May 31, 2006 Electric bikes and scooters hold much promise in the future transport equation, particularly for short distance commuting, but one of the limiting factors is their rather sedate speeds and limited range. The Optibike is designed to overcome these obvious deficiencies with a range of 25 to 30 miles (40 to 48 km) and very clever microprocessor-controlled electronics and Shimano XT 7 speed Derailleur gears which enable the motor to be assisted by the rider at all speeds. This means the Optibike will run at 20 mph (32 km/h) on the battery alone, cruise at 25 mph (40km/h) with gentle pedalling and with some aggressive pedal assistance, run with the traffic at 35+ mph (60 km/h). For those who are prepared to settle for a shorter battery life of 30 minutes, the Optibike can have its top speed increased to 46 mph (75 km/h).
Optibike is only a small company at this stage, but the promise is enormous. The company’s US$5500 bike has dominated competition in the famous Tour De Sol, the worlds largest Green Transportation Show, for the last two years and is the most promising electric bike design we’ve yet seen. In the 16-year history of the Tour De Sol, 2006 was the first year an electric bicycle team even asked to race against the hybrid cars such as the Toyota Prius and Honda Insight. “We wanted to demonstrate how an electric bicycle is an alternative to an automobile and is infinitely more efficient than even a hybrid car. I rode 103 miles in 4 hours in the pouring rain across upstate New York and only used about $0.15 worth of wind generated electricity”, said rider Craig Weakley.
The New York State Dept. of Motor Vehicles was not as excited at first about the new machine. “I have never seen anything like it”, said NYS DMV Tech Mark Engle, who eventually granted Team Optibike Experimental Vehicle Status because ancient laws in New York State prohibit power assist electric bicycles from operating on the road. Such vehicles are legal in Colorado and 43 other states and require no license, registration, or insurance.
Typically, electric bicycles wishing to avail themselves of the competition aspects of the Tour de Sol are entered “Neighborhood Electric Vehicle” competition which is held in a large parking lot and is representative of an “urban style course.” The day after riding 103 miles in the rain, Craig successfully defended the Optibike title in that event as well completing 114 (.75 mile) laps in 3 hours. The farthest Craig had ridden on a bike prior to the event was about 8 miles. Optibike also walked away from the Tour De Sol with the 2006 Innovator of the Year Award for the Patented Technology that makes the Optibike get the cost equivalent of 2050 mpg……and rising. Optibike manufacturers its high performance Optibike 400 in Boulder, Colorado in a 100% wind powered facility using custom parts primarily made in Colorado and the West. 2006 is the first full scale production year for Optibike and 125 hand built bikes are set to be delivered this year to a waiting list of customers. Craig and Optibikes’ founder, Jim Turner have spent the last year educating the public about electric bicycles and their capabilities for commuters.
When volume production gets underway, the pricing on the bikes will probably fall rapidly, but for now, the US$5500 price offers a hand-built very exclusive and wickedly fast electric bike. “We can really offer a custom bike designed to the specification of the owner,” said Weakly. “Things like long-travel suspension, special wheel sets, custom paint, and hydraulic brakes are easy to do at this stage.”