A Ride for Everyone
Electric-assist bikes level the playing field for cycling enthusiasts.
With the assistance from e-bikes, you can enjoy a less strenuous and easy paced effort to take in the culture and flavor of the local surroundings.
Father Time catching up? Can’t crush those hills like you used to? Or maybe you’ve dealt or are dealing with health issues that make saddling up in the traditional sense just unrealistic anymore. You can still ride in confidence as e-bikes are the ultimate game changer.Imagine taking part in a lifelong activity for which age, physical conditioning (or lack thereof), and health concerns, just to name a few, simply don’t matter in one’s pursuit of happiness and enjoyment.
Can’t come up with anything? Here’s a hint: What has two wheels (most of them) and handlebars and, more importantly, is now equipped with the ultimate game-changer?
Getting on a bike isn’t what it used to be. Thanks to the recent emergence of electric-assist bicycles, or e-bikes, almost anyone can saddle up and enjoy this pastime in ways never before imagined.
“At first, you’re taken aback,” Colorado Springs realtor Renee Behr says. “You’re pedaling as you go up a hill, and your bike lifts you up and pushes you. You ask yourself, what just happened? It’s exhilarating. With these bikes, people of all ages and sizes and shapes can take part in this. It’s such a beautiful thing in that it’s all-inclusive. That’s what we try to be in society. That’s what e-assist can afford.”
To the untrained eye, an e-bike appears almost identical to the traditional bike. Look a little closer, and you’ll see a small electric motor and battery, which provide motorized assistance up to 750 watts. That’ll power a hair dryer, too.
But don’t let that number fool you. That motor power alone can reach a maximum speed of 20 mph.
With e-bikes, the pedal-assist system measures the rider’s cycling power and increases or decreases the electric assist based on that power. Suddenly, that imposing hill isn’t so imposing anymore, and that long ride won’t be as demanding.
“I use an e-bike to get to work, and I haul a 70-pound dog behind me,” says Jolie NeSmith, the executive director of PikeRide, a new downtown Colorado Springs bike-sharing program and part of the Downtown Partnership. “I could haul her on a traditional bike, but I’d get to work and have to shower first thing, and that would put a kink in my day. The less-strenuous ride on the e-bike makes me a happier person and makes me better for the people I work with.”
E-biking in Colorado Springs
PikeRide was born in 2018 and is the result of a passionate group of citizens who envisioned and planned a bike-share program in downtown Colorado Springs. For the second year of the program, all 200 of its bikes have been upgraded with a new fleet of electric-assist vehicles, and plans are underway to expand the service area from downtown to include Old Colorado City and Manitou Springs.
The program is an initiative of Downtown Ventures, the charitable nonprofit arm of the Downtown Partnership. Anyone curious about e-biking is invited to try one. Monthly and annual subscriptions are available.
One by one, NeSmith says, traditional bike riders are making the switch. “We joke that e-bikes are the ‘gateway’ bike to cycling,” she says. “We want to get people back on bikes. It creates a level playing field with terrain, altitude, and the older population that can’t handle cycling like they used to. It’s not a moped. You still have to pedal. It’s a healthy alternative.”
Besides being healthy, it also offers a view of downtown at a different pace. “This gives people another way to transport themselves and the chance to explore the city through a different way,” Behr says. “You can see all the murals and art downtown. You can’t walk it in a night, but you can ride it. I love it. I believe our city downtown is the center of our city, and this is just another avenue to bring people into our city and see and enjoy it differently. It’s an evening out with exercise and ease.”
Business Is Booming
Once people try an e-bike, they’re hooked and feel compelled to get one of their own—at least that’s what the numbers are saying.
According to a recent study compiled by Boulder-based People for Bikes, there was an 80% increase in e-bike sales from 2016 to 2017. Just three years ago, e-bikes accounted for 1% of all bikes sold. That number skyrocketed to 7% the following year.
Today, some 120 brands are promoting and selling e-bikes in the United States. “We’re seeing an uptick on it, and even though it’s not a huge percentage now, it’s something not to be ignored,” says Brian Stratton, general manager of two Pro Cycling locations in Colorado Springs. “That’s what we’re seeing for e-bikes, and we like to be able to keep up.”
To Trail, or Not to Trail?
States regulate the use of e-bikes on streets and pathways. Some define them as bikes, others as motorcycles.
Colorado recognizes the three classes of e-bikes: pedal assist (class 1), throttle on demand (class 2), and speed pedelec (class 3).
Colorado Springs allows class 1 e-bikes on urban trails, ones that traverse neighborhoods and connect to the core of the city.
According to ColoradoSprings.gov/ebike, e-bikes are not allowed on multi-use trails, the soft surfaces that are part of a large regional park or open space.
State law treats classes 1 and 2 like bicycles. Class 3 e-bikes are not allowed in bike lanes although state parks allow class 1 on all trails that allow bicycles.
All classes of e-bikes recognized as motor vehicle are not permitted on non-motorized trails.