Monthly Archives: January 2010

Winter Riding Tip: Layers

For many people, biking is only a seasonal hobby, but for me and many others, bikes are our number one way to get around, regardless of the weather.  I commute to Philly Electric Wheels from my house in South Philly, a trip of about ten miles each way that takes me between 45 minutes to an hour. Because I ride this routinely, I’m keenly aware that winter riding isn’t as pleasureable as, say, riding on a May afternoon, but if you prepare and dress appropriately, winter riding can be anything from tolerable to actually enjoyable.

One essential skill for riding (or doing anything active) during the winter is learning how to layer your clothing.  The three basic layers for cold weather are wicking, insulation, and protection. 

Wicking garments are worn closest to the skin, and their purpose is to draw perspiration away from the skin. This is important because in cold weather, sweat quickly cools and conducts heat away from the body, making you colder. Materials like polypropeline, silk and wool are good at wicking. Cotton is definitely to be avoided because it easily becomes saturated with moisture.

Insulation is the next layer from the skin and its purpose is somewhat self-explanitory. Insulation serves to retain body heat while allowing moisture from the body to permeate through it. Things like synthetic fleece, down and good old wool all perform well. Again, cotton is discouraged for the same reason stated above.

A protective or shell layer is the outermost layer, and the one with the tough job of keeping the elements out while letting excess moisture from your body pass through it. For all-weather protection, coated materials with a waterproof/breathable membrane like Gore-Tex allow small molecules of water vapor (your sweat) pass through while preventing larger molecules of liquid water from penetrating. This stuff works well, but is pretty pricy. Unless you’re expecting to get rained on, good old uncoated nylon works to block wind while allowing water vapor to pass through. Avoid impermeable materials like PVC, which does not let sweat evaporate and creates a miniature greenhouse effect under it.

Well, I hope that was informative,  and with any luck that crosses one more excuse off the ‘reasons not to ride in winter’ list. Leave a comment if you’ve got anything to add or if you have a question.


New York Times Article on E-bikes

The New York Times published an article on electric bikes recently.  It’s a pretty general overview of the electric bike business in the U.S. and it mentions the Sanyo Eneloop bike, Ecobike, and the Ezip Trailz, three bikes that we carry. If they spark your interest, we encourage you to come to the shop and have a look. If the weather is warmer or if you bundle up enough, you’re always welcome to take a test ride!

New Bike: The Torker T450E

We just got a new bike in the shop- the Torker T450E. The bike is designed differently than many electric bikes out there and that’s what we like about it.

Afshin with the new Torker.

At first glance, what I notice most about the bike is its clean, simple look.  All of the cables and wires are routed through the bike’s frame and the compact battery is integrated nicely into the rear cargo rack. The front hub motor is also much more compact than many others, and the five-speed gear system is contained within the rear hub.  This all adds up to a tidy look that many people don’t realize is an electric bike.

Aesthetics aside, the bike delivers with components as well. It comes with a five-speed rear hub with internal gears, which is much more durable and easier to maintain than external gear systems. The motor is set up to assist while the rider is pedaling, with a thumb throttle control to provide additional power if needed.

The five-speed Sturmey-Archer rear hub

The controls, including the LED battery guage and thumb throttle at left.

The Litium-ion battery and 180-watt motor are both lighter than most, contributing to the bike’s 44 lb. overall weight. This is around 10 to 15 pounds lighter than most electric bikes. The bike has less power than some of the heavier bikes we sell, but the tradeoff is worthwhile if a lighter, more maneuverable bike is important to you.

At $1500, the bike is priced very competitively considering its high-quality components and construction. The bike comes in several sizes including a smaller 15-inch step-through frame and a standard frame in 17- and 19-inch sizes. We have one in stock ready for you to take on a test ride so stop in at 550 Carpenter Lane in Mt. Airy and check it out.

Finding an Electric Bike: Basics

If you’re looking to get an electric bike, it’s a good idea to get familiar with some of the different types of e-bikes out there. I’m going to leave discussion of the technical details of electric motor systems for another time and focus on the general categories of bikes that we offer.

When you’re considering a bike, think about what you’re going to use the bike for. Will it be a commuting workhorse that gets you from home to work, covering lots of miles? A recreational bike that takes you on the local bike path? Maybe you require the stability and load-hauling capacity of an electric-assist trike. Whatever you’re looking to do, there’s probably a bike out there that can work for you.

Whatever type of bike you choose, you’ll want to make sure that the bike is sized and equipped to provide you with a comfortable riding position. Finding the right bike is a lot like shopping for shoes: looks, price, and style are important considerations, but if it doesn’t fit comfortably, your new bike just might end up collecting dust.

Fortunately, you can avoid that experience if you carefully consider your options. The first thing you should decide on is the frame type. Here are the four types that we carry:

Step-Through Frames

The Ecobike Elegance

A step-through frame is one whose design allows the rider to straddle the bike more easily with its low horizontal frame tube. these are great for people with joint problems or who simply prefer the ease and convenience offered by this frame design.

Standard Frames

The eZee Forza

The standard frame is the most common type of bicycle frame with good reason: it’s simple, reliable, tried and true. It’s higher top frame tube maximizes the strength and rigidity of the frame, so the standard frame is the go-to choice for high-peformance bikes as well. If you’re comfortable with the high top tube, then a standard frame is a good choice.

Folding-Frame Bikes

The iZip folding bike ready to ride

The iZip folding bike ready for storage or transport

Folding bikes are a great way to make folding bikes part of a commute that includes trains or other transport where a standard-size bike is inconvenient or prohibited. They are also a great solution for people who have limited storage space. Folding bikes have a hinge in the frame which allows the bike to be folded in half. They also include folding handlebar stems, which further reduce the space they occupy. Although they are small, folding bikes are designed to fit adults and to handle like a normal bike.

Adult Tricycles

The eZee Carro tricycle

Trikes aren’t just for kids! Adult-sized tricycles have been around for a long time now, and there are a few good electric trikes on the market right now. Trikes make great cargo haulers, with large rear-mounted baskets that beg to be piled high with whatever you need to haul. Who knows, maybe an electric trike is just what you need to go car-free!  They’re also a great choice for riders who are unable to ride a two-wheeled machine but still want the cycling experience.

So if you’re thinking about an electric bike, take some time to think about which type makes sense to you. Feel free to call, email, or stop by the shop if you have any questions. I highly recommend taking a trip to the shop so we can show you what we carry in person as well. Take a test ride on any of the bikes, see what feels right to you, and most of all, ask lots of questions! We’ll do whatever we can to help make you an informed electric-bike shopper.

Look for more in-depth write-ups on different manufacturers, motors, and specific bike models in upcoming blog posts.