e bike

E-bikes have become a year-round means of transportation in Aspen.  /  Photo by Craig Turpin

The roundabout is much better experienced via the wooden footbridges spanning its perimeter, and parking in downtown Aspen is more pleasant when it’s free at a bike rack. That’s no secret and is part of what makes the warm-weather months in Aspen so great, when the preferable method of transportation is a bike.

Pedaling to and from work and errands is now becoming a year-round capability, thanks to a growing fleet of winterized e-bikes in town. Tyler Lindsay looks like he’s dressed to go snowboarding when he leaves his home just up valley from Woody Creek, heading to his job at Aspen Skiing Co. headquarters at the Airport Business Center. The commute, mainly using the Rio Grande Trail that passes through his neighborhood, takes him 12 to 15 minutes, he says—just a few minutes longer than it takes to drive. “There’s no reason to go more than 20 miles per hour,” he says, referencing Pitkin County’s speed limit on the trail, which is a major bike thoroughfare in the summer that only recently opened to e-bikes.

In the winter, it’s “really beautiful, very quiet and a wonderful opportunity to center myself before a busy day at work,” says Lindsay, who works in event marketing.

Tim Emling, owner of the Hub of Aspen bike shop, says he has seen interest in winterized e-bikes grow in each of the four years he’s been in business. “We are seeing people really excited for an e-bike they can use in the winter,” he says. “This being Aspen, most are heavy invested in fitness, environmentally conscious and want a solution that doesn’t involve a car.”

Though many in-town residents get around on a standard bike with fat or studded tires—or fat, studded tires, if you really want to be prepared—e-bikes seem to be unlocking the trails for those living a few miles farther out of town, giving an advantage over the snow and cold that might otherwise make the ride untenable.

Earlier in the fall, Emling says his shop had already converted three to four standard fat bikes to e-bikes, and they are installing ski-holder tubes on even more. Lindsay says the fat-tired bike he retrofitted with a center-mounted electric drive kit is effective in as much as six inches of snow. He loves the efficiency, using 50 pounds of steel, plastic and rubber to get around versus 5,000 pounds. It helps keep him in shape and avoid “winter-fitness decline.”

On the occasions he does drive, it can feel like a culture shock. “Every time I get in the car and turn onto Highway 82, it’s scary,” he says. Merging into a lane, his inclination is to wonder why anyone needs to go so fast. “It puts you in fight-or-flight mode—that’s why road rage is a thing,” says Lindsay.

Thankfully, there is very little of that along the Rio Grande Trail.

Curtis Wackerle is the editor of Aspen Daily News. He can be reached at curtis@aspendailynews.com or on Twitter @CurtisWackerle.