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.
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.
A humorous (and effective) reminder to pass along to your non-bicyclist friends. Be sure to remind them that with Peak Oil, they will likely become bicyclists in the not-too-distant future. Whether they want to or not.
We are blessed with two working cars which are completely paid off. One is gas-powered, the other diesel-powered. We run biodiesel through our VW Passat, which is the primary family vehicle. Great gas mileage and can haul quite a bit of gear + kids. And yes, I’m aware that biodiesel is not a long-term solution as an alternative fuel.
But what to do about our other vehicle, a Subaru Outback? It’s a terrific car, but dependent on gas. And it is primarily used by me for work meetings and errands alone. That’s a single person driving around a wagon capable of hauling quite a bit of stuff. And it is unloaded 90% of the time. Not a good use of resources; both ours and the earth’s. Time to fix this.
- Ride on 5% trails, 15% gravel, 80% road (live on a 1/2 mile gravel road).
- Weekly trips to town for meetings and light chores (UPS Store; book, drug, and hardware stores).
- Heavy hauling monthly chores (grocery store; garden supply compost and chicken feed).
- Four miles one way for all trips.
- 100 lbs of chicken feed (two 50 lb. bags).
- Dojo gear (long thin sticks) and soccer gear (e.g. balls, cleats, cones).
- Groceries (4-8 bags).
- Small miscellaneous errand stuff (book, drug, and hardware stores).
- Medium sized packages for work to/from UPS Store.
- Normal bike + electric assist + trailer.
- Electric bike + trailer.
- Cargo bike + electric assist.
I ordered my option #3 cargo bike last week. I should receive my new 2010 Kona Ute (pictured here) sometime in October/November. Why a new bike rather than used? I could not find a way to build up my own longtail cargo bike for less than the $900 Kona Ute price tag, especially with front/rear disc brakes.
Well, no. So why does an in-shape bicyclist need electric assist? To conquer these hills while hauling 100 lb loads, and so that I can arrive at work meetings not too sweaty (no shower facilities).
The two other options my wife and I have discussed for replacing the Outback (but ultimately dismissed) were:
- Replace it with a plug in hybrid (PHEV) like the upcoming Toyota Prius. Assuming we are recharging the battery from green energy (we are), this is a decent medium-term solution for transportation. We could be electric only for 90% of the driving time, given our small town commute. Dismissed for large initial cost and the fact that these will not be out for months (an expensive aftermarket mod is available now).
- Replace it with a motorcycle, which gets significantly better gas mileage. I’ve ridden for years, but given that we now have young children, my wife is less enamored with this option. And the hauling capacity is not terrific, even with a good set of panniers. And it is still oil-dependent. Three strikes and you are out. Dismissed.