Tag Archives: Electric Assist

Glacier National Park Bike Tour on her Electric Assist Pocket Rocket Pro

Ruthy Kanagy shares her breathtaking ride in Glacier this summer


I recently spent a week at Glacier National Park in Montana, USA, with a hiking club from Eugene, Oregon. After several days hiking with the group to beautiful glacial lakes, I decided it was time to ride. I’d brought along my trusty, lightweight Pocket Rocket Pro (recently converted to E-assist), for the purpose of riding the spectacular Going-to-the-Sun Road. I’d heard about this iconic route, carved out of rock in 1933, as one of the most thrilling rides in the U.S.. Would I be up to the challenge? With my e-assist, I felt confident that I could reach the top.

September 5, 2019, dawned cloudy and chilly. I waited till the mist lifted and the sun peaked out. As I started from the east entrance to Glacier National Park (at St. Mary), there were few cars and no other cyclists. The busy Labor Day weekend had passed. I’d forgotten to bring my senior “Golden Eagle” pass allowing lifetime admission to National Parks, but I was happy to pay $20 for the Annual Senior Parks Pass to support our national parks.  

At the east entrance to Glacier National Park in Montana, the start of the Going-to-the-Sun Road.
The clouds lifted as I pedaled along St. Mary Lake.

Photo By Ruthy Kanagy

In front of the massive Going-to-the-Sun Peak in Glacier National Park, Montana.

Photo by Ruthy Kanagy

Going-to-the-Sun Road, built in 1933, curves around cliffs with sheer drop-offs.

Photo by Ruthy Kanagy

I came upon two “Plein air” artists painting the peaks.

Photo by Ruthy Kanagy

Many waterfalls tumble over cliffs along the route. On a bike, you can stop on a dime to take pictures, while cars have to search for a pull-out.

Photo by Ruthy Kanagy

Red elderberries near Logan Pass.

Photo by Ruthy Kanagy

After 19 miles and 2500 feet climbing, I reached Logan Pass and the Continental Divide. From here water flows east to the Atlantic and west to the Pacific.

I kept my e-assist at level 2 or 3 for the climb and still had 50% of battery left (using 3 LiGo batteries). I took about 2.45 hours going up (stopping often for photos)  and just 57 minutes back to the camp at St. Mary. It can be a bit intimidating zooming down the narrow road, with a sheer drop off to your right. I concentrated on keeping my hands and arms loose on the handlebars and taking the lane! On most of the route, the posted speed limit is 25 or 35, so I wasn’t holding up car traffic on the descent.


Photo by Ruthy Kanagy

A friend snapped this picture of me on the descent.

Between June and Labor Day there are restrictions on cycling the narrow, winding Going-to-the-Sun Road — bikes are prohibited in both directions from 11 am to 4 pm. Since it was after Labor Day when I rode, there were no restrictions. I met two cyclists at the top who had ridden up the west side, which is a bit longer. One was sitting in a wheelchair and explained that he had ridden up on a handcycle. Bravo!  For more information see http://www.hikinginglacier.com/glacier-national-park-cycling.htm

My Pocket Rocket Pro e-assist performed beautifully and riding in Glacier National Park is an experience I will never forget!

“Ruthy Kanagy leads bicycle tours to Japan — See japancycletours.com. The next tour is July 2020 to the island of Hokkaido” ~


(photos credit to Ruthy Kanagy)

Electric Expectations – What to Expect from a Bike Friday Electric Assist System (BF EAS)

Design Goals At Bike Friday we start with the end goal in mind. Bicycles are already so special and refined it makes no sense to add things that do not add to or enhance the wonderful experience of cycling. We usually think of cycling as self-powered, so efficiency takes more thought than when designing powered things. Since electric assist is adding power the handling of this needs to be very careful so as not to destroy the magic and joy of the cycling experience. Our list of requirements is lightweight, quiet, unobtrusive to our cycling skills and to those around us also cycling. To make it better. The goal then is to make it possible for any cyclist to ride as a strong cyclist without a major downside.

Do you need an assist? – Ask your average capable cyclist and they will tell you, they do not need a motor. For over 40 years of my 50+ years of cycling, I would have said that also. Turns out it was because I was human, selfish, and ignorant. I was a strong cyclist. Being strong I have come to understand is to be able to ride at 15 to 17 mph without undue effort for an hour or two at a time. (24 to 27 kilometers per hour) The kind of speeds you would see on Cycle Oregon by those finishing each day in the middle of the finish times. (40 to 90 miles a day) This I found was my preferred commute speed also. For me that range optimizes travel time, cooling effect, ability to ride & talk with others & the safest speed with others on shared routes. (Bikeways to appropriate roads with light car traffic.) Turns out one of the most cycling experienced areas of the world also agrees. European electric assist laws allow motor assist to 25 kilometers per hour. If above that you must supply the power yourself. Or get licensed and insurance!

How much pedal assist is needed? – This can be pretty simple. The best way to measure human power is in watts. Average Humans on a bicycle are producing in the range of about 50-150 watts for 1 to 8 hrs. Tour de France heroes are not average. They can support from 200 to 300+ watts for many hours. They are working really hard to do so! Those 20-30 second 40 mph sprints at the end of the stages? About 1000 watts. World hour record, about 400 watts! Aerodynamics plays a huge role in your speed at 20 to 40 mph. The hour record was about 30 miles! The faster you go the more your power goes to the wind. Your important number.

How fast can you comfortably ride? That is your personal optimal wattage. Here is how to find that. Based on a 150 lb rider, on a well-fitting lightweight bike, with good tires on flat pavement. Can you ride 9-11 mph? You produce about 30-50 watts. That is 3 times faster than walking, making you the most efficient mover on the planet! 11-13mph? You produce 50-75 watts. 13-15 mph>75-100 watts. 15-17mph>100-125 watts. 16-18mph>125-150 watts. 18-20mph.>You are putting out about 150-200 watts, & for regular riding probably do not need an assist. But if the friends you regularly ride with do ride this fast &regularly drop you, some assist might enhance your experience as it is more enjoyable to be able to keep up. If people you ride with have trouble keeping up then some lightweight assist might be good for them! How about your spouse? Sound familiar?

So what does a Bike Friday Assist System look like? – Researching electric assist and electric bicycles can be quite confusing. A Bike Friday systems’ #1 goal is to get you into the 125-watt range or to the 25kph (15.5mph) speed if you are pulling a trailer, heavily loaded, or on a cargo bike with kids, or special hills and challenges on a route you struggle with.

That means you may need an extra assist of 25 to 100 watts plus the potential of maybe another 75watts in some conditions. Online research will see suggestions of 750-1000 watts needed. And many folks say you need a throttle. A throttle & over 500 watts means an electric motorbike! At best you would be assisting the motor. More likely your 50 watts are irrelevant & no need to pedal at all! Motors and batteries to achieve 1000 watts are large and heavy. Motors and batteries for Bike Friday assists are small & light. Adding typically only 10-11 lbs (5kilo) to your bike. On a typical Bike Friday assist, you can easily remove the wheel with the motor and put in a standard wheel when the assist is not needed or wanted. Same with the battery. Easy to take off when not wanted. There is no throttle in sight. In fact, no controls really. The system needs to be turned on like turning on a bike computer.

Your regular bike skills do everything else. When you start to pedal, the BF EAS adds the necessary watts you need to get to your goal. It does this while it seems to you that you are doing it. You are just feeling especially good today and strong! A Bike Friday with assist is typically well under 40 lbs and can be under 30 lbs. Typical Electric bicycles are over 50lbs. Even very expensive so-called light ones are in the 40s. The lightweight means they ride well even when the power is not on. It means they are lift-able. It means they are more useful and fun and easier to take with you.

In addition to being light & quiet, BF EAS is designed to be legal. – Most of the world where electric assist is popular have specific laws for them to be on the road as a bicycle rather than a motor vehicle. The core restraint is 25 kph maximum speed with an assist. Not surprising to find it is in my sweet spot above. Some laws talk about different wattage limits. Higher wattages can accelerate faster but the speed limits are usually similar. In the US we still have areas with no law, or they are illegal, or the laws have 20mph, 28mph, and 750-watt limits. Still the wild west. None of these will be problems for the BF EAS because its intention is just to assist you to be a strong cyclist and to be able to travel. One of the most difficult legal restraints for electric assist is traveling by air with them. The problem here is batteries and flight safety. Bike Friday systems are all available with airline legal certified batteries! And many packed Bike Fridays with assist will fit within the 50 lb weight limits for a minimal or free check on.

Control System

Design is personal. – why the use of an assist might be relevant for you. I have been a bicycle commuter, a sport rider, and a tourist most of my adult life. Cycling was core in raising my children, both in pulling them in a trailer and riding with them in tandem. I feel their confidence as adults and their connection with me has been much enhanced by raising them close to the concept of personal power that cycling has at its core. There are times looking back where a little assist would have made it so much better or have been essential if I was not such a strong cyclist. No wonder more haven’t found that child raising magic.  But they could with an assist!

A couple of years ago I started having issues with hips and a leg and for a time I wondered if I would need to give up cycling to work and give up my core exercise and social/ fitness outlet. I lucked out and was able to find the wonderful secret that appropriate assist was for me. What it has allowed me to do is continue to ride to work and back on a predictable schedule. Sometimes pulling a trailer that I need to get things from my home shop and back from Bike Friday Central. Some days I am better than others. The BF EAS allows me to dial in 25 watts or 100 watts or 150 watts. Whatever I need that day based on how I feel, how much I am carrying, & whatever the conditions. Because I can, I actually ride more & make more trips than I used to do, because I can add a bit of assist to bring me to that normal joyous sweet spot. My design is personal & I want the best for you also.

Best in Cycling,

Alan Scholz

Cyborgs in Our Midst!

Why and How E-assist makes sense to the Cyclist

Why it has been so confusing

Sounds like a movie doesn’t it? Before you start thinking I am talking about creatures of the Borg from Startrek or about human Cylon hybrids I need to do a little definition.

Cyborgs, as I use it here, are quite simply “Enhanced humans”, very unlike popularized science fiction versions. My broad definition is ‘a human body enhanced for its environment by technology to level the playing field or for repair of a damaged or sub-par component ‘.

It doesn’t necessarily mean a human has to replace an organ or have the enhancement installed within. The dictionary says electro-mechanical. I am just saying technology. But Pace Makers, Replacement joints, Insulin pumps, contacts, cataract lens replacement, and others certainly qualify. I might put something like amphetamines in there because cheats in sports are using that dis-allowed tech to level the playing field, from their perspective. But the use of technology is not in itself cheating. Clothing is one of the first wearable techs that humans used to conquer the full range of the planet that we couldn’t have naked. Shoes, makeup, wigs, false teeth, replacement limbs, and eyeglasses are all fully accepted by all to help level the playing field! ( Yes Ben Franklin and George Washington by my definition could be considered early cyborgs!) Driving a car or motorcycle, and powered flight does not make a cyborg. This is where I say ‘enhanced’ to ‘level the playing field’ comes from.

Bike Friday adds new playing field enhancements for its community of cyclists!
Electromechanical Enhancement from the perspective of a cycling bicycle lover.

Bike Friday is now making electric enhancement possible on all it travel bike, tandems, cargo bikes etc. Electric Assist has been a controversial subject because of major confusion about “Electric Bicycles”. Is it just an electric motorcycle, is it cheating, does it remove the magic of cycling under your own power, will my friends hate me! The answer comes from the fact that there are 3 distinct categories of ‘electric bicycles’. Electric motorbikes that skirt the law by having pedals even though they are not used any or much plus often go over the legal limits & have throttles, purpose-built motor-assisted bicycles that require the motor to be running to ride them, and electric enhanced bicycles that are designed as quality properly design bicycles for cyclists that have help available when needed, to climb, keep up, or go the distance to ride with others and go places you could not fully handle without some help. These last are built to ride and the electric system is minimized and stealth-ed. The bike rides well with or without it, it is quiet or silent when used, and it fits the definition of Cyborg that I give above.

I have thought long & hard on this. It took much introspection to come to the conclusion that powered bicycles of any kind could rightly be included in the legitimate tools of cyclists! You may have similar difficulties seeing its importance. Coming from an emancipation by bicycle in my early teens and being a physically powerful young idealist, cycling was pure.

The world fad of single speeds on campus is the current response of the young to the same drive I had. A few pounds (as few as possible!) of metal & rubber under you made for a perfect and unadulterated entry to the world. A world I could circumvent on my own terms with few resources and the ability to meet friendly people wherever they were and be welcomed. Two of my friends & I toured the state of North Dakota for 14 days by ourselves at the age of 16 on about $5 a day. This convinced me that Arriving by Bike was the best!

To my core, I have always felt the bicycle was one of the best inventions by humans. Fullers Ephemeralization demonstrated at its best. The poster child of elegance and energy efficiency. The shape of a fair and equitable world where everyone had enough and could take part in the largest of the world without a few haves and majority of have-nots. An understandable and human scale machine reflecting humans physical needs by giving immense emotional uplift while demonstrating non-violence. For me the Human Scale is prime.

“Make it as simple as possible. But no simpler”

This is one of my favorite quotes from Einstein. Certainly the mantra of those who understand and value the healthy and empowering perspective of Human Scale design. So how to apply human scale to Electric Enhancement for the cyclist?

How fast is Fast? How far between the horns of a Dilemma?

In one of my earlier blogs, I went through some examples of what is needed in wattage to enhance your cycling for different needs, speeds and distance. This little chart makes it simpler to see what I mean by enhancement. The wattage needed for a particular speed is the same whether you supply it all or you do it enhanced with some assist. What you will know from it is the level of this playing field we can cycling. In the middle column, you can find yourself if you know the approximate speed you know you tend to ride it. We do not naturally all have nearly the same amount of power available. We also can produce less as we get older. Sometimes we just want to keep up with others with faster natural talent. Cycling, after all, is best shared. If you want to ride with others at a little faster speed then subtract your wattage from theirs and that is what you need for an enhancement to ride with them at their speed. It is not cheating and there are no points. (OK some points for fitness!)

-This chart was really fun for me to do as it added a perspective that settled a discord in me from all my years racing before watt meters and modern cycling computers.
Wattage needed for you & bike on level
~Speed at this wattage
25 watts
6 mph
These speeds are all based on pavement & 25lb bike w/150 lb rider. 6 mph is about twice as fast as walking at half the wattage.
50 watts
9-10 mph
If you are currently fairly slow an extra 50-75 watts will allow you to ride 15 mph with more skilled & fit riders while you develop your fitness & stamina
75 watts
11-12 mph
Legal speeds for electric assist bicycles in Europe is about 15mph. Most of US it is 20mph. You don’t need 350, 500, 750, or 1000 watts for enhancement
100 watts
13-14 mph
Over about 13 mph air resistance becomes a much larger influence so position on the bike becomes more definitive of your speed
125 watts
14-16 mph
14-16 mph is typical of a strong fit sports cyclist. Now you can see why they don’t think an electric assist is necessary. This is a very effective speed.
150 watts
16-18 mph
Avg speeds in the world’s cities for motorized traffic is often under 15 mph! With E-enhancement this speed is easy to achieve, quicker than auto usually!
200 watts
18-20 mph
This is really way too fast for bikeways and over this speed is not safe for cyclists without race training. Stuff is just coming at you too fast to respond.
400 watts
29-31 mph
I put this here to compare with the worlds top cyclists doing the world hour record for bicycles!

So if you are into cycling for its magic benefits of being one with nature, health, the benign effect on the environment, and playing well with others. Or maybe you appreciate its Human scale economical transportation that is meditation in motion rather than road rage. If so then E-enhancement is as important to some as a bike that fits, good tires pumped up, having and knowing how to shift gears, having a comfortable saddle and good friends to ride with. After all we modern humans are no longer naked apes we are all Cyborgs!

Best in Cycling!
Alan Scholz
co-founder Bike Friday & Burley Design

Ephemeralization: A term coined by R. Buckminster Fuller, is the ability of technological advancement to do “more & more with less & less” (until eventually you can do everything with nothing), that is, an accelerating increase in the efficiency of achieving the same or more output (products, services, information, etc.) while requiring less input (effort, time, resources, etc.).