Two of my passions in life are bicycles and photography and when they come together things tend to get exciting. This is ‘Discover’ an electric bicycle manufactured by Hill Topper Bikes in Seattle. I had the opportunity to spend a few… days riding it and took a few pictures with some friends for this blog post. Just for you photographers this first image is all natural light.
The message from Hill Topper Bikes is clear. They offer a quality American product with service to go along with it. Their goal is to change your behavior by enabling you to exercise more, use your bike to commute or ride further distances, ride across terrain that you would not be able too without the assist, reduce your carbon foot print by using your car less. Help those of you who are a little out of shape, recovering from injury, not as young as you used to be or just new to riding bicycles. As a daily ridder myself and having not owned a car for the past ten years I will say to those of you who cycle regularly and scoff at electric bikes. Try a few first before passing judgment. I have been riding electric bikes for the past 10 years and my daily commuter is a bamboo electric bike. Why would you not want all those people who can not ride for some reason or have not had the opportunity to enjoy all the pleasure and passion that you get out of your cycling to get the same?
I do have a few speed lights in the bottom of my bag that I pull out when the occasion presents itself. I also have an Insta360 camera that I keep in my pocket while riding just for occasions like this. So while I suggest paying attention to your riding while out on a bike and your photography when you need to get off your bike and jump over a fence to get the best composition there are some times when doing both simultaneously is required.
It certainly helps if your riding an electric bike that is in the fully automatic assist mode so you can ride without hands. The power assist is so smooth you hardly notice it kick in. While we are on the subject of attention and being present, (by being present I mean keeping your attention on what you are physically doing) these two passions of cycling and photography serve as good examples why it’s important. Let’s take photography for the first example. If you are on vacation with your family and set out for a half day of sightseeing you have to make a decision before you leave your hotel. Spend the half day with your family and pay attention to them which is what they want and leave your camera in the hotel or take your camera and go take pictures on your own. Some of you may say this is to extreme but next time you try and do both you will feel the stress of being pulled in two directions at once. Your attention is defiantly needed to make good pictures and to be good company. If we use cycling as a second example I often go for a ride just to daydream and let my mind wonder. It’s a healthy thing I don’t do enough of these days. But if I’m out racing or competing with other riders and my attention is not truly focused on what my body is doing I will not perform as well as if it were.
The bike as you see it weighs in at 19.1 kg (42.0 lbs) and I got 60 km (37.5 miles) out of one battery charge. It will offer a throttle control or PAS system when you pedal to engage the motor. There are four different speed modes that you can select to tell the motor what maximum speed you wish to ride at. It is very smooth and powerful. As you see in the video above I was riding together with my Italian friend who was on a Specialized road bike. This e-bike enables too very different riders to ride together and get the amount of exercise and fun that they both want. I was able to keep up with the road bike with the electric system switched off but with considerabley more effort on my part. There is negligible additional resistance to the rider of the Discovery with the electric system switched off.
Hill Topper Bikes offers several other full e-bikes as well as their original Hill Topper electric bike conversion kit which also has several different battery and motor options. The best part of this story is that Dakota Lithium batteries is another brand of Clean Republic which owns Hill Topper Bikes. One company making e-bikes and batteries which are the most important part of them.
All my friends had huge smiles on their faces while riding this bike. I had to calm them down to take a few serious shots for this post. So let’s talk about taking pictures of bicycles while riding around town. It was a warm sunny day with hard light which I like. I took my Sony A7RII with a Sony 85mm f1.4 G lens and one Jimbi 600w mono light. No modifiers on the light. I just fired away using High Speed Sync to get shots with a wide open aperture and shutter speeds around 1/8000. I mentioned before that the first picture in this post is a composite using only natural window light. The second black and white picture in the post was taken in my living room using this same mono light but with a strip grid on it. I also used a 24mm lens. A fun morning with one e-bike, one camera and one light. The best ideas are often simple.
Hill Topper Bikes have come a long way in full e-bike development from their original conversion kit which they still sell. I should also mention that they plan to offer different versions. One with a derailleur and one with and internal gear hub and a ‘Gates’ carbon belt drive.
Discover is designed and classified as a road/trail bike which will give it a unique advantage of being the only US made e-bike which is optimized for both ‘on’ and ‘off’ road use.
Hill Topper Bikes say this ‘Discover’ model will be available for purchase from their website later this year. Because they are an American manufacturer selling directly to you the customer with no ‘middle man’ they can offer you products like this one at a very competitive price.
For a gallery of ‘Discover’ images click this link. For technical details click on the image below.