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Oct
05
Think Twice before Buying an E-Bike ?


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Everyone has seen the plethora of articles or videos that proclaim along the lines of "Top 10 Reasons" to buy an e-bike.



As an owner of a shop that only sells e-bikes, obviously I can rattle off a litany of reasons to buy one, just like many of these positive soundign articles touting all the great reasons to buy. I could ratle off some of the dozens of great stories I hear from customers about how happy it makes them, how it saved their knees, or even how they can get around much better to satisfy basic living needs (i.e. commute to work). Reasons for buying an e-bike can be important and could vary: they can no longer drive a car, or perhaps don't have access to public transportation. And you probably know someone who has shared similar circumstances. Not every transportation solution can involve the good ole 'car.'



There are however two sides to every coin, and so in this article I am actually going to highlight some reasons why an ebike might not be for you. I've put the reasons in a list of 5 bullet points why considering an ebike could be a not-so-good decision for you and your situation.


So here goes:


1. You want the ebike for commuting: This is becoming more popular as ebike awareness is growing fairly quickly now, but keep in mind commuting with an ebike is an entirely different experience, especially if you have not been commuting before with a regular bike, for instance because you thought that was too hard or strenuous, or didn't want to 'sweat' before work. The biggest problem today on our nation's roads is distracted driving in cars. There are more people texting and doing other things while driving than ever, and these THINGS have no relation to SAFE driving.


Despite the laws restricting cell phone use, all signs are that driver's keep getting more distracted. So now stating the obvious, bikes and ebike riders are still not that common on most roads. You as a bike rider or ebike rider are generally the LAST thing drivers of cars are looking out for (unfortunately.) On an ebike you are not only a moving target that might not be seen, but you are probably going to be emboldened to take roads that you really should not be on, because now suddenly you can go faster or ride new roads you would not have considered with a regular bike.


It only takes a second or two, for a distracted driver to look at his or her texts, and swerve enough to take you out. It may be fatal. Let's face the inconvenient facts - America's roads are built for cars and trucks, not bikes or ebikes. SOOOO, if you haven't been commuting at all on a regular bike, THINK TWICE before attempting this endeavor with an ebike. Just because an ebike offers more power, more speed, more assist, does not mean its going to be any safer or more capable for roads with cars on them, than a regular bike would have been. If you really want to do this, then please consider staying totally off heavily traveled roads, and look hard at seeing if actual bike trails can get you mostly to your commute destination. Or consider mapping out pathways that are on very wide 2 lane back roads or suburban streets that are wider than average, if if the route is not as direct as you would like, or even if it makes your trip twice as long geographically.


Do all of this, and more investigating, BEFORE you consider a commute using an ebike.



2. You want the e-bike for exercise due to a physical ailment - as each of you have gathered, ebikes have motor assist that can certainly make it easier to pedal the bike, and get up some steep hills. Its an absolutely wonderful innovation - motor assist- as we all age. However, many of us (myself included) have led a much more sendentary lifestyle than generations before us, and so if you haven't been riding a bike for years (which many ebike buyers have as their background before climbing on one), keep in mind that you still need to be flexible and in good shape before attempting to get on an ebike regularly. Yes, the motor can help you, but people tend to over-estimate their own endurance, or even over-estimate their skills at balancing the ebike which is heavier than a normal bike, by about 20 to 40 lbs depending on the model. And you tend to go faster than you would have on a regular bike that doesn't have electric assist.


Be honest with yourself: Are your physical and balance skills and riding capability still what they were back when you were riding a regular bike ? What is your core body strength like ? That is a key for proper balance. Forward motion and pedaling do help a bit, but I still have witnessed people who havent ridden for years, actually falling, and unfortunately they looked as though they let themselves get so out of shape, they probably have zero business being on an ebike UNTIL they get back into shape. Also, your mental acuity and situational awareness may not be what it was 20 or 30 years when you were regularly riding a bike. So do THINK TWICE about this pursuit of an ebike, and again be very honest with yourself. If you do give it a go, maybe to start, take real care in how and where you ride initially, and add in other exercises outside of ebiking, that are designed to strengthen your body core.



3. You want the ebike to keep up with your spouse or significant other: This is always an interesting reason, as spouses who have rarely ridden together due to physical differences, tend to believe an ebike will resolve their speed or endurance issues. Well yes, that certainly is a distinct possibility. But it may be likely that the spouse who is faster and stronger, may have been riding a regular bike very consistently until you joined in with an ebike, and that rider is much more used to the rules of the road, and has become quite savvy at navigating the potential road 'perils' that all cyclists face, while controlling their bike. An ebike does add some new controls, that just dont exist on a regular bike.


Again, please consider that if this is the reason you want an ebike, or 'need' one with the expectation you can now 'keep up' or not 'drag' the other rider back, odds are that other rider just may have a lot more experience than you, and it could take a couple seasons before you can really ride that fast, and do so safely. I am not saying to not buy an ebike here in this situation, but think about the possible outcomes and real differences between each of you. This also applies to considering having other family members get an ebike, and you should take real caution when considering ebikes for people below the age of 18. There are certain laws out there that affect this too, and it may not be legal for kids under 18 to ride an ebike. Also kids who may be able to handle a regular bike, may not be emotionally developed enough or mature enough to safely handle an electric assist bike. Definitely THINK TWICE, and maybe THREE TIMES on this one.



4. Are E-Bikes dangerous ??? - okay this is in part being mentioned due to the VERY mis-leading press that came out of the Simon Cowell 'ebike' incident. This press release got a LOT of people noticing ebikes, but not in a good way, and probably have scared a few people from considering ebikes. (that's not a bad thing... just sayin')


In the wrong hands a regular bike, skateboard, scooter has its risks too, and can be plenty dangerous. That said, and clarifying this story, Simon Cowell WAS NOT RIDING AN "EBIKE." * He was actually riding an E-MOTORCYLE ! The mainstream press did not know the difference. So what's the difference exactly ? Well under the legal definition under federal and state laws, a 2 wheeled bike, or 3 wheeled trike with a motor assisting the rider, cannot be classified as an 'ebike', unless the motor is less than 750 watts. (That's around 1 Horsepower, or one quarter of the power of your average lawn mower.)


Unfortunate Fact: The motorized vehicle Simon Cowell was riding, had a motor that produced 15,000 watts ! (my math says that's 20 times the legal limit) And further, his 'vehicle' could never receive a VIN number, since its not meeting DOT standards, so it could never be registered or licensed as a legal vehicle for use on public roads. Sadder Fact: the company who produced his emotorcycle that he rode, and 'broke his back on' (he was allegedly doing wheelies by the way), has a big bold disclaimer on its website essentially disavowing all liability, and saying their e-motorcycle can only be ridden on private property. Oh, and if you are strong enough to hang on, it can do 0-60 mph in under 2 seconds. DEFINITELY NOT AN EBIKE, FOLKS. Not even remotely close.


Anyway, this topic is certainly ripe to expand upon with its own Blog Post, but very simply and not incidentally, it's the rider that mostly determines the level of safety (or danger) that is involved in riding an ebike if its designed abd built to be LEGAL. So it goes without saying, it's quite often not just the bike or ebike itself that determines level of 'danger.' I doubt you are as ignorant as Simon Cowell was on the e-motorcycle he tried to handle, but please do Think about the 'dangers' carefully before you consider buying an ebike.



5. Buying an ebike because it has a throttle - well this has the potential to be a 'sore topic' of discussion and I won't belabor my own opinion on it, but simply if you have zero intention of ever pedaling, and are buying an ebike mostly for it's throttle feature, which are on many ebikes sold here in the US, maybe what you really ought to be considering is a Moped with no pedals ? Consider that in many countries, throttles are banned entirely. In our own country, more and more park district trails, and national parks, do ban ebikes that have throttles. Yet many of my own customers 'demand' that the ebike have a throttle.


For those of you unaware, most ebikes operate in a pedal assist mode, whereby once you are pedaling, the ebike assists you and the motor helps move the ebike forward. A throttle, which is usually a thumb operated device on the handlebar, will allow the rider to move forward WITHOUT PEDALING. This too can add to the above mentioned question of "Are ebikes dangerous ?" Throttles can have their benefits and I wont mention them here, but a growing number of manufacturers are offering ebikes without throttles, usually on mid drive powered ebikes, since a lot of those same manufacturers are selling into Europe where throttles are banned. Europe is at least 10 years ahead of the US, in terms of ebike adoption and percent of ridership compared to regular bikes, so throttles could ultimately be completely banned or their use severely limited to certain pathways.


In summary, the above is my 'two cents' on the Reasons Why an Ebike just might not be right for you. THINK TWICE is this Blog Post tag line, but it's a like when you perform a craft, like wood working, and the old saying "Measure Twice, Cut once."


It's very important to actually try one before you buy one, whether it's a friends ebike, or being able to rent them, or a test ride here at Mike's E-Bikes, which I strongly encourage. Buying one on-line does not allow you to do any of that, and ebike fit is one of the most important aspects to determining your safety, your comfort, even your riding confidence.



If you decide to pursue this, ask lot's of questions of anyone you know who has one, and also ask the dealers you visit so you get a really good handle on whether an ebike is a fit for you. My customers have ranged from the age of 18 to the age of 88, and many in between. They all say ebikes are a lot of fun, and certainly haven proven to serve a lot of new purposes that regular bikes (i.e. NON-Electric) simply can't as easily provide.



Happy Riding ! (and maybe E-biking)



Regards,


Mike


* Here is a link mentioning the Simon Cowell e-motorcycle incident, and in case you want another reason to THINK TWICE about ebikes, and a sort of quirky story about the 'dark side' of owning one, involving allowing it to take you to places "where you maybe don't belong" ... https://www.thedailybeast.com/the-dark-side-of-e-bikes.


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