Don’t forget, the DC Auto Show is tomorrow through Feb. 2; we could use floor greeters. That said, this is the Electric Vehicle Association, not Electric Car Association. Globally, electric-assist bicycles outsell electric cars; it’s not even close (as Scott had shared). This includes EVA member cyclists. When vehicle and rider together are ~200 lbs, the battery’s small and many problems go away. An ability to trip-chain on Metrobus (using the front racks) and Metrorail (outside rush hour) makes more go away.
The big issue was cost; e-bikes were over $2000. (A good one; lead-acid models are less, but brutally heavy.) That gets you a 50cc scooter easily, maybe a no-name 125cc. But 2013/early ’14 show real gains. Nissan, Chevy, Zero, and now Ford and Mitsubishi have cut prices as batteries keep advancing. Riide is training a startup’s eye on the e-bike issue.
Anyone can slap a motor on a bicycle… literally, you can buy kits. The trick is figuring out which bike parts work, which moto-parts work, and which don’t. Figure wrong, and the thing looks slapped together. And is still brutally heavy.
What Amber and Jeff from Riide did was get the electric system unobtrusive, yet torquey enough to replace a multispeed drivetrain. Derailleurs and shifters are costly and maintenance-intensive (ask me how I know). Riide’s brushless DC motor gives 350 Watts steady-state, 600W peak- enough to require a license in some other countries. Combining electricity with pedaling should then do it for most people, since the final aluminum bike will be a claimed 35 lbs.
There’s the catch- “most people” might not be you, if you have joint problems or other issues. The disc brake, and Riide’s specific motor, prevent flip-flop hubs, the traditional means of adding a backup gear to a “singlespeed.” Still, if you wait along, say, 14th Street at a busy hour, you’ll see plenty of riders on singlespeeds. I own a singlespeed, and find that even on my geared bike, I mainly use three very close ratios.
Push comes to shove, it’s easy to swap the chainring and lose two or three teeth. You shouldn’t even have to break the chain. Amber and Jeff claim the delivered bike frame will have a derailleur hanger, should you decide to retrofit later. There is also room for an aftermarket suspension fork.
Back to the electrics- the Made-In-USA battery pack is now small enough to fit in the down tube. The modern history of bicycle frames began with enlarged tubing, so a Riide doesn’t really look out of place. It certainly doesn’t look any worse than DC Bikeshare’s design, while being lighter. At the same time, the battery and controller can be pulled out. You can then service the vehicle at any good bike shop (or even yourself if you’re handy), and send the electrics back to the company for work.
The resulting bike will accelerate from a standing stop, up to 25 miles per hour. This was chosen to avoid a license in this country. (Individual jurisdictions vary- check yours to be sure). EVA members, on the heavier steel prototype, reported no problems on the streets around the meeting. Range is claimed at 25 miles, which is farther than I’d realistically go. And of course, it’s still a bicycle; you can keep pedaling, or get on a bus or Metro.
I thank Riide for choosing a stronger charger, not the 1-1.5 amp supply most small devices use. The bike will then charge in 2-3 hours from empty, for about 20-25 cents. While it’s true that overnight is plenty of charging time, or even a full shift at work, we’ve seen that there are occasional bad days when you really want that faster charge.
Gears or no gears, Riide must be doing something right. They’ve met their fundraising goal on Kickstarter in not just the first day, but within hours. $1799 (shipping included), with lithium batteries and nice part selections, is as good as you’re going to find today. A lighter weight and trim lines then sweeten the deal. Meanwhile, a gas scooter can’t be carried indoors, in a trunk, or on a train, and requires a surprising amount of fuel, oil, registrations, and maintenance- from a shrinking number of stations and dealers. Ask them what 25 cents will get you. An e-bike won’t give you that hydrocarbon stink, either. Nor will its full-sized wheels trap in larger potholes, possibly throwing you.
The frame is only available in one, low-standover size, with adjustments via seat and stems. Riide is seeking to expand availability- and the very concept of e-mobility- to more people in the future.