Hi. I’m walking Bob, and the first time I saw Michael Beaucage’s motorized tricycle fly down the street and make a smooth u-turn, I have to admit I was a little surprised by how fast he was traveling with such little effort. Soon I learned that Michael’s tricycle was what is now being called an electric-assisted or “e-bike,” or in this case, an “e-trike.” Michael, a retired technology and science photographer, has been in Davis for over ten years and has always loved the many bike paths that make it easy to safely travel around town. However, a bad knee made it difficult or impossible for Michael to get around as he wanted to, so he went to work creating his own e-trike.
He found a website where he could buy batteries and motors and put together his first powered tricycle about four years ago. Using a heavy 36-volt lead battery, he was able to get speeds up to 15 miles per hour with that first effort. The cost of the tricycle, battery and motor was about $1,400. He now prefers a lighter 48-volt Lithium Ion battery that is more expensive but only 1/3 the weight and half the size of the lead batteries. Now he reaches a speed of 20-miles-per-hour, and the batteries last considerably longer before they have to be charged which extends his range on the tricycles.
Since that first effort, “Tricycle Michael” has built five more tricycles and three powered bicycles. He uses the bicycles for simply cruising around town, but depends on the tricycles for chores that include hauling groceries or other items he buys on his excursions. Some tricycles have baskets and he also has a trailer he can haul behind the tricycles. He recently created a two-seater tricycle that allows him to travel with his wife, Jean, and even lets them carry on a conversation as they’re riding.
If you’re not ready to do-it-yourself and want to just buy a fully assembled e-bike, you might head down to Ken’s Bike & Ski to see the many e-bike options that they have on hand. They have e-bikes created by e-moto and Torker that you can buy and drive away. The prices range from just under $1,000 to about $1,800 for these ready-to-ride models.
If you want to have a little more control over the bike you are motorizing, but aren’t ready to do-it-yourself as Michael does, there is one more option. You can first choose a new bicycle, or maybe even a bicycle you already own, and have it converted to an e-bike with the help of John Swann, the resident electric bike expert at Ken’s Bike & Ski. John has been working with them since 2009 using what is known as the “BionX three-component-system” to retrofit a wide range of traditional bicycles and create e-bicycles. His Swann Electric Bicycles has also moved beyond the basic e-bikes and has created electric-assisted recumbent tandems, tricycles and mountain bikes.
These e-bi-tri-cycles are not inexpensive, but they add environmentally friendly mobility for people who would have to be driving a car instead of providing at least some of their own muscle power to get around Davis. This new e-cycle technology works a little like a hybrid car, except it substitutes your legs for the internal combustion engine. You get more exercise, Davis gets less pollution and everybody wins.