2,000 miles on an E-bike
Well, it’s that time again. I just hit my next 1000 miles traveled on the same electric bike…putting me up right up to 2,000 miles. The last time I posted about getting to 1000 miles was in December of 2015, so I think I’m on track to maybe hit 3000 miles by December of 2016! I’ve learned a lot about bike maintenance, courtesies and other drivers. While it has been getting a little monotonous, it’s so much better than driving. Every day, however boring it is now, I get to effortlessly roll through the park and bike trails that parallels the thruway that I would have normally been driving up and down. About half the time, all of those cars are parked on the thruway during rush hour…and it doesn’t help that there has been bridge construction going on since the start of Spring. While my legs meander around the park, the bike is hauling my ass and cargo at a very perky 20-25mph. I’ve come to refer to it as “Mega-Bike,” as it’s currently the biggest, baddest cargo-loving bike on the streets of Buffalo. Friends like to ride with me, since I’ll haul all of their gear for them in my spacious saddlebags without complaint. But, it’s not all sunshine and rainbows (although it mostly is!). Here’s what I’ve learned…
For reasons I’m sure are obvious to others, my bike tire goes flat…a lot.
I think I’ve changed that thing maybe 4-5 times. Once, I only got about 2 days out of the tube before it gave out on me. Most of the time, it’s from these damn wires from street sweeper brushes. However it happens, a long, thin wire will be poking out of my tube and tire slowly letting more and more air out. So, I upgraded to using Slime tubes…which are supposed to fill the hole with Slime and dry up…plugging the hole. What happened the day after I upgraded the tube? A gigantic rock found my rear tire, the rear tire kicked it up into my fender and bounced the rock around for awhile until I realized what was happening and stopped. By the time I stopped, I just heard a complete give-out of air from my tube. Not even a small escape of air that you can barely find. I’m saying that the tube just went from “kind of full” to “flat” in a second. I was so close to work that I just walked it the rest of the way and fixed the tube later.
Which brings me to my next point…
You just have to roll with the punches on a bike.
You’re going to get flats. You’re going to be cold or hot on the days where you misjudge the weather. You’re going to have cars that don’t see you. You’re going to feel like you’re slowing everybody down when you’re trying to take the lane so you can avoid potholes and rocks (that jam up into your fender and cause a flat!). So, prepare.
- Leave yourself more time than usual to arrive.
- Carry two tubes. If both tubes go out, you’ll be covered. If three tubes fail on the same ride…well, the universe hates you.
- Always always always bring tools. A basic set of allen wrenches, your flat-tire kit and a patch kit. If you don’t need to use them, maybe a fellow biker in need might!
- Get to know the weather routines in your city. Keep a mental note of what worked and what didn’t for what temperature.
- Be visible. Be annoyingly visible. Put those lights on strobe. Get a big, reflective jacket. Hell, wear those shoes that light up. I’ve had people pull over and let me pass because my light was so annoying. You know who’s not going to be unseen and mistakenly hit by a car? This guy.
- Be predictable. Sometimes, instead of getting into the left-turning lane to turn left…I would sit on the right side of the right lane, waiting for everybody to pass so I can turn left. This is dumb. Nobody knew what my plan was. People slowed down, for, well…they didn’t know what. What did this do? It made me have to wait even longer to cross! It slowed down the rest of the traffic! All because I was too much of a wuss to just get in that left lane and turn with the other cars.
- In the same line as being predictable, just forget about those official hand signals. Nobody knows what they mean. Just point to where you intend to go. People know what that means. Maybe it’s different in other cities, but the drivers here don’t know what the hell a 90-degree bended right-arm means.
For E-bikes specifically:
- Charge up whenever you stop, even if you think you won’t need it. Never know what’s going to come up and while you can peddle without power, it’s going to be a bitch to pedal that 60-80lb bike.
- Consider some insurance. My bike isn’t exactly a “stealth” ebike, meaning people know what it is and it’s more likely to be stolen. Bike insurance is cheap and my city can go from respectable to dangerous in a matter of 5 blocks.
- For winter riding, just wear what you’d wear for a walk…plus a shitload of wind. Get wind and waterproof mittens. Get a face mask.
- Prepare to have a lot of flats. Between the speed and the weight, I really believe that ebikes are more prone to getting flats. However, take this with a grain of salt. My typical ride, now that I’m electric, is through a fairly industrial and run-down part of town. It’s wide open, paved and has almost zero traffic…but there are rocks and potholes and it hasn’t seen a street sweeper in a decade. So, add that into the speed and weight…and there’s my recipe for flat tires
- Don’t be a jackass and cruise the crowded bike paths at 20-25mph. If you’re alone, fine…but shit guys, slow the hell down when you come across anybody.
- The higher your wattage, go easier on the gears. Always try to stop in a lower gear. My chain always crunches a bit if I try to start out from a medium-high gear. Do your bike a favor and be easy on it. The motor gives that chain a lot of stress and, speaking from experience, it can snap it off…and I usually don’t carry a spare chain!
My previous estimates for distance traveled and the bike paying for itself remain on point
In December, I said I go about 1000mi every 6 months. Here I am, 6 months later at 2000 miles.
No major purchases have been made for the bike (except for a couple of tubes). The battery shows no sign of wear. In fact, in the summer, it seems I can go further on a single charge.
I learned some routine maintenance from Youtube and now I have a makeshift bike “garage” in my…well, garage. Every week or so while I’m grilling chicken lunches, I’ll put it up on the arm and adjust anything that concerned me the past week. It’s very cheap to just adjust the brakes (I was bad at them before), clean and lube the chain and clean off any dirt that has accumulated.
Buffalo is ramping up its bike commitment
Soon, 80% of my riding will be done on either a bike lane or a bike path. I’m very excited for the renovations to the main street that I travel down, and the bike path that connects that street to the park that I go down. That route is generally the most nerve-racking and soon it’ll be a breeze. I just hope they plow it in the winter!
They’ve also paved over an entire railroad that is no longer in use! While I’ll have a new bike path to go South now…this new path will let me cut through some of the most busiest streets in my suburb to anywhere North of me…without having to take the pre-existing North-South path that goes by the water. The railroad path will take me through the heart of the suburbs and towns to the North…making it a breeze to go to the various parks and to visit friends up there. Very cool indeed!
Car usage is way, way down
In the past 6 months, according to my Moves app, I’ve driven 946 miles. I take it to get groceries every week, or if it’s actually raining when I’m about to leave for work. I did drive to Letchworth and Allegany State Parks once or twice. Or I’ll drive the dog somewhere if I want to take him with me wherever I’m going. I suppose that adds up. The important thing is, I’ve driven it much less and have put more miles on the bike than the car! I just had an oil change because the Prius was yelling at me to get it done and the mechanic remarked about its great condition for having 97k miles on it. Now that I’m putting far less strain on it, I’m certain I’ll be able to keep this car for a long time to come.
As you can see, I’m still very much committed to the e-bike and I’m getting better and better at maintaining it, being easy on it and not dying a horrible death…splattered on the side of the road or on somebody’s windshield. If you’re following along, I still need 5,369 more miles on the bike before it, in theory, has paid for itself by not having to drive the Prius to where I’m going. In terms of fun and freedom, it’s been worth every penny.