CAMDEN—To the untrained eye, an electric bike —or ebike— looks just like any other mountain bike, except with a bulkier frame.
A compact electric motor and battery mounted in the center of the bike (within the down tube) allows the rider to pedal as normal, but with pedal-assist technology, power is stored within the motor as the rider pedals, which in turn, boosts the bike’s ability to maintain certain speeds.
Sidecountry Sports is at the Camden Snow Bowl on Saturday, July 20, giving the public free demos and rides on Specialized ebikes from 12 to 5 p.m. to show people what they feel like. “The sensation you get is a boost of power when you ride,” said Sidecountry Sports’ owner, Andrew Dailey.
In conjunction with the Maine Lobster Ride on Saturday and Sunday, an annual bike ride through Camden, Sidecountry Sports is working with their sponsor, Specialized, to introduce a curious public to the advanced technology of ebikes.
“There are different classes to ebikes,” said Dailey. “A class I ebike would cut out at 20 m.p.h whereas as a class III ebike would cut out at 28 m.p.h. And it’s all pedal-assist; there’s no throttle on these ebikes, so you still have to pedal; you still have to shift. That motor inside controls the power and it matches your pedaling cadence, so if the bike ‘feels’ that you’re struggling, the bike will boost you. The bike will match to the power of where you were previously pedaling. ”
Daily said ebikes allow people to pedal a lot further and effortlessly up hills. “Ebikes have been around for a few years, but the technology keeps getting better,” he said. “The weight of the bikes is coming down; they’re going further. These bikes we are using for the demos this weekend go 70 miles to a charge. So you can make this bike your daily commuter.”
“Fifty percent of all bicycles sold in Europe right now are ebikes,” he added.
Dailey said the biggest question Sidecountry Sports gets is the price difference that people are seeing on Amazon versus the two biggest ebike brands: Specialized and Trek.
“The ones you see on Amazon that are half the price aren’t really ebikes because they have a throttle,” he said. “That doesn’t fit the definition of an ebike; that is more of a motorized scooter, because you don’t have to pedal. Additionally, the Amazon product’s wiring may have issues. We had one customer buy a bike off Amazon and take it to us to put it together for them. Two months after purchasing it, the bike needed re-wiring and we had to wait eight months for Amazon to ship us new wiring.”
When you buy from one of the big brands, he said, the bikes are better built and have the same battery technology as Tesla. In addition, the customer has the backing of these companies that are investing hundred of millions of dollars into this platform. “If something breaks, they produce their own parts,” he explained.
Another issue with ebikes made with a throttle is that they may not be allowed on regular bike trails. “They may not be appropriate to ride on a trail because you can’t really control the motor,” he said.
Given that the technology is still so new to Maine, there is no language in the Maine Revised Statutes to define what ebikes are and where they can be used. Bicycle Coalition of Maine is currently working with People for Bikes and Maine legislators to develop a class of ebikes and determine where they can be ridden.
One enthusiastic rider who identified himself as The Ebike Apostle said, “It feels like magic. I truly call myself a Wizard and everyone else is a Muggle when you’re on one of these. You just become a super human.”
For more information on Sidecountry Sport demos, visit: Facebook
Kay Stephens can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org