You may have seen this strange little green vehicle on the road around Cary. In case you were wondering who’s in that thing, it’s me.
Meet my ELF – my new bike. Yes, it’s a bike. On steroids.
What’s an ELF?
It’s basically a bike, with a cover, and a bit of electric power to help – a cross between a car and a bicycle. (You may have seen them in Durham, that’s where the company, Organic Transit, is located.) (ELF stands for Electric, Light, Fun)
The bike component of the ELF is a recumbent bike, meaning you are sitting closer to the ground with your feet in front of you to pedal, rather than upright and straddling a seat. With 3 wheels, (2 in the front, one in the back), it also has gears (a continuous gear train) and handle-bar brakes.
On the car side – add a mostly enclosed cab (with a spacious lockable trunk), an electric assist that is powered by a rechargeable battery and solar panel, rear view and side mirrors and you have the hybrid picture.
Questions, I get questions
The most common questions I get are – “How fast can you go?” and “How far will the battery take you?”
How fast can I go? As fast as my little legs will carry me! If I just let the battery pull me, (meaning no pedaling) the ELF will speed up to 20 miles per hour, but I have gone faster, especially downhill. ☺
How far can the battery take me? Well, if I were to ONLY use the battery, no pedaling, the battery I have should carry me about 15 miles. (Although there is an upgrade available that will go 40 miles.) The solar panel on the roof can trickle charge the ELF when we are in the sun, fully recharging the battery in about 6-7 hours. Or, for a faster recharge, I can carry the small battery inside, and fully recharge it connected to my standard outlet in about 1.5 hours. Unfortunately, the pedaling that I do does not recharge the battery, although I understand that will be an option on future ELFs.
Why an ELF?
So, why an ELF, you might ask? Let me explain. It was the year of my BIG birthday, and I was looking for new ways to get exercise that was a little more fun. I love riding my bike, but found that I was mostly riding at events, or on the weekends. At the same time, I was noticing that many of my trips around town, were under 10 miles, one way. Although I had ridden my bike to work before, I would always feel the need to take a shower after I arrived. (Carrying my laptop in my backpack, with other items in my panniers, would definitely make me “glisten.”)
I was looking for a way to ride my bike that would get me a more “perspiration free” trip. The ELF gives me that! I can use the power in the battery on the way to a meeting, insuring a mostly “sweat free” appearance (minus the bike helmet hair) and then I often change to more comfortable biking clothes in order to get a better workout, and do more pedaling on the way back home.
I’ve driven it to council meetings, to the Cisco office, to meetings around town, to the coffee shop and even grocery shopping. (The trunk will hold about 5 or 6 bags of groceries.)
Although the ELF weighs about 160lbs (without me in it), I’ve found that it’s pretty easy to pedal, except up some BIG hills when I’m glad to have the use of the “power assist.” I’ve driven it on the road (it’s a bike!) and on the sidewalk and greenways.(Always wearing a helmet.) Riding it all around town, at all times of the day, part of the fun is seeing the looks I get from folks as they do a double-take; smiling, pointing and taking pictures. So far, people are genuinely kind and move over into the other lane when I am on the road, even when I am far to the right in the bike lane.
Although I was concerned about night-riding, I’ve been told that we are very visible on the road at night – with my bright CREE headlights, turning signals, and brake lights. (I’m thinking of adding more reflectors, but so far, it’s just the base Elf.)
Fun and Useful
At the end of the day, with Elf-aba, I feel like I have the best of all worlds. I’ve been able to add additional exercise to my routine, I’m still able to get around town, but by using less non-renewable energy, and still enjoy the outdoors and our wonderful community. All in all, it’s been one of my favorite benefits of reaching that BIG birthday milestone.