by Blake Herzog
E-bikes are the “it” vehicle of 2022 as people discover the advantages of this hybrid of a traditional bicycle and motorcycle. You still get to pedal, but a battery-powered motor affixed or hidden within the bicycle frame allows the rider to travel up to 28 mph, depending on the bike.
They’re gaining popularity with commuters but also make outdoor exploration on two wheels more widely accessible, especially for seniors and those with disabilities.
Almost everybody who can ride a traditional bike can ride an e-bike and the motor makes it much easier to clear hills and maintain your speed. q
By law they are classified as bicycles on Arizona streets. Class 1 e-bikes (see below) are permitted throughout the City of Prescott’s trail system, but no e-bikes are allowed on any of the nonmotorized trails within Prescott National Forest. The two jurisdictions have compiled a map of suggested recreational e-bike routes in authorized areas, which is available at www.fs.usda.gov/Internet/FSE_DOCUMENTS/fseprd816049.pdf.
Prescott Ebike in Prescott (928.833.2453 or www.prescottebike.com) has several e-bike rental options while Archer’s Bikes in Prescott Valley (928.277.4211 or www.archersbikesprescott.com) sells as well as rents e-bikes and conventional bicycles.
Tips for getting started:
- Know what you’re riding — There are three classes of e-bikes with slightly different capabilities. Class 1 bikes can go up to 20 mph and have a motor that can supply an “electric assist,” but it will only kick in while you’re pedaling. Class 2s also max out at 20 mph and you can use the electric assist when you aren’t pedaling. Class 3 e-bikes operate the same way as Class 1s but can go up to 28 mph and can face more restrictions from bicycle and multiuse paths than the others.
- Use your assist wisely — Most Class 2 and 3 e-bikes include a throttle for the motor, giving you three or four levels of assist from the motor. The lowest is usually labeled as “eco” and the highest “turbo.” These directly affect the life of the battery, so it’s generally best to stay away from the “turbo” end unless you really need it.
- Weight affects operation — The battery adds around 20 pounds and allows an e-bike to go faster than a typical bicycle, which means you need to brake earlier and with more force for it to stop when you want it to. This weight can also make it more difficult to pedal when the battery runs out or you’re not using the electric assist, which depending on your fitness level can limit your ability to use it.
- Pedal quickly — Most e-bikes operate more efficiently if you pedal with a faster cadence than what you use on a traditional bicycle. It will still work if you pedal more slowly but this will extend the life of the battery and provide a smoother ride.
- Safety first — Helmets are mandatory for those younger than 18 and recommended for everyone. Install front and rear lights and a rear-view mirror if they’re not already on the e-bike.