Biking Home to Success – Part Two

e-bikeSo it has been a few months since my initial post on biking home from work. Since then, a lot has changed. After riding home for about a month during one of the hottest months of the year, I decided to go for it with the e-Bike. Much deliberation was involved, and after that, plenty of research. In the end, I decided to go for a pre-built e-Bike that would be covered under warranty in case anything were to fail. I took my time doing research and decided I still wanted to go fairly cheap. I found ProdecoTech and their newly released Phantom 400. It was relatively cheap compared to some other e-Bikes I investigated, both online and in my local bike shop. I’ve already written about the ProdecoTech Phantom 400 on my personal travel-blog, you can check it out if you’d like to read more details.

I’ve now been riding my e-Bike to work anywhere from three to five days a week, depending on how I feel. I’ve found that it is very efficient and I feel much better after a day that I bike than a day that I drive. Beyond the nuisances of dealing with oblivious parents driving their little snot-generators 3 blocks to school and not paying attention to others on the road, the commute is much more serene. I just plug my headphones into my phone and rock out on the nine mile trip. Anyway, this post isn’t about that, per se, but more about the frugality benefits of doing so. It has been 60 days since buying and receiving my e-Bike, and I have not filled my truck’s gas tank. I am still running on fuel purchased on July 30th for $46. I am driving significantly less than I was before, and enjoying life even more. I’m not about to go and sell my truck, since it’s still necessary for vacations and such, but not having to fuel up every couple of weeks just to drive to work has been awesome. In total, for the past 60 days I have averaged 76 cents per day to fuel my vehicle. If you consider that on the weekends I only rarely drive my vehicle and average only on working days on which I would normally drive (of which there were 43), it’s still only costing me $1.07 per day to fuel the truck. That includes a super long drive to/from LAX for a recent trip to Maui.

I have since received two months’ worth of paychecks that included the bonus cash paid to me by my employer for choosing an alternate form of transportation. I rode my bike 1 day in June, 10 days in July, and 19 days in August. At $2 per day, that comes out to $60 bonus cash towards my paychecks. It’s not a huge increase, but if I keep this up and average at least 15 days per month, just the bonus cash alone allows me to have paid off the e-Bike in 3.5 years. This does not take into account the fuel I would have bought for my truck. On average, before the bike, I was spending about $50 on gas every three weeks. That means I would be filling up about 17 times per year, for an estimated cost of about $900 with gas prices staying roughly where they are currently. Now that I am riding, I have gone at least 8 weeks on a single fuel fill-up (I haven’t finished this tank of gas yet). If I can keep this pace, that averages only 6-7 fill-ups per year. If we assume the gas prices continue to stay the same, that means I’d be saving 10 fill-ups at $50 each, or $500. So combined, with the savings of $500 in gas, and the bonus on my paychecks totaling $360 per year, I will have paid off the e-Bike in 1.4 years! Some might say that I forgot to include the cost of electricity I am using to charge that e-Bike nightly. I didn’t mention it because it barely nudges the numbers. Compared to the pre-eBike era, our electric bill has gone up less than $1 on average. In fact, our bill over the past three hottest months of the year has only been about 40% of our normal for this time of year. I would like to attribute that to our newfound ability to acclimate to the heat better, but more than likely it is the new windows in the house, as well as our use of a window A/C unit instead of the central air that has greatly decreased our energy usage. I may write more about that in the future; SCE provides a lot of very detailed information about our habits, and that may prove to be a good future post on being frugal.

Overall, I feel like the e-Bike was a great choice. I am in the best shape I have been in years. Don’t let people try to berate you on these things or call you a cheater. Just because your pedaling is assisted, doesn’t meant you aren’t getting exercise. You can still pedal as hard as you want, you just happen to go much faster and make the commute go by quicker. I feel great after my rides, with minimal sweating, and I am now able to ride my normal bike all around town without any discomfort. It’s just second nature now to hop on the bike when I need to go somewhere, and my legs start to get antsy on days I don’t ride. So now I am saving money and getting healthier at the same time. It’s a great choice, and I hope to see more and more people accepting it as part of their lives in the future.

Best investment ever? If not the best, it’s definitely in the top five.

3 Comments

  1. Barry Swedeen

    July 16, 2017

    Came across your blog while doing research on the ProdecoTech Phantom 400 and really enjoyed your start in biking to work and your e-bike purchase. I even checked out your efforts to become debt-free and commend your working towards that goal. My wife and I were down to just 15 years on our mortgage (both cars paid and no credit card debt) when we had to sell everything, and I mean EVERYTHING, leave NC and move back home to Honolulu to take care of aging parents. It’s a great place to vacation (skip O’ahu) but living here takes a very large income and a lot of patience.

    My wife looks after both her parents, so my income is it. We paid cash for one used car when we arrived and after checking out the route, I decided to try and commute to work via bicycle. The commute is 8 miles one-way, and for the most part is pretty level except for a couple of spots where I have to work. Time in motion is 35 minutes, but when you add in stops for traffic lights it’s a 40-minute commute one-way. I started off only biking home because my wife could easily drop me off at work in the morning after taking my daughter to school. When the school year ended, I started riding both ways.

    Not a fan of arriving to work dripping wet and there are no facilities to shower or even a nearby gym I could join for just that perk. I alleviated the problem by wearing Cool-Dri clothing and mounting a basket to my bike rack so I didn’t have to wear a backpack. I then found some good disposable bathing cloths on Amazon.com that allowed me to at least “sponge” myself off before changing into my work cloths, feel clean and not offend my co-workers.

    After nearly 2 years, I’m still making the commute but as I enter my late 50s it’s not getting any easier and thus my researching e-bikes. I’ve got it narrowed down to the ProdecoTech Phantom 400 and Phantom XR, and the Juiced CrossCurrent. One mandatory requirement I had for any e-bike was that they had a local reputable dealer. I love the Phantom XR, but the $2200 price tag is pretty hefty. The Phantom 400 is much more affordable, but since it’s not pedal-assist I’m wondering if I’ll start getting lazy and just let the bike do all the work. Honolulu still hasn’t decided how to classify e-bikes, and it’s possible at some later date that bikes with throttles may be lumped in with mopeds. Then there’s the President of the Bicycle League who doesn’t want e-bikes using what few bike lanes we have. Other concerns are the lack of a decent shock absorbing front fork (roads in Hawaii are TERRIBLE) and the lower power rating than the XR. I’ve got a 4.4% grade at the end of my ride coming home that lasts for about 1.5 miles. I’ve pedaled it a few times to prove a point, but now my wife meets me at the bottom and I throw the bike on the rack.

    How does the 400 hold up on rough surface roads? Now, I’m not riding over potholes, but there are some rough patches of asphalt here and there. I’ve already broken 3 spokes on my rear wheel in the past 6 months and at least 2 flats. I remedied the latter with some Kevlar wrapped tires (Specialized Nimbus). If you have any hills along your route, how’s the bike’s power? Have you noticed any battery degradation, and have you had to contact ProdecoTech for any assistance? If you had to do all over again, is the 400 the model you would buy to get started? If not, which one and why?

    Thanks for any answers and/or insight you can provide. Keep up the great blogging.

    • joey

      joey author

      July 16, 2017

      Hi Barry! Thanks for your thoughtful comments. It’s good to hear about folks taking care of themselves and the environment by riding to work instead of driving.

      I have found that even though the Phantom 400 is not pedal assist, I still pedal the entire time I am riding. It feels weird to me to be accelerating on a bike without pedaling, and my legs just naturally just start cranking. It doesn’t seem to have made me too lazy; I’ve lost nearly 50 pounds in the past 18 months, and am now maintaining my ideal weight, mostly from e-biking to/from work.

      So far, my Phantom 4000 has been holding up pretty well. The roads around here are rough, but not Hawaii rough. I’ve driven cars on quite a few roads on most of the islands in the past, although I do, as you say, skip O┬┤ahu. I know that there can be some pretty rough asphalt, especially on smaller side streets. I haven’t broken any spokes on the bike but I have gone through quite a few tire tubes. I haven’t had a flat since I upgraded the tube in the rear wheel to the Specialized tubes you mentioned. I’m pretty close to actually needing to replace the tires themselves, the rear tire tread has worn out relatively quickly. I’ve got about 2800 miles logged on it so far, and the rear tire is nearly bald. I’ve moved it to the front of the bike to even out the wear, but I doubt I get another 500-1000 more miles before I need to replace both tires.

      As for hills, the steepest hills I have along my route to work are about 2.5% grade, none of which last for more than half a mile at a time. On those hills with the throttle full-bore, I can maintain nearly the same speed (20mph) as flat ground. It just requires a bit more exertion via the pedals compared to going downhill or flat to keep the speed. The battery should still have plenty of charge by the time you get to your 4.4% grade at the end of the ride, and easily carry you up the hill. I haven’t really noticed much battery degradation. I thought maybe the battery was getting weaker, but I’ve done some math and tracking with GPS on my phone, and I’m still maintaining the same speeds as when it was fresh (and what it is rated to go on the Prodecotech site). I’m guessing it just seems slower to me now because my legs are stronger. I can feel that when pedaling heavily, I’m actually trying to spin the motor faster than it can spin under its own power. In a sense, it seems like I am on an indoor bicycle with the resistance turned up to make it harder to ride. That’s not really a huge concern though, I only notice it on downhill sections of my ride.

      I bought it before Prodecotech expanded their lineup to include the Phantom 400 Monoshock. If that was available when I purchased mine, I definitely would have chosen over the standard 400. The only difference is that it has a shock absorber on the front fork, so in theory it should provide for a smoother ride. I don’t have any experience on any other e-bike, but knowing today what I do, I still would have picked the 400 (well, the 400 with a shock) as my first e-bike. I anticipate riding this one until the battery poops out before considering replacing it.

      • Barry

        July 17, 2017

        Thanks for the quick response. Sounds like the 400 will do the job. Hopefully my dealer will have one in-stock so I can take a test drive. If the 400M is available, I’ll pay the extra $50 the shock upgrade.

        When you replace your tires, consider the Schwalbe Marathon. They were my first choice, but another unexpected flat prompted me to go with what my local bike shop had in stock and the Specialized Nimbus were my second pick anyway. A common thread among the user reviews on the Marathons is that they’re a b**ch to install or remove.

        I’ll post again and let you know which bike I purchase. Thanks again.

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