"Why would you want an electric bike?"
Clearly, what I need is a recumbent bike. Alas, recumbents came and went a couple of years ago, and I missed it. They are hard to find, especially on the east coast of the US. There are quite a number mentioned on the Net, but recumbents are weird, and you really want to try them out. It would be nice to have a local bicycle shop help out with all of this as well.
I tried three shops within a four hour drive of home, and all three were out of business. Not good. So I tried Plan B: find one that seemed about right, and see if a local shop would order it for me. I chose Marty's Reliable up in Morristown and, for the bike, selected an Easy Rider recumbent from easyracers.com. It didn't seem to be too weird, had a nice seat and back support, and the right position for my hands. Marty ordered one, and I have ridden it for a few days.
The bike is certainly low-slung, and it doesn't handle like the bikes I know and love. It is long, and has small wheels with a sort of chopper front. To turn, you lean more and steer less. My early attempts at hill climbing had me wandering across the road in a sine wave. I steer a bit like a young kid on a bike. But I had my first shot at the bike paths at Loantaka today, and it was great. I am getting the hang of the steering, and it is especially great on flat surfaces.
There are some problems at this point. On level ground I am typically using the third highest gear. When going downhill, I can't peddle fast enough to add any energy. This is not good, considering that the motor will increase the downhillness of the world.
It is unclear how fast I am going, compared to my old bike. There's less wind resistance, and I am working more efficiently, I think. Am I going faster? Tomorrow I think I'll move my speedometer over to the new bike.
Dave suggests that the default gears are simply incorrect for the 20 inch rear wheel. Certainly I want a larger front gear so I can still add energy when going faster. Marty should be able to help here.
The Easy Rider strikes me as a little small and flimsy. I'd prefer something about 20% larger, perhaps with butted (not welded) joints. But maybe they don't do that any more. There are more expensive models in the line, which might be a better choice. It was possible to move the seat waaaay back, more than I needed for my long legs, which is good: the bike fits perfectly.
And what about the electric motor? There are several brands out there, most of them small-time operations trying to keep up with this very popular idea. (Hey Prius owners: this is a real hybrid!) I picked a top-of-the-line BionX, which comes out of Quebec. The order is in. The delivery time remains to be seen. I hope it is much less than a couple months, since we are having perfect weather for bicycling these days.
I can afford to spend a fair amount on this. If the bike works out, I can beat the gut back and improve my health. Our gym membership costs a lot, and I rarely use it. I am willing to spend thousands on this, if it is likely to work. The Times article discussed a bike from Colorado that cost over $5K. That's too much.
The Easy Rider is about $700. The motor, fully loaded, with the best battery, is $1700. This is less than I originally expected, by a little bit.
This is the first web page I have prepared using TextEdit on the Mac, with rich text. I have always used sam and created raw HTML by hand. This was easier. I hope it works out.