My car-replacement bicycle setup

For my one year experiment of not driving when by myself, I’m replacing the hauling capacity of my car with a longtail utility bicycle. More details here for new readers regarding what constitutes a utility bike and how I selected the 2010 Kona Ute as my final choice.

For more reading on bicycles recapturing a role as utilitarian people-movers, the person behind Cycle 9 wrote a lengthy but excellent summary on the Chris Martenson website. Recommended. Part IPart II

I used to commute by bicycle for years, so I have most of the gear and correct attitude to actually *want* to ride around in the cold, dark, wet winter here. But a bicycle that is replacing a car requires some unique gear. For me, it was simplest to begin with a new bike suited to the purpose. Here’s how I’ve tweaked my 2010 Kona Ute longtail:
  • eZee electric assist. While I was thinking originally about the Amped Bikes system, I went with eZee because I found a local dealer/installer. The only downside is the weight of the battery; darn heavy. Currently storing in one of the saddle bags, as it is too large to mount elsewhere on the frame.
  • Light & Motion Seca LED 900 lumens battery-powered light (rechargeable, not dynamo). My winter dark riding will be minimal since I can plan most trips between 10AM – 2PM, but I’ll use this as an always-on light during the day year-round.
  • Three Down Low Glow lights. One for the rear and two underneath to serve as side lights. Hip and functional. I chose the amber color to match the Ute bags.
  • Ortlieb‘s Office Bag 2 in black for laptop and other work items. Mounted at end of rack to leave room for (future) stoker kid near seat post.
  • Second matching Kona pannier bag (large) since the Ute only comes with one. Which is just plain silly. Why would you ride around with just one loaded bag, making you off-balance?
  • Brooks Flyer Spring saddle. Because they are so darn cool and so darn comfortable.
  • SKS Chainboard: this really is revolutionary. It’s the first chain guard to work with front derailleurs. Keeps everything cleaner. Will take a pro’s touch to get it adjusted smoothly, though. Useful review.
  • Replaced the standard Kona Ute tires with the relatively bulletproof combination of a flat resistant tube + Schwalbe Marathon Plus tires with a kevlar bead.
  • A Salsa stem plus Moto Ace handlebars. The standard swept back bars on the Kona Ute are incredibly uncomfortable. I got significant immediate pain in my left hand trying to adjust my grip to the extreme swept back position. I’ll reuse these bars as a stoker bar for my kids riding on the back, where the extreme angle should be a benefit.
  • Classic bell on the handlebars, along with a mirror.
  • Ergon grips. Awesome. Amazing. Going to put these on my wife’s bike, too. They even fit the grip shifter we put on to work better with the eZee throttle. Reusing the nice cork Kona grips on the stoker bar.
  • A waterproof Aquapac on the stem for my iPhone. I can listen to music while riding and easily see when I have incoming work phone calls. Pull to the side, hit the brakes, answer the phone, and suddenly I am “in the office”.
  • No water bottle cages. Using those areas to mount the bottom Down Low Glow lights and rechargeable battery pack. Will fuel up on yerba mate before I hit the road.
  • We eliminated as much extra cabling (brake, electric assist, lights) as possible to keep things nice and tight. But there are still alot more cables than normal.

Total cost was about $4500. About the same cost as many high mountain bikes, road bikes, and commuter/city bikes, but very affordable when compared to the cost of an automobile (vehicle, gasoline, insurance, maintenance). The fact that the price was kept affordable was due primarily to the $900 2010 Kona Ute, as the electric pedal assist kit and the lighting system were each $1200. Kudos to Kona for producing an affordable utility longtail bike; you guys rock.

There is another fellow doing a similair experiment named DirtDad. Check out his thread here on the electric vehicle technology forums at Endless Sphere. And the folks at Kona have an electric version of the Ute in the works. Perhaps we’ll see this as a 2011 model.

More photos in the little slideshow on the right. Click through to the Picasa site to view them in larger format.