Mountain Style: For the Love of E-Bikes

We've got the line on family commuting

By Addie Pascal

couple of years ago, I noticed my friend Stef cruising around town on a funky-looking bike with her two kids riding on the back. They all seemed to be smiling, and Stef wasn’t even breaking a sweat. Either she was in fantastic shape—due to the fact she was hauling two kids everywhere—or there was something special about her bike. It piqued my curiosity. Turns out it was an “electric” bike. Stef could not stop raving about how easy it was to get around town, how much the kids loved riding it, and how little she used her car.

Now, several years later, the e-bike phenomenon has hit mountain towns hard, and it seems like it’s here to stay. “In terms of transportation in this valley, it’s a real solution,” says Brian Remlinger, an avid bike commuter and Jackson Hole resident. “[E-bikes] reduce traffic as well as carbon emissions.”

So my family (which includes three young kids) jumped on the wagon. The Radwagon, that is, by Rad Power Bikes out of Seattle. Logging over a thousand miles our first summer, this bike is a commuting solution for our family. And it just might be a good fit for you, too.

10 Reasons Why I Love My E-Bike

  1. Human interaction. I dare you to not smile at fellow commuters when you pass them on the pathway or chat while waiting for a light. In a world where technology is ever present, organic human interaction creates a breath of fresh air.
  2. Awesome pathways. We are so spoiled! The trail system in Jackson—regularly cited as one of the most bike-friendly towns in America—makes commuting to work, school, or the grocery store both easy and enjoyable. (And Teton Valley is gaining on us, too.)
  3. Carrying capacity. Without kids in tow, I can easily haul six grocery bags (and a bottle of wine or two). Of course, my kids are not likely to pass up bike riding, so usually I’m carrying four grocery bags and two or three very happy kids.
  4. Built-in exercise. Bonus—you can control the pedal assist with an e-bike. For a good workout, turn it down or off. That way, you’re moving your body instead of sitting still.
  5. Sensory delight. With the wind in our faces, the smell of fresh coffee wafting from Picnic, the babbling of Flat Creek, and wildlife sightings galore (we often see moose, deer, and bald eagles), my family just can’t get enough. Sometimes we make up errands just to ride the bike.
  6. Less stress. Imagine this: no traffic; no searching for parking spaces; no car seats to wrangle kids into and out of. It really is as car(e)-free as it sounds.
  7. Inspires future generations. Okay, who am I kidding? My kids are actually inspiring me. I love that they consistently choose the bike over the car. And in the process, they’re learning that biking is a viable transportation option.
  8. Reduces Energy Consumption. E-bike commuting is a low-energy way to travel. That means, no excuses!
  9. Quality Family Time. My kids are actually nice to each other when they’re riding on the bike (most of the time, anyway). And it doesn’t hurt to strap on a Bluetooth speaker and play happy jams while shuttling to and fro.
  10. It’s just plain FUN.

You can find the following bikes in use around the valley:

Radwagon Electric Cargo Bike. This affordable e-bike is quickly becoming one of the most popular cargo bikes around. With a throttle assist (a nice feature when starting up with a load on the back), a 750-watt motor, and a 350-pound weight limit, it tops out at 20 mph. Available online. MSRP $1,799.

Xtracycle Edgerunner. This customizable bike comes in three sizes and is available with two motors that reach a top speed of either 20 or 28 mph. The cargo rack has a low center of gravity for increased stability. Available at Wilson Backcountry Sports and Hoff’s Bikesmith. MSRP $2,147.

Pedego Stretch. With its vintage cruiser vibe, this bike just looks cool. And it’s one of the more powerful bikes on the market, too. The Pedego Stretch comes with adjustable handlebars and racks, a throttle assist, a quiet 500-watt motor, and a 400-pound capacity. Available online. MSRP $3,995 to $4,295.

Yuba Spicy Curry Bosch. This award-winning e-bike tops out at 20 mph and boasts a “low-rider” cargo rack that can be fitted with customizable accessories. The performance motor and long-lasting battery make it one of the most reliable bikes on the market. Hauls 300 pounds plus a rider. Available at Hoback Sports. MSRP $4,499.

Visit these local retailers for all your e-bike needs:

  • Hoback Sports, Jackson
  • Hoff’s Bikesmith, Jackson
  • The Hub, Jackson
  • Fitzgerald’s, Jackson and Victor
  • Wilson Backcountry, Wilson
  • Peaked Sports, Driggs
  • E-bikes of Jackson Hole (rental only)

Know the Rules

According to the Town of Jackson, an electric bicycle is a “bicycle or tricycle equipped with fully operable pedals and an electric motor of less than 750 watts.” Teton County, Wyoming, allows Class 1, 2, and 3 e-bikes—with a maximum speed of 28 mph—on pathways (whether or not it has throttle assist). And while Teton County, Idaho’s pathway restrictions aren’t yet set, following the Wyoming rules is advisable. Check with your local bike shop before purchasing to make sure the bike you buy abides by local regulations.

Pathway Etiquette (for both sides of the hill)

  1. Keep right, pass left.
  2. Pass safely—be prepared to yield, and announce your presence before passing.
  3. Obey traffic laws.
  4. Move off to the side when you stop.
  5. Ride in single file when approaching others.
  6. Control dogs at all times.
  7. Scoop your dog’s poop.