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Electric assist bikes?

OK, here is something to perk up the forum. We have seen a huge increase in electric assist bikes around here, and I imagine we will be seeing an increase of said bikes on RAGBRAI this July. I have an opinion concerning this, but I am more interested in what the forum community has to say. Is this the beginning of the end? Will this allow folks who would otherwise not be able to ride to make it happen? Or does the answer lie somewhere in between? Are there any “rules” regarding their use on RAGBRAI? What are your thoughts?

396 Replies

cwmurray, November 20, 2018 at 6:37 am

I love them. Ragbrai is one of the greatest all inclusive events in America. It excepts everyone.
Come join the fun.


Groeny82, November 20, 2018 at 7:15 am

It depends on the intent I think. If it is helping someone ride RAGBRAI that normally wouldn’t because of a physical limitation or age then I have no problem with it. If an otherwise healthy person is using it to make the ride easier then I would maybe be a little annoyed with their use of an e-bike. The only time I get mad about e-bikes on the ride is when I’m struggling up a hill and grandma goes zipping past me on an e-bike.


Papa T, November 20, 2018 at 10:49 am

Fifteen or so years ago, some of us on Team Brewhaha rode in the “Miller Ride for the arts” in Milwaukee. Going up a hill, we were passed by a guy riding an electric bike. We gave him a bunch of crap for using the electric bike. A few miles down the road we pulled over at a rest stop. While enjoying a refreshment, the electric rider approached us and explained he had a lung operation over the winter and had a lung removed. “I just can’t make it up the hills anymore” he explained. I resolved at that minute to NEVER criticize a rider no matter what they are riding. It’s none of my f’king business!


KenH, November 20, 2018 at 11:02 am

Electric assist does not bother me at all. I don’t need to know why you are using it either. Your reason is good enough for me, whatever it is. Even pure laziness! Please keep your speed in check, that is all that I ask. Same as I ask of pacelines.

I guess I would draw the line at a full on, cross country e-bike however. I don’t find them offensive if, again, the speed is kept in check with the flow of the crowd so that they do not become a safety issue. I guess it is more of the principle of the thing. It is supposed to be a human powered event. If ebikes with hundred mile ranges are allowed then why not gas powered motorcycles, bicycles, scooters, mopeds, etc? I think that would totally change the character of the event so I vote NO. But if the ride wants to go that way I would still come, I could afford a nice little Vespa, I suppose … ;)


Niles, November 20, 2018 at 11:26 am

I think e-bike might be not a great idea for practical reason. It doesn’t have the range for a whole day ride. It will be hard to find power outlet to charge overnight if you stay in camping ground. It helps to climb but there is enough serious long and steep hills in RAGBRAI to justify the weight penalty you’ll have to pay for the majority time of the day.

It only makes sense if for the show-off (That’s important part of RAGBRAI), or some physical conditions.


jelly0317, November 20, 2018 at 2:19 pm

As long as it meets the definition of a “bicycle” [see Code of Iowa Section 321.1(40)(c)], it’s OK with me. As the average age of RAGBRAI riders continues to rise, I expect that we’ll see more electric bikes in the coming years. If so, someone will start a overnight recharging service to meet the need.


Mike Cordes, November 20, 2018 at 3:32 pm

There are skateboard, inline skates, unicycles, runners, pedal-cars, pace lines, slowpokes, and people riding side by side by side by side by side in the left lane… who cares if someone wants to, or needs to, use an e-bike on the ride. People need to be more concerned with their ride than their neighbor’s ride.


“Bicycle Bill”, November 20, 2018 at 5:37 pm

The name of the event is “The Register’s Annual Great


Ride Across Iowa”.
Not mopeds, not skateboards, not roller skates, not golf carts, and not e-bikes.


jelly0317, November 20, 2018 at 5:53 pm

Please explain to us why an e-bike is not a bicycle.


Craig Kemnitz, November 20, 2018 at 6:06 pm

For me and my family it is GREAT. I am a much faster/stronger rider than my wife. I put her on an e-bike and off we go. It is much more enjoyable for both of us.


Bob Amlie, November 20, 2018 at 11:04 pm

I’m in agreement with Bicycle Bill. EBikes are not self-powered vehicles. It’s like giving everyone who goes to school an “A”-grade, regardless of their effort. To be truly inclusive(a buzzword for the everyone-is-equal crowd)We may as well allow Harley-Davidsons & those Electric Carts you see in the grocery store to participate. Golf Carts and ATV’s, too. After all, it’s about getting out there and having fun, right?


jelly0317, November 21, 2018 at 8:22 am

Do any of the vehicles which you mentioned meet a definition of “bicycle”? E-bikes seem to meet the requirements, so why should they be excluded?


Bob Amlie, November 21, 2018 at 8:33 am

I believe that RAGBRAI should be limited to self-powered cycles. That means no motors. Splitting hairs and word games don’t change my opinion on the subject. I rode in 2017, at age 65. I was about 50lbs overweight, and rode less than 400 miles during the months prior to the event. I rode every mile, including the century. Didn’t feel the need for no stinkin’ E-Bike, and if I did, I would not go. My advice: either put forth the effort, or stay home.


mootsman, November 21, 2018 at 8:45 am

Ebike batteries don’t last nearly an entire day on RAGBRAI so I’d assume those using them would use the boost just when they need some help. If it gets some people out who otherwise would not be there, its a good thing. Maybe in the near future RAGBRAI will have designated pass through towns with recharging stations. And a smoothie stand right next to recharge the riders also. I like smoothies enough I wish there were smoothie gardens the same way there are beer gardens.

Someone on this post also criticized riders in general, Ebike or not, for going too fast. Sorry, but if you can you will use the extra speed. And its all about the freedom to choose, especially on RAGBRAI. In my younger days I’d pass lots of people and still do. I’m not going to slow down to please a few. Those being passed also have a responsibility to ride straight and predictably. And look before changing your line of travel. As long passing is done safely its not an issue. Same goes for Ebike users. And hopefully I’ll never need one myself (fingers crossed). Even on RAGBRAI a mirror is a big help for safety if you use it.


Bob Braigar, November 21, 2018 at 10:27 am

IMO, everyone should have a mirror. Those that go fast sometimes complain about those going slow. Those going slow, sometimes complain about those going fast. After many Ragbrais, for me the most important thing to remember when actually on the ride, is to not complain. I do understand that it is natural to think about how one would like the ride to be, whatever the motivation may be.


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