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Beat the hills ... try an e-bike

Not every bike ride needs to be a workout.

There are many good reasons to use a bicycle instead of an automobile to run routine local errands. It's good for body and mind, parking is so easy, the environmental impact is next to nothing, and it saves money. But having a difficult hilly route to navigate can discourage even a determined cyclist.

Although cycling is one of my favorite exercise activities, I don't want to come home exhausted and sweaty after every little trip into town. I've found the perfect solution in an electric assist bicycle, what is often called an e-bike. These bikes utilizes a small electric motor to provide additional power as you pedal. The level of assistance is adjustable through a convenient handlebar control and is proportional to the torque you apply to the pedals. My Trek XM700+ has 5 settings ranging from no assist up to 3 times the torque from my pedaling effort providing enough power to climb the steepest hills with ease. The lithium-ion battery has plenty of power for multiple short trips between charges and for longer local roundtrips to places like Orinda, Moraga, Walnut Creek, or Danville.

E-bikes have become very popular in many other countries and are now widely available from all the major bicycle brands and local bike shops. They come in a variety of sizes and styles and can accommodate all the necessities like lighting systems, a rack for carrying things, a kickstand, fenders, a bell, puncture resistant tires, and a water bottle holder. They are designed for durability and convenience -- the type of bike you can use with street shoes and normal clothing to quietly go about your business while having a little fun along the way.

Of course, safety is most important. Always wear a proper cycling helmet and be visible. Give some thought to your route and traffic patterns, and be sure you are aware of and following cycling laws and safe cycling practices. Bicycle shops, California Bicycle Coalition, local bicycling clubs, and the DMV are all good sources of information. As for navigating through Lafayette, I’ve found convenient back street routes that help avoid having to mix with frantic commute and mid-day automobile traffic. It’s a great way to reduce your carbon footprint, meet more people, alleviate traffic congestion and stress, and to help make a more Sustainable Lafayette.

James Leach, Lafayette resident, is the author "The Sustainable Way: Straight talk about global warming - what causes it, who denies it, and the common sense transition to renewable energy"

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