I was riding along the shore on the walkways in Huntingdon Beach during the first week in July, and I noticed something new this year. All the places where you can rent bikes along the beach now feature electric bikes. They are sweeping through the tourist areas like crazy. I stopped my rides a couple times to check in with the rental kiosks on the strand off the Pacific Coast Highway to inquire about this, and the owners said e-bike rentals were definitely up again this year.
Everywhere I went I saw people on e-bikes, whether their own or rentals. New bike shops in Huntington Beach deal exclusively in e-bikes. The same is true of Newport Beach. Electric bikes are here to stay. I’ve written about them in this column twice previously.
In the last few years, as you may have noticed, we have moved to a new generation of e-bikes. They offer higher top speed (up to 28 miles an hour from a previous high of 20), they have more features and they are somewhat less expensive than when they first came on the market. The technology continues to improve. You can spend many thousands on an electric bike, but the price range continues to expand from low to high. People find them a genuine alternative to standard pedal power. I’ve often said that if manufacturers could find a way to extend battery power to cover two hundred miles, people would begin to ride them cross-country.
The attraction is not so evident for younger people but for those of an age, the e-bike offers the option of remaining in the saddle even when the legs begin to give out. They open new possibilities for older people and, perhaps, for younger ones as well. They are great equalizers on the hills around Las Cruces; to ride uphill at 15 miles an hour is a thrill for those who can’t manage hills very well otherwise.
By law, an e-bike must be propelled by constant pedaling. If it is propelled by the electric motor alone without pedaling, it is classified as a motor scooter and all the laws apply; you have to have licensing, insurance, and observe the rules that apply to a motorcycle. There are, of course, electric scooters on the market and I saw many of them in use along the shore in Huntington Beach, but they require the licensing and so forth because they are propelled without pedaling.
Some of the newer models of e-bikes also offer the option of pedaling or cruising under electric power. You will find motors mounted in the front or rear hubs and in the crank. My personal preference is crank-mounted motors because I think the transfer of energy is best in that set-up, but to each their own. Belt drives are also now to be found among the newer components on e-bikes. Since last I checked in, folding e-bikes have come on the market too.
If you are in the Las Cruces area and you are interested in an e-bike for yourself or for someone whom you’d like to see continue riding, you will want to check out Jim and Barbara Toth’s enterprise, E-bikes of Southern New Mexico. They can be reached at 575-635-9961 or check the web site: ebikesnm.com. They’re very knowledgeable, they have a good choice of bikes, and they have been in business a year and a half, offering both sales and maintenance. Jim is also a volunteer mechanic as the Hub Community Bike Shop in Las Cruces.
Fr. Gabriel Rochelle is pastor of St Anthony of the Desert Orthodox Mission, Las Cruces, an avid cyclist and chairman of the Hub (community bike shop of Las Cruces) steering committee. Email at: firstname.lastname@example.org.