Bicycling In and Around Springfield, IL

Top view of E-Joe electric bike

Riding an electric bike in Springfield

Bicycle enthusiasts in Springfield, Illinois are lucky to have access to so many trails and navigable paths for recreational travel, virtually year-round. And the Springfield Bicycle Doctor at 1037 North 5th Street in Enos Park has everything needed to make exploring the city and state a truly memorable, safe adventure for anyone of any age or cycling experience. The Doc’s website is a useful source for anything to do with the sport, conventional or electric, including trail opportunities out there just waiting to be explored.

The first 5½ miles of the 38-mile Sangamon Valley Trail opened in 2011. The picturesque route follows the old St. Louis, Peoria and Northwestern Railway and is an easy, mostly level ride. The trail is still under construction, and when completed it will cross the valley to the state’s historic New Salem Lincoln sites.

One of the region’s earliest and most popular escapes, even for desk-bound refugees seeking sun and air on their lunch break, is the Lost Bridge Trail. At just under 6 miles, the trail starts behind the Illinois Department of Transportation in Springfield, and meanders round a pretty lake and landscaped grounds. The Doc recommends “a small detour into Rochester’s community park for a shaved ice [as] a wonderful treat on a hot summer afternoon.”

The well-maintained Lincoln Prairie Trail parallels State Route 29 for most of its nearly 15-mile stretch. Be careful of the honey locust trees, their thorns start at about one inch and can be as long as three inches. (Become a lifetime member of Doc’s Flat Club for $25 per bike and he’ll fix your flat tires for free for as long as you own your bicycle.) The full range of prairie life can be experienced on the Lincoln Prairie Trail. Cyclists report seeing fox, deer, coyote, raccoons, opossum, ground hogs, chipmunks, snakes, toads, and turtles. According to the Doc, Owaneco is a good place for a rest stop, but there are no restaurants or service stations.

At not much over 2 miles, the short but fun Wabash Trail epitomizes the urban rail-trail link connection. Straight and flat, with one bridge, the trail links shopping areas and restaurants.

The paved Interurban Trail connects Chatham with Springfield along the old electric rail line. The Chatham Railroad Museum (inside a 1902 train station) is a rewarding visit. Interurban is a classic example of rail-trail usage, in which train and cyclists share the same corridor. As a commuter route, Interurban is especially suited for electric bikes which make short work of “Mount Doom,” a relatively steep climb over railroad tracks.

Springfield is more than great trails, however. From here it’s a short jaunt by train for a little R&R (rest and relaxation) in the state’s wonderland of trail choices like the 62-mile Illinois Prairie Path in the heart of the Chicago suburbs. Or in less than two hours by car, reach the Rock Island Trail and admire the 27-mile greenway on the former right-of-way of the Rock Island Railroad.

Moraine Hills Bike Trail’s 11miles through beautiful Moraine Hills State Park offers exceptional scenic and wildlife viewing opportunities, among them the signs of what the great glaciers left behind. Tunnel Hill State Trail, Vadalabene Bike Trail, Great Western Trail, Illinois & Michigan Canal State Trail and Fox River Bike Trail offer soaring eagles, spectacular scenery and the mighty Mississippi. All just waiting for a cyclist.

For an Illinois trails map catalog, contact the Illinois Dept. of Transportation, at 2300 S. Dirksen Parkway, 027 Administration Bldg., Springfield, IL 62764.

Lastly, Doc reminds cyclists that those who ride during the winter months in the Springfield area should plan some first echelon maintenance. Water and salt have a magical way of getting into everything and wreaking havoc. A little TLC every year can help your bike last a lifetime.

About Kimberly Rotter

Electric Bike MPGe

Chevron sign indicating 3.79 per gallon

Image © Tate K. Nations

Electric bike MPG

How can we calculate ebike MPG? Electric bikes don’t use gasoline. But miles-per-gallon, or MPG, is a concept most of us are intimately familiar with. MPGe – or miles-per-gallon equivalent – is simply distance per unit of energy. It’s used to compare the energy efficiency of electric or hybrid vehicles with that of traditional gas-powered models. While our comparison is admittedly simplistic, it is an illustration of the cost of and energy used traveling by electric bike versus a typical 4-cylinder sedan.

Fuel efficiency

Today in San Diego, CA, a gallon of gas costs around $3.85. If you’re lucky, you drive an efficient car and can travel 30 miles or more on that gallon. Many drivers, however, will actually see a range between 18 and 25 miles. Mid- and full-sized pickup drivers must be satisfied with just 15-18 miles.

Indeed, some of today’s newest “efficient” vehicles fall very short on mileage. One 2012 Hyundai Sonata driver told the Wall Street Journal he was ready to trade in his car after getting an average of only 22 mpg – nowhere near the 35 city / 40 highway promised on the sticker. Even hybrids are not immune to mileage failures. The Ford C-Max promises 47 mpg, but delivers an average of 39 – an impressive number, but one that falls far short of expectations.

How much electricity does an electric bike use?

Ebike MPGe is essentially a cost comparison.  Let’s look at the money you spend on gas for your car and convert it to an equivalent expense for electricity for your bike.

The 2010 Nissan Sentra is a popular car, and averages 29 mpg for combined city and highway driving. The tank holds 14.5 gallons, so you should expect to travel around 420 miles on one tank. In San Diego, that will cost you about $55.83 (February 6, 2013). (In lower-priced markets the same tank might cost around $47.50.)

Now travel that same distance on an ebike. E-Joe’s Anguun travels up to 42 miles on a charge, but perhaps you have some hills in your area and you normally carry a few school books. We’ll round down to 35 miles per charge.

In southern California, the average cost for electricity is around 15 cents /kWh (but can be as high as 21 cents, depending on your usage). To understand electricity consumption, medicines 4 all, consider a home. Of course usage varies widely. But it can easily top 1000 kWh or more per month for a small household. The resident will therefore spend $150 on electricity for everyday home usage.

To figure out the cost to charge your bike, look at the voltage and current rating on your battery. The Anguun has 36 volts and 16 Amp-hours. Thanks to NYC e-Wheels, we know that we need to multiply those numbers and then divide by 1000. The result is your kilowatt hours, or kWh – the amount of energy needed to charge your bike for an hour.

36 x 16 / 1000 = 0.57

Next, multiply your result by the number of hours required to fully charge your battery. Many bikes can be fully charged in 4-5 hours, but to be conservative, let’s give our bike 6 hours to fully charge.

0.57 x 6 = 3.42

That means you will need 3.42 kWh of electricity to fully charge your bike. At the California rate, you’ll pay 51 cents a night, on average, given a normal household electric bill.

3.42 x .15 = .51

If you charge your bike each night and you commute 35 miles each day, depleting the battery each time, you’ll travel 420 miles in 12 days, at a total cost of $6.12.

.51 x 12 = 6.12

Bike-friendly housing and employers

Keep in mind that you could charge up for free if you stop at an electric vehicle charging stations available in some areas. Or your employer might be willing to absorb the cost of your commute, allowing you to charge up at the office while you work. Even some apartment complexes are becoming bike-friendly, offering secure storage areas and fully equipped repair rooms.

Ride an ebike for 1½ cents per mile

In the Sentra, we traveled 420 miles for $55.83. On the Anguun, we traveled 420 miles for $6.12.

Another way to look at it is that the Anguun can travel 6 miles on .57 kWh, at a cost of slightly less than 9 cents. So while the Sentra costs 13 cents per mile, the Anguun costs just 1.5 cents per mile. When you add up all the miles you travel in a year, plus the other costs associated with owning a vehicle, the numbers are staggering.

Anguun:  10,000 miles per year x .015 = $150 electricity cost  Under $50 (See the comments for a helpful correction of my faulty math. -Kimberly 5/18/13)

Sentra:     10,000 miles per year x .13 = $1,300 fuel cost

We acknowledge that your calculations might be very different, depending on the car you drive, the bike you choose and the electricity rates in your area. But no matter how you crunch the numbers, the energy costs of an ebike are pennies on the dollar when compared to fuel-powered vehicles.

About Kimberly Rotter

Azalea City: Riding an Electric Bike in Takoma Park, Maryland

Man rides bike in snow, alongside dog

Image © Anthony DeLorenzo

Ebike riders in the DC area dream of springtime

Winter is the time to plan ahead for when the weather lightens up. For some, winter is like the enforced idleness that comes when we are in bed with the flu. Once the thought of an untimely death passes, we can either dwell on the discomforts and limitations or make the best out of the gloom by working out what we really want to do when things improve.  Today you’ll find Takoma Park, Maryland under snow and ice. But spring approaches rapidly. Azaleas, dogwoods and daffodils become a riot of bloom along the roads and byways. Then we look forward to a long, deep green summer and pastel-shaded fall.  See it all from the saddle on an unrivalled selection of accessible trails when you ride an electric bike in Takoma Park, MD and the surrounding area.

Overall, in the region surrounding Takoma Park (Columbia, MD through Washington, DC and on down to Arlington, Falls Church and Alexandria, VA) about 170 bike trails lie within easy reach. The Green Commuter in Takoma Park will help customers choose an e-bike that balances personal energy levels and exploration ambitions.  And to take full advantage of the myriad number of trail options, don’t neglect to install a bike rack, child seat or backfiet, as your needs dictate. E-biking has revolutionized recreational cycling and  you won’t want to be left behind.

Michael Hsu in the Wall Street Journal summarized the feeling of ebiking euphoria, “Once you take an electric bike for a spin, the feeling of freedom trumps all.” In short, the world is your oyster in the Takoma Park area and its environs. Here are five of our favorites.

Bicycling in Takoma Park, MD

The ride nearest the Green Commuter is the almost 9-mile stretch of Sligo Creek Trail. The path follows the parkway for most of its route along Sligo Creek of the Anacostia River watershed.  It’s a lovely route, easily accomplished on a single battery charge on any E-Joe bike.

The C&O Towpath along the Potomac River is a national treasure. It begins in Georgetown and passes Glen Echo, where you’ll find a magnificent Dentzel carousel (1921), fully restored. You’ll also find Adventure Theatre where plays and puppet shows are staged exclusively for children. E-bike tires and frames are ideal for the trail’s dirt surface. The trail runs for 184 miles, all the way out to Cumberland, MD and beyond. Leave the car at any one of many park system parking lots.

The Metropolitan Branch Trail blends off-road riding with on-road lanes from Silver Spring to Union Station in Washington. (We recommend the nearby Irish pub.)  The eight-mile path winds past Takoma Park to the nation’s capital, so it shares popularity with commuters during the work week.

Beach Drive in Rock Creek Park is closed to through traffic on weekends and becomes a cyclist’s paradise.

The Mount Vernon Trail beside the Potomac River follows George Washington Parkway, one of America’s most beautiful urban thoroughfares. About the end of its five-mile stretch is George Washington’s stately home. The restaurant there serves a good meal at reasonable prices. This trail includes a few areas that are off-limits to bikes, so please review the regulations once you get there.

Click here for a very helpful overview of all bike trails in the DC metro area.

Addressing e-bikes in general, Michael Hsu’s column added, “the newest models are svelte, easy to maintain and a blast to ride.” Also, “The better [models] will measure how much force you’re applying to the pedal and adjust the boost accordingly. If you’re pedaling lightly, for example, the motor comes into play just a bit. If you’re pedaling hard, it kicks in more.”

E-Joe bikes feature this pedal assist technology. Our favorite is the Oma (German/Dutch for grandmother), with its spritely top speed of 20 MPH and generous 40-plus mile range.  For younger Takoma Park residents, E-Joe offers sportier models like the folding E-Transformer S. Diehard bicyclists, put on your arm warmers and enjoy winter privacy on the trail. Fair weather riders, get ready. Your time is coming soon.

About Kimberly Rotter


Solar power for an electric bike

Solar powered ebike

Image © Tony Chang

Go higher, faster, longer. Like the early days of aviation when all manner of innovations were being attempted – not all of them sensible or successful – the electric bike age has inspired clever people to try out improvements of their own design. Technology usually improves incrementally, not overnight. Some people and corporations push the envelope. We cheer them on and enthusiastically support pioneers with the courage to test their theories.

The holy grail of green energy transportation generally unites everyone. Electric enthusiasts all wonder when we will achieve the super battery – by which we mean vastly extended battery endurance. We mean reliability, power, speed, rapid recharging capability, economy.

Today the conversation is about solar power for your electric bike battery.

1,000 miles per gallon

Comparisons are tricky, but it has been estimated that ebikes like the Pendaki offer the equivalent of 1,000 miles per gallon of gas. Electric bikes are the most efficient transportation available. Can we make them even greener?

Take the following extreme example, for instance.

An electric scooter in Japan

Not long ago, Japan’s Hama Zero Company introduced the Fujin. This solar-powered electric bicycle has an assisted travel range of about 136 miles on a single charge. The company claims the bike can be used on public roads. The top speed is about 45 MPH. The bike is powered by a 940 watt per hour lithium-ion battery and weighs over 92lbs, including the solar panel placed in a box at the back of the bike. On cloudy days, the Fujin can charge its batteries from a home power socket at insignificant cost.

The downside is pretty steep. It stretches credulity to call the Fujin a bicycle. In truth, it is a motorcycle-with-a-trace-of-scooter hybrid. Fun, certainly. Powerful, yes. But definitely not in the same ballpark as a straightforward, uncomplicated electric bike. Trail supervisors and park rangers are unlikely to take kindly to such conveyances on their bike paths.

On the practical side, the Fujin’s solar power panels, large and necessarily exposed, are vulnerable to casual damage. Fujin is a vehicle that is not to be left in any old handy parking space.

A glimpse into the future

In general, we see solar power making inroads. It’s no surprise that riders continuously seek ways in which to extend their range. It did not take long for someone to think that power from the sun would offer an advantage. And so, solar panels have nudged their way into modest prominence. Electric bike batteries must store about 200 to 500 watts of energy to travel any appreciable range. More powerful bikes need even bigger batteries.

Some solar panels collect 25 to 75 watts of output and three such panels can provide the 36 volts used in many electric bicycles. Bikes-As-Transportation claims that he uses around 100 watts per hour. These roll up small enough to place on the rear rack, including the charge converter. Non roll-up solar panels are more efficient but are not that easily transported. Panel size depends on the amount of available time in the sun and the size of the batteries that need to be charged. Most solar panels now do not need direct sunlight to work but they will not operate at 100% capacity on cloudy days.

Solarizing your electric bike

Getting more mileage out of your electric bike is something you will do with practice. Mileage depends on a combination of conditions and riding style. The Anggun can take you 25 miles on a charge or 42, depending on all of those factors.

If you decide to make the switch to solar, your bike can probably be retrofitted with third party solar panels at home. Once you go solar, we want to hear about your experience. Did you convert your e-bike to solar? Do you have information or tips you can share with other electric bike owners?

“Running a bike on sunlight is hip, green, fun, more common than ever and also more affordable.” (NYCeWheels)

Endless-Sphere and V is for Voltage are useful resources for solar panels and other electric bike topics.

About Kimberly Rotter

The Right Bike for a Woman

The E-Joe Oma

Different people have different priorities when shopping for a bike. The most critical factor could be price, or it could be durability, performance or brand reputation. What many adults don’t realize is that gender is also an important factor to consider.

A woman’s bike is made differently, and not just with respect to the absence of the high tube on a step-through frame.  Generally, women have longer legs and shorter torsos when compared with men. So a woman requires a shorter reach from the saddle to the handlebars. Some bike frames are made to accommodate this change in distance, but any bike can be to fit the rider with a few adjustments and the right equipment.

Here are some basics to keep in mind when you make your adjustments.

Stand over the frame. You should be able to stand comfortably with both feet flat on the ground. If you can’t, the frame might be too big for you. You should have about 1″ of clearance on a road bike and about 2″ or more on a mountain bike. Comfort and leisure bikes often give even more clearance.

Adjust the seat height. Your knee should be slightly bent at the lowest pedal position.

Level the saddle. If your seat is not leveled, you’ll either slip forward or back. In either case you’ll suffer discomfort and give up some pedaling power.

Adjust the horizontal position of the saddle. This is where you can make a woman’s frame out of a unisex one. Moving the seat forward, toward the handlebars, shortens the reach and effectively mimics the tighter dimensions of a woman’s frame.

It’s important to note that while great strides have been made in seat technology in attempt to provide comfort and avert tissue damage, no seat is perfect for every rider. You’ll have to research saddles yourself, trying them out on rides whenever possible. Swap with friends if you can. Your two butt bones should bear the pressure of your body weight.

Adjust the handlebar height. Find the position that relieves any strain from your wrists, shoulders and back. The right position depends on the type of riding you plan to do, as well as your own personal preference, but for leisure or recreational riding, the handlebars should be higher than the saddle.

Here are a few more bike-buying tips from REI.

About Kimberly Rotter

Women and Electric Bikes

Older woman riding electric bike

Image © Lou Alexander

Motivated by vastly improved battery technology, a new generation of bikers is taking to the streets of the world. Electric bicycle usage has skyrocketed and models have sold in the millions, especially in Asia where ebikes enjoy run-away sales. Europe and North America have joined the boom and women appear to be leading the charge. In Holland recently, electric bikes were selling at a faster clip than regular bicycles. (

Women were quick to adopt bicycles as a form of recreation in the late 19th century, when bikes first made an appearance. Women have enthusiastically moved up a notch by turning to ebikes. And as befits our modern age, the ebike’s versatility now includes work,, commuting, errand running and transporting children in addition to recreational use.

Transportation Independence

War bride and former ensemble member Simone Brown no longer had use of a car. Age had made her less confident about safe driving. Instead, “I do my basic shopping within 2 – 3 miles [of home], and around the neighborhood” with an ebike. She explained, “I will be 87 soon [and] used to have a bicycle when I was a dancer in [the] Opera House in France, about 55 years ago!” An electric bike has given her a new birth of transportation independence. (

In Australia, a salesman commented, “We sold [an electric bicycle] a few months ago to an 84-year old” who was a life-long bicycle rider but whose knees were giving out.” Cathy Lau noted that “when injuries take away your ability to cycle where and when you like, sometimes, you can regain your freedom to ride with an electric bike.” (

The ebike came to the rescue. A 69-year old woman touring Australia with her husband said of the sightseeing adventure, “It’s been fantastic.” A dial on the handlebars allows her to select power and monitor reserves. “It depends if I’m going up hills,” she said. “If we are on steep hills for a long time I get about 56km, but . . . I got 93km one day.” She added, “But I’m still pedaling and the dial allows me to put it on full-power or half-power. I usually have it on half-power.”


Julia Martin, design director for V is for Voltage magazine, sets a high bar for the ebikes she test-rides and writes about. Her recommendations are based on a rigorous series of tests over different kinds of surface materials. “My daily ride includes mixed trails and roads and I rode the heck out of my [bike] until the . . .  motor failed and the second set of tires were literally worn bare.” (

Commuting Convenience

Commuters, especially by women who want to get to work without getting sweaty, have adopted electric bikes. Baby boomers make up a large part of sales because they are retired and love joy riding.   Improved batteries and a mature population have boosted sales. (

For those still at work and using their ebikes, Dottie, a Chicago attorney, offers some useful tips. Dottie commutes to her office on an ordinary bicycle dressed appropriately as the serious executive professional that she is. Here’re her ground rules:

  • If the weather is hot, leave the hosiery, tie and jacket at work. If the weather is cold, layer sensibly.
  • If you wear pants, secure the cuff from oily chains “unless you want your fine Brooks Brothers suit ripped (sob).”
  • If you get hot while riding, to prevent wrinkling roll up your jacket before putting it in the pannier.

Take it slow and steady. “No need to race the yoga-pant and Lycra crowd.” She concludes, “If you follow these tips, riding in a suit will be a practical and simple course of action. As a bonus, you’ll find yourself sitting straighter and feeling super dapper.” (]

Dottie, the commute would be all the freer with an electric bicycle!

About Kimberly Rotter

An ebike club

An electric bike club

Image © US Mission Geneva

In Ithaca, New York there is a fledgling electric bike organization that recently was looking for a name to call themselves.

The town is accessible and predisposed to humor students. Also,, that part of up state New York is especially attractive for electric bicycle adventuring. The countryside is beautiful but a challenge for ordinary bicyclists. Electric bikes erased “the incredibly hilly terrain.”

Students comprise the majority of the local community. The environment is important to them, as it is to a large segment of the non-student population. Effectively, complimentary interests converged when students – who are perennially broke and always in need of cheap transportation – made common-cause with their environmentally conscious neighbors. Both groups benefitted because they can share a passion for transportation that fits in with their needs and values.

Local bike stores were unable to offer much assistance in advertising the electric bike club, so the group decided to strike out on its own with web-based promotions. Except for a single detail: what to call themselves? Pioneering like this presents a model for campuses and communities everywhere.

The No-Name-Yet Ithacans offer a few thoughts to help guide clubs forming elsewhere in the country:

  • The goal of the club is to encourage people in to use ebikes
  • Activities could include ebike conversion workshops (basically how to install a hub motor), Xtracycle conversion workshops – how to convert your wheels into a cargo bike, repair clinics, weird vehicle projects, group rides
  • Could function as a geographically localized, online forum for advice about ebikes and for buying and selling ebikes
  • Might purchase bulk parts to optimize discounts
  • Advocacy. A few bike groups in Ithaca already do some of these activities, most notably the Finger Lakes Cycling Club; but ebike goals are different enough to require a separate group

The Ithaca ebiker raises other interesting questions about the ebike club:

  • Is the club’s focus local or will they reach for national standing?
  • Is the focus environmental? Practical? Fun?
  • How much of an emphasis should the group place on cargo biking?
  • How much advocacy should the club offer? What are the top issues? (Bike infrastructure, bike safety, route mapping, etc.)
  • Should the club become a retailer or affiliate seller? A favorite Canadian bike store began as a club.
  • Should the club advocate for electric vehicles other than bicycles?

Questions outnumber answers at the dawn of the electric bike age in the United States. The issues can also be thorny.  But the aim should be pure joy for all concerned.

About Kimberly Rotter

After the Storm – Can Electric Bikes Help Disaster Recovery?

NYC subway station is impassable due to flood damage from Hurricane Sandy

Image © MTAPhotos

Hurricane Sandy beat the U.S. East Coast to a pulp, destroying homes, businesses, vehicles and every variation of infrastructure imaginable. In the aftermath of the storm, millions of people found themselves without lights, refrigeration, heat or phone service. Equally high on the list of critical needs was transportation. Although most people didn’t need to report to work or school in the immediate wake of the storm, within a few days most found themselves tasked with the cleanup and beginning their return to normal life. Some basic questions proved unusually challenging: “How will I get to the store to replace the food that’s gone bad in my refrigerator?”

Power shortages left thousands of gas stations closed, forcing even those whose vehicles were not destroyed to wait on long lines, in cold temperatures, at the few open stations. Under these conditions, tempers were quick to flare up – reports spread quickly of fights, arguments, even the pointing of a gun in rage and frustration.

And for those who successfully purchased gasoline? Massive destruction from rain and wind – downed trees, wrecked cars and boats moved great distances, debris from buildings demolished by the storm – left many roads and thoroughfares impassable.

Bicycles accelerate recovery from a natural disaster.  PRI’s The World recently reported that many New Yorkers took to their bikes after Hurricane Sandy for good reason, not the least of which include inoperable subways, long lines for gas and vehicles destroyed by flooding. Some bicycle dealers in New York reported a 500 percent increase in sales in the days immediately following Hurricane Sandy.

Electric bikes can offer an even greater advantage. If you are able to dust off your old Schwinn and you’ve stayed in shape, fantastic. But if you’re a bit out of practice when it comes to pedaling, or you are trying to get home with a heavy load of groceries, the extra help an e-bike’s motor provides makes the impossible possible. Notwithstanding the fact that Sandy initially left millions without power, electricity became available to many customers within a couple of days. From the time the storm made landfall, residents of the affected areas were – and in some cases still are – much more likely to find an available electrical outlet than a gallon of gas.  Importantly, even after power was restored, commuters found themselves unable to travel due to the myriad of obstacles preventing cars, buses and subways from returning to normal operation.

About Kimberly Rotter

Riding a bike in Virginia Beach

Riding a bike in Virginia Beach

Aerial view of Virginia Beach boardwalk

Image © Maggie McCain

Tidewater, Virginia – also known as Hampton Roads – is unrivaled hiking and bicycling territory. The region is a paradise of pine forests, bald cypress groves, mysterious swamps, maritime flora and seashore. Here, the Chesapeake Bay meets the Atlantic Ocean and provides a habitat to a vast array of wild life, including a super abundance of pelagic and shore-based birds. It also happens to be on one of the rare migratory routes for monarch butterflies. Pretty well all of it is accessible from a bike path somewhere nearby.

Adding to the attractions is the absence of steep climbs because the average elevation is only about 12 feet, making the entire area ideal for bicycle adventures.

4 Popular Virginia Beach Area Destinations

First Landing State Park in Virginia Beach offers Cape Henry Trail, right through the forest’s center ending at the oceanfront on 64th Street. At just over 6 miles, the trail leads through a bald cypress swamp where cypress knees poke through the waters to serve as balance (it is thought) for the enormously tall parent tree.

Exercise challenges may be found along the way for those who want to stop for pull-ups, stair-climbs and other aerobics. Pets on a leash are welcome. (And it goes without saying that pet owners are legally and morally responsible for cleaning up after their pets.) Overlooks jut into the swamp for a closer view, and maybe a glimpse of one of the huge snapping turtles that make their home here. A circular burial site contains the remains of pre-colonial Chesapeake Indians.

A marked bike path that parallels Shore Drive was recently opened. At the present time the path is complete in an easterly direction, only. The westerly portion is scheduled to open in the near future.

Further along the coast, just south of Virginia Beach, is Back Bay National Wildlife Refuge, open from April 1st to October 1st . The refuge embraces over 9,000 acres of land centered on a strip of coastline common to barrier islands. Some 10,000 snow geese, ducks and other waterfowl migrate here and 300 species of birds have been recorded. Endangered loggerhead turtle hatchlings emerge from the sands and scamper into the surf.

To avoid conflict with wildlife, Back Bay does not allow pets and vehicles are not permitted further than the Visitor Contact Station. Access beyond this point is mainly by foot or bicycle. There are about 8 miles of trail along two principal paths, East Dike and West Dike.

Abutting the refuge to the south is False Cape State Park, a mile-wide barrier spit between Back Bay and the Atlantic Ocean. Including Barbour Hill self-guided interpretive trail, there are just over 15 miles of trails available for hiking, biking and exploration. Visitors can see beaches, dunes, maritime forests of oak and pine, wooded swamps, marshes and the bay.

The park features primitive camping and an extensive environmental education program in one of the last undisturbed coastal environments on the East Coast.

False Cape got its name because of its grim reputation in the 19th century as a graveyard for ships. The land mass deceived sailors because it looked like Cape Henry, the southern entrance to the Chesapeake Bay. Instead of finding safety, ships foundered and perished in shallow waters. Shipwreck survivors established the community of Wash Woods and built the village’s church and other houses using wood that had washed ashore.

False Cape allows no vehicular access. Access is through Back Bay National Wildlife Refuge and is limited to hiking, bicycling or boating. Visitors for the day must either bike or hike through the refuge via beach or interior trails. The interior trail is closed from November 1 through March 31. Pets welcome on a leash but not on the beaches.

Somewhat inland but low-lying is a 112,000-acre marshy area called the Dismal Swamp. George Washington surveyed portions of this state park. The Swamp is nationally recognized as a stop on the famed Underground Railroad. The Swamp is also a resting spot for thousands of migratory birds in the fall and spring. Like virtually every other trail in Tidewater, the trail is linear and flat and perfect for people of all ages to bike or walk.

From Interstate 64, exit on to Indian River Road East. Go 13 miles, then turn left onto Newbridge Road, then right onto Sandbridge Road. Next, turn right onto Sandpiper Road to Little Island City Park.

Dismal Swamp Canal Trail is an old section of Virginia State Route 17, now a multi-use trail open to bicycling, walking, running, horseback riding, and boating. The north trailhead is located at the intersection of Dominion Boulevard and Old Route 17, in Chesapeake and runs through one of the most historic and ecologically significant habitats in the nation.

Open to walkers, hikers, boaters, bicyclists, and horse riders, the 8.5-mile trail offers a 17-mile bike loop or a leisurely 2-mile-up-and-back nature walk. For GPS users, the location is 1200 Dismal Swamp Canal Trail, Chesapeake. Pets OK.

All that’s left is to hook the bikes to the car carrier, head to the trail and saddle up.

Please Note: Entrance fees apply in most parks, and some parks are closed for specific months and for hunting season. The park’s website or a phone call is the best means of quickly getting up-to-date information.

First Landing State Park: 757-412-2300

Back Bay National Wildlife Refuge: 757-301-7329

False Cape State Park: 1-800-933-7275

Dismal Swamp Canal Trail: 757-382-6411

Thinking About an Electric Bike

An astonishing assortment of electric bicycles is available from an equally dazzling list of manufacturers, many of which are outside the United States. Electric bikes all share some basic characteristics:

  • They are heavier than traditional bikes.
  • They generally all offer a pedal-assisted range in the vicinity of 15 to 50 miles at 15 or 20 miles per hour before requiring a recharge of the battery.
  • Recharge can easily be accomplished overnight, taking about 4 hours to complete.

Electric bike storefront with bikes parked outside

Image © Elliot Brown

Most dealers recommend a second battery pack, to extend range and for safety’s sake.

The flashy sticker prices can be shocking. For example, Kettler’s $2,750 model; an eZee Sprint GTS for $1,800; the A2B at $3,099; Stromer’s for $2,850 and a high-end Styriette BionX for $4,500. Colorado’s Optibike R-Series comes in at a whopping $9,995 but can traverse rough terrain in the Rockies. Sources of more affordable models include the eZip Trailz men’s bike ranging from $499 to $1005.99, the Giant Twist Freedom DX for $1,499, and a folding bike from Gepida Reptila that retails for $2,475. E-Joe’s E-Transformer S comes in at $999, making it one of the lowest priced folding models on the market.

In fact, the electric bike market is focused on appealing to multiple customer interests. Cross-country adventuring, commuting as well as ordinary pleasure rides on bike trails in town and country. Being “seen to be green” is expensive. A cheery ad invites the reader to “Imagine your smile when you cruise uphill on your electric bicycle, leaving fatigue behind. You’ll also leave the days of sweaty cycling behind you. Ride to work on an electric commuter bike without looking like you came from the gym. Electric bikes are quiet, environmentally friendly, and cost much less per year than public transportation.”

Indeed, sweat and effort are largely reduced, if not entirely eliminated thus relieving the buyer of any worry about physical condition: the riding weight of an electric bike is about 300 lbs.

Electric bicycles have ever growing appeal and easily compete price-wise with today’s road and mountain bikes.

 About Kimberly Rotter