I love to ride bicycles, but I haven’t yet joined the growing number of folks who are riding electronic bikes.
E-bikes, for those who might not be familiar, are bicycles propelled by electric motors. Despite my rather advanced age, I still enjoy the physical challenge of riding a bike propelled solely by leg power — but different strokes for different folks.
I hadn’t even seen an e-bike in action until a couple of weeks ago, when I was out on a ride through the streets near my home.
I had just leveled off after huffing and puffing up a hill when, off in the distance, I noticed a fellow riding what appeared to be a mountain bike. He was short and quite heavy-set, and yet he appeared to be moving pretty quickly.
What struck me was how slowly he turned the pedals. I’ve ridden enough bikes to know that, to make a bike with fat tires and low gearing move that quickly, you have to pedal really, really fast.
The guy turned off onto a side street before I reached him, so I put any curiosity out of my mind and kept on going.
About a half hour later, as I headed home, I saw him again. I was pushing along at about 17 miles an hour — a pretty good clip for me, especially on a slight upslope — and this chap came breezing past me, still barely turning his pedals.
“OK, that’s got to be an e-bike,” I thought.
Fast forward to a few days ago, I learned folks are lobbying to have the U.S. Forest Service and the National Park Service allow hunters and anglers to use e-bikes on trails and on roads gated to vehicular traffic.
What’s holding it up is the powers-that-be appear to have confused e-bikes with electric motorcycles, which are something entirely different.
Although they do make it easier for cyclists to pedal uphill, e-bikes still must be pedaled. Electric motorcycles, on the other hand, are like electric cars. They don’t have to be pedaled. They also are more powerful and, therefore, much faster.
E-bikes fit into one of three different categories: Class 1, Class 2 and Class 3.
Type 1 e-bikes provide assistance only when a rider is pedaling, and the assistance cuts out at 20 mph. Type 2 e-bikes have throttles that allow speeds of up to 20 mph without pedaling. Type 3 e-bikes must be pedaled, but the assistance cuts out at 28 mph and the bikes must be equipped with speedometers.
E-bike proponents aren’t asking for much. They’re asking only that Class 1 bikes be allowed on the trails and gated roads.
That’s not a lot different from allowing ordinary human-powered bikes. The e-bikes would still have to be pedaled, and they wouldn’t be capable of motor-assisted speeds of more than 20 mph.
A strong mountain-bike rider could easily go that fast on a level road or trail, so what’s the big deal about allowing an e-bike with similar capabilities?
I can understand why authorities wouldn’t want to allow the other two types. A Class II bike, essentially, is a mini electric motorcycle. A Class III bike, while pedaled, is capable of speeds that only the strongest road cyclists could sustain for more than a few seconds.
Allowing pedal-assist Class I e-bikes would be a boon for senior citizens who wouldn’t otherwise be able to ride a bike into these areas. It makes no sense, at least to me, how anyone in government would oppose it.