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Ebike brings back the joy of riding

By Nathan Tsukroff

Riding a bicycle isn’t just for kids. But it can lose its appeal, especially when you have to work out of town.

Just ask Nathan “Nate” LeClair of Auburn.

Nathan “Nate” LeClair of Auburn on a recent ride down Main Street in Lewiston on his ebike. The bicycle has both pedal-assist and a throttle, and LeClair often uses it to commute to his job as a shift manager the McDonald’s restaurant in Gray. This model bike, the Sinch from Aventon, has a range of about 40 miles when using the throttle mode. (Tsukroff photo)

Some of his first memories as a child are learning to ride a bike at 3 or 4 years old. “There’s pictures of me on the tricycle at the house,” LeClair said. And a year two later, he had moved up to a bike. “As soon as I got that sense of balance, without training wheels, I just really never stopped riding.”

“I’ve always loved the speed. I love the adrenaline rush of going fast!” he said.

After high school, he stopped riding for a couple of years. And then he discovered electric bikes, referred to as ebikes.

Now he enjoys commuting by ebike as often as he can from his home in Auburn to the McDonald’s Restaurant in Gray, where he works as a shift manager. His current bike is a Sinch foldable ebike, made by Aventon. It has 4-inch wide tires for safe riding on all road conditions, and can be folded to carry in his car when needed.

The Sinch bike can be ridden like a regular bike, with the rider doing all the work. Or it can be used in an assist mode, where the electric motor gives some extra help while pedaling. There is also a fully-electric mode, with a throttle that can push the rider to 20 mph on level ground without pedaling. The Sinch has a range of about 40 miles in throttle mode.

LeClair said he had been riding his dad’s road bikes, including a Schwinn, that had been “in the storage shed maybe 20 or 30 years.” After tuning the bikes, he rode around town, and discovered what is called Goff Hill – a steep downhill on  Court Street that bottoms out at the intersection with Minot Avenue (Route  4).

“After a while, once a day I would go down there as fast as I could,” he said. “I’ve easily clocked over 40 miles an hour going down Goff Hill.”

He graduated high school and stopped riding for a while. He said he missed riding. “It never went away as an interest. It was kind of always on the back burner.”

One day he stopped in at a local bike shop, Rainbow Bicycle on Lisbon Street in Lewiston, and discovered electric bikes. “I had never tried one, and I thought, you know, I haven’t been riding for a little while . . . it wouldn’t hurt to test one out and see how it is,” LeClair said.

He was allowed to borrow an ebike and took it to Simard-Payne Memorial Park off Beech Street in Lewiston. That bike had four levels of pedal-assist, but no throttle, LeClair said. With pedal-assist, “It gives you an extra push (when pedaling). You feel the motor kick in. It helps you out a little bit. You still have to put work into it – exercise.”

“It was like love at first test-drive,” he said, and he bought the ebike immediately.

Simard_Payne Park has biking and walking trails, and is used as the main launching point for hot air balloons at the annual Balloon Fest in August

As much as he enjoyed riding that bike, it topped out at 20 mph, and he “soon discovered a bike that went 28 miles and hour.”

LeClair was soon riding the Aventon Pace 500, which had both pedal-assist and a throttle. It ran at 20 mph on full throttle, or could help the rider to 28 mph with pedal-assist.

Nate LeClair of Auburn rides through Simard-Payne Memorial Park in Lewiston on his ebike on a recent winter afternoon. He commutes by bike to his workplace in Gray as often as possible. (Tsukroff photo)

He suffered a series of flat tires with the Pace 500, and shifted to his current bike, the model Sinch from Aventon. That solved his flat-tire problem, and the wider tires gave him stability when riding on different road conditions. Both ebikes have a suspension front fork, which acts like the shock absorbers in a car.

LeClair sees this third ebike as a good compromise for general riding. The tires are like those of a mountain bike, and it’s foldable for easy transport in his car, he said.

He recently purchased a Juiced Bikes Scorpion model, which is a moped-style ebike. “That’s my fastest bike. I can get like 31 miles per hour on flat land,” he said.

LeClair rides his bikes to his work in Gray as often as he can. In city traffic, he easily keeps pace with the passing cars, and front and rear lights on his bike ensure drivers seem him in the roadway.

Nate LeClair’s Aventon Sinch ebike is folded for transport in his car. The bike is battery-powered with a range of 40 miles in throttle mode, and folds for storage or transport. (Tsukroff photo)

Although working full time, LeClair is studying for a degree in political science, taking courses parttime at Central Maine Community College in Auburn.

He said his interest in politics was triggered by a joke played on him by one of his uncles when he was growing up. At four or five years old, his uncle teased him by offering him a $100 bill if he could name the person on the bill. “I told him it was Ben Franklin,” to the shocked surprise of his uncle.

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