Schwinn Electro Bike - by Bob Cook
Let me begin by describing my situation. I'm 52 years old with a 16 mile commute to work. This ride includes a 500 ft. altitude change (ascending when I'm coming home) and lots of ups and downs along the way. I live in a mountainous area of Northern Nevada. For the past 5 years (that's when I moved here), I've been taking a car to work but lusting after some way to bike to work. A regular bike will not work. It would take too long and I'd arrive in too sweaty a condition (if I didn't perish of a heart attack) but, I reasoned, why not some type of moped where I'd do enough work to get a work out with the "mo" doing the rest.
I was suspicious of a gas moped. No one in town sells one and I didn't like to be on my own with service requirements. Also, I figured that the great power of the gas moped would lull me into not pedaling and what would be the point, then? I might as well be in the car.
But the ever burgeoning array of electric bikes tempted me. Again, no one sold one in town so I couldn't try one out but I had it in my mind that this could be a solution.
But then, one Sunday, about two months ago, I was driving past my local Schwinn dealer (creatively called, Reno Schwinn) and saw a sign which announced ELECTRIC BIKES NOW IN STOCK. I stopped and sure enough there were two units sitting there. The salespeople were enthusiastic about selling this new gadget and they were very helpful to me as I took a spin around the parking lot. The Schwinn electric bike brings on the power as you depress a paddle on the right handlebar. The farther you depress the paddle, the faster you go.
My next step was to do some Internet research. I learned that the electric package for the Schwinn bike was developed by a small firm called Curreys. Schwinn liked it so much that they bought the company and the Curreys package is now only available through Schwinn and on Schwinn bikes. It appears that this product is one of three serious and well supported integrated units, the other two being the Charger and ElectroBike (Iacoca's company). Since it appeared to me that the Schwinn unit was at minimum decent, I ignored the others for the benefit of local sales and service.
But my big question was how much power would the battery provide and how much did I need to provide. The specs on the various bikes would mention ranges like "18 miles with nominal peddling". Am I a nominal peddler or is Greg LeMonde? There wasn't any standard way to understand the specifications on range. I therefore asked Reno Schwinn if they thought this thing would get me home. They answered honestly that they couldn't say but that I could try one out for 3 days and bring it back if it didn't work for me.
This was a very fair offer. I didn't need three days, just one ride. The ride back from the bike shop was about 18 miles with a 700 ft. ascent so I figured it was a worst case scenario.
I peddled as much as I could and killed the battery flat (actually it turns itself off at 20% charge; running a sealed lead acid battery to zero damages it) about 200 yards from my house. I should mention that the last 3 miles to my house is a long uphill which gets progressively steeper. At the expiration of the battery, I suffered from spaghetti legs so I walked it up the last 200 yards. But I figured this was a win!! My actual commute is shorter.
I've now done about 8 round trips to work (for various reasons I can't spare the time every day). My ride going to work is relatively easy. The 16 miles is predominantly descending and it's cool in the mountains in the morning. It takes me about 55 minutes. Going back home is another story. My legs are a bit used up from the morning ride and I take about 80 minutes on the return. And I'm exhausted, but that's the idea.
The bike seems a well made conventional unit and the power assist works great in that it comes on smoothly when the paddle is pressed. It's most useful climbing hills and pulling away from stop lights. Without a power assist, these two actions are the killers. As I got more used to the bike, I changed two things. First, it comes with a Rube Goldberg gadget which prevents you from obtaining power unless the chain is taught (because you're peddling). This thing supposedly is required in certain states or they consider the unit a motorcycle (requiring registration). It limits rider flexibility and also can cause the drive chain to come loose. It's easy to remove (if Janet Reno reads this, I will perhaps be in trouble). Second, I replaced the rather knobby factory supplied tires with slicks inflated to 90 pounds. This decreased rolling friction and has allowed me to make it all the way up the "hill of death" at the end of my ride home.
Another point of practicality is that I bought a second charger. I could then keep one at work and one at home and didn't need to pack the charger with the bike.
Schwinn sells two different chargers, both in the form of AC adapters for consumer electrical products. The cheaper one ($50) will take abut 8 hours to recharge the battery. A larger and more expensive unit ($130) will do the job in about 3 hours. Schwinn appears to be overcharging for these units and someone with an understanding of the electrical requirements of battery charging could probably put together his own charger for less money. Back on the money side, the Schwinn Electrobike costs $1,000 which seems reasonable in this era of $3,000 bikes which don't have batteries.
In conclusion, I should simply say that I love this bike. It
allows you to
either extend your range or make a shorter ride at a higher speed
really increases the practicality of using a bike for commuting
to pure pleasure riding). I want this bike to have my children.
Charger and Pro Drive - by Vic Garza... The other two bikes were test driven for about 10 minutes in drizzly conditions. The Aerovironment/Charger ( http://www.charger.com ) was an impressive though electronically complex bike system. This one only works as a compliment to your own pedalling and does a good job in this respect as you are forced to exercise if you want any assist at all. On the highest setting it gave a feeling of an unusally easy to pedal bike maybe something like pedalling on a slight downgrade in a lower gear with a regular bike. The most impressive assist in my opinion anyway, was the US Prodrive ( http://www.currietech.com ) from Currie Technologies. This one had exceptional power and could be started from dead stop without pedalling. The PWM speed control could be proportionated to any level for assistance. The prodrive mounts to the rear wheel spokes on the side opposite the chain and can be quickly removed if desired. It uses a 2 stage bike chain reduction from the motor to spokes and is one of the lightest and least expensive units on the market. Now if they only had a model that fit recumbents...
Added on Saturday 05/23/98 :
ZAP vs. other transportation choices - by Jack CushmanMy own experience:
6 miles each way, three hills, suburban-urban traffic with some wide sidewalks where bikes are legal.
Without the power assist: 35 minutes inbound, 40 minutes outbound (because of the longer uphill).
With the power assist: 25 minutes each way.
Summertime temperatures are often above 80 F. in the morning. Without the ZAP, arrive sweaty. With the ZAP, no sweat.
Alternatives: Walk 1/2 mile to subway and take train to work, 30 minutes. Ride to subway and lock bike at station, save 5-10 minutes. Subway costs $1.35 each way in rush hour. Off rush hour, can take bike on subway; no time saved but save 50 cents on fare. Bikes are frequently stolen when locked at the subway station.
Drive to work: 30 -35 minutes in rush hour traffic, 20-30 minutes outside or rush hour, pay $9.50 to park. Almost never sweat.
Walk/run to work: 1 - 2 hours each way. Great exercise. Free.
ZAP electric bicycle - review by Steve BrownHere is another view from a Zap owner. The company claims 18MPH and a 20 mile range. I havn't been able to achieve this range with my Zap; however, I weigh more than the cyclist they used for testing and I live in a very hilly area. Usually I am able to travel about 10 miles on a single battery charge with light pedal assistance. On flat ground it would be easy to go 20 miles using the Zap motor sparingly. The speed claimed is accurate, I travel much faster with my Zap than without and I'm not tired when I get to my destination.
Overall I think it is a wonderful product. It is reasonably priced, simple and very reliable, and it makes bike riding fun again - It allowed me to get rid of a car.
Good riding to all of you - with or without a pedal assist.
Charger electric bicycleThis year the NESEA Tour has four electrically assisted bicycles competing. #12 `Charger Bicycle' is a commercially available product that comes out of GT Bicycles and AeroVironment with a > very < original way to control it.
Rick Shanahan was talking to the crowd in Northampton on Tuesday morning, and was in salesman mode. "This bicycle sells for $1,495. It does comes with an optional rock-shock, which is a front suspension, which adds about $200. The frame is Cromoly and made by GT bicycles."
All the other electric bikes I've seen have a speed control on or near the handle bars. It might be a twist control, or trigger, or even a switch. But the `Charger Bicycle' has none of that.
"This bike you actually > have < to pedal. It's sort of like power steering in your car, where it does nothing until you start turning the wheel. When you start pedaling, the bike > matches < your torque," adding up to 4 times the energy you are putting in. "This bike can make you just as strong as a `Tour de France' rider, for about 20 miles. A patented device that AeroVironment made, called the `Wavey Idler/Torque System', measures the tension in the pedal chain. As soon as you start to pedal, the bike wants to jump forward." The bike puts out about 525 Watts. A `Tour de France' rider is about 375 Watts, peak. An average human can put out about 100 Watts, and a couch-potato can put out about 60 Watts. There are 4 settings of added energy level. On the highest setting, the bike adds power for about 17 or 18 miles, depending on the rider and the terrain. On the lowest setting, there is extra energy for about 40 miles. They electronically control the speed of the motor to only add energy up to about 20 miles an hour. Above that speed, you are on your own. "We feel that anything over 20 mph should be ridden by the rider. It means you are a top notch rider. It makes you honest."
There is a security code that disables the bike until you key it in.
The battery pack is removable and contains the battery, control electronics, charger electronics, and a power cord to plug it into a wall outlet. A simple locking mechanism releases it and lets you bring it into the house while the rest of the bike stays behind. The 24 Volts of batteries inside are sealed lead-acid and deliver about 12 Amp-hours.
"The reason the bike is really efficient is because as you change gears for yourself, you also change gears for the motor, so the motor is always running at its optimum RPM. We are looking at about a 60% system efficiency overall."
There are two chains. One goes from the pedal sprocket to the outer rear wheel sprocket. (This is not a derailer system.) The other goes from the brushed DC motor, mounted just above and and to the rear of the pedal sprocket, to it's own inner rear sprocket between the outer chain and the spokes. They both are attached to the rear hub, a Nexus-7 by Shimano, which has the transmission inside, providing seven different gear ratios.
I was not able to ride the bike, as I had fallen and pulled a leg muscle. But
Rick had both his competition bike and a demonstration bike with him, and he
was letting just-plain-folk of all ages go out for a spin around the parking
lots. There were a lot of smiling faces.
EV Warrior & TSI/ETC folding bikeI wanted to wait until we used our bikes for awhile, before I contacted you. So far we like them quite well, no problems so far. Did have a flat on the rear tire of the EV Warrior, due to the valve stem being pinched. Evidently, at the dealer (Ron Tonkin, Portland, OR) while installing tire liner, pinched the valve. The cost of a new tube and labor, was $8.00. Ron Tonkin (Jon Geffen is the general manager of the electric bike dept.) forgot to send the bicycle lock with the bike, but promptly mailed it later. It is a combination lock mounted on the seat stem. On an 11 mile round trip used very little of the electric power.
From a full charge, the LED light is not visable, however the more power you use, it appears (right to left) following a painted color bar. From full power in the battery to ready for recharge is: Green, Blue, Yellow, Red. After a peiod of time in the red, it will blink, until you put it on charge. I added a "fanny pouch" under the rear seat, to put metric tools in.
My wife enjoys her folding bike (also from Ron Tonkin), and the same one
that Sharper Image sells. No proble with that one, however, we are
looking for a plasic cabinet to mount on the tray in the rear, to put a
few items in when we go biking. Impossible to have a storage unit on
mhy EV Warrior, so will take a small to medimum back pack, if I find it
necessary to carry items.
EV WarriorAs I was riding down the street on my Bike Machine, some guy stopped me and said that they now sell an electric bicycle at the Bommarito car dealership. That caught my fancy, so when I got home, I called Bommarito. Sure enough, they did have electric bike.
One hour later I was there. They allowed test ride provided I sign the form. I signed it without reading, took the bicycle helmet they gave me and mounted the EV Warrior bicycle. It looked pretty good with motor fully enclosed over rear wheel and a bunch of gadgets on the steering wheel. These included speedometer, battery gauge and odometer. There was also horn and turn signals (the basic model doesn't have turn signals, though).
Starting is easy... damn, I forgot if it has ignition or not... well, anyway, after you do or don't use the ignition, press the Start button (like in Windows 95) and motor is on. The throttle works the same way as on most other two-wheelers.
I waved the salesman good bye and was on my way around the dealership. The speed was good, but I had to turn a lot, because parking lot wasn't that big. Finally I managed to drive into dead end and had to u-turn. At this point a big minus of EV Warrior showed up - turning was surprisingly hard. It took a lot of space to u-turn and I almost had to put my feet on the ground to keep balance.
The reason I haven't bought it - it is definetely a 1st generation bicycle. The driving range is small (15 miles) and the price tag is high ($1399). Hopefully, with new battery technology around the corner, a cheaper and more capable bicycles are on the way.
There is a followup to this story - a month later a lady from Electric Bicycle Corporation called and asked me stuff about how I liked EV Warrior. Looks like they are really taking into account customer's opinion.