Take the easy-riding Townie Balloon bicycle. Add an electric pedal-assist 'jet pack'. Voila. You have a city cycle made to take hills with ease and provide a little extra power at intersections.
Will this be the bike that kick-starts a needed city e-bike revolution in the United States?
In the 3.5 years since I bought a pedal-assist bike for city biking, I've realized there's a lot in the American psyche that holds us back, first from city biking, and then from electric bikes. It was so perplexing to me, as a cyclist who had enjoyed the northern European approach to safe cycling for five years, that I researched and wrote a book about it.
Since the advent of New York's bike share, of course, the aura around city biking is changing, and that's great.
But it seems that few people, and fewer women, have yet realized how much an electric assist bike can overcome some of the obstacles that stop them from biking in the first place.
That little bit of extra power that pedal-assist in a bicycle provides can be experience changing. For example, the hills of San Francisco no longer seem like a huge drag. While as a rider you continue to get the benefits of being in motion, you don't break into a terrible sweat - literally or figuratively - even though your daily ride might have a big incline or two.
In addition, electric assist gives city bikers a little extra oomph where they need it most - at intersections. Having the ability to go as fast as a stopped car after a stop sign is a big boost for self-confidence in riding.
Last but not least, an electric-assist bicycle makes it less tiring to accomplish all of the tasks that multi-tasking mamas and papas do in the course of a day, and helps you move stuff, including the kids, around with ease.
The Electra Townie Go! isn't transformative in terms of basic pedal-assist technology. It's got a rear-wheel hub motor, and a boxy battery that slides under the back rack (it is cool that the back light rotates in order to let a cyclist easily remove the battery box). The bikes look a lot like Pedego electric assist cycles, which have been around for awhile. The price: $2,200. The range: Around 30 miles.
Electra says the Go! has a much more integrated and streamlined design:
" it's an integrated system from top to bottom. The bike was designed from the ground up around the patented Townie Flat Foot Technology - a design that allows rider to sit up, see where they're going AND when it's time to stop the rider can put at least one foot flat on the ground for safety. The SRAM E-matic drivetrain and battery are purpose designed and built for the Townie Go!, there aren't any aftermarket parts that are bolted on, like the majority of "electric" bikes. A further example of the "integration" is an internally wired lighting system that turns itself on as soon as the bike begins to roll and turns itself off a few moments after the bike stops rolling. In addition, there's no need for a throttle or LCD gear /power display because the system is so simple and smart that it monitors itself." – Jackson Lynch, marketing and communications, Electra Bikes
And there is a way that Electra's Townie Go! will help hasten the uptake of e-bikes, and that's in bike shop distribution. One of the main drawbacks for an interested e-bike purchaser is that regular bike shops haven't been too successful, or really too interested, in selling e-bikes. Many cycling enthusiasts think of e-bikes as 'cheaters' and because of their higher price tag and unique servicing needs, haven't been eager to have e-bikes in their stores.
If Electra is successful in getting its distributors to take on and really sell the Townie Go! that will be a significant leap forward in getting e-bike technology out to more city cyclists.
After all, the pundits say that millions more of us in North American will be riding e-bikes by 2020.