BYU Students, Teachers Follow Electric Bike Trend


George Handley, Provo City Council member and interdisciplinary humanities professor, prepares to lock his e-bike on campus. Electric transportation like electric bicycles continues to become more prevalent at BYU. (Joël Campbell)

For decades, students and faculty have ridden campuses on traditional bicycles. With the recent increase in e-bike sales, electric transportation is becoming more and more prevalent at BYU.

Electric bike sales exploded in 2020 because of the pandemic, but trends show that the popularity of electric bicycles is expected to increase. According to Markets and markets, the electric bicycle market is expected to reach $ 79.7 billion by 2026, up from $ 47 billion in 2021.

There are many types of electric bikes, but most work the same. In an electric bicycle, a compact electric motor is attached to the front or rear wheel hub in most cases. Some motors are located in the middle of the bike on the frame.

Some bicycle shops, like JigaWatt cycles in Provo, turn traditional bikes into electric bikes.

According to JigaWatt cycles website, BYU mechanical engineering professor Myles Christensen opened JigaWatt Cycles in 2012, “with the goal of bringing affordable electric bikes to those who have given up on bikes for whatever reason.”

The McElwee family bought the business from Christensen in 2017 and improved the conversion process.

JigaWatt Cycles can convert almost any bike to an electric bike with basic kits for the electric system starting at $ 600. “It’s cheaper if you have your own bike (to start with),” said Charles McElwee, owner of JigaWatt Cycles.

McElwee advises potential customers to research the different bike options, try out a few bikes to find what’s comfortable, and then find the electric bike within their budget.

Buying an electric bike, McElwee said, is a cost-effective way for students to get around Provo and around campus.

“You won’t have insurance, you can park right in front of your building, you can take roads that cars can’t, it can be put on the bus and it’s cheaper than a car, unless you want to go on a date, ”McElwee said.

Students climb the south hill of the campus to get to the campus every day. But Micah Paulsen, 21, a sophomore exercise science student, said he was just “chilling out and chilling out” as he rode his electric bike up the hill.

Paulsen rides a Jetson E-bike on campus, which is much smaller than other e-bikes and easy to store inside an apartment. “It’s better than a normal bike because I don’t have to do much, it’s more fun to have a little cruiser,” he said.

E-bikes must be registered like other bicycles on campus and cyclists must follow the BYU Cycling Policy. Professors choose to ride electric bikes around town and on campus like students.

Journalism professor Miles Romney sometimes rides his bike to campus, but rides his e-bike with his family whenever he gets the chance. He transports his 2 year old twins in a trailer attached to his electric bike.

“(Electric bikes have) opened up the world to us,” Romney said. “I can basically go anywhere I want with this e-bike and not feel like I’m a pioneer pulling a handcart, I can just zip anywhere in the city.”

E-bikes have a throttle, pedal assist, and larger wheels, making it easy to get around town and around campus year-round.

“I would say to anyone looking to buy an electric bike that it’s expensive but worth every penny,” said Bailey Burden, a junior specializing in communications.

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