Joys of Ridding on Sunshine
All you need to know about electric assist & the Cyclist.
(but you will want to know more!) #1 in series.
“In the first article I dispel the confusion about electric assist, explain why as cyclists we were right – but very wrong, tell you about cycling’s sweet spot, talk about Joy & whet your appetite for more. All in less than 800 words!”
By Alan Scholz, The “Designing in 12 Dimensions’ bike designer
The confusion was not intentional but it is the Law!
Encouraged by customers I soon hit a wall of confusion. It was not until my 3rd electric assist system that I had something even close to what I was wanting. A steep & expensive curve for most folks to muscle through on their own. Reading books, ads, & forums from North America led me to believe that you needed more power, more weight, more speed, & bigger batteries. That it must have a throttle!
It didn’t take me long as a cyclist to see that they were talking about mopeds. I had lived through that before. These were just Electric rather than gas ones. Nothing I read was about what a cyclist wants. Good intentions to get people active & out of their cars, but little of the understanding of a more advanced cycling perspective. I eventually found the core of the confusion. Bike Assist laws. Earliest adoption was Europe & areas of Asia. Folks with mostly economical transportation in mind. There they boiled down the laws to a maximum assisted speed of 25 kph (~15 mph) a motor wattage of 250 watts & power only helping when you pedal. (which gives about 125 to 200 watts to the bike. More on this later in series). These actually make a lot of sense from a cycling & safety perspective. These laws let an assisted bike that fit his law the same place on the street as bicycles. Without need to register, insurance, or safety gear. Now it makes sense! These designers wanted more but to still qualify under the law. To not be designated a motor vehicle. The law makes sense to me. It helps anyone who needs it with the ability to safely get in the Sweet Spot of Cycling that starts at 15 mph (25kph)!
A Cycling Philosophy. What a Cyclist wants!
As a cyclist I knew what I wanted & what most cyclist wanted. The experience that comes from riding under your own power (or the feel of it), on a light, minimal, elegant mechanism. With no or minimum noise, low risk, human scale feeling of flying in the Sweet Spot. Riding with others of the same bent feeling an unadulterated joy from the experience. The folks in the forums were experimenters. I get that & it has its own appeal but the sweet spot I contend is 15 – 18.5 mph (25 to 30 kph). We as cyclists were right (or some of us) we did not need it! But we were also very wrong, some folks do need some assist to get in the sweet spot. Its not cheating. We all vary a lot in ability & some could use some glasses to read as well as others of us. Electric assist fits into my philosophy of cycling as an accessory for many folks & for most folks for a host of other circumstances & uses. Light, simple, quiet, & not on if not needed, & not detracting from your cycling skills! This is what a Bike Friday Electric Enhancement accessory is.
Yes you know people who need this ( some times you do also!)
My epiphany was complete when I realized my wife fit this criteria most of the time. Maybe the majority of the public does. When she was fit she could get into the sweet spot. I now understood why so many folks apologize for slowing you down even tho it doesn’t usually bother me as I came to ride with them. I have since found it does bother me to know I cannot keep up with my friends any more. Compassion came slow but the draw of the sweet spot remains. I want it for her, want to keep it for myself, & I want it for you. It is not just the speed. It is the combination with your own effort getting you into this range where you are faster by 25% or more than a world class marathoner, able to out ride 2-4 marathon distance & do it again soon. Usain Bolt’s top record speed was ~27.5 mph. With a tail wind many of us have done that. The world hour cycling record was over 30 miles in an hour with only 400 watts. We do not need 500, 1000, or 1500 watts extra. In most cases an extra 100 will make you a very capable cyclist & 150 will make you a strong one! And a battery you can carry on an airplane the size of a small paper bag will give you surprising endurance.
Lots more to share. We haven’t even talked about the best parts that makes me sing. The Magic of Riding on Sunshine! – Alan