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A cool, electric bicycle that passes the 'green' test

"The back rack can carry up to 200 pounds," he said, "because the beefy steel frame can bear it. The gearing is very low, the tires very knobby-so it's a true off-road vehicle. It's a mazing what I can go through with this baby."

Mathewson noted that if you ride a bike that powers itself to 20 mph or more, the bike must be very stable underneath you.

"The Nor-Easter is an electric bike designed for Vermont's terrain," he said." It's kind of the pickup truck of electric bikes. In fact, we customized a wooden bed on the back. You can use it for hunting in the deep woods and bring a deer out with you."

Mathewson has taken off-the-shelf electric bike technology from E-BikeKit, the Electric Bike Conversion System of New Jersey, and customized it for Vermonters who want something more from an electric bike.

"It's not a motorcycle or a scooter," he said, "but you can get a big boost from the electric motor, up to 20 mph. It's great commuting bike for hills. You can also pedal it like a traditional bike."

The Nor-easter is powered by a lithium-ion battery. WHile the battery shouldn't be submerged, Mathewson said you can ride the bike through streams above the the hubs.

"Our road version can go up to 23 miles an hour for 15 to 30 miles depending on rider, terrain, wind and the amount of assistance given on the part of the rider," Mathewson said. "Our off-road model can go places you would not think it could. The motors are fully submersible and all parts are of high quality."

We asked Mathewson: Why the fascination with getting more people on bikes-human-powered or electric versions?

"Well, when I was 12, I started fixing bikes and selling them to my neighbors," he said." When I was 14, I got my first job at a bike shop and started racing bikes around New England. During the following 35 years I have owned three different bikes shops, worked at shops in Florida and Vermont and given clinics to many schools... Here in America, most of us take for granted the ease in which we can get around. This being said, there are still people in this country that have various issues around getting around. One group of people is those who are too heavy for the normal bicycle design. Helping to get anyone from this group to be able to ride is very rewarding, as I believe that everyone deserves to be able to ride if they choose to do so."

Check It Out: The Little City Cycles Nor'easter is priced at $2,499 and includes powerful, lightweight lithium-ion battery and charger. The $500-value battery will last the user for five to six years before it needs to be replaced. Tim Mathewson also repairs all electric bikes. If you have a tighter budget, he can furnish existing or new bikes with electric kits to help you get on the road and go electric.

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