Electric bikes are a relatively new phenomenon that was inevitable – simply add an electric motor, and you have more power and versatility over any ride. However, as with any new invention, e-bikes have faced some criticism from purist cyclists who view the innovation with disdain for various reasons.
Some cyclists hate e-bikes because they think that e-bikes are cheating, not real bikes, or can degrade trails on national lands. However, with some temperance, it’s easy to see that everyone rides bikes for different and equally viable reasons.
This article will go into further depth about why some cyclists scorn e-bikes. We’ll also discuss the practical benefits that these bikes provide to cyclists willing to give them a try. Keep reading if you want to learn about the e-bike fandom’s biggest ‘haters.’
Motor + Bike = Motorbike
Seems simple to understand, right? With the way technology is progressing in the modern world, sooner or later, somebody would look at a bike and say, “But what if it had a motor?” And voila, the electric bike was born. This marvel provides a host of benefits to users that can easily fill up its own article, but some cyclists see the e-bike as a negative addition to the world of cycling.
Think about it: cyclists have been zipping around on manually powered bikes for a century now without any kind of auxiliary assist system that the electric bike has. This has resulted in many cyclists having to tie their bike to a tree to finish a path on foot due to uneven or unsuitable bike terrain. Naturally, when electric bikes come along and render all that hard-earned pain moot, it makes some cyclists angry in retrospect.
The truth is that progress sometimes forces people to reevaluate their previous viewpoints. After all, progress isn’t going to slow down just because you think e-bikes aren’t real bikes solely because of their motors. In reality, e-bikes are probably going to overtake purely manually-powered bikes sometimes in the future because of technological advancements making the technology cheap and increasing demand for green transportation.
E-Bikes on Non-Motorized Trails
U.S. land management agencies like the National Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management have placed a strict ban on powered bicycles on national land like national forests. Arguably, this is to protect the environmental integrity of our federal land, which has some merit. E-bikes produce much more power than regular bikes, leading to soil erosion and other damage to forests.
When cyclists on regular bikes see people disregarding this and taking their motorized bikes on trails, it understandably causes some anger and even prejudice – if this guy takes his e-bike into national forests, other people probably do too.
Proposed changes by the National Forest Service show that interest in opening public lands up to e-bikes is growing, but it’s facing a lot of opposition. For now, the most ‘motorized’ you can make a bike and still ride it on national land is pedal assist. That means no bicycles operating under means like throttles – for now, it’s just pedaling. In the future, growing interest in e-bikes may force land management agencies to change their mind, but that remains to be seen.
Seen As Cheating
Biking has become a popular way for people to exercise, an area that e-bikes suffer constant criticism from. Cyclists who prefer manual-powered bikes sometimes claim that riding an e-bike is ‘cheating.’ Where does this stigma come from exactly?
The idea stems from the assertion that biking is supposed to be a physical activity that you put muscle power into to receive transportation – duh, right? When you throw any kind of motor onto that, you completely change the entire equation.
Bicycling competitions are one area that people can generally see eye to eye on. To compete fairly, you need to enter on equal terms with other contestants, or else it isn’t fair – electric motors in a race certainly aren’t fair. But it’s somewhat silly to just get mad when someone ‘beats you’ to the top of a trail or cuts you off on your daily commute.
A more tricky area is when cyclists claim e-bikes are taking the exercise out of bicycling. “Bicycling is a physical activity, and using an electric motor to boost that workout is cheating yourself out of the health benefits of cycling regularly under manual power.” Whew, that’s a mouthful, right? But if you look closely, this is just silly.
Realistically, e-bikes aren’t ruining anyone’s workout, and this study from the International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity finds that cyclists with e-bikes are still engaging in moderate physical activity akin to fast walking.
It seems that simply having the option of electric power appeals to consumers – ride hard until you get tired, and switch up the assist setting for a break. Or, if you’re having a really tough time on a hill, crank the motor up and rest for a minute.
E-Bikes Are Actually Good for Cycling as a Whole
It’s a touchy subject among purists, but rational people can probably understand that e-bikes aren’t ‘ruining’ cycling at all. If anything, you could argue that e-bikes are helping give cycling a new lease on life. With the new influx of cyclists attracted by e-bikes, there are bound to be some people interested in getting manual bikes for more strenuous exercise.
While early e-bikes were bulky beasts, newer models are slim and even hard to tell apart from traditional bikes unless you know what to look for. Batteries are only getting smaller over time due to new innovations, and sooner or later, there may even be a better alternative to e-bikes.
It can be easy to see e-bikes as replacing regular bikes, but demand for fun ways to exercise is never going out of style. Nobody wants e-bikes to replace bikes – they just want the versatility that e-bikes bring to their lives. Whether you commute, exercise, or compete, e-bikes for any set of needs are out there.
The attraction of the electric motor on e-bikes can’t be understated because it’s bringing new people into the world of cycling. For any true enthusiast, the prospect of new people taking up the hobby should be an exciting thing and not something to look down on, no matter their choice of equipment.
Everyone Rides for Different Reasons
The biggest thing to keep in mind about cycling is that not everyone bikes for the same exact reasons. One person might cycle competitively, another for a regular workout, and a third person just wants the fastest and most eco-friendly commute option. These varying reasons for cycling are some of the most compelling reasons that cycling is so popular in the first place – everyone can find a bike that fits their individual needs.
So it doesn’t really do any good to judge or criticize others for riding e-bikes, even if you’re a hardcore traditional bike guy. Maybe that young guy zipping by on his e-bike is very environmentally conscious and doesn’t care about the exercise aspect of cycling – who are you to judge his choice of bike?
This isn’t to say you shouldn’t be open to giving advice. If someone is interested in cycling to work out and that’s been your thing for many years, feel free to help out! But it goes a long way to alleviate hurt feelings and diffuse anger if you try to understand that everyone gets something different from their bike rides, and that may not be the same thing you look for.