Available for rent too
The bicycle is probably the closest you'll get to the perfect mode of transportation. You aren't polluting the environment, you're getting some exercise and fresh air, you're enjoying your surroundings, and golly gee, it really earns you that pat you give yourself on the back.
So why on earth would you need to put a motor on a bike?
Dave Martin, owner of Montrose's brand new Revolution E Electric Bike Store, says it's about time.
"Nobody in Houston was doing it exclusively," Martin says.
Taking note that electric bikes are the fastest growing category of bicycles, he revamped the former site of 713 Tattoo Parlor on the Westheimer curve, and got to showcasing the next generation of electric vehicles.
"It's a low-cost way to commute," Martin tells CultureMap. "For the price of a gallon of gas, you're getting 1,500 miles on an electric bike. It's about a penny a mile."
Martin might be on to something here. The Greater Houston area is nothing if not a vehicle-happy metropolis of six million commuters. Quite a few of us drive laughably short distances (um, live in the 610 Loop and work in the 610 Loop, anyone?), yet we still rely on the gas tank to take us where we want to go.
Independently owned and operated, Houston's first store dedicated to electric bikes is hoping to rattle that commuter chain.
"It rides just like a regular bike. It's got a six-speed shifter that you use like a normal shifter, which is totally independent of the motor," Martin explains.
You go from coasting to cruising in no time flat, all while experiencing the rush of the elements in plain view.
Indeed, one of the most popular electric bike brands that Revolution E carries, Pedego, could easily be mistaken for a beach cruiser. "All the components are regular bike components," Martin says. "The only things that aren't are the battery and the motor."
And that's what makes the electric bike so much more than an ordinary spin of the wheels. They also don't come with an ordinary price tag with Pedego bikes running around $1700.
"When you choose to, you turn the throttle," Martin says. "It's a seamless transition. You can pedal along with it, or you can let it take you there on its own."
The motor concept has you a little thrown, we can tell. "All the motors are brushless magnetic motors," Martin says. "There are no moving parts inside the motor. The bikes are built as electric bikes, with the electric cables threaded inside the bike."
Powered by a removable lithium battery that takes about four to six hours to charge via a simple wall charger, the electric bike can get you from point A to point B faster than you think. "They go 20 miles per hour — that's under pure motor," Martin says. "Under federal law, electric bikes aren't allowed to go over 20 miles per hour under their own power, but you can pedal along with them. I've had one going 35 miles per hour."
Let's back up a second. We're sensing a bit of skepticism from you, dear reader. You think it's a novel concept (although you may not realize that former Chrysler revivalist Lee Iacocca started the first electric bike manufacturing company in the U.S. way back in 1999). You think it's a great idea in theory. But in practice, you think, "It's 105 degrees in Houston with 95 percent humidity five months out of the year. There's no way I'm sweating my sunscreen off before my work day even begins."
According to Martin, that's the least of your concerns.
"It's cool, meaning you don't sweat on an electric bike," Martin insists. "We sell them to tons of people that don't drive their cars to work, and they find it just as cool, in the heat of the summer, to ride the bike."
Better? Well, guess what? Leaving your car in the garage during the work week isn't the only thrust behind these dual-powered funmobiles.
"The largest market for electric bikes is really the baby boomers," Martin says. "A lot of people stopped riding because they stopped enjoying it. Maybe they don't have the legs for it, or maybe they're out of shape or have back issues. All that's solved by jumping on an electric bike."
What about riders that might consider themselves purists when it comes to their bikes? "If you are an avid biker, they ride just like a regular bike," he says. "It's a totally seamless transition going from regular bike riding to electric."
"I sold one of these to a guy that's been riding for 45 years. He'd classify himself as an avid biker, but his problem? He's developed arthritis in his knees," Martin tells CultureMap. "He loves bike riding, but he needs the assistance from time to time." Getting an extra push to get him going via the motor on an electric bike keeps even those past the biking prime rolling.
After all this, you're probably wondering what it's like to ride one, aren't you?
Well, we can assure you that you're going to want to at least hop aboard one of these yourself.
Competitive cyclists may scoff, but if you love two wheels, you're going to dig the addition of an electric jolt to your ride. Pedal along a street and then give the throttle some juice. You go from coasting to cruising in no time flat, all while experiencing the rush of the elements in plain view.
Luckily, you can go and get your roll on, too. If you've driven past Revolution E, you'll see a shocking array of brightly color bikes guarding the storefront. Those fluorescent orange bikes are actually for you — to rent.
Remember how much fun riding a bike used to be? Well, it still is, and it still can be. Electric bikes may not be the perfect answer to everyone's eco-friendly transportation quandary, but at least it's a different spin on things.