The folly of the E-bike

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I’ve been interested in e-bikes since their introduction. Here is something which someone could buy and use to get around on without needing insurance or licensing; these represented freedom. However, as I was soon to discover, this freedom is so restrained, it’s practically worthless.

I’m in the market for a new bike. My existing Raleigh Tarantula is now 23 years old. I’ve rebuilt the entire bike twice. It has served me well, but now I’d like something that would make the 10 kilometer commute back and forth to work easier and quicker. When I went to the local bike shop, they had a promotion where if I test rode an e-Bike, I could scratch a ticket and win a prize. How could I resist? I went for the best they had; a Trek Super Commuter+ 7. If I had to ride an eBike, this one is the best looking one of the bunch.

I’m not going to waste your time; there’s different settings for levels of assist, but suffice it to say that the electric assist helps you get up to 20 MPH (32 km/h), and that’s it. I found it nearly impossible to push this bike past that point. I don’t know if it was the weight of the bike, or if it was in some sort of “Regeneration” mode, but it really felt as though I hit a wall at 20 MPH, even when riding downhill. This was from a bike that was priced at $5,299.99.

My next test ride was on a Trek FX-3, priced significantly less at $939.99. The only barrier I felt on this bike was my own abilities; I easily got this bike up to 20 MPH and past. When I hit my limit, I felt as though that limit was dictated by the laws of gravity and the resistance of the wind against my body. When I hit my limit on this bike, that was the point when I would have liked an electric assist to act like a tail wind and help me maintain a 40 km/h (25 MPH) speed, as that is the natural limit I feel is the point at which the wind resistance is too great and I remain well within the limits of the brakes and wheel balance of the machine I am riding.

As it turns out, I am not alone in this. Many states have set the speed limit of e-bikes at 30 MPH, which is in around 48 km/h. This sets the speed limit of an e-bike at a slight super-human speed, but not excessively so. It also allows e-bikes to better blend with the speed of motorized vehicle traffic in and around a city, which makes them inherently safer, as it decreases the speed differential between the cyclist and the automobiles they must share the road with.

As it stands now, the traditional bicycle remains unbeaten as the most efficient means of self-powered transportation. As far as I’m concerned, it’s the ideal mode of transport inside of a 20 kilometer range. At a cost of less than 1/5th of an e-Bike, I was able to find a bike that delivered a solution which I believe will yield similar commute times and experience to that of the more expensive e-Bike. As far as I’m concerned, the bicycle as a mode of transportation is being severely under-utilized in my country, while their contemporary e-bikes are being unnecessarily over-restricted in what they could do. My advice is to spend the money on a really good traditional bicycle, unless you have some sort of disability; in which case, the e-bike starts to make sense.

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