E for exhilarating: PlanPhilly reviews Indego’s new e-bikes

Indego plans to roll out 400 e-bikes by mid-August.

PlanPhilly's transportation reporter Darryl Murphy (Emma Lee/WHYY)

PlanPhilly's transportation reporter Darryl Murphy (Emma Lee/WHYY)

This article originally appeared on PlanPhilly.

Indego’s electric bikes are pretty damn fun.

I rented one from the bike station at 25th between Spruce and Locust during the late hours, where one day transitions into another. I was determined to ride one of the new pedal-assist motor bikes after learning they go up to 17 miles per hour.

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If you’re in an automobile that’s maddeningly slow, but feeling the wind caress your cheeks as you bike at almost 20 mph is pretty amazing.

The lone white and blue speed demon was docked with a dozen old Indego bikes. My hands hurried through the rental process in case someone else with a monthly pass tried to steal my joy.

I scoffed at the blue antiques on my way to claim my first prize for the next 24 hours.

I pulled it from the dock, positioned it for take off, hopped on and hit the power button on the left handle. You have to do it while the bike is still or else the motor won’t kick in, by the way.

It illuminated and showed it was just about fully charged. The transportation gods had shown favor upon me. It wasn’t until the next night that I learned it’s a good idea to check the battery power before undocking.

I was ready to take off like a bat out of hell, sprang forward by the electric motor. I pedaled once and the bike crept forward. The speedometer read two, three mph. Pedaled again, same thing. This is where I learned what pedal-assist means: you have to keep pedaling to get the boost.

Once I got the hang of it, I was cruising through the quiet Rittenhouse Square neighborhood into South Philly toward home.

It’s the perfect bike! I cruised at top speed much of the way, pedaling non-stop with minimal, if any, sweat. Even with my backpack on, my tee shirt suffered no back sweat. The electric-motor does a lot of the work for you. It was great!

Now, granted, it was a cool night, but I’ve soaked plenty of shirts during a winter ride.

I took out another the following night to get my money’s worth. This time it took a bit of searching. I went to three different docks in South Philly before I found an e-bike that was charged.

To save yourself the time and money from being charged for e-bike use without the e-bike benefits, make sure you check to see if it’s charged before you rent it. Don’t be all thirsty, like I was, and rent one only to find an empty bar on the little screen.

This time, I rode from Point Breeze to Old City to Hawthorne.

As some of you may have guessed, I don’t bike through Philadelphia often. It’s truly an extreme sport. Walking is my thing. But after my experience, I can honestly say, the e in e-bike stands for, excellent or exhilarating, as much as it does electric.

Between both sessions, I rode for about an hour. In total, I paid about 22 bucks. Totally worth it.

Indego plans to roll out 400 by mid-August. In the meantime, there’s only about 60 e-bikes out of the fleet of nearly 1,400. So, it’s a bit of a hunt to find one, which can be fun if you’re up for it.

To help with the search, the Indego app marks the location of the e-bikes with a green icon with a white bolt inside where the docks are located. To find one, it’s all a matter of how far you want to search, and once you find a bike, whether it’s charged.

To pay for the new fleet of e-bikes, the price to rent from Indego went up. A traditional Indego bicycle used to cost $10 for a day of unlimited half-hour rides. That price is now $12. And to rent the new electric bikes, it’s a 15 cents per minute fee on top of that.

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