Friday, November 13, 2015

E-Bikes: The Future of Cycling? Why I Think So

E-Bikes are the future of cycling, here are some reasons why

The Lapierre Overvolt full suspension mountain bike. Picture courtesy of Lapierre Bicycles and Big-Bike Magazine

I'll be the first one to admit that I wasn't a fan of the idea of electric assisted bicycles being used on the trail or on the roads by recreational cyclists. The purist in me wants all my effort to come 100% from me and feels that anything less than that would be cheating. However I have come to the conclusion that this point of view is very narrow minded. E-bikes, although still in their developmental phase, are the future of cycling and will eventually become a popular choice for all cyclists once the trickle down economics come into play and once there is enough R&D in place to make a good product at an affordable price for most people. Let me explain why.

E-bikes appeal to both the competitive and the commuter-recreational cyclist communities. While a commuter might use an e-bike to get around town and keep up with the pace of traffic, a competitive cyclist may have more devious reasons. For example, there are now stealth electric motors that can fit inside the seat tube of the bicycle and connect to the crankset directly, producing as much as 250 watts anywhere from 30 minutes to an hour, allowing an otherwise novice climber to summit hills like Chris Froome. To put into perspective what 200 watts is on a bicycle, If I held 200 watts for an hour, according to my weight I would average 20 or more miles an hour over varied terrain. 250 watts combined with a rider that can produce around 200 watts is a combined 450 watts of energy, which is what top level athletes can produce on climbs in the Tour De France. It would be enough to summit a 10 kilometer climb in the 30 minute time window that the motor has before it runs out of battery. Here is a demonstration by Greg Lemond of what these stealth motors can do.

Vivax Assist, a German based company sells these motors for a little over $2,000 as well as complete bikes for about four grand. Carrera bicycle company in Italy is also working on an electric assist road bike with the same capabilities. If a competitive cyclist wants a serious advantage over their competition, speed can now be bought for a price and it won't involve taking drugs or doping. This technology would suit the road racer more than the time trialist or the criterium racer, being as the motor can only be engaged for short periods of time when climbing punchy gradients. Minutes can be taken out of competitors with the same fitness level or fitter, as a result.

So would it be cheating if a professional road racer used an electric motor on their bicycle? As long as doping is allowed in professional cycling than the answer, at least in my opinion, is no. The UCI is still turning a blind eye to dopers, such as team Astana which is still allowed to compete even though 5 guys tested positive for banned substances this year. Then there are riders from doping teams moving into teams with a "squeaky clean" reputation. One of Team Sky's claims is that they would never work with a professional if they had a doping past. How about if they have a doping present, or come from a team of dopers? Just throwing that out there, because I personally do not think anyone is absolved of guilt on the professional level. Clean riders shouldn't be subjected to getting dropped in every single race because the competition is dirty. The law of omerta should now be "don't say what I have under my hood, and I won't tell anyone what you have running in your veins, okay?".

Now that we covered competitive cyclists, how about the rest of us? How are E-bikes appealing to the mass population? The answer is simple. The majority of people are inclined to laziness. If there is a more efficient, less physically exerting way of getting the same results or better without putting in as much effort, people generally always choose the easiest route. Why would it be any different when it comes to riding a bike? Another reason that E-Bikes are appealing to the majority of us is because we don't have to go out of our way to ride one. We don't need special clothing, an aerodynamically efficient yet uncomfortable riding position or a 15 pound, $5,000 bicycle. Someone on 50 pound E-bike can be doing the same speeds if not faster than a "serious" cyclist while riding on their bike in their baggy clothing with their kids and a load of groceries in tow and not even breaking a sweat. Who wouldn't want that convenience?

Picture courtesy of

Electric assist bicycles are the great equalizer, not just among cyclists but among all vehicles. One common complaint about cyclists is that they can't keep up with the speed of traffic. The E-bike eliminates this concern and takes the pressure and the perceived responsibility off of the cyclist. While one couldn't pedal one on the freeway yet, an E-bike works well for neighborhood, suburban and country roads, basically anywhere where there are 20 to 35 mile an hour speed limits. 

If I could afford an E-bike like the LaPierre Overvolt pictured at the beginning of the article, I would be setting Strava KOMs all over the place and probably matching or exceeding speeds of the local racers where I live. I would be enjoying the bewildered looks on their faces as I zoom by them up hills. I would definitely be having fun on an E-bike and that is the reason why I think they are the future of cycling.

On a side note, I also wanted to say that this blog is almost six years old. I'm not running out of material to write about, I just don't have the same enthusiasm as I did when I started writing about cycling, restoring old bicycles and other related topics. Starting next year I might update this blog maybe once a month or so. I want to make it a point to focus my mind on other things. I hope this blog has left an imprint on some of my readers and has served for inspiration. I'm no Sheldon Brown, but I have given my 10 cents worth into the small online cycling community.

Monday, November 9, 2015

...And Lest We Forget

How To Become More Grounded in Our Bike Obsession
By Johnny- A Bicycle's Point of View

When we first get on a bike, we are not paying any attention whatsoever to the machine that is below our seat. Our objective is simple, to get from one place to another while exercising. Along the way, some of us start to pay attention to the nuances of the experience. We start describing our rides as harsh, compliant, fast, slow, labored and the list goes on and on. In our search for a heightened and more enlightened cycling experience, we start to shell out the dollars on parts, components and eventually complete bikes that in our minds will bring us closer to the desired outcome. Some of us are collectors by nature, some with addictive personalities that get consumed by our hobbies and passions. Some of us are trying to fill a void left empty by the absence of an important person in our lives. Bike riding to some may replace an experience that otherwise would have involved a mother, a father, a brother or a sister. We cling on to the one thing that makes everything else not matter while we are doing it. The mental, emotional and physical escape from life is a welcome relief at times, especially when things aren't going particularly our way. Loss of a job or unemployability, a forced living situation, loss of financial or emotional independence can make bike riding even more important for some of us. We come to see the world in two halves, when we are riding a bike and when we do not.

Some of us take it a step further and research everything there is to know about cycling, from the professional sporting side of cycling to the mechanics involved to finely tune and calibrate our machines. Some of us end up owning every tool you could find at a local bike shop and some of us even become bike mechanics by trade. Steel, spokes, wires and rubber all of the sudden become mobile art projects rather than the transportation tools they were originally intended for. Satisfaction only comes when we can take a rusted pile of bike and turn it into a shiny bicycle that rides like new. Our appetites are satiated only momentarily, then it's on to the next project. Some of us spend our winter months in our garages, fixing every $20 bicycle we picked up earlier in the year. Some try to sell our projects to our friends, in the often vain attempt to get them involved in our world. More than anything, some of us want to be understood by those closest to us, not realizing that we are the ones who have strayed from reality. While we have a window into their world, they can only see a mirror into ours.  

So why am I writing this? Because Bike Obsession is something that a lot of cyclists have. Heck, if you found this blog on a Google search, chances are you too are as obsessed about bicycles as I am. Bike Obsession has been well documented throughout the blogosphere and even in literature, just read "Need For The Bike" by Paul Fournel and you'll see what I'm talking about.  But is all that obsession healthy?

Sometimes we need to go back to square one and remember why we started riding a bike in the first place. The bike has always only been just a machine, a means to an end. No matter how much we romanticize it, nothing can change that fact. It's hard to look at our passion objectively, but we will miss out on the here and now if we are not at least a little bit pragmatic. It's like dating a beautiful woman who is physically divine and all you want to do is paint her on a canvas and worship her beauty. She might have flaws about her that you are willing to ignore or worse yet, she might not be as much into you as you are into her. You can lose years of your life if you do not see someone for who they really are, not as you imagine them to be. Likewise good relationships can be ruined and good experiences can be left out of our lives if we impose our need to always be on our bikes instead of enjoying our time with others. That may require us to bend our will to the activities they enjoy doing. Just remember that relationships are give and take and one day you might have a new biking buddy if you are willing to be a friend first. The bicycle is only there to connect the dots in between, a vessel to transport us to and from meaningful activities, people and places. After all, it's only a machine and a means to an end.

An Open Letter For Those Plagiarizing Off My Blog

To Whom it May Concern,

 I'm glad you are a fan of my work and display almost all of my blog posts on your website. What I am not happy with is the fact that you are claiming authorship to my material. You are in violation of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act and my intellectual property rights. You know I don't have the money to sue you, as you do not have the money to lawyer up in case I call you out by name on my blog (which I'm really struggling not to do, by the way). I could report you to the governmental agencies that deal with intellectual property theft, but I am not that high minded about my work nor do I possess in my literature anything ground breaking or Nobel Peace Prize winning. I'm just a guy who writes a bike blog about bikes as a hobby and as a passion. You know that and exploit it to the fullest, copying and pasting my images and articles without linking back to my webpage or naming the source from where you got the information you acquired. Then you have the audacity to tell others not to copy and paste your articles on their pages in your disclosure policy.

Along with my work, you have used other sources from prominent bloggers in the bike blog community. For example, you have copied and pasted several articles from "Lovely Bicycle!" which I'm sure you will have to answer for once the original author of that blog finds out. They will probably not be as lenient as I am, especially if they are writing a blog for a living.

If you really look up to me as an author, feel free to keep using my material, but quote me as a source and link directly back to my original posts.

I'm going to give you a pass because when I type the name of your blog in Google search, my blog is the second one on the search results list that shows up and your blog is nowhere to be seen. That is the irony of someone who is not creative enough to come up with their own material and tries to profit off others's talent.


Jonathan a.k.a "Johnny" Guzman

A Bicycle's Point Of View

P.S- Consider this also a cease and desist letter.