Tom Satters commute to work is slow enough to savor views of the Flatirons, but quick enough to arrive home in time for dinner.
The father of two commutes 14 miles each way from his Boulder home to his job at Xilinx in Longmont on an electric bicycle, also called an "E-bike." The Satter family, including his wife, Gayen Howard, daughter, Holly, 13, and son, Isaak, 8, dont own a car. Its a conscious choice the family made more than two years ago, after their only car died in Alamosa.
Satter rides his bike in any weather, (he even has studded tires for snow). As a result of the 8,250 miles he pedaled since April 2011, the software engineer has lost 10 pounds, reduced his carbon footprint dramatically and saved thousand of dollars on car expenses. And a big perk, he says, is the hour saved each day with help from the bikes electric motor, reducing what would be a one and a quarter hour traditional bicycle commute to roughly 45 minutes. He saves even more time (and money) by skipping workouts at the gym, his commute also serving as his exercise routine.
Satter says his decision to commute via an E-bike stems from his engineering background.
"Im practical," the 45-year-old software engineer said.
Like regular bikes, human peddling powers electric bicycles, and most E-bikes have gears. But unlike the former, electric bikes use a rechargeable battery to power a motor that can help riders reach speeds of up to 20 miles per hour with the motor alone, the maximum allowable speed by United States law. Some E-bikes use a throttle and dont require pedaling while other bikes require pedaling to assist the rider. Batteries typically take about eight hours to charge; after charging they can provide enough power to travel 25 to 50 miles depending on the riders weight and the amount of pedal-assistance used.
Although traditional cyclists may feel that riders with peddle-assist "cheat," Freyebikes president Jim Turner says riding an E-bike is the only way many of his customers can fit exercise into their lives. Most of his customers would drive to work if they didnt own an electric bike, because riding traditional bicycles take too much time. He says E-bikes also help obese people become fit because those riders need the sturdiness of his high-performance products as well as assistance with pedaling. Not trivial he adds, is the ability for commuters to head straight to their work desks after a ride without needing a change of clothes or shower. And he adds that some of his customers are traditional bicycle riders who switched to E-bikes for their commutes because of the time saved.
Choosing an E-bike is "a conscious way of saying I want to change my life, " Turner says.
Turner says an Freyebikes can travel 2,000 miles on the $4 worth of electricity needed to charge the battery -- the equivalent of 2,000 miles a gallon.
Freyebikess sales increased 30 percent over last year, Turner said. In addition, Dean Keyek-Franssen, co-owner of Petes Electric Bikes in Boulder has plans to add to his current number of stores located now in Canada, Minn., Aspen and Boulder. And at the 2013 Interbike show in Las Vegas in September, Keyek-Franssen plans to unveil Ebike Share," a loaner E-bike program where subscribers check out E-bikes from kiosks that also lock and charge the batteries. He also plans to unveil at the September show an application that monitors battery usage and coaches the cyclist to use the E-bike in the most efficient manner, reducing "rider-anxiety" over whether the bike charge will last the entire distance to the riders destination.
"If we can convince people that E-bikes are transportation as well as recreation, we reduce the amount of cars on the road, " Keyek-Franssen says. "This is a viable transportation model."
Then there is the enjoyment of riding an E-bike, says Tom Wilson, owner of Small Planet E Vehicles in Longmont. Electric bikes allow the average person to climb Flagstaff Mountain, a feat usually reserved for only the fittest riders. It also makes general hill climbing easy.
"Picture a baby boomer, not in great shape, afraid to get on bike and he gets on an electric bike that can go 20 miles an hour," says Wilson, 73, who rides his E-bike when hes not delivering bikes. "Its just a fun, fun thing."