Electric Bikes are for lazy people, right? So my ego tells me.
Lazy people or postmen. People who evade real effort, or simply just carry the burden of a given neighbourhood's batch of daily Life Admin. I'm INTJ, I can't help these wanton thoughts. Electric bikes have got an image problem. I know I'm not alone in this.
Enter San Francisco-based purveyor (of electric bicycles), Faraday Bikes. I managed to get myself invited to the launch party of their new women-friendly step-through style, The Cortland, back in Spring, and it completely flipped the switch on my e-bike existentialism. (It was also a welcome introduction to the remarkably refined level of event catering in this city they call the Paris of the West. Spring rolls and Anchor Brewing beers; yes please!) Really though, if the success of this kickstarter-backed company is any indication, I'm not the only one whose skepticism has shifted on the matter of electronic assistance.
Having escaped gritty, grey, gloomy (and relatively flat) London for the wham-bam-sun and sweat of San Francisco for a few months, I had to accept a new truth in my daily cycling life: hills! My intro to the Cortland was well-timed. SF is the perfect place to test the true appeal of the electronic bicycle. Michael at Faraday graciously loaned me the company's only fully-functional Cortland for an afternoon, and we took 'er for a spin up some of the city's steepest inclines. Starting at this picturesque mural in a parking lot in SOMA.
As we set off down along the waterfront and then up a few gently sloping hills, I kept the motor set in medium speed, enjoying the pleasant jig in my spinning step - like a kid in training wheels whose parent is pushing them gently forward. As a fully-grown, independent woman who has scaled Le Mont Ventoux several times, I didn't expect to like this feeling of nurture and gentle support quite so much. It's like having a personal cheer squad rooting you on, in the form of a discreet 250 watt front hub motor and a battery that is conveniently hidden inside the downtube.
After a bit of warm-up, it was time to take this baby up something truly steep, however. So we headed over to Hyde Street as a good lead-in to that most famous of San Francisco "landmarks", the gleefully squiggly Lombard street.
At something like 30% grade, Hyde Street would not normally be scalable really by bicycle. Not even the lightest carbon bike with a bajillion gears; nope. Just not really possible. You'd have to stand in the saddle, and gravity would surely lead you backwards to a fast and grisly death. Even with the Cortland motor in its top speed, I still had to pedal and work to get to the top. The motor probably cut that grade in half though, at least.
I took a hilltop selfie to prove how little I was sweating. Looking down at the left handlebar's "gas" gauge, I could now see that my battery was halfway done, as indicated by the black bar at the midway point in the right-hand photo above. This is maybe an improvement that will have to be made as Faraday's technology develops. Though the battery is good for 25 miles, you never know exactly how much juice you're using because it depends on the frequency and grade of inclines, as well as distance and chosen speed. Strava addicts aside, most of us don't track our daily rides with the accuracy needed to determine how much e-bike battery is necessary to keep moving. I suppose constant use of a Cortland would breed familiarity, however. And the company does conveniently sell spares.
Like a recently-married couple, we stopped outside the Civic Centre for a photo to christen our bond. Even if it was only for the afternoon. The Cortland is rather photogenic, isn't she? The kind of charm we strive for here at Bike Pretty HQ. Steam-bent bamboo fenders and leather hand grips add to her beguiling appearance. I added the front basket for the day to carry my lunch and my Bike Pretty handbag, but you can also order front and rear racks directly on the Faraday site.
For the final crescendo, we rode up Twin Peaks. By this point, the battery was done. Spent. Over it. But we'd had a good two+ hours in the saddle. A road cyclist passed me huffing and puffing, "Is that the new Faraday bike, the Cortland?" 'Yes indeed!' Her notoriety had preceded her, and I felt proud to be astride such a lovely and efficient machine.
Some last notes: the integrated light means you'll never leave your lights at the pub again, and the grease-less belt drive enables the donning of yellow socks or white footwear without giving it a second thought. The rear-mounted charger has a red light that indicates when you gotta plug the bike back in, and also serves as a convenient if low-powered form of visibility out there on the streets. I'd talk about gears, but this is not that kind of blog. This one has 8.
This last shot is really just to stress the appeal of intricate fishnets. We haven't talked outfit yet! For my Faraday test look, I went with stripes, stripes, stripes via a vintage scarf from Paris, a vintage dress from the Brooklyn flea, and herringbone fishnets from Nordstrom Rack. I added a leather jacket made by moi, a discreet Yakkay Paris Oilskin Helmet, and deadstock 70s boots in the perfect burgundy hue. Don't be afraid to mix patterns of different scales, and pile on the texture. Coordinating colors will pull it all together. Shop the Look - and your new favourite e-bike - below.