Pedaling with a boost from ebike

Joe Minutolo of the Bar Harbor Bicycle Shop pauses during a ride on an electric commuter bike at an overlook on the Acadia National Park Loop Road. PHOTO BY DICK BROOM

Joe Minutolo of the Bar Harbor Bicycle Shop pauses during a ride on an electric commuter bike at an overlook on the Acadia National Park Loop Road.

You’re huffing and puffing, and your legs are starting to ache, and you’ve already been through all of the gears on your bike.

That’s when you start thinking, “Wouldn’t it be great if there was a bike that partially powered itself?”

Well, now there is.

Called an electric commuter bike or “e-bike,” it is equipped with a lithium- ion battery and a motor that supplements your own muscle power. You get on the bike and start pedaling, and almost immediately you feel a little extra acceleration, as if someone is giving you a gentle push. When you start up a hill, you can press a button to increase the amount of assistance.

“You can set it up for whatever terrain you’re riding,” said Joe Minutolo, owner of Bar Harbor Bicycle Shop on Cottage Street. “If it’s hilly, there’s a power mode that really gets you up over the hills. There’s a touring mode for long distance. There’s an economy mode, which uses a little less battery, and a city mode for stop-and-go traffic. It’s very cool.”

About a month ago, Minutolo began carrying e-bikes designed and manufactured by Stromer, a Swiss company. The retail price is about $3,500. He also plans to rent them to people who would like to try an alternative to a regular bike.

Minutolo said the e-bike would be ideal for the couple or family that wants to bike together in Acadia, but one has more strength and stamina than the rest.

electricbike-11614“One of them might be able to carry a 20-mile-per-hour pace for quite a while, and now all the others can do that, too, so they can ride together.”

The e-bikes were initially designed for commuters, and Minutolo said they would be great for someone who works at Jackson Laboratory, for example, and lives elsewhere on the island.

The bikes are propelled by a gearless 500-watt motor. The lithium-ion battery is good for about 50 miles at 20-25 mph before needing to be recharged. Applying the bike’s hydraulic disk brakes helps to recharge the battery, increasing the ride range. The battery, which has a typical lifespan of about four years, is integrated into the bike’s lower frame. The motor is in the rear wheel hub.

Minutolo said the e-bike isn’t just a regular bike that has been reconfigured to accommodate an electric motor.

“It has been engineered as an electric bike right from the frame up,” he said. “It’s designed to handle the torque and the extra weight. It’s heavier than a regular bicycle, but the ride is incredibly light.”

The motor is nearly silent, and the bike’s wide tires help smooth the ride.

The Stromer e-bike comes in two colors, black and white, and in men’s and women’s models. The women’s model has a step-through frame.

Minutolo said he thinks the e-bike might encourage people who don’t currently ride to get into cycling.

“It’s just another alternative to saving fuel, being kind to the environment and getting a little bit of exercise,” he said. “And it’s such a pleasurable ride.”

Dick Broom

Dick Broom

Reporter at Mount Desert Islander
Dick Broom covers the towns of Mount Desert and Southwest Harbor, Mount Desert Island High School and the school system board and superintendent's office. He enjoys hiking with his golden retriever and finding new places for her to swim. [email protected]

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