An Electrified Fortified Commuting Machine

My first bicycle was a Schwinn with a banana seat, training wheels, and it may or may not have had tassels dangling from the handlebars. It definitely had playing cards clothes-pinned to the frame in such a way that made a sweet rat-a-tat-tat sound as I tooled around the driveway.

I learned how to ride and I learned how to crash on that thing. I vividly remember taking off down the gravel road sans training wheels, and promptly laying it down at the first curve, scraping the skin right off my thumb. The thought of picking those tiny rocks out of my damaged digit still gives me the willies.

My first totally cool bike was a royal blue Kuwahara freestyle ride. It had mag wheels. It had a gyro. It had front and rear pegs. The first thing I did was remove the kickstand and reflectors because none of the cool kids would be caught dead with a kickstand and reflectors, and I hadn’t yet figured out that I wasn’t a cool kid.

The next thing I did was ride it all over town. In the summers, my brother and I would ride the two miles into town — the first 1.5 miles were all downhill — and ride from place to place throughout the day. Baseball, friends’ houses, candy store, wherever. In the afternoon, we’d meet up at my Dad’s office to get a ride home. The prospect of riding a fixed gear bike 1.5 miles uphill ensured we were never late for that afternoon car ferry home.

 

Bicycles are for Kids

 

When I turned 16, I had no need for a bike. I had a car! It was a 1977 Buick Electra 225. Fortunately, I still had that clothespin as it served yet another purpose, for in the bitter cold, I’d have to open the hood and prop the carburetor’s air intake open if I wanted to have any chance of the vehicle starting. But I had a car! Bikes were for kids.

Two years later, I was a college kid. A college kid on one of the nation’s largest university campuses. Without a car.

Bicycles were once again en vogue for me. While I did eventually inherit my parents’ Dodge Caravan, bikes got me back and forth across the Mississippi River dividing the  University’s East and West Bank campuses, and I made many round trips on the dedicated bike path to the St. Paul campus.

I spent eight good years at the University of Minnesota, and I’ll admit to parking my bikes for months while waiting out the harsh winters, but I went through a few good Trek and Specialized mountain bikes and hybrids in those years. I had one stolen, too. Stupid cable lock.

Doctors Don’t Ride Bicycles to Work

 

I moved to a warmer climate for residency. It was the kind of climate where you could easily bike year round. But I didn’t do that. I was a doctor now! Bikes were for college kids.

reward credit cards
Business Cards
At first, I relied on a hand-me-down caravan to help me with the three-mile round trip commute. I later upgraded to a Mustang Convertible. I had a bike and rode it occasionally, but only commuted with it when my four-wheeled ride was in the shop. For shame. I know.

That trend continued for nearly the first ten years of my anesthesia career. Although, I generally lived within reasonable bicycling distance from the hospital, I always had some excuse to just drive. It was either too cold, too hot, too dangerous, or I was just too lazy and unimaginative to ride a bike.

 

Giving Bicycle Commuting a Shot

 

I love living close to the hospital. I might make ten or twelve round trip commutes on a busy call weekend. Living three minutes away rather than twenty minutes away saves me a few hours of commuting in a few days.

Another benefit of living so close is having the ability to walk home after you’ve come in for an epidural in the wee hours and locked your keys in the car. That happened. Twice. I didn’t have to call anyone or hail an Uber. I just walked the twelve minutes home.

It’s been nearly three years since I discovered Mr. Money Mustache’s bright ideas and in-your-face writing. One article that had me dodging facepunches was the one about the true cost of car commuting. Why wasn’t I biking to work? I used to bike to town. And to class. Why not bike to work?

 

fortified bike

 

And so I did. For the last two years, I’ve biked to the hospital more than I’ve driven, biking the vast majority of the time from early spring to late fall. I even biked to our surgery center occasionally, a 6-mile round trip, but usually came up with one excuse or another to drive there. I had errands to run afterwards. It’s dark at 0530. It’s too hot in the afternoon. I want to get home as soon as possible. I might pull a hammy.

 

Running Out of Excuses

 

A couple months ago, the good people at Fortified Bicycle of Boston, Mass sent me a sturdy, sharp-looking, nearly theft-proof 8-speed Invincible commuter bike. It shares features with both the mountain bike I used to ride to the hospital and the road bike I took to the surgery center. This bike, though, is made for commuting and does a better job than either the bike designed for mountainous terrain or the one designed for a smooth, pothole and curb-free track. The Fortified 8-speed quickly became my go-to option for commuting over the latter part of the summer and early fall.

 

Fortified Invincible

 

As my car collected dust, secretly longing for winter and regular rendesvous with me, I began to miss certain aspects of the time we had spent together. Admittedly, she did get me to work more quickly.  I never had to work up a sweat for her to take me to where I wanted to be. She was climate controlled. I loved my new bike, but I was missing my little Chevy.

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Living Better Electrically

 

In the 1950’s, GE began a series of ads featuring Ronald Reagan and family, showing how their picture perfect family was living better electrically. “With the steady heat and the exact timing of my new automatic skillet, even a soufflé is safe and easy to make.” I’ll bet your soufflé was delightful, Nancy.

Flash forward sixty years, and many of us are living better electrically. Our lives practically run on battery power and electric vehicles are becoming almost commonplace. My lawnmower, weed whacker, leaf blower, and light duty chainsaw all run on 40V batteries.

What about bicycles? Yes, those have recently been electrified as well. My friend Mr. 1500’s electric bicycle conversion had intrigued me for some time. The way he described riding it seemed almost too good to be true, so I reached out to him to see if he was still happy with his purchase.

He answered with an unequivocal Yes. “I was just telling someone yesterday that it’s the best $1,600 I ever spent. Loads of fun for commuting around town,” he told me.

$1,600 isn’t pocket change, but for him, that included the purchase price of the bike and buying the parts at regular price. I had a complimentary bike from Fortified, and when Luna Cycle, from whom Mr. 1500 had ordered his kit, put together a $750 2nd anniversary package knocking over $200 off the price, I bought myself an early birthday present.

 

Electrified Fortified Bicycle Build

 

When the heavy package arrived, I re-read Mr. 1500’s guest post on MMM detailing his build. He made it look like a walk in the park. To paraphrase, he basically stated that any child could slap this thing together in a couple minutes. OK, to be fair, he probably said capable adult could manage it and a couple minutes was really a couple hours, but it sounded like a piece of cake.

bafang mid drive kitI laid out all the supplies. There were a lot of supplies.

I started with the simple stuff. I attached the pieces for the odometer. I removed the pedals. I realized I didn’t have the tools to remove the crankset and bottom bracket, so  I promptly went to our neighborhood bike shop and paid someone to remove them for me.

From there on out, things went fairly smoothly. I did have to employ a chisel to shave off a little plastic from a cable guide on the underside of the bike to make room for the mid-drive motor, but that was the only real modification I had to make to allow the bike to accommodate the electric kit.

Mounting the battery was a bit of a challenge. The holes in the battery bracket lined up with the mounting holes for a water bottle holder. However, using them would mount the battery upside down in a way where it could easily slide out. Mounting the battery right side up would allow gravity to help keep the battery on the bracket.

I solved this dilemma by drilling a couple precisely placed holes in the metal portion of the bracket.

 

luna batter bracket mount

precise? yes. accurate? no.

 

Make that poorly placed holes. Remember — measure twice, cut / drill once. On the tape measure, black lines matter.

 

luna batter bracket mount drill

that’s better!

 

With the bracket firmly mounted, I then mounted the battery, wired everything together, cinched a few cords down with zip ties, replaced the rust-resistant chain with a slightly longer one, and was ready to roll!

 

Almost.

The battery shipped with about 35% charge and the included charger would not begin to charge it. It would light up, click, power down, and repeat. I went through a number of troubleshooting steps recommended by Luna Cycle to no avail. I had performed them all on my own prior to contacting them, and again at the customer service rep’s behest.

Ultimately, they applied the price I paid for the wonky charger towards an upgraded version. When the new one arrived, it worked like a charm. Once the battery had that initial charge, the malfunctioning charger was now able to recharge it, too. So now I’ve got two working 300W chargers, a “mini” and an “advanced.”

Commuting with the Electrified Fortified Bicycle

 

Frustratingly, I was only able to ride Invincible 2.0 sparingly while the charging issue was sorted out. For the last two weeks though, I’ve ridden it extensively, including every trip to work and home in that time.

I’ve encountered sun, rain, complete darkness, and fortunately no snow. The coldest commute I had was a three-mile trek at 26°F, and the warmest day was in the sixties. I rode home after work as early as 1500 and as late as 0100, and left for work as early as 0245.  I got home once at 0445. I’m not sure whether to call that early or late, but the point is I rode at all hours of the day and night.

At no point did I feel particularly uncomfortable. Well, that 26 degree morning was a little unpleasant. I’ve since ordered a balaclava, which makes me look like a ninja, as opposed to baklava, which makes me look like a Greek pastry.

I love this bike. Any excuses I once had have been put to rest.

Too cold? Bundle up, buttercup!

Too hot? With pedal assist, it’s never a strenuous ride. With the throttle, it’s no work at all.

Too early? It’s not quite as fast as a car, but through town, it’s not much slower, either.

Too dark? The high-lumen headlight and taillight illuminate the path.

 

fortified bike night

 

I will have issues when the snow comes. To get to the hospital, I cross a bridge with a narrow sidewalk and cars whizzing by a few feet away. In the warmer months, passing another individual is treacherous if they see you coming, and ill-advised if not. In the winter, snow and ice buildup make it impossible.

Speaking of snow and ice, my rails-to-trails path to the surgery center is repurposed as a snowmobile path for a good four months. Even with the right tires, it would be dangerous and probably illegal to ride a bike on it. But eight months of the year, I should be good to go with this electric bike.

bike beer holder

further modified to hold 6 bombers

 

Hills and Wind are No Match

 

With the out-of-the-box setup, you get five levels of pedal assist. On level one, you notice just a little extra power when you pedal. On the fifth level, this puppy takes off like a puppy chasing a squirrel. I like to set it to five. If there was an eleven, I’d crank it up to eleven.

There’s also a throttle. You can upgrade to a twist throttle, but I’ve been happy with the basic thumb lever. If you’re starting off on grass on an uphill slope, as I sometimes do, a little squeeze of the throttle will get you on your way in a hurry.

 

bafang display

 

One thing you always notice when riding a typical bicycle is the slightest wind. Or a 0.5% incline of a hill. I’m not going to be like an old-timer and tell you my commute is uphill both ways, but I’m pretty sure the wind conspires to work against me nine times out of ten when I choose to ride a bike.

Those impediments no longer matter. The wind is no match for the 750 watt Bafang motor. Hills? What hills. With pedal assist, riding uphill is a breeze. On a recent trip home, I pedaled forcefully in top gear on a slight, but noticeable incline. At 31 miles per hour.

In a month or two, I will have to put the beast to bed for a little while. Let him hibernate while the snow and cold consume the land. When the birds start chirping and the layers of ice on the path have thawed, I’ll charge him up and resume commuting on the most fun and powerful bicycle I’ve ever sat upon.

 


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If you’ve got a bike of your own you’d like to electrify, check out the offerings of upgrade kids or complete e-bikes at  Luna Cycle. I chose to upgrade the charger to one that can charge to 80% or 90% to extend battery life, and I also bought the $19 tool making installation simpler, but otherwise went with the base package. Again, not an affiliate link — I just want to help you improve your daily commute and enjoy a little more fresh air.

 

10/2018: For a one-year update and a discount on Fortified Bike packages exclusive for my readers, please continue to read One Year of Commuting With a Modified Electrified Fortified Bike.

 

Are you a bicycle commuter? Have you had a chance to ride an electric bike or convert one yourself? Any tips for winter biking? I’d love to hear about your experience.

 

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62 comments

  • We do have one electric bike (inherited from family), but hardly even need to use its electrical system, it’s pretty flat around here and we don’t use this bike for the long commutes or trips (it’s a spare sort to speak with a kid seat on the back).
    I personally prefer to use human power to get my butt moving. Cycle commute this morning was a whopping +1000 calories (headwind…. ugh). Way back should be a bit easier.
    That being said, I do need a shower twice today. The electrical bike will avoid that part. It is a bit slower (most are limited to 25kph around here) than a regular road bike.
    Want more speed? Than a pedelec is the way to go, but this requires serious cash, insurance and a helmet (in the Netherlands at least). This will get you up to 45kph though!
    Good for you though using a bike (electric or otherwise) to get to work.

    • I had to look up the term “pedelec, which may be more common in Europe.

      This definitely has that feature (pedal assist). The motor kicks in within 1 second of pedaling, and cuts out pretty much instantly when you’re not. A squeeze of either brake handle also kills the motor. It’s tough to tell because the sound of the motor is basically imperceptible, but the power of it certainly isn’t.

      I believe these bikes are supposed to be limited to 20 mph legally. There is a setting to limit the top speed of the bike at which the motor will assist you. I have exceeded 30 mph, which is plenty fast for me, and I think it came set up from Luna with 60 mph as the top speed.

      Cheers!
      -PoF

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  • Dr. JB

    Year-Round Massachusetts Anesthesiologist Bike Commuter, here. These are my winter upgrades:
    Balaclava
    Studded Tires for the Ice
    Fat Bike for the Snow
    Thick Overgloves
    Positive Mental Attitude

    Would love to grab a beer in Boston at ASA this weekend, but I have to be back to work Monday.

    Cheers,

    JB

    • You are the man. Did you bike a few winters ago when Boston got something like 10 feet of snow? I can’t imagine.

      In addition to the climate issues, I also worry about not being seen. Do you use flashing lights in the dark? It’s pitch black at the time our workdays start.

      Best,
      -PoF

  • Hey POF,

    That bicycle sounds like lots of fun!

    But unfortunately, I’m not a bicycle commuter, I’m a train commuter and it takes me 1.5hr to get to work for a total of 3 hours a day! But at least I get to spend most of that time blogging or working.

    I wish I could live close to work but we can’t afford it. The city is crazy expensive and for $1.8M, you get a fixer-upper or a tear-down! That is if you get it at all and you are not outbid by 200 other people by an additional $400K.

    So living in the suburbs and taking the train to work is my only choice.

    Back in the day before being serious about FIRE, I used to drive to work which cost me $30/day for parking & gas of course which added up to at least $1000/month.

    But the train costs me only $400. And Mr99to1percent works from home nowadays so we save money there too. So not bad of a deal.

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    • It’s great fun! There aren’t many ebikes around here — mine is the only one I’ve seen in town — so I think people must do a doubletake when they see me take off and reach city speeds of 25 to 30 mph in short order.

      I can’t imagine a 3-hour commute. That’s 60 hours a month! I guess it’s better that you’re on a train and able to get some work or reading done, but that’s a big portion of your life. If you could find a way to work from home, even if for a day or two a week, that would be huge. And the real estate prices are just insane. $1.8 would buy a lakefront mansion. That $400,000 is a very nice 4,000 square foot or larger home. Not that I’d want one.

      Cheers!
      -PoF

  • That’s one slick looking bike!

    My husband bikes to work a few times a week and he loves it. He bikes in the rain and winter and the commute is about 10km. He gets to work faster than commuting by car by about 8 minutes or 15 min if the traffic is bad. Shoe covers, rain pants, rain proof jacket are helpful (especially in Raincouver where we live).

    We tried riding an electric bike for the first time when we went to Myanmar. Boy those things are fun!! Unfortuntely I used the “fortified” option too much and the battery ran out so was left to pedal back to the bike rental shop which wasn’t as fun.

    • Thank you, GYM. I hear you on the rain pants — even a three-minute ride home in steady rain is enough to soak a pair of jeans when riding a bike, as I learned the other night.

      Running out of battery isn’t awesome, but then you’re still left with a perfectly functional bicycle. It’s a heavy bike, but it’s not the same as running out of gas in a car or moped. You can still get to where you need to be.

      Cheers!
      -PoF

  • Dr. Mo

    Super cool! And an awesome build. Electric bikes are a world of fun. Even if you feel über lazy, you’ll still be pedaling and you’ll still be in the fresh air.
    Have a blast and be safe. Keep us posted on how the commute goes.

  • Awesome ride!

    I have yet to try an electric bike, but my work-from-home job hasn’t posed an incredible need for one yet.

    Mr Adventure Rich and I do enjoy our “beer rides”. We load up our son in a bike trailer and take a ride on the local rails-to-trails… conveniently located so as to provide easy access to a few local breweries. A Right Brain brew makes hauling the extra weight of our son around worth it… 😉

    And the story of picking out pebbles from your thumb… all too familiar!

    • I took Mr. 1500 on a beer ride this summer, hitting up our local breweries. They’re not quite as densely packed as you’ve got them out in Michigan, but we’re up to four breweries within biking distance. You, on the other hand, have a kayak beer crawl. How fun and potentially dangerous is that?!?

      Cheers!
      -PoF

  • Kenny Proops

    Great post! I’m a Hospitalist and have been bike commuting for over two years. Currently use a free Sondors from a friend but I am saving physician survey money to upgrade a to a Luna Package in the spring.
    I always get strange looks from the food service and janitorial staff.. “Can’t that doc afford a car?”

    • Glad to hear it, Kenny. I like the price on that Sondors!

      I think a Luna Cycle is a great use of your medical survey money. You’ve managed to combine the last two posts (excluding the Sunday Best) into one great idea.

      Cheers!
      -PoF

  • I love this post but I’m crazy jealous of your bike! It looks like an awesome ride. Congrats!

    I use Indego bikeshare to get around Philly. I love Indego because I can easily pull a bike from a station, ride to another station, walk somewhere else, pull a bike from another station, and so on. The bikes are heavy and slow, but reliable.

    Sometimes when I’m riding, a restaurant food delivery dude blows by me on an electric bike. Those suckers can haul ass and I get a little jealous when I’m humping it up a hill or fighting a stiff wind.

    • Like I say, hills and winds are inconsequential on these things. It’s remarkable.

      Those bike shares are pretty slick. I’ve used the Nice Ride in Minneapolis, which is the same concept. The Financial Panther had a post on how he “hacks” that system by paying a monthly fee and keeping every ride short enough to not pay any surcharges by swapping bikes out at stations along his route. Pretty clever, that guy.

      Cheers!
      -PoF

  • It’s great you live so close to work. I take the train to work everyday, and it takes me almost an hour.

    There are a lot of people biking to work at my office. I haven’t thought about trying it yet, but I think it’s a good option for transportation.

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  • A bit envious of bicycle commuters here. While I’m only four miles from work it’s down twisting back roads with no shoulder. My life isn’t worth the potential savings or workout. Still I’m curious to see how it goes. We have some hiking trails behind out house I’ve been meaning to try with a bike and electric bikes intrigue me.

    • The lights are a smart idea. I think if you’re ever biking in traffic, it’s a good idea to have both front and rear lights in a rapid blink mode.

      I live pretty close to some outstanding mountain bike trails, but I don’t know how they would feel about using an electrified bike on them. I would think there might be rules against that, but I will have to look into it. Or just keep using my mountain bike, which is great exercise.

      Cheers!
      -PoF

  • Awesome ninja mask! I would not mess you with you.

    I envy your proximity to work. Google says my bicycle commute would be 2hr30m each way (but only 35 minutes by highway/interstate). I take solace in the fact that, in the future, I can bicycle to run errands—once life slows down a bit and I actually purchase a bicycle.

    • I don’t see a 5 hour commute as being very practical, but that would be some great exercise, wouldn’t it? Even 1:10 round trip in a car sounds rough to me, but I’m spoiled.

      If you’re looking for a good bike, I know where you can get one!

      Best,
      -PoF

  • When I was a kid, I also attached cards to my frame so that it made that sweet noise as the card whistled through the spokes!

    For the winter, fat tire bikes are great – I saw some pretty sweet looking ones on the Luna website.

    I do not commute myself because I travel around the Twin Cities meeting with customers most of the day. At some point, I may pivot back into more of an 8-5pm job closer to my house so that I can commute. But, I am not quite there yet…

    • Ha! That was the best. Maybe we can convince Fortified to add a built-in card clip so we can enjoy that sound once again. It could be seen as a safety feature — since the electric motor is so quiet, people will hear you coming with the spokes slapping the card.

      Cheers!
      -PoF

  • Amosla

    We just bought a RadWagon, an electric cargo bike. It can haul the kids, groceries, etc. We originally saw it at the state fair. Awesome. We’re hoping to go through as much of the winter as possible.

  • When I read the title in my inbox this morning, I was SURE you had purchased a Tesla!

    I wish you had. That would be awesome!!!!! 😉

    • I would love to have an electric car, but I’m hoping the batteries will continue to improve. We take too many long car trips to make an all-electric option practical for our family. Someday, though.

      Cheers!
      -Pof

  • I hate commuting, in fact one of the reasons I was pushed to full time blogger slightly faster was because my client at the time was in a facility around the DC Beltway. Driving down there was a disaster, driving back was a disaster, and I was losing many hours each week just sitting in my car in traffic.

    I do think it’s funny that “bike is for college kids” but caravan didn’t come with any preconceived non-doctor notions. 🙂

    • D.C. traffic is brutal, but any medium to large city has traffic that I can’t stand in the morning and afternoon rush hours. I think the longest commute I’ve had to work was about 20 minutes, and that was for a temporary job that I worked for about 9 months. In more permanant situations, I’ve made it a point to look at housing close to work, and we’ve avoided larger cities for several reasons, but traffic and parking woes are one of them.

      Best,
      -PoF

      • 20 minutes I can do… even 30 if it’s 30 all the time. This stuff around DC would sometimes be like an hour, two hours if there was even the threat of rain. Abysmal stuff.

  • Jen

    Great post/info- are you wishing you would have gone with the BBSHD 1000w? I’m hoping to get a bike ready this winter (I’m next door in WI) for some spring commuting 🙂

    • I think the 750 watt is plenty of power for me. If I lived in a very hilly place or weighed a lot more (I’m 165 pounds), I might want the extra, but I was happy to go with the package deal that included the 750 watt motor.

      Best,
      -PoF

      p.s. Sorry about your quarterback.

  • mike

    So my buddy and I (on our electric bikes) are down in Long Beach, getting ready to cross the bridge to Mother’s Beach.

    A bicycle group passed us earlier and we caught up with them at the light. A great bunch of guys.

    So the light turns green and they take off up the bridge. It was around 20 of them and they were all huffing and puffing to get up the bridge. So I decided to show off, took my hands off the bike, put the bike in high assist, and peddled past them all. Then when I got to the top, I stopped and gave them the thumbs up as they passed me. They were all cracking up. It was fun.

    • Fun story — I would guess some cycling purists would not be so happy about that maneuver. Glad to hear they were good-natured after you blew past them with electric power.

      What’s nice about this and many e-bikes is that they’re not obviously different at first glance. The battery is certainly noticeable, but it’s not like you’re on a dirt bike or a moped.

      Best,
      -PoF

  • As an avid bike commuter myself, I love seeing the good doc riding to work. It’s interesting when you see the professionals that ride since there’s a general societal idea that we’re “too good” to do that. We’re supposed to be rolling up to work in our beamers and benzes.

    My brother had himself an electric bike, but he stupidly left it locked up outside overnight and it got stolen. When he had it though, he was cruising along and I laughed seeing him fly.

    The thing a lot of the cool kids use these days are these Boosted Boards. They’re electric skateboards that I’d love to get, if not for the fact that they cost 1500 bucks or something ridiculous like that.

    • Yes, when I met you last fall at Surly, you rode up on a bike. If I’m not mistaken, you had been doing riding as a bike courier that day, too.

      I think the odds of theft are much lower here than they were in the Twin Cities, but I still lock it everywhere I go. The battery has a unique way of locking itself to the frame, and it can be freed with a key. The bike itself is “theft proof” or at at least more difficult to steal and easier to get back if someone tries to sell it online.

      Cheers!
      -PoF

  • I long to be a bicycle commuter, but not sure that it would work for me since I drive all day all over Los Angeles with tons of gear. I haven’t given up on the idea, just need to figure out some major details in order to make it work. But I have started riding my bike in the evenings to meet Mr.Wow on his commute home. Had been using my old beach cruiser and just upgraded to a road bike. Fortunately, we don’t have to worry about snow or ice in Southern CA… but sand can be just as bad.

    • Sand can be very bad on a road bike. Some professions are simply not amenable to bicycle commuting, and it sounds like yours is one of them. You’re still getting out there on one, though, which is great.

      Cheers!
      -PoF

  • DocT

    Lots of ice and snow here up against the Rocky Mountains. I’m an anesthesiologist who commutes by bike 7 months of the year as I’m afraid of falling in winter. It’s about 10 miles each way. I drift in in the morning (about 50 minutes) and rip it on the way home (sometime under 40 minutes depending on traffic lights). I think the cycle commute does wonders for my mood and is great cardio as well. It only costs me 15 minutes on the way home compared to the car. And, at 40, I’m not sure I’ve ever been in as good shape. Wish I could do it all year round.

    • That’s awesome, DocT.

      A 20-mile round trip on a regular basis would get you in great shape. A 50 minute ride in the morning would be a stretch for me, as I like to / need to arrive around 0600 most days, and I do value my sleep. Fortunately, it’s never more than about 15 minutes, even without the electric option.

      Cheers!
      -PoF

  • Sweet ride, PoF! I wish I lived close enough to work to be a bike commuter. Seems like a great way to beat traffic, save some money, and get a little bit of exercise.

  • Dave R

    Dude you are depriving yourself well deserved exercise! I’m a doctor and full year bike commuter in Chicago, 4-5 very dense urban miles each way (depending on route). It’s never that bad and usually the best part of my day. I could see an e bike for a cargo bike if you’re hauling around 3 kids and some groceries in a baikfeits (sp?) and battling hills or something, but for personal, short distance, fair weather transport, no way.

    I don’t really see e bikes getting more people commuting by bike. Effort is usually not one of the first obstacles. Bigger obstacles are riding in traffic, where to put the bike, and attire related issues. E bikes might help help peoples’ fear of being sweaty, but they are heavier to move/store and require an indoor place to plug in. Private garage parking is a big luxury in big cities.

    One thing is for sure, if e bikes do catch on, there’s going to have to be some laws keeping them out of the bike lanes/paths. Can’t having someone zooming by at 30mph in the bike lane with normal riders. Amsterdam is going through this problem currently with scooters in the bike lanes.

    If I had the space and lived in a less dense area, I would seriously consider getting something like the urban arrow, those look pretty sweet. Check on JC Lind bike shop next time you’re in Chicago for some serious Dutch commuter bikes. I have the Workcycles FR8 which is an absolute beast and can be treated like an outdoor dog.

    • Thanks for the tips, Dave! You’re right about the exercise part, no doubt. I guess my laziness is coming out, but I do look forward to the trip more now than I did when it was on me to do all the work. I do pedal more or less continuously, though. I just get to where I’m going much more quickly. The three-mile trek to the surgery center is almost all on a quiet rails to trails path. The pedal assist gives me an extra 10 mph or so.

      Great to hear from another year-round commuter. There are certainly some challenges, but most of them can be overcome.

      Best,
      -PoF

      • Dave R

        Quiet trails do sounds nice. Nothing is quiet here. But three miles from my place gets you the hospitals my wife and I work at, my kid’s preschool, wrigley field, the lake, and two dozen breweries. Not bad for now. One thing not within 3 miles: a single family home under 7 figures.

        I actually think putting an inexperienced rider in the city (like my wife) on an E bike going 25 mph would be a death wish. One of the biggest safety features of human powered bikes is that they only go as fast as you are experienced.

        • You’re right about nothing being quiet there. I used to have a number of friends who lived in the Lincoln Park and Wrigleyville neighborhoods. I had some fun weekends there — brunch at Stanley’s Kitachen was a staple on Sunday mornings.

          Cheers!
          -PoF

  • One of the saddest things about moving to Salt Lake was that my job was on the opposite side of town from where I lived. I rode my bike to work every day as a resident and most days while I was in the military.

    It’s 8 miles now, which is just a little too far to arrive there without sweating. It’s also a pretty good climb coming home, about 800 vertical feet. I’ve ridden a few times, but it’s tough to get motivated to ride uphill in the dark in the snow on a busy road after a busy shift. Still, I should figure out a way to do it a couple of times a month anyway.

    I’m going to close this computer now and go for a ride since I’m feeling guilty.

    • I didn’t know about your frequent biking past. I can’t say I’m surprised, though. I hope you enjoyed the ride, and an e-bike might be just what you need to bike up that big hill with ease.

      Cheers!
      -PoF

  • This is definitely getting shared with my husband, he is looking at a new job that would make bike commuting even more enticing. Thanks for all the details!

  • Loved your article and your blog in general. Your stories and thoughts here really resonate.

    I live in Southern Ontario, Canada and my ebike is my perfect commuting machine for the same reasons you mentioned. I commute about 16km each way on a rail trail which pre-ebike I would do rarely because the way home is a slight incline and invariably had a headwind. I could totally talk myself out of riding, but with the ebike none of that matters any more. By car, the commute is 20-45min (usually 30min) depending on traffic and by ebike it is exactly 38 minute each way like clockwork. So, for an extra 15-20min of my day I gain an hour and 15 minutes of exercise and peace biking. Amazing.

    My first bike which I have used for about 7 years was a kit. It was very plug and play and well made but more pricey. This time, I went with a mix and match kit from a Canadian online ebike store to make it more customizable and get more power for my dollar. I still plan to use my first bike in summer, but my new one is for fall/winter. It gets cold and icy here, but we usually don’t have consistent deep snow covering.

    The new one was a more major project. It is a recumbent trike (so I don’t wipe out in winter) that I have made an insulated battery pack for with a bag from MEC and some foam insulation from the hardware store (batteries don’t like cold). It has a removable windscreen which makes a big comfort difference in winter (windchill when going 30-40km/h sucks). The bad thing about a recumbent bike is that it is low to the ground (good for a rail trail, but not something I’d want to drive in traffic). It did tap into the battery with a DC-DC converter and wire in a bunch of LED strip lights to be seen that I can flick on and off with a switch. Was a blast to build and my family thought it was totally geeky until they took it for a spin (my wife still thinks its geeky, but she digs geeks so it’s all good).

  • I’m still in love with my Surly Straggler for the 9 mile one-way commute I take. BUT, you’ve got me thinking about how nice it would be to show up at work and not have to spend time showering because e-assist did all the work.
    So maybe that’s the trade off for some of us cycle commuters – less about the “get off your ass” part, than the efficiencies of the time saved. Hmmmm…

    PS: The Gophers played their hearts out against MSU. What I really was impressed with was the die-hard student section. They didn’t care about the crappy weather. The rest of the stadium was over half empty.

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  • notadoc

    It appears NY’s mayor de Blasio is not a fan.

    “It’s not an uncommon grudge for old-school cyclists, who often seem to resent the e-bikes more for the minimal effort of their riders than for their high speeds. Pedal-assist bikes, which provide extra support as you pedal, make cycling a lot easier—especially over long distances and on inclines. They can expand the range of a comfortable bicycle commute by two or three times, and consumers are noticing. ”

    https://slate.com/business/2017/10/bill-de-blasios-crackdown-on-e-bikes-is-a-truly-bad-idea.html

    • Those young whippersnappers with their beards and motorized bicycles…

      I’ve been biking around Boston this week with a non-motorized Fortified bike, and there is a noticeable difference. I was glad I wasn’t cruising at 20 to 30 mph whe the guy opened his car door when I was 6 feet from it. I did hit ground, but it was a somewhat controlled fall.

      Best,
      -PoF

  • HarjotSingh

    That is one cool bike. Really cool. Does it ride like a mountain bike or a hybrid, for body posture? How adjustable is it to make more hybrid like?
    I used to commute by bicycle only for almost 5 years when we initially moved to California. 6-12 miles one way, depending on what site I was working at, year-round cycling. I remember there was always an old Anesthesiologist who went super fast, weaving in and out of traffic, and gesturing & yelling at car drivers.
    And then I took over the duty of dropping children off at school, and cycling commute went away. I could do it only in summer after that.
    Now I work from home. And I miss cycling. We sold all our bikes when we moved away from California.
    I find cycling over trails pretty boring and pointless. I am thinking of putting something together so I can run errands.
    I grew up cycling, and then bicycled through all of Medical School. Two stolen bikes, no doubt by fellow boozing students. But there was always a reason to cycle – it was a means of transportation. I used to go on 40-50 mile rides to see local places.
    Recently I watched a Martin Sheen movie about Camino de Santiago – 500 mile pilgrimage walk in Spain. Boy, did that give me ideas. Doing the Camino on a bike like yours would be so much fun (officially cheating, but fun), and over in a few days as opposed to weeks.

  • I’ve been giving serious thought to e bikes these days, especially as I struggled through issues with my back. I think they are a complete game changer. A buddy of mine (doc) recently upgraded to an electric bike. He is a hard core bike commuter, rain or shine. He said he will never go back. He can get to work almost as fast as in his car and can adjust his effort level with the temperature so he doesn’t show up all sweaty to work. He can bomb up hill at 28mph and pretty much keep up with cars if he wants to show off. After work he can run errands and not be pressed for time or energy. I think he paid about 3k new. My biggest worry would be leaving it outside, even locked up.

    • They are great for many reasons. I share your concerns about the bike being stolen. You can remove the battery (with a key) and take it in with you, which takes some of the worry away. Using a Fortified Bike with the theft protection features also makes me feel better about leaving it locked up outside. Some cities and neighborhoods are safer than others when it comes to petty theft / bike theft.

      Cheers!
      -PoF

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  • Robzilla

    Nice bike. I’m almost ready to do the same.

    Just realize that the insurance world sees this as a motorized vehicle, not a bicycle. Your automobile liability, uninsured/under-insured motorist, and personal injury protection policy does not cover you. Nor does your homeowners or personal umbrella policy.

    If you have something that’s valuable (your health, your retirement savings) you need to always protect it.

    The only company I have found for this kind of insurance is Markel.

    Your auto policy often will cover you on a non-motorized bicycle. This is important to consider if you are ever to go completely car-less. Without that auto policy, you are not covered.

  • Christine Moore, DO

    I am a third-year Internal Medicine resident and I have been commuting to my rotations since I was a first-year in medical school. I can thank my cycling parents and my liberal arts college for cultivating my love in bicycling.
    When I entered my residency two years ago, I bought a 27-speed Trek Crossrip to replace the 30+ year-old hand-me-down 10-speed Lotus after I severely dented the frame when I ran into the back of a parked truck (and busted my chin – I went right back to the hospital where I came from and got 5 stitches in the ER). My Crossrip is a joy and is outfitted for the ultimate stress-free 10-mile round-trip commute over the hills of East Tennessee:
    – rear frame for my Arkel Bug pannier/backpack (an essential carrying device for commuters),
    – Clip’er pedals for easy dismounts in traffic,
    – front and rear lights with different flash settings,
    – padded handlebar wrap, and
    – Tannus airless tires (3 flats in one week with tubeless tires was enough for me).
    I also have a U-lock for theft protection, rain cover for my backpack, reflective yellow helmet (goes without saying) and additional gear for cold and rain (no troubles going out in -2 degrees Fahrenheit or downpours). If I ever have to take my bicycle to the shop, I have the Yakima Joe Pro 2 on my car’s trunk.
    When I applied to residencies in 2015, I asked every program about the location’s bicycling scene. With Hematology/Oncology fellowship application season starting, I will ask program directors the same.
    Bicycling is not only great exercise and cost-efficient but mentally and spiritually invigorating. Problems melt away when you are racing against the squall line, zooming down a hill, or gazing at the mountains in the distance.
    Glad you enjoy the electric bicycle commute and there are other physicians who recognize how cool it is to ride their bicycles to work. Keep it up!

  • Ginzu

    Next spare change pocket search before laundry will build one myself.
    I had the chance to see PoF speed off with this bike while at CampFI-Midwest this past weekend – the acceleration was incredible (Even after his morning run!!)

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