E-bike a new twist on cycling in Colorado | VailDaily.com

E-bike a new twist on cycling in Colorado

Rob Ryan
Summit County, CO Colorado

SUMMIT COUNTY, Colorado – Any cyclist who’s pedaled and panted his way up Swan Mountain Road or Boreas Pass in Summit County knows hills can prove to be daunting obstacles. But Bill Hebb is selling a new product around town that could make those arduous climbs fly by: an electric bike.

“I fly past people in Spandex going uphill,” Hebb said with a grin on his face.

Hebb, a native of Tyler, Texas, who lives part-time in Summit Cove, started Hebb E-Bikes just a little over a year ago after buying his wife, Risa, an electric bike. Hebb said he bought her the bike to enable her to go on longer rides with less difficulty, and he was instantly sold on the potential for e-bikes across the country.

“I just fell in love with the whole idea,” Hebb said.

Hebb says there are many reasons why people would want to own an electric bike. Obviously, being able to get some extra speed and power with a twist of the throttle has some advantages over a regular bike.

“When the wind’s blowing hard, the e-bike comes in handy,” Hebb said

Another plus for e-bikes – Hebb was quick to point out – is their low environmental impact. The bikes use a lithium-ion battery to power the front wheel motor and are inexpensive to operate. They also generate a very small carbon foot-print since they don’t produce any emissions. Riders can also pedal the e-bike like any normal bike if they don’t want to use up the battery.

“It’s clean, green transportation,” Hebb said. “It’s costs less than a penny a mile to ride.”

The motor produces about 350 watts of power – or about .5 horsepower – which Hebb said is equivalent to what “very good” cyclists produce when they pedal on their own. The throttle is located on the right handlebar; a simple twist sends the bike zipping forward whenever the rider wants, though the motor tops out at 20 mph.

“It’s like riding tandem with Lance Armstrong,” Hebb said.

The bikes also come with a variety of bells and whistles. The frame is a solid aluminum construction, the gear shifter is internal rather than using a derailleur, and the bikes also come with a rear carrier. All of these features, when added to the weight of the motor and battery, do add up though; the bike weighs 60 pounds and can be a bit of a pain to get started without the motor.

“It’s not going to be faster than a regular bike, except when you’re going uphill,” Hebb said.

Still, Hebb says the e-bike is built for comfort more than speed, and riding it proves his point. The bike definitely feels sturdy underneath you, and the motor certainly helps on steep hills – or with the wind in your face. There’s a satisfying rush to crank up the throttle and fly along the path while everyone else is huffing and puffing. The weight can make it a little difficult to build up speed on flat terrain though, but that’s what the motor’s for.

The e-bike likely won’t appeal to the hard-core cycling crowd, but Hebb says those aren’t the people he’s trying to reach, anyway. He says the e-bike is designed for commuters looking for alternative transportation, baby boomers, and those who simply may not be in the best shape to tackle a climb like Vail Pass.

Hebb’s bikes are now on sale at Alpine Sports in Breckenridge as well as Christy Sports in Frisco, Vail and Avon for $2,000 a piece. He’s also selling the bikes in parts of California, Texas and the East Coast. He says California is his biggest market so far, though he hasn’t been helped by the economic slowdown.

“It may have been a bad time to start a company to sell a $2,000 item that isn’t a necessity,” Hebb said.

Ryan Lamont of Christy Sports in Frisco agreed, though he was also quick to point out that he hadn’t had any problems with the bikes so far.

“They work extremely well; it might just take a couple seasons to catch on,” he said.

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