Jim Dodson: Hi, it's Jim Dodson, welcome to our live stream. So our meeting today with Maggie and Jim Ardito and Maggie is with the St. Johns River-to-Sea Loop Alliance up in DeLand. That's where we first met. But what we're gonna talk about today is their love for and transition from traditional bicycles to e-bikes and they've had an amazing story, they do amazing things. And I think they've got a lot of information that will help us get excited about e-bikes use and e-bike travel and some interesting things about e-bikes that I quite frankly didn't understand until I talked to them about the practical uses of an e-bikes. And then some of the things we need to think about if you're gonna buy one. So why don't you guys just tell us there was an event or everybody has a reason why they sort of get an e-bike to begin with. And I think yours is interesting because it touches the lives of a lot of people. How did you get started?
Maggie Ardito: Okay. So, back in 2012 we had been chasing trails around the country for about five years on regular bikes. We had specialized cyclo-cross bikes and we were part bike camping and part B2B and just exploring trails all over and having a great time on our own, because we didn't usually go on group rides because I think he's a much stronger rider than I am. And so if you wanted to go on a group ride he would go with his buddies. So in 2012, we decided we'd attempt to go on a group ride together and we signed up for Bike Florida for the Forgotten Coast Tour. And that early spring, we were camping over at the Silver Spring Campground on the on the Withlacoochee, riding the Withlacoochee. And we met some German people who were on e-bikes, pedal assist e-bikes and they were touring the entire country. They weren't gonna go to Seattle. And in fact, they finally did that. We kept in touch with them and found out they finally did that and they showed us their e-bikes and we were just amazed at such a thing existed the way it could sense how hard you were peddling and help you if you needed help. And otherwise he would just coast along. So I think they were pretty heavily loaded and they were camping. And so we were pretty fascinated. Well, then coincidentally, about a month, I guess, before Bike Florida was to start I was out training and I had a heart incident and wound up in the hospital for a week and was diagnosed with AFib. And so at the end I got it all straightened out and I asked the doctor, could I go on this group ride? And he said "No, absolutely not." And I said, "Well, what if I ride an e-bike?" And he said, "Well, that'd be all right." Not knowing that you have to pedal still-
Jim Dodson: He's not understanding that E-bike requires effort too.
Maggie Ardito: Exactly. So he said fine. And he signed off and the insurance was fine. And so, we ordered an e-bike and it had a chip. And if we could bring up the picture of the first e-bike, the silver, the little, yeah, that, okay. So that's when I named it Boo, that's what I rode Bike Florida on, and I had a great time riding Bike Florida. And he had a great time too but of course I could go a little faster and it was a lot easier for me than it was for him.
Jim Ardito: In all honesty, there was one leg where it was close to 70 miles and it was a little windy. And so she drafted me about half the way that picture I think that might've been taken on Bike Florida, all the tents are on the background.
Maggie Ardito: I got my number 77 on there. So we finished by the time the Bike Florida trip was over, I was in love with my e-bike. And so then we kept touring around and I guess we had dreamed about bike touring Europe forever, ever since we lived in Germany in 1980, but because of the difference in our ability and we just didn't think we were good enough to do it. So on during our summer trip that year, we were up in Canada on the Great Cross Canada trail and we stopped at a Belgian brewery, and all of a sudden we just thought everybody in Europe is already bike touring on e-bikes and we can do it too. So we started planning but I said, we both got to have e-bikes. So then it becomes, how do we purchase an e-bike in Europe when we aren't there? And we don't speak the languages and all this stuff. So we found this bike shop in near Amsterdam, where the guy spoke English and he was willing to work with us and help us pick the best e-bike for what we wanted to do. And he-
Jim Dodson: So you're here in the U.S and you're dealing with a shopping Amsterdam, okay?
Jim Ardito: That part was a little bit dicey in all honesty, because we didn't know him at the time. Since then of course, over the years, we we've transferred the funds and kind of transfer the funds for the bicycle. They don't take a credit card from the United States. I mean, now you could probably do that, but at that point in time, we had a wire half the money ahead of time. So there was a leap of faith, but it worked out fine.
Maggie Ardito: So, then we bought the first e-bike. So if we could see the picture of the silver e-bikes.
Jim Dodson: This is Kati doing her techno wizardry behind her.
Maggie Ardito: There we go. Okay. So there we are on the Moselle River, or it's Mozel in German or Moselle and French, it kind of goes in both countries. That's really a gorgeous place to ride. Anyway, the long and short is everything turned out fine. We arrived over there, our local bike shop. Now we call them our local bike shop. Not in Amsterdam, had our e-bikes already to go with racks on it and our panniers and everything was perfect. And we set off on our very first adventure. And we actually did the Moselle River and the Rhine and all the way down to Switzerland and this is the Rhine Falls near the Swiss German Lake Constance.
Jim Ardito: You should talk a little bit about the differences in between the bikes, because we started out-
Jim Dodson: Let me interrupt for a second. So a couple things. So you had two e-bikes that you ordered from Amsterdam. There were German bikes. They were sent the United States and you were using those in the U.S
Jim Ardito: No, we were not at all. We picked them up there.
Jim Dodson: Okay.
Maggie Ardito: Pick them up in Amsterdam and road down to the down to the--
Jim Ardito: The issues with shipping the e-bike, especially at that point in time. So, we picked them up at the shop, they around there for a little while to get used to them and make sure everything worked and then went off on the adventure.
Jim Dodson: And you're doing trips on your own. You're not on a guided trip. You're making your own reservations on Airbnb or whatever. And you're going from place to place on your own, right? Unsupported.
Jim Ardito: Correct?
Maggie Ardito: Yeah.
Jim Ardito: Let me say something here. We did research where the tour people went. And so we had some good ideas before we started and it's actually that first year Airbnb wasn't that big a deal and we didn't know too much about it. So initially we were just using booking.com and stayed in hotels. The advent of Airbnb especially in Europe I mean, in Europe, you go to an Airbnb and the person might be renting out their place, they just go to their boyfriend's house at the weekend and well, so we can rent their house. So you're in somebody's house with all their stuff there, stuff in the refrigerator and everything.
Maggie Ardito: You got to get along the cats now. Yeah, that first year worked out pretty well. And we had read enough to know that you need to follow the rivers so that it's relatively flat. So we did. That's where the Rhine leads to both cities.
Jim Dodson: Let me ask you some questions. We talked the other day in preparation for our presentation today. What I see when I look at e-bikes and United States currently our mileage capabilities of say 30 to 75 miles, but realistically less than 75, probably more ranging in the 50 range but URI bikes had much better range than that. And tell me how that is and how comfortable you were striking out on an e-bike on a tour and how comfortable you were with your mileage and how you're gonna get that charge every day? And what have you?
Jim Ardito: So the initial e-bikes had a really long range, right? I mean, it was quite significant. The motors were 250 watt motors, but the amount of torque they put out was significantly less, and you didn't use as much it was, if you required a lot more energy to ride them up a hill then-
Jim Dodson: You were assisting the motor going up hill because you had a low wattage engine and a low torque level, right?
Jim Ardito: Correct.
Jim Dodson: All right.
Jim Ardito: That of course makes the range better, but the technology has changed significantly. And those first bikes, like I've mentioned before the first bikes we thought we should have 27 years just like we on a regular road bike. Well, it turned out that was unnecessary. We had them, but we never really the different, all it did was make the difference between one and the next closest gear, really close. It didn't--
Jim Dodson: You're shifting a lot.
Maggie Ardito: Yeah.
Jim Artdito: A lot of shifting, right/ And it didn't gain you the top end the bottom end were roughly the same. It's a function of how much torque you had. So yeah, we have great range and we would have to charge only every couple of days.
Maggie Ardito: And then you just take the battery into the hotel and charge it overnight. So the battery was never an issue at all.
Jim Dodson: That's interesting because now when did the program for the FBA last week and we had a couple of bike dealers on talking about e-bikes. And I was saying that the range is between 250 and 500. And they were really saying well, no, really the range is 350 to 500, very few e-bikes United States now are 250 but that's what you have-
Maggie Ardito: In Europe. And you can tell that in no country, do you need a license, and you can always ride on trails. If you're 250 Watts and under 200--
Jim Ardito: 350 Watt motors in Europe require you to get a license plate-
Maggie Ardito: In some countries.
Jim Ardito: Well, Holland and Germany, you have to have a lot if you have a 350 watt motor, and you're supposed to ride on the road with the cars and that doesn't necessarily people do that-
Jim Dodson: So is that still currently the rule?
Jim Ardito: That's the rule over there.
Jim Dodson: So the other big change difference between U.S and the European countries are the top speed is about 25 kilometers on an e-bike which is about what 16 miles per hour. So your motor is gonna top out with giving us assistance in about 16 versus here, it will be 20.
Maggie Ardito: That's correct.
Jim Dodson: All right.
Jim Ardito: I think I just misspoke. If you have an e-bike in Europe and it's got a 350 watt motors, it is a high speed also, which is another reason why they want you on the road as opposed to the bike path.
Jim Dodson: Well, we're gonna do a separate, this is interesting because I wanna kind of jump into the bike touring, but we have Maggie and Jim have a lot to share on bike touring and we're gonna do just a separate program on that, about the ins and outs of bike touring. And they have a world of information to share on that. We'll talk about European touring and the United States touring. And they've got a lot of recommendations for us over here. So we're doing a separate program on that. So we're sort of in this discussing how they transitioned just began using an e-bike. And now they've transitioned into currently using nothing but e-bikes during certain times of the year and certain distances in the home. So kind of tell us about that transition. We'll probably talk more about the European experience when we do the travel program.
Maggie Ardito: Well, the thing about e-bikes is they're the great leveler. So if you have a lot of difference between your riding abilities you can go with family, you can take kids along, you can do all kinds of things that wouldn't necessarily do together if you didn't have that little extra boost. And then the other thing is of course, you can keep pedaling the pedal a lot further, you carry a lot more gear and you are very apt to moving around on an e-bike. Our friends, parents, my mother in fact, does go ride around on a need that I think she's in her late eighties. So, it's something that you can start when you're relatively young and then carry it on into your later years.
Jim Dodson: Or start when your later years, if we went to
Maggie Ardito: Exactly. You that too, but you gotta be a little careful because they are a little different to ride and especially you need to make sure that you get a nice stable bike where the center of gravity is low especially if you're gonna load it up with a lot of gear.
Jim Dodson: So let's talk about that a minute. As we talked before in our FBA program really two major choices, promoters, and the mid-drive motor and the hub motor, generally the rear hub. What have you found to be most practical for you as e-bike users? What do you gravitate to?
Maggie Ardito: All of ours are the mid bike and we love it because it puts the center of gravity so low that you just feel like you're very stable.
Jim Ardito: Bikes are very stable. I mean, that is another benefit because it's a heavier bike, however, you made the bike heavy, it would be it would be more stable, less nimble, but more stable.
Maggie Ardito: You don't want your weight up to be high. You don't want your battery for instance, to be on the back wheel because that is gonna put a lot of weight up high. And then when you add 40 pounds of gear to go touring with it's too high a center of gravity-
Jim Ardito: Especially think about those bikes where they put the battery on the back rack and put a rear hub motor in it. You really have a problem, a potential problem. I shouldn't-
Jim Dodson: A potential, yeah, that would really be tail heavy.
Jim Ardito: Yep.
Maggie Ardito: We had friends that rented bikes over there one year, and the woman had to step through bike with a high center of gravity. And she did fall three or four times-
Jim Dodson: All right. What do you run into with the rental bikes in Europe? Are they hub drive or mid mid drive?
Jim Ardito: Well, our experience is that most of them really are still hub drive. They're less expensive and therefore more ideal I suppose, for renting. One year we went and we actually went on one of those boats where you ride on the boat and then-
Jim Dodson: Bike and Barge
Jim Ardito: Yeah, that, equivalent to that. And the people that rented an e-bike they got Treks, but they were not the hub drive. They were a center of gravity. Those are the only ones though. Other than that, people normally gets a kind of a rear hub or a front hub drive.
Jim Dodson: So, tell us a little bit about weight. I know that e-bikes can have a wide variety of weights. Yours are on the light side and you're sort of like 45 pounds.
Jim Ardito: 45 pounds. I don't know if that's necessarily know if that’s light compared to like the new Specialized ones. That's an example.
Jim Dodson: But the Specialized one is super expensive too?
Jim Ardito: Yeah, that's true.
Maggie Ardito: Yeah.
Jim Dodson: So, what are the factors? Why do we need to be concerned about weight particularly if you're gonna do long distance travel
Maggie Ardito: Because you're gonna wind up lifting your bike. One way or another either you're gonna have to get it on a train, or you're gonna have to lift it over a curb or sometimes you have to take it into the place you're staying because it's not safe to leave it outside. That's a picture of us riding on a French train. And as you can see, if you couldn't physically lift your e-bike or your bike at all you would have a problem hanging it up there. And also the elevators sometimes in the airports and train stations are not big enough for your bike to lay down flat. So-
Jim Dodson: You have to carry to the second or third floor, right?
Maggie Ardito: Yeah, exactly.
Jim Ardito: Right. And when you go have to go down to a different platform, it can be a real problem. Or if an elevator doesn't work, or even once we ran into a situation where an elevator is too small so we have to go on the stairs. And usually they put a little ramp along the side. Well, the heavier, the bike, you've got all your panniers and all your stuff, and you've got to get this thing up the ramp is a bit of a child. So weight does make a difference sooner or later, you're gonna need to pick it up.
Jim Dodson: So, were do you driven? I mean, did you pick yours based on the weight or is that just happened to be there relatively on the lighter side?
Jim Ardito: In all honesty, when we started we didn't even think weight made any difference and didn't realize it until we got out there and found out that there are situations where even sometimes you might have to like take the battery out, so it would be a little bit lighter. Now you've got multiple trips yet that may take the bike and go get the battery, but a weight does matter.
Jim Dodson: What's a reasonable range that you were trying to do daily whether in the United States or overseas doing your treking on e-bike?
Maggie Ardito: Pretty ambitious. And we were thinking 50 miles a day would be a nice easy day for us, but since then, we've become a lot more leisurely.
Jim Ardito: We now do like 50 kilometers a day-
Jim Ardito: 30 miles.
Jim Ardito: Maybe 35 miles.
Maggie Ardito: We consider ourselves pub to pub riders sometimes. Stop and do things.
Jim Dodson: What's your schedule like? You're doing 35 miles. Most people who are a sport bike ride are saying, how I can do that in two hours?
Maggie Ardito: Yeah. We were lost a lot of the time too. So we're used to that, but yeah, well, we just liked to bike for a few hours and then stop and have a leisurely lunch and then might bike another hour and get to our place.
Jim Ardito: We don't know if we start out, navigation becomes an issue. We go on the bike trails, and the first year we had a Garmin and the Garmin, it didn't know about a bike trail and wants to send you on the road. So we were lost a good deal of the time. So 35 miles ends up being a reasonable business given that you spend a lot of time stopping and looking around and figuring out where you are.
Maggie Ardito: It depends on your priorities. I guess we certainly could go a lot further if we really wanted to, but we're had to. Yeah.
Jim Dodson: So, currently how many e-bikes do you own?
Jim Ardito: That is embarrassing.
Maggie Ardito: Well, because it turned out that we found out that we could leave a set of e-bikes in Europe for two years and our bike shop would store them for us. And so that second bike we did live in Europe for two years. So then we took those home on the plane, but we did have to ship the batteries. And that was at the end of the second year. And then the third set we bought over there in 18, 2018. That's those bikes. You can tell her a lot sleeker and lighter than the original. They also have a shorter range of only, they claim 96 miles, we've never really tested that, but we know for sure they're more good for more than maybe. And then we had brought those on the plane home with us in 2019. So if you count my original bike Boo that we bought in 2012, which is pretty ancient now but still perking along, we have seven between us. So we can leave to us at in Michigan and have a set here for guest bikes.
Jim Dodson: That's what you do? You have a set of e-bikes in Michigan where you have a summer place, you have a set in Europe and you have three here in Deland, basically.
Maggie Ardito: Yeah.
Jim Ardito: We don't have any in Europe right now. Everything we own is-
Jim Dodson: Is here. Okay.
Jim Ardito: Good thing, otherwise, what would we do this? We wouldn't have been able to go.
Jim Dodson: Yeah. And so you have transitioned to full-time e-bike you, talk about that.
Jim Ardito: Okay. Maggie obviously transitioned in the very beginning and once she got on it's having the extra range and ability to go faster, if she needed to.
Maggie Ardito: Plus they’re fun. There's just so much fun.
Jim Ardito: I was a little bit more hard to convince but once you start using them they become more and more practical. So, we still have our Specialized. So by the way, we have our old road bikes or cycle bikes.
Maggie Ardito: Like, if I go some place for my Alliance and I have to take my own bike on and off the rack. Then I have-
Jim Ardito: She can't the take the bike on and the e-bike off, on and off the bike rack by herself. Especially if I took the battery off, just the battery, I mean, as you get older, it gets harder and harder to lift things and use the old bikes every now and then if you wanna go some place and you needed to take the bike in the car.
Maggie Ardito: Yeah.
Jim Dodson: So if you're going to do a ride with your friends on the road you're gonna do a road bike trip around Lake Monroe or whatever you're going to do over there for 28 miles. You ride in your e-bike, right? What's your experience in terms of getting the most distance? So we talked about that. How do you get the most distance out of an e-bike in terms of how much power you apply?
Maggie Ardito: Well you just stay on eco which is the lower, usually they have often in three speeds or three or four speeds on top of that or not really speeds, but amount of power that they provide. So we are normally ride on eco that way you get pretty good amount of exercise but you always have the power there if you need it.
Jim Dodson: And what are you doing currently? 'Cause this year you transit transitioned even further and you ditched your automobile for a majority of your short commute, right?
Jim Ardito: We don't have a picture, but we have a bike trailer and we have one.
Jim Dodson: You mean, when you pull behind your bike?
Jim Ardito: You pull behind your bike, it’s a Burley and we can carry two or three cases of beer in it, as well as all the groceries between our panniers and we have our panniers and our bike trailer. And we have used this summer, we use only the bikes for all things which means you have to be careful plan your weather. Hopefully you don't get caught in the rain too often, but we carry our rain gear with us all the time and it’s worked out well. I was surprised it worked out as well as it did. And you get kinda obsessed with the ideas, kinda proud of not having to drive the car anywhere.
Jim Dodson: So tell us the standard, you're using the 2020 standard, what does that mean?
Maggie Ardito: Oh, so if it's less than 20 miles round trip or we're carrying less than 20 pounds, then we have to take our bikes. That's the rule.
Jim Dodson: I think you did that over the summer. If you carry that over into the year.
Maggie Ardito: Oh yeah. Oh, absolutely. That's normal, yeah. Well, of course up there and we had no choice. So even if it was more than 20 miles or 20 days. Right. But then here we still try to apply that rule unless it's really pouring or something. But the other thing is, it's easy to carry your rain gear with you. And so it's not such a problem to get caught in the rain.
Jim Dodson: So you're using your e-bikes on the the trail loop over there that you work on Maggie, the St. Johns River-to-Sea Loop. I think there's some confusion about that in terms of what trails in Florida one can use an e-bike. Why don't you just tell us the rule as you understand it?
Maggie Ardito: Okay. As I understand it the counties and the state trails, like the SUN Trails which in fact does stand for Shared Use Non-motorized the rules of what's allowed are up to the counties because the counties have the maintenance responsibility for the trails. And in Volusia County our county parks director was trying to make the decision which way to go. So I of course, lent him my e-bike and he got out on the trail. And he was sold, he wants one for himself and he definitely says that at least class one e-bikes are legal on Volusia County trail. So that's the rule here. Now we have a lower speed limit on a lot of our trails here then is standard statewide. It's often 20, but in Volusia it's 15.
Jim Dodon: But the St. John's Trail goes into more than one County, doesn't it?
Maggie Ardito: Yeah, five counties.
Jim Dodson: So, what about the other counties?
Maggie Ardito: Yeah, so there's a lot of discussion going on. And of course, we're trying to say that class one e-bikes should be legal on all trails because they're legal bicycle and they don't go faster than a normal bicycle would go. And they don't weigh much more than a normal bicycle. It's still ongoing discussion, but we're working on it. Let's put it that. So, our motto is are all ages and abilities should be able to take advantage of the trail. And that means that elderly people.
Jim Dodson: So are you using your e-bike? Like, can you drive, if you were to go on the trail up to Palatka from Palatka into Saint Augustine, can you use your bike on that trail?
Maggie Ardito: It's never been an issue, but of course they look pretty much like normal bicycles. It hasn't been an issue, but what we hope is that it doesn't become an issue because I really think that would be detrimental to all ages and abilities getting maximum use of the trails and that's really a big, big mission of ours too.
Jim Dodson: It won't become an issue until somebody with a tight class three e-bike going 28 miles an hour runs over a pedestrian and someone starts early really badly and there'll be a lot pressure to do something about it, to curb these e-bikes. Right?
Maggie Ardito: Exactly. So that's why I wouldn't really like for there to be a distinction between the class one e-bikes and the other two classes which are not really there as much like bicycles. And I'm afraid that if you lump them all together, there will be a backlash and people will say, "No e-bikes." And I really think that would be detrimental to getting the maximum number out there, enjoying our travels-
Jim Ardito: I'm especially concerned about the e-bikes that have a throttle.
Jim Dodson: Yeah, certainly you could explain. So remember in Florida we have three classes of bikes. The class one is the class Jim and Maggie are talking about, which is pedal assisted to 20 miles per hour in the U.S and Europe. It's only about 16 miles per hour. And then you have a class two e-bike which is throttle only, and they can go up to 20 miles an hour, which she personally is opposed to she and Jim. And then you have a class three, which is pedal assisted at 28 miles an hour. And you have issues with that as well. And what you're talking about is trying to get a distinction in the legislature on the definition to, I guess restrict where the class threes could be ridden not on sidewalks, not on-
Jim Ardito: In all honesty, I think it's gonna be tough in the US to be honest with you, I think that you're gonna end I'd be happy to have the throttles legal on the trails-
Maggie Ardito: The trouble is that the trail maintenance people do not have the resources to enforce the speed limits and so fast vehicles on the trails.
Jim Dodson: It's like everything else. So it won't be a problem until there's a problem. And then you're concerned that there'll be an overreaction to the problem, right? So I think that comes down to people being respecting what they're riding and respecting the rights of others to be. I have people now telling me that there'll be on a sidewalk or a trail, and somebody on a need e-bike we'll go buzzing by them with not notifying them. They're going faster than 20. And those anecdotal information of that going on. And that's regrettable with people and there's gonna be issues out there unfortunately, but I'm an enormous fan of e-bikes and I really, really enjoyed your story. And I'm fascinated by your transition and envious that you own seven bicycles of any kind. You actually own more than seven you own nine.
Maggie Ardito: We have two folding ones too. So I guess we have 11. We have friends that have a lot more than that.
Jim Dodson: My son-in-law kept talking about his friends that were buying bikes and it's like, what's the one too many bikes? It's like N plus something. And there's like- So we're gonna reschedule a meeting with Jim and Maggie to talk about touring. And they've got a lot to say about touring. Well, watch for the notification on that. I thought this was an amazing talk about the transition onto an e-bike. This is coming. There's been many, many people just like you. And I wanna thank you both for joining us today. Kati's giving you a website to go to, to read about what they do. They have their own website trailsandgreenways.com.
Maggie Ardito: Yeah. That's the formal blogs. So don't expect too much of it.
Jim Dodson: All right. Well, I appreciate you both joining us. And for those joining us today online, look for us for another program on this. They're gonna have a lot of information. We're gonna talk about specific trails that they've had experience with in the United States. Some tips on traveling internationally they plan, they give you advice, have a budget, they tell you how much you can spend. I mean, it's pretty interesting. We'll do that as a separate program in the next week or two. So for now, I'm Jim Dodson, The Florida Bike Guy. Thanks for joining us. I had a special commitment to cyclists. If I can help you anywhere in Florida, if you've been injured on the bike or even not on the bike, in a car crash or whatever, call me and I'll be happy to do what I can to help you. Until then Jim and Maggie, we'll talk to you next time.
Maggie Ardito: Thank you for having us
Jim Dodson: Thank you for joining us. Good day everybody, be safe.