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Richard Brannon’s new bicycle gave him an extra boost when he rode 46 miles with six other cyclists at the No Baloney Bicycle Ride on Saturday in Morton.

Brannon bought a Yamaha electric bicycle six weeks ago. The Champaign man is an experienced cyclist who rides two to three times per week, often with weekly rides organized by the Prairie Cycle Club.

“My biggest reason for getting it is, I can’t keep up as much anymore. Who wants to wait for somebody? I didn’t get it to lead the pack,” he said.

He’s ridden his e-bike on Prairie Cycle Club rides several times, although he often still uses his regular road bike. He chooses which bike to ride based on who else is riding and how fast he estimates the others will ride.

The rides he does usually average 13-15 mph. But when he’s riding with cyclists who average more than 15 mph, he’ll use the e-bike. Often, the group will start out slower and then increase speed in the second half of the ride as they are returning home.

“That’s where I get behind,” Brannon said. “If I know people are going faster, I will bring (the e-bike).”

He’ll also use it if he’s riding a hilly route.

Saturday’s ride was the first organized tour in which he rode his new bike. But he’s used e-bikes several times while traveling in Europe, where they are far more ubiquitous than in the U.S.

The e-bike has four power settings. Brannon uses the first two settings that offer the lower range of power. They give him a boost, making it easier to go faster, but he still has to do most of the work himself.

“You have to pedal to make it work. If you coast, nothing happens. You have to spin the wheels, and it gives you an assist,” he said. “You still get a workout.”

He can easily switch the power on and off during a ride, or increase or decrease the power level, by pushing a button on a monitor on his bike’s handlebar. He said the e-bike battery can help power the bike up to 20 mph.

The Yamaha had the features Brannon wanted in an e-bike, the most important being its weight. His bike weighs 43 pounds, lighter than most other electric bikes. It has narrower tires than many models of e-bikes, which means less weight, and it has two chain rings for more gears. It still weighs twice as much as a regular road bike, though, so he doesn’t want to transport it to a ride on someone else’s bike rack.

“I had to be able to pick it up and put it in my truck myself, with or without the battery. Most of those things weigh a ton,” Brannon said. “Also, it can go about 71 miles on a single charge.”

He rode it to Gibson City and back a week ago and still had three-quarters of the battery charge left at the end of the ride. The battery takes four to five hours to charge fully, he said. It can be easily detached from the bike for charging or to make the bike lighter to lift onto a bike rack or into the back of Brannon’s truck.

“I don’t mind going slow. It just gives you more options. If (other cyclists) do take off, you can keep up. You still get exercise,” Brannon said. “It helps me keep up. It serves its purpose. I’ve been happy with it.”

He’s not the only cyclist on some of the local rides who is using an e-bike.

“As people get older, we’re going to see more of them,” Brannon predicted.

Jodi Heckel, a writer for the University of Illinois News Bureau, is a runner and triathlete. Her email is jheckel@news-gazette.com, and you can follow her on  twitter (@jodiheckel).

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Jodi Heckel, a writer for the University of Illinois News Bureau, is a runner and triathlete. Her email is jheckel@news-gazette.com, and you can follow her on twitter (@jodiheckel).