We recently caught up with VVCC Sponsor Susan Amon owner of Sedona e-Bike Tours, at Oak Creek Espresso in the Village of Oak Creek.
Hi Susan, thanks for meeting with me…
Great to meet you.
Let’s get to it. How long have you lived here in Sedona?
21 Years. I got here in the fall of 1997. I came with my trusty 1987 Wicked Fat Chance, a non-suspension mountain bike that I used to ride on the trails of Mt. Tam in Marin where I grew up.
Where did you live previously?
I was last living in Los Altos, CA in Silicon Valley where I had a custom database development company that specialized in custom HR solutions for large corporations like Apple and Sega. Before that, I was a professional musician, clarinet, for the San Francisco Opera and principal in the Monterey Symphony. It seems like a quite a different occupation, but actually there's a lot of correlation. You're dealing with a symbolic language as a musician. And then programming is also a symbolic language.
How long have you been involved in the local biking scene?
After riding my Fat City bike on Bell Rock Pathway for a few years, I decided to buy a full suspension bike so I could explore more trails. I rode every trail I possibly could, I was hooked. I joined TRACS, Trail Resource Access Coalition, which was the first mountain bike advocacy group here in Sedona. In one of those meetings Ken Anderson, head of the RRRD, told me the FS needed somebody to acquire an outfitter guide permit to conduct MTB bike tours. I said, well, that sounds like fun. I had already been leading a weekly MTB ride, which Mike Harris eventually took over from me and he's still doing that. I think.
So, I did get a permit for Sedona MTB Adventures in 2004 thru 2008. By then, I'd had a car accident…whiplash…and I thought I just can't do this anymore. Plus, there were a number of non-permitted mt bike tour guides under cutting me. It was annoying, and I couldn't do anything about it.
I also joined the Chamber and added road bike tours to my operation. But I found it very difficult in Sedona because with the short steep hills, people just couldn't get up and down and they didn't like the traffic. And then when you get in the back roads it was slow riding and we couldn’t cover enough miles to get to points of interest.
I bought my first e-Bike in 2003 and I thought this is really the way to go for bike tours. But there weren't any e-Bikes that could really handle the hills here until I found these BioniX motor in 2015 ones which have a super high pedal assist, a proportion which is 250 percent on your pedal stroke! So to give you an example, most e-bikes max out at a hundred percent.
Now that you brought up e-Bikes, what are they?
e-Bikes are a regular pedal bike that has either an integrated motor into the frame or a hub motor. The most popular of the hub motor is integrated into the rear wheel hub. There are front wheel motors, some of which you can take on and off to replace with a non-motor wheel so they are versatile.
There’s a class system for e-Bikes. Class 1 is pedal assist only, no throttle. Class 2 is a pedal assist with some sort of throttle motor cuts out at 20 mph, and Class 3 bikes that are pedal assist only and motor cuts out at 28 mph. You can certainly coast far faster than 20 mph, but you don’t have any pedal assist after 20.
So, most e-Bikes you have to pedal to get them to work?
Yes. Your pedals are your accelerator, just like a regular bike. And, I think that’s a good idea. Throttles get people in trouble.
How heavy is an e-Bike?
They're ranging around, you know, 50 pounds with the cheaper big bikes or get up into the 75+ pound range.
How long does the battery last?
It has to do with weight and riding speed. The more weight you have on a bike, the shorter your range. And the faster you ride the power is used. As of 2018 it looks like e-Bikes are shooting for a minimum of 30 miles, max of 60 miles. My e-Bikes have an 80-mile range because they have regeneration mode, in other words whenever you use your brakes or use regeneration mode on descents, the system switches to regenerating the battery. I've had customers finished a tour with the battery completely charged. That impressed me. I didn't know that was possible.
Are e-Bikes more expensive than regular bikes?
Typically. A big part of what you are paying for is the warranty. And you need a warranty because things go wrong and the companies are not regulated very well. You get all kinds of goofy things go wrong. Although e-Bikes today are much more stable.
What about service?
If you need work done on your e-Bike you’ll need to go to a certified e-Bike shop or risk losing your warranty. Currently Absolute Bikes is certified to work on Specialize, BionX, Bosch motors maybe others. Not sure where Pedego owners will be taking their bikes now. So it is important to buy an e-Bike from your local bike shop that will likely continue to support e-Bikes.
What happens if it rains and I’m riding an e-Bike, will I get shocked?
Laughter. No. You don’t want to submerge your battery in water to find out. I would be reluctant to ride in a heavy rain. You’re going to have more problems with the bike itself than the electric parts because they're mechanical and they're not housed. I think that it would matter if you had an e-Bike kit put on an existing bike. An integrated frame would probably be safer if you were going to be riding in the rain.
You mentioned earlier that the bikes shops needed to have specialized training, is that just for the motor component or is that for the entire bike?
The motor component. But of course it's on a bike. So mounting it on a bike is critical because my bikes have a lot of extra wires, more wires than most because regeneration mode. It matters. Those connections can come loose. And then you get sporadic current going through the wiring. So there is an element of how it's situated on a bike, but then again, if it's integrated in the frame, then that's really not as big of an issue.
What about working on the bike itself?
Well, I don't because I'm using them for commercial purposes. I don't want to do any repairs myself for liability reasons. If I have a motor issue the shop connects the e-Bike to a computer which runs diagnostics and sometimes upgrades the firmware.
Regarding fixing flat tires; if you have a hub motor, you've got to deal with the heavy wheel, cables, and some other issues. In my case, a flat means the tour's over because you've got a four inch tire there. That's a lot of air . The rear wheel plugs into the electoral system. So you have to unplug everything and it's a really tight fit on the rear wheel. So yeah, there are issues about doing the repairs with rear wheels on rear hub motors. I don't think it'd be that difficult on the front hub. E-Bikes with a center frame motor are easier when it comes to fixing a flat, just like any bike. Because everything is internal to the bike you’d probably take to a shop. Some of the integrated frames have phone apps that you can use to change settings on your bike.
You’ve recently become a VVCC Sponsor, thank you so much.
Now that my company looks like it's solid…Pedigo went out of business. I can see the difference between last year and this year. I'm getting people who are looking to buy e-bikes and they're looking at them for a variety of reasons. I can see this is going to catch on really big time. I want the bicycle community to be prepared and informed to help people because these are new riders and I have seen that there will be more traffic safety issues.
Any last thoughts?
Well we covered a lot. I think e-Bikes are a great opportunity for cyclists, whether you've been an avid cyclist, like I have all my life or new to cycling. At a certain point your balance starts going, aches and pains, and maybe you don't have enough time to work out enough. E-Bike bikes are just an additional bike to add to your fleet.
Getting into the “cheater” thing, it isn't a threat to regular cyclists because it's just a different kind of bike. It's great for doing all your errands so you don't have to worry about how much you put in your backpack. The problem most of the time you don’t get much exercise. When I first got the bikes I was out riding and a guy with lots mt bike stickers on his car yelled out the window calling me a cheater. Wow, I had to laugh because he’s in a car!
E-Bikes are a great addition to the bike market. For example, spouses/friends who may not be strong riders can keep up with stronger riders and enjoy riding together. People with health or physical limitation can get back on a bike, etc. They are good physical therapy bikes as well. Many of my customers are families looking to ride together and stay together from 12 years old into their 70’s.
Lastly, e-Bikes take the competition out of cycling because the motor cuts out at 20 mph and everyone has the same motor. The gearing stays along with the motor and everybody can enjoy going out for a ride without the feeling that the slow rider is dragging everyone behind or competing for who gets there first. It doesn't matter, and that's a great, great thing.
I find e-Bikes make doing tours just such a delight. That’s it. See ya!