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March 18, 2022

I recently got my first e-bike, and I have some thoughts:

(I've been riding in NYC for a number of years, most days, somewhere in the thousands of miles per year. Most of the time I ride a Salsa Casseroll Single with fenders, rack, panniers, 20 tooth cog for easier climbs, and most recently a Surly Open Bar handlebars and a stem riser for upright posture. Side note: a video of a recent ride. )

The last few (six?) months I've been dealing with a hamstring issue (too much running with poor biomechanics, curse you teenage self), and bicycling does seem to aggrevate it, so I decided to get an e-bike with a throttle in order to be able to rest a little while still living life and going places by bike. I got a RadRunner 2 (it seems pretty decent, reasonably priced, and you can set it up to carry passengers. I have some qualms from setting it up but I'll save those for another day).

This morning I rode from Tribeca to Union Square to pick up a few things from the green market, and back, usingthe throttle almost exclusively. I found myself going a lot faster than I normally ride, and worryingly defaulting into a "driving" mentality. It left a bad taste in my mouth.

Later in the day, I rode to my office/studio in Red Hook, via the Manhattan Bridge, and made a special effort to go at a usual (leisurely) pace. It worked, and I managed to stay in a better, more peaceful frame of mind, but it took mental effort. I will have to continue that effort.

I find I definitely prefer the peacefulness of riding regular (*cough* acoustic *cough*), but my hamstring appreciated the electric-ness. What's interesting, though, is the economics:

I recharged my battery after riding 15 miles (which would be about 90 minutes of riding at city speeds), and using a Kill-A-Watt, I measured 360Wh of power use at the mains power. I looked up electric rates, and a ballpark we're talking about $0.05 worth of electricity, and the battery probably had less than 0.05% (or $0.25) of its lifetime wear. If I had ridden my regular bike, I would've burned a few hundred calories at least, and unless I was extremely frugal in my eating (I am not), there's no way I would spend only $0.30 on replenishing those calories. So in some ways, this is more economical (and probably more efficient, too?). Obviously there are benefits to exercise but let's assume I have that taken care of anyway.

Delivery people all moved to e-bikes ages ago. There were stories in the news about how they needed them in order to keep up, but I never really realized that the economics of it, even if you are as fit as possible, made generally cheaper to use electricity than to eat the extra food!

It's very good that e-bikes have been made legal in NY, hopefully the parks will follow (it feels like there should be an ADA claim against the parks that ban them, as there are people who can ride e-bikes but can't ride acoustic bikes). I'm still stunned by the efficiency of this bike, even with its massive 3" wide tires and weighing in around 65lbs.

(Update March 19: I was curious how much electricity electric cars use by comparison… sounds like typical is 34kWh per 100 miles, or 340Wh per mile… assuming that holds up in the city, that’d make the electric bike use about 1/15th the power. which is roughly in line with the mass ratio...)


nothing that will be missed

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