Q&A with Tif Sippel

Tif Sippel
Guest post by Brett Thurber


A personal trainer by trade, Tif Sippel may not fit many peoples’ preconception of an e-bike rider. (Even less so, once you discover that she’s well on her way to becoming a firefighter.) But the 36-year-old does indeed ride a Faraday Porteur S, commuting from the Inner Richmond all over town for work and school. In fact, although she grew up in Illinois and Texas, and spent some time living in New York City, “it wasn’t till I moved to San Francisco that I found riding a bike to be the best way to get around.”

Brett: Lots of people would say, “San Francisco? Look at the hills!” Did you start out riding a regular bike?
Tif: When I first moved here, nine years ago, I borrowed a friend’s mountain bike and then I received a bike for my birthday — it had a three-speed internal hub and a steel frame. I didn’t know any better, so I was hauling ass around the city on this huge bike.

How did you end up switching to a pedal-assist bike?
I had purchased a scooter because riding to and from work on a standard bike while also trying to get workouts in was really exhausting. Having a heavy bag was also part of the problem. I leave the Inner Richmond at 5:30 in the morning and I’m not home till 7:00 at night. So I have to pack a lunch, I have to pack schoolbooks and sometimes the computer. The scooter was a great way to get around the city, but I still had to deal with parking permits and insurance. So I looked into electric bikes and then I stumbled upon The New Wheel’s website.

I think people who don’t know anything about pedal-assist bikes assume that if you ride an e-bike, you’re just not working.
It’s almost like the opposite happened. I got more fit having this bike. It’s about having more energy to do more things. I have one client, a person who bikes, who was just like, “Oh, you’re selling out.” No, girlfriend — I’m actually creating more diversity for my body because I’m not just doing this all day every day. That’s what I preach, movement diversity, which is exactly what this bike represents for me. Now I have the time, energy and space to do other active things that I like to do, like CrossFit or go to a dance class. It even gives more energy for my clients.

How do you choose your routes?
If it’s a route I haven’t done before, I use Google Maps — they have bike maps. What’s cool about having this bike is that sometimes I’ll challenge Google Maps. I’ll be like, “No, I’m actually going to take that hill that you don’t want me to take. I appreciate it, Google Maps, but I’m going to go up that huge 17th Street hill.”

Do you stick to the bike lanes or do you feel comfortable taking the full lane when necessary?
I tend to ride in the bike lane. When I don’t, I try to be really conscious about being a friendly rider and being fair. I’m tired of cars hating on bikes so hard, so I make an extra effort to make sure I’m not running a stop sign if there’s a car there. Actually, the electric bike helps me with that because it’s not so much of an effort.

If you could go for a bike ride with anyone, who would it be?
Two people. One is pertinent to now and one is always. Pertinent to now is the chief of the San Francisco Fire Department.

I just want to know about her life. I want to know about how she got to where she is, and what things were like for her. And then the other one would be Oprah. I mean, me and Oprah, climbing hills.

Does she ride bikes?
I don’t think she does. We could get her on an electric one.

Speaking of fighting fires, you’ll have a lot of gear to deal with, won’t you? Can you carry it on the Faraday?
That’s what I’ve been thinking about. I’ll have to call a car or something. The suit itself is 40 pounds — jacket and pants — and then I have boots and a hat and the stuff that goes under the suit, so it’s probably like 60 pounds in all.

You just need to get an electric cargo bike!
Oh, my God, that’s awesome—I could put a Dalmatian in the back!

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