GetAbout Columbia encourages people to try e-bikes

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COLUMBIA - Riding bikes up steep hills is anything but easy. GetAbout Columbia in partnership with Columbia Parks and Recreation gave a presentation to the public Monday evening about a relatively new type of bike that makes that trek easier. The bikes are called electric-bikes, also known as pedal assist bikes. 

The bikes have built-in motors, that are battery operated, which can be activated by peddling or a throttle assistance located on the handle bars. 

Columbia BikePed Coordinator Ted Curtis gave the presentation. During the presentation he went over how the bikes work, the different types of e-bikes, price range and who is using them the most. 

He said that overseas e-bikes have become very popular, but they are starting to catch on in the US as well. 

"It's kind of my generation, sort-of baby boomers, who are really getting into it a lot," Curtis said. "Because of, well, getting a little bit weaker type of thing, and also still wanting to keep getting out and enjoying the outdoors. Hills tend to get a little intimidating when you're not quite in the shape you used to be." 

According to Curtis, e-bikes can go close to 20-25 mph, depending on how hard the rider peddles. He said it is important to remember that the e-bikes are bikes first. The motor assistance is not meant to be used constantly while riding. 

However, Curtis said the e-bikes can make riding very enjoyable. 

"I'm a bicyclist, and I'm in pretty good shape, I don't need an electric bike, but I ride one a lot because it's just plain fun," Curtis said. "I don't think I've had so much fun on a bike in a long time."

Some of the most asked questions from the public were regarding cost and specifics as to how they work. Curtis said the price range varies tremendously. He said some of the lesser quality, basic kits can cost around $500. The more expensive, higher quality ones can cost up to a couple thousand. 

Employees at Walt's Bicycle and Wilderness in Columbia say they are in favor of any type of bike that gets people out riding and lessens dependence on a traditional motor vehicle.

"I think it opens up the opportunity to ride for many people," said one employee. 

The employees said they believe the e-bikes are more popular oversees because of infrastructure that makes riding bikes more logical. Walt's does not sell e-bikes.

Curtis said he hopes this meeting sparked an interest in some people, so they might invest in one with spring just around the corner.