Shifting gears: St. Louis cyclists join trend toward electric bikes | Lifestyles

Cyclists who are late for work are not necessarily out of breath these days.

Whether you’re traveling downtown, climbing hills to wineries, or traveling for hours on long trails, there’s help here: battery power can help keep the bike’s wheels rolling when legs or lungs want to give out.

In recent years, cyclists with creaky knees — or who just want to keep up with faster riders — have found that power-assisted pedaling provides excitement and cheap transportation. Electric bicycles are becoming increasingly popular, especially among the over 50s. With an e-bike, battery-powered motors can offer cyclists a little or a lot of help when pedaling. Or they can choose to kick it without force.

Charles Knapp said he often gets exhausted walking just 30 yards. At the age of 69, he battled prostate cancer. Nearly three years ago—and 30 years after he last cycled—he bought an electric bike from a Pedego dealer in Oakland.

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“I love it,” he says. “I ride it almost every day, 20 or more miles. You can go anywhere. It’s been a lot of fun.”

The Manchester native enjoys driving the Mississippi Greenway to the old Chain of Rocks bridge. “My son-in-law gives me grief,” says Knapp. “He says cycling isn’t really like riding a bike. I tell him, ‘you won’t know until you try it.’” Keeping Knapp company while he rides is extra technology: a Bluetooth helmet streams music or baseball games.

Although e-bike sales have been growing for years, the Light Electric Vehicle Association estimates that the US imported nearly 790,000 electric two-wheelers in 2021, a huge increase from 463,000 in 2020. proxy for the state of the US e-bike market.” reported Bloomberg News, which also noted that sales of e-bikes seemed to outperform electric cars last year.

With prices for e-bikes ranging from about $1,000 to $5,000 and up, the two-wheeled vehicles are, of course, much cheaper than a Tesla. And the batteries of the bicycles can be charged with a normal socket.

Local bike shops report interest that seems to coincide with the nationwide trend.

Derek Hamer of South City rides an electric bike on the Great Rivers Greenway in Oakland on Saturday, July 30, 2022. Electric bike sales continue to grow as cyclists and commuters avoid knee pain and save gas when they get a little help from battery-assisted cycles. Photo by Jack Myer,

Jack Myer

Kayce Peters, store manager at Big Shark Bicycle Co. on Big Bend Boulevard, said that while summers are the busiest time to sell, high gas prices have coincided with a marked increase in sales this year.

“Especially with e-bikes, people are coming in to explore them as a kind of car replacement, car reducer,” he said.

He said the use of e-bikes has been growing steadily for some time, but that momentum has especially accelerated in recent years amid a “COVID boom” in cycling – and has recently kicked into another gear.

“This summer is kind of the year where e-bikes are totally mainstream,” he said. “E-bikes are now just as much a part of our bike shop as mountain bikes. It is no longer a separate, small category.”

On Kickstarter Katy Trail, store manager John Matthews said the store rents and sells e-bikes and regular bikes. Last year the shop only had two e-bikes for rent, because it couldn’t get more. Now there are 15 to 20 e-bikes at the Augusta location. Often they are all reserved for a weekend at $38 for two hours.

Matthews said even riders in their twenties rent them. Sometimes a couple has one person who is a stronger rider, so the partner rents an e-bike. Then the other will want one, he said.

“It allows them to cover more ground in less time,” Matthews said. They may want to log extra miles on the Katy Trail or not waste too much time blowing up hills to a winery.


Tracy Castanon, of Denver, focuses on an electric bike that she and her family rented for a day from the Pedego ebike dealer in Oakland on Saturday, July 30, 2022.

Jack Myer, after shipment

Deanna Kakouris, who owns South Side Cyclery with her husband, Tim, agreed that interest is increasing among buyers looking to cycle on dirt trails and off-roads. E-bikes are available in models suitable for carrying cargo, climbing mountains or handling heavy commutes.

Pedal-assisted bikes for sale in stores usually go up to about 20 mph, although some reach 28 mph. They do not require a Missouri or Illinois license, registration, or insurance.

Education counts

“E-bikes are a game changer,” says Karen Karabell, Instructor at CyclingSavvy. “They can really replace car journeys.” Karabell said she doubts she will ever buy a car again.

But she said it is essential to know bike safety. She recommends the American Bicycling Education Association program at Through a partnership with Great Rivers Greenway, subway riders can use the gatewaybikeplan coupon code for free lifetime access to a series of educational videos called Ride Awesome.

“While Ride Awesome is for all cyclists, it may be even more important for e-bike riders,” Karabell said. “Speed ​​gets people in trouble.”

Local bike dealers also recommend that you do your research before purchasing an e-bike. Kakouris warned that cheap bikes that are only available online can be short-term purchases, as motors can break and local repair shops may not have parts or be unwilling to fix.

She pointed out that some bikes sold with throttles or online extras are difficult for riders to handle. Throttle levers give the bike more power without pedaling. Some states do not allow all types of e-bikes on all trails or have speed limits.


“In 20 years, I think these bikes will be the most popular than Teslas,” said mechanic Jake Daggett as he puts the finishing touches on a Pedego Interceptor at Pedego, Oakland, on Saturday, July 30, 2022. Electric bike sales continue to grow as cyclists and commuters avoid knee pain and save gas with a little help from battery-assisted bikes. Photo by Jack Myer,

Jack Myer

Kakouris also warned that conversion kits, which can be attached to a regular bicycle, may be unsafe for regular bicycles with rim brakes, because the bicycle’s brakes are not built to handle a motorized vehicle. Brand name e-bikes usually have disc brakes.

E-bikes, which often weigh around 60 pounds, are divided into three classes, come in multiple models, and have different quality motors and batteries. Cargo bikes can even have two motors, which can add to the weight of a bike. Some lithium-ion batteries can be unlocked and taken inside for charging. But because lithium batteries can catch fire, warns against using aftermarket or low-cost batteries and advises disconnecting batteries after charging.

In addition, riders need to understand how far a battery will help a rider. A salesperson might say that a battery lasts 50 miles per charge, for example, but riders should understand that this number can vary depending on how much power the rider uses.

Increased mobility

Cycling may be a skill that is never forgotten, but that doesn’t mean it can’t get harder.

Bill Sauerwein says e-bikes “keep people mobile and active”.


Bill Sauerwein, co-owner of Pedego electric bike dealership in Oakland, left, helps DeSoto’s Mike Lamb install a side mirror on his electric bike on Saturday, July 30, 2022. Electric bike sales continue to grow as cyclists and commuters avoid knee pain and save on gas with a little help from battery-assisted bikes.

Jack Myer, after shipment

He and his wife, Carla, opened a Pedego store in Oakland in 2019. The shop, which only sells e-bikes, is located right on Grant’s Trail. “Our business has grown exponentially,” he says.

It started with a bang, he said, as people wanted out during the pandemic. Recently, gas prices have brought buyers, he says.

He uses his own bicycle so much that he and his wife now share only one car. Sauerwein does not advise that children ride e-bikes and said his primary demographics are customers over 50. (Some manufacturers state that their e-bikes are intended for ages 18 and older.)

One of his clients was Henderson Smith III, a retired Air Force lieutenant colonel who worked at Scott Air Force Base and now lives downtown.

He first rode an e-bike in Australia while working as a consultant during the pandemic. A neighbor convicted of a DUI had an e-bike and had Smith try it out. After foot and knee surgery, Smith, 64, is a convert. He said he still gets a cardio workout, but can cycle much longer.

“I used to ride quite a bit, but found it painful at times,” he said. Now people at Trailnet events or on bike trails are “gasping and I’ll be cruising by”.

Bryce Gray of the Post-Dispatch contributed to this report.

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