Gizmorama: Life in the Tech Age

By WES STEWART, United Press International  |  Sept. 24, 2002 at 1:30 AM
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First off, swing by and take a gander at the merchandise. Been there? Good. Now for the commentary:

This, it would seem, is one of those things that might have seemed like a good idea at the time, but upon further reflection should have been judged worth some serious reconsideration.

Ebike is not some virtual bike ride, although, come to think of it, that might not be a bad idea -- picture yourself on your stationary bike in front of your monitor, tracking Lance Armstrong's challenge in the Pyrenees -- live.

No, it's a bicycle powered by a lithium battery. Top speed: 15 miles an hour. Range: 24 miles.

In Gizmo's judgment, that places it firmly in the neither-fish-nor-fowl category.

Take speed and range. OK, 15 mph is faster than the average weekend pedaler can go, and 24 miles is certainly the outside range. But it's not that much faster or farther. A decent road bike will wax its tail, and a hybrid won't fall that far behind.

Then there's the weight question. A small person would have a difficult handling any of the ebike versions we saw on stairs and the like. Why is that an issue? This is not the kind of machine you could just leave outside.

That raises the issue of storage space. There is a folding version of ebike that is conceptually cool, but the weight remains an issue, and its size when folded goes from moderate bike to small refrigerator.

The thing is, if you want to reduce traffic and pollution and you have a reasonably short commute, why not just get yourself a good bicycle and add increased fitness to the mix?

If you want more speed and range, maybe a motor scooter is for you.

Price might drive your decision, so to speak. At a minimum, you will have to shell out $1000 for an ebike. Top end models with accessories: near $2000. That much buys a fine bicycle, gets you a good ways toward a scooter, and might even find you a used Honda Civic.

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