I grew up in the 1950s and had an old beater one-speed bike with a coaster brake. The first time I saw an “English bike with a three-speed hub” was in high school and a friend of mine let me ride it….it seemed really fast!
When “10-speed” bikes took the country by storm in the late ‘60s I got my first job in a bike shop. A Schwinn Varsity was my daily commuter, and I bought a sleek racing bike when I got my first amateur racing license in 1970. I raced in several state championships in Arizona and again when I rolled over into the master’s age group in 2003.
In between those eras I continued to ride, including “mountain bikes” and the standard, heavy-duty bikes with a kid-seat when the little ones started arriving in the 1980s.
Time marches on (again)….I’m now 73 and one of the things about the mountain bike era was that it introduced a more durable machine. Sure, the mountain bikes were great for going over rocks and bumps, but for daily commuting they’re also fine for curb-hopping and the, ahem, rutted streets with potholes that adorn out nation. The wider tires were sturdy and less prone to flats. Later versions started to introduce disk brakes which were great in rainy climates and had super stopping power on downhills.
My transition from mountain bikes now to electric bikes, or e-bikes, has benefitted from the combination of durability and the added zip of power assist. I don’t ride any faster, because they are designed to top out at 20 mph, but I do ride farther and more often since the electric power train gives me the confidence that I’ll have enough energy to make it home without too much fatigue. That means I can ride again tomorrow instead of having to “recover” for a couple days.
So far, I’ve owned three of the models GEN3 offers; here’s what I’ve learned.
The Stride electric bike has a step-through frame, ideal for easy mounting. Some studies have found that just getting on a bike can be a challenge, losing your balance or getting a leg over the top bar can be difficult. If so, the Stride could be right for you.
The Groove is the folding version in the GEN3 e-bike line. While it’s not as light as a Bike Friday or the other folding bikes that have been around for decades, it will fold up small enough to fit in a car trunk.
In my case, I have a station wagon, so I fold up the Groove, lean it over on the tailgate and push it into the back of the wagon without having to pick it up. It’s easier than having to install a car rack and the bike is inside out of the weather.
I find the Groove to be a favorite for quick trips to the store with a day pack. I can ride right up to the front of the store, lock the bike, grab a few items and be on my way in the time it takes most people to find a parking spot.
The Flex is my favorite GEN3 electric bike for long rides. As a long-time rider, I enjoy having the triple crank to extend my gear selection. Living in the Pacific Northwest, there are hills everywhere. I also live near a ferry dock at sea level, so it is uphill in every direction.
The Outcross is the big fat tire electric bike from GEN3. I haven’t ridden one yet, but with all the great features that come standard on GEN3 bikes it seems like a great choice for those who go off-roading frequently or do lots of gravel riding. If I were out on a ranch someplace, I think I’d be out herding cattle. Or bouncing along a trail chasing Bigfoot. Seems like those big, fat mountain bike tires can go almost anywhere.
Here’s a few tips for getting the most out of electric assist:
TIP 1 – Can you get a workout on an electric bike?
I usually leave the power setting on the lowest level (1 out of 5) and just shift up and down with the derailleur to match any hill I may have to climb. It’s easy enough to keep a comfortable pedaling cadence and just put the power level up to 2 or 3 if the terrain gets steeper.
TIP 2 – How to Make Your E-Bike's Battery Last Longer
On the flats or downhill, I often just set the power level to “0” …. the benefit to this is that the odometer keeps tracking your mileage even if you’re not using battery power. It also means a great workout and longer battery life. I’ve been on several long rides and the Flex can easily go 40-50 miles and still have enough battery left to give you the confidence you’ll easily make it home. When you need electric assist, just turn the power level back on. That means you can try new routes or stay out longer. It’s about having fun, right?
TIP 3 – Use the Throttle for Quick Startups
Now, I’ve saved the best for last: One feature on the GEN3 controller I simply adore is the little “go” throttle lever that lets you do a “boost” of battery power without having to change your pedal assist level. I use this a lot at stoplights; it’s handy to get right back up to cruising speeds without having to shift through the gears.
One last safety feature that is good to know, the pedal assist is very handy for cruising but can easily be forgotten when you come to a stop and accidentally move the pedals. To keep your e-bike from taking off on you, keep both the hand brakes engaged. The powerful brakes keep the motor power from engaging when you don’t want to.
I have a several friends with e-bikes, one is a Trek and the other is a Specialized. Both are very nice bikes, that cost quite a pretty penny. The downside is they have the baseline power assist, but don’t have the little “go” throttle lever that I’ve come to think of as my secret “turbo” booster. Often, I’ll just give the throttle a little push to keep my momentum up a hill without changing the actual power setting or shifting gears.
Those are just a few tips and insights from riding GEN3 electric bikes the past few months. Happy e-riding!