MCBC Community Member Spotlight: Phil Mooney, How an E-bike Changed His Commute

Phil Mooney is an active member of the Bay Area cycling community. As a former professional road racer, Phil has ridden roads and trails all over the world. Although no longer racing, he is still an avid cyclist and stays involved in the racing community as the team manager of the men’s Voler Factory Team (formerly known as Marc Pro – Strava and h24cycling) and the women’s Voler Factory Gravel Team. He also serves as a member of the Bicycle and Pedestrian Advisory Committee for the City of San Rafael. Outside of cycling, he enjoys spending time with his wife and two young daughters, and thinking about rocks with his job in the Department of Geology at Sonoma State University.

Can you tell us about your cycling background?

I grew up riding bikes as a kid in Northwest Indiana, but competitive cycling wasn’t an option there at the time. I discovered road racing as a freshman in college, and cycling continued to play a large role in my life when I moved to Davis, CA for graduate school. It all spiraled out of control after that! I discovered the northern CA road racing scene, then the national racing circuit, and then the international racing circuit. Cycling took me to 26 countries and helped forge many of my lifelong friendships.  

What types of bikes do you ride? 

I don’t discriminate. I ride road, gravel, mountain, townie bikes, and e-bikes. 

For e-bikes, I have a Specialized Turbo Creo SL Class 3 e-road bike (pedal assist, no throttle, maximum assist speed of 28mph). I bought a Specialized Turbo Vado this week, and that’s a Class 3 commuter/townie bike. And I have a KTM Macina Class 1 commuter/townie bike (pedal assist, no throttle, max assist of 20mph) with a double trailer attached to the back for grocery shopping and transporting my daughters around town. 

Where are your favorite places to ride in Marin?

Don’t make me choose just one! We are lucky to have so many world-class ride options available to us. During the current shelter in place, I’ve often found myself on the Alpine loop on the road or away from the crowds on my mountain bike on San Geronimo Ridge or Bolinas Ridge. 

Why is a strong rider such as yourself drawn to an e-bike? What are the benefits?

I initially bought the bike to speed up a 35 mile one-way bike commute to work in Sonoma County. I quickly realized the e-road bike was much more than just the 45 minutes it could save me each day. It made me more likely to bike commute in the first place. If I was tired, I could choose to ride but not push the pedals as hard and still get there quickly. It was also darn fun! E-bikes are really a pleasure to ride. On the weekends, I soon found myself grabbing my e-road bike instead of my acoustic road bike. Now I bet I choose the e-road bike 8 out of 10 times I go for a ride. Finally, it expanded the routes I could choose from with my limited time to ride. Now I can bust out an Alpine loop in 90 minutes door to door. 

What would you say to your cycling friends who are skeptical or outright opposed to e-bikes?

Don’t knock it until you try it! I’m fully aware that e-bikes are contentious in some cycling circles, but I really don’t think they should be. When I first got my e-road bike, lots of my friends questioned why a “strong” rider would ever need one. Then they hop on it and it’s all smiles for miles.   

Is there anything different about the way you ride your e-bike versus your acoustic bike?

I do ride my e-road bike differently than my regular bike. The effort is not necessarily easier on the e-bike. In fact, I often pedal it harder than I would an acoustic bike on a similar ride. However, the effort is smoother and more controlled. The electric assist makes it so you never have to really smash it and go anaerobic on the climbs. You keep the effort hard and steady and can make it up nearly any slope. This means you don’t have to back off the pedaling and recover at the top, you just continue pedaling away. 

Do you think there are any challenges with riding e-bikes?

Not with the mechanics of riding the bike. I really think they help lower the barrier for entry for a lot of riders. Riding the e-bike has done wonders for my wife’s confidence on the bike. The lease on her car is up in November, and we’re not going to replace it. We’ll use bikes as a primary form of family transportation instead. There are plenty of challenges with the negative attitudes of some cyclists as well as path and trail access disputes. 

Would you ever consider riding an e-mountain bike?

Oh absolutely! I’m sure there will be an e-mtb in the near future for me. 

Have you had any mis-haps on your e-bike, like running out of juice?

I run out of juice all the time. Fortunately it pedals just like any other bike without the assist. It’s a bit heavier than an acoustic race bike, but hey, I’m a bit heavier than I should be too! It’s no problem at all. 

Do you think a day will come when you get rid of all your non e-bikes?

No, I don’t think that will ever happen for me. I think I’ll always really enjoy pedaling hard and the small amount of “racing” that I do. I also think it’s important to have the right bike to make the most of each riding situation. Sometimes I want an e-road bike to get places quickly. Other times I want a light XC bike to flick around in singletrack. 

Anything else you’d like to share with us?

I’m preaching to the choir here on this MCBC blog, but it’s really important to support your local bike advocacy organizations.

Got a story to share?

Email if we should feature you or someone you know!

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