Finding a Transit-Friendly E-Bike

by | September 12, 2022 | News, Biking in Philly, Biking the Region, NJ, The Circuit | 0 comments

If you have ever done an online marketing search for “e-bikes” in the past year you know the consequences. Your social media account gets barraged by a blizzard of e-bikes ads with features like a 100-mile range and a boost torque of 60 Nm. Most of them are mail order only and delivered to your door 80% assembled. Bicycling.com has a really good article that explains all of that jargon. I’m going to focus on an issue that matters to many bike owners – How much does the damn thing weigh?

Most e-bike models fall in the 50-70 pound range. This obviously causes a problem if you live in a walk up apartment or plan on taking your bike on public transportation.  Recently I have noticed e-bike manufacturers are coming around to realizing that weight is a real issue for people who need to lift their bikes for whatever reason. The good news is that many of these “commuter bikes” are at the lower end of the price spectrum. Additionally, there are a few easy-to-install conversion kits that would allow you to keep your favorite bike without adding a ton of weight or money.

Folding e-bikes:
Folding E-bikes may seem like an easy fix. They are exempt from Amtrak’s $20 bike fee and are allowed on all SEPTA and NJ TRANSIT transit vehicles at all times. But they are often in the same weight class as standard e-bikes and don’t fold down into a Brompton-sized package. Amtrak specifies the maximum dimensions for bringing a folding bike onboard. Neither SEPTA nor NJ TRANSIT have size specifications for folding bikes. A lightweight, compact folding e-bike can be a game changer for your commute as those pesky rush hour restrictions that can tie your travel plans into knots. 

Ebikes Under 50 Pounds Selection and Prices

Sheet1 Standard E-Bikes,Weight – Total,Price,Battery WH,E-Bike Class,Gearing,Notes Propella Mini ,33,$950,250,1,1,20″ wheels Ride One Up Roadster ,33,$1,100,250,3,1



Options for those with Standard E-bikes (or any heavy bike)

If you already have an e-bike don’t worry. You still have options with some additional planning. One smart purchase would be a pannier/shoulder bag large enough to hold your e-bike battery. Let’s go over the limitations of taking a heavy bike on transit vehicles.

SEPTA Regional Rail
Regional Rail Trains are a challenge for e-bike access. Only about 1/3 of Regional Rail Stations are e-bike accessible with high platforms and ramp/elevator access (Map). On the older rail cars, the wheelchair-accessible space is often at the back of the train, this means that you need to lift front end of the bike to maneuver down the aisle. Practice this task before your first trip. 

Elm St Norristown is e-bike accessible. It’s easier getting on and off the train here than at the Norristown Transit Center.


Market Frankford Line, Broad St Line and Norristown High Speed Line
All stations have high platforms to get on and off the train. But only stations with the wheelchair symbol on SEPTA maps are truly e-bike accessible. All MFL stations except 34th St are e-bike accessible. Many Broad St Line and Norristown High-Speed Line stations require that you schlep your bike up or down stairways.

NJ TRANSIT Commuter Rail
All Stations are e-bike accessible
Atlantic City Line – Hands down the most accessible rail line for e-bikes without any time restrictions.
Northeast Corridor Line – There are disruptive rush hour, weekend and holiday restrictions for non-folding bikes

RiverLINE Light Rail
All stations are e-bike accessible. Trying to hang a typical e-bike on the bike rack could be a Feats of Strength contest for Festivus. Just roll your bike on and try to stay clear of other customers.

PATCO
11 of 13 stations are e-bike accessible. The remaining two stations Camden City Hall and 12/13th Locust will be e-bike accessible in 2023.


Bike Racks on Buses

The Sportworks DL2 Bus Bike Rack is the exclusive model for both SEPTA and NJ TRANSIT buses. Sportworks has a newer model of bus bike racks called Apex that can support most e-bike models We encourage SEPTA, NJ TRANSIT, and all other carriers to transition to the Apex 3 bike racks (which carry 3 bicycles instead of 2). 

According to Sportworks here are the specifications for the DL2 Bike Rack
Maximum Bike Weight 55 LBS
Maximum Tire Width 2.3″
Maximum Wheelbase 44″

Removing the battery can bring many e-bikes down to the 55 pound limit.


Bike Size and Weight Limitations on Amtrak Trains

Carry On:
Maximum weight 50 LBS
Maximum tire width 2″

Folding Bike Dimensions:
Maximum  34″ x 15″ x 48″

Amtrak Bike Rack

Amtrak has a 50lb weight limit on a full size bicycle. The rack won’t hold bikes with tires wider than 2 inches.

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