The Dude: "Well, they finally did it. They killed my fucking car."
Felt's Lebowsk-e electric bike has a funny effect on people. It brings out the completely impractical imagination in any one who beholds it.
[update- you can now rent a Lebowsk-e as part of our e-bike rental fleet]
Out here in the sunny silicon streets of San Francisco, where the main thing every one does always is work and when we're not working, we're going to work, or from work, enjoying our fancy fast European or fuel efficient Asian cars in the sublime slowness of sublime California traffic.
Traffic has been a social experience for some time now and it's how we interact intimately with each other. We gaze secretly at our fellow commuters in our rear view mirrors, wondering all about them. (Caution: Objects in this mirror may be closer than they appear!) We honk at each other when we're angry, sharing those angry moments and emotions with each other, invading the privacy that our cars afford us with their sheet metal shells. We slow down with each other, for no reason, or for a floating plastic bag, drawing more followers into our traffic community behind us, with us, to be with us.
Traffic is an unstoppable reality for so many of us that we don't even get upset when just one of us in thousands commits the stupidest of errors in the middle of the road, for no reason at all, because they weren't paying attention, or had a lapse of reason, or they were eating while driving, entangling hundreds maybe thousands of morning commuters for hours at a time. We expect, maybe even yearn for, the slowdown and social contact of traffic and have become immune to its unnecessary obstruction in our lives. We must like it, or we'd avoid and solve it.
But some portion of us have come up with ways around this communal love feast. Either by taking the long route, or the inconvenient route, some of us are more experimental in how we get to work, or wherever we're going, adding elements of recreation and adventure to the mundane. Some of us bike to work. Some of us get on high power dual-sport motorcycles, geared up for a trans continental tour. Some of us take the train, or walk. We're on recumbents. We're on electric bikes. Neighborhood cars. Trikes. Helicopters. Boats.
There are far more practical e-bikes to own than the Felt Lebowsk-e, here in the land of Google and Facebook and Uber. With its fat tires, it is more sluggish than a hybrid or mountain or road bike. It is big, fat and heavier than a regular bike. It's a bike built for snow, mud and sand and California no longer has snow and it doesn't rain anymore. There's no sand where any one would commute, and yet more than anything people look at the Lebowsk-e and say "that would be a totally cool commuter bike".
As our customers' advisor we've so far always negated the idea that the Lebowsk-e should be used for commuting in this environment. "Unless you live at the beach or plan on taking it up to Tahoe, you're not going to be happy with this bike," we'd say. And it costs nearly $6,000.
So we put one of our demo bikes to the commuter test.
It wasn't a difficult challenge. After all, the bike is fun to ride. It's just that with its big fat knobbies, it is not a quick turner. It purrs down the road like a Big Foot truck and because of all that you realize quickly it could certainly get along a little easier if it weren't so darn, well, fat. But, after just one commute we're starting to see why this totally impractical bike seems so right in this out of place environment far from any sludge, snow or sand.
We like our flash, we Californians. The weird stuff. There's the guy who has to keep driving a DeLorean. Or, the Baja race buggy. The BMW Side Car. The Corbin Sparrow. The $40,000 Harley to go park at Starbucks on a Sunday morning. For a time, the first Tesla. Now there can be the guy on the fat tire e-bike from Felt with the BOSCH motor.
The Lebowsk-e is great because it just looks so f-ing cool. With its wide tires, it appeals to the commuter because of its big fat burly footprint. The Lebowsk-e has a wide swagger that makes you forget you're on a bicycle and others on the road also get out of your way a little more with a "what IS that?" look on their face. Not quite like a motorcycle. More like riding around on a galloping rhino.
For its heft, the BOSCH motor does a great job of pushing it around at a comfortable speed of 18 MPH without too much stress on the legs. To keep it up at 20 you'll be on the pedals. Stick a dongle in it, and it will cruise at 28MPH with ease.
It's an easy to ride electric bike. The fat tires provide the cushioning to smooth out California's piss-poor roads created by the lowest bidder paving work that money can buy.
Felt did a wonderful job of keeping the Lebowsk-e light. When you pick it up you realize it could probably float.
For a brief few moments you might feel comforted that the Lebowsk-e will come in handy when the global environment finally collapses and all of society turns to cannibalistic nomadism. By then you'll have a backpack solar generator to power the bike's 11 Amp Hour battery and a secret bunker full of fat tires and tubes. Attach a trailer for your scavenging and you're set for the apocalypse.
Where the Dude really becomes fun is when you can afford to get to and fro the slow way. Take that trail near the tracks. Cruise over the park up the grassy hillside. Rip it up the canyon hiking trail that runs along the main road up over the hill. It's a jeep of a bike.
So yea, we'll no longer be down on the idea of the Lebowsk-e as a workaday commuter.