June 23, 2011 By Zain Iqbal
When I tell people I’m a regular cyclist in San Francisco, people look at me with a mixture of admiration and disbelief. Usually, their big question for me is, “how do you deal with all those hills?” My first answer is something along the lines of, “I don’t.” On my daily rides to and from work or social gatherings, I carefully plan out my route so I can avoid using my lowest gears and I end up cruising from point A to point B. Hills or no hills, urban cycling routes can still be intimidating. Therefore my second answer is, “I get Blazing Saddles to let me test ride some of their electric bikes!” So, with the help of a friend and rookie cyclist, I recently took to the streets of San Francisco and gave these brand-new electric velos a spin.
DEALING WITH THE ELEMENTS
My cycling partner and I decided to make a beeline toward the Ferry Building in search of brunch at Hog Island Oyster Company before taking a tour of the Embarcadero, AT&T Park, followed by a trip to Fort Mason and the Marina Green before heading back to Blazing Saddles HQ on Hyde Street. The first thing we noticed about these bikes is they’re fast. Really fast. If you’re using the electric motor to assist your pedaling, you’ll cruise along quickly enough to keep up with car traffic, but not so fast that you’re mowing down other cyclists. While we experienced a easy tailwind that carried us toward AT&T Park, home of the San Francisco Giants, we encountered a vicious headwind on our way to the Marina District. This is where the power-on-demand comes in handy; much like a motorcycle or moped throttle, you can use this feature to give your legs a break so you can concentrate on beating the elements and taking in the sights and sounds around you. Both electric bikes have extra-wide tires, which is important in San Francisco if you want to cross Muni trolley tracks with confidence and avoid potholes.
PEDAL POWER VERSUS ELECTRIC POWER
Want to casually ride to brunch or to the park on a Sunday morning? Check out an Ultra Motor A2B or a Stromer electric bike. Technically, both American-made Ultra Motor A2B and the Swiss-made Stromer are LEVs (or Light Electric Vehicles), which makes them a cross between a bicycle and a moped. These bikes have all the features of a regular commuter bicycle, but an internal electric dynamo assists in climbing hills or cruising along bike paths at a clip.
Whether you’re setting off for a day-long tour of San Francisco’s most famous sites, running errands around town, or even considering another mode of transport to and from your place of work, an electric bike is a perfect option to consider by those who are intimidated by biking the streets of a large city. Blazing Saddles offers these eco-friendly rides for $69 per day, which have an average range of about 20 miles using power-on-demand—more than enough range to get you to across the Golden Gate Bridge and back for a test run. Happy riding!