When it comes to cycling, technology is offering more possibilities for a range of needs. Case in point – electric bikes. Powered by an electric motor wired to a rechargeable 24 or 36 volt battery, these bikes allow users the freedom to pedal or not to pedal. For those who dream of joining the cycling revolution but are deterred by bad knees, health problems, low mobility, long distances, hills or the inconvenience of perspiration on your morning commute, electric bicycles might just be the answer.
There are numerous brands available, including bicycles that come ready-made electric and conversion kits that can be implemented on conventional bikes. As with most new-fangled technology, these bikes can get pretty pricey, ranging from $800 to $2,000, but the satisfaction of staying ahead of the curve is priceless.
Topping out at 20 mph, these bikes don’t require licenses or IDs and are an ideal way to make commuting or the cycling hobby a feasible option.
5206 N. College Ave.
National Moto, located south of Broad Ripple, is leading the trend of electric bikes, offering Pedego models. Pedego bikes offer style and functionality for cyclists who want the best of both worlds when it comes to exercising and commuting. These pedal-assisted bicycles do just that: assist cyclists with electrical energy as they pedal. National Moto owner Matty Bennett explains, “People love them because they’re still six-speed bicycles that offer a little help.”
Since he started stocking Pedego electric bikes, Bennett has seen an enthusiastic response in his shop. “I’ve had people come from out-of-state, all around, to come and test ride a Pedego, if they don’t have a store that’s local. It’s just amazing that people are coming from so many different areas. They all say, ‘Gosh, my local bike shop doesn’t have anything like this.’ ”
But waving the electric bicycle banner hasn’t been enough to convert non-believers. “We still have people who come in and say they just don’t get it, they think its cheating,” says Bennett. “But that’s all hearsay. We pretty much look at it as, [the battery power] is always there if you need it. You got a bum knee, or the wind is in your face as you’re coming home, or you’re not willing to go on a ride because of that one hill. I’ve really seen it change people’s perceptions of riding. The older demographic seems to really dig these, because of the comfort cruiser aspect. It gets people who thought that bikes were long gone from their repertoire, as a hobby, out there.”
Bicycle Garage Indy
4340 82nd St.
National Moto isn’t the only horse in the electric bike race. Bicycle Garage Indy stocks two different brands: Giant Twist Freedom Deluxe and Izip. Sales associate Abby Wells explained the features of each.
“The Giant Twist appears like a standard hybrid bike, with batteries on two sides of a back rack. Those take six to eight hours to charge. When you’re running you can select which battery you want to use. While the Izips have a whole assortment of appearances and options, including an internal torque option so instead of having a power assist, you can actually turn the power on and not pedal, while some of our Izip models have an external battery.”
Offering many advantages, Wells explains that these electric bikes keep users from struggling. “You don’t have to get off your bike to finish the hills,” says Wells. “Also, for people who are out riding with friends or family members that are faster than they are, it allows them to stay at that speed to a certain degree.”
Prices: Izips start at $999 and go up to $2500. The Giant is generally $2000 but is on sale for $1300.
Bikes on Mass Ave
643 Massachusetts Ave.
One downtown Indianapolis bike shop, Bikes on Mass Ave, offers an entirely different electric option for cyclists, though they are still figuring out the details of which product lines to sell.
Currently, they’re looking into a line of conversion kits called Bionx. Conversion kits come with a motor wheel, battery, charger, consol/throttle and battery mount, all of which can be affixed to a conventional bike to give it a little extra oomph.
“If somebody has a decent level quality bicycle, with nicer components than an entry-level or mid-level electric bike might come stocked with, it makes sense to put a nice high quality conversion kit on that bicycle,” says Mass Ave Bike’s Aaron Corey. “We want to repurpose a quality traditional bicycle with quality electrics to make it a quality electric bicycle.”
Though they are not yet equipped for conversions, Corey says the shopshould be ready for the electric bike business in less than three months. For now, Mass Ave Bikes offers repair services to any brand of electric bike.
“We’re not at all brand-specific in our service. It doesn’t even have to be a bicycle, we do personal mobility devices, wheelchairs, strollers, anything with wheels we service,” explains Corey.
6102 Ashway Court
Valley Bikes, on Indianapolis’ Westside, offers yet another option to electric bicycle seekers.
“We specialize in recumbent bikes and trikes,” says owner Mike McDowell. “And we do conversions. I usually use Sun trikes, imported here from Taiwan. They’ve been around for a long time and are really reliable.”
In addition, this specialty bike shop works closely with Indiana Rehabilitation Hospital, in an attempt to turn cycling into a therapy of sorts.
“We tend to be able to give back to people who have had strokes or other issues,” explains McDowell. “We give them back bicycling, which they thought they’d never be able to do again.”
Prices: McDowell says the bike, conversion and installation is “somewhere around $2000″ The Sun Trikes — without an electric component added — range between $1050 and $1500. The motor conversion is “about $850.”
1510 Washington Ave.
Not many bicycle shops in the outlaying areas of Indiana offer an electric bicycle option. Bicycle Outfitters in Vincennes made a brave foray into the electric bike market, only to have the cost prohibit profit.
“I don’t have a big demand for them,” explains Paul Loudermilk of Bicycle Outfitters decision not to stock electric bikes. “We may have sold one in the last couple of years. We talked about trying to have one here as a display model, but every bike we have in the store we purchase. To have a costly bike sitting on the floor for a demo, it just doesn’t add up.”
Yet, electric bike seekers outside of Indianapolis shouldn’t lose heart. In fact, Loudermilk assured me that he is a dealer for Currie Technologies, offering a range of electric bike options, and would be willing to order an electric bike if a client was interested in making the purchase.