A New Way to Enjoy Bicycling

Kenneth C. Hoffman

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Most active people own or have owned a bicycle at one time. Unfortunately, a good percentage keep the bike in the garage and seldom take it out for a ride. There are many reasons offered for this situation, many of them involving weak knees, old age, brittle bones and lack of a partner to go with them.

It is true that a steep hill presents a formidable challenge to the over fifty crowd, taking all the fun out of bicycling. The hill must either be avoided (turn back home) or walked up at one mile per hour. This could add many hours to your bicycle trip, cause you to sweat up a storm and annoy the more athletic bicyclists with you.

Instead of staying at home alone, you can opt for a pedelec. This new category of bike contains an electric motor that assists the rider up the hills, no matter how steep. Of course the pedelec bike weighs more than a regular bike, but since you have a motor to assist you, the extra weight is of no consequence.

True, the motor does make a buzzing sound when in use, but this noise is many times quieter than the quietest gasoline motorized bike or scooter. A seven speed click stop Derailleur gear set assists the motor on steep hills. Top speed on the level is twenty miles per hour. No license is required.

Designed originally in Holland as an electric assist bike from scratch, this top rated make of pedelec (the one I own) is the Giant LAFree (pronounced El -Aye-Free because it was first sold in Los Angeles). The Rolls Royce of pedelecs, the LAFree charges up in three hours and can be ridden for twenty miles. Often a short stopover at your destination will allow the bike to be charged for additional miles. If the battery goes dead, the bike can be pedaled without the motor, although more slowly.

The older model LAFree costs about $1200 and the newer models run about $1400. Used LAFree bikes run about $600 to $700 depending on condition. The main advantage of the newer version is the lighter NiMh battery, the easier shifting internal rear hub shifter and built in front and rear lights. Both versions sport a super comfortable seat, knock off wheels, all aluminum construction, twin front shock absorbers and special heavy duty tires, A slope type long wheelbase with 26" wheels and a similar model with a step through frame is available. A six inch handle bar rise allows upright comfort pedaling.

In the four weeks I have owned the LAFree I have ridden over three hundred pleasure filled miles. The savings in gas is a plus, especially if you are able to ride it to work. Accessories I have added include a computer speedometer/ odometer/clock which also shows average speed, top speed and trip time. A rear flashing red light graces the back, a customized carry all sits firmly attached to the rear carrier and a nylon bike cover keeps off the rain. Security is handled by a built in wheel lock, an ignition key and a combination lock with a wire hawser the thickness of my middle finger. No sense on taking chances. So far, the only establishment that has refused me to enter with my bike in tow was the public library. If you would like one of these amazing bikes, you’d better hurry. They’re being discontinued at the end of this year.

About the Author: A retired portrait and wedding photographer, I enjoy writing how to articles and helpful articles on photography and many other subjects. My hobbies include quartet singing, shop, bicycling and photography. Please visit my web site at photoartbyken.com [Articles, Digital Art, Poetry, Original sheet music. ]


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