I Tried an Electric Bicycle for the First Time
I took my first test ride on an electric bike as Spring first started to peek its head out from winter’s blanket. It was March and the days were sunny but brisk, ranging between 35 and 65 degrees. I was able to borrow an e-bike from ProCycling West near Old Colorado City in Colorado Springs for a full two weeks. When I picked up the bike, the sales rep told me to “keep it as long as I like,” which sounded amazing but I knew I’d have to give it back eventually, so I limited myself to two weeks. These two weeks spanned warm spring days and snow, so I got a chance to ride the bike across different weather patterns. Of course, I was more reluctant to ride it on the cold, snowy days, but I did try to get out there at least once (it wasn’t so bad)!
Recently, I’ve been wondering if I could trade my car in for alternative modes of transportation and an electric bike was at the top of my list to try out. I loved this e-bike – I rode a Specialized Turbo Vado which costs around $4,600, has 80 miles of range, and charges in about 4 hours. Unfortunately, Colorado Springs is a desert for carshare and I do need access to a car occasionally, so while I don’t think it’s feasible for me to completely switch over to an e-bike, I did find that I could accomplish most of my errands and recreational activities on the e-bike. The bike does not come with a cargo basket but it does come with a rack in the back, which I was able to use with my saddle bags. I don’t think I would do my grocery shopping with the bike, but everything else was feasible including picking up household supplies from my local refill shop and quick stops to the liquor store, library, or pharmacy.
The Specialized Turbo Vado tops out at about 28 miles per hour, though if you are cruising downhill, you can exceed this speed. Colorado Springs officially allows e-bikes on urban trails, though the “speed limit” is designated at 15 miles per hour. This is easily reached when using the top pedal-assist on the bike and you do need to stay alert so you don’t exceed the speed limit. The e-bike has three “pedal-assist” levels, making four available levels for your ride. It starts with no assist and increases the feel of the electric boost as you go up. You can turn on the electric assist by powering on the bike and using buttons on the left-hand side of the handlebar.
When I first got on the bike, I was surprised by the punch behind the pedal-assist, but quickly got used to it. I did notice that the bike felt heavier (or sturdier) under me – I’m not sure of the exact weight of the frame but it must be at least 30 pounds and can be difficult to maneuver for this reason. I also quickly realized that I needed to be more aware of when I needed to brake—because of the weight and the speed of the bike, it takes slightly more time to come to a complete stop compared to my traditional bicycle. Charging the bike was a breeze; you simple click the charger into the bike’s outlet on the frame and plug it into a standard outlet. Blinking lights indicate the bike is charging.
I thoroughly enjoyed taking this e-bike out for recreational rides and errand-stops alike—and truly enjoyed riding circles around my partner, who usually zooms ahead of me when we are both on manual bicycles! The ease of the ride does not take away any enjoyment I get from riding and it allowed me to feel more confident on trails and roads that I might otherwise avoid because of steep climbs. The Colorado Springs area (and the Front Range in general) are hilly locations, so it does take some chutzpah to bike along some of the more rewarding roads, like the pathway through Garden of the Gods.
With the Specialized Turbo Vado, I was able to glide through Garden of the Gods without breaking much of a sweat and enjoyed the beautiful natural landscapes that I was biking alongside; I even saw a few older adults gliding past on their e-bikes. That is one of the coolest things about electric bicycles—they enable many riders who would otherwise struggle with biking to enjoy getting out into nature and getting some exercise. As I biked through the park, I found myself wishing that (at least) one day a week was allotted for bicyclists and pedestrians to enjoy the area. Just imagine biking through such a gorgeous landscape without choking on the exhaust of gas and diesel vehicles snaking in front of you!
Overall, my first experience on an electric bike was extremely positive. I am seriously considering buying one, as I prefer to get around town outside of my car, especially in warmer weather! I would encourage anyone who is able to go out and rent an e-bike for a day or try a tour through Garden of the Gods (many outfits offer such tours).
Have you ridden an electric bike or are you considering trying one? Let us know what you think on our social media (@driveelectriccolorado).
Check out this video of Sonja (Drive Electric Colorado Coach) riding an electric bike through Garden of the Gods!
Blog written by: Sonja Meintsma