Downhill Both Ways - The Electric Bike Blog from Kalkhoff USA
July 11th, 2011
Sunny Weather Cycling
I don’t think there is any city that is as beautiful as Portland, Oregon in the summertime. Perhaps its beauty is more psychological than actual but either way – summer here is absolutely heavenly. After months of nonstop drizzle and days that get dark at four in the afternoon, July brings the well deserved respite from the infamous rain of the Pacific Northwest. Thanks to nine months of precipitation, everything here stays lush and green all year round. Gardens overflow with multicolored blooms, thick vines and bursts of green shoot upwards in a salutation to the elusive sun. It is this time of year that I am baffled as to why anyone would choose to drive a car when they could be on a bike. Our summers are short enough – might as well spend as much time as possible outdoors soaking up those precious UV rays, forgoing our vitamin D supplements for the real deal and breathing in the sweat air, heavy with the scent of fresh cut grass and sun baked foliage.
I’ve been riding my bike to work every morning for the past few months and it has been such a treat to leave the rain gear at home! I got to hand it to Portlander’s – they’re hardcore with their commitment to cycling! During the winter on days when I thought I was totally badass for gearing up and riding on a cold rainy day, it turns out I was just one of a huge pack of committed cyclists, many of whom were pulling trailers, children, even dogs behind them. It definitely feels like the change in weather is a special treat for all of us who toughed out the wet season.
While I am LOVING the warmer weather, longer days and evenings that don’t get dark until nine o’clock, I have noticed that there are more automobile drivers than usual behaving badly on the streets. Maybe they aren’t used to having the sun in their eyes and were temporarily blinded, totally missing the fact that I was right next to them or perhaps they are overdosing on vitamin D, rendering them incapable of driving in a straight line. Whatever the reason, I have had more close calls than usual while riding my eBike to work lately. This has been a firm and not so gentle reminder to ride defensively and follow the rules of the road.
I am becoming more confident cyclists every day and enjoying my commute more and more, however I don’t always feel like a total natural and so I make it a point to remind myself of a few simple rules and tips as I prepare for my ride to work each morning.
1. Make sure your bike is in good condition. I make sure my tires are pumped, battery is charged, brakes are in good condition, seat is at the proper height, etc. I admit that I am spoiled to have a bike engineer available at work whenever my ride needs a once over.
2. Wear bright clothing and make sure bike lights are working. My bike has dynamo hubs powering the lights which mean they are very reliable, but I also make sure I’m wearing bright colors that will be noticed by other drivers.
3. Ride with the flow of traffic. When I was a newer cyclist I used to always try to ride as close to the curb as possible, which meant I would get stuck behind parked cars and be less visible to traffic.
4. Make eye contact! Just because you are in the right of way does not mean that other drivers see you or won’t do something stupid or illegal. If I can catch a person’s eye through their rear view mirror or when I pull up next to them, it means they know you’re there and (hopefully) won’t do anything to put your safety at risk.
5. Wear the appropriate gear. First and foremost and without fail I wear a helmet. You may be the most experienced cyclists out there but that doesn’t protect you from other driver’s incompetence. Other than your helmet, it’s nice to have the appropriate gear for all weather. Good rain gear turns a soggy, cold ride into a dry and enjoyable one. I cannot emphasize enough what a difference a good pair of rain booties makes.
My tendency to ride on the safe side was seriously solidified the other day when I read an article about a motorcyclist that was participating in a protest ride against passing a mandatory helmet law. In an ironic twist of fate, he was thrown from his bike, landed on his head and was declared dead when he arrived at the hospital. The doctors who examined him said he would have survived the accident had he been wearing a helmet. So go ahead and brush the cobwebs off your bike and enjoy this fabulous sunshine – just remember to be safe, follow the rules of the road and wear a helmet. Nutcase makes awesome helmets that, in addition to meeting all safety standards, look really cool.
May 18th, 2011
I must admit, being a rather cautious and inexperienced cyclist it has taken a while for me to really get into the groove of biking every day. A typical ride from work to home went something like this:
Downtown = scary. Go slow. Don’t pass anyone. Over the Broadway Bridge – try not to imagine what would happen if you swerved and hit the side railing, plummeting over the edge and off the side into icy river below (Seriously. I have had this morbid vision). Merge onto bike lane with lots of other experienced cyclists. Try to appear like you know what you’re doing. Dread upcoming left turn that requires crossing over 4 lanes of busy traffic going both ways. This is followed by a sigh of relief as I hit the less busy street with the wide bike lane for the next couple miles. Of course this is followed by more dread as I make a right hand turn onto another busy road with lots of cars and no bike lane. Curse the fact that there is no bike lane… *mentally shakes fist at sky. Get anxious about that left hand turn across traffic coming up and then a huge sigh of relief as I turn onto the very mellow residential road with hardly any traffic. Enjoy the last 10 minutes of my ride on quite side streets.
So that’s how my ride went almost every day. While on the whole I enjoyed my ride, I found that the majority of it was spent worrying about my ability (or lack thereof) as a cyclist or anxiety about navigating my way around the busier city streets. Then something interesting happened. This morning I hoped on my bike as usual and before I realized it – I was pulling up at work. I had not worried or stressed about any part of my commute. I had savored it. I took in the view, challenged myself on the uphills, road faster on the downhills, and didn’t freak out when I had to take a detour around my usual commute. So what happened??
While I am not an advanced cyclist by any stretch of the imagination, I think I have officially graduated from the bunny slopes and am holding my own on the green runs. I am actually really enjoying all of my daily commute not just parts of it. I am learning little tricks to make sure I stay safe and am learning more about how to take care of my bike. I am embarrassed to say I didn’t even know how to use a tire pump or what air pressure my tires needed to be. It is amazing what a difference it makes to have properly inflated tires! I am learning that you have to ride defensively. I was always afraid of taking up the entire road – but the truth is you are so much safer riding in the middle then pushed over towards the curb. I am also learning more about what bikes routes are safest or easiest. The shortest route by car isn’t always the best by bike. Google Maps now has the bike option when searching for directions and if you are in the Milwake, WI or Portland, OR areas, bycycle.org is a great resource for the bicycling commuter. I know that a lot of the smart phones out there also have bike route apps too. Since making commuting by bike a regular thing I am finding I am enjoying it so much more that I ever thought I could. Sure – I’m never going to be a hardcore, spandex sporting, cycling nut but for me being able to really enjoy my ride to and from work each day is a real accomplishment. So, in honor of bike to work week I am encourage those of you who maybe want to cycle to work but have always found a good excuse not to to give it a shot. Who knows, you just may end up really enjoying your morning commute.
April 26th, 2011
One day she'll be big enough to ride...
This morning I really didn’t want to get on my bike. Heck – I didn’t even want to get out of bed! I have a 3 1/2 month old who is the most wonderful baby ever except for the fact that she’s not a great sleeper and last night was exceptionally rough. After being up every hour on the hour all last night, I wasn’t exactly gung ho about the idea of gearing up and jumping on a bike to ride the 7 miles to work. In fact, the more I thought about it, the crappier I felt. I was sure I was getting a stomach ache and perhaps even a cold *cough* and maybe I was too sore from my yoga class the night before. Surely riding my bike wasn’t the best thing for me since I was fairly certain I was nearing my deathbed.
I could come up with a hundred perfectly reasonable excuses why it was better to drive in to work this morning instead of riding in, but if I was really honest with myself I knew that’s all they were – excuses. I could stand, I could walk, and I knew I could pedal – especially with the help of a pedal assist electric bike. I decided that while I was still fairly certain I was dying, I wasn’t going to keel over on my way to work so I might as well stop complaining and get a move on.
Despite promises of sunshine this week in Portland the weather was shaping up to be gray and cool and wet. As I wiggled myself into rain pants, long johns, rain jacket, gloves and a warm hat I decided that if I was going to get any enjoyment out of my morning ride I needed to make a few mental adjustments about how I viewed my commute. I realized if I thought about my eBike as just a form of transportation I wasn’t always going to love my ride in the morning. After all, being in a car would get me there quicker, out of the rain and require less attention to what I was wearing but my morning commute by eBike was part of a much bigger picture. Riding my eBike is part of a lifestyle choice and is rewarding on many levels. I knew that riding an eBike wasn’t just about getting there. It was about living a healthier more mindful lifestyle.
Now, of course there are the obvious financial and health benefits of riding a bicycle or an eBike every day but what about the more subtle yet very meaningful effects it has on your life? Here are some things I’ve begun to notice since I committed to riding an eBike every day:
1. My energy level is up despite the fact that I am getting less sleep. While riding my bike first thing in the morning sometimes seems daunting after a night of no sleep, I’ve found that the 20 minute ride wakes me up and energizes me before work. I arrive alert with my blood pumping, ready to get the day started. Plus, I think it is far less likely for me to fall asleep on a bike than at the wheel of a car.
2. Making healthy choices has a domino effect. Since riding my bike every morning I feel less sluggish and lethargic. I feel inspired to be healthier and more active. I find my self riding my bike on errands instead of driving. I come up with excuses to be outside in the fresh air riding around town. I go to more yoga classes because I like feeling stronger and more limber which in turn make be a better cyclist.
3. I feel more connected to the neighborhoods I work and live in. I notice the flowers, the houses, the gardens, the people. I see the same mothers with their top of the line jogging strollers with little rosy cheeked babies tucked inside fuzzy layers of pink and blue. I have begun to recognize the same dog walkers and pups making their rounds in my neck of the woods every morning armed with poop bags and umbrellas. As I pedal along I have found it is far easier to exchange a hello or smile from the seat of my bike than from inside my car.
4. I am learning to live in the moment. I am ashamed to admit I can be a somewhat angry driver at times… I’m not afraid to use my horn and I am can be very impatient with my fellow automobile commuters (especially when my fuse is already short from lack of sleep). I always feel like I am in a rush and I get frustrated with the granny drivers and the dysfunctional politeness that plagues the Pacific Northwest (Portlanders, you know what I’m talking about!). Seriously people, it’s a four way stop – SOMEBODY GO!!! But I digress… On my bike there just isn’t that rushed or hurried feeling. I can only get there as fast as I can pedal so I might as well enjoy myself along the way.
5. I’m setting an example for my daughter. OK, perhaps she’s a little young to understand why mommy rides her eBike every morning now instead of having daddy drive everyone in the car but over time I hope the choices I make will inspire her to live a healthier more environmentally conscientious lifestyle.
There are many more reasons similar to this that motivate me to get on to my Agattu eBike every morning instead of driving, even on days where it takes a little more convincing to bike instead of drive. So, once again I gear up in all my water resistant attire, snap on my pannier gear bags, roll my eBike out the door and down the stairs, hop on the saddle and start to find my groove. Within minutes my body is warmed up, my blood is pumping and with full breaths of fresh morning air I settle into my ride. All the reasons I didn’t feel like riding this morning don’t seem to hold as much weight and all the reasons I do love riding quickly became apparent. Turns out riding my eBike is the best morning medicine I could ask for to get me going… well, that along with a triple espresso!
April 18th, 2011
Taking advantage of the nice weather on a Tasman Diamant
I am so excited to get back in the eBike saddle again especially since the sun has made an appearance here in rainy Portland, OR! Our chief engineer is currently fixing up a new bike for me so I will have a frame that is big enough (I’m just shy of six feet tall) and a frame style that works for my daily needs. I personally prefer a step through or “wave” frame. I find it is much easier to get on and off the bike especially when I have it loaded up with groceries or all my work supplies. It also means I don’t have to limit my wardrobe to just pants – I have managed to cycle to work on a wave frame wearing a pencil skirt and heels. Definitely convenient and time saving to not have to change clothes when I get to work.
My current eBike of choice is the Kalkhoff 2010 Agattu in a large frame. While I have ridden and enjoy all the frames our showroom offers, I am a big fan of the comfort and stability of an Agattu. It allows the rider to sit in a more upright position with a cushy, comfy seat. I have piece of mind with front and rear lights powered by the dynamo hub and easy mounting and dismounting with its stylish wave frame. All in all, a cool looking bike that makes urban commuting a more enjoyable experience especially for the less confident cyclist (such as myself).
As I wait for my bike to be spruced up I have taken this opportunity to get back in the swing of cycling by running errands on a few of our current models including other wave and diamant frames. This week is my first back on a bicycle since I was just a few months pregnant so its been a while to say the least. While it is true you never forget how to ride a bike, it does take a little getting used to when you haven’t ridden one in almost a year! Shaky as I may have been, there is nothing quite like the freedom of zipping through town and past traffic on an eBike. Almost as satisfying as not being stuck in traffic is the luxury of pulling right up to my destination without having to search for a parking space. I have personally suffered a meltdown or two while driving around for up to a half hour trying to find parking and to be able to pull up to the front door of my destination, park and lock my bike, and be inside all in a matter of seconds – you just can’t put a price on that!!
My Beautiful 2010 Agattu eBike!
Well, that sun certainly didn’t last and the reality of the commitment I have made to myself to ride my bike whenever possible is being tested. I’d be lying if I told you hadn’t tried to come up with excuses to avoid riding my eBike home when the rain started pouring. This was the week I officially made my transition to bike commuter now that I have in my possession a shiny new 2010 Agattu eBike (thank you Peter, Chief Engineer at Kalkhoff!). The next step is I need to change my mindset about the weather. I have heard from a few committed cyclists and outdoor enthusiasts that there is no such thing as bad weather, just bad gear. I don’t know if I totally beleive that because weather this week has turned into absolute crap! It is all fine and dandy to hop on a bike to run errands or commute the 7 plus miles back home when the sun is shining and little birds are singing your praises but it takes a little bit more determination when dark clouds of doom and despair are hanging in the sky and the pavement is soaked with rain.
As I sit here at work I can hear the rain increasing in intensity outside and I am cursing the fact that I didn’t bring warmer clothes with me on my way in this morning. Luckily, I did have enough sense to pack my rain pants and jacket which I will no doubt need on my way home. 6 years in Portland and I still haven’t learned my lesson about the weather. Always the optimist I had hoped the weather would improve for my commute home but that is not proving to be the case. I have been commuting to and from work on my Agattu these past three days and have had to ride in the rain every time. Truth be told, its really not all that bad to ride in the rain. Once your body warms up from pedaling and you find your rhythm, the city is actually quite beautiful to take in. The bubble gum pink shades of the cherry tree blossoms really pop against the misty backdrop of the Pacific Northwest and my commute takes me through beautiful neighborhoods with quaint houses and lush gardens. Traffic on the highway on days like this is usually gridlocked at rush hour so I am actually getting home quicker by bike then I would in a car and to top it all off I was also reminded by a colleague today that gas prices are hitting the $4 mark… so maybe a little rain isn’t such a downer after all!!
Looking back at this week I guess I’ve done alright. I’ve taken two yoga classes and used my bike for all the trips for which I would have usually driven. Sure my downward dog is pathetic and I still rely on the highest assist setting on my eBike but I guess you gotta start somewhere!
April 12th, 2011
My name is Jesse and I have worked at Kalkhoff USA since summer of 2009. While working at Kalkhoff I have loved becoming a more confident cyclist, riding my Kalkhoff eBike to and from work and on errands around town. Before working at Kalkhoff my experience and confidence on a bike of any kind would probably be at about a 2 on a scale of 1-10 (ten being a bike nut and one meaning you still use training wheels). I had never in my life commuted in anything other than a car and I was more than just a little nervous at the thought of riding along with other vehicles without the (seemingly) protective confines of an automobile. However, I quickly discovered the joys and health benefits of riding a Kalkhoff eBike. The motor gave me the confidence to ride along with faster traffic and the assistance meant I could make the 7 mile commute to work without killing myself but still get a good workout. I was becoming a more confident cyclist every day and enjoying myself immensely.
Almost exactly one year ago I found out that my husband and I were expecting our first child. As my pregnancy developed along with my growing belly I stopped cycling to work. Now, I know of plenty of pregnant women that still ride their bikes well into their 3rd trimester, and there is nothing medically wrong with that. This being my first child and pregnancy, though I was erring more on the side of caution and decided while I felt good about riding pregnant I didn’t feel so good about crashing so I put the bike away as I waited for the big day.
January 1, 2011 I gave birth to a very healthy little girl and have been enjoying every moment with her. I have also been enjoying all the comfort foods that go along with being new parent. Friends and family kept our fridge and freezer stocked with rich and cheesy casseroles, pastas, creamy soups and lots of fresh baked pastries and bread. Needless to say, while some of the pregnancy weight came off right away there are a few (OK, maybe around 15) stubborn pounds that have overstayed their welcome.
Thus the point of this blog is to track and document my journey back into cycling and its effects on my health, fitness and mood. My goal is to be back at my pre-pregnancy weight by my 30th birthday on August 8th. Now, let me state that I am no fitness nut. I do not have a gym membership, I don’t diet and I don’t plan on ending my very committed relationship with dairy (most notably cheese). I plan on being sensible with food choices but will still indulge from time to time. I plan on being active and perhaps attend the occasional yoga class but I am not about to kill myself in the name of bikini season. Let’s be realistic. I’m a mom to a three month old and I work 40+ hours a week. I don’t have time to always cook healthy meals(there will be trips to Burgerville I’m sure!) and I don’t want to be spending time at a gym when I could be spending it with my daughter. So, my question is – what happens when I replace most of my car commuting with bicycle commuting? Of course, since I have an infant I won’t be able to replace every car trip with a bike trip but I certainly can run errands on my bike and commute to and from work while my husband takes care of our little girl. This means at least 14 miles a day on a bike that would have been spent sitting in traffic.
So here is my commitment to myself and to you if you happen to be reading. I am going to make biking on my Kalkhoff a part of my routine and see if in 4 months my health and energy levels have improved and if it has had any effect on those stubborn last 15 pounds. I’ll keep you posted on my challenges, triumphs and setbacks. Hopefully I will be a realistic example of a person making positive changes in their life thanks in large part to the health benefits of riding an electric bike.
October 19th, 2010
We recently learned of a great use for a Kalkhoff E-bike – making medical house calls. According to the article in the Bellingham Herald, Washington state nurse Jody Hoppis is visiting her patients on her Pro Connect Sport and trailer. Her Mobile Medicine operation is a great example of how e-bikes are changing the way people are thinking about their lifestyles.
More photos of Jody on her rounds can be found in this slide show.
July 30th, 2010
(this is a longer than usual post to help people interested in e-bikes with with the decision process. We will try to keep this up-to-date with the latest developments.)
WHAT IS AN E-BIKE
Short answer: a bicycle with an electric motor. To us that means, it is a bicycle first and foremost, not a moped, scooter, motorcycle or some new concept. Read our previous post to learn how this applies to a Kalkhoff.
If you want to know the technical definition according to Congress (Public Law 107-319), it is “a two-or three-wheeled vehicle with fully operable pedals and an electric motor of less than 750 watts (1 h.p.), whose maximum speed on a paved level surface, when powered solely by such a motor while ridden by an operator who weighs 170 pounds, is less than 20 mph.” If it meets these criteria, it is subject to the same laws as a bicycle that is solely human powered.
BUYING AN E-BIKE
If you have been shopping around for an e-bike, you’ve probably noticed that there are a lot of options. A Kalkhoff might not be the right one for everybody, but here are some factors you should be considering before you make your choice:
June 14th, 2010
There is a common misconception is that e-bikes will only be popular when there is a need or purpose such as high gas prices or a guilty conscious about carbon emissions. These are valid considerations but another motivating factor, one often cited by Kalkhoff customers, is simply an upgrade of one’s lifestyle.
Americans aren’t afraid to spend money on ipads, iphones or home theater to improve their everyday lifestyle. But short of buying a nicer car, there aren’t many options to upgrading one aspect of our daily lives – car trips.
E-bikes make the freedom, fun and convenience of getting around by bike accessible to a much larger group of people – people who want to drive less but don’t want to sweat every time they ride their bikes, struggle up hills, limit what they carry or have to plan in lots of precious time for every trip.
How often do we go on a drive for fun? Truth is, we are dependent on our cars. Most people can’t live without them. An e-bike provides is the first real viable option for a lot of people, and its a fun one at that. You don’t have to be Einstein to figure that out.
June 9th, 2010
We have received a lot of great testimonials from customers. Here is one example of a happy Pro Connect Sport customer:
Purchased the Pro Connect Sport and am very pleased. The people at Kalkhoff USA were very good to work with and always responded promptly to any questions I had. The bike exceeds expectations and puts a grin on your face (fast and fun). The handlebar grips are very comfortable, the Shimano XT drive train effortless, the brakes are very solid, and the motor is quiet and smooth. The guys down at the local bike shop as well as a friend that owns the Trek “Lance Armstrong” carbon fiber bike, have all been impressed with the quality of components and design. I use the bike for commuting and pleasure. Been pleased with the battery life and very much agree with the design of having the power of the motor go through the bikes gears, as opposed to hub motors. This sport still has the feel of a bike and won’t leave you stranded if the battery dies. Great product, good design, and I hope to see more of them on the road.
P.S. If you want to ride for a workout, just leave the motor off and turn in back on when you’ve had enough.
– Tom, Omaha, Nebraska
June 1st, 2010
The Internet airwaves are growing with philosophical pondering of the deeper meaning of e-bikes. There are generally two groups who are grappling with some angst about e-bikes: the young and fit bike athletes – road riders, mountain bikers, racers, and the die-hard commuters – traditionalists, fixie hipsters, bicycle purists.
Representing camp 1 , Bicycling Magazine published an article “Is it finally time to stop hating on e-bikes?” that addresses many of the concerns we hear from people who believe that bicycles should be 100% human powered. Its great to see this publication even talking about e-bikes as they have repeatedly assured us that their readers are not interested in e-bikes.