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Inside Iowa State, a newspaper for faculty and staff, is published by the Office of University Relations.

May 28, 2009

Bikers in front of the campanile

Cyclers like the ride

by Diana Pounds

Partway through their week-long test of electric-assisted bikes, ISU employees seem to be enjoying the ride. More than a hundred faculty and staff are tooling around campus and town this week on the bikes, on loan to the university from X-Treme Scooters.

Officials in the Newton firm found out about the university's Live Green initiative and offered the bikes for a week that ends this Friday, said sustainability director Merry Rankin. In return for a lengthy spin on the high-tech bikes, the firm asked that employees ride to and from work. Riders also were free to take the bikes anywhere else they wished to go.

While the scooters resemble a traditional bike, there are differences. They're a bit heavier, with thicker tires. There's a rechargeable battery pack behind the seat and a motorcycle-style throttle on the handlebars. Despite differences, most of the novice riders said the learning curve on the new machines was low.

Among those trying the bikes are:

Venita Currie

Venita Currie, business manager in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences.

Currie rides her own bike to get exercise, but admits that battery-powered assistance is "kind of fun," especially on hills and at street crossings.

Marjorie Smith

Marjorie Smith, secretary in the educational leadership and policy studies department.

Smith, who often makes the 25-minute commute to campus on her bike, found the same trip on the X-Treme quite different, due to an extra assist going uphill or into headwind. Smith prefers more exercise on her commute, but added "it's fun to try something new."

Mike ODonnell

Mike O'Donnell, industrial specialist at the Center for Industrial Research and Service.

O'Donnell likes the bike, particularly the pedal-assist mode for climbing hills and the nice, consistent ride. "You can take a quick bike ride with a leisurely amount of effort," he said.

Curtis Balmer

Curtis Balmer, systems analyst in the Center for Agricultural and Rural Development.

He didn't find much of a learning curve going from his own bike to the scooter. The X-Treme makes it more pleasant to get outside and be active, especially if it's hot and sticky, he said. "You can be as active as you want, or take a break."

Marty Ellenberger

Marty Ellenberger, motion media specialist with IT services.

Ellenberger said he and his spouse really have enjoyed the X-Treme scooter. It's been fun discovering the bike trails, Ellenberger said, adding that his bike commute through Brookside Park takes only a minute longer than driving to campus.

Karen Bolluyt

Karen Bolluyt, program assistant in Agriculture and Life Sciences development.

You can get a workout on the bike, Bolluyt said. "But it also makes a nice work bike, because you don't have to come into the office sweaty and panting."

Live Green!

More information on Iowa State's "Live Green!" initiative is online.


"This is a great summer to be Living Green at Iowa State University! Cy-ride is offering free bus service (for all Ames residents) all summer, X-treme Scooters is offering ISU faculty and staff this weeklong opportunity to try hybrid bicycling for free, and we have a number of dedicated staff, faculty, and students who are already walking and biking the talk."

Merry Rankin, director of sustainability