A year ago today I got my first bike in 20 years, an electric folding bike, the LectricXP. I’d sold my last two bikes 20 years ago after an aggravated knee injury that didn’t seem to get better. Over the years I would occasionally try a bike ride on a borrowed bike but the discomfort was there every time. When I bought the LectricXP last winter I expected to just use it to ride a mile to visit my folks and check the mail when I wanted something faster than my usual walk. I had no idea that I’d be able to consistently pedal again. The day of this photo I ended up riding a 12 mile round trip to town. The bike did most of the work as I didn’t yet have the confidence that my knee would hold up to much effort. Over the weeks I put in more of the effort and was riding farther, as far as the battery would safely last.
The Rad Rover in Perry County – a 40ish mile ride!
After a month I’d bought a second e-bike, the Rad Rover that had a larger range (45 miles instead of 35) and I was riding nearly every day up to 30 miles. Then 35 miles. Then 40 miles. By March I was trying to pedal as much of my 45 mile rides with little to no assist from the bike for as much of the ride as I could. I rode 800 miles on the Rover in March.
Non-Powered Gravity fat bike
With the Covid virus getting worse my sister started working remotely and began a long-term visit in early April that would end up lasting through the summer. I decided to cut my long county rides short and focus on building some trails to ride closer at hand. As a result, in April I bought the non-powered Gravity Bullseye Monster fat bike. I wasn’t sure I’d be able to ride it unassisted but the Rover had allowed me to build up some confidence. A year ago the idea of riding a bike unassisted wasn’t a thought when I tapped the “buy” button on the Lectric webpage. 50 miles with no assist? I would have rolled on the ground laughing. Or that I would be riding nearly every day week after week? I’m feeling a lot of gratitude for the folks at Lectric and Rad Power Bikes as they got me back peddling on my own again. And for anyone thinking of an electric bike, go for it! That said, if you are healthy enough to pedal on your own, keep at it as much as you are able. There’s no technology better than a bike that I can think of that has made me a happier, healthier person in the course of my life.
It seems weird that in this terrible, bizzaro nightmare of a year I have had perhaps the best year of my previous 20 years thanks to these bikes and the socially distanced life I’ve been living for most of the past 12 years. As the pandemic, social struggles, and related nightmares raged on I’ve been out in the quiet countryside peddling along blissfully. It’s a strange disconnect. Regardless, I’m thankful that my year has been a healthy one.
My sister and niece are visiting so I’ve been keeping my rides shorter, mostly riding in the morning when it’s cold. We’re keeping our visits to outside porch visits because our cabins our small. Normally we’d just pile in but social distancing and all that.
Our roads are being dug up by the county for spring maintenance. Normally they grade the gravel roads a few times a year and in theory that’s what they are doing. But it seems more like ploughing than grading. After a few weeks of traffic and a few rains it will all settle back down but for now my previously relaxed gravel rides have turned into a much bumpier, rockier experience. Pretty interesting but not the smooth, carefree rides they were. The upside is that even though it’s the same road it almost seems like a different road so it’s variety even though it’s the same. LOL. Another upside is that because they’ve so destroyed the road I’m going much slower, pedaling with no electric assist for most of the gravel road which is great exercise. I was already reducing my use of electric on the gravel sections but now it’s almost no assist at all because I need to go slower. Even though I’m only riding 26 miles compared to the 38 miles of my normal loop I’m still getting in 2.5 hours of ride time because it’s so much slower.
All that said, I don’t understand the goal of the “maintenance” work. Why churn up a road that was largely smooth and level? A last note: I finally had my first puncture. Thanks to the Slime in my inner tubes I didn’t have a flat! The Slime filled in the leak and I had no problem getting home. I rode the bike for three or four days before taking off the front tire and patching the tube. The tube was holding pressure pretty well so I’m not sure I needed to patch it but it certainly doesn’t hurt. Super glad I slimed the tires!
A last note: 2000 miles for the year thus far. I’m not sure I’ll maintain my current pace through the summer and really, I’m trying to not have any goals. Just ride and enjoy would be the extent of my plans.
Well, here we are. Middle of a global pandemic and in the U.S. we have, not surprisingly, fumbled the response horribly. Our political process, discourse and system are in a persistent state of crisis and disfunction. We currently have the worst president in U.S. history and he’s made a real shit show of the crisis and through it all his supporters keep supporting him. People are dying. It’s a mess and that’s an understatement. All that said a crashing of the economy and drop in human use of fossil fuels is good for the planet. There’s a lot that might be said on that subject.
I’m riding. I don’t know what else to do at the moment. I’m trying to be helpful to my nearby family, older folk that need to stay home. So I’ll shop for them and try to be safe. And when I’m not shopping I’ll be riding. The past few months it’s been my obsession and continues to be so. So much has changed in the past couple of months and things will be getting worse before they get better. At the moment I’m not sure what I can do to about things so I plan to keep pedaling as it’s one thing I can do that puts my mind at ease and helps me stay sane, stay healthy.
I’m nearing 2,000 miles for the year and my rides are now consistently at about 3.5 hours and 40 miles.
Okay, well, I have a GoPro. It started when I took a couple of ride videos with my iPhone to share on our family shared iMessage thread which we lovingly call “The Nut Tree”. They were hand held and not too bad but not great. Both my dad and my aunt suggested I get a GoPro. I initially shrugged it off because I just didn’t expect to be doing too many videos. Mostly just sharing with no big expectations. Same with some still photos. I’m not a “YouTuber” and have no desire to get into that. I’ve done the occasional YouTube when it seems to have educational value but just oddball stuff on no schedule.
Anyhoooo, both my aunt and dad brought it up a few times and each time they suggested it the idea sounded better. Fast forward a couple of weeks and we have this…
I have to admit, it’s fun. I do enjoy sharing and editing video is fun. I’m not planning to put a lot of time into it but I expect I’ll post a few of these off and on. I’d not posted to Instagram in over a year because of the Facebook ownership and my distaste for Facebook. But with our new cycling project in town I decided I’d start posting again, primarily cycling related stuff so I’ll share the videos there too. But ultimately I want to make sure that my time on the bike is about riding, not documenting.
Lots of very nice rides this week including today which was forecasted to be an all day rain. It cleared up late afternoon and the sun came out. I’d put three hours of charge on the 50% battery I had and had plenty of juice to get out for a two hour sunset ride. Great thing about sunset (and sunrise) rides and walks is that the birds are always so active. Really nice to see and hear their heightened activity. An excellent way to end the day!
Really enjoying that new extension on my normal ride. Bumps me up to 39ish miles and 3 hours long. Beautiful ride. Funny, now 25 miles seems like a short ride! If I keep at my current rate of riding I’ll end the year at or above 7,000 miles. I’m trying not to be too goal oriented and just get out when I want to. Maybe. But I often tend to see things like this as a challenge and I tend to push further rather than being content. We’ll see
One of the reasons I love being on a bike is the pace. I’m never in a hurry on a bike as it’s already a step up from walking and I really do enjoy experiencing the environment I’m in. Slow is fine with me! My current route is really two parts. The blacktop has me riding at about 14 to 17mph and it’s a nice ride. But my favorite part of the ride, by far, is the gravel portion which is a narrow road with trees right up to the edges. At 9 to 12mph I’m really relaxed and enjoying the slow flow of trees around me and the ground under me. I’m a walker on a bike!
Enjoying that slow pace also means that I’ll get better range off of each charge which is a nice bonus. On Tuesday I set out on a ride intending to add an additional 6.7 mile loop to my usual 32 miles. It was a fantastic ride! The new loop is about 4 miles of really nice gravel and a couple miles of pavement. The total ride was just short of 39 miles. On Wednesday I thought I’d try extending that loop around Perry Lake and that didn’t work out because Perry Lake is a private neighborhood with a gated entrance! I rode on up to HWY T then turned around and returned to my new loop ending up with my longest ride yet, 44 miles and 3.5 hours. That extra bit had the steepest hills I’ve ridden on the Rover with a grade at about 15%, maybe a bit more. Total elevation on the ride was 3,145. No problem getting up those hills using about 600 watts and peddling fairly hard in the granny gear. No way I’d do it without moderate peddling. Average speed around 12.5mph for the full ride and 40% battery capacity remaining.
Having a chance to explore around Madison and surrounding counties has been a fantastic experience. I’m really grateful for the opportunity to be back on a bike. One note about my riding style, as much as possible I’m keeping to lower PAS levels 1 and 2 in part because I’m riding the bike and not driving it. At the end of the day I want to put in as close to 100% of my own effort and I think that’s more likely at those lower PAS levels. There might come a time when my knees are not healthy enough to pedal as much as I am now and then I’ll use the electric assist more but until that time I really enjoy putting forth the effort.
Lastly, just to point out and emphasize the amazing efficiency of the bicycle and electric bike, I’m riding 30 miles on about a nickel’s worth of electricity and my own effort which amounts to about 1,000 calories of food each ride. It doesn’t get much better than that.
2/28 31.3 miles
2/29 40.5 miles
3/1 38.7 miles
3/2 35.3 miles
3/3 34.1 miles
3/4 34.2 miles
3/5 34.2 miles
3/6 7.4 miles Rest day!
3/7 35.6 miles
3/8 33.2 miles
3/9 Rain and rest!
So much fun on the bike these past few weeks! I forced myself to take a rest day on the 6th because I’d had 8 days straight riding 30 miles and it was a really windy day so I figured if I was due to give my legs a break best to do it on a day when riding wasn’t going to be as enjoyable. I did get in a short 7 mile ride though! Then today we had rain forecast for the whole day so I helped my dad with some shopping and took another rest. Back in the saddle tomorrow though!
I’ve been cycling almost daily since the 21st of December and starting in February my rides started to lengthen to 30+ miles with the arrival of the Rover and it’s improved battery. The longer rides have been fantastic with the exception of by butt so, I finally took the plunge and bought 2 pair of padded cycling shorts. I’m really looking forward to some increased comfort starting with a longer ride tomorrow! Planning an extension of what has become my normal 32 mile ride to 38 miles and if that goes well will do another extension to 43 miles around Lake Perry soon after. We’ve got some rain in the forecast so I may have a few shorter days but I’ve got some new rain gear arriving soon, so rainy-day riding is something I’ll be doing a lot more of.
In the past few weeks of riding I’m really taking my time with average speed per ride of 12 to 13 mph. I tend to do the 8 miles from home at PAS 2 and 3 at about 16mph as it’s the wider and well paved county road. Then the gravel and rough pavement of the next 8 miles at the slower PAS 1 and 2. This gravel road I’m riding is so fantastic I’m finding that I’m in no hurry to get through that part of the ride and just really enjoy the casual pace and quiet woods. I suspect that with that kind of riding the battery range increases dramatically as PAS 1 uses only 33 to 66 watts which equates to several extra hours of power. If I’m going slower and peddling that means a good bit of extra range. It will be interesting to see where the battery stands after 43 miles. I’m expecting that I can get 50 miles or a bit more with careful use.
In my previous post I complained a bit about the gravel being too deep on the road is it got closer to HWY BB but I’ve since found it’s really not too bad to ride. It’s not as nice as the dirt but I’ll deal with it because it’s still a decent gravel road! Plus I’ll need to get used to it if I want to extend my ride further in this direction which I do as it leads me to the additional loop around Lake Perry and some other possible routes.
One other thing to note since my last post which is that I’ve now got an occasional riding parter, Bryce who will also be helping with our Spokes and Folks group rides. Super nice guy and fun to ride with. Looking forward to more rides with him. He’s been riding around the county for several years and it’s going to be a blast riding some of his routes. There’s a lot more of Madison County to see after I spend a bit more time dipping my toes into this corner of Perry County!
First a few updates on the Rover! Lots of riding. February is at about 511 miles of riding with two more days left. I’ve ridden 1000+ miles since my first ride on the Lectric XP on December 22. Woot!
2/20 15.8 miles
2/21 33.7 miles
2/22 33 miles
2/23 32.5 miles
2/24 16.8 miles
2/25 25.5 miles
2/27 32 miles
I’m generally finding 30 mile rides pretty comfortable now. My butt get’s a little sore but not too bad. The upright geometry of the bike feels very comfortable. My knees feel great.
This new route is, by far, my favorite ride. It’s pavement for most of the first 6.5 miles then it transitions to mostly gravel for the last 6 miles. The whole 12 miles is county road with very little traffic and a mix of woodland and farmland on either side. When the road begins to transition to primarily gravel at about 6.5 miles the woods become denser and at about 9 miles it begins to feel less like a road and more like a wide bike path. No sounds but wind in the trees, birds and me. Had the great luck to see a fox cross in front of me on my Thursday ride. At that point in the ride I slow down from peddle assist 3 or 2 and settle in at 1 or 2 at 10mph. For the last 3 miles I’m at PAS 1 and 10mph or less. It’s the best part of the ride and if the packed dirt gravel went for another 10 miles I’d gladly ride it another 10 miles.
I did venture down to HWY BB which is further along but the road becomes much rougher with too much gravel layered too deeply. In general it looses some of the smooth forest path character and not nearly enjoyable. There’s also a Y branch that goes north towards St. Francois County and it’s a nice gravel ride until the county change when it goes to blacktop. Still very nice. I rode that all the way up to Hwy T and looped back via East Castor River Rd one day which was a fairly nice 31 miles. Hwy T is a faster blacktop road with no shoulder. I didn’t encounter much traffic and wouldn’t want to as it’s a 50mph road though I was only on it 3 miles. East Castor River Rd isn’t all that nice to ride on, really rough and too much gravel in spots so I’m not sure when I’ll do this loop again.
Our Livable Streets and cycling project are making steady progress. We presented to the City Council and County Commission. I’ve got updates on the Spokes and Folks News blog which is where I’ll likely post most of my future updates on the project. The local newspaper did a very nice story about our project. We’ve got our bicycle safety booklets and are looking at a couple grants for the bike racks. Rolling forward!
This bike is so much fun. That’s not to say that the other bike wasn’t fun. Just that the Rover, with the greater range, the front shocks and larger diameter tires provides a comfort that the Lectric did not. For example, today’s 27 mile ride, a new exploration on county gravel roads starting in Madison County and crossing over into Perry County. No problem. I don’t have to worry at all about the range on a ride of this distance. A few days ago, the 16th, I rode 37 miles and still had more than 40% of battery left! That was on PAS 2 with an average speed of 14. Yesterday I was late for a meeting with one of our group cyclists so for the first time (with either bike) I cranked it up to PAS 5 for the whole ride to town. I covered the 6 miles to Scoops in 17 minutes with an average speed of 21.5 and had plenty of juice left over (about 40%) when I finished the day at 25 miles. Riding these distances and knowing I can go faster if I want or need to opens up the possibilities further which is exactly what I was hoping for.
2/16 37.5 miles
2/17 29 miles
2/18 25 miles
2/19 30 miles
321 miles for February, 727 for the year! Woot! Only slightly obsessed 🤓
So, the ride today: Gravel! And it was fantastic! As nice as a quiet paved road is for a ride I’m finding that gravel provides a sense of adventure that’s missing on blacktop. And actually, todays ride was as much packed dirt as it was gravel. Technically it’s a gravel road but the best parts of it were down to smooth dirt, all of it through a mixed forest, dominated by pine right up to the edges of the road. Closer to the width of a single vehicle, not that I saw any. Just me on the road surrounded by trees and birds. Quiet. Peaceful. The beauty of an e-bike is that it is nearly as quiet as a regular bike. The motor makes almost no noise at all. The sound of the knobby tires on the road is louder and at 12 mph it’s not all that loud. The whole ride was 27 miles, the best part of that was the 10 or so on the gravel and dirt.
This is my new favorite route and I expect I’ll be doing this ride several times a week until I find a better one. I had a client meeting today so I had to cut it short, only two hours. The next ride I’ll make sure I have 3 hours and I’ll go farther at a slower pace. Friday maybe. I can hardly wait!
2/10 4 – First Rad Rover test ride
We’ve had some very wet winter weather which has kept me off the bike for a 5 days thus far this month. I snuck in a short couple of rides on some other rain days but they were brief. Still, 200 miles for the month! Knees are great! I have to remind myself to take it easy. I don’t want to push too hard as I did when I was riding back in Memphis 20 years ago.
My third full Rover Ride yesterday, Saturday, was my first ride over 30 miles. The Lectric’s reliable range topped out at about 28 miles. I was really impressed with the battery on the Rover as we had winds from 15 to 20 mph with some gusts possibly higher than that and even with the wind I ended the ride at just over 31 miles and 40% battery, mostly ridden at PAS 2, average speed of around 14 mph. Given that I’m going to speculate that on a less windy day I could safely get 40 miles or more at PAS 2. I wouldn’t be surprised if I could get close to 50. My ride today is set to be a nice one. 55 degrees and no wind so I might try to push to PAS 3 and see where the range lands me at an average higher speed.
Adding a new tag for my Rover Rides which will likely be the primary bike I use going forward.
(Note: As I wrote this first impression it occurred to me that I’d like to also write a follow-up digging into what makes electric bikes so fantastic as a form of transportation in terms of enjoyment and efficiency. That will be next on the list.)
The new bike came on Monday. I had just enough time to get it assembled and out for a short, four mile ride. But the battery was at less than a 40% charge so I brought it home before giving it a real test run. The first three charges are supposed to be for 12 hours each to “balance” the cells. I did that and this morning added slime to the tires, tweaked a few things and then went out for a good and proper 20 mile ride. I took my usual route which consists of the quiet county blacktop roads 217, 219, 221 then back and up to the Slime Pond and then to the cemetery.
It’s a very nice ride. Too early to say if it’s everything I hoped it would be when I decided to get a second bike because a big part of that is hoping I’ll be able to get 35 to 45 miles per charge instead of the 28 I’m getting with the Lectric. It takes three 12 hour “balance” charges to get the batteries conditioned to something close to full capacity. After today’s 24.5 miles I’ve used 2 of the 5 bars. So, I’ll guess I’m at around 45 to 55% remaining. With the Lectric the same mileage has been leaving me at about 35%. The Lectric has 10 bars and also a voltage meter for more precise measurement. The Rover has 5 bars, no voltage meter so I’ll have to ride it a bit and learn more about how the five bars translate into range in real-world riding. My understanding would be that each bar represents a 20% range so 1 bar: 0 – 20%, 2 bars: 20 – 40%, 3 bars: 40 – 60%, 4 bars: 60 – 80%, 5 bars: 80 – 100%.
Another aspect of batteries and range also comes into play here. Something I’ve learned about the Lectric is that the lower half of the battery is not the same as the top half. Below 50% and it seems to drop more quickly and as it drops available power to the engine drops as well. So, in the top 50% I might expect to get 15 miles at full power. In the bottom 50% I can expect 12 miles with progressively less power. The last 20% of battery provides far less power to the motor. As I understand it some of how the rider experiences an electric bike will vary based on how the controller has been tuned. Each brand and model providing a variety of batteries, motors and controller means a different experience.
Since I’m on the topic of the electronic part of the bike I’ll go ahead and cover some other differences in that area. Namely that while I do indeed seem to be on target for more range there is also a significant difference in how the two bikes accelerate, maintain speeds and the levels of pedal assist. I expected this largely in part to the difference in while size. The Lectric with the 20” diameter wheels has more torque and feels much zippier from start. It’s also got a more limited 12-28 cog. In PAS 3 it tends to hover around 17-18 with moderate pedal effort. Pushing speed beyond 22 requires a good bit of effort. By comparison the Rover with it’s 26” feels slower from the start but it does get up to it’s cruising speed fairly quickly and once there is higher and easier to maintain. In PAS 3 it tends to run at about 20 to 22. I can push the speed up to 25 with the higher 6th or 7th gear with light to moderate effort.
I’ve got 7 weeks of riding with the Lectric and only a day with the Rover so I’ll really need to spend more time with it to get a fuller view of how it’s performing at the different PAS levels and how it performs in terms of speed and range. On the tail end of the first ride I tried the bike out at PAS 1 and 2 and found it similar to the Lectric. One difference being that I found that I wanted to use the thruster more at these levels, especially PAS 1 where the Rover seemed slower. I found that I could run it at PAS 1 and mix in the thruster at a partial twist to get a significant speed bump while also keeping the watt usage low.
A last bit on the electrical system that seems most significant to me is the display of data which is similar. One difference already mentioned is the less detailed view of battery offered by the Rover. But I like that the watts being used allow me to have a sense of what my range will be. The Lectric does something similar showing the amps being used. With the Lectric I find myself going back and forth between amps being used and current battery voltage. With the Rover I can only see the watts being used which is more limited but I almost preferred it. Not sure why.
On to the feel of the Rover and how that compares to the Lectric. The Lectric with it’s 20” wheels is shorter. It’s stand over height is way lower. It’s easier to mount and feels zippier. All benefits over the Rover. But even with the very nice suspension seat post the Lectric feels like a much rougher ride especially on our gravel which has some fairly rough patches. The Lectric feels like the ideal ride in a city space with busier streets, shorter rides and smoother roads.
The Rover has a much higher stand over height. It weighs about 6 lbs more. It has a longer wheel base. The feel of riding it is very different from the feel of the Lectric. I immediately felt much higher up off the ground and also in a more upright position, almost squished which is funny because it’s a bigger bike! The reason for this is that the distance between the front of the seat and the handlebars is significantly less. The Lectric stretches the user out with a distance of 19” compared to the Rover’s 16”.That may not seem like much but the rider really feels it! The only height for the Rover handlebars is 47” which is pretty high up but right for the geometry of the bike. This will of course mean a different feel for riders of different heights that adjust the seat according to height. The Lectric handlebar height is adjustable with a low of about 42” and a max of about 50” which is a nice feature as it allows for changing mid ride. In general though the Lectric feels like a smaller bike and I feel stretched out regardless of my handlebar height. A couple photos might help illustrate.
The Lectric feels like a small speed boat. Highly maneuverable and fast but very bouncy on the waves. The Rover feels like a yacht (not that I’ve been on a yacht, I’m guessing here). Smooth and very stable! With the larger wheel base and suspension fork our gravel road is a much nicer ride. The bumps are far less noticeable and the overall ride felt far more stable. When I ride down our gravel road on the Lectric I find myself feeling cautious with fingers on the brakes. Same on the steep blacktop hill on my county road ride. On the Rover higher speed on hills feel natural and safe.
Overall comfort on the Rover feels better on a long ride. When I finished yesterday’s ride my butt was a tad more sore because I rode with the stock seat. But overall, I felt better. When I’m riding the Lectric I tend to have a little discomfort on the list 5 miles of my ride. I think it’s the result of the rougher ride and the geometry of the bike. I tend to feel a bit of back ache too. Not terrible but it’s there. I didn’t notice this on my first Rover ride.
So, two very different riding experiences and I’ll know more after I get more rides in with the Rover but my first impression is that I greatly prefer the increased comfort of the Rover to the zip and nimbleness of the Lectric. I wanted greater range for longer rides on these back country roads and I do think the Rover is going to provide that. Even better, it provides an overall smoother ride and higher cruising speeds with greater stability which will be noticeable on the hilly and rougher gravel roads. No doubt I’ll provide a follow-up after I’ve had another couple weeks with the Rover.