Utility Biking… With a Little Help From Electricity

Alternative Transportation, Current Affairs, Fitness, Fun & Games

Before I wrote about the Faraday Porteur electric bike back in July, I honestly didn’t even know electric bikes existed. And, now, after reams of research and nearly a week’s test drive, I’m becoming the proud owner of one of these wonders of technology. My new bike is the Pedego City Commuter, which I’m picking up from local bike shop Rocket Electrics.

Here are the general ideas behind the electric bike:

  • Make it fun to ride, even for the not-altogether-fit
  • Make riding less sweaty and more comfortable, so you can wear regular clothes (even skirts and suits) and arrive looking fresh (This is probably overly optimistic for much of the year in TX but I work from home so I’m not all that worried about sweating a little.)
  • Ease anxiety over hilly and challenging routes, by providing the electric secret weapon
  • Speed riding so it doesn’t take as much time out of your day

And, in my case, the idea was to make it possible to ditch the car/truck for relatively short jaunts (to the grocery store, to soccer or football practice, to vote) and therefore save on gas and maintenance — not to mention getting exercise. It also allows me to pretend that we aren’t so car-dependent and eco-unfriendly despite having left our pedestrian mecca of NYC.

It’s not cheap, but we figured that — using the IRS-standard $0.555 per mile — riding the bike for 12 miles every weekday (my husband’s commute) would save us $133/month. That’s not including any weekend use or the incalculable health benefit.

Here are a few considerations and stats:

  • I can haul one kid at a time (or lots of groceries) behind me in the bike trailer (takes up to 100 lbs), which we already invested in back in 2005 or so.
  • Either myself (5’5″) or my husband (5’11”) can ride it with easy adjustments.
  • Since it’s a bike, and not a motor scooter, we don’t need a special license or insurance. (Though these bikes aren’t street legal in all states. They’re banned in NY but apparently popular all the same.)
  • The bike, which comes with a back rack standard, can take panniers and a front basket for extra cargo-carrying capacity.
  • It comes with a 36 volt 15 amp hours lithium ion battery, for an approx 30-mile range before a recharge (takes 4-6 hours to fully recharge). Charging it up costs just pennies.
  •  Safety features like a bell, along with front and back lights, come standard.
  • The electric assist can either be fully manual (throttle control) or automatic pedal-assist, which helps when you’re already pedaling. Top speed with no pedaling (presumably on flat terrain) is 20 mph.
  • This particular bike is light enough to carry on to Capitol MetroRail or hang on front of a bus. (I looked at another with greater carrying capacity but it was bigger and heavier.)

After all the research I performed, I wanted to share all this info since so many other blogs were so helpful to my process. Wish us luck in our attempt to be more car-lite!

Image via Pedego

Oh, and if you decide to buy a bike from Rocket Electrics (great people and amazing service, BTW), please mention my name as I’ve just learned they’ll give me a $100 finder’s fee. If you’re an Austin Energy customer, there’s even an incentive for buying one. (Not for the first time, I wish we lived in Austin proper.) 


Some time after I posted this, someone wrote in to ask how I’d connected the Burley bike trailer to the Pedego City Commuter bike. It’s been a while, so he may have figured it out already, but just in case anyone else could benefit, I’m including some pictures below that will illustrate my setup.

Note that my dog has recently chewed and destroyed the safety connector (the nylon cord that connects the bike to the trailer in case something mechanical breaks), so you won’t see that here. By the way, I take no responsibility if you choose to connect your bike and trailer as shown. This is just an illustration of my own method.




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