The buzz about e-bikes

Shepherd Myers retrofits bicycles to add battery power in his Salisbury garage.

Copey Rollins

The buzz about e-bikes

The rolling hills of the Northwest Corner have long drawn bikers looking for quiet roads and scenic views. Whether peddling by foot or riding on a motorcycle, it’s common to see people traveling on two wheels.

Recently a new two-wheeler has emerged on the scene: Electric bikes, or bicycles with a battery-powered motor. E-bikes offer ease of use for recreational riders and can even serve as a car replacement for the more dedicated cyclist.

The primary types of e-bikes are pedal assisted, where pedaling engages the motor, and throttle powered, which allows riders to access battery power without pedaling. Combined sensor systems have developed as a way to provide a more customized riding experience. Retrofitting standard bicycles into motorized e-bikes is another option for riders.

Several e-bike shops have popped up in Litchfield County and the state has joined in with rebate programs to fund select e-bikes.

One of the things that makes e-bikes so popular is the versatility: “Everybody wants something different,” said Bob Ensign, owner of Covered Bridge Electric Bikes, which has locations in West Cornwall, North Canaan, and Kent.

Ensign went on to explain that while some may want an e-bike to help them travel long distances, others need one in order to make biking an activity that they can actually participate in. Ensign talked about how many young people, especially teenagers, are jumping on the trend because it’s fun and their friends are doing it. He noted that for some, e-bikes have become an essential form of travel.

A wide range of e-bikes can be seen, and rented, at Covered Bridge Electric Bikes.Copey Rollins

To support the growing trend, the Connecticut Department of Energy and the Environment (DEEP) has implemented a grant program to help some people using e-bikes for transportation as a way to save both money and the environment. These rebates are available only for bikes that will be used as a primary source of transportation and have restrictions based on income level or the demographics of where the owner lives.

“It’s 10 miles to work,” said Shepherd Myers of Lakeville, when asked about his experience using e-bikes to commute. “But as long as you can plug the thing in on the other end and you have a safe place to put it, it’s totally doable.”

Myers first got into e-bikes during the pandemic when he experimented with retrofitting his road bike to become motorized.

“Most people drive a few miles to just do a few small things,” he noted. “If you just need to go to the hardware store for something small, do you really need to drive a several-ton car for a mile when you can be outside enjoying the elements?”

Shepard is not only a fan of new e-bikes, but he also believes that retrofitting an old bike with a motor is a great way to extend its life and make it more fun and accessible.

Both Ensign and Myers believe that e-bikes have very few real shortcomings. The only difficulty, Ensign said, is picking the right one, since there are a lot of options that are new to most people. For most it is best to go to a store and work with a professional to select the right bike; however, for some it may be best to look into retrofitting a standard bike they’re already comfortable with.

E-bikes are are quickly making their way into the garages and paths of Northwest Connecticut. As the technology continues to improve, it’s safe to predict that these bikes will increase even more in popularity.

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