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The Electric Experience: E-bike Commuting

The Electric Experience: E-bike Commuting

Following last month’s theft of my beloved bikes, I needed to get a replacement quickly. I knew that by the end of summer I’d be moving from San Francisco to Mill Valley, and taking the bus every day is not beneficial to my mental or physical health. (Thanks in part to our recent engagement, my moving date was moved up to May.)

Enter my new electric assist bike (e-bike), a Tern Vektron purchased at Warm Planet Bicycles, located conveniently across the street from the studio. I appreciate how Kash (the owner) cares about the long-term satisfaction of people who walk into his store.

The major reason I went with the Vektron over all other amazing e-bikes he had was… it folds! It can fit into the back of my fiancé’s car, folded up to the size of a large suitcase. Unfolded, it can fit into under-bus compartments as well as on the front rack some buses offer. If for some reason I need to use the bus to get me into the city or back home, my ride will be able to come with me.

The Bay Bridge from Sausalito.

In the past two weeks of owning my bike, I’ve:

  • Ridden through nasty wind gusts with relative ease. The assist helped relieve the wind-wall effect!
  • Put my bike on a bus.
  • Put her in a bus.
  • Put her in a car, folded.
  • Folded her and brought her inside a business with me.
  • Nighttime commute from San Francisco to Mill Valley, after an afternoon of in-city commute riding.
    • Result: I still had a half-battery of charge after using built-in lights and riding 20 miles with varying levels of assist. I was visibly tired when I made it home and stuffed my face with dinner, but I’d expended only half the effort my old bike took and didn’t need snacks on the way.
  • Early morning commute from Mill Valley to SF.
    • Result: I’m in love! Going up the hills still needed exertion, but it was a positive feeling instead of, “OMG, I’m dying. I never want to do this every day.” I’d recharged my battery overnight, and it appears that the ride in took almost half a battery of use. I could probably get away with a charge a day. Right now, I’d rather top off between commutes. Again, I didn’t need snacks or to stop for breath after the climbs. I can see how I will happily bike commute a few days a week!

The Cons

  • Not gonna lie, this is heavy. The bike weighs in at a whopping 49 pounds before any bags. The battery is the significant portion of this. Pop your battery off before lifting to spare your back!
  • The price. The bike itself is $3400 before tax and accessories. (Yikes. We’re talking a used car here.) I wasn’t ready to incur this sort of debt, but the benefits will quickly surpass the cost and amount I’ll save on transit fare.

The Pros

  • Here’s the deal. It folds. It’s electric, with a high-end motor and pedaling system. This baby is a sweet, smooth ride!
  • As I mentioned before, it has built-in front and rear lights that are highly visible (people see me coming!) while providing decent visibility. (I would ideally like my front light to illuminate the road slightly better.)
  • Excellent varying levels of assist. 5 different levels, from none to high assist plus walk-assist. I tested this walking up the hill at the very end last night, having chosen my approach poorly. The walk-assist feature helped my poor back from overworking as I pushed the bike up the incline.

Happy rider, messy hair after my first morning commute in!

I was worried that I wouldn’t feel like I did anything on my ride, a reason to bike instead of getting a motorcycle or scooter. I’ve been able to keep satisfyingly engaged! The electric assist doesn’t shave off much time in the city but does keep the energy expenditure consistent. On the open road is where it truly shines. I wasn’t expecting to make it into the city so rapidly, even taking a detour around the Embarcadero! Ultimately, I am highly satisfied with my new bike. We’re going to be spending a lot of time together!

Are you interested in learning more about cycling in general or bike commuting? I’d love to answer your questions!

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