The higher gas prices go and the more accustomed I become to living on less, the more I turn to the bicycle as a potential major means of transportation. The bike still provides more exercise and recreation than practical travel, since I shop thirty miles from where I live and roads here are not built for bicycles. These two-lane blacktops wind through hills which screen bikes from approaching traffic until the last minute, and in many places there’s a sharp drop from pavement to dirt or no shoulder at all. Not a lot of options for safety if you’re on a bike.
The alternative to simply trusting that your neighbors won’t run you down is to drive something that’s a little faster. Convert your standard bicycle to an electric bike with the Currie Technologies Electro Drive Conversion Kit and you’ll get some help with that, but the top speed with assistance from the motor levels out at 15 mph. The motor only kicks in with the power assistance when you pedal forward. It won’t slow you up on a fast downhill ride, but it won’t help you at higher speeds either.
Where things get diciest around here is on the uphills and that extra power would certainly keep you moving at a safer speed on the climbs. On the other hand you add quite a lot of weight to the bike when you tack on a battery pack and a tough 450 Watt DC motor, and if you run the battery down there’s nothing to carry you along but your own determination.
Since I live thirty miles out in the country, there’s not enough range in the power pack to take me to the grocery and back without a six to eight hour recharge at the turnaround. If you do live in a bike-friendly neighborhood, with work or shopping within a radius of 15 miles, electric bikes seem like a pleasant solution to expensive commutes. The Currie Electro Drive’s range varies with terrain and speed but should give you a fifty percent power boost for most of the 10 to 15 miles its lead-acid battery can handle. Adding a second battery doubles that range. The extra battery pack slips into the second compartment of a saddlebag-style frame bolted to the rear of the bike.
Not every bike accepts this rig. Currie’s assembly manual lists the following requirements:
- 7-speed rear freewheel
- Rear dropout rack with fender mounting holes or eyelets
- ISO 559 26″ by 1.5″ to 2.125″ wheels
- 135mm rear axle spacing
- Standard straight seat stays
The rechargeable lead-acid power packs work well enough but you’ll need to pay strict attention to recharging on schedule, to ensure maximum battery life as well as a full charge for the next ride. The Currie Electric Bike Owner’s Manual says charge them for 8 hours before first use and then for 6 to 8 hours after every other use. Breaking in the batteries properly by completely charging and completely discharging them for the first three charge cycles results in the best overall performance. Currie warrants the batteries for six months, but only if you follow the advice in the manual. If you read something else, following that other advice could void the warranty. Currie sells replacement batteries, and the $120 price might seem a little scary until you convert that to $20 a month and possibly much less, depending on how often you ride. The batteries should last for 200 full charge cycles.
For technical information and a pictorial guide to assembly, see the Currie Electro Drive Conversion Kit Assembly Guide.