Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Electric Bikes Slow to Catch On

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Electric Bikes Slow to Catch On

Article excerpt

FORT WORTH, Texas -- Paul Jung can ride a bicycle for miles in the Texas heat without breaking a sweat.

He is president of Bodhi Bicycles, a Fort Worth company that specializes in selling electric bikes.

They look like ordinary bicycles, and for the most part they are - - except that besides the usual pedals and spokes, they have a battery and motor hidden in the frame.

Those provide a power boost on command, when the rider doesn't want a cardio workout.

Electric bikes built by Mr. Jung's company and a few other manufacturers have a top speed of 20 mph. That makes them legal on streets, trails and anywhere else bicycles are allowed.

The Bodhi battery, which is a little longer and thinner than a football, can be removed and recharged within a few hours in an electrical outlet.

As officials in U.S. cities expand hike-and-bike trails and try to make streets safer for cyclists, Mr. Jung foresees a day when large numbers of commuters pedal to work. The main barrier today, he said, is that few people are even aware that electric bikes are a viable option.

"For those who haven't ridden a bike in a while, it will feel just like it did when you were growing up," said the transplanted New Yorker, who began selling Bodhi bikes last year at a handful of cycle shops in North Texas, in Austin and out of state.

The bikes are built in China, he said, but they are assembled in Fort Worth, and the NuVinci throttle system is from Austin.

He hopes to persuade more retailers to stock Bodhi bikes, but the obstacles are formidable.

While riding traditional bikes is a hugely popular form of exercise, it hasn't caught on for commuting because of traffic and fickle weather.

Plus, electric bikes cost more than name-brand mountain bikes and 10-speeds: roughly $1,500 to $3,000 for a typical model, depending on the manufacturer. Though that cost might not be a big deal to hard-core cyclists accustomed to paying thousands of dollars for high-performance bikes, it could be prohibitive for those looking to get back into riding or seeking an alternative to the car. …

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