Riders call e-bikes a handy alternative

An electric bicycle, or e-bike, on display Monday. Riders said they could tell an electric motor would help out on hills.

First-time e-bike riders said Monday evening they liked getting a boost while they pedal.

Vera Prisacari said the bikeâ??s electric motor would help reduce strain on a rider, especially on commutes.

â??It will help you to arrive at your destination not being sweaty,â?? she said.

E-bikes are bicycles with small electric motors that supplement a riderâ??s pedaling efforts. Some bikes can go up to 10 miles on their batteries alone, but Columbia Bike/Ped Coordinator Ted Curtis said the rider is still responsible for most of the power. This makes them different from mopeds, which rely primarily on an engine.

Curtis said e-bikes are a good alternative for aging riders or for people with health problems such as recent knee surgery. He also recommended an e-bike for anyone who lives in a hilly area or faces a commute of more than 5 miles each day. Since the bikes can typically reach speeds of 20 miles per hour, he said many riders feel more confident riding in bicycle lanes in the street.

Casey Fangmann has considered buying an e-bike for some time. He said the electric motor can be very helpful in hilly terrain.

â??For flat and downhill surfaces, youâ??re not going to really tell that much of a difference,â?? he said. â??Where youâ??re going to see the most difference is in an uphill situation.â??

Fangmann said cost is one of the biggest concerns he has about e-bikes. Although some models powered by lead-acid batteries can be had for as little as $500, more powerful lithium-ion batteries can push the price well north of $1,000. Curtis said kits are available that can convert a regular bicycle into an e-bike for between $600 and $2,000.