This weekend I became a two-car family, in that I have no family and I have no cars. But I did buy a new bike. A 2011 Giant Twist DX. It’s one of the best electric bikes on the market.
It has two big lithium ion batteries on the back under those panniers that power a pedal-assist function. You push on the pedal and it does either 30%, 50%, or 70% of the work depending on whether you have the batteries in “Eco”, “Normal”, or “Sport” mode. Naturally, I keep things in sport mode cause I’m sporty like that.
There’s a switch on the front of the bike that you can use to select where you draw power from, either the left or right battery. When you drain one, just switch over to the other. In my experience, I got about 40 miles out of one battery, which is about what Giant advertises. I was using it in a variety of settings — uphill, downhill, against the wind, with the wind, in all three battery modes depending on how much traffic was around me. In all, I can expect about 80 miles on a cumulative single charge. Which is pretty darn awesome.
The bike is a hybrid style bike, and it feels like riding a truck as it glides over potholes and surfaces with the utmost ease. It’s the smoothest and easiest ride I’ve ever had. I took the Monon down from 82nd street to Downtown Indy this Sunday and I passed people left and right the whole way, zipping along at 15-18 MPH with only modest effort. I could easily hop on this bike in street clothes in some instances and arrive at my destination without sweating. Which is precisely why I wanted it. Now I can get around a little easier in the winter and in poorer weather, as the bike is bigger, I sit upright more making me more visible, and has tires that can grip the pavement easier than my Jamis road bike. The built-in seat suspension and shock absorbers make for a sturdy ride.
Don’t get me wrong, I love my Jamis, and I rode it around 50 miles this weekend alone all over town and in the Mayor’s Bike Ride on Saturday morning with 700 other participants.
But this eBike would be well suited for a lot of people who live in urban settings that otherwise take cars everywhere. It’s just one more reason for people to consider switching at least some of their trips. At just $1,200 (eBIkes normally run about $3,000), it can pay for itself in a year for car-users.
The bike comes with its own panniers and rear rack and light, although the light is curiously not wired into the bike to draw from the big batteries sitting two inches away. And it doesn’t come with a front light, but those are cheap enough. The panniers aren’t huge, so a trunk bag for $25 is a worthy investment. Though, I can still get more in the bags on my Jamis. However, the Giant has the advantage of being able to more easily strap things to it’s large, sturdy rack. So, heavier loads can be tackled easily since the bike does some of the work.
It doesn’t have a throttle, so it’s nowhere near a moped or scooter of any kind, it’s much more pure to the bike ethos. I won’t take it on every trip, as on a good day I can easily ride my Jamis at faster speeds than the Giant, but on crummier days, it’s perfect.
The batteries only cost about .00003 cents per watt of energy, so it’s a real bargain from an energy standpoint. If you pay for clean energy credits like I do (IPL charges about $10 more a month so you can get energy purchased from renewable sources, like wind farms in northern Indiana), your carbon emissions could be impossibly low.
It’s a neat bike; if you’re interested in biking around more without all the extra huffing and puffing, this could be a great way to ease into biking without tearing your body to pieces. Don’t expect a heavy workout, though, since the bike is doing some of the work, especially on hills. It’s smart enough to adapt to supply a percentage of the force in addition to what you’re supplying. Pedal softer and it pushes less, pedal harder and it pushes more, up to 20 MPH of motor-assisted speed. Anything about 20 MPH and you’re on your own, as anything more would require a motorcycle license in most jurisdictions in the US. Taking off from a dead stop, or in an area with lots of stoplights is a dream, too.
While I initially scoffed at these as “bikes for sloppy weak babies”, it is a lot of fun to ride. I won’t use it nearly as much as my Jamis, especially in the warm weather rmonths, but since I’m crazy enough to bike year-round, I’m sure I’ll be happy to have it when the wind and snow starts blowing directly at my face at 20 MPH in January.