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Bicycle safety is an important topic. You should feel safe riding your electric bike. A Boston-based company, Loud Bicycle, believes that one of the ways to improve safety is to speak the language of the road. And what they mean is that they want to make your bike honk. Recently, we recorded an interview with Jonathan Lansey, one of the founders of LoudBicycle for The Electric Bike Podcast from EVELO. You can listen to the podcast right here and follow along with the transcript below. Armando Roggio: If you're like many of our listeners, you both ride a bike and drive a car. So, have you ever been on your bike and had a sudden urge to honk? Maybe, someone was about to pull out in front of you or back into the bike lane without looking. Sure, you could ding a bell, but it would simply not do. You wanted to honk. This is The Electric Bike Podcast from EVELO, and I am Armando Roggio. In this episode, we're going to speak with Jonathan Lansey, the founder of the Loud Bicycle horn company. Jonathan, thank you for joining us for this podcast. Jonathan Lansey: Absolutely, glad to be here.

A Car Horn for Your Bike

Armando Roggio: Jonathan, why not start by telling us about your company and how it got started.

Jonathan Lansey: Yeah. I bike to work, and I also have driven. And, I have ... There's one point where I really wanted to honk. So, there was a car that was about to cut me off dangerously, and I felt like I had the urge to honk, but I couldn't, obviously, because I was on a bike. But then, I'm kind of an engineer, so I actually went ahead and built one. So, I built a car horn that I can honk just like a car on my bike, just kind of as a one-off to see what would happen. Armando Roggio: Where do you find components to build a car horn for your bicycle? Jonathan Lansey: Oh, AutoZone. Armando Roggio: Okay, that makes sense. Jonathan Lansey: Yeah, so, I took the original car horns came right from AutoZone, and the original battery came from an RC airplane. So, I just kind of hacked it together with some rubber bands and things, Yeah, and it worked really well. Armando Roggio: How did you go from having a custom horn that you made for your own bicycle, to having a product that you now have for sale? Jonathan Lansey: That's a great question. We actually have, we've been funded by lots of people all around the world, who really believed in it before it existed. And, this is, of course, through Kickstarter. So, we ran a Kickstarter campaign with a fairly ugly version of the horn. It was, basically, me, I had my little brother, who I forced to help me out with the 3D modeling. And yeah, we basically, presented the concept. And, 600 people signed on, and that's what got us going. Armando Roggio: So, was that 2014? Jonathan Lansey: The beginning of 2013. Armando Roggio: So now, you're six years into this company. Safe to assume, the loud bicycle horn is not ugly anymore? Jonathan Lansey: That's true. Actually, so, the very first thing we did after the Kickstarter was, joined up with Chris Owens, who's an industrial designer in Austin, Texas. And actually, he worked with us on the campaign, as well. But, he's just a genius, and he turns what was a fairly ugly product that looked a little bit phallic, and turned it into something that just looks really clean and nice, and new. But, we also have a second product, now. So, we have two car horns for bicycles, and the new one, we really learned a lot from the experience designing the first one. And, this one, we worked with Chris as an industrial designer from the very beginning, and so, it really looks beautiful the new mini horn.

The Loud Bicycle car horn for your bike.

Drivers Recognize the Car Horn Sound

Armando Roggio: Why is it helpful, or, why is it a good idea to, essentially, have a car horn on a bicycle? Jonathan Lansey: Yeah, it's actually, it's one of these things that, people just have a really fast reflex when they're responding to the sound of a car horn. So, it's well trained. It's well-practiced. When they hear that sound, they don't even need to think about what's happening. They just react. And also, the auditory reaction times are even faster than visual. So, people just react so fast. And, it only takes a couple of seconds. So, the difference in fatalities, if you're going, let's say, 40 miles an hour to 20 miles an hour, is huge. And, just a few seconds is all you need to make somebody go from almost dead to completely safe. And so, that's why reaction, so, this reaction time is so important, that's why it's so important to have that sound initiate the reaction as fast as you can.

Impersonating Automobiles

Armando Roggio: That makes sense. So, you're commuting in Boston. You're riding your bike. You have to use your loud bicycle horn to avert a problem, and now, there is a driver looking around and expecting a car. Jonathan Lansey: Oh, yeah, it's actually hilarious. So, the thing is, it doesn't matter, really, it's sort of like, a hack. You're hacking into their system, and it doesn't matter what they believe, because they do believe that there's a car right there. What matters is how they react. And, they react without fail in a way that keeps the person biking safe. Armando Roggio: Have you ever had a driver get upset with you for impersonating an automobile? Jonathan Lansey: Oh, I've had so many weird reactions. But so far, no one has actually had ... I, personally, have not experienced a bad reaction. But, in the words of one of our backers, I'd rather face an angry driver, than a friendly EMT. But, I could talk about a couple of them, because they're pretty funny. In some cases, let's say, a car, person driving is in a parking spot. And without checking their rearview mirror, maybe they had the windows down, they'd just start pulling out. And then, at this point, I was right next to them with their windows open. Honked the horn, and they just believed that a wizard was standing there. Yeah. Oh, and other times, let's say pulling out of an intersection or something, I'll give a quick, friendly honk. And then, the person driving will give a friendly wave. And, for just a couple of seconds, everything seems totally normal, but then a second later, they're like, "Whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa, what? What was that?" So, it's just one of those things where people just have this reflexive reaction without thinking about it. And then, later, it dawns on them, wow, I just didn't run over a person biking without even thinking. Armando Roggio: Which is the goal, right? Jonathan Lansey: Exactly, that's the goal.

The Loud Bicycle Company

Armando Roggio: So, the loud bicycle horn sounds like a fun and great product. If someone wanted to buy your product, where would they find it? Jonathan Lansey: So, right now, we're only selling through Loudbicycle.com. Or, you can search for the “loud bicycle horn.” Armando Roggio: You need to put the horn on Amazon or something. Jonathan Lansey: Yeah, we've so far, been really struggling, actually, to make enough horns to keep up with the demand. And so now, but as of this month, we actually, just got back in stock, and we've got a lot of stock. So, we're now going to start working with other partners. Maybe not Amazon initially, but yeah, that's coming soon. But for now, everyone can get it at Loudbicycle.com. And, we actually have two-day shipping included for the U.S.

Bicycle Safety

Armando Roggio: So next, let's talk about bicycle safety. You're a commuter. What do you think is the current state, if you will, of bicycle safety? Are there things a rider can do? Are there things that we can do as a society? Jonathan Lansey: I think the most important thing to do is, to ride your bike. There's a lot of things that you can do, to be perfectly safe on your bike. You know you don't necessarily need a horn. You can just, you don't even need a helmet. There are ways that you can ride defensively and carefully, that yeah, and the more people that ride, then, the safer it's going to be for everyone. Because right now, we're in this weird state where, our infrastructure is ... at least, in America, and numerous places around the world, as well, the infrastructure has been designed and built primarily, for motorized vehicles, like cars and trucks. But, bicycles are becoming a lot more popular now. And so, suddenly, we have this influx where the bicycles are mixing with the people driving. And, that's where it can be dangerous. And so, that's really what the problem is, the infrastructure is not in a state where it can support the uses that the people would like to use it for. And so, I think that the real long term solution is going to be moving to someplace like, or moving our infrastructure to mirror something like Copenhagen. So, we've sold horns to, essentially, every country in Europe. Lots, but not a single one to anywhere in Denmark or Copenhagen. Even though there are more bicycle riders in the city of Copenhagen than the entire United States of America. And the reason is, because people just feel safe there. And so, the horn really is kind of a symptom. The fact that it's popular is a symptom of a poor infrastructure that we have here. And, our vision for the future is actually, to make it so that America has safe infrastructure for people biking, and then, we'll just turn all of our car horn bicycle horns into plowshares. Armando Roggio: So, that was a Biblical reference. Jonathan Lansey: It was, yeah. Armando Roggio: That's pretty awesome. I am not sure that we've had anyone slide a Biblical reference into the podcast before, so I am impressed. Jonathan Lansey: Put that footnote in there. Armando Roggio: I will, I will. It's interesting that your ultimate goal is to have that level of infrastructure because if the U.S. in a sense, became like Copenhagen in terms of bicycle usage, Loud Bicycle would be out of business. Jonathan Lansey: That would be wonderful. You know, I think that would make the world a better place. But for now, there's a real need. So, for example, I personally, I like to bike pretty fast. And, sometimes the people driving, especially when they come from, let's say, outside the city, they're used to people like most, kids riding their bikes on the sidewalk. They don't realize just how fast I'm going. And that means that it can be really dangerous. You know, if a car misjudges the speed, just like if they were to misjudge the speed of another car. Now, the thing is, is that, when you're using the roads, we like to think of the horn as, really, just kind of speaking the language of the people driving. So, it doesn't even need to be aggressive. It's just kind of the language that people use to communicate on the roads.

Electric Bikes

Armando Roggio: I like your point about speed. Obviously, this is the Electric Bike Podcast, so, we focus on electric bikes, which are a great equalizer, hill flattener. It's not hard to be going 20 miles per hour on your electric bike. So, I guess, talk to us a little bit about electric bikes. Jonathan Lansey: I think electric bikes are great. So, the key with bicycles are, you know, they keep the air clean. They keep people healthy. But, with electric bicycles, it allows ... Oh, and it's just a more compact use of the space in a city, so, people driving usually, single occupancy cars, they take up a lot of space. And, an electric bicycle can get you there, sometimes, as fast and as easily, without taking up all the space in a city. And, parking, as well. So, I think electric bicycles are great for those reasons.

Problem Solving

Armando Roggio: Jonathan, you've already mentioned some of your engineering experience. You are also a data scientist. Do you think there's a connection between tech and cycling? Do people interested in technology also tend to have an affinity for alternative transportation? Jonathan Lansey: Well, let's say ... Yeah. So, in tech, you're typically solving, you're optimizing things, solving problems in creative ways. And, cycling, I mean, I'm obviously, I don't know if biased is the right word here, but I have strong opinions about cycling. And for me, it's certainly optimized my commute. It kind of solved the exercise, which is the best thing you can do health-wise. Solved the exercise and the commuting, all in one go. So yes, so for me, cycling is really, the optimal way to get around. And, in technology, you're often looking for optimal solutions, so it's kind of maybe, the kind of person that is working to make things optimal is the kind of person who will come to realize that cycling is the best way to get around. Armando Roggio: It's problem-solving in your work, and then problem-solving in your life, in a sense.

Bicycle Community

Jonathan, as we start to wind down, are there other things you would like to share with the folks listening to the podcast? It can be about anything you'd like. Jonathan Lansey: Sure, in Boston, we have this really fun thing called The Boston Bike Party. And, it's essentially, where bunches of people get out there on their bikes, and we ride really slowly around the city. And, we just have a good time. And, there's a couple of these in different places around the world. And, it's pretty fun, so a just shout out to them. And, if you're in a city, you might want to check out if there's a bike party in your city, and maybe, go ride. Armando Roggio: Do you think events like that one are one of the ways we will get more attraction for cycling? You know, build a community, if you will, around it? Jonathan Lansey: Oh, absolutely. It's weird because in other countries, let's say, the Netherlands, nobody really is a cyclist, and there is no real separate bicycle riding community because that just is the way that everybody is over there. It kind of is the culture of the country. And so, I think it'd be great if ... Or, how do we get to that point? Well, I would imagine that it starts with a cycling community which just grows and grows and grows until eventually, everybody is in it. And then, now it's your default culture. So, I think that with Bike Party, it definitely does draw people in, because they realize how they can see very clearly, the joy that comes from riding a bicycle. And then, want to have that for themselves. Oh, and actually, one other last thing, we have a website called nicecycling.com, and that kind of, it captures the ethos of how we would like to, what our ideal world would look like. And, it was a partnership of Friendly Design Company. And, we actually include a copy of this with every horn. But, it basically, it gives general instructions for how anyone, with the horn, without a horn, anybody can actually, with following these rules, can remain really safe on their bike. So, nobody should be afraid to bike. So, that's nicecycling.com. Armando Roggio: Jonathan, this is a great site. Thank you for sharing that, and thank you for joining us for The Electric Bike Podcast from EVELO. For our listeners, I hope you will check out the EVELO website at evelo.com. You can use the contact form there to send us your suggestions and comments about this podcast. Also be certain to check out The Complete Electric Bike Buyer’s Guide, if you have not already is worth a look. Thank you so much for listening. Have a great rest of your day.
Personal electric bikes could help public transit systems manage the first-mile-last-mile problem, encouraging ridership and lowering mass transit costs. But like many possible solutions to this problem, electric bikes still face challenges. If privately-owned electric bikes are to impact the first-mile-last-mile (FMLM) transit problem, communities must address infrastructure, transport, and storage.

What is the FMLM Transit Problem?

Few homes are built directly next to a light rail line. This is especially true in relatively less dense areas. So if a commuter wants to get from home to work using public transportation, he or she needs to travel to a rail station or bus stop. This is the first mile of the journey. When this same commuter arrives at a station near his or her office there will still be some distance to go, since, again, the office is probably not built directly on a public transit line. This is the last mile of the journey.
Source: Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority. http://media.metro.net/docs/First_Last_Mile_Strategic_Plan.pdf
  “The FMLM problem is drawn originally from telecommunications, then supply chain management (goods movement),” explained Arizona State University Assistant Professor, David A. King. “For telecommunications FMLM is the final leg (or first leg) to the consumer. With physical infrastructure, it is expensive to match high capacity hubs to individual units. In the 1970s and 1980s, as cable TV was being deployed across the US, cable companies had to individually wire each and every household. This was a tremendous but necessary cost, and the cable companies were able to amortize the expenses over many years. Rarely did an individual household pay the full cost of running cable, instead they just paid a small installation fee and their monthly subscription,” King continued. “FMLM then was used by logistics companies (FedEx, UPS, etc.) to describe their endpoint deliveries from centralized warehouses.” More recently, FMLM has been used to describe how commuters and other travelers get to and from a public transit station. At first thought, this might seem like a simple thing, but the first and last miles can be daunting. Most American commuters are only willing to walk about a quarter of a mile to or from a transit station, according to transportation consultant, Jarrett Walker. This means that if public transit is to be the only method of transportation it would need to build stops within 1,320 feet of a person’s doorstep. As you can imagine, this approach would be both ridiculous and expensive. Rather, transit lines are most effective when they provide relatively direct routes between popular hubs. And when they are full and fast. Thus the FMLM transit problem. How do travelers effectively get to a station more than 1,320 feet away?

Electric Bikes Could Help Address the FMLM Problem

Electric bikes are one possible solution to the FMLM transit problem. In particular, privately-owned electric bikes may be especially well suited for the first mile of the journey. Let’s consider a morning commute. Melisa needs to get from her home to her office. The trip is about 30 miles. The regional light rail system has a stop less than a block from her office, but the station closest to her home is about three miles away. Her situation is typical. Many Americans work in relatively dense areas with many nearby transit stops but live in suburban neighborhoods. Melisa could ride an electric bike, perhaps the EVELO Galaxy, the short three-mile trip to the rail station, ride the train to the stop near her office, and either walk or ride the short distance to work. In theory, this simple arrangement should make it easy to combine electric bikes and public transportation for a smooth easy commute. But there are problems.

FMLM, Electric Bike Challenges

Melisa has essentially two problems, which create three challenges for transit authorities and communities that want to encourage public transportation. Here are the problems.
  1. Melisa needs to feel safe and comfortable riding from her home to the rail station.
  2. Melisa needs to do something with her electric bike while she rides the train.

Bicycle Infrastructure

A commuter’s first problem is feeling safe and comfortable on the ride from home to the transit station (or from the station to home in the evening). Feeling safe may be a function of education, training, and infrastructure. Los Angeles, which has won awards for its FMLM planning, tries to create pathways for travelers to access public transportation, as an example. A pathway could include a bike lane. It might be a green zone. Or it could simply be a wide, well-lit road. Bicycle-friendly infrastructure would be supplemented with safety training for both drivers and electric bike riders. “Cycling for local access requires (a) focusing on short local trips and (b) on a kind of cycling that will appeal to a broad segment of the population. That means safe routes that are designed for relatively slow speeds, not just painted bike lanes next to traffic on high-speed arterials,” wrote Jarrett Walker, the transportation consultant mentioned earlier. “In general, cycling for station access needs more of the features of European cycling infrastructure. A Dutch planner once told me that the Dutch bicycle network is designed for a 60-year old woman with two bags of groceries, and that’s a good guideline,” Walker continued. Electric bikes, thanks to their helpful motors, can overcome many of the other challenges associated with the ride to the rail station. For example, ebikes will allow the commuter to travel further faster. An ebike overcomes obstacles like hills, and an electric bike lets the commuter arrive at the station without getting sweaty, according to The Complete Electric Bike Buyer’s Guide. But ultimately, there may need to be improvements to cycling infrastructure.

Transporting an Electric Bike

Once Melisa, from our imagined example commuter, arrives at the rail station, she will need to do something with her electric bike. If she had her druthers, she would take her ebike with her on the train, ride it the last mile to work, and park it in the corner of her office. This is a challenge. Transit systems need to be full of passengers to get the economies of scale necessary to make them affordable. And an ebike can take up a lot of room on a train. To address this, public transportation systems will need to determine how many additional riders they would get if they provided an easy way to take an electric bike on a train or bus. This estimate should be compared to the costs of accommodating ebikes. It will be important too for transportation planners to consider the entire system. Allowing electric bikes on trains, but prohibiting them from buses within the system may not solve the problem.

Electric Bike Storage

If Melisa (our example commuter) is going to park her electric bike at the light rail station rather than take it with her, she will want someplace safe to keep it. Electric bikes are expensive. They are loaded with electronics. They have heavy-duty frames. They may have other high-end components like belt drives and continuously variable transmissions. Thus, theft is a real concern. Public transportation authorities will need to provide safe bike parking. This may need to include rental lockers that completely enclose an electric bike. Camera systems and security may also be required.

Balancing the FMLM Problem

Electric bikes may help to provide a solution to the FMLM public transportation problem. But as a possible solution, they do come with challenges. Bicycle advocates and electric bike commuters may be able to influence their local transportation authorities, perhaps, encouraging them to consider addressing bicycle infrastructure, electric bike transportation on buses and trains, and ensuring bike parking is secure as a means of dealing with the FMLM problem.
Bicycling in America needs a community. This is true whether you're discussing electric bikes or conventional ones. If bicycles are going to continue to grow in popularity and if they are to emerge as a serious alternative to at least some automobile trips, it will be a community of committed riders that helps them go mainstream. This is important. For example, several years ago, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) estimated that the United States could save $900 million a year if Americans rode a ride instead of driving for half of all trips less than one mile. "Many of us drive our cars for short trips," the EPA said. "We drive three blocks to work out at the local gym, we drop off our teenager at a friend’s house in the neighborhood, or we move our car to park near the entrance of the next store on our list of errands. Some short car trips are necessary; for example, health and mobility issues might limit our ability to walk. Other times, driving is convenient: when we’re in a hurry, if it’s cold or raining, or if we have a lot of groceries to carry. However, some short car trips might be easily made by foot or bike. What if we all chose to walk or bike for just half of our car trips of under a mile? Again, the answer was that that United States could save $900 million and reduce carbon emissions by two million metric tons each year. So how do we convince more folks to use bicycles for transportation? "There should be some community. People should advocate for bikes in general, but e-bikes in particular as a means of transportation around towns," said Seth Weintraub on The Electric Bike Podcast from EVELO. You can listen to the full conversation with Seth Weintraub and follow along with the transcript provided below. Armando Roggio: Seth Weintraub rides his electric bike, daily. Whether it's a trip to the gym, a visit to the local store, he does his best to replace automobile trips with e-bike trips to get a little exercise, and sometimes even beat the cars stuck in traffic or hunting for a parking place. This is The Electric Bike Podcast from EVELO, and my name is Armando Roggio. In this episode, we're going to learn a bit more about Seth Weintraub, and get his opinion on why electric bikes are interesting and important. We'll hear what he thinks makes a good electric bike. And oh, Seth's opinion does matter. He's an award-winning journalist, publisher, and entrepreneur with a significant amount of influence.

Founder of Five Publications

Armando Roggio: Seth, I do appreciate you joining us for this podcast. Would you mind starting by telling us a little bit about your company, about how you got started in publishing, and come around to how you started a publication about alternative transportation, electric? Seth Weintraub: Sure. So in around 2006, my wife got a fellowship to study in France. She was, at the time, a doctoral student in French. So I had kind of a dead-end IT job at the time, and I said, you know what? I'm going to hop on the plane with you, and I'll just see what happens. So I quit my job, landed in Paris, a fantastic city, but not much to do for English-speakers. So I started writing about what I knew. I was interested in CMSs at the time. I was using Drupal. Eventually, I found my way to WordPress, but my specialty was kind of Apple products and managing Apple products in the enterprise. So that's kind of where 9to5Mac was born. And you know...this will get long-winded, but I did that for a couple of years in Paris. I had a friend who worked with Apple and sent me some iPod Nanos and the first iPod Touch. He had pictures of them, and so I had some stories to break and the site steadily grew from there.
Seth Weintraub's first publication, 9to5mac, started as a blog and grew to be a respected publication in its field.
  When it was time to come back to the US, I was still doing IT. So I started doing IT in the US again, but the website was starting to make almost as much money as my job was paying. So I was like maybe if I spent more time on this, it would be more lucrative, and those kinds of things. Those kinds of thoughts. But at the same time, a friend of mine recommended me for a job at Fortune covering Google. So this is Apple. I covered Apple to this point. And now, Fortune wanted me to cover Google like I was covering Apple. So I covered Google at Fortune for a year. I thought it was a great job because it was Fortune and I was covering Google. I got all kinds of introductions at Google. I got a book offer to write about Google in China, which right now is kind of a big deal. And then, at the end of that year term, I was kind of like, you know what? 9to5Mac at that point had as many page views per day as Fortune's website did. So I was like, you know what? I think I see where this is going. But when I worked at Fortune, they didn't have a Twitter account, or a Facebook account, or an RSS reader. So I created all those from my Google account and then leaving them, I still owned all these things. So I said, you know what? I have these thousands and thousands of Google News followers, I'll start up 9to5Google. I was doing 9to5Mac.com/toys, which was kind of like deals on Apple products. But when I broke out 9to5Toys, there were deals on everything. So at that point, I had three sites. That was going for a while, and the sites continued to grow. And in 2012, I bought a Tesla, and that's a whole nother story in itself, but I bought a Tesla. I had the Tesla, and I was like there's nothing. Nobody's writing intelligently about Teslas, or electric vehicles, or solar panels, or any kind of electric mobility. So I jumped on that train, and I just started kind of writing as a hobby, still doing the 9to5 stuff. But I would do three or four posts a day on the electric car, green energy news of the day as well.
Weintraub's also founded Electrek, a publication covering electric transportation and technology.
  And then, that started going slowly, picking up a little bit. It's kind of hard to get a site off the ground, and it's kind of nice to do that every once in a while. But having the other two sites to point to it at times was beneficial, the other three sites. So I think 2015, I hired the first full-time writer, who is a Fred Lambert, and he's got quite a Tesla following, right now. I think last year... Maybe a couple of years ago, I found Micah Toll, who's fantastic. He runs EbikeSchool.com. It's a great YouTube channel on batteries and bikes. If you're into that, an engineer and you want to get into that stuff, it's a great resource. I'd been following his work for a while. I kept on asking him and asking him. Hey, you should join us to talk about e-bikes. We're not really covering e-bikes. Obviously, he is an expert. I hired a couple of other people as well, but we brought him on, last year. Actually, two years ago, I think. And he moved to the US, and then he just recently moved back to Israel, but he's still covering all the electric. It's kind of like the two-wheeler news, the mobility news, scooters. I guess, one wheels as well, but kind of the wider mobility. But be honest with you, that's one of the more exciting areas for me. I think we see more innovation in those vehicles. And frankly, in India and in China, and a lot of the rest of the world, these are the vehicles that are going to get used by the majority of the population. And frankly, around here in the US, my personal feeling is e-bikes are a whole lot more fun than driving to work. So that's where I am.

Electric Bikes and Alternative Transportation

Armando Roggio: Makes sense. So you actually have several publications, including Electrek. Electrek.co, which may be the one our listeners are most familiar with. A moment ago, you mentioned that electric bikes and similar were some of the most interesting forms of alternative transportation because they're used by so many. Would you expand on what makes them interesting? Seth Weintraub: So there's a lot of things. There's the engineering aspect, where you've got a pool of different companies making their own stuff. For instance, in motors you have Bosch. You have Brose. You have the Bafang. You have the Yamaha, Shimano, and like 20 other major brands competing for this market share. And they all... Like this year for Eurobike, they all have subtle updates, but everybody's kind of pushing each other forward a little bit. This is definitely not a dead field, although sometimes it feels like in the higher echelon that Bosch kind of owns the market, but most of the innovation is happening in those outer spheres with the Bafang and other motor companies. So that's interesting. We're also seeing some interesting stuff. I don't know if you've seen like PEBL and a couple other small companies are doing these little solar trikes with enclosure, so that they allow you to travel at like 30 miles per hour, enclosed, sitting down comfortably. You can pedal. You can use an electric motor. Just a new kind of transportation that if they were the only vehicles on the road, you'd feel totally safe. But you know, they aren't currently. But in a perfect world, in a utopia, I think those are the type of vehicles I'd want to be around rather than our current situation. Armando Roggio: So you would feel more comfortable driving around in a PEBL or riding an electric bike than driving? Seth Weintraub: Yeah. Obviously, there are snowy days and you can't take out a little trike everywhere and do everything with it. You can't move furniture with it, obviously, but it kind of feels like most people's journeys that they do in their cars could be done on an e-bike or some other type of micro vehicle. In Los Angeles, maybe that's a Bird scooter, or maybe it is an e-bike, but there just seems to be a lot of people taking cars for what could be an e-bike trip.

Electric Bikes Can be Faster than Cars for Some Trips

Armando Roggio: So thinking of an electric bike as a car alternative, a way to replace some trips in a car. I feel like it can actually be faster to take the e-bikes sometimes than to drive. Have you seen that? Seth Weintraub: Oh, absolutely. So a couple of things, like I will ride my bike to the coffee shop. I will ride my e-bike to the store. I will ride my e-bike to the gym. And in each of those cases, I can make it from my door to the door of the venue in roughly the same time because I'm not parking. I'm not dealing with the same kind of traffic. I'm taking my... I'm not putting all my stuff in the car and reversing out of the garage and doing all that stuff. I literally jump on my bike. I go down the street. Maybe I'm going a little bit slower than I would in a car, getting from my driveway to the venue. But then, I'm riding right up to the front door of... Like for instance, when my kid has a concert at his school. The parking lot is full. The road getting there is full. Getting even close to the school is almost impossible. But if you have an e-bike, you just ride up to the front door. You park the e-bike, and you walk in. It's just so much easier on so many different levels. I live... I would say the gym is the farthest from me. It's probably about 4.5 miles. But if I ride my bike to the gym, I don't need to do a warmup, and I don't need to do a cool down because I'm riding my bike as that part of the journey. So there's just so many different areas where e-bikes are fantastic. Armando Roggio: Electric bikes are fantastic. I agree, but they could be better. How do you think electric bikes need to evolve or should change in order to continue their growth? For example, we've often heard that batteries need to improve. So without specifically focusing on that example, what has to change for e-bikes to continue to grow in popularity? Seth Weintraub: That's a good question. There are a few areas that come to mind. You just mentioned the batteries. I think maybe a modular solution in that respect might make some sense. I've seen some interesting e-bike builds where somebody uses a Greenworks battery from a lawnmower and they put like 10 of them on kind of a rack and they just use those. And frankly, most of my trips, I only use about a quarter of my e-bike battery for the day, so I really don't need to be lugging around the other three-quarters of a battery that I have. So that's one big area, like either more variety in battery sizes or more modularity. I realize, obviously, I'm not going to get the full power out of one-fifth of my battery, but some compromise there. Another area is... The big area, I think, is prices. Whenever somebody... I'm kind of like the e-bike guru in town, I guess. And somebody will ask me for an e-bike recommendation, and I'll be like, yeah, there's this, this, and this, and this. And I'll be like, what's your price? And they're like, "I'd like to get something under $1,000." And I'm like, eh, like that's really not... I mean, there's e-bikes out there under $1,000. You're just not going to have a good time with that. So some people are getting there. Some better bikes are coming down the pike that are more affordable. Prices are definitely coming down across the board, but that's just not... I think the general perception isn't realistic in what an e-bike can be. So a combination of prices coming down and some education, like what you're actually getting, like good components are actually in your best interest to look to, and good motors from good reputable brands are important. So the price is another area. And then, education. There's a couple of e-bike companies out there that actually have their own stores set up and they don't have the greatest e-bikes, but I'm often like, you know what? Just go check it out. Go to the store. Get on the e-bike. Ride it around. You'll love it. And then, maybe that's not the best e-bike for you, maybe it is, but it's something to get on an e-back. You really... I almost feel like there should be outreach events and something. If there's an e-bike association of America, and they would come to towns and just say, "Hey, look. Get on this bike. Ride it around town, and then come back. And then, maybe you want to think about buying an e-bike." Those are three big areas.

Electric Bike Prices and Components

Armando Roggio: So of those, I would like to focus on price for a moment. I think sometimes folks who are just starting to learn about electric bikes, don't necessarily understand the components involved. Would you speak a little about the components, about motors, hydraulic versus mechanical brakes, and cadence sensors versus torque sensors? Seth Weintraub: Yeah. So I'll go backward there. Torque-sensing is, obviously, I think it's more expensive, but it's going to give the rider a more realistic feel. Like if you have just a cadence sensor, you're going to peddle a little bit before you actually feel the kick in and it's a very unnatural feeling. Torque sensors are obviously more expensive usually, so that's a concern. Obviously, if you can do both and have a little bit of intelligence in there, you'll have a great bike. So hydraulics are a lot nicer because... Well, for me, because you don't have to squeeze like all crazy if you're really trying to brake. Some people like the manual brakes because you can kind of feel your way, and you're not going to stop too short. But I feel like you get used to a hydraulic brake pretty quickly, and it allows you to use a lot less arm, you know, like hand strength to slow the bike down. Obviously, there are more moving parts in hydraulics and you have to do some maintenance there. But overall, I think it's a better experience. And then, as far as hubs and mid drives, that is actually a huge polarizing part of the e-bike community. But for some reason, all the bikes that I really enjoy are mid-mount. So it's weird... I don't understand why. I guess, because you have control of the gears on the front end. It uses the same gears as the chain, although because of the additional torque, you need a stronger chain and crank system with mid drives. So that's still up in the air. For whatever reason, I seem to prefer mid drives, even though in my head, I think hub motors make more sense. Armando Roggio: So that's very different than what I expected. I often hear that people prefer riding a mid-drive electric bike, but I also hear folks say that mid-drive makes more sense mechanically and from an engineering perspective. So talk a little bit more about this. Why do you think the hub drive might make more sense? Seth Weintraub: Well, so first, one thing is you can't regen on a mid-drive unless you want run the chain backwards or something. So for me... You're not going to get a lot of energy back. But I think, more importantly, it reduces wear on the brakes and there have been a few bikes out there have regen, which I think is a nice addition. It's not too much of a pain to put it in the controller and there are brakes out there, so it's not rocket science. The other thing is the additional wear on the chain. One of my favorite bikes, which was a 2017 Raleigh Redux iE, I kept on breaking the chain because the torque on from the Brose motor going through the chain would keep breaking it. I, obviously, could have got a much thicker, heavier-duty chain, but that's a little bit different of a bike experience. So just holistically, maybe hub motors make more sense. But again, in my experience, like nine out of the top 10 of my favorite bikes have been mid drives, so I don't know. Armando Roggio: So our context for speaking about mid-drive motors and hub drive motors was explaining the cost, if you will, of an electric bike. You mentioned earlier that you thought reducing cost would be a key to continued growth for the electric bike market. So if you were going to replace or reduce the cost of an electric bike, where would you start? Which components or systems would you target? Seth Weintraub: From a cost perspective, getting a Bosch system doesn't make any sense because they're very high-cost, especially on their higher-end models and they don't offer any opportunities for lowering price on batteries or even on some of their components, like their displays or controllers. So the newcomers or the up-and-comers, I guess, would be some of the other, like Yamaha, Shimano, which are higher-end, but maybe even Bafang. I know Bafang is doing some interesting things with mid drives, right now, especially on the high-end or ultras. I think the two kilowatts, or something crazy. there. But personally, I find that 250 watts does most of my rides just fine. And I do want to get a little bit of exercise out of it, so that's fine. In terms of size, I don't think you need to go all the way up. So that's another kind of area of cost-cutting. I know a lot of those who go in over a kilowatt, I think 250 to 750-watt is pretty much all you need. As far as components, I don't want to see people like cutting on forks and things that can cause a lot of damage, but there's like really good mid-tier stuff out there. I mean, even Shimano makes pretty good derailleurs and brakes at pretty reasonable prices. I've reviewed a $600 Amazon bike, like ANCHEER, Rattan, and they still have Shimano parts on them. So you can get down to that sub 1,000 cost, but you're going to be using batteries from China. I mean, everybody's using batteries from China, but you're going to use the no-name brand batteries from China. You're going to use a motor from a company you've probably never heard of. So in my mind, I think you can save a lot of money on batteries. I hate to say this, but because I just said that get outreach is important, but a lot of the overhead of owning a shop or working with bike shops, or those kind of things are hurting the higher-end bikes when it comes to market share. Armando Roggio: One of the things I often hear is that if you compare, say a $600 electric bike to an electric bike in the 3,000 or $4,000 range, you see a significant difference. The components are much better. The frame is much better. Everything is significantly better and you get a lot for your money as you move up. But if you compare a $4,000 electric bike to a $7,000 e-bike or a $10,000 e-bike, there really aren't as many differences or significant differences. What do you think of that? Seth Weintraub: Absolutely. So I've reviewed a Riese & Muller Supercharger, which has two Bosch batteries and quite a bit of other just the highest of the high-end stuff. I think it was the $8,000 bike, and it was hands down... Well, one of the better bikes I've ever reviewed. And of course, it ought to be. My daily is the Raleigh, which I think it's like $3,000 bike. The difference between the Raleigh and that bike wasn't huge in terms of the overall experience, and daily usage. But the difference between the Raleigh and the Rattan or the ANCHEER bike from Amazon is night and day. The experience is totally different. The wheels aren't even aligned right. They're kind of wobbly. You're not sure if the fork is making weird sounds. The gears sometimes come off. It's not put together exactly right. Maybe the handlebar is backward. It's just a lot of issues. So your statement, there's a much bigger difference. I think kind of the sweet spot for most people is going to be around $3,000 in terms of cost. At that point, you get a lot of really good components, but you don't get maybe the Tour de France level componentry. Armando Roggio: And frankly, not all of us need the Tour de France level. Seth Weintraub: Exactly.

Electric Bike Reviews

Armando Roggio: So you're going to be reviewing some EVELO electric bikes soon. What is it you look for, when you review an electric bike? Seth Weintraub: The first and foremost thing is when I get on it, can I ride it? Am I thinking about it, or is it kind of just part of my experience? And obviously, I ride an e-bike every day, so I'm biased. You know, a particular e-bike, every day. So right now, for instance, I'm looking at a GenZe bike. And they make scooters mostly, but they dropped off a bike for me to check out. And it should be very similar to my Raleigh bike because it's got the same tires, and it's kind of the same size. But the experience was totally different because it has a cadence sensor, which it comes on later in the bike, maybe a second after I start pedaling. And it stops, more importantly, a second after I've stopped pedaling. So it's a little bit jarring when you get off the line. And then, the components aren't quite as good all around. So you feel a little wiggle and wobbles here and there that you don't feel in a mid-tier bike, I would say, like my daily. And of course, there are things that aren't the bike's fault is like I'm a six-foot guy. So a bike-sized to me with the right geometry is important rather than just the bike from ANCHEER, which comes in one size. If you're not sitting in the right position, then who cares? But yeah, so I guess, adjustability. Power. So for instance, bikes by a Dutch company called VanMoof look amazing. They're beautiful bikes. You get on them and you're like I think the motor is broken because I can barely feel anything happening. And they're like, "Oh, no. It's fine." It just takes a while to get used to, and you're like, eh, this isn't really helping me. I'd rather just have a regular bike. The level of assist is so low on that particular bike. So obviously, I want some sort of assist, but I don't want to feel it jarring and pushing when I pedal. I'd rather have like a slow bring up, and quiet is also nice. That's one area that Brose motors have over Bosch. And I think hub motors, in general, are a little bit quieter than the mid drives as well. So quieter. I kind of want a bike experience. I want to think that I'm riding a bike, and I'm just extremely strong and light, I'm going 25 miles per hour on my own rather than with the assistance of the bike. So that's kind of my my philosophy there.

Electric Bike Throttles

Armando Roggio: One of the components that I think doesn't get enough attention is a throttle, especially when it is used from a start, or when it is used in conjunction with a cadence sensor to give a nice smooth start. What do you think about throttles and about using them with pedal assistance perhaps to get started? Seth Weintraub: So overall, I don't use a throttle, when I'm riding. I just think it's like you have a throttle and that's basically your pedals. I don't particularly feel the need. That's just not how I want to ride an e-bike. I'm not like a delivery guy in New York. I'm out there to actually do some pedaling. So overall, I don't feel like I need one. But for instance, I have a SONDORS fat tire bike. And when I'm trying to... Like I'm in the forest, I'm going on an uphill and I need some help getting off the line, so-to-speak, a throttle comes in really handy. So there's a lot of times where... Not a lot of times, but there are certain situations where I feel like a throttle is an added benefit. And if a throttle is just a throttle, then it's better than not having a throttle. So, you know.

Advocating for Electric Bikes as Transportation

Armando Roggio: Seth. I really appreciate your answers and what you've had to say about electric bikes on this podcast today. Is there anything else I should have asked, or are there some things that want to say to the folks listening to this podcast? Seth Weintraub: Yeah. There should be some community. People should advocate for bikes in general, but e-bikes in particular as a means of transportation around towns. I live in a village outside of New York City. So our village is very small, but we're 40 minutes away from New York City, so we have that component. New York just passed some... I don't know if it actually passed the governor, but it got out of the legislators. Some good e-bike guidelines and towns and cities are now able to kind of make their own rules. I think getting some folks behind the wheel, like friends and neighbors behind the wheel of an e-bike is really important. Because if you're an e-bike rider, then you understand the situation and you're maybe not as frustrated when you're riding by one on the road and honking the horn because you can't get by for whatever reason, or whatever. So I think community outreach and advocacy is really important, and it has been in my experience. Armando Roggio: Seth, it has been great to have you on the podcast. Thank you very much for being here. Seth Weintraub: Great. Thank you very much for having me. Armando Roggio: Thank you to everyone listening. We really appreciate the time that you take to listen to the Electric Bike Podcast from EVELO. I hope that you will connect with EVELO in other ways as well. Come visit us at EVELO.com. You can use the contact form there, by the way, to send ideas for the podcast. We'd love to know what you'd like to hear about, who you'd like me to interview. Finally, you should check out The Complete Electric Bike Buyer's Guide.
In the United States (and in many other nations worldwide), the powerful lithium batteries that fuel your electric bike are prohibited on passenger aircraft. So, unfortunately, you cannot take most electric bike batteries on an airplane. “Lithium batteries, which power everyday devices, can catch fire if damaged or if battery terminals are short-circuited,” explained the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) in a March 2019 lithium battery fact sheet.

Lithium Battery Restrictions for U.S. Air Travel

As you know, on a passenger aircraft you can either carry on baggage or check it, so that it is placed in the plane’s cargo area. Unfortunately, neither is an option for most electric bike batteries. The FAA allows airline passengers to bring lithium-ion batteries of up to 100 watt-hours (Wh) each onboard a plane in carry-on luggage. Exceptions can be made for batteries up to 160Wh which are contained in equipment like certain medical devices, for example. But no spare batteries larger than 100Wh may be carried on. Lithium batteries in checked baggage may also be up to 100Wh, but no spare batteries are permitted at all, thus the battery must be attached to a tool, electronic device, or piece of equipment. The 100Wh limit is well below what you would normally expect to find with an electric bike battery.

Calculating Watt-hours

Watts, volts, and amp-hours are the primary energy measurements used to describe electric bike batteries and motors. And while you may find a battery’s watt-hour rating printed or embossed on the side of the battery, it can also be calculated given volts and amp-hours. To determine watt-hours, multiple the battery’s volts by its amp hours. For example, a 48-volt electric bike battery rated for 11.6 amp-hours would be 556.8 watt-hours or about five and half times more than the FAA limit for passenger flights.
48 x 11.6 = 556.8
 

Alternatives to Flying with Batteries

If taking your electric bike is important, you have at least two possible alternatives to flying with lithium-ion batteries.

Shipping Electric Bike Batteries

You may be able to ship the battery to your destination. Your electric bike’s lithium-ion battery may be shipped in some circumstances, but it will be considered dangerous and will require special handling and labeling. Locate or calculate the battery’s watt-hours and then check with specific carries for their current guidelines. You may have more leeway if you ship both the electric bike and the battery together. At the time of writing, several organizations offered guidelines for shipping lithium-ion batteries. As a point of fact, EVELO ships electric bike batteries with every e-bike order, so this can certainly be done.

Rent an Electric Bike Battery

You may be able to arrange to rent an electric bike battery from a local bike shop in your destination city. There is no guarantee, however, that you will find a willing shop, and you may need to make many calls.
Like it or not, when you ride your electric bike (or conventional bicycle) you will encounter traffic, road hazards, and certainly other folks. This is true whether you're taking a recreational ride, running an errand, or commuting, so it's pretty important to ride carefully and safely in traffic. In this episode of The Electric Bike Podcast from EVELO, Bill Cummings, a long-time rider and the director of customer service at EVELO talks about how to safely ride a bicycle in traffic. You'll learn about the rules of the road, taking the lane, and all about a right hook. You can listen to the full podcast and follow along with the complete transcript below.

Bill Cummings is an Experienced Rider

Armando Roggio: Bill, welcome. Why don't you start us off by telling us a little bit about yourself and your electric bike journey. Bill Cummings: I've been with EVELO since almost its inception. I've been here for over six and a half years. I started out in the customer service department as a direct contact for our customers, and my role eventually evolved into the Customer Service Director, where I hire and train everybody on the team. I still pick up the phone, still answer emails, but that's my overall role. I also do side things like manage our owner's manuals and other supporting documentation and things like that. Armando Roggio: So if a customer had a question related to the owner's manual, you'd be the guy to call? Bill Cummings: I would be the guy. In fact, one of the models that we've moved towards is being able to edit some things live on the Internet. For example, if we get customer feedback about that not being clear, I can make that change the same day and update it for the next person that opens a brand new EVELO Electric Bicycle. Armando Roggio: That's awesome. Our topic today is riding in traffic. In fact, this is a topic you suggested to me. But before we get into hand signals and helmets, tell us a little about your riding experience. How often do you ride? Where do you ride? Bill Cummings: Yeah, sure. I started riding enthusiastically as a teenager, so without dating myself too specifically, I've got about 35 years of riding in real traffic. That started in the suburbs of Cleveland, Ohio. Eventually, as an adult, I moved into San Francisco, which is a very intense urban environment for cycling with lots of different environments. You've got railroad tracks embedded in the roadway, buses, other cyclists, cars not paying attention, people on cell phones, pedestrians on cell phones walking out in front of you. I currently live outside of Boston, and the cycling infrastructure where I live is very limited. Roadways are narrow. There are curbs, virtually no shoulder. It's very important to a very honed skillset and I really believe that riding in traffic is a skillset, it can be learned, and it makes you safer as a rider to have a basic set of skills going forward.

Hone Your Skills to Ride in Traffic

Armando Roggio: You mentioned the intense traffic in San Francisco and the curvy roads and limited cycling infrastructure near Boston, where you are now. Maybe, as we start to talk about how someone can hone their riding in traffic skills, tell us, where should we be on the road? Bill Cummings: Sure. You want to be in the flow of traffic, meaning, you want to be on the right side of the road. You don't want traffic coming at you. You want to be moving with the cars. Most states, the way that the legislation is written is, you should be riding as far to the right as is safely possible. That means, sometimes the pavement in front of you is beautiful and you can ride just to the right of the white line. But there are times where there is broken pavement, road hazards, like a broken bottle, a tree branch down, overhanging trees, and in those situations, it is perfectly acceptable to move more central in the lane so that you're safe. A hand signal before you move to the left is always a good idea, but you want to be as far to the right as possible. I often get asked about riding on sidewalks. Most municipalities say that it is illegal for an adult to ride on the sidewalk. There are certain exceptions, but for the most part, you're not allowed to ride on the sidewalk. You should check with your local authorities to see what the rules are in terms of that.

Bicycling Hand Signals

Armando Roggio: You mentioned that, when you need to move further to the left in the lane, you should communicate with the drivers around you. How do you do that? Are there particular hand signals to use? Bill Cummings: Great question. Going back to driver-ed days. There are three standard signals for ... using a hand signal in an automobile. If you're moving left, it's, your arm should go straight out from the shoulder, that indicates a left-hand turn. A right-hand turn is a 90-degree bend at the elbow with your hand pointing up. With a caveat on that one, I'll get to in a second. And lastly is stopping, which is your arm out to the side, bent at the elbow pointing down. The caveat I mentioned is these signals were developed for automobiles before the days of turn signals. If you wanted to turn to the right, to point to the right would mean you were pointing across the passenger seat. Your arm would be not visible. As things move forward in the cycling world, it is actually perfectly acceptable to simply point your arm straight out, 90 degrees to your body, to the right, if you're making a right-hand turn. In terms of moving left, mirrors are helpful but don't trust them implicitly. I like to look at it. If I have a mirror, I look in it, if I see a car, I know not to move. If I don't see a car, that's not necessarily a go-ahead to make the move left. You should still glance over your shoulder, mirrors have blind spots. After you've determined that it's clear to move left, point your arm out to the left, move left and then, when possible, as soon as possible, you want to move back to the right.

Riding with Cars

Armando Roggio: Now, cars have the right of way, or rather, can pass you when you are on the right side of the lane. Is that correct? Bill Cummings: That is correct. There are varying rules state by state, but the typical standard is between three and six feet of cushion, they should give you. I'll tell you, three feet, surprisingly, feels quite close, but it is safe. If you're riding in a predictable straight-line fashion and not weaving all over the place, if you're riding a nice straight line, especially if you acknowledge a car, something as simple as just glancing over your shoulder, oftentimes the driver then knows that you know that they're there. Sometimes I will actually waive somebody on. I don't actually ... I don't like cars to sit right behind me waiting, waiting, waiting to pass. If I know that it's safe for them to pass me, I sometimes will wave them on, just to get them past me. I don't want a car just to hovering just on my side. Armando Roggio: That makes sense. Please speak a bit more about what it means to ride predictably. Bill Cummings: I like the term telegraph. You want to telegraph your intention. There are formal things like the three hand signals we discussed, left, right, stop. But also, just head movements, waving people on. I sometimes will actually talk out loud, not with the intention that they could hear me, but rather that they can see that I'm talking and communicating with them. Sometimes drivers can actually read your lips. The idea of, if you signal, if you look, if you ride in a nice clean line, that kind of stuff lets drivers know what your intention is. If you come to an intersection and you haven't made a decision if you're going to turn right or left and you're trying to decide right there, that confusion can then project onto the drivers around you. They don't know what you're going to do, so that means they don't know what they're supposed to do. The more you can clearly communicate to the drivers of vehicles, the better off you are.

Be an Ambassador

Armando Roggio: There's almost a sense in which the cyclists should be in charge of the situation. As a rider, you need to know the rules of the road, and you need to be using all the means you can, all the means we just discussed, to communicate what's correct to those around you. Do you think that's right? Bill Cummings: I do. I think that folks that are riding down the road, riding a bicycle on the road, you somewhat act as an ambassador. In the current age, some drivers do have animosity towards cyclists. They feel as if you're not supposed to be on the road, that's not where you belong, when in fact you are supposed to be there in most places. Anything that you can do to be a courteous person sharing the road. We see those signs, they say, share the road and it. They show the car and the bicycle icon. That is as much for the cyclist as it is the driver. It doesn't mean the driver just has to be courteous. It means the cyclist has to be courteous too, and that includes things like clear communication, waving people on when you want them to go. Getting out of the way. If you're indecisive about what your direction should be, pull off the road, get out of the way so that people can make ... they can ... that tells them that you are not riding on cluelessly, that you are now clearing the roadway and letting them by.

Roads are Public Spaces

Armando Roggio: It was interesting to hear you say share the road. There is an idea or a concept out there, it may have come from Barcelona, Spain, that first, roads are public lands, public spaces, and second, owning a car does not give you some special entitlement to those public lands and public spaces. I think that's an interesting way of thinking about sharing the road. Do you want to comment on that? Bill Cummings: Sure. I completely agree with that. This was especially true in the urban environment of San Francisco. I saw cyclists riding incredibly irresponsibly, riding straight through stop signs without stopping. We're required, by law, to obey traffic signals, just as a car would. Stop signs, traffic lights, all that stuff. And when you behave in such a way that you're ignoring those things, you're aggravating the drivers. That's where that ambassador role comes in, that now you just ... that driver that just saw you behave badly has a different view of cyclists, in general. You've added to a negative perception. Whereas, when you are clear about your intentions, when you're riding legally and safely and with courtesy, you then add to the positive side of that equation and improve people , like, wow, that cyclist, that guy was ... it was really clear to me what was going on. It was ... happy to see them out. That kind of thing.

Invisibility

Armando Roggio: Makes sense. What about the idea of being invisible? Not necessarily in the sense that the driver doesn't see you, but in the sense that you're following all the rules of the road, you are communicating well, and the experience of sharing the road is seamless or invisible from the driver's perspective. I guess, also touch on actually being invisible. Bill Cummings: Yeah. I'd love to make a couple of points on that. First off, you mentioned the concept of invisibility and I ... when I ride, I assume that to be true. I assume that, literally, the cars can't see me, because in many cases they can't or don't. We regularly see people distracted by their cell phones. They're either talking on them or poking at them. I don't assume that somebody can see me. That said, I still try to be visible. I wear neon colors, flashing lights in the day time, that kind of thing. But the other thing is, we have the right to, as they say, take the lane. There are times where you actually want to take over the traffic lane. A perfect example of that is making a left-hand turn. Imagine this scenario you. You're rolling up to an intersection. You know you want to make a left-hand turn, the light is red, you check over your shoulder, no cars are coming. You signal that you're moving left, you move to the center of the lane and you pull up to the white line at the edge of the intersection. Light turns green, the cyclist actually has the ability to accelerate very quickly, especially if you're on an e-bike. What you should do is, as you make that left hand turn, you should move gradually from the center of the lane to the right-hand side so that by the time you have completed your turn, you're actually back all the way over to the right-hand side. You've cleared the intersection for the car behind you, and if all goes smoothly, you haven't inhibited the car behind you one single bit. Even though you went into the middle of the lane before you took the turn and you took control of that lane decisively, but you also didn't impede the person behind you. Armando Roggio: I've experienced that myself on an electric bike. I feel like you can get through an intersection very quickly. This is especially the case if you start off with a throttle, get your pedals going, and then let pedal assist help you finish the turn. Bill Cummings: Absolutely. That's one of the great benefits of an electric bike, is you're able to accelerate up to speed almost instantly and in many cases faster than most cars, unless they're stomping on the accelerator. But you could definitely pull away from that intersection, get through the intersection and get yourself back out of the way.

Road Hazards

Armando Roggio: I think the next thing I want to cover, or things I want to cover, are some of the hazards of riding a bike, be it a conventional bicycle or an electric bike. Let's do that within the context of, how can I become a better rider in traffic? Bill Cummings: Sure. On the right-hand side of the road, where we're supposed to be riding, that is often where the riding surface is the worst. That's mostly because cars aren't going there so they are naturally knocking gravel, debris and so forth out of the way. It's where it resides. That's where you've got the loose sand, the broken pavement, especially if you live in an area that has snowy winters. So you want to watch out for bad pavement. In coastal regions, oftentimes there's sand that is drifted and you can have sand near the edge of the roadway. That's not great. One of the biggest things that I've noticed is something I call dappled sunlight. It's where you've got trees and you've got bright sunny spots and dark shadowy spots. The problem with that is it is difficult to discern potholes or broken pavement amongst the shadows and bright light. It's something that we often get asked about when people are looking for an electric bike. They say, "Hey, I want one that goes really fast." They want to go 25, 30 miles an hour, and the reality is that, if you can't clearly see and discern what you're coming up on at speed, you're going to fast. Riding at speed really is a skill. And one of the issues is your visual acuity and your ability to sort out the difference between a shadow and a pothole. Armando Roggio: What about the hazards, if you will, of the cars that are around you? I remember learning to drive years and years ago and we talked about defensive driving, assuming that not every driver was going to do the proper thing at the proper time. What about from the cyclist's perspective? How do you deal with cars? Bill Cummings: Yeah. The biggest thing that I think of is awareness. Not only active looking, every time I am going past a roadway, maybe entering from the right, I take a quick glance down that street to see if there's a car approaching the intersection who may plan on just going through without seeing me. I use my ears as much as my eyes. I listen for cars approaching from behind. For that reason, I strongly recommend that people never ride with headphones in. In fact, I, when I go on long recreational rides, I actually have a little speaker that I put on my bike that allows me to ride with music, which I very much enjoy, but it also allows me to hear what's going on around me. I listen for cars approaching from the rear. When I do hear one coming up behind me, I like to take a glance over my shoulder. Again, that's a nonverbal cue to the driver that I know they're coming because they're often wondering, does this biker know I'm coming? Is it safe to pass? Are we on the same page here? I look out for that. In an urban environment, especially, one of the biggest hazards to cyclists is not actually moving cars, but the parked cars. Bikers have a term called being doored. What that means is, a driver in the car just suddenly flings the door open and gets ready to get out of their car without checking their review mirror, and all of a sudden you've got a solid barrier that has been thrown up in front of you without any time to react, and it can be a significant problem. As a rider, I like to look for occupied vehicles. I like to look for brake lights. That means that there's somebody in that car and they may be getting out. The main thing you can do to protect yourself from that is, when you are driving along parked cars, is to ride more than a door width away from them. Three, four feet away from parked cars, especially if they're occupied. In as much as I pretend that I'm invisible and I do everything that I can to react preventatively towards things that drivers might do, I do make an effort to make myself as visible as possible. I want to put everything that I can on my side of the column to prevent an accident. So if somebody can see me all the better. Things that I do. I wear bright reflective clothing. One of the best things you can actually wear are leg bands or bright colored socks. I read a study not to long ago that said that biomechanical movement is more readily perceived by people than just a static color. So, if you had the choice between a bright leg band and a vest, even though the band is much smaller, you're far more likely to be seen because of the motion. The vest is more or less static moving down the road. In the daytime, I use flashing lights, both front and rear. Anything I can do to pull that driver's eyes off of their phone and to me is a win. This is not so much a visibility thing, but I can't emphasize enough the importance of wearing a helmet. Head injuries are catastrophic and new helmet technology can really reduce the odds of that happening. So a nice comfortable helmet that's well ventilated, well-fitted, get it at a local bike shop, have somebody help you fit it, and bright colors on the helmet don't hurt.

Electric Bikes are Fast

Armando Roggio: One of the things I have noticed when I ride an electric bike is that I go faster than people, than drivers think I can go. I've even seen an amazed look on a driver's face. He can't believe I'm going as fast as I am. Speak a little bit about riding in traffic with an electric bike. Bill Cummings: I'm so glad you brought that up. Yes. The average cyclist, on a traditional bike, travels about 12 miles an hour. When a driver sees somebody on a bike, they kind of, they subconsciously dig into their experience and judge your speed based on that. Because in most cases you're coming at them more or less in a straight line, they don't have a lot of background to perceive your rate of motion against. We can, easily, go 20 miles an hour, and some bikes can go 28 miles an hour. You need to assume that other drivers may misjudge your rate of travel. It's important that you know you're bike and the controls well. Knowing that, for example, on EVELO electric bikes, all our bikes have brake cutoff switches. When you squeeze either brake lever, that disables the motor. That is good to know. If you feel like your motor is pushing you too much for a situation that has the potential for emergency, you don't need to reach for a button and power your bike off. You can just squeeze the lever and that's going to instantly give you more control of your bike. Good bike maintenance. Simple stuff. Before you go out, give each tire a squeeze. Every, once a month, go over the bike head to tail, tightening your bolts, make sure your brakes are working properly. Just real basic stuff so that you don't want to be in a situation, obviously, where your brakes aren't working, for example. Keep in mind that your forward rate of speed needs to be consistent with your reaction times. Things as simple as vision. For example, I wear glasses when I drive, I wear nonprescription sunglasses when I ride. That means that my vision is not as good when I'm on a bike as when I'm driving, so I'm not seeing things as clearly and I need to adjust my speed accordingly, based on those conditions. Kind of the last point that comes to mind here is, how things differ in the rain. Whether you're a commuter and you're intentionally going out in the rain, or maybe you're out there recreationally and you get hit by a late afternoon a thunderstorm or something. It's important to know that braking distances are increased, even with disc breaks. Your braking distances are going to increase. Visibility for everyone is effected. Drivers have got droplets running down their side windows, their wipers are going. A huge factor that I've come to realize over the years is that you don't ... if you can avoid puddles, it's a good idea, not because of the wet, but because of what that puddle could be hiding. There could be a pothole a foot deep below the surface of that puddle. You really do want to avoid puddles when riding in the rain. Those are some things, some are e-bike specific, some apply to all cycling. But those are definitely some things to be watching out for.

Route Selection

Armando Roggio: What role does route selection play in safely riding an e-bike in traffic? Bill Cummings: That's a really good question. It's one of the things I almost do intuitively, but, obviously, side streets are better than main thoroughfares. Sometimes, if I have a series of errands that I'm running on my bike, I will plan my route in such a way that I'm making as many right-hand turns as possible and as few left-hand turns as possible. They're just easier, they're cleaner, and in many cases faster, because you can make a right on red if there's a traffic light. That's something I keep in mind. Some areas have designated bike lanes, and knowing where those are can affect your route selection. In San Francisco, for example, the San Francisco Bike Coalition, a nonprofit that did a great job of promoting cycling there. They actually had a route map of the city of San Francisco that maximized the use of bike lanes and, also, maybe unique to San Francisco, avoiding the really big hills, which was much appreciated when I was riding there on a non-electric bike. The point being here is that there may be resources available to you, bicycle clubs and so forth, that may have specialized maps for your area. I think the idea of staying off main roads when possible, there are times when I will actually get off my bike and walk it across the crosswalk at really hazardous intersections. You want to avoid riding across a crosswalk because, again, you're probably not supposed to be on the sidewalk in the first place, a crosswalk is considered part of that. But that's one way that you can manage really complicated intersections if you need to. You can just get off and walk.

Other Bikes and Pedestrians

Armando Roggio: There is a greenbelt near where I live. It has several miles of bike and pedestrian lanes, going both directions, and if you are on the greenbelt during peak commute times or peak recreational times, there is a lot of bike and pedestrian traffic. What are the rules for riding in that sort of traffic? Bill Cummings: If you're overcoming another user, for example, whether it's on a rails-to-trails bike path and you might have somebody rollerblading, or somebody pushing a child in a stroller, or somebody moving along with a cane and walker. Out a courtesy to those folks, I always announce myself. A typical sequence for me would be, I would ding my bell at about 30/40 feet from them and then, as I approach them more closely, I will say something like, "Passing on your left," nice and loud, nice and clear, or simply, "On your left." Keep in mind here that something I've noticed as a trend in probably the last five years, as just about everybody has smartphones is, a lot of times the pedestrians are plugged in, they're wearing headphones, they don't hear you. Avoid passing really closely. If you are in a situation where you're overcoming another cyclist on the road, before you pass them, again, announce your presence, "Passing on your left." But then, look over your shoulder, make sure there are no cars coming, signal, and then move around the bike that you're overtaking. Because, especially with electric bikes, we're frequently going faster than folks on traditional bicycles and they'll be jealous as you breeze by them. But, if you did so politely and with courtesy, it shouldn't be a problem.

The Right Hook

Armando Roggio: Agreed. Bill, is there anything we haven't yet covered or spoken about that we should? Bill Cummings: There's one specific point that has been on my mind that I haven't mentioned yet that is a particular hazard with driver behavior that I need you to know about, and that's something that cyclists refer to as the right hook. That is a circumstance where you're all the way to the right, a car overtakes you, and then almost immediately turns right, in front of you, either into an intersection or into a driveway. That is a real, very real hazard, so you want to watch for the right hook. Especially because we're going faster than traditional bikes, so the driver may think that they have more room than they do. That one specific safety point. In general, I kind of want to be out there encouraging people to use their bikes as modes of transportation. I find that in many cases I am faster, especially over shorter distances, things three to five miles. If you live in a congested area, boy, the cars are just sitting still and you're just breezing by them. When you get to your destination, you're not looking for a parking space, you can just roll up to the bike rack, or the parking meter, or whatever you're going to lock your bike to, secure it and go on your way. I can remember circling intersections in cars, trying to find a good parking space. That's no longer part of the equation. It allows me to be more engaged with my community. When I see a neighbor walking down the sidewalk and I'm riding by them, I can just pull over for a second and talk to them. If I was in a car, I'd just be .... wave, maybe beep, maybe not do anything, just be like, oh, there's Roger, and that's that. It allows me to be more connected. I like hearing nature and birds and the wind in the trees, all that. I just find it to be such a fulfilling way of moving around that is so dramatically different from the insularity conditions of being in an automobile, which I think really does separate us from our environment quite a bit. In fact, some car manufacturers tout that as a point of their car, like, we can take you away from all that's around you. I find that being on a bike is a way to be more connected. Armando Roggio: That's awesome. Thank you for taking the time to join me for this podcast Bill. I really appreciate it. Bill Cummings: My pleasure. I hope some people got some information out of this that they can use. Stay safe out there and remember, wear your helmet. If you would like to learn more about electric bikes, please check out The Complete Electric Bike Buyer's Guide.
Most electric tricycles have traction problems. In fact, they have the same traction problems that many wheeled vehicles have faced since Rome used chariots, settlers crossed the Great Plains in covered wagons, and Ford introduced the Model A. Effectively, a differential allows each of an electric trike's rear wheels to turn independently, improving cornering significantly.

The Solid Axle Problem

When two wheels, like the rear wheels of an electric trike, share an axle they must spin at the same speed. diagram showing two wheels and a shared axle. As long as the wheels are moving in straight lines this is fine. But when, for example, an electric trike needs to make a turn there is a problem. The wheel on the outside of the turn must rotate more quickly than the wheel on the inside since it has further to go.
The wheel on the outside of the turn must travel further and, therefore, needs to turn more quickly. When an electric trike's back wheels share an axle the outside wheel will slip or hop on turns.
 

Differential

an electric trike limited-slip differential The differential on the EVELO Compass electric trike solves the solid axle problem.
  A differential, like the one on EVELO’s Compass electric trike, avoids the single axle problem and ensures the trike corners well. When the Compass turns it grabs the corner, sending power to both wheels while still allowing the outside wheel to spin more quickly.
limited-slip differential A differential from the EVELO Compass electric trike.
  An electric trike with a differential will accelerate, corner, and brake more safely and predictably than other electric trikes. If you would like to learn more about electric bikes generally, please check out The Complete Electric Bike’s Buyer Guide. Also, please take a look at the Compass electric trike. It is one of a very few purpose-built, electric trikes with a differential.
Cadence or torque sensors tell an electric bike’s pedal-assist system (PAS) when to engage the motor and propel the e-bike forward. Although just about any combination of a cadence sensor, a torque sensor, or both will work, each sensor type can have an impact on an electric bike’s performance and ride. So what is the difference between a cadence sensor and a torque sensor on an electric bike? A common response in the bicycle manufacturing industry is that a cadence sensor determines if you are pedaling while a torque sensor measures how hard you are pedaling.

Pedal Assist Cadence Sensor

For many cadence-based pedal assist systems, the electric bike’s motor is engaged when the rider begins to pedal forward. As an example, the EVELO Delta X has five available levels of pedal assist or PAS. At each of these levels, the motor will provide a prescribed amount of power in response to a signal from the cadence sensor. As the rider’s pedaling speed (cadence) increases the PAS will reduce the motor’s output. Put another way, the motor produces a set amount of power when the pedal revolutions are relatively slow — for example when the rider is first starting out — as the pedal cadence and momentum increase, the motor’s power is reduced from 100 percent of the given PAS-level output target to about 70 percent of that target. Here is a specific example, the Delta X electric bike will produce 1000 watts of peak power in PAS level five. It will output 1000 watts until the pedal cadence reaches a pre-defined threshold. At this point, the rider has built up momentum, and the motor reduces output to 700 watts. Later, if the rider downshifts to a high-speed, flat-ground gear and pedal cadence falls below the threshold, the motor will again produce 1000 watts of peak power (at PAS 5) to drive the Delta X forward.
Electric bike drivetrain featuring a cadence sensor. A cadence sensor situated at the crank on an electric bike.
  One of the benefits of using a cadence sensor is the relatively light pressure needed to employ it. In fact, recreational riders or riders with tender knees may find a cadence-based PAS relatively more comfortable to ride. A cadence sensor does, however, require the rider to move the pedals at least a little before initially engaging the motor. For this reason, cadence-based pedal assist systems are coupled with a throttle in many cases. The rider can press the throttle to get the electric bike moving and then start pedaling to engage the PAS.

Pedal Assist Torque Sensor

In contrast to a cadence-sensor-based PAS, a torque sensor uses some form of a strain gauge to determine how much force the rider is applying to the pedal. With a torque sensor in use, the electric bike’s motor will increase its output relative to the amount of pedal force the rider is applying. When the rider pedals hard the motor outputs more power up to the predetermined limit for a give PAS level. A torque-sensor PAS can feel more like riding a conventional bicycle since the rider can sense the strain on the chain or belt and enjoy a direct connection to the motor. A torque-based PAS may also engage relatively more quickly than a cadence-based PAS. And on some models, using only a torque-based PAS may increase range.

Both Sensors Together

Some electric bikes employ both a cadence-sensor and a torque-sensor as part of their pedal-assist systems. As an example, this was the case for the 2019 Aurora Limited Edition electric bike. This premium EVELO e-bike has all of the advantages of both a torque sensor and a cadence sensor. Riders get the responsiveness of the former with the soft-pedal feel of the latter. To learn more about electric bikes and which features are best for you, please take a look at The Complete Electric Bike Buyer's Guide.
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