Zipping Through Town On An E-bike with Aseem Deodhar
9:00 AM EST on January 24, 2023
Last fall, Rad Power Bikes, an e-bike vendor who envisions “a world where transportation is energy-efficient, enjoyable and accessible to all,” offered a sweet deal on one of their popular bikes – just irresistible enough to prompt many people to leap into the electric bike world.
In October, the company’s RadMission e-bike went on sale for $499, a bike that can “do pretty much anything you need it to in the Boston metro,” according to one Twitter user.
Now three months later, we checked in with one of the buyers to learn more about how things are going, and what it’s been like to cruise through town with an extra boost.
Last week, we spoke with Aseem Deodhar, a Northeastern University alum who lives a car-free life and mostly gets around by biking and taking the T.
Deodhar has a few years of biking experience under his belt, but none with an e-bike. He began navigating cities on a bicycle in 2016 after moving to Bangalore, the capital city of Karnataka, a state in southern India, from his hometown of Pune near Mumbai.
For Deodhar, biking through traffic in Boston, a metro area with a population just over 4 million people, can feel like a world away compared to Bangalore, a city with a metro population of over 10 million.
“I was lucky enough to live in an area of the city with decent wide roads…enough that I didn’t have to battle with cars every day,” said Deodhar of his days biking in the largest city in the state of Karnataka.
We met up with him on a cloudy day last week at his home in Cambridge where the e-bike battery was tucked away atop a shoe rack in a small corner of the living room. About a foot in length, the battery was barely noticeable.
He unplugged the battery and we made our way outside to the shed where he stores his e-bike and headed out for some errands around town.
We asked Deodhar what prompted him to finally make the jump and purchase an e-bike.
“The price!” he explained.
He had been on the search and browsing online for e-bikes, but with many in the $700-$800 range, Deodhar says the prices were “beyond what I was willing to pay.”
“I always wanted to get (an e-bike), but the price was keeping me from it,” he added.
Last year, then-Governor Charlie Baker’s administration proposed plans for an e-bike rebate customers could access at the point of sale. Funds would come from the state’s transportation bond bill, which would allow the Governor to borrow $1 million for the program, with $500 point-of-sale rebates for e-bike buyers and $750 rebates for low-income customers.
But prospective buyers may not be able to access the rebate amounts until this summer, as the funding must go through the state’s Capital Improvement Plan, a process which typically starts in March and wraps up in late spring or early summer.
Since purchasing his e-bike, Deodhar says the experience has been “extremely good.”
Now the owner of two bikes, he splits his rides between running errands in the Boston area on his e-bike, and using his regular bike for recreational trips on the weekends, when he visits towns and places well outside the Boston metro area such as Brattleboro in Vermont and Greenfield in western Massachusetts.
Riding on city streets among mixed traffic is when he says the e-bike’s features, like the ability to accelerate quickly, is most advantageous.
“If I'm on a street or an intersection where there isn't a separated bike path, it's very easy to get that initial start from the red light and I don't feel like I'm slowing down cars like I would otherwise do on a regular bike,” he explained.
The battery’s power can give e-bikers a quick start at intersections after the traffic light turns from red to green. This can make riding less stressful when there is no dedicated bike lane and bicyclists must negotiate space on the traffic lane with cars. A head start can increase visibility.
According to the Energy Information Agency, the average American home consumes 1,223 watt-hours every hour. At 504 watt-hours, the RadMission battery has enough juice to power the average American home for a little under 30 minutes – not an insignificant amount for a roughly foot-long battery that can easily go unnoticed on a shoe rack.
Even though the RadMission is a single-speed bike, it offers 4 levels of pedal assistance, helping riders climb up hilly streets.
“I have two moderate climbs on my commute and I don't even feel them anymore,” said Deodhar.
“My favorite part is that I'm not out of breath after like a 30-minute bike ride. I can go longer distances without feeling like I have put in a lot of exertion… if I'm going to work I would rather not be out of breath and sweaty.”
Because his e-bike doesn’t have any suspension to cushion bumps in the road, Deodhar says he feels “every non-smooth portion of road,” and would like to see cities do more to fix potholes on the streets.