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Gear Prudence: Should I buy an electric bike? My current commute is about eight miles and I usually drive. Some days I take Bikeshare to work and then Metro home, but I think if I had the extra boost going uphill, I would bike more days. —Overcoming Hills Motorized
Dear OHM: An electric bike does sound like a potential solution. Most eBikes allow you to pedal normally and engage the motor when you need it, either to maintain a certain speed or to add some extra oomph to your uphill efforts. For the most part, D.C. law treats eBikes like regular bikes (you don’t need a license, you can ride in bike lanes) but they are restricted from riding on all sidewalks and bike paths even when the motor isn’t running.
While an eBike does spare you the hassles of driving, they’re not without their own: They tend to be more expensive than non-motorized equivalents, and you’ll need to be mindful of the battery. Likewise, an engined bike could prove more complicated to repair than a purely mechanical one. A joy of bicycling is the simplicity—get on it and go— and you trade some of this away for the power boost. Nevertheless, eBikes are a perfectly viable choice, and there’s a wide variety of options, so shop around. —GP
Gear Prudence: My office is having its annual cupcake baking contest. I normally commute by bike, but I’m worried that this might lead to a mishap and jeopardize my chances of winning. I’m a really good baker and confident in my flavor profile, but presentation is also a key factor in the judging. Do you have any tips for transporting frosted baked goods by bicycle, or should I just suck it up and get to work a different way that day? —Biking Around Keeping Eats Righted
Dear BAKER: A perfunctory Google search for “cupcake-carrying bike weirdo” tells GP that this concern is fairly common and there are some definite best practices. These concern stability and absorption—ensuring that movement is minimized and road vibrations are mitigated, normally through the use of padding (bubble wrap, packing peanuts, crumpled up pages of Martha Stewart magazines). A specialized cupcake carrier might also be worth the investment depending on the size of your batch and your commitment to being a crazy person who desperately wants to win a workplace cupcake contest.
Going by bike seems doable, but still risky. Instead, just bring the unfrosted cakes to work and sneak away right before judging with your piping bag. Then it’s just a short walk down the hall to victory. —GP