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Kill the Hill With Electric Assist Bikes

These vehicles really make the grade (easier)

Nuts and Bolts

There are a variety of ways you can approach e-biking. One of the most popular is to add an electric motor to a bike that you already have. Kits from BionX run from $1,200 to $1,900. Since many of the electric bikes come in limited frame sizes and styles, this is a good way to upgrade a bike that you're already happy with.

Many major manufacturers are now making pedelecs, including such well-known bike makers as Schwinn and Giant, and electronics makers such as Sanyo and Panasonic. There are also a host of smaller companies, many from Europe.

Two of Cebular's favorites are the Gepida Reptila 1100, which sells for $2,475, and the Kettler Twin electric bike for about $2,600. Others can run from about $1,000 to $5,000. Most of these bikes are built for comfort. Some have front suspensions, many have cushy seats sometimes incorporating seat-post suspension. Many have upright and adjustable handlebars so you don't have to hunch over. They will usually get at least 20 miles on a single charge with the latest lithium batteries. Many have room for a second battery to double the range.

Remember, your distance can vary greatly depending on how many steep hills you climb, or how much you run the motor instead of pedal.

If you live in an apartment, or travel in an RV, you might consider a folding electric bike. These are generally not only space-saving but very lightweight. Bikes from Dahon, Brompton, Pacific Cycles and others range from about $1,500 to $2,600. I've seen suburban commuters bring folding bikes into Manhattan on the train, unload at Grand Central Station and then ride to work.

If balancing on two wheels is a challenge, you can get an electric assisted tricycle. Upright trikes from Gomier and eZee cost from $1,400 to $2,500. I found a wide selection beginning at just over $900 at Pronto.com. Most of these come with roomy baskets, making them ideal for trips to the grocery store.

I am partial to the recumbent trike, where you are seated lower but your back and backside are fully supported. The most common way to add electric power to a recumbent trike is with a kit, such as those from BionX or EcoSpeed. There are also a handful of fully configured electric recumbents on the market including the $2,000 Low Rider Recumbent Trike and the EZ Rider Recumbent Electric Suspension trike for $2,395. And if you really want to be environmentally friendly, for about $3,600 you can own a solar powered trike.

If your favorite kind of wheeling and dealing is on two or even three wheels, an electric assist bike or trike can be a great way to stay in shape without knocking yourself out.

As my son keeps telling me, what's important isn't whether you're using the electric assist; it's that you're getting out there in the first place.

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