AutoMatters & More: San Diego Electric Bike Expo

Electric vehicles are here to stay. Last week we told you about Formula E: exciting, competitive electric car racing at the Long Beach ePrix and around the world (watch here for in-person coverage – with photos – of the inaugural Paris ePrix). This week we’ll share with you some of what we learned and experienced first-hand at the San Diego Electric Bike Expo.

Billed as “The e-Bike Ride Experience,” the San Diego Electric Bike Expo rolled into Liberty Station with more than 100 different models of the latest electric assist bikes from 18 brands, including A2B, BESV, BULLS, Easy Motion, Feit Electric, Focus, Gazelle, Haibike, IZIP, Kalkhoff, Polaris, Raleigh, Stromer, Tempo, Trek, Xtracycle and Yuba, with state-of-the-art electric drive systems from Bosch, Yamaha, Shimano and others.

Not only were all these eBikes in one place, but you could also ride them. That’s important because there is a wide variety of styles to choose from: commuter, touring, road, cargo, mountain, folding and more – offering choices to suit our various lifestyles and needs, from beach cruisers to eBikes with enough room to take two kids on the back, or reconfigured as a delivery vehicle, or perhaps a food vendor.

Since they are so different from each other, it stands to reason that you should ride them to experience the differences for yourself, and since this was a free event, you could take the time to ride as many of the different bikes as you wished. That is what you need to do when you go shopping for an eBike, just like you would test drive a car before you bought it. Helmets were supplied.

Manufacturers and dealers were there to answer all of our questions.

The San Diego Electric Bike Expo went way beyond simply giving us opportunities to slowly cruise around a large parking lot. Instead, a course with options was marked out to offer a variety of riding situations: straights, gentle to tight turns, hilly terrain and bumps. Some portions were easy, while others were more challenging. Since they were options, you could choose what to do.

Typically you can dial up the amount of electric assist that you need, so you can still get your exercise – but without having to pedal up that steep hill that you don’t like so much.

My first lap was understandably tentative. This is, after all, a bike so balancing on it is a required skill. It had been a while since I had ridden any bicycle, let alone an electric one. The experts advised me to dial up just a little bit of assist at first, and then increase that as my confidence built (which, at least for me, it did quickly).

Beyond that, for those of us who already had an eBike, or perhaps rented one, group rides were being led on a 12-mile ride to Cabrillo National Park and back.

The San Diego Bike Coalition presented “Everyday Bicycling Safety and Awesome Short Tours in San Diego,” a guide to how and where to ride any bicycle—electric or not – in San Diego. That included tips on the best bike lanes, the best views (on a eBike you can go slowly enough to actually see and enjoy them!), the best food and beverages, and more.

Joe Robinson from Xtracycle presented Bicycle Commuting Tips, to show how families and individuals could use an electric cargo bike to commute.

Dave Snyder from the California Bicycle Coalition presented “How California is Leading the U.S. in Promoting eBikes.”

There were also great prizes, including free eBikes by Easy Motion and Stromer, and discounts. Local bike shops at the expo were Moment Bicycles, El Camino Bike Shop, San Diego Fly Rides, Bicycle Warehouse and Pedego Temecula.

To best place to shop is at a local dealer. They will give you test rides on a variety of eBikes, so that you can have confidence that you are making the correct decision. They will help you determine which is the right eBike for you, based on your needs – not someone else’s. They will be able to make changes, like switching out the seat to a more comfortable one, or changing the handlebar stem for one that is the correct height for you. They will help you figure out your electric range wants and needs, and how much electric assist you need.

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Copyright © 2016 by Jan Wagner – AutoMatters & More #433