ebikes

7 Reasons Analog Cyclists Should Embrace Ebikes

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By Chris Carmichael
CEO and Head Coach of CTS

Recently, while riding a lightweight Pinarello F10 on the 10-mile commute between my home and office, a middle-aged man in work boots and overalls blew by me like I was standing still, and it brought a big smile to my face. Like many of you, I’m a diehard analog cyclist, but it’s time for all of us to embrace ebikes.

There is no downside to getting more people outside on two wheels. None. It’s good for the new people riding, good for the environment, good for a struggling cycling industry, and yes, it’s even good for devoted cyclists like you and me.

Ebikes eliminates fear of hills

In my experience, hills are second only to safety concerns as the most intimidating factor that keeps people off bikes. You and I may seek out hills for training and enjoyment, but most people get tired just looking at them. An ebike eliminates the fear of not being able to make it to the top. Put another way, an ebike expands the range and routes people consider rideable, which increases the likelihood they’ll choose the bike for recreation or transportation.

Ebikes make commuting more realistic

A lot of people like the idea of riding a bike to work, until they show up to a meeting in sweaty work clothes. Ebikes eliminate, or at least minimize, that concern. In my travels I’ve seen people in business suits and painters’ overalls riding ebikes, and everyone in between. In some places, commuting by bike can be as fast or faster than driving, but up until recently that was only true for reasonably fit cyclists. Ebikes enable people who are not – and may never be – very fit to achieve financial and time savings that make bike commuting a reasonable option.

Ebikes are still exercise

There might be a small percentage of people who start riding a pedal-assist ebike and transition into traditional road cycling or mountain biking, but the bigger potential benefit is the public health impact of simply getting more people to be more active than they are now. Plus, they provide a great draft for you and me.

Ebikes might save your local bike shop

Local bike shops are struggling to adapt to a changing marketplace and flat to diminishing demand. Ebike sales are one of the few bright spots in the industry. According to market research firm NPD, US road bike sales declined 12% in 2017 compared to 2016 and mountain bike sales grew 3%. Ebike sales made up a much smaller portion of the market ($77M vs $557M for mountain bikes and $413M for road bikes), but ebike sales increased 91% compared to 2016. Trade publication Bike Europe estimated sales growth of 21% across Western Europe, a more mature market for ebikes compared to the US. Purists may not like to see ebikes lined up on the shop floor next to carbon race bikes, but selling – and particularly servicing – ebikes could help stem the steady decline in the number of specialty bike shops in the US since 2000.

Ebikes increase visibility of all bikes

More people on bikes make cyclists less of an anomaly for drivers and pedestrians. Although research on the theory of “safety in numbers” is not conclusive, habituating motorists and pedestrians to expect the presence of cyclists may reduce the risk of collisions. Even more than the potential for safety in numbers, increased visibility normalizes cycling as a means of transportation and recreation. Perhaps the less we are seen as outliers the more we will be included in conversations about city planning and cycling-related legislation.

Ebikes make cycling infrastructure a priority for more people

It is hard to get people behind spending public money for cycling infrastructure when they have little to no personal connection to it. People tend to prioritize issues and expenditures they benefit from directly. While the ‘build it and they will come’ model of increasing ridership by first improving cycling infrastructure has proven effective, more people on ebikes is a way to apply positive pressure and influence on the demand side of the equation.

You might need one

As much as I love being the only motor on my bike, I’m not getting any younger and there may come a time when I – or you – need or want the assistance of an electric motor. Like many of you, cycling is an integral part of my life and I want to ride for as many years as I can. If years from now an ebike enables me to spend more time pedaling outside on two wheels, I’ll gladly trade my F10 for a Pinarello Nytro.


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Comments 46

  1. The only people I personally know riding ebikes are non-cyclists. So non-cyclists are saving the industry? Great for business, bad for the sport. Out on the road (or trail) ebikes are not helping me as a cyclist. They are competing for access and muscling by me like I’m standing still. I see no reason why I should be happy to share the bike lanes with a much faster and heavier machine. And I certainly would not wish to ride with ebikes in the group…totally different mindset. Will we be stopping to recharge these bikes on long rides?
    As I approach 60yrs, I ride slower and have no problem with that. When I get to the point where I don’t want to ride a real bike anymore, I’ll find an electric motorcycle, which has the E-bike beat in terms of range and safety and fun.

    1. I agree. EBikes are just another way to sell to non cyclists who really desire a Vaspa or Scooter of some kind. But with ebike they think they can ride all the same places. And No ebikes are not taking the Nederland’s by storm! I saw only single speeds there. I spoke to many people who commute. That do it for their health and to not drive to work. But as an exercise physiologist I can tell anyone that your are not going to get the real workout with your natural VTwins, your quads and legs and heart and lungs as your power. You will never get totally fit on anything motorized. Too heavy as well. Motorized bikes are nothing new. Then they graduated to Harley’s and Etc. The same will happen with ebikes. They will become Electric motorcycles and scooters etc. they are not going to save the true cycling industry. True cyclists will take that on as they always have had to fight the lazy man’s way of thinking they are fit. Look
      there is nothing more irritating then to have someone totally out of shape
      laughing with attitude as they sit passing you on a hill and you are standing in the drops and sweating your ass off only to have a fat and totally out of shape person and with an attitude pass you with their chest out like they are Greg Lemond!🤣 In fact I told a guy, look if you can take on the west side of 228th in Bothell and wipe me out, with Just your legs and your supreme fitness do it! He tried. I let him ride my bike! He couldn’t even ride 1 tenth of it! So if you are thinking an EBike is going to turn you into a Tour De France winner, ah you better think again. It’s called physics and exercise and hard ass training. A whole different ball game. The minute they start letting
      Motorized cycles do the Ram Rod around Mt Rainer, well, better bag that as a true cycling event. Same with the STP. Which I don’t do anymore because of too many wildebeest. Hmmm.., Electric cycles which will eventually become eMotorcycles and scooters why bother when it has been tried years ago with the combustion engine and became a motorcycle from a powered bike. So there ya go. Everything old is new again. Now go out and by yourself a useless $100k Raptor while your at it to haul your ebike. You know a 4×4 defines you and all you do recreationally doesn’t it?🤣 Go ahead and waste your millions on bs consumerism. I’ll stick with being old school! Steel and Is real! Tailwinds Foever-Greg Lemond.

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  3. For all the fussing about “ebikers makin’ me mad!”, I would rather have a crappy interaction with an eBiker than a crappy interaction with a driver. Much less life threatening. And please don’t even get into the whole “hurf durf ebikers can kill TOO!!!”. That’s a lame strawman argument.

  4. Chris Carmicheal,
    Thank you for speaking out.

    Your career accomplishments in Pro Racing and Training of Pro Cyclist from around the world, who are on top of their game in World Competitive Cycling is both admirable and astonishing at the same time. Few people are able to sustain such a pinnacle vocation.

    We have known each other for about 6 years now. Never did I ever imagine meeting you in person. That day happened during the Tour de Cure Executive Ride held at my Bike Shop, “Stans Bike Shop” when it was in Monrovia (We have moved to Azusa –Just 5 miles east of our previous location).

    We connected and I knew that you completely understood the struggle of ordinary people getting on Bicycles. You demonstrated that passion for Cycling in general when you flew in to join the Eastside Bike Club -on one of our community Summer Night Bike Rides through the communities of El Sereno, Hazard, Lincoln Heights in Northeast Los Angeles, where we hundreds of disadvantage children come out to ride.

    You are a tremendous Cycling Ambassador for the world to embrace.
    Thank you for taking a lead in speaking out on behalf of ordinary people.

    Carlos Morales
    Stans Bike Shop

  5. Thanks for putting this discussion out there! I’ve got 30 miles of bike commuting under my legs most days. When I get home, I still don’t want to use the car, but I’m a little beat from the commute. Now with my e-bike, I can cruise around running errands not taxing my body and saving my powder for weekends filled with gravel riding. I definitely have mixed feelings about them offroad, but when I see older people or injured people at the top of a big climb on their ebikes, I’ve got to respect their desire to be there.

    Craig
    The Gravel Ride Podcast
    Bike Index

  6. Pingback: Carmichael e-bike blog post generates plenty of debate | Bike Repair WorldBike Repair World

  7. too bad you left preach’n and went to meddling. E bikes are for the city, countryside and roadways but on the mountain biking trails? still considered a motorized vehicle.

  8. Years ago, I read an interview with Gary “the father of mountain biking” Fisher, in which he was asked how America could get more bike paths. His reply was that we already have enough of them, but “the problem is, there’s cars all over them right now.” I feel like e-bikes will be the way Gary’s vision will eventually be realized; I live in a small community where most residents’ drives are less than ten miles, frequently less than five, and if more people had e-bikes there would be a lot fewer cars on the road… and people would be fitter, and they’d probably be happier, and the air would be cleaner, and… and… and.

  9. As a first-responder to local mountain roads & trails as well as a physician to several cycling teams, I have yet to see any eBike injuries. Speaking with the assistant GM of our local open space district (an eBike commuter) there have been no reports of conflicts/mishaps specific to eBike use on local (currently prohibited, but frequently eBiked) trails. I am hoping that I can help him change local trail use policy. As a competitive MTB/cross/road racer over 60, I look forward to the evolution of eBikes as I age (In just 2 years the range on my Turbo Levo Expert has been increased by 40%). I am hoping that like computers, the technology will advance as the price goes down (Even with a “pro” discount, I paid as much for my eBike as a new BMW G310GS motorcycle).

  10. As a community of e-bike enthusiasts we need to inform and educate regulatory bodies that are still suspicious of e-bikes (most likely because they haven’t ridden them).
    For instance, the U.S. forest service still relies on a March 2016 directive that classifies e-bikes a motorized vehicles and therefore bands them from trails where otherwise analog bikes are allowed. My wife, an avid analog rider, and I cannot go together on these trails, which is a pity here in Colorado.
    This reluctance to embrace new technologies reminds me of when metal racquets were first introduced in tennis. They were banned from tournaments. Look where we are today…

  11. Two years ago, my wife used an EBike on a VBT tour thru Germany, Austria and the Czech Republic for our 25th wedding anniversary, and she fell in love with riding. After we returned, we bought her one (a Breezer with the Shimano STEPS system) and now we ride together all the time. I am a Masters 60-64 racer and she has no problem keeping pace with me. These Ebikes are great, count me as one who fully supports these as legitimate bikes.

  12. Could not agree more! Great article. We need to be doing more to make cycling more inclusive for all. Here are a few examples of my own experience with the ebike

    Broke my femur in late November last year. Right before our busy season ( I have a cycling tour bison in Mexico). The e-bike not only was a great option to help me recover, it allowed me to work as a guide well before i could have on my road bike. Believe it or not, if you are riding with fast people and climbing is involved, you are still working hard. It’s just letting you keep up.

    I have a 75 year old guide who also uses one to be able to guide the younger or faster groups.

    Was on a VeloGuide ride in Calgary a few weeks ago here a 74 year old guest was able to participate in a tour because of the e-bike.

    I’ve been traveling on business lately and discovered Lime bikes. Now they are slow and clunky but they are pedal assist. Great option for inner city movement so you don’t have to show up to a meeting all full of sweat and other benefit is one less car.

    I’m off to CDMX Monday and riding to 3100 meters with Jasper Verkuijl and a local VeloGuide. I’m still a bit out of shape so I might just take that ebike for a spin 😉

    I think the purists need to chill.

  13. I love my Ebike. It is one of my favorite of my 15 bicycles. I use it to commute, train and just ride around and I have a lot of fun. It is a huge resource for saving gas, keeping motivation up and staying active. I use it on easy spin days and can go up behind my house, climb 3000 feet and come down and still have an easy ride. I can use it for trails and Not have to shuttle.I go pick up the mail on my E bike instead of driving. Because it is fun. In fact, I can probably go faster on my road or cross bike then this bike As there is no assist over 20 mph and due to the weight in my lower weight, it is difficult for me to ride it very fast without assist. Even though I usually ride at least 10 hours a week, I have been actually riding more hours with my E bike. I do not think it is let people believe it to be especially people who have not tried one out. I feel that it will be revolutionary to our culture, eventually if allowed to be.

  14. I know there are already tons of responds to this topics. I have been following CTS for years. Never thought I would see the day ebikes would be a topic. This topic should be in the same place as mobility scooters. I may one day need one and that’s where ebikes fit. Add it to the best reviews for mobility and keep it separated from bicycles….

    https://m.bestreviews.com/best-mobility-scooters

  15. Totally agree. Thanks for writing this piece. I have seven mechanical bikes and love riding all of them. I purchased an E-bike this year as a car replacement for commuting. It is as fast as driving, and way more fun as well as exercise (compared to car commuting). I wear work clothes and shoes, allowing me to immediately begin working when I arrive. E-bikes are not only for people trying to regain fitness and lose weight but also for avid riders trying to reduce the number of cars on the road. Did I mention that they are a lot of fun to ride too?

  16. I like what Ken Kilmurray said:
    “I’m with Chris. I’d rather see folks on e-bikes than cars and the more bike advocates out there, the better for all of us. I’ll probably never ride one…”
    I can see the conflict with riders in “bike only” lanes since they are motorized vehicles though. Have to work on that one but I like to see more folks on two wheels than in four wheels.

    1. Is this the CUNA Mike? I agree completely that ebikes will help the industry and be good overall. After all, the number of bikes we need wil always be n+1. I am not getting any younger.

    2. I think a lot will depend on the size and speed of the ebike. There are ones that look like a Vespa and go about that fast. On narrow paths like one here in Montreal on the Jacques Cartier bridge they are too big.

  17. You’ve hit all of the major points, the positive effects and looking to the future.
    Someone else commented on the safety aspect and this point is important; that people who don’t know how to actually ride a bike are nicely going uphill with their spouse, Then comes the downhill.
    We know that’s where skill, balance, position, where you place yourself around others and speed all come into play.
    I’d rather not have one near me when I’m descending.
    I agree that once something is motorized, speed over 25kph, riders need a process of making sure they can control their vehicle.

  18. On the positive side, I got my 81 year old dad a trek 29er ebike. He now rides everyday and we can ride together on my Cervelo and he is so happy to hang with his kid for a good 20 mile ride. It’s been transformational for him. The bad side, we take lots of pride here in Phoenix with strava segments and the ebikers are steeling them all over. Given the choice, seeing my Dad’s fitness dramatically increase with his new bike is worth the strava headache.

  19. I’m with Chris. I’d rather see folks on e-bikes than cars and the more bike advocates out there, the better for all of us. I’ll probably never ride one but would like one for my wife so we can ride together. If I can draft her, even better.

  20. Chris you are dead wrong on this one. Ebikes are another indication of the softening of society. There is no such thing as “too hard” or “too far”. Yes I’m getting older too, and my “errand bike” is the same bike I raced as a junior (531 frame, dt friction shifters etc) but with clinchers Yes I live in the north, but snow/ice/cold aren’t barriers any more than moving it under my own power

    1. I am all for E-Bikes. There might come a day when medical issues preclude you from riding
      without assistance. Same concept for wheelchairs, crutches, and all forms of assistive devices for the disabled. Staying active with your disability is the key.

    2. Hmm. Stage 4 BC with Metastasis to my lung lining. Hills were a killer for me with my diagnosis. My new Ebike has me riding 28 miles at a clip up and down rolling hills here in Northern MI. I’m a mere 56, happy, riding and thriving. Go pound salt.

    3. Funny how some factions of American cycling took a left turn back in the ’70’s and cycling became only about the road racing sport, and not part of a lifestyle. Glad to see that overly macho position “softening”, as more people in the U.S. embrace the many aspects of cycling.

  21. E-bikes are motorized vehicles and therefore cannot legally go where bikes go and cannot legally ride in bike lanes. Nuff said

    1. Roger, check this out–E-Bikes are NOT motorized vehicles per federal law!

      What is an E-Bike?

      The first step in selecting an E-Bike is to learn the legal definition.  Per federal law (U.S. Public Law 107-319 in 2002; 15 USC 2085, SEC. 38. (b)), “For the purpose of this section, the term ‘low-speed electric bicycle’ means a two- or three-wheeled vehicle with fully operable pedals and an electric motor of less than 750 watts (1 h.p.), whose maximum speed on a paved level surface, when powered solely by such a motor while ridden by an operator who weighs 170 pounds, is less than 20 mph.” In the words of PeopleForBikes’ Morgan Lommele, it is a “Bike with a Boost”.  E-Bikes are regulated by the Consumer Products Safety Commission (CPSC) as consumer products.  More specifically, they are subject to the same regulations that govern conventional, human-powered bicycles – NOT motor vehicles, which are regulated by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).

      This is where things can get confusing.  Federal law DOES NOT preempt any state traffic laws or vehicle codes that regulate use of E-Bikes.  While some states regulate them as “bicycles,” others do so as “mopeds” or other types of vehicles.  To alleviate this confusion, and with the goal of establishing a nationally recognized, standardized definition, the Bicycle Product Suppliers Association (BPSA) and PeopleForBikes refined the federal definition as follows: “An electric bicycle is a bicycle equipped with fully operable pedals and an electric motor of less than 750 watts.”  Within their Model Electric Bike Law General Rules, they created the following class system:

      Class 1:  an electric bicycle equipped with a motor that provides assistance only when the rider is pedaling, to a maximum of 20 miles per hour.  This (and Class 3) is commonly known as a pedelec (derived from pedal electric cycle). 

      Class 2:  an electric bicycle equipped with a motor that may be used exclusively to propel the bicycle, to a maximum of 20 miles per hour.  This is typically an E-Bike with a throttle. 

      Class 3:  an electric bicycle equipped with a motor that provides assistance only when the rider is pedaling, to a maximum of 28 miles per hour. 

      A current list of E-Bike laws, including a list of states which have adopted the model legislation, is maintained by PeopleForBikes.

  22. I am on the fence on this one as I have had mixed interactions with “E” bikes. While I agree that more road users on bikes is good thing for the reasons cited it appears that many “E” bike users are not very good at respecting other road users. Mostly this is in reference to the “E” bikes that appear to be small motor-scooters or even looking like a motorcycle. Both my wife and I have close encounters with these buzzing by unexpectedly on cycle tracks and cycle trails. I have also witnessed frequently users disobeying road user rules like stop sign, stop lights, failing to signal etc.
    Of course I have seen cyclist do the same.

    There is a clear difference between these type of “E” bikes and the type I think you are referring to which are very similar to bicycles in appearance and are pedal assist. However motorists and other road users will invariably lump these all into the same category.

    1. I quite agree. A world of difference in rider behaviour between those on pedal-assist and those that incorporate a throttle and both groups will be lumped in with the generic ‘cyclist’.

    1. Hi Ed!

      They do! Team Big Bear Series, Boogaloo eMTB Series, Sea Otter Classic, and here now for the 1st time–UCI World eMTB Champions! Crazy good!

      1. Thank Clint! I am behind the times on classifications. I might have to run out an get an EBike to complete an event that might be too tough without one.

        1. Hi Ed!

          Some events will let you demo one in a Class 1 eMTB race–first come, first serve. Depends on event and eMTB sponsors…

  23. Many of my riding buddies scoff at them, but they are great to draft! And as with you, I’m not getting any younger. Hopefully by the time I concede, the Pinarello will be a little more affordable.

    1. Great for drafting (especially into a head wind). Great for training too ‘set me up on 25kph Hugh’ and keep it steady. Perfect 🙂

  24. Thank you for this article Chris! It was needed and very timely!

    You’re SO right about what e-Bikes can do and how they are saving the bicycling industry! They do REMOVE the “Too” Barriers: Too hard, too far, too hilly, too sweaty, etc.

    With ALL the advantages, there are disadvantages and other things to consider, including: cost, weight, laws governing, maintenance, warranty, etc. Of course my passion is education and training for persons who choose to ride/drive an e-Bike and are NOT used to the higher speeds–especially on a Class 3 or Speed Pedelec; 28 mph assisted–and the ADDITIONAL understanding of the traffic envirnoment and additional skills needed for riding faster on a heavier bike (e-Bike).

    Through CyclingSavvy presentations and my law enforcement presntations/trainings here in SoCal and nationally, we ARE getting the word out on e-Bikes and their safe, legal, relevant, respectful, and FUN use!

    I would love to discuss this further with you Chris and CTS!

    Clint Sandusky
    Former longtime CTS athlete
    Retired LEO
    CA POST Bike Patrol Instructor
    E-Bike Educator & Presenter

  25. There are too many implications to count when it comes to ebikes, but one by one they continue to become positive. Raising awareness, getting new people on bikes, improving infrastructure and local economies.

    After recently doing a bike tour around Havana Cuba where a majority of people commute by bicycle, it’s impressive how riding in an insanely busy city can feel safer when the cyclists are in the majority.

  26. Yep. Borrowed one when recovering from knee injury which meant easy pedalling was good but wasn’t allowed to push hard. E-bike allowed me to do that (as did indoor trainer) AND get around when driving (manual transmission) was also out. Even went to physio on W-bike and could gradually reduce assistance as knee recovered.
    Back on my road bike now but seriously considering getting one to replace the car so road bike is for sport and e-bike for getting around.
    Son was pinching it to get to music practice with his big instrument on his back too – not really possible on his normal bike…

  27. The only people that should be embracing the e-bikes are doctor’s and lawyers
    that are going to make a fortune off them from the injuries and death that they
    will cause.

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