Join Us in July - Register Today!

Annual notice to e-bikers…

Behave yourselves.

25 Replies

HelenP, May 13, 2022 at 11:53 pm

And us non e-bikers, too!

Let’s all have fun! :-)


“Bicycle Bill”, May 15, 2022 at 8:54 pm

By e-bikers, are you referring to those with the electric motorcycles, or those of us who, for one reason or another, are unable to be on the road physically and will have to enjoy the week vicariously from behind our keyboards and monitors?



Joseph Schlau, May 16, 2022 at 4:41 am

So, JPC, you are back posting your stern warning to all e bikers, Behave.

You did not elaborate on what you were talking about, so for the benefit of new riders I’ve included your post from last June.

Behave yourselves. You are on an assisted bike, while the rest of us have to pedal ourselves. Don’t shout for us to move out of the way, just for you to full throttle past us.

And to add to that you followed up on your own post with additional coaching,

And stay on the right side of the road…

Randall Murphy responded to your post last year.

Wow….let’s just stir up some do-do. It seems to me that this year this forum has been quieter than most. We haven’t heard much from Princess Amanda or kurbsitting from Mitchrider but let’s not try to stir up a non-issue. In 2019 the e-bike debate was the most active thread that I’ve seen in years and after all of the anticipation it turned out to be nothing really. Why try to start it up again?

In January, when the topic briefly came up, Dalebob noted,

If you go back 3 years and two months in the forum archives you can find all the opinions imaginable on e-bike usage on RAGBRAI, and if you read far enough you will find them all repeated over and over. And over. When I started that thread I thought maybe folks had some feelings about it, and now here you are poking the bear again. Maybe by now the tide has changed and it will be a big nothing burger.

Both Randall, Dalebob as well as other riders agreed it is a big non issue. Yours is a solution desperately searching for a problem . . . . That does not exist.

It seems that only you and another contributor, Mootsman, are the only ones with your knickers in a knot over the issue.

Most other contributors simply respond that everyone, no matter what bike or riding style they use, should follows Ragbrai’s Ride Right program. You know, the rules of the road. Your direction to e bikes to stay to the right is clearly not in alignment with that if they are the faster bike.

Here is another interesting post also from last June, from you on the discussion of the 90 mile day 1 last year.

Can’t wait to see the huffers and puffers hoofin’ it on the climbs! 🥵🥵🥵🥵🥵

So here you are again, crying like the 5 emojis you left following your post, the one where you took perverse pleasure in hoping to see other riders struggling up a hill, and now you crying foul because someone with an e bike is able to pass you.

In the January discussion, Niles left the comment

I remember there were a couple souls severely psychologically wounded by e-bike. Wish them fully healed now, in one way or another.

Ride Right.


garywilk, May 17, 2022 at 11:45 am

Lets all play nice. General bicycle rules apply and the EB’s are fairly new but so far I have not seen any issues in past years or riding local. The bigger issue I see are some impatient riders squeezing past on the right. Basic rule is slower riders stay toward the right but if someone forgets or things get congested, which happens often, just be patient, you have all day. It may take you an extra 20 seconds to get to the next town for your beer but it will just taste a bit better and at least you will make it there safely.


HelenP, May 17, 2022 at 6:43 pm

I like a tiny brass bell on my bike. By my slowly dinging it a few times, cyclists or pedestrians can judge where and how fast I’m approaching from behind. It’s easier than calling out, especially when needed often in a crowd.

Note that it’s totally useless for motor vehicles. I did a test once, asking a driver to close windows and listen when I was sitting right next to the car — he said he heard nothing at all.


jeffreydennis, May 17, 2022 at 6:47 pm

Non ebiker here, if I’m passing you on the right, it’s because you’re not where you’re supposed to be, it’s because I’ve determined it’s the safest action on my part, I’ll let you know I’m there…hopefully you’re not wearing earbuds.


HelenP, May 17, 2022 at 7:02 pm

Better be extra cautious, and slow down to nearly the same speed — that supposedly out of position cyclist might be avoiding bad pavement, and then abruptly returning to the right without looking or expecting you there.


T. Gap Woo, May 17, 2022 at 8:14 pm

Brethren and Sistern Ragbrai’ers,

Please allow me to share my perspective on “warning” sounds.

I used to have a bell with a spring-loaded hammer. It gave off a ding, like HelenP described. I found it effective when I was about 20 feet away, but ineffective from farther away.

I switched to a squeeze bulb horn that sounded like a goose honk. It was effective from about 35 feet away, but was ineffective further away. I rode my first Ragbrai in 2013, using that horn, and realized I wanted something more powerful.

After a looong search, I found a vintage, manually-powered 1911-era ooga horn. It is audible from at least a quarter-mile away. A few oogas is sufficient, so you don’t need to overdo it.

There are a few cautions to using the ooga horn. Don’t sneak up on people and then ooga at them. You’ll scare the bejeebers out of them and risk causing accidents. Don’t ooga from so far away that others won’t recognize that you’re approaching or will not recall you are approaching due to the time and distance lag. If you are biking through Amish country, as Ragbrai has done in the past, don’t ooga at all if you approach a horse-and-buggy vehicle. You’ll scare the $… out of that poor animal, soil the roadway and cause the rig driver to lose control.

Always remember to call out “on your left” etc just as you get ready to pass, and then say “thank you” as you complete the pass.

BTW, my ooga horn works great on rail trails. It scares the wildlife off of the trail and alerts hikers that I am approaching. Of course, if the hikers are concentrating on their cell phones or have buds jammed in their ears, they won’t hear the horn until you’re about 10’ away from them. The horn works on city streets, but only within 100’ of other traffic, as long as the ambient noise level is not excessive and the drivers are paying attention.

See you along the I-O-Way in July.


HelenP, May 17, 2022 at 9:53 pm

Yeah, it’s best to call out each time, although sometimes there’s so much ambient noise that it’s hard to understand a shout. A bell/horn helps a lot in busy, tight situations like that, such as when I bike on the beach boardwalk where there are many kids and noise distractions.

BTW, why is it that (always exactly) one child in a group will wait until the last instant, then veer directly into the bike’s path? It doesn’t seem to matter if they’re biking or walking, toddlers or teens. It’s so frequent, that I now try to guess which one it will be, whenever I near a family group!


LawnchairMan, May 17, 2022 at 11:04 pm

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. I will not have it at Ragbrai, though, because I don’t want the drag, and the horn doesn’t tell other riders on which side I am passing. I prefer to announce my presence, and I usually start early enough that I am not hoarse by the end of the ride. I am considering a small dingaling bell, just to join the chorus if there are others, but probably will not. Those extra ounces can add to pounds.

I know what you mean about young riders. A few years back I was riding on a trail. A group was coming towards me around the curve I was approaching. At the last moment, I saw the ten-year-old girl on my side of the trail and had to go into the desert to avoid her. I didn’t have time to downshift, so it took me a while to get started again. I still wonder if the girl ever realized what she did. I wonder if her parents realized how close their daughter was to being hurt. Of course, I blame the parents for not educating or controlling their offspring. It’s frustrating!

This reply was modified 1 year, 11 months ago by LawnchairMan.


“Bicycle Bill”, May 18, 2022 at 1:49 am

I used to have a big, spring-loaded two-tone bell which gave out with a loud (by comparison to the other cycling bells of the time) “BING-BONG!” whenever I activated it. Of course, that was also back in the day before even iPods when cyclists rode their bikes, looked around, and interacted with other riders instead of immersing themselves in their smartphones as they do today.



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


smeastim, May 18, 2022 at 10:09 am

Nubee here – want to add what we all know – keep to the right, communicate! On your left! I don’t advise anyone passing on the right, just plain stooooopiiiddd. Before you zoom off into the distance, say hello to me, be friendly. COMMUNICATE!


“Bicycle Bill”, May 19, 2022 at 7:40 pm

Back to e-bikes …

If they are, as some people here keep insisting, “motor-assisted bicycles”, then why is it all the ads I see them in never show the rider ever turning the pedals – even on level ground?   I suppose then, if you kick-start a Kawasaki, it is therefore a “pedal-assisted bicycle” too.



direwolf, May 20, 2022 at 12:36 am

My Sweetie and I ride recumbent trikes, self-contained. On our way out to RAGBRAI last year we weighed the trikes, laden with the day’s food and water, at a grain elevator. It’s an annual tradition. The two trikes tipped the scale at 210 pounds. With all that weight and aero advantage we like to hit the bottom of a descent with a head of speed, afore to assuage the looming climb. Halfway up the climb we click down through the gears, veer all the way over to the right. Could we just say that if you’re not passing somebody you shouldn’t be in the left half of the left lane?

Helen P. looks to be the voice of community and altruism. Bless you, Sister. In that vein, I ask you all to consider installing a rearview mirror, and viewing it often.

Back to the subject of e-bikes: yeah, sure, fine. No problem.


Viewing 15 replies - 1 through 15 (of 25 total)

You must be logged in to reply to this topic.


RAGBRAI L – 2023




Gatherings & Meetings

Lost and Found


Clubs, Teams & Charters