Friday, November 13, 2015

E-Bikes: The Future of Cycling? Why I Think So

E-Bikes are the future of cycling, here are some reasons why

The Lapierre Overvolt full suspension mountain bike. Picture courtesy of Lapierre Bicycles and Big-Bike Magazine

I'll be the first one to admit that I wasn't a fan of the idea of electric assisted bicycles being used on the trail or on the roads by recreational cyclists. The purist in me wants all my effort to come 100% from me and feels that anything less than that would be cheating. However I have come to the conclusion that this point of view is very narrow minded. E-bikes, although still in their developmental phase, are the future of cycling and will eventually become a popular choice for all cyclists once the trickle down economics come into play and once there is enough R&D in place to make a good product at an affordable price for most people. Let me explain why.

E-bikes appeal to both the competitive and the commuter-recreational cyclist communities. While a commuter might use an e-bike to get around town and keep up with the pace of traffic, a competitive cyclist may have more devious reasons. For example, there are now stealth electric motors that can fit inside the seat tube of the bicycle and connect to the crankset directly, producing as much as 250 watts anywhere from 30 minutes to an hour, allowing an otherwise novice climber to summit hills like Chris Froome. To put into perspective what 200 watts is on a bicycle, If I held 200 watts for an hour, according to my weight I would average 20 or more miles an hour over varied terrain. 250 watts combined with a rider that can produce around 200 watts is a combined 450 watts of energy, which is what top level athletes can produce on climbs in the Tour De France. It would be enough to summit a 10 kilometer climb in the 30 minute time window that the motor has before it runs out of battery. Here is a demonstration by Greg Lemond of what these stealth motors can do.

Vivax Assist, a German based company sells these motors for a little over $2,000 as well as complete bikes for about four grand. Carrera bicycle company in Italy is also working on an electric assist road bike with the same capabilities. If a competitive cyclist wants a serious advantage over their competition, speed can now be bought for a price and it won't involve taking drugs or doping. This technology would suit the road racer more than the time trialist or the criterium racer, being as the motor can only be engaged for short periods of time when climbing punchy gradients. Minutes can be taken out of competitors with the same fitness level or fitter, as a result.

So would it be cheating if a professional road racer used an electric motor on their bicycle? As long as doping is allowed in professional cycling than the answer, at least in my opinion, is no. The UCI is still turning a blind eye to dopers, such as team Astana which is still allowed to compete even though 5 guys tested positive for banned substances this year. Then there are riders from doping teams moving into teams with a "squeaky clean" reputation. One of Team Sky's claims is that they would never work with a professional if they had a doping past. How about if they have a doping present, or come from a team of dopers? Just throwing that out there, because I personally do not think anyone is absolved of guilt on the professional level. Clean riders shouldn't be subjected to getting dropped in every single race because the competition is dirty. The law of omerta should now be "don't say what I have under my hood, and I won't tell anyone what you have running in your veins, okay?".

Now that we covered competitive cyclists, how about the rest of us? How are E-bikes appealing to the mass population? The answer is simple. The majority of people are inclined to laziness. If there is a more efficient, less physically exerting way of getting the same results or better without putting in as much effort, people generally always choose the easiest route. Why would it be any different when it comes to riding a bike? Another reason that E-Bikes are appealing to the majority of us is because we don't have to go out of our way to ride one. We don't need special clothing, an aerodynamically efficient yet uncomfortable riding position or a 15 pound, $5,000 bicycle. Someone on 50 pound E-bike can be doing the same speeds if not faster than a "serious" cyclist while riding on their bike in their baggy clothing with their kids and a load of groceries in tow and not even breaking a sweat. Who wouldn't want that convenience?

Picture courtesy of

Electric assist bicycles are the great equalizer, not just among cyclists but among all vehicles. One common complaint about cyclists is that they can't keep up with the speed of traffic. The E-bike eliminates this concern and takes the pressure and the perceived responsibility off of the cyclist. While one couldn't pedal one on the freeway yet, an E-bike works well for neighborhood, suburban and country roads, basically anywhere where there are 20 to 35 mile an hour speed limits. 

If I could afford an E-bike like the LaPierre Overvolt pictured at the beginning of the article, I would be setting Strava KOMs all over the place and probably matching or exceeding speeds of the local racers where I live. I would be enjoying the bewildered looks on their faces as I zoom by them up hills. I would definitely be having fun on an E-bike and that is the reason why I think they are the future of cycling.

On a side note, I also wanted to say that this blog is almost six years old. I'm not running out of material to write about, I just don't have the same enthusiasm as I did when I started writing about cycling, restoring old bicycles and other related topics. Starting next year I might update this blog maybe once a month or so. I want to make it a point to focus my mind on other things. I hope this blog has left an imprint on some of my readers and has served for inspiration. I'm no Sheldon Brown, but I have given my 10 cents worth into the small online cycling community.

No comments:

Post a Comment