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E-bikes are not bikes. Bicycles are human powered vehicles. E-bikes are motor vehicles. As such, e-bikes share some features with bicycles and thus offer the best of both worlds, but some features of e-bikes capture the worst of both worlds. In this posting I will offer a balanced view of the advantages and disadvantages of e-bikes. You will draw your own conclusions, but you may already be aware that I would not be using the language I did in the first paragraph if I were sanguine about e-bikes.

Advantages of e-bikes:

1. E-bikes enable affordable, 2-wheeled transportation to people with limitations on their ability to ride purely human-powered vehicles. They open up the world of cycling, especially social club riding, to folks with injuries, disabilities, or advanced age. These riders were the first market for e-bikes and the technology enabled these riders to enjoy everything from running errands by e-bike to keeping up with the club ride or family outing with younger, stronger and uninjured cyclists.

2. E-bikes certainly extend the commuting range with added benefit that the commuter arrives at work less sweaty than if they had provided all the pedal power.

3. The joy of two-wheeled movement, that feeling of flying is certainly there for the e-bike, as it is for the motorcycle. 

Disadvantages of e-bikes:

1. E-bikes and electric scooters carry a higher risk of severe injuries than traditional bicycles and a different pattern of injury risks compared with scooters, a recent study finds.

(Reuters Health) - The authors analyzed emergency department data collected from 2000 to 2017 by the United States Consumer Product Safety Commission’s National Electronic Injury Surveillance System (NEISS), on injuries involving all three types of vehicles.

While people riding e-bikes were more likely to suffer internal injuries and be hospitalized compared to the other riders, powered scooter users had higher rates of concussion. E-bike injuries were also more than three times as likely to involve a collision with a pedestrian than either scooter or traditional bike injuries, the researchers report in the journal Injury Prevention


2. Cost/safety: Currently There are 2 broad categories of e-bikes, each with its own set of problems.

a. The first category is big box store- and mail-order e-bikes and scooters with a motor in the front or rear hub. The main issue with these rigs is riding safety, as shown by the higher rate of accidents for scooters. The throttle is independent of pedaling input, you can ride along at 20+ mph while coasting. So they are more akin to motorcycles, and you can get yourself in trouble with too much speed on wet, uneven or pedestrian surfaces,


b. The second category is e-bikes is do-it-yourself conversion kit slapped onto a bike not designed for the weight, torque and speed thus added. Install the kit incorrectly or on a bike with cheap parts, and it could (and likely will) fall apart under you. I have seen DIY motors bend frames, rip spokes out of rims, and shatter brake calipers. I don’t care how much time or energy you save riding one of those things, it’s not worth the cost of a trip to a hospital.


c. The third category are the e-bikes built around a mid-drive motor. The motor provides assistance to the pedals, cuts off when the rider stops pedaling and is limited to 20 mph or 28 mph, depending on the country for which it was designed. The entire bike is designed for the loads imposed by the motor with a stronger frame, disc brakes, thicker spokes, tough tires, and extra-stable geometry. These pass the safety inspection test, but fail when it comes to price. Although the electronic components are quite reliable, the e-bikes we our shop can get cost at least four times as much as a “regular” bike. The battery alone cost half the price of the bike. (The batteries also happen to be impossible to lock up and are thus often stolen.) E-bike enthusiasts like to beat their chests about how much they save on gas and bus passes, but I wonder how many miles it takes to recoup the initial investment?

Upcycles Bike Shop policy is to sell and service only e-bikes in category 2-c: custom designied bikes with mid-drive pedal-assist motors. We simply can not risk potential liability for inherently unsafe bikes, so we will not touch bikes 2-a, 2-b, or any gas-motor powered bike.

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