The longtail cargo bicycle and the electric assist are both pieces of a puzzle. That puzzle is how to make a bicycle into a practical people-and-stuff mover for everyday use for short trips, in place of a car. The cargo bicycle on its own is a great concept, but if you live in a hilly place (like I do), it can be a bit difficult to haul a hundred pounds of kids or dog food up and down those hills on a regular occasion. After we got our new Madsen cargo bike, which can haul up to four kids at once (covered in more detail in Part II), I was excited to own a whole-family transportation bike. But the ride from my home starts with a big hill. And if I was feeling less than 100%, I was just not motivated to pedal that bike full of kids up that hill. The end result was that, in the first 2 months that we had the bike, I used it about once every week or two for a weekend outing to the park or farmer’s market, and that was all I could handle. The point was really driven home to me on Easter weekend when I wanted to bike the family over to an Easter egg hunt, which was in a hilly part of town about 8-9 miles away. After getting everyone together, I realized that I didn’t even know exactly where the hunt was located, and since it was in the hilly part of town, I might get lost and wander around for a while looking for the place. The thought of hauling a bike full of kids over steep hills when lost was too much for me, so we took the car. It turns out we did have troubles finding the place, so my concerns were founded.
Then we installed an electric assist kit by eZee. What a difference! Suddenly it became fun to load up the bike with kids and go out for a ride. I wouldn’t have worried about getting lost, because hauling the kids up the hills became easy to do. This particular electric motor kit is activated by a throttle control that is on the handlebar, similar to a motorcycle throttle. I can pedal the bike, I can use electric power, or I can do both together. So I have complete control over when and how much power I want the electric motor to add (and even though I’m in pretty good shape, the motor can do more than I can!) We now use the bike all the time for running kids around the place. And it works great for doing errands like picking up dog food, garden mulch, and other big bulky stuff.