The Strangest Ways to Skirt Traffic this Summer

Aug 08, 2018
Photo by: Jack Reynolds

Cotton candy colored beach cruisers adorned with wicker baskets and bells are on their way to earning “vintage” status. Electric, foldable and shrunken bicycles are rolling to the forefront and storefronts of most LBI bike shops this summer.

Just as iPhones and other tech toys have evolved into miniature, more complex versions of their former selves, so have vehicular toys. This summer, we’ve spotted electric skateboards and stand-up scooter bikes, moving ellipticals and motorized cycles that can traverse the Boulevard as fast as a car can. In honor of these new methods of transportation, here are some of the fastest, strangest ways to get around the Island this summer that don’t involve automobiles and the impossible search for ocean-block parking spots.

Halfbike. “We have one employee who’s learned how to ride it. The rest of us look like absolute clowns,” said Kyle Riegler, an employee at Surf Buggy Bike Shop in Surf City, as he wheeled out an otherworldly contraption to the center of the storeroom.

“Oh my goodness, what is that thing?” asked a patron at the register.

The bicycle is dubbed a “Halfbike,” and for good reason. The seatless, three-wheeled wonder appears to be a cross between a unicycle and scooter. Coming in under 18 pounds, the contraption can be folded for safekeeping and requires impeccable balance.

Folding bike. “We’ve sold a few to college students or people from New York City or Philly,” said Riegler of the black Strida folding bike gleaming from its place on the wall.

The frame resembles a large scalene triangle, with one wheel in the front and one in the back, both so tiny and low that the seat and handles seem ridiculously high. In “under 10 seconds,” or so the Strida website claims, the bike can be folded and unfolded for optimal portability.

Electric folding bike. Similar to the Strida folding bike, just with a little more “oomph,” this cycle’s aluminum frame can be folded and unfolded, an ideal gadget for city dwellers.

“What’s nice is that they can pretty much replace a car down here. They go up to 25 miles per hour,” said Riegler. For every charge, the bike can travel up to 25 miles, which could take a rider from one end of LBI to the other. But speed doesn’t come cheap. The Biria model at Surf Buggy costs around $1,400.

“Everyone’s interested in them. We had a demo last year and everyone wanted to ride it, but we don’t sell them regularly,” said Riegler before suggesting that the price point could be the reason we haven’t seen the Long Beach Island streets flooded with sleek, electric folding bikes.

One-wheeled electric skateboard. Surf Buggy’s next exciting new gadget will be a one-wheeled electric skateboard. A large, singular wheel protrudes through the center of the board and the feet go on either side of it, forcing the rider to stand as a snowboarder would. These sidewalk snowboards can reach up to 20 mph and, like the Halfbike, require a fair amount of core strength.

“We’re really excited to get them in and see what they’re all about,” said Riegler. “We think it will be cool.” The shop will have two boards for sale and one for demonstrations.

Amish scooter. Walters Bicycles in Ship Bottom stocks Amish-made scooters, which in their oddity have the appearance of a seatless bicycle. Instead, they have scooter-like bottoms between two bike wheels. Patrice Albanese of Walters Bicycles said that locally, they serve as a safe alternative for children with poor balance.

Pedego electric bike. Albanese pointed next toward what appeared to be a tan-seated, bulky beach cruiser. A closer look revealed that the vehicle was an electric Pedego bike, just barely masked by the nostalgia of its classic frame. Oozing comfort and functionality, the model is less intimidating than some of its motorized relatives.

“You can go up to 20 miles per hour. You pedal, or not,” said Albanese, who has one of her own.

Trail Tracker. Displayed just outside of Walters Bicycles was a hefty, all black Pedego Trail Tracker. With 4-inch-wide tires, the tracker can roll through sand, mud and snow. This is the bike belonging to Tom Walters, the owner of the shop.

“The fat-tire ones can go up on the beach. From a dead stop it climbs up the hill,” said Walters. “Quite frankly, the powered ones are frowned upon in season. But they’re awesome.”

“I’ve seen this guy rip it before,” said a patron, referring to Walters.

Walters, who takes his Trail Tracker to Florida in the winters, said the Pedego bikes are great for traffic-bogged roads. Riders can get around faster on two wheels than they would be able to in a car. Perhaps Pedego products are just what LBI summer traffic needs.

“It’s a growing industry. Electric bikes are huge,” said Walters.

ElliptiGO. Acme Beach and Bike, of Beach Haven Gardens, carries an exercise-transportation hybrid: the ElliptiGO. Riders can get a full-body workout while en route to their destination. This “elliptical cycling” method of transportation lets riders stand upright, pumping forward and backward as they would on a stationary elliptical machine. The only difference is that the pumping powers the small front wheel and back wheels, propelling the bike onward.

These are just a sampling of LBI’s many strange, vehicular options. Though rare still, motorized and miniature cycles, scooters and skateboards could be on their way to becoming sidewalk staples.

— Sarah Hodgson

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