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E-Bikers, A Few Etiquette Improvements

I was going up a hill with many other riders in the area. Passing some when I heard a woman on a 3 wheel trike yelling to move over to get past. So a bunch of us put in the extra effort to move out of the way only for her and her partner following her to come past using motorized ebikes (motors fully engaged). Maybe ebikers instead of demanding others get out of their way especially on extra wide 3 wheelers could just fit in while the rest of us under our own power make it up the hills. Instead of expecting us to put in extra effort to allow them to motor past us. I think there needs to be some rules of etiquette going forward for ebikers.

This was not a couple who had special needs for a motor assist. They just chose ebikes to make RAGBRAI easier for them

138 Replies

jelly0317, December 5, 2019 at 4:55 pm

What are you rebelling against?


Joseph Schlau, December 5, 2019 at 7:08 pm

Narrow thinking


Joseph Schlau, December 5, 2019 at 7:17 pm

This eloquent scientific study appearing in another thread also adds a couple of arguments to the anti-e-bike discussion.

[quote quote=1312342]the issue is not the “motorized bicycle” that is heavier and capable of higher velocity when compared to non motorized unit, the issue is safety…….. let me explain the rules of physics and the conservation of momentum in particular, momentum = mass x velocity.
i also have noticed that ebicycle riders are heavier than none ebike riders adding to the mass total and momentum

in the many times that i have participate, i have had accidental collision, and other than a few scratches and scrapes, all is well.
in a collision with a motor bicycle/rider, the lighter bicycle/rider will be injured more as momentum has been transferred from the heavier to the lighter one, “conservation of momentum.”

as we age, it is time to realize that our time is up, and be thankful that we were able to live and participate… there are other rides for old riders and i am 70 years old. i am looking…[/quote]

How can you argue with science?


Jose Medina, December 5, 2019 at 7:54 pm

I can’t wait for the argument about sail power. In 30 years of Ragbrai I have seen it all and more. I have seen bikes with sails. I can already hear some woman yelling ‘Hey, you are blocking my wind ‘. Lets all have a beer at the Route Announcement Party and have a laugh about it. I have stories !!! Ask for Jose.


Joseph Schlau, December 6, 2019 at 7:40 am

Similar discussions could probably have been found if the forums were around when aluminum, titanium and carbon materials were introduced to cycling. The owners of those Schwinn Continentals and all steel Raleighs may have railed against the owners of those newfangled machines with their multiple gears and handlebar shifters.

“They simply purchased their speed and didn’t learn etiquette along the way while training up to it” would be the cry. Perhaps one rider was offended as a titanium road bike effortlessly passed them as they pushed their Schwinn up the 10th hill of the day.

Video of the second Ragbrai is available on the web. If you look at the bikes of yesteryear and compare them to the technology of today it is easy to see why many riders are able to stay active longer in cycling. E-bikes are just the next step.

It will just be a matter of time and health before you secretly sneak into your local bike shop and take an e-bike for a test ride.

Your Ah! Ha! moment will then arrive.


Joe Chavis, December 7, 2019 at 4:18 am

Hi kids. I had to ‘chime’ in on this topic. My first RAGBRAI I was “Virgin” trained to SPEAK to any rider in close proximity that I was passing, I was young(er) a member of a race team AND I passed a lot of riders. Always with a southerndrawl good morning, nice day, not another heel (hill), nice bike, where ya from….etc. On your left-right-center PASSING and such utterances were reserved for close encounters of the bad pass -either from my error or another rider’s. I still – as an old slow riding man – utter a greeting IF I pass (close proximity again) any rider. Not preaching – jes’ sharing. Try it -You might like it. Added note. I have been involved in one 1 ONLY ONE mishap in 23yrs of RAGBRAI…..when a lady directly in front of me made the unfortunate decision to attempt swerving out of rumbles……Bunny hopped her….not so much luck with her bike. As always Be Fun Have Safe


Jose Medina, December 7, 2019 at 12:26 pm

I had one of those mishaps myself too on Ragbrai.I had a motorcycle pull out of a gravel road and do a uturn right in the middle of the road. I broadsided him and knocked him over. My Ragbrai was over that year. Do they give Ragbrai Purple Hearts for that ?


Chris McKenna, December 13, 2019 at 5:57 pm

[quote quote=1313591]What are you rebelling against?[/quote]

What do you got?


jelly0317, December 13, 2019 at 8:46 pm

We have a winner!


Jboz, December 14, 2019 at 9:58 am

(Part 1 of 2)
As I’ve watched the great RAGBRAI e-bike debate unfold over the past year, I tried to remain objective and curious…asking questions and digging to form my opinion. So instead of jumping into my chosen corner on the debate and locking my position down, I started researching. I learned the following:

1) E-bikes are a hugely fast growing bike segment, and probably saving many manufacturers and LBSs who already operate on thin margins.
2) With 10,000 Americans turning 65 every day (wrap your head around that stat), the e-bike trend is very likely to continue.
3) The technology is clearly trending in the direction of pedal assist rather than throttle assist, and they are vastly different animals. Much of the angst about e-bike safety, etiquette, etc. seems to be based a lack of understanding of the differences and hyperbole about e-bikes being motorcycles.
4) Pedal assist tech is a fascinating cycling development, which leverages some pretty cool tech to facilitate fitness by encouraging a return to cycling, and allowing aging cyclists to remain active in the sport for much longer.
5) Pedal assist technology allows riders some choice as to the level of power, and due to battery limitations, certain tradeoffs have to be made.

As it pertains to RAGBRAI, point #5 about tradeoffs is extremely relevant. The primary tradeoff is the choice between level of power and battery consumption. If for example a rider wants a high level of assist (e-assist doing much of the work, legs doing less), they can expect my battery to drain rather quickly…probably long before the end of an average day on RAGBRAI. This would force the rider to pedal on his/her own for the remainder of the day, and someone who would choose a high level of assist wouldn’t accept this tradeoff. But if the rider wanted to preserve battery life to be able to complete the day’s ride, he/she would have to accept a very limited level of assist. A lower level of assist would take the edge off a headwind, or slightly flatten steeper grades, but it would by no means cause a rider to go flying by pace lines or blast up hills at 20 mph.



Jboz, December 14, 2019 at 10:02 am

(Part 2 of 2)
So, after conducting my research with an open mind, I came to the realization that an e-bike’s real value isn’t as a “cheat” for rude, fat, out of shape newbies to drop roadies, but as an age equalizer for seasoned cyclists who want to simply keep up. Back story time, I have loved cycling for as long as I can remember. My pre-teen son was starting to drift toward video game obsession, so I introduced him to the sport when he was about 13 as a way to get him physically active. He took to it like a fish to water, and now that he’s 21 he’s completed some pretty amazing feats, including racing and long-distance touring (including 5 RAGBRAI’s). But a funny thing happened, around age 15, he got a little faster than me. By 18, he had become an extremely strong rider.

As for me, well…I just got older. I’m reasonably fit and I’m not overweight, but my legs just don’t have power they once had. I also discovered that I have some arterial plaque, and my cardiologist has advised me to continue to exercise but to keep my heart rate within certain thresholds. I’m also an avid golfer, and the great thing about golf is that golfers of different levels can enjoy the sport together. But not really so with cycling. The sad truth is that I can’t ride with my son any longer…at least not without frustrating him, or taxing me beyond my reasonable limits. And we have both recently discovered a love of gravel riding, so the speed, strength and age disparity really bums me out.

Anyway, my curiosity finally gave way to excitement and I just bought an e-road bike. The hub motor is small and unobtrusive, and the battery is neatly contained inside the downtube. Looks like a garden variety carbon gravel bike and if you were looking at this bike, you would never know it had pedal assist technology. Front and rear spacing will accommodate up to 45mm tires, so I can ride gravel or I can throw on something thiner and it’s a road bike. It’s carbon fiber, and has a SRAM gravel groupset. If you were riding next to me, you wouldn’t know either…but you might assume I was younger than my 61 years.

Will I ride this new bike on RAGBRAI? Doubtful, because I love riding completely under my own power, and I still can…easily in fact, just not with the same power I had 20 years ago. Added to that is the fact that recharging would be problematic, and not something I would want to worry about. Also, if my son rides again this year he will likely want to ride with other 21 year olds, and do what 21 year olds do. But for other father-son adventures, this new bike is a godsend. And someday, I might ride this on RAGBRAI (unless the powers that be deem it against the rules). In doing so, I will be just as polite and courteous as I am now. And I won’t be blasting up hills with my feet up. More likely I working hard but keeping pace with the pack, thus creating less of a hazard than I would be if I were struggling and weaving my way up.


mcpartla, December 14, 2019 at 10:31 am

Good points except on the last one a fast recharger weighs around a pound and allows anyone who chooses to or needs more assist can stop and recharge in about two hours or less depending if want a full or just need to make it another few miles. I did this every day this year often while I recharged my body with a swim and nap and lunch. The other alternative is the sag support … many choose this option whether on conventional or e-power. And you don’t have to be a senior chasing youth to enjoy e-power … it’s just more fun!


mcpartla, December 14, 2019 at 10:40 am

I was in Washington, D.C. last week and noticed the many people young and old whizzing by on the sidewalks and roads on e-bicycles but more people were on e-scooters. Should I have protested that these folks did not earn their right to enjoy the many sites because they were not walking like me? I suspect we’ll be seeing more power-assist vehicles of both kinds on Ragbrai and our cities.


Joseph Schlau, December 14, 2019 at 11:20 am

Where I see e bikes becoming more popular is in tourist areas with hills. Take a city like Galena Illinois. Lots of historical and scenery attractions, but the hills both in town and out really limits cycling. The Grand Illinois Trail passes right through town but is at it’s worst hill wise.

If Ragbrai ends in Dubuque this year, I will consider a self supported ride on the GIT to get home. The ebike will be a real asset this time around.


Joseph Schlau, December 14, 2019 at 11:49 am

[quote quote=1313890]I did this every day this year often while I recharged my body with a swim and nap and lunch[/quote]

There was a park with a pool just east of Bloomfield IA. I picked up lunch and stopped at the park. Remember thinking it would be nice to stop at the pool, but since I had my regular road bike, I kept on going. 2020 I will have a good reason to stop now to recharge.


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