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Reply To: Annual notice to e-bikers…

Joseph Schlau, May 18, 2022 at 6:21 am

Sorry to continue this deviation from the e-bike thread, but I want to add my two cents about horns.
Since Covid started I mostly ride alone, so I put my AirZound horn on my carbon recumbent. I know motorists can hear it and it has saved me a few times from an accident.

When I was commuting to work before dawn, I used the AirZounds on my bike. The newspaper delivery drivers had a habit of pulling into a driveway, tossing the paper, then shifting into reverse without warning. It worked well because the neighborhood was quiet and they already had both windows open to launch the paper. It prevented several collisions as well as saving you from shouting at the driver.

On the forest preserve paths I ride, there is often the mix of slower bike riders, people walking, and people with young kids. The kids walking are unpredictable. The ones riding bikes are often zigzagging across the path still trying to master pedaling and steering simultaneously.

The basic technique I use is to slow my bike to what would be known in boating as no wake speed, dead slow. Making sure everyone in the group knows I am there and giving mom or dad a chance to grab a hand or handlebar if necessary. My speed slow enough to slowly pass, but able to lock down the brakes and stop if someone unexpectedly darts out.

I have also seen that many bikers are reluctant to slow down to this speed. First, having invested the energy to come up to speed, they are reluctant to dump all that energy in their brakes only to have expend additional energy and gear shifting to regain it.

I have seen this on Ragbrai as well. Having expended considerable energy to come up to their cruising speed, some bikers are reluctant to give it up by braking and waiting for a safe opportunity to pass to the left. They make a split second decision to cut right or between groups. It’s a tempting style of riding that always works, until the day it doesn’t.

Another problem many bikers have is maintaining control at very slow speed. The speed you sometimes slow to when climbing a hill or passing that group of pedestrians on a path. Many accidents I have seen on uphill climbs occur when the bike slows and the rider needs to increase their left right steering inputs to maintain a straight course. This zigzagging course often leads to threshold point and total loss of control and down goes the bike. Sometimes they unintentionally steer into another bike and sometimes cause a domino effect in bikes following who are in a similar situation.

JPC eluded to this in his commentary on people hoofing their bikes up a hill. Riders who know they have neither the energy or gears on the bike to maintain forward momentum or riders who fell or nearly fell before and don’t want to repeat the experience.

There is a technique I learned in an IPMBA course for maintaining control at slow speeds. It is taught to public safety riders like police and paramedics who often need to ride in crowd situations but also must maintain control and avoid hitting pedestrians.

Quite basically, you shift into a very low gear and at the same time apply light pressure to your front brake. It sounds counterintuitive but the steady front brake drag and low gear application of steady pedaling force maintains stability. Because you are already going slow and have your hands on the front brake, you can stop on a dime if you have to.

The technique also works when navigating a your way on an off-road trail where you need to steer around obstacles.

This is where I have found an e bike to be an advantage to me in several ways. First, passing pedestrian groups and slower bikes. It doesn’t matter anymore how much energy I give up braking because I know I can easily get back to cruising speed once I pass. If the ECO setting is not enough, I can temporarily step it up a notch and return to my cruising speed. When passing that group of slower bikes, I can pause until I have safe passing conditions. With a combination of the low speed braking and the steady power of the e bike I can easily linger behind a pedestrian group until a safe pass can be made.

And of course the hills. An e bike helps me maintain a steady forward momentum and when combined with the front braking I can also patiently wait until the way is clear on the left. An e bike also helps me maintain a steady pace without coming to the point of redlining my heart rate which contributes to diminishing control of a bike.

Irrespective of the experiences and opinions of the two main protagonists on e bike etiquette, I find it has made my riding style safer.

Safer is better.

Ride Right

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