Look what we just got!
An ELF! Or, more specifically, a semi-recumbent bike (well, it’s a tricycle, really, with two wheels in front and one in the back) with electric-assist, powered by a solar panel on the roof, and this cute green enclosure to keep the rider out of the elements. The motor helps with getting up hills and maintaining a cruising speed of around 20 mph, while also powering the headlights and turn signals. It’s the perfect frankenmobile, a mix between bicycle, car, and electric get-around-town machine.
And it’s adorable! If you ask me.
ELFs are made in Durham, North Carolina by Organic Transit, a funky upstart that got a big lift from an awesome Kickstarter response this summer….which is where we first heard about them. Then, the day after we read about ELFs, we happened to see one in the wild on the road, and I instantly thought that is perfect for us. Or, rather, that is perfect for my SuperCoolHusband and his 10 mile ride to work. Not me because I’m usually toting around two kids and shit-ton of their stuff…so we don’t fit in an ELF. But he does! And he digs biking!
Here is my thinking:
1- The truck is getting old. And wear and tear from the daily commute is using up its remaining lifespan at a rapid rate. Relegating it to truck-related chores on the weekends (for the most part) will extend it’s life by years. An ELF allows us to do that, and it’s a heck of a lot cheaper than a replacement truck.
2- Gas is only getting more expensive. At current gas prices, and the truck’s gas milage, if hubby rides the ELF to work even four days a week, we’ll save over $100 a month in gas. Over time, it pays for itself (barring theft or wreck…I’m gambling on not having one of those).
3- Exercise! With all its attendant benefits: life extension, quality of life, stress reduction, better sleep, abs, you know, the whole package. Big plus! Although, with the motor, you can also take it easy on the way in to work (and not get sweaty and gross)…only to pedal like a maniac and get your cardio on the way home. Win-win!
4- Speaking of the motor, biking can be hard. There are some big hills on the commute that are daunting. A motor-assist makes facing those inclines on a daily basis much more doable. Getting to work is hard enough. Exercise is fantastic, but you don’t want to have to kill yourself to get it.
4- Actually, we looked pretty seriously at electric bikes a few years ago and finally decided it was just too dangerous. There are sections on the roads required between here and my husband’s work that have no shoulder, or fast traffic, or sharp curves, all of which make biking them hazardous. The ELF’s design (the enclosure, the wasabi-green color, the turn signals, lights, horn, etc) reduces this danger and put the whole idea of biking to work back on the table.
5- The final, and possibly most important, benefit: not contributing to Global Warming. Huzzah! Because the ELF, when powered by its solar panel and your feet, is a zero-emission vehicle, and it doesn’t get any greener than that. Ah, the delightful feeling that comes from being Greener Than Thou….
It took several months for our number to come up on the waiting list, but this week, it did. Our very own ELF, constructed, tested, and ready to come home.
But how? Certainly not via an expensive shipping company.
My fearless husband’s solution: “Why don’t I just ride it home?”
Huh? What? I mean, we’re talking many, many, miles. Hours of riding. We’re talking traffic and unfamiliar routes and and and….. Okay, I’m guilty of planning the shit out of everything, while he has traveled the world with this “I’ll just wing it” philosophy—it’s one of his super-powers. I know this about him. So, if it were anyone else, I’d have probably nixed this idea. But him? Maaaaybe.
The kids and I were designated pit crew and support team. I packed him water bottles and snacks and printed out maps and directions (none of which he ended up needing, haha, me and my over-planning again). All right. Let’s do this thing. And by let’s, I pretty much meant, him.
I won’t lie, there was some polite, um, skepticism, about the “plan” when we got to Organic Transit to pick up the ELF. “Do you have a Plan B?” they asked us. Um…no? He did start to look a little nervous when he was actually sitting in the thing for the first time, being shown where the switches were, how the brakes worked, etc. “Did I really say this was a good idea?”
But he got it going. By now we were calling this his Epic Journey. The kids and I cheered, waved, and jumped up and down as he took off up Foster Street in downtown Durham with his phone, its GPS, and his ability to wing it.
I was so nervous. The kids and I hung out in Durham for a while in case there was a need for emergency extraction. It wasn’t until an hour later though, that he called us, checking in, doing fine, taking a break in Chapel Hill.
“Call me more often!” I said. “I was worried!”
“What…if I get splattered on the road, are you going to come scrape me up with a spatula?”
“Not helping! Not helping at all!”
But things were going well and he was taking it all in stride. As is his way.
When he next called—the kids and I had already made the drive back to the yurt, me carrying the phone with me wherever I went—he was only a few miles from home! We jumped in the car and drove out to pace him on the final stretch. Here he is, zipping along rural North Carolina back roads, a shot taken out of our car window….
Then we drove back home and waited at the mailboxes to jump and cheer again.
“There it is!” we shouted when the little green ELF appeared over the hill. “Here he comes! Yay!”
It took the better part of the afternoon, but he made it, ELF intact. He was a bit sweaty, but in good cheer, said it had been fun, no problems, drivers on the road had been courteous…and the ELF had been a delightful ride.
The Epic Journey completed!
It was a bit anti-climactic, to be honest.
But it’s such a cool little device! The way it works is very snazzy, with its electric motor smoothly kicking in at the touch of a button whenever, and to whatever degree, you want. Plus it keeps the rain off, zips up the hills, and make you smile when you see it. From his face when he pulled up to the yurt, it makes you happy to ride it, too.
An ELF kind of looks like a Fred Flintstone car when you see the pedals bobbing in and out of sight out of the bottom of the enclosure with each rotation. Or maybe like a cute little green edamame, cruising down the street.
I think there could seriously be a velomobile revolution. It just makes sense in so many ways. I hope I still think so in another year or two, haha.