Monday, February 13, 2017

E-Bike vs Pedal Bike: This time it's personal!

Okay, it's not that personal. But this is not a study by the University of Whatever on the Isle of Some-Place-Far-Away. It's yours truly comparing a few recent days commuting in Lubbock on an e-bike and a pedal bike.

[Why am I writing this one? Well, there are a lot of questions out there about e-bikes and about their validity as transportation. Me, I love bikes in almost all forms, but I see the e-bike as a great tool for commuting and for low impact transportation. Lots of people consider an electric motor on a bike to be cheating, but I don't. I see it as an inexpensive way to get around with a tiny carbon footprint. (And it's a whole lot of fun!) For me, cheating is travelling a few miles in an expensive and inefficient vehicle that pollutes the air and promotes environmental destruction. The e-bike is definitely not a solution for everyone all the time, but it's a great tool to cover part of your transportation needs efficiently and often joyfully.]

The 500-watt Electric Bike
(Bought used on Craigslist with a bad battery)

The Mesquite-Hugger-powered Pedal Bike
(Given to me by a friend who wanted more room in his garage)

We'll start with the pedal bike:

Last Friday was a cold and very windy day here in Lubbock. (We have lots of those windy days.) The e-bike was needing a few small repairs, but I was determined to ride. So, I rode off to work and into the wind. And it was a workout!


Average speed of 7.6 mph. Ouch! And a 39 minute commute -  not good for someone hoping to make it to work on time - I did not. Yep, I was late to work and I arrived needing a shower and a nap. (Five miles in 39 minutes.)


Average speed of 11.1 mph (The ride home is usually quicker due to warmer weather and warmer old-guy muscles.) It was still windy, but the wind was at my (sail-like) backside and gave me a pretty good push. Even so, I took a 20 minute recovery nap when I got home. (4.4 miles in 24 minutes.)

So, the round trip commute time for the day was 63 minutes, and I was exhausted after both rides.

Now let's look at a similar day's commute on the e-bike:

[A little info about how I ride an e-bike - I pedal along with the bike. It's a bike with a boost, not a bike that does all the work. I generally arrive at my destination breathing heavily but I am not wiped out and I don't have an overwhelming desire to lie down and take a nap. As an overweight middle-aged guy, most things make me want a nap, but the e-bike doesn't.]


I love teacher in-service days - light car traffic on the residential streets! (Five miles in 25 minutes.)


4.6 miles in 21 minutes.

You can see, for me at least, that the e-bike doesn't offer a great deal more speed - it offers a lot more consistency. Regardless of how I feel, how cold it is, how windy it is, or what time of day it is, I have a good idea of how long it is going to take me to get to work. There's also a distinct possibility that I will be less smelly when I arrive.

Summing up:

The pedal-bike commute covered 9.38 miles in 62:50 minutes.
(Arrived smelly, late, and exhausted!)
The e-bike commute covered 9.61 miles in 46:12 minutes.
(Arrived on time, less smelly, and invigorated.)

(To be fair, smelly seems to be fairly constant state for me, but there are times when it's especially bad.)

But a friend of mine messaged me about one smelly issue a bike won't save you from here in Lubbock:

I'm with you, Captain Kirk!

Well, you can't have everything, but you can have a very low-carbon, low-cost commute and keep it consistent.

May you find your own low-carbon transportation that keeps you smiling, consistent, and not too terribly smelly or broke.

PS. By the way, recharging the battery after one day's commute will require about 15 pennies worth of electricity.