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Bicycles Boom as Economy Tanks

As America Implodes, The Bike Industry Booms notes Leander Kahne, in a blog for WIRED Gas prices and an growing engagement of consumers with sustainability, brought record crowds, 23,000 people and 750 exhibitors, to a recent bike trade show, says Kahne. There is interest in a new line of bikes, called e-bikes, too. These retail for more than $1000, but include a small battery motor to assist the cyclist.

A Schwinn e-bike

An e-bike that I test rode at “Bike the Drive,” featured a small battery that mounted below the luggage rack on the rear wheel. The bike was a Schwinn commuter style bike , and with the motor which is in a special front axle and hub, and the battery, I could still lift the bike off the ground. These bikes seem a bit safer than old-school electric bikes, because the motor only works when you are pedaling. Thus, this is a a cyclist assist technology, not self-propulsion.

As you pedal, you use a thumb-operated switch on the handlebars to turn the assist on. If you stop pedaling, the motor turns off. On the grass in Grant Park, the assist moved the bike along smartly. It can move a cyclist at about 20 mph, depending on weight, load, and terrain. The battery can power the motor for about 20 miles, again depending on terrain, etc. As long as you don’t work too far from home, you could ride it, plug-in the battery, and be fully charged for the ride home.

Of course, if you used it sporadically, like to get up a hill, or travel on a busy road for a stretch, the battery charge would last longer. The attractive feature of Schwinn’s battery and motor, is that it is fit onto existing bicycles. There are other e-bikes that are built specially for the motor and battery.

All around Chicago, it is obvious from a look at the streets, to a glance at bike racks, that cycling is very popular these days. Whether it is an avocation or a transportation necessity, depends on your pocketbook.

In case you are looking for a bike, here is list of Chicago bike shops, but check out the Chicago Bicycling Federation site, too. While there has been a constant core of cyclo-commuters and diehards in Chicago’s urban center, interest in the suburbs and exurbs is growing as are sales of new bikes.

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