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Upper Connecticut River Valley
Portland, Oregon - Vancouver, Washington
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The Electric Option
by Stephen Morris
At SolarFest, the summer music and energy extravaganza held in Middletown Springs each July, the Green Living Journal was right next to the booth for Freedom 4 Bikes of Bellows Falls, Vermont. The bikes were quite a show-stopper, as the shop proprietors would end their sales pitch by hopping on a bike and silently gliding into the distance, whetting the appetite for a test ride.
By the end of the day on Sunday I could recite their sales pitch verbatim:
As a longtime mountain biker, I rebelled at the idea of needing an electric assist for my outdoor recreation and conditioning. Even though I am now officially a senior citizen, I'm not about to concede anything to the passage of time. On the other hand, as a "friend of the environment" who works from a home office, the idea of replacing those too frequent trips in town to go to the bank, post office, and supermarket with a $.05/charge bike trip was compelling. Moreover, my wife is an enthusiastic cyclist, but she hates hills and you can't go very far in any direction around here without encountering a hill.
By Sunday afternoon I had convinced myself that not buying a his and hers set of electric assist bikes would not only environmentally irresponsible, but also tantamount to spousal abuse. So I asked if I could take a test ride. As I cruised around the Solarfest grounds, my mind was made up. I was going electric.
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Serious horse-trading ensued. My negotiators, however friendly, were tough, but I was even tougher. I convinced them to sell me two of their demonstration models at the show at a generous discount. They could even deliver them on their way home from the show. Heh-heh.
Two hours later the bikes were in our driveway, and we were all shaking hands and promising to keep in touch.
The bikes we bought are Pedegos (pedego.com) built in Irvine, CA. They are fully designed as electric-assist vehicles, as opposed to conversion retrofits to existing bikes. The frames are rugged, reminiscent of a vintage Schwinn, with comfortable padded seats and handlebars that keep you upright. All the componentry is top-notch bike gear. The fat balloon tires make for a luxurious ride.
We put on our helmets and gave them a test ride. The Pedegos tamed even the steepest inclines, making the entire ride seem like a gentle downhill. "No pain, no gain" was suddenly "no pain, no pain." It was hard to keep from whooping with joy. So we whooped.
Several weeks later our region was hit, and hard, by tropical storm Irene. Our road was devastated, but the rebuilding effort began almost immediately. Although the road was officially closed and even local automotive traffic was discouraged, our bikes proved the perfect vehicles to satisfy our nosiness about how the recovery effort was progressing. Throughout the late summer and fall we watched the rebuilding of our community from the comfortable leather seats of our Pedego electric-assist bikes.
When I called to get some additional information for this story, I told her how much we had enjoyed our bikes. "That's good, because they now have a studded snow tire option available."
Studded snow-tires for a bike? No thanks. I think I will wait until there is an electric-assist option for my cross-country skis.
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