easily, even on some roads impassable to four-wheel vehicles.
The bikes are simple to operate and easy to ride. The model I have currently, the QuietKat Apex, took me about five minutes to become comfortable with—and I haven’t been on a bike in decades. It’s a nine-speed with a 48-volt lithium battery hidden in the frame, enough power to travel 30 to 60 miles, more or less, depending on the terrain and how much you pedal to assist the electric motor.
And you can pedal as much, or as little, as you want with the QuietKat. If you like, you can start off with the throttle alone and cruise along at a steady 5 mph. The power level is adjusted at the touch of a button, and shows up on a cell-phone-sized monitor screen—Level 1 or 2 is most manageable for those new to E-Bikes.
Just as in riding a standard bicycle, you’re most likely to start in a low gear, via the mechanical shift levers on the right handlebar. The lower gears make it easier for you—or the motor–to push the bike. You shift to higher gears when you hit flat, smooth road and want to go faster, lower gears in uphill pulls or over rough or muddy terrain when you need to go slower.
In most use, you can ride the bike several days between recharges, and it recharges in a few hours when plugged in to the included charger. The company says the battery will last around 1,000 cycles, or 20,000 to 24,000 miles for most users, which is way more than most of us are ever going to ride an E-bike.
The bikes from QuietKat range in price from the $2,400 Ranger up to the $6,700 Jeep model, and financing is available on their website. The Voyager folding model, about $3,000, is designed for transport aboard boats and in smaller cars. A plus with this company is that they allow a 30-day trial, if you’re not sure you want an E-bike—ride it less than 10 miles and you can ship it back for only the cost of shipping.
Cabela’s in Huntsville is a dealer, as are the Bass Pro Shops in Leeds, Prattville and Spanish Fort. They can also be bought online: see details at www.quietkat.com.