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Published on September 23rd, 2009 | by Timothy B. Hurst

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Electric Mountain Bike Gets the Equivalent of 2,287 MPG

The Optibike OB1 electric bike gets an equivalent of 2,287 MPG.* Could bikes like these be the future of transportation?

Ever wonder what happens when you cross the finest mountain bike components money can buy, an 850w brushless DC motor and a 20ah lithium-ion battery with motocross styling and sensibilities? You get the Optibike OB1, an electric bike that can get up to 45 miles on a nine-cent charge, and what is arguably the finest electric bicycle in the world.

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In fact, the Optibike OB1 even found a spot in the California Academy of Sciences museum, touted as “the future of transportation.” There are only 24 OB1′s made per year. When one of them is bought, the owner becomes part of an elite club of enthusiastic riders. And for four fun-filled days in August, I was lucky enough to be a member of that club — or at least able to pretend like I was after being provided one for a short term test drive.

The Story

Boulder, Colorado-based Optibike has been producing high performance electric bikes since 2005 and is fast carving out a name for itself in an increasingly crowded electric bikes market sector. But the Optibike, and the OB1 in particular, is not any old electric bike. Founder and principle designer Jim Turner first hatched the idea for an electric bike in 1997. Turner, who was a champion motocross rider, set out with more than a profit motive: Turner was motivated to address three converging problems: a growing obesity epidemic in the U.S., environmental pollution/CO2 emissions, and an energy crisis that caused gas prices to soar to record highs in 2008.

“What ties these three problems together — the health crisis, the environmental crisis and the fossil fuel crisis — is transportation,” says Turner. But Turner recognized straight away that he would not be able to compete with Chinese electric bike makers for a lower price point and that he would just have to build a better bike.

“You can’t compete with foreign imports on the lower price scale; you have to create a market niche,” Turner told the Denver Post last year. And create a market niche he did.

The Bike

Optibike currently makes six models including a womens’ bike, but they don’t come cheap. Ranging from $5,995 for the Commuter USV, to $13,995 for the OB1, Optibikes are designed to be the antithesis of the throw-away culture, minus the batteries, which are warranted for an industry-leading 3 years/30,000 miles, whichever comes first.

Powering the OB1 are a 20ah lithium-ion battery and an 850w continuous brushless DC motor that Optibike says will give you about 45 miles of electric-only operation on a single 4.5-hour charge and 57 miles with a light to moderate amount of pedaling. The bike has two speeds, Fast and Eco. In Fast, a full charge will provide up to 50 minutes of riding; in Eco, a full charge will give 2.25 hours of unassisted propulsion. Going on a longer trek? Add the optional secondary battery to double the Optibike’s range.

Depending on how it’s calculated, the Optibike can get an equivalent of anywhere between 1,355** and 2,287* miles per gallon. Yes, that’s a wide range, but either way, it’s tough to beat.

The secret behind the Optibike — and in my view, what makes it so special — is the Motorized Bottom Bracket® (MBB), which allows the user to pedal at the speed the bike is going and shift gears seamlessly. The MBB system gives the rider the freedom to pedal as much or as little as desired, allowing the rider to maximize the acceleration, top-speed, and range of the Optibike.

At your fingertips are the Optibike’s 9-speed grip shifter, thumb throttle and front and rear hydraulic disk brakes. Sure, you can sit back and the electric motor do all the work, but the Optibike is just begging to be pedaled. And pedal it I did.

On electric alone the OB1 will reach a top speed of 20 MPH on flat pavement. But why stop at 20 MPH when the bike is screaming for more? Once up to speed, I found the OB1 would maintain about 30 MPH with light pedaling and 33 or so with moderate pedaling.

Rest of article and photo gallery on page 2…


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About the Author

is the founder of ecopolitology and the executive editor at LiveOAK Media, a media network about the politics of energy and the environment, green business, cleantech, and green living. When not reading, writing, thinking or talking about environmental politics with anyone who will listen, Tim spends his time skiing in Colorado's high country, hiking with his dog, and getting dirty in his vegetable garden.



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