I biked Vegas during CES and lived to tell the tale
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("I was on a mission to find the latest and greatest bike tech at CES. What better way to do it than by dodging the Vegas gridlock on two wheels?"):
People sometimes look at me aghast when I say I bike to get around New York City. But when I said I wanted to bike Las Vegas during CES, the common reaction was outright denial.
"No! You can't!" was the knee-jerk response. Followed quickly by, "Is that even possible?"
During CES, Las Vegas turns into a chaotic galaxy of booth-packed expo halls, crowded ballrooms a half a mile deep inside casino resorts, and meetings in high-rise suites. Flung across a roughly three-mile stretch of colossal hotels and convention centers, the flood of people who attend CES -- about 184,000 last year -- creates a gridlock of humanity. Most people spend a good portion of their CES either in transit or waiting in line in order to be in transit.
But on the first drizzly day, my bike did the job. My first venture was a mile-and-a-half ride from the Renaissance to the Sands Expo Center, to check out Seattle Cycles' new electric folding bike.
I rode on sidewalks the entire way. Rude to pedestrians? Maybe. But Vegas is about as unfriendly for walking as it is for biking, so my route was free of walkers except for six folks I maneuvered around apologetically.
The e-bicycle by Seattle Cycles, called Metrobike, was a kick to ride. With an expected starting price around $1,000, it weighs less than 30 pounds and can fold small enough to fit under a desk. To get that tiny, the Metrobike has smaller wheels than a conventional road bike, but it passes the "hands free" test, said Mike Yap, the startup's CEO. On a smooth road, you can lean back in your seat with your arms hanging loose at your sides.
"If you have a twitchy bike, you don't feel safe," he told me before we took two Metrobikes on a test ride to a hotel parking lot, where a stranger approached us to say we probably shouldn't linger there or we might get robbed.
Next up was the Electron Wheel, a $799 wheel with an electric hub that can electrify the bike you already own. Electron Wheel swaps into the front fork of almost any bike and works with a wireless pedal sensor on your crankset to give your ride an automatic boost and to help you climb hills. A five-hour charge provides a range of about 50 miles, with a top speed of 20 miles per hour.
The jolt forward from Electron Wheel's pedal assist felt peppier than the Metrobike experience. The ride felt smooth, but I was caught off-guard when I tried to lift the bike by its handlebars, with the 18-pound hub in the front wheel weighing it down. That weight didn't have a noticeable effect on steering as I tried out Electron Wheel in a parking garage where cars honked angrily to exit.
A full-on e-bike was next on my agenda at the Flamingo hotel, about a mile away. A trip that would normally take me about 10 minutes in New York took a half-hour in Vegas, as I got lost in a warren of taxi lanes and parking garage directions behind Harrah's.
But when I reached the Flamingo, I met Smacircle's hustling CEO from China, wearing tan yellow shoes and a purple shirt, vest and tie under his grey suit. Smacircle is a folding, fully electric e-bike -- there are no pedals, and your seat doubles as a battery.
Crowdfunded through Indiegogo, the Smacircle folds its small wheels into itself and breaks down in five steps to a length of about 19 inches. At about 17 pounds, it's small and light enough to carry in a backpack. It can travel about 12 miles on a 2.5-hour charge and has a top speed of about 12 miles per hour.
ES changed my life (for the waaaaay better).
Eff. June, 2014 Phoenix Ebike Promotions
(Current ride? High speed lawn chair.)
Phoenix Ebike Promotions conversion kit (work in progress. More drink holders, etc etc)
Joined yer local chapter of EA yet?
(Ebikers Anonymous - Where we're all miserable failures, but the parties are hilarious...)