Good Stuff

Thinking of electrifying your beloved bike?

Check This Out

By Brad Kava

E bikes are all the rage these days, and why not? We live in an area that’s so hilly and we are trying to be more environmentally conscious. Yeah, it would be great to simply pedal everywhere, but there’s a great alternative for those who can’t get up the hills or need to do more miles faster, like commuting on the someday coming rail trail (or, we wish, just bike trail).

You can buy a new E bike (with battery-powered pedal assist) for anywhere from $1,200 to $6,000 or more. Or, if you have a bike you love, you can get a motor put on.

But when I tried, I couldn’t find anyone in Santa Cruz to do it. It’s a labor-intensive process and it’s much easier for stores to sell already-made E bikes.

After trying all over town to get someone to do it, I finally found one of the most amazing shops anywhere in San Leandro called Island City Bikes. Its specialty is converting your used bike into an assisted one.

It’s not cheap. It starts at $1,700. But I love my recumbent bike and have ridden it comfortably tens of thousands of miles and want to keep riding it thousands more. 

For anyone who hasn’t tried a recumbent–and some of the early ones were made in Watsonville by the company called Easy Racer, which is now gone–they are like riding your couch. I’ve gotten off a hundred-mile ride on mine and could have done another hundred. I couldn’t do that on my road bike because my back, shoulders, wrists and butt would ache too much.

I dropped my bike off in the warehouse district of San Leandro at Island City Bikes(it used to be in Alameda) and expected it back in a week or two.

After three days, I thought about asking  owner Alvin Carpenter to send me some photos of the work. I missed my bike and was curious about how it was doing. To my surprise, it was featured on his website under the category “Build of the Week.”

And, man, I’ve never seen work like this or such complete documentation of it. Alvin posted 30 photos of my bike and what it went through, from replacing the tires, to fixing wrongly-installed brakes, to subbing out all the screws and bolts that rusted over 20 years of by-the-beach use.

If you love bikes, you have to click this link and see his description of the work and tell me anywhere you’ve seen such meticulousness. I wish my doctors or car mechanics were this thorough!

Also, now that I’ve gotten it, I feel like I’ve been riding a bike for the first time. I had such a big smile on my face  the whole time.

Here’s the link:

Tell me what you think. Is there anyone in Santa Cruz who compares?


  • Michael Lewis

    Hi Brad:

    Loved the article on electrifying your ‘bent!

    I bought a Rans Stratus in Alaska in 1992, a very early prototype model that didn’t have all the kinks ironed out yet. It had a fiberglas bucket seat, instead of the mesh and pad seat on yours. The handlebars were much wider and lightweight, requiring more of a “rudder” movement when steering. The idler pully was cheap and wore out pretty quickly, requiring a custom reconfiguration that never worked well.

    I loved riding the thing in Fairbanks… in the summer time! It didn’t do well on ice and snow, with its skinny tires and long frame. When the temperature got below 10 degress Fahrenheit, I switched to my upright mountain bike, with extra fat tires and winter lube.

    About ten years ago, I stripped the frame and repainted it. I never could find a new seat that would fit, nor could I solve the idler pully problem, so I sold it. I switched to a Breezer, with 7 speed internal hub gears, and I’ve been riding Breezers ever since.

    Electric? No, not for me yet. maybe when I hit 80!

    • Brad

      That’s so funny. I almost bought that Tiller Rans…but they just came out with these bars when I bought mine…sometime in the 90s…As for going electric…I said the same thing as you. I thought if I needed the assist, I would stop riding…thinking I would never need the assist. Two knee surgeries later and it’s the E power that’s keeping me going and making it fun again. I’m spending a lot more time on it…and adding a bag to the back for shopping etc. Age got me…but I’m striking back and riding more than ever.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *