Cycling Issue
By Bradley Hasemeyer
on 6.21.13
Photo by BH

Some might see bikes as toys for kids, equipment for athletes or accessories for hipsters, but more and more people, especially in large cities, are turning to two wheels to replace — or at least supplement — their transportation needs. Sure, going green with a bike is great. Save the world, reduce CO2 emissions, eliminate congestion, park easily and exercise more often. But showering at work, remembering different outfits, keeping deodorant at home and the office, needing multiple grocery trips to carry your bags, or just trying not to smell bad when you meet your friend for coffee — these are our concerns, dude. The electric bike industry is working to eliminate or at least lessen those issues, and the eFlow E3 Nitro ($3,995) from Currie Tech is another step forward in alternative transportation — a step with striking design efficiency and a style that belies its e-designation.

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The eFlow is built around a 36-volt Samsung Lithium-Ion battery, which powers the rear hub motor in either a Power On Demand (POD) setting, by using the handlebar mounted throttle, or in a pedal assist setting, which uses a torque sensor to detect how hard you’re working and lend a hand with battery power. The POD essentially makes the bike a low-grade scooter and will speed you to a limited 20 MPH for a range of 25 to 35 miles depending on how relaxed (lazy) you’re feeling. As traditional and motorcycle-like as throttled POD is, the pedal assist is otherworldly: it’s like those moving sidewalks in airports where your stride now covers much more ground without working any harder, just the right thing when you’re struggling because of fatigue or an increasing grade.

A Positive Cycle

eBike-Sidebar-Gear-Patrol

- Bicycling in NYC increased 102% from 2007 to 2011.
- Nationwide, the annual number of bike trips increased from 1.7 billion in 2001 to 4 billion in 2009.
- From 2000-2010, bike commuting increased 63% in the 70 largest cities in the U.S.
- Every mile pedaled instead of driven saves 0.88 pounds of CO2 emissions.
- 50% of car trips made by Americans are shorter than three miles.

- Sourced from bikesbelong.com, with stats from the NYCDOT, USDOT and EPA

The bike’s handlebar-mounted LCD screen displays speed, distance, time and battery functions (such as the state of charge and power used) and also doubles as the eFlow’s “key”. When you park the bike, a simple twist-off removal of the screen renders the bike “dead”, a convenient security feature. The 20-speed drivetrain is controlled with SRAM shifters and front and rear derailleurs; AURIGA brakes are hydraulic disc; and the frame is hydroformed aluminum. The bike’s looks alone garnered a Gold Award from the iF International Forum Design.

But for all its high-end pieces and award-winning design, it’s the bike’s balance that really sets it apart. Most other e-bikes have a big battery crammed in the back, adding weight off center and making stopping and turning a bit of an issue. Having the removable battery integrated into the seat post raises the E3′s center of gravity a bit, but that extra weight remains directly under the rider, nearly erasing all equilibrium concerns. In short, its ride feels eerily similar to that of a normal bike (besides the extra power, of course).

Fully charging the battery takes 4-6 hours; if you can’t find a plug near the bike rack (likely), you pull the battery and take it with you. It’s also handy to be able to shed the battery when you’re trying to “toss” the 52-pound bike (that’s heavy) in your trunk.

Riding the bike for several weeks proved its usefulness around town; even more so, the cruising provided an entertaining reaction from the public. The bike blends in with traffic well enough, but any time I stopped at a coffee shop or left it parked at the grocery store the matte black and minimalist DARPA look stopped people cold. It was at this point that I would become the spokesperson for an unknown technology that has been around since 1890. Surprisingly, most of the interest came from men and women in their 50s who understood the bike as “like a Prius”. Sure.

The bike’s weight made it frustrating to navigate up stairs, and the thought of taking it on the bus or subway never even crossed my mind. Even so, that extra bulk was entirely worth it every time I zoomed away from a standstill without moving my feet. The double takes were plentiful.

Though weight and price are certainly issues, mounting up on this sharp, unique ride should have some serious appeal for the urban traveler. So leave the Benz in the garage next time you hit the coffee shop do some boosted pedalin’ — you’ll get compliments on your eco-mindedness without having to do the work.

limits-promo-logoThis article is part of a new original GP series, LIMITS, dedicated to exploring the physical and mental borderlands of human capability. And beyond.