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Two
years ago, Michael Cox’s wife, Abby Koehler, purchased an e-bike—a pedal-assisted
electric bicycle—after rupturing the ACL in her knee. Prior to that injury, she’d
always ridden her bike to work at Western Washington University. Getting an e-bike
helped her continue her bike commute habit— and also turned Michael into an
e-bike convert. A year later, Abby bought Michael his own bike, because he borrowed
hers so often.

Both
ride Trek brand Verve bikes. Cox read in their
manual that each time you replace your car or an emissions-emitting vehicle with
a bike trip—to the gym, grocery store, work, or wherever you need to go —you
make a small contribution towards the carbon neutrality of your bike. If you
ride a collective 430 miles—a little over a mile a day for a year—that you
would have otherwise used a vehicle for, you’ve saved the carbon equivalent of
what it took for Trek to make your bike. Anything above 430 miles? Your bike is
now carbon-negative.

For
two years, Michael commuted to work on his non-e-bike.

Michael Cox is a dedicated bike-to-work cyclist. Photo credit: Neil McKay

“I
felt like the only tie-wearing bike commuter in Bellingham,” he says. Arriving
to work sweaty and out of breath caused him to eventually stop. “Getting an e-bike
was a game changer for me. The lights are bright and built-in, so I no longer
need to change those batteries. I can choose my level of assist, allowing me to
get a good workout when I want it and to pull into work without feeling
over-exerted as needed, so I’m back to commuting by bike.”

Also,
he says, the e-bike feels safer, allowing him to keep up with traffic through
roundabouts.

“I
do feel a little ashamed when I pedal by riders on an uphill slope. I tell them
that they’re doing great and that I am cheating because I have a battery,”
Michael says. “At the same time, I feel great because I’m back to choosing my
bike over my car for my daily commute.”

Bellingham
musician Chuck Dingee lives on Alabama Hill and first considered purchasing an
e-bike because he wanted to better negotiate his neighborhood. He’s now owned
four.

Chuck Dingee negotiates Alabama Hill on his Raleigh e-bike. Photo credit: Kathy Sheehan

“I
was given three cheap Chinese bikes with [permanently] dead batteries,” he says,
“and I tried to make them work with new batteries, but they had broken parts
and no replacements available.” 

After
shopping around and educating himself about e-bikes, Chuck decided to get a
pedal-assist bike with no throttle. (The motor is on the pedal, not the wheel.)
“They’re easier to work on, if needed, and I only wanted pedal-assist.”

“I
wanted a good bike with gears and easy to use power,” Chuck continues. “I
settled on a Raleigh, and I really like it. I can
use it as a regular bike until I need the assist and quickly engage up to four
levels.”

“One
thing to keep in mind,” Chuck cautions, “is if you have a throttle [motor on
wheel] and are going up steep hills, you should also pedal because the motor
will not last long otherwise.”

Rick
Aydelotte and his wife, Rita Kraft, are admitted adventure junkies. They were
looking for the ability to make longer rides with less effort on steep hills.

Rick Aydelotte (pictured) and his wife, Rita Kraft, have taken their eBikes to Tofino, British Columbia. Photo credit: Rita Kraft

They
tried four different bikes. In November 2019, Rita purchased a Rad City model
and Rick purchased a Rad Rover, both online from Rad Seattle.

They
mostly ride as a couple, averaging 10 to 15 miles per ride but they both take
solo rides, too.

“We
also enjoy riding with other couples and the electric power allows us to stay
together regardless of physical conditioning.”

Rita Kraft (pictured) and her husband, Rick Aydelotte, took their eBikes to Death Valley for a spin. Photo credit: Rick Aydelotte

They’ve
been to Lummi Island, the San Juans, Guemes Island, Death Valley, Mount
Rainier, Deception Pass, and north Whidbey Island.

“Any
cheap aerobic high brings joy,” Rick says, “but the sustained peddling is great
for complete oxygenation. I’m always amazed how often I resolve problems, think
of great solutions, and find inspiration when reaching/grasping for breath,
whether hiking, skiing, or riding. Riding in really strong winds is
exhilarating. Having strong legs and lungs as a result of frequent rides makes
dancing more fun.”

They
recently purchased helmets with Bluetooth communication between riders, which
improved the riding experience, making it more of a couples activity, with the ability
to share things they see and just have general conversation.

The
downfalls? All bikes are dangerous, Rick says.

“We ride more miles and more often since we got e-bikes. Since the exposure is more time on a bike, the risk is greater,” he says. “That said, the improved disk brakes and lights add to safety. When mounting, the throttle gives a little boost to get going easier, and certainly the throttle helps to cross traffic at intersections, which gets us out of the way sooner, all adding to a safer riding experience.”

Be
mindful of choosing places where there are wider shoulders, fewer cars, and
more bike trails, Rick cautions, and watch out for soft sand and really loose
gravel.

Fairhaven
resident Debby Meyers says she’s always enjoyed biking but, as she aged, had a
harder time with hills—and keeping up with her husband.

Fairhaven resident Debby Meyers likes to ride her eBike for leisurely rides around town. Photo credit: Barry Meyers

“I
went to just about every bike shop around, even driving down to Seattle to try
the Rad bikes,” she says.

“I
finally settled on the Allant 7S by Trek because it’s a bit lighter
and very comfortable. They also had nice color choices.”

She
uses her bike to get around town and for leisure rides.

“I
zip up hills like I did when I was in my 20s,” she says.

Her
advice? Really shop around and keep in mind they are a bit harder to transport
by car; you need a bike rack that mounts on a trailer hitch in the back of your
car. E-bikes are heavy and loading them onto a rack or van can be difficult. Thule makes a bike carrier with a
ramp, but Debby says it can still be tricky.

“Riding
my bike just feels really good,” she says. “It’s a great way to get around and
get exercise at the same time. It’s a fun activity I enjoy sharing with my
husband and friends. Getting an e-bike was a great choice for me. If you’ve
always enjoyed riding and notice that you are doing it less, now is the time to
think about getting an e-bike.”

Places
to buy e-bikes in Bellingham:

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