Electric bicycles, also known as e-bikes, are bicycles with integrated electric motors that still retain the ability for the rider to pedal. They are growing in popularity because they make cycling convenient and easy by giving the rider a boost of power to help them cycle faster and for much longer distances.
One of our own, Jason Sneed, accomplished the impressive feat of converting an ordinary bicycle into a powerful electric bike. He explains how he did it and why he enjoys e-bikes below:
Can you introduce yourself to those of us who don't know you?
I'm Jason Sneed, and I've been working with the City for almost two years. I'm a System Analyst I in the IT department, and I'm a .NET software engineer. I'm on the team that's building web applications for the City that support parking tickets, personal property, and the cash register system.
What do you like about working with the City of Chesapeake?
I like the challenge. I've worked with the Treasurer, Commissioner of Revenue, Public Safety—and it's challenging to work in so many systems with so many different people from all the various departments.
So why did you decide to build a bike?
It's kind of a funny story. Last year there was a Kickstarter campaign for an electric bike called Sondors. It was a $700 electric bike, and my wife didn't let me buy it.
But a friend of mine bought one. I rode it and I was like, oh my God, I need this thing. I don't even want one, I need one.
And my wife said, nope, you're definitely not getting it.
Then my birthday came up in January this year. So I decided to gift myself the bike by building one because I figured I could build one cheaper than I could buy it.
And was yours cheaper?
Yes and no. It ended up costing almost twice as much as the Sondors bike I originally wanted. But mine is better. The Sondors bike is like a Pinto compared to my Lamborghini. My bike is more like a premium e-bike that can retail for thousands of dollars.
How did you figure out how to build it?
There's a website called Endless-Sphere. They were the biggest help. I went on there and did an enormous amount of research in figuring out how to make this all work.
I bought my parts from a company called Luna Cycle. I also ordered loose batteries from China and assembled the battery pack myself.
And I got the bike from Wal-Mart. You can use any bike. I used a fat-tire bike because it looks cool.
How does the bike work?
So e-bikes typically have about 1,000 watts of power and can go about 20 mph.
It operates in 3 electric modes. The default is pedal assist where you pedal and the motor can help you. There are 5 levels that dictate how much the motor helps you. Normal commuting, I use between 1 and 3. That's pretty useful. The second mode is pedal assist plus throttle, which adds quite a bit more power. And the third mode is just full throttle only. So it's like a motorcycle at that point.
And when you're done, you just recharge it. It takes about 4 hours to fully charge.
Isn't this cheating? You don't get the same amount of exercise with an electric bike as you do on a regular bike, do you?
Yes, you do. Here's the thing: It's simpler to pedal. So what it affords you is greater distance. So you can go farther and you're still getting comparable exercise. If you're on the bike for 20 minutes, you're on the bike for 20 minutes no matter what.
Electric bikes encourage people to ride bikes for longer distances. Where before people are like I'm just going to ride around my neighborhood, now they'll ride all over their city.
I bike all over Great Bridge. I live a mile and a half away from here, so I'll bike to work if the weather's nice. I bike to my parents who live around the corner. I bike to the park.
I don't even use my car unless I need it. So it's more than a bike. It's an alternate transportation method. So far this year I've probably put about 1,000 miles on the bike. Last year I probably only did about 100. So I'm substantially more active on this bike, and that's one reason my wife actually likes it.
Do people stop you when you're out riding and ask you questions about the bike?
I get stopped all the time. People in cars flag me down. What they notice about the bike is the tires. I've had a handful of people notice right away that it's electric. People usually notice the tires first, and I'll say yeah, it's electric. And then they get intrigued. I've let numerous people ride it, and they all love it. They think it's amazing.
Would you build another one?
I've been dying to build another one. I absolutely want to build another one. Numerous people have asked me to build one for them.
Bonus question: If you could conjure up a new sort of revolutionary technology, what would it be?
That's a hard question. What is revolutionary nowadays? Well, I would love to come up with something that would help the world.
Look at cancer. Tons of people get it. Why do they get it? Maybe we could come up with some type of analytics system that understands that so that we can solve it or prevent it.
There's problems and solutions to everything. And that's what I love to do. I like fixing problems.