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5Ws+1H: What It's About: Electric bikes offer easier access for bicycle riders

Feb. 8—Bicycles have provided many people with easier access to work and other areas, but electric bikes, or e-bikes, offer a way for riders to travel faster, for longer periods of time and for longer distances.

Paceline Cyclery owner David Rogers said that for the past decade, he has been selling electric bikes — machines that once were the target of criticism.

"Not too many people were fond of electric bikes," Rogers said. "They always said, 'That's cheating. You're not getting a workout,' but you will get a workout. You will just be on the bike a little bit longer and you kind of travel a little bit farther."

While riders a range of ages buy e-bikes, Rogers said he tends to sell them to either retirees or those 25 years old and older.

"It really opens up a lot of doors for people who aren't physically in shape to ride longer distances, but the e-bikes make it that way," Rogers said. "That's why e-bikes are growing so much. People can commute on them and not get to work all sweaty, where if they were on a normal bike, and they had a pretty long commute, by the time they got to work, they would be all sweaty. But on an e-bike, you could just put the power up."

Rogers said there are different types of electric bicycles, such as pedal-assist bikes.

"With a pedal assist bike, the faster you pedal the cranks, the more power the bicycle gives out," Rogers said. "An electric bike will make you go farther, longer, and faster, and then an electric bike will get you up hills you might not normally be able to get up due to the assist."

While some pedal-assist bikes just have riders pedal like a regular bicycle, Rogers said others have a throttle, so the biker can press a button to make the bike go without pedaling. Rogers said while not pedaling is sometimes a feature on electric bikes, most people like to pedal so they can get some exercise.

Depending on the electric bikes, Rogers said, the machine will have either three or five power modes.

"If you don't want full power of the motor working, you can de-tone the motor so it just trickles out a little bit of juice or it will give you more power," Rogers said.

By law, Rogers said, electric bikes can only travel 28 mph, which is when the power will shut off. Since the distance of an e-bike is dependent on the weight of the rider and how much power is being used, Rogers said one charge will usually last for 50 to 60 miles.

Electric bikes from shops often starts in the $1,700 range, and Rogers recommends people buy electric bikes from a reputable bicycle shop. He said cheaper electric bikes can be found through various internet sites, but they maybe of a lower quality and can potentially cause issues if a breakdown occurs.

If an electric bike is of a certain brand a bike shop does not carry, Rogers said it can be difficult to get the right parts, especially for the electrical side, like the motors, sensors, or batteries.