The Internet airwaves are growing with philosophical pondering of the deeper meaning of e-bikes. There are generally two groups who are grappling with some angst about e-bikes: the young and fit bike athletes – road riders, mountain bikers, racers, and the die-hard commuters – traditionalists, fixie hipsters, bicycle purists.
Representing camp 1 , Bicycling Magazine published an article “Is it finally time to stop hating on e-bikes?” that addresses many of the concerns we hear from people who believe that bicycles should be 100% human powered. Its great to see this publication even talking about e-bikes as they have repeatedly assured us that their readers are not interested in e-bikes.
Guess again. Avid cyclists of the purist variety have been grudgingly dragged into our showroom with lesser mortals who wants to try out an e-bike. They come in complete skeptics (“I don’t need a motor”. It’s cheating”) and are now some of our most ardent evangelists, telling their biking buddies over a snack of Goo and Gatorade that they don’t know what they are missing.
How were these skeptics converted? Usually the conversation begins in earnest after they take a 5 minute test ride. Then they start realizing “I can go shopping without walking around in my clickety bike shoes. I can take my bike to work without changing. I drive too much!” Then they make the plunge and never look back.
In another article, Bicycle Magazine makes an earnest attempt to address the hurdles that people have to overcome to become a Bike Commuter (wait a minute Bicycling Magazine, what does this have to do with catching the peloton or shaving a gram off the weight of your bike?). It’s a good list and we have heard many of these concerns from friends, relatives and customers who had a hard time envisioning getting around by bike in the everyday busy lives. The author also hits the nail on the head with some of the answers to these common questions. Others though we had to wonder about (no shower? wipe off your “pits, crotch, face and feet” with baby wipes. Not the same one I hope.)
Hey Mark, ever hear of an e-bike? An e-bike eradicates many of the concerns without troublesome baby-wipe-dependent workarounds:
No shower: don’t sweat!
Too far: double your pedaling power and speed with a push of a button!
My clothes get wrinkled: don’t pack them, wear them!
In camp 2, we have the generally louder and more aggressive group of anti e-bike vocalists who inspire words like “hate”, “awful” and “outcast”. But despite the extreme views, the discussion is a healthy and lively one. It’s natural for a new technology to stir the emotions of traditionalists. In fact, Socrates was vehemently opposed to writing as he claimed it would degrade man’s ability to remember and relate the spoken word – a Luddite before Luddites existed. Not too many people talk about the evil of books anymore (now its video games and e-readers) and I expect we will be looking back on these debates with nostalgia in the not too distant future.
A recent blog post by reporter, photographer and bike enthusiast Heidi Swift captured the sentiment of this group well: “Are they bikes? Does it matter if they pass me going up a hill using their assist? Do I care? Do I like them? Does it matter?”