May 2014

You know you’re a bicyclist if you look for reasons to ride. Recently I was thinking, “It would be nice if a gentle rain started falling. I’d hop on my bike and take a quick spin.” As long as it’s not cold out, who cares if you get a little wet while riding? Every time you jump in the shower you get all wet. And your clothes pay regular visits to the washing machine to get all wet. But somehow when we have clothes on we don’t want to get wet. So here’s a summertime challenge for you: sometime this summer, on a warm day when it’s gently raining, go for a ride and get wet. My guess is you’ll be smiling the whole time.

* * * 

Electric bikes seem to be gaining in popularity. One side of me thinks that they defeat one of the purposes of bicycle riding, and that is to get exercise. But another side of me realizes that having an electric bicycle doesn’t necessarily mean that the rider won’t get any exercise. And that’s because some types of electric bicycles require the rider to pedal at least a little bit. I’ll explain…

Electric bikes that require the rider to pedal are called “pedalecs”. The electric motor automatically assists the rider by giving a boost but the rider must pedal to get that assist. These types of bikes make pedaling much easier. Sometimes the feeling is described as having a constant tail wind. Whenever the rider stops pedaling, or applies the brake, the electric assist turns off. 

With these types of electric bikes there is no throttle. However, there is usually a choice of how much “assist” a rider wants. One version I’ve seen gives options of 25%, 50%, or 100% assist. My interpretation of those numbers is that if you are pedaling at an 8 mile per hour rate, with a 25% assist you will actually go 10 mph; at a 50% assist you will go 12 mph; and at a 100% assist you will go 16mph. So you can see how it would feel like there is a wind at your back.

Another type of electric bike doesn’t require any pedaling. It uses a throttle to give power on demand. This allows the rider to cruise along without any effort at all. This is the type of electric bike that makes me think that a rider won’t experience the health benefit of bicycle riding. However, these types of electric bikes can still be pedaled even while the throttle is being used. So the rider does have the option of getting some exercise, or getting no exercise.

Most bicycles can be converted to either a “pedal assist” or a “power on demand” type of electric bicycle by installing a kit. The kit consists of a wheel with an electric motor in the hub, a battery, and a controller. The wheel with the hub motor replaces one of the existing wheels on the bike.

And then, of course, there are many bicycles being manufactured now that are built specifically as electric bicycles.

At the shop a few years ago we helped a local guy install a “power on demand” kit on an existing bike. Remember, this is the type of electric bike that doesn’t require any pedaling, it just requires a twist of the throttle. After putting the wheel, battery, and controller in place, our mechanic decided to test whether it was working or not by twisting the throttle. Zoom! The wheel immediately started spinning at a high speed! It was a good thing he was firmly holding onto the bike or it would have shot across the shop. We still have the rubber burn mark on the floor from that episode!

* * *

Whether electric or not, don’t forget to get out and take advantage of some of these opportunities to ride! 

Weekly 10-10-10 bicycle rides. Leaving from the Ferguson Bicycle Shop every Saturday, these rides will go 10 miles at 10mph. Meet behind the shop at 10:00am, and be ready to leave promptly at 10:10am. Come ride with us and enjoy some adventures!

Two Wheeled Tour Series. This series of family-friendly rides, sponsored by St. Louis Bicycle Works, will give you the opportunity to visit historic areas of St. Louis. Each ride starts at 9:30 AM.

  • May 31st • Historic Carondelet. Meet at Belle Rive Park, 5570 South Broadway
  • June 21st • Calvary Cemetery. Meet just inside the cemetery gates, 5239 West Florissant (near the intersection of Union and West Florissant)
  • July 12th • Central West End / West End Literary Tour. Meet in the parking lot of Five Guys Burgers and Fries, 4183 Lindell Blvd.

Sunday Parkways. The first one of the year will be on Sunday, June 8, from 1-4pm. It will be held on the blocks surrounding Central Elementary School. Special activities will highlight the historic significance of the school and the neighborhood surrounding it. Other activities will include: free bicycle helmets, a bicycle-mounted blender for making smoothies, Earn-a-Bike info, a rock climbing wall, slide dancing, etc. More info at Come out and play!