“Nothing compares to the simple pleasure of a bike ride.”

– John F. Kennedy

I have the most intimate memories of soaring down a neighborhood hill on my blue, childhood bike. I was a fearless kid who took frequent, unplanned trips to the emergency room, and although I had a deep love for that bike, I’m certain it kept my mother up at night. As with too many things in life, time passed and I traded in that blue bike for a blue car.

Lincoln & Main Electric Bike Café and Winery in South Portland. Courtesy photo

In truth, I have only ridden a bike a handful of times in my adult life. On a recent trip to Miami Beach, a friend told me we would be renting electric bikes (e-bikes) to make a casual five-mile trip into the city. I was nervous, not only because I hadn’t been on a bike in more than five years, but in the back of my mind I wasn’t sure I’d be able to ride one. As it turns out, e-bikes are a convenient way to move and are ‘just like riding a bike.’

This week, I sat down with Thaddeus St. John, owner of Lincoln & Main Electric Bike Café and Winery to discuss electric bikes.

‘When you pedal, they go’

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Thaddeus beamed as he explained to me how similar e-bikes are to traditional bikes. “The difference of course is the added electric battery-powered motor.” This motor aids cyclists either by making it easier to pedal (pedal assist), or on some models a throttle, with the motor providing assistance up to a certain speed.

A standard e-bike can transport roughly 200 pounds and has battery capacity ranging from 20 to 50 miles depending on the e-bike and riding style. Cargo e-bikes have heavier frames designed to hold upward of 500 pounds, but with similar mileage capacity, making e-bikes a viable option for all transportation needs.

When asked about who was purchasing e-bikes, Thaddeus expressed that “no one demographic is purchasing e-bikes right now. Everyone from young families to retirees, to folks looking for a cleaner, easier way to exercise have made a purchase.”

A standard e-bike can transport roughly 200 pounds and has battery capacity ranging from 20 to 50 miles depending on the e-bike and riding style. Courtesy photo

Thaddeus is most excited about the future of the e-bike industry. “With new technologies like internal hubs, continuous gear shifts, and improved towing capacities of up to 600 pounds, the possibilities for sports, recreation, and even hunting are endless.”

Thaddeus did acknowledge there are some challenges the industry will face over the coming years. Infrastructure planning and advocacy for example, are key in creating state-wide policy to encourage the mode shift away from vehicle-centric roadways. More equitable roadways like those designed using Complete Streets policies (detailed in last week’s Our Sustainable City column), especially those in rural communities will help to guide this shift.

Why you should make the wwitch to an e-bike

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E-bikes are a zero emission alternative to gas-powered vehicles and save us money on fuel and carbon emissions. Biking is also a low impact exercise providing benefits like improved cardiovascular health and decreased stress levels. E-bikes are also cost effective with standard e-bikes starting at roughly $1,500 for base models and requiring only “standard bike maintenance” according to Thaddeus.

Rebate programs like South Portland’s Electrify Everything! has helped residents make this transition.

Ultimately, we’re working to create a mode shift away from vehicle transportation and e-bikes are a great opportunity for everyone to join in.

For more information about Lincoln & Main, visit the Café and Winery at 93 Main St. in South Portland, check out its website www.lincolnandmain.net/ or connect with them on Instagram, @electricbikecafe.

Our Sustainable City is a recurring column in the Sentry intended to provide residents with news and information about sustainability initiatives in South Portland. Follow the Sustainability Office on Instagram @soposustainability.

Steve Genovese is an AmeriCorps/Greater Portland Council of Governments Resilience Corps Fellow serving in the South Portland Sustainability Office through September 2023. He can be reached at [email protected]

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