Batteries have their place. Don’t get me wrong. Power tools, love toys, cargo bikes used for logistics—they’re all so much better with batteries. But batteries fitted to bikes for one person, when the rider’s own body is a maintenance-free motor? There are at least 4 clear logical flaws with this proposition about which the cycling community ought to be clear.
1. E-Bikes turn the bike path into a road. When travelling by ones own power, slow traffic ahead on the bike path at least provides a chance to slow down and take a bit of a breather. Bikes in your way, going slower than you, are not entirely unwelcome. Hence you rarely see a human powered cyclist barging their way through slow traffic.
By contrast power that feels as though it is free and on tap produces a very different response in the rider of an e-Bike. For him there is nothing to be gained by not going full throttle. If anything his breathlessness will only get worse, from exasperation. So what does he do? He tries his bell, then his AirZound, then spitting.
One of the attractions of the bike path is it is refuge from the pushiness one finds on the road, or even the train. Cycling is what separates us from the animals. With electric bikes on the scene we might as well go back to the zoo and buy cars.
2. E-bike owners can never mature as bike users. Remember your first year using a bike for your transport? Remember upgrading to $50 tires when you learned how much effort you would save by getting rid of the low pressure nobblies that came with your bike? Remember how your trip times got faster as your body got harder? Remember your discovery of hub-generator lights and realising you would no longer be a slave to batteries or charging, but would jump on your bike whenever you pleased! A person buying an e-bike will never ascend to your plane. He will be a stupid darned muppet for as long as he lives.
3. E-bikes perpetuate stupido planning. Suburbs are like cripples who have been living on life support since the day they were born. They need subsidising just to exist. America subsidises its suburbs with a gigantic military that goes out and steals oil. Australia subsidises its suburbs by selling the rights to its minerals to the Chinese. Medium density cities, like London or Amsterdam, can almost break even, but it is high density cities like New York or central Paris that are efficient enough to be net generators of wealth. And you don’t see many e-Bikes in New York or Paris. E-bikes are just another drug in the drip-feed delaying the suburbs’ overdue death by shortening distances that ought not exist.
4. E-bikes are junk. Where a mature cyclist invests over time in smooth running gear to reduce the pain he feels in his legs, thus constructing for himself a bike he can pass to his grandkids, the muppet will compensate for his crappy transmission and bearings with bigger motors and batteries. Within five years the muppet will be putting all of his equipment out on the curb for his local council to dump. With no physical fitness to show for his flirtation with cycling he will return to his fold on the freeway. The maturing cyclist might have thrown out some tires or upgraded his drive train, but he will be on a much improved bike and be more committed than ever to bicycle transport.
Please share this post with anyone contemplating an eBike, and if you know someone with one, do tell them for me they’re a muppet.
Enjoy this glass of cold water thrown in your face? Well then here is an older rant of mine about e-Bikes.