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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

Joseph Schlau, January 11, 2020 at 3:35 pm

[quote quote=1314280]The line is further confused by the introduction of many different styles of e-bicycles. For example, the Juiced e-bikes look and feel more like a motorcycle than a traditional bicycle but some conform to the traditional classes of e-bicycles.
https://www.theverge.com/2019/9/24/20875870/juiced-scorpion-ebike-price-specs-release
[/quote]

The Scorpion is a Class 2 e-bike, which means it offers both pedal- and throttle-assisted speeds of up to 20 mph. Juiced is working on a Class 3 model that can get up to 28 mph.

According to Iowa law, the class 2 version would just be legal at 750 watts.

The class 3 version would not. Not because it can go 28 mph, but because it’s 1000 watts and has a throttle control. You can get up to 28 mph solely by throttle which exceed the limit of 20 for unassisted speed.

In Iowa it would be classified as a motorized bicycle taking It out of the definition of a bicycle and into the classification of a Motor Vehicle.

b. “Motorized bicycle” means a motor vehicle having a saddle or a seat for the use of a rider, designed to travel on not more than three wheels in contact with the ground, and not capable of operating at a speed in excess of thirty-nine miles per hour on level ground unassisted by human power.

#1314293

mcpartla, January 11, 2020 at 3:41 pm

Thanks for the clarification and it looks like my Class 3 may be legal on Iowa roads and Info@Ragbrai.com replied that my registration will provide the expected support.

#1314294

Joseph Schlau, January 11, 2020 at 3:58 pm

I intend to ride the Crossrip + in 2020. I will keep the link to the Iowa statute on the phone in case there is a concern by the e-police or their deputies.

#1314295

mcpartla, January 11, 2020 at 4:38 pm

Good idea but I think most of the Iowa state police who help us are more concerned with keeping us safe than enforcing e-rules, if any. Local police have been very supportive too on all my rides.

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garywilk, January 11, 2020 at 5:04 pm

Yes to my earlier post the aggressive rider was on a normal bike. The point I try to make is that it is not the bike but the person on the bike that matters. Hopefully I did not send the wrong message and so far have not seen an e-biker dangerous. Out of the many years I have been doing Ragbrai and riding about 6-7K miles a year, you just have to put some of your emotions aside and just assume there will be slow riders riding 3 across and just slow down a bit. There will also be the pace line cranking along at 25 plus, you just hope there is not some new rider hanging on for dear life. One wheel cross and there will be blood. I do join a pace line some but only toward the end of the day when it thins out some and then usually leave a good wheel between the person in front unless I really know them. If it gets over 20 riderx, I drop off because you know someone is not experienced.

#1314299

Jose Medina, January 11, 2020 at 5:57 pm

As everybody has pointed out it all comes down to safety and who is behind the handlebars. It is not always us riders that are unsafe. I had a motorcycle pull out of a gravel road and do a uturn right in the middle of the road in front of a pack of us on Ragbrai. He was showing off. I broadsided him and knocked him over. My Ragbrai was instantly over. This is why it is a good idea to wear a helmet. I was wearing mine, but I think I still have an imprint on my forehead that says Honda. (Chuckle). It was a Honda Goldwing , a big heavy bike. I got away with cuts ,scrapes and cracked ribs. I had ridden from the Missouri river to just outside of Cedar Rapids. My bike was of course totalled. I couldn’t wait to do Ragbrai again. You just have to always be alert, this happened so fast , we had no time to react. Always wear your helmet !

#1314301

mootsman, January 11, 2020 at 7:25 pm

As far as safety goes I’ve seen far more slow riders causing problems then fast ones. Once a guy got frustrated waiting for an opening to cross the road to a particular vendor and just shot across causing a bunch of us to jam on the brakes abruptly. And plenty of times approaching slow riders to pass them on the left with plenty of space they abruptly veer left without looking. Some even had rear view mirrors they didn’t bother checking. So all the emphasis on fast riders is misplaced. No, when you pass 1,000+ riders a day, you do not shout out “on your left” each time. You watch their line and make judgement calls.

But ebikers can be not only dangerous but rude because they did not acquire any experience as they trained up to a faster speed. The vast majority of fast riders are safe and polite. Sure there are some exceptions. And I have not had safety issues with ebikers but etiquette issues when they shout for others to get out of their way. So tacky. Like farting in a pace-line.

But there have been very few ebikes thus far on RAGBRAI. For so few ebikers the issues are disproportionately high. As the numbers increase so will the conflicts. But riders who were fast self propelled riders when younger and now need an ebike are typically no problem. If I ever need an ebike though, that’s when I just hang it up instead.

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mcpartla, January 12, 2020 at 5:51 am

I’ve seen it suggested that most e-bikers go way too fast and did not learn to handle higher speeds which I think is assumptions and not facts. I’ve had an e-bike 18 months now and most of the other e-bikers I’ve met at home and on Ragbrai are just like me … biked for several decades and know how to handle higher speeds safely but mostly ride a casual pace 10-12 mph and have little interest in getting on pace lines with mostly inexperienced riders like found on Ragbrai for one simple reason … we don’t want to risk injury … it takes way too long to recover and we don’t want to damage our bikes. I met half a dozen e-bicyclists on Ragbrai 2019 and most were seniors and on the heavy side who bought e-bikes to keep up with their friends. I‘ve met no one on an e-bike under about age 50 … yet. My area bike shop says most e-buyers are middle to senior aged so far.

#1314314

mcpartla, January 12, 2020 at 6:01 am

Hope you got a name and recovered your damages. Most crashes I’ve seen or passed on Ragbrai resulted from downhills and probably going too fast. A Biker Buddy told me as he got older he tended to go slower and under control at all times and he decided 30 mph was his top speed even on a long down hill. Pretty good advice but I didn’t do this on my two Ride the Rockies rides or I probably would not be writing this. My guideline on 16 Ragbrais is to enjoy the ride and stay safe and this means biking always in control, calling out “On your left” and using hand signals and making moves to the left or right slowly and looking out for road cracks and debris.

#1314315

Joseph Schlau, January 12, 2020 at 7:37 am

My conversations at the four bike shops I do business with mirrors the same demographics you cite. Older, experienced riders who were able to re-enter biking as a sport to maintain their healthy activity.

Last year on our team of 25 riders we had 1 rider who fit these demographics. We talked about her decision to go to an ebike which was based on needing assistance on the hills to avoid walking or red zoning her heart rate. I didn’t try her bike, but while on vacation my wife and I rented a couple of ebikes. We were able to ride the same route we did a few years before. Instead of walking the hills and generally disliking the ride, she loved it. Finally she could enjoy the state park we were at and not stress the hills. Yes we eventually “bought our technology” but we had also trained up for 60 years. She rode her new Electra almost every day until late October. But to classify us as riders who “can be not only dangerous but rude because they did not acquire any experience as they trained up to a faster speed” is well, unfounded hysteria.

This thread is supposedly prompted by a single and much repeated story about an electric trike bike and their rude rider. Wow, you would have thought it was James Dean himself leading the wild ones in their terror campaign across Iowa.

What is interesting is that no one else can recount a similar story. Presumably such a rude and arrogant pair of riders who never trained up and purchased their speed, would have continued to terrorize the entire Ragbrai route for 7 days prompting numerous posts if not direct complaints to Ragbrai officials.

Yet, ebikes do not even get a mention in the rider surveys of the past 2 years.

Thus far in 7 pages and 5 months of posts, the numerous stories of etiquette violations, unsafe riding, etc have involved standard bikes and 1 motorcycle. MM, you have not established credible reasoning why ebikes presents a significant risk requiring special rules or exclusion from Ragbrai.

#1314318

mcpartla, January 12, 2020 at 8:38 am

Good input on e-bikes and e-bikers.
How do you plan to handle the mileage on RAGBRAI? My Trek CrossRip has a fast recharger weighing about one pound and takes around two hours to fully replenish. My bike goes 60-70 miles on the lowest ECO setting and maybe 20-25 miles on the highest (TURBO) and can be shut off on downhills and flat areas to extend the mileage. Of course hills suck the juice faster and diminish the total miles … but fortunately most of Iowa is flat or downhill. The recharger can be plugged into any 110 outlet consuming and estimated 5 to 10 cents in electricity. Last year RAGBRAI said that each water stop should also have outlets we were welcome to use and refill our e-energy but I did not find any where I looked. Instead I also stopped at town pools at about the halfway point and plugged in here while I swam. An hour or so replenished my battery for around 30 additional miles. Most days I had sufficient battery power where I could have made the daily ride distance on one charge.

I found if I needed help with anything … like replenishing my battery … all I had to do was ask someone. Casey’s had an outlet out front at one stop and I asked before using it. Same with a rest stop at a church.

Some of the other e-bikers I met on the daily ride carried spare batteries but this is an expensive solution.

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Joseph Schlau, January 12, 2020 at 9:18 am

[quote quote=1314302]If I ever need an ebike though, that’s when I just hang it up instead.[/quote]

Well, I doubt that. The arrogance of youth and the illusion of invulnerability is often shattered when you receive your Medicare card in the mail. Some may believe that riding a standard bike will provide you with a cloak of invincibility, thus allowing you the moral high ground to scoff at the notion of ebikes and look down at those who ride them. But not so. What you see as a threat now is actually a mirror of your future.

Those are interesting words you choose as it seems to project your attitude toward those who choose an ebike so we can extend our time when we really have to hang it up.

Or more to the point, an attitude that we are not worthy to ride on your version of Ragbrai without your “special rules of etiquette“.

Well someday you will not be passing riders on the uphill stretches. You will be the one passed at the same time your heart rate is in the red zone. Then you will have your moment of reflection and decision. Up the technology and stay in the game or hang it up.

This video from Trek is both humorous and right on. Yes it is advertisement, but it pokes fun at some of the underlying resentment the youthful riders of standard bikes have toward older riders on ebikes. An attitude that also fuels the chicken little, sky is falling hysteria over ebikes.

https://youtu.be/cDa1Ns9hvho

#1314321

mootsman, January 12, 2020 at 9:30 am

[quote quote=1314318]
Thus far in 7 pages and 5 months of posts, the numerous stories of etiquette violations, unsafe riding, etc have involved standard bikes and 1 motorcycle. MM, you have not established credible reasoning why ebikes presents a significant risk requiring special rules or exclusion from Ragbrai.[/quote]

Completely missed the point which was not a ban or condemnation of ebike riders, but that an etiquette and safety guide would be useful for those purchasing speed. Whether it be able to ride hills they previously walked or just to ride faster. Instead of using the forum to argue by cherry picking details from their posts, maybe just share thoughts on what can help e-riders get coached up on safety and etiquette. Forums are not hear to argue so you can feel right.

And I have my Medicare card and have ridden for 40+ years on everything from USCF Crits to tours like RAGBRAI. And no way would I ever go e-bike, I’d just hang it up. I long ago stopped being able to compete racing but instead of getting into age category old-guy age categories, I knew it was time to move on and quit racing.

#1314322

Joseph Schlau, January 12, 2020 at 12:13 pm

[quote quote=1314302]But ebikers can be not only dangerous but rude because they did not acquire any experience as they trained up to a faster speed. The vast majority of fast riders are safe and polite. Sure there are some exceptions. And I have not had safety issues with ebikers but etiquette issues when they shout for others to get out of their way. So tacky. Like farting in a pace-line.

But there have been very few ebikes thus far on RAGBRAI. For so few ebikers the issues are disproportionately high. As the numbers increase so will the conflicts.[/quote]

You have yet to show how e-bikes present a significant safety issue. You just keep rehashing one incident over again. One incident. So with 10,000 to 15,000 riders per day times 7 days, 1 incident does not exactly qualify as disproportionately high.

[quote quote=1314322]maybe just share thoughts on what can help e-riders get coached up on safety and etiquette[/quote]

You posted that you think there needs to be some rules of etiquette going forward for ebikers. You now include your call for special safety rules as well even though you concede “ I have not had safety issues with ebikers ”.

By suggesting anything in this area I would be conceding a problem with ebike specific safety or etiquette exists. It does not.

After 5 months, 7 pages, 29 persons replying over a hundred posts and your 40 years of experience, I would think you could have coached up your own list.

It’s also obvious from all the time and posts, no one else seem to have shared the same traumatic stress of having been dusted off by 2 e-trikes on a hill. Or at least they got over it.

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Jose Medina, January 12, 2020 at 12:43 pm

One thing we have not touched on ,is handicapped riders. My daughter is handicapped and has done Ragbrai many years. She rides with Adaptive Sports. Her disease will not allow her to continue unless she gets a 3 wheel recumbent bike with electric assist. I am helping her achieve that this year so she can continue riding. She loves doing Ragbrai with her Adaptive Sports group . So , e-bikes are not a bad thing . Some day one of us may be in that situation. If you love Ragbrai as much as we do , you will do what it takes to be around the most wonderful people on earth.

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