Last modified: Thursday, August 01, 2013

AMHERST — Bringing homemade sourdough bread from Pelham Road to the Wednesday Market at Kendrick Park in Amherst used to pose challenges for Dorie Goldman.

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.


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