Currie Ezip Trailz Electric Bike

This is the electric bike I recommend for anyone on a tight budget. The Ezip Trailz is a bargain in terms of how much it can affect your life on little dollars. It is by far the best selling electric bike in the United States, for good reason: For less than $500 it is a decent electric bike with reasonable performance.  At this price point if you just ride the bike regularly it will pay for itself quickly.

It uses a sealed-lead-acid battery (SLA), which is heavy and has a short life expectancy, but… is extremely inexpensive compared to lithium (and more fire safe).  The Trailz weighs in at a hefty 72 pounds because of this SLA  battery.  It comes with step-through model, which I favor because it is much easier to get on and off the bike, which is a big factor on a 70-pound bike.

The Trailz is perfect for anyone who either wants, or needs, a way to get to work without a car or public transport, or for anyone who can’t drive a car for some reason (for instance it makes great transportation for anyone who has lost their license due to a DUI or traffic tickets).

The Currie Trailz is a simple electric bike that rarely fails and is easy to work on. Any bicycle shop should be able to fix 80% of the problems you will encounter. Probably the biggest electrical issue you will ever face is the battery gradually dying if you don’t care for it properly. However its easy enough to buy a new battery from Currie and switch it out — or better yet upgrade to the Currie lithium battery.

The lithium battery will offer slightly more range than the lead acid version, it will be better for climbing hills, and it will lower the weight of the bike by nearly 20 pounds. The lithium battery is pricey, in fact it’s as almost as much as the price of this bike ($359 shipped). It is possible to install 2 of these batteries on the rear rack if you want to double your range.

The Currie Trailz is not the fastest, lightest, or sexiest electric bike on the market, but it is the cheapest, and is therefore a great entry electric bike for those who need a little electrical push to get back on the saddle and out riding.

-- Eric Hicks  

Currie Ezip Trailz Electric Bike
$500

Available from Amazon



Handleband Smartphone Mount

The Handleband straps to the handlebars of bikes, motorcycles, strollers and anything else with a set of handlebars and enables you to carry any kind of smart phone. As a cyclist and motorcyclist I now have GPS on my rides at all time. When I’m on my road bike it is connected to strava, on my mountain bike I can follow routes on mapmyride and on my motorcycle simply follow directions on Google maps. The best bit? The built in bottle opener to crack open a cold one at the end of a long ride.

-- Ben Idle  

Available from Amazon



Xtracycle Electric Cargo Bicycle with Hooptie Child Handrail

edgerunner
(Click image to embiggen)

My wife and I live in San Francisco with our two children, who are now 6 and 4. Our apartment lacks a parking spot, and it’s always a drag trying to find street parking both at home and at most of our errand or kid-trip destinations. When we do drive in the city, traffic is often heavy. I find myself gazing wistfully at the cyclists passing by us.
Back in February 2013, we bought an Edgerunner Electric cargo bicycle, from Xtracycle, and it immediately became indispensable. We rely on it almost every day, and have more than halved our car use. Xtracycles are “longtail” bikes, which means that their frames extend further back than typical bike frames, creating a longdeck over the rear wheel. Xtracycle and World Bike founder Ross Evans originally invented this style of bike as a cargo-carrying bicycle add-on for the developing world, and he open-sourced the geometry of his frame-extension solution to create a shared standard for longtail bikes. As a result, numerous third-party manufacturers now make Xtracycle-compatible accessories, ranging from panniers and decks to friction-drive motors and pedal-powered blenders.

In contrast to bikes modified with the Xtracycle frame extension, the Edgerunner Electric is built with a one-piece frame to conform to the Xtracycle standard. There are other popular cargo bikes based on purpose-built longtail frames, such as Surly Big Dummy, which follows the Xtracycle standard, and the Yuba Mundo, which does not. but the Edgerunner uniquely has a smaller, 20″ rear wheel. This lowers the center of gravity of any load in back, which makes the bike more stable and easier to ride, It also increases the rear wheel’s torque, which helps with carrying loads up hills.

To carry our kids, we outfitted our bike with a Hooptie Handrail, which rings the rear deck and gives them more to hold on to than they would have with handlebars. Surrounded by the Hooptie, they have fun riding forwards, backwards, facing each other, and facing away from each other– all four permutations. I especially love it when we take a family bike trip and my wife takes “the Big Bike” with the kids in back; that way, I can talk, high-five, and clown around with the kids from my own bike, riding close behind. It’s a blast.

The bike’s switchable “electric assist” uses an internal rear hub motor to boost your pedal power, and a thumb throttle lets you ride the bike without pedaling at all. Charging the battery takes about 4 hours, and we do it every few days. I usually ride the bike without the assist switched on, and it pedals just fine, although it does feel heavy. I use the assist when taking kids or heavy loads up hills, and I almost never use the throttle. I see electric bikes as “cheating” and we almost didn’t get the Electric version because it costs $1000 more and I was so impressed from test-riding the regular, non-motorized Edgerunner with both kids. But now I’m very glad that we got the Electric; it makes a big difference in our hilly city, and we use the Big Bike far more often than we would if it lacked the motor. No matter how lazy you’re feeling, you won’t balk at taking an electric-assist bike.

I believe we are calmer and happier since we got our Edgerunner Electric. You can park it anywhere that you can lock a bike, and it’s more fun, feels better, and is often faster than hauling the kids around town in an autosaurus, getting stuck in traffic and having to hassle with child seats. There’s no gas to buy and low maintenance costs, and if we went car-free with it, we could stop buying auto insurance. I love taking my kids on it, talking with them about the interesting things that we see while riding, and joining the growing number of young-kid families around here who ride cargo bikes and ring their bells when they pass each other.

-- Paul Spinrad  



Bontrager Race Lite Hard-Case Tires and Specialized Airlock tubes

(Quick terminology note: tires are the stiff protective shells on the outside; tubes are the air-filled Escher condoms that go inside the tires.)

I’m a bicycle commuter and hate flat tires. Some people adopt a Zen-like attitude toward them, but not me. I’ve never gotten fast at fixing them. They always happen at a bad time. Fixing them in the field stinks. (Listening for an imperceptible hiss, tube pressed against your ear? Gah.)

Despite having a pretty good handle on the mechanics of it, I’m always a little freaked out I’m going to pinch the tube between the tire and rim, bend the rim, or miss that second pinhole and have to repeat the process over again.

After getting a road bike and having a flat the very first day I took it out, I decided to find a solution.

I read up on tough road tires and based on reviews on Road Bike Review, I settled on the Bontrager Race Lite Hardcase tire, with reviewers saying they had a good balance between protection and “road feel.”

I’d always been leery of “slime” filled tubes (I’m using this term generically), having heard so many horror stories of it all leaking out and making a huge mess. But after some research decided self healing tires had to be part of the solution. I settled on Specialized Airlock tubes. (I think this time my earlier leeriness prejudiced me specifically against Slime brand.)

To be candid, the incident that convinced me to add tubes was an office staple that gave me a flat despite my fancy new tires. I settled on the theory that the tires are good against larger offenders — glass, nails, small rocks— that might cause a large slash that outstrips the healing abilities of the tube, while the tubes would protect against pinprick punctures (staples and nature’s caltrop, the goathead) where the full puncturing force is concentrated into such a miniscule point that it overwhelms the tires’ protective abilities.

(One of my conversion moments was when I saw a goathead sticking out of my tire as I pulled my bike into my office. Already resigned to a flat tire, I pulled it out and heard only a half-second long “psst.” I rode home on a fully inflated tire.)

If I am doing a lot of riding (commuting four or five days a week year-round), I replace the back tire yearly as it wears down, and the front every other year. You can tell when they are worn down when the center curve of the tire has worn flat to the touch. (Incidentally, if you balk at the prices, maybe try the tire/tube combo on the rear wheel. It intuitively makes sense to me that bearing more weight means being at greater danger for flats.)

I have been riding with this system for almost five years without a flat tire. (Except once; I got cocky, and decided to take my road bike on a rugged off-road shortcut. I learned my lesson; this doesn’t make you invulnerable, just nigh-invulnerable.)

Caveats:
• You do still have to top off the tire pressure once in a while, especially if you prefer to ride on speedy inflated-rock-hard tires. Those pesky air molecules still sneak past the tube.

• This is pretty much the only tire and tube combo I’ve ridden on, so it is my baseline. I can’t tell you if it will feel sluggish or if your “road feel” will be unacceptably degraded. I feel speedy.

• This is a road bike, with traditional narrow, high PSI tires. I can’t say whether someone running this same system on a lower PSI cruiser or mountain bike would have the same results. (For example, Airlock tubes are fairly well savaged here.)

• I have given people Airlock tubes to use, and been less than impressed by their solo performance. I really think the synergy of both products is necessary to get the full benefits.

• Obligatory horror story: the first week I got the tube I was unscrewing the protective red cap and I had threaded it so tight that the core of the presta valve unscrewed instead. Slick white goo sprayed everywhere. When I installed the replacement tube the next day (grudgingly given to me by the bike shop), I removed the core, put a dot of threadlock, and then gave the core a nice firm twist with needlenose pliers to tighten it down. I also stopped using the little red caps; I never felt they added anything. (This post is informative.)

• Specialized has since fixed this “feature” so it does not unscrew readily. (Pardon me if I don’t go test this assertion with a pair of pliers.) When I upgraded to the longer stems I didn’t do anything to the core and have had no issues.

Bike accessories seem to be extraordinarily resistant to Amazonification. (Most the time any Amazon link will be to a third party bike vendor anyway.) Visit a local bike shop. LBS’s are like car dealerships — you need a Specialized dealer for the tubes and a Trek-friendly dealer for the tires. Sorry.

-- Taylor Bryant  



ElectricBike

One of the least-noticed but fastest-moving sectors of technology is electric bikes. Every week a new innovation is released, altering the field, making it difficult to keep up. By far the keenest intelligence on new ebike stuff is Eric Hicks. Eric attends the bike shows, visits the workshops of the leading inventors, and most impressively, he personally rides and reviews in great depth just about every ebike made. He publishes his very fair and impartial findings and reviews on his blog, ElectricBike.com. He really knows his stuff and is eager to help others decide which ebikes to get. ElectricBike is where I go to find out what’s worth considering at the moment. His archive covers just about any electric bicycle built, including a lot of small-time builders and prototypes.

I used Erick’s suggestions in finding a touring electric bike that would take me 50 miles a day. (I got a Gruber pedal assist, which was perfect for what I wanted.) A year later even better choices were available.

As of 2013, ebikes are huge in China, big in Europe but still only the bleeding edge in the US. An electric bicycle is a great choice for urban commuters, and okay for fanatic mountain trail riders, but not quite prime time for long road touring. What’s the difference between an ebike and an electric motorcycle? Good question. ElectricBike is the place to drill down into this emerging world of cheap electric powered transportation.

ebike2

-- KK  

Sample Excerpts:

The Stromer ST1 is one of the most exciting electric bikes to be released and one of the best production ebikes I have gotten to test so far.

I am not sure if the Stromer Platinum can fairly be considered a 30-MPH bike. I am not even sure if the Platinum would be deemed illegal if put to a speed test. It is serious work to get this bike up to 30-MPH, and without peddling…forget about it. The federal law says theres a 20-MPH limit without pedaling. It feels like the Stromer Platinum would just barely break 20-MPH without any peddling,
On the other hand, the Stromer ST1 Elite hits its claimed 20-MPH top speed with little pedaling effort. These two bikes are a lot closer together performance wise than you would assume from reading claimed speed numbers. My guess is that under “real world” conditions, the Elite is a 25-MPH bike, and the Platinum a 28-MPH bike. Where as Stromer calls the Elite a 20-MPH bike (low balling estimate) and the Platinum a 30-MPH bike (high balling estimate).

*

The Stealth Bomber comes from the factory with a jumper-wire on the controller that limits its top-speed to 20-MPH. Remove that jumper, and it puts you in “off road mode” and transforms your bomber into a 50-MPH 5,000-watt beast.

Few electric bike manufacturers have decided to ignore the federal definition of e-bike and make a bike that is fast. The Stealth Bomber is a 50-MPH 120-pound monster capable of going up to 40 miles on single charge (flat ground and moderate riding). It has ample acceleration and performance for most users…meaning this bike will scare the hell out of you. The Stealth Bomber and Fighter are at the forefront of electric bike technology, building a bike that is well respected in the e-bike community for quality construction and great performance. They are top of our list of purpose built e-bikes, meaning they are rare examples of bikes built from the ground up to be an electric bike. If you want a reliable and super fast electric bike, turn key and ready to ride and you have the dough to spend, the Stealth Bomber is among your best options.




Adventure Cycle Maps

For over two months my teenage son and I rode our bikes down the Pacific coast from Canada to Mexico. We followed a route mapped out by Adventure Cycling. The 2,000-mile route is broken into about 80 sections, each annotated with the kind of info you’d like to know on a bike: where the next camp sites are, grocery options, bike shop locations, mileage counts, and most important — elevation contours for the upcoming hills! These maps are printed with full clarity on waterproof paper. The set is extremely well designed, sized at the right scale, and kept current with frequent updates. It was the best bargain of our trip.

While this Pacific route is very popular, Adventure Cycling offers about 20 other long-distance bicycle routes in the US as well. If you are making a long-distance bike ride in America, chances are Adventure Cycling will have a set of maps for you. These maps are miles better than any automobile road map, and in most ways better than Google maps. Ordinarily, I’d shy away from a well-travelled trail, but in this case, the availability of set of Adventure Cycling maps would entice me to follow it.

Their web-based video gives a great overview of the maps’ benefits, and also serve as a manual for using them.

Bikemap

-- KK  



Rachet Rocket

I’ve gone through loads of portable bike tools over the years. Most are functional, and will get you out of a pinch on the road, but they usually make big compromises in the name of compactness and light weight. When I’m home, there’s usually a tool that does the job better in my toolbox and the portable tool stays with the spare tubes waiting for the next ride. In the years that I’ve had the Ratchet Rocket (hard to remember how many), I’ve found myself pulling it out for all sorts of jobs around the house.

A tiny ratchet set is just the thing on many quick fix-it jobs. Although the Ratchet Rocket is tiny and lightweight, it sacrifices nothing in build quality and strength. It’s become practically indispensable when assembling flat pack furniture (Ikea should consider selling it as a suicide prevention aid). My tool has had some hard labor over the years, but it shows no wear.

-- Mickey  

Topeak Rachet Rocket RX Mini Folding Bicycle Tool
$35

Available from Amazon



Kool Stop Tire Bead Jack

I know how to change bike tires. I watched my father do it when I was ten years old and the guys at the local bike shop make it look easy. So I never went for a ride without tire levers and a spare inner tube or two.

Unfortunately, knowing how and actually doing it can be two different things. They say to put the tire back on over the rim with just your hands, because using a metal tool may pinch your new tube or poke a hole in it. With some tire and rim combinations, it’s close to impossible, and becomes less possible as you reach those last few inches of bead and your hands get tired and sore. You’ll be stranded until you get that tire bead over the rim.

The Kool Stop Tire Bead Jack is the lightweight, inexpensive answer to this problem. Just put the fixed end on the other side of the rim, hook a section of bead and use the handle to pull it up over the rim. Repeat as needed, and in a few seconds, you’re done and on your way.

It’s too long to fit in a small tool kit. It’s about the length of a CO2 pump, but it’s not metal so it’s very light. You can stick it in a handlebar bag, or a rack trunk or just strap it to your top tube. You won’t want to ride far without it.

jack-screen

-- Matthew Perks  

Kool Stop Tire Bead Jack
$12

Available from Amazon



This tool has been UNRECOMMENDED and is now in the DEAD TOOLS category. See the FAQ for more info.

Retractable Cable Combination Lock

[UPDATE 6 January 20014: Unrecommended! See video of how Mark cut the cable with a pair of scissors.]

You ran into the store for one minute, came back out and your bike was gone! Or your skis, or motorcycle helmet.

You know that big, heavy, secure lock you never carry because it’s too big and heavy? This is the compromise solution – easy to carry and easy to use. This lightweight cable lock fits in your pocket and prevents “casual theft.” Let them steal someone else’s bike/skis/helmet (not cruel, just realistic). The retractable cable extends 24 inches.

I’ve been using these for about 10 years or so. Squirt a little WD-40 into it once in a while to keep it from freezing in the cold. Replace it at the first sign of balkiness (it’s cheap enough).

-- Evan Marks  

Master Lock 24-Inch Retractable Cable Lock
$9

Available from Amazon



Trixie Bike Multitool

I’ve had a fixed gear bike for a few months, and on a friend’s recommendation, picked up the Trixie. Pedro’s has found a way to cram just about every tool needed to work on a fixed gear bike into one tool, whether it’s a roadside emergency or you are working on your bike in the garage.

It’s a lockring wrench – fixies have a lockring that keeps the rear cog in place. Prior to owning the Trixie, I went through every tool I had in my garage in an attempt to tighten a loose lockring. I ended up on a trip to the bike shop.

It’s a 5mm Hex wrench – useful for handlebar and seat adjustments, and the jackposts for a water bottle cage. I hear it can be used on brakes too, although no self-respecting fixie rider uses them.

It’s a 15 mm box wrench – you need one to tighten the tires to the frame. No quick-releases on my bike!

It’s also an 8, 9, and 10 mm box wrench thanks to the slot in the handle. The 8mm is handy for chain tensioning, but I haven’t needed the 9 or 10mm yet.

It’s durable – 5mm thick treated steel – and portable. It can be mounted on the water bottle jackposts and comes with wingnuts to replace the jackposts if you so desire. I personally secure mine to the underside of the seat.

Lastly, and most important, is the included bottle opener, so you can reward yourself after the job and ride are complete.

-- Art Provost  

Available from Amazon