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'I get a lot of stares.' Cycling Amherst baker gets cooking on new set of power-assist wheels

  • On Wednesday morning, baker Dory Goldman of Amherst finally received her long-awaited velomobile, an Elf model manufactured by Organic Transit in Durham, North Carolina, and used it to take her breads to the Wednesday Market at Kendrick Park. The pedal vehicle has an electric assist that cut her trip, mostly uphill, to ten minutes. <br/>KEVIN GUTTING

    On Wednesday morning, baker Dory Goldman of Amherst finally received her long-awaited velomobile, an Elf model manufactured by Organic Transit in Durham, North Carolina, and used it to take her breads to the Wednesday Market at Kendrick Park. The pedal vehicle has an electric assist that cut her trip, mostly uphill, to ten minutes.
    KEVIN GUTTING Purchase photo reprints »

  • Baker Dory Goldman of Amherst used the back "dash" of her new velomobile as a display area for her breads at the Wednesday Market at Kendrick Park.<br/>KEVIN GUTTING

    Baker Dory Goldman of Amherst used the back "dash" of her new velomobile as a display area for her breads at the Wednesday Market at Kendrick Park.
    KEVIN GUTTING Purchase photo reprints »

  • Baker Dory Goldman of Amherst loads her wares into the back of her velomobile, an Elf model manufactured by Organic Transit in Durham, North Carolina, to take to the Wednesday Market at Kendrick Park.<br/>KEVIN GUTTING

    Baker Dory Goldman of Amherst loads her wares into the back of her velomobile, an Elf model manufactured by Organic Transit in Durham, North Carolina, to take to the Wednesday Market at Kendrick Park.
    KEVIN GUTTING Purchase photo reprints »

  • Dory Goldman's velomobile, an Elf model manufactured by Organic Transit in Durham, North Carolina, sports an internal NuVinci N360 hub transmission. The chain at right is for the traditional pedal drive and the chain at left is for the optional electric assist drive.<br/>KEVIN GUTTING

    Dory Goldman's velomobile, an Elf model manufactured by Organic Transit in Durham, North Carolina, sports an internal NuVinci N360 hub transmission. The chain at right is for the traditional pedal drive and the chain at left is for the optional electric assist drive.
    KEVIN GUTTING Purchase photo reprints »

  • Jonathan Weis helps baker Dory Goldman of Amherst load her goods into her new velomobile, an Elf model manufactured by Organic Transit in Durham, North Carolina, to take to the Wednesday Market at Kendrick Park.<br/>KEVIN GUTTING

    Jonathan Weis helps baker Dory Goldman of Amherst load her goods into her new velomobile, an Elf model manufactured by Organic Transit in Durham, North Carolina, to take to the Wednesday Market at Kendrick Park.
    KEVIN GUTTING Purchase photo reprints »

  • On Wednesday morning, baker Dory Goldman of Amherst finally received her long-awaited velomobile, an Elf model manufactured by Organic Transit in Durham, North Carolina, and used it to take her breads to the Wednesday Market at Kendrick Park. The pedal vehicle has an electric assist that cut her trip, mostly uphill, to ten minutes. <br/>KEVIN GUTTING
  • Baker Dory Goldman of Amherst used the back "dash" of her new velomobile as a display area for her breads at the Wednesday Market at Kendrick Park.<br/>KEVIN GUTTING
  • Baker Dory Goldman of Amherst loads her wares into the back of her velomobile, an Elf model manufactured by Organic Transit in Durham, North Carolina, to take to the Wednesday Market at Kendrick Park.<br/>KEVIN GUTTING
  • Dory Goldman's velomobile, an Elf model manufactured by Organic Transit in Durham, North Carolina, sports an internal NuVinci N360 hub transmission. The chain at right is for the traditional pedal drive and the chain at left is for the optional electric assist drive.<br/>KEVIN GUTTING
  • Jonathan Weis helps baker Dory Goldman of Amherst load her goods into her new velomobile, an Elf model manufactured by Organic Transit in Durham, North Carolina, to take to the Wednesday Market at Kendrick Park.<br/>KEVIN GUTTING

Her weekly trip started by hooking a trailer to her mountain bike, piling the product on top, along with a table and vendor tent, and pedaling the two miles, some of it up the Main Street hill, to the downtown farmers market.

“It was pretty intense,” Goldman said.

That changed this week, when an electric-assist velomobile, what Goldman describes as a super-efficient, pedal-powered vehicle, was dropped off at her home. She was able to load up the bread in its cargo space and, in less than 10 minutes, get from home to the market.

“It’s great, it’s really fun and I got lots of stares, that’s for sure,” Goldman said.

More than 30 minutes before the market would welcome its first customers, she had the flax sesame bread, Danish sourdough rye and raisin walnut rolls displayed in baskets and ready for sale.

Manufactured by the Durham, N.C.-based Organic Transit and known as the ELF. the egg-shaped frame, which stands about 5 feet tall and 4 feet wide, is made from aluminum with a body crafted from recycled plastics. The ELF pedals like a bicycle, but features headlights, brake lights, turn signals, a horn and a bell.

A battery sits below the seat, on the roof is a solar panel that can serve to recharge the battery and a continually variable transmission gives her a wide range of gears.

Though just the second time riding in it, Goldman said that pushing the electric assist button, coupled with her pedaling, allows her to ride up to 20 miles per hour on flat surfaces and up to 15 miles per hour going up hill.

Goldman said she began pursuing alternatives because of the difficulty in depending on a bicycle as a her sole means of transportation.

“I’m adamant about not using a car,” Goldman said.

While she has successfully gotten to the Amherst market the past two seasons, she also sets up at the Thursday market in South Hadley, where she has often been forced to borrow a vehicle to get her product to and from customers.

Though she is capable of riding bicycles long distances, and observed that she’s used the trailer to move furniture and a large mixer weighing 400 pounds, Goldman said she didn’t want to keep doing this.

“I’ve been looking around for an easier and more effective way of traveling without having to use an internal combustion engine,” Goldman said. “I was also looking for something that would protect me better and protect the food better.”

While friends suggested a recumbent bike with a shell, she knew that would be challenging because she is always hauling a lot of weight.

That’s when she found the start-up company Organic Transit building ELFS suited for urban and semi-urban areas for commuting and grocery shopping.

She pledged $4,000, assuring herself an initial model, and the campaign, which was seeking $100,000 through the online Kickstarter fundraising site, ended with $227,000.

Organic Transit’s website states the ELF is more visible to drivers on the road, protects its riders from elements and people inside can stay fresh, using the electric assist rather than vigorously pedaling.

They “are the perfect solution for people who want to get out of their cars but need or want more than a traditional bike can offer.”

Goldman said because the ELF has no suspension, and uses tires thinner than her mountain bike, she will be careful about going over potholes and rough roads.

“I’ll have to ride it differently from the way I ride a bicycle,” Goldman said.

Besides the markets, she will use the ELF to make deliveries to Portabella Catering on College Street Thursdays and to Enterprise Farm CSA in Whately Saturdays.

On that Saturday ride, some 13 miles to the Franklin County town, she is usually accompanied by her friend Jonathan Weiss, who isn’t sure he will try to keep up with her.

“Now it’s not a fair fight,” Weiss said.

Weiss said he knew right from when Goldman got the ELF that she had found a perfect vehicle.

“I was going 12 to 14 miles per hour and she went right by,” Weiss said.

Goldman said she also sells her bread at the winter market, but isn’t sure she will be able to use the ELF during that season.

Two additional ELFs were delivered in the area this week, including to residents in Greenfield and Northfield.

The selfishness, not to mention the hypocrisy, of some individuals is beyond belief. Miss Goldman is "adamant" about not using a car. Until she needs to borrow a friend's car. Hypocrisy is a familiar component of the national hate affair with fossil fuel, but Miss Goldman's disregard for drivers, and her willingness to put them and their passengers--think of the children!--at risk by putting her contraption on narrow, twisty roads such as Pelham/Amherst boggles the mind. "Goldman said because the ELF has no suspension, and uses tires thinner than her mountain bike, she will be careful about going over potholes and rough roads. I’ll have to ride it differently from the way I ride a bicycle,” Goldman said." Great. I hope the drive going the legal speed limit is able to stop in time when he rounds a corner to find Miss Goldman and her baguettes swaying down the middle of the road going 15 mph.

What's really beyond belief is some people's ability to turn anything into a source of indignation.

Richard, the short answer is no. Electric assist bicycles (aka eBikes) in the US are classified by the DOT as regular bicycles and subject to the same rules. Not to be confused with motorized bikes (which are throttle powered and don't need to be pedaled), eBikes must be pedaled in order to move forward and provide assist only while the rider is actively pedaling and traveling below 20mph. The purpose of the assist is not to ride faster (you're likely to be passed frequently by the spandexters), but to flatten hills, allow you to arrive at work without being drenched in sweat and so on. Since eBikes are not classified as "motorized vehicles", they are allowed on most bike trails as opposed to motorized bikes which are not.

This is the vehicle for me! Does it require a license or registration?

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