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

mootsman, December 12, 2018 at 6:53 am

RAGBRAI is not required to allow ebikers to register. There is no such law requiring it. They can have a policy of not allowing them to be official participants and register. Sure ride pirates can still ebike. Not the point though.

And yes ebikers could still find ways to recharge but requiring towns, charters and team to not allow charging stations would make it more difficult.

The point for RAGBRAI itself is if the directors want to take on the liability if drunk ebikers cause injuries when crashing. That release we sign, a lawyer would use that as he would a roll of Charmin. But if it is against policy and someone ignores that, the liability is all theirs, not RAGBRAI’s. And also the liability of any group that allowed ebikes on their charter.

This reply was modified 1 year, 7 months ago by mootsman.


Bob Amlie, December 12, 2018 at 10:56 am

BOB, get off my lawn!!!

Y’know–if these pro-Equality Bikers would spend way LESS time on their ‘puters Trolling me, and MORE time on their self-powered bike getting miles in, going up hills, they would have no need for an EBike! Just a little helpful advice, there.


TJ Juskiewicz, December 12, 2018 at 12:25 pm

OK, I guess it is time to wade into this e-bike conversation. I hope everyone remembers to be civil when posting your thoughts in these forums. There are a few posts in this thread that don’t quite live up to that creed.

I’ll start by saying that Mariah is one of the best things that have happened to RAGBRAI. She answers most of the day to day and especially registration communications with a big smile in person, over the phone or through her e-mails. I have received more e-mails from riders and teams about how awesome Mariah is than you can imagine. Please refrain from taking cheap shots at this wonderful young lady who was simply answering a question from a rider with an answer about RAGBRAI policies. Feel free to take cheap shots at me, not her.

OK, e-bikes. Lots of great opinions on this thread. Lots of good information here as well as lots of misinformation. Oh, and lots of emotions.

Since the beginning of RAGBRAI, we have followed the rules and regulations of our great state of Iowa. We work closely with the Iowa State Patrol and our Iowa DOT. Our event is the Register’s Annual Great BICYCLE Ride Across Iowa. In the state of Iowa, an e-bike is defined as a “bicycle” so long as the e-bike’s motor is under 750 watts, has a maximum speed of 20mph and has operable pedals. The same rules of the road apply to both e-bikes and fully human-powered bicycles. These bikes have no doubt changed over time and will no doubt continue to change through the future of RAGBRAI.

I was dead set against e-bikes… until a few things changed my way of thinking.

I will challenge everyone to try an e-bike, even just once. I thought I understood e-bikes from reading about them until I actually physically got out and pedaled one. Yep, pedaled one, not throttled one. These are pedal-assist bikes, that give the rider an assist when needed. I broke a sweat. My legs burned after a multi-hour ride. If I went over 20mph, it was all my pedaling at that point to get that bike up to 25mph on a flat. Wow, was I wrong about them. So, that was the first thing that started to get my thinking that I might need to change my mind.

“Only the wisest and stupidest of men never change” Confucius

A young female rider asked me on the phone about e-bikes. She mentioned that she would love to ride RAGBRAI with several generations of her family. Her grandfather proudly rode over 30 RAGBRAIs and many other great cycling events throughout the world. He was now in his 80s and doing full days of RAGBRAI would be many just too much without an e-bike. The dilemma of telling a young lady that she couldn’t experience the joys of cycling with her grandfather had a profound effect on me.

My next experience involved riding with a friend of mine. He rides with Adaptive Sports Iowa on RAGBRAI and has been riding a hand-cycle for many years after losing use of his lower limbs in a bicycle crash. When we stopped for him to repair a flat tire, I had a whole new respect for anyone riding a hand-pedaled bike as he sat on the ground, flipped his bike over and repaired his flat. As I looked at his bike, he told me his trike is equipped with a pedal assist motor. He said he needs it from time to time to get over a hill when his arms are cramping or the wind is brutal and he needs to get to the next town to use a bathroom.

I had always admired my friend for his accomplishments on and off the bike and that day did not diminish those accomplishments one bit.

On this forum thread, I read PapaT post about his experiences being passed by an e-bike and heckling the rider. He then explained how that rider talked to him in the town to explain about his recent lung operation. PapaT resolved to never criticize someone for what they were riding, because it was none of his business. He inserted the F-bomb in his, but you get the point.
Several people have posted that if you are not up to the “challenge of riding RAGBRAI completely on your own then they should not come”. Everyone is entitled to their own opinion. I tend to disagree with that sentiment.

Should we immediately banish anyone that we pick up in the SAG wagon? Let’s drive them to the airport and get them back home, they are not up to the challenge!
How about husband and wife teams that switch off in the meeting towns? Since they are not up to the challenge, should they not come on RAGBRAI?

There is a lady from Washington, Iowa that is in her nineties that rides most of the miles of RAGBRAI each and every year and meets up with her “younger” husband that is in his eighties. A 93-year-old gentleman from Cedar Rapids has ridden the miles of RAGBRAI, plus the Karras Loop, with his son and grandson. Wow! The day either of them needs an e-bike to still come out and enjoy the splendor of biking with friends and family, I say please come join us.

People ride RAGBRAI for all kinds of reasons. It is different for everyone. I love the RAGBRAI community for what it stands for. I would hope that we can all be a little more understanding that people might have a reason for needing that extra boost that the e-bike gives them. Pedal next to the family that would love to all be together for another summer of RAGBRAI instead of grandma staying home since she really enjoyed riding the 27 RAGBRAIs before being diagnosed with Parkinson’s.

“If everyone could just be happy with themselves and the choices people around them make, the world would instantly be a better place! “ John Lennon

Thanks for taking the time to read, time to get back to planning for another great RAGBRAI for ALL BICYCLISTS!

TJ Juskiewicz
RAGBRAI Director

This reply was modified 1 year, 7 months ago by TJ Juskiewicz.


Sandaltan ., December 12, 2018 at 12:40 pm

Meanwhile back to pie, which is what the ride is all about.



Bob Amlie, December 12, 2018 at 12:45 pm

Civil discourse. Aha–RAGBRAI does care! Okay. But, “cheap shots”? The question was not a “cheap shot”, but a legitimate inquiry into the background of the key decision-makers, there. It might have a bearing on their perspective. So, did the personable & efficient Mariah work at the Harley dealer, prior to coming to the Register as their Marketing Specialist? Is she a veteran of many RAGBRAIs, as a rider? Hypothetically(not a cheap shot)If you selected your employees in a random drawing while blindfolded, you could very well get someone with an excellent educational credential & work history, but who sees no need to even have a bike ride across Iowa. I actually know such people. So, perspective is everything. I have noticed that the EBike manufacturers are really trying hard to find a market for an expensive consumer product they have to sell. So, what better way to help their campaign than to have RAGBRAI offcialy endorse their use? They will no doubt be using it in their ad copy, in the future. But–the core element to RAGBRAI—for you newbies—is the novelty of self-powering your way across Iowa on the back roads. You can eat pie & pork chops when you are sitting in your rocking chair in front of the TV, in your twilight years.

This reply was modified 1 year, 7 months ago by Bob Amlie.

This reply was modified 1 year, 7 months ago by Bob Amlie.


Luv 2 Ski, December 12, 2018 at 12:46 pm

Thank you TJ.

See you in July, on my own power, as a Senior Citizen, and enjoying a week with all kinds of wonderful people regardless of what kind of bike they ride.


Bob Amlie, December 12, 2018 at 1:08 pm

So what, if people become physically incapable of of self-powering their way across Iowa? Probably, that would describe the vast majority of the U.S. population! That, is the novelty of doing any cross-state or long distance ride. The argument that has been made that “we” need to accommodate elderly or unfit people who no longer have the stamina to self-power is purely an emotional one, at best. The thing is—your whole life is like that–everything. I want to date 23-year olds, but they ignore me, cause I’mm 66. TJ, can you fix me up? Should congress pass a law that guarantees professional athletes tenure, like Supreme Court Judges? How would you like to own a business where you have to guarantee employment, whether your staff is still fit to do the job, or not? How would you like to work alongside such people? I’m trying to figure out why the coordinators of RAGBRAI are now social engineers, trying to right some perceived injustice, by using Equality Bikes.? If you can’t meet the physical challenge of riding self-powered across Iowa—accept the fact.

This reply was modified 1 year, 7 months ago by Bob Amlie.

This reply was modified 1 year, 7 months ago by Bob Amlie.


Bernard Schwartze, December 12, 2018 at 1:09 pm

Thanks TJ for writing us. I appreciate all that you had to say. I also appreciate everything you and your team do to make RAGBRAI the wonderful event that it is. I got hit riding my bike 4 weeks ago and may have to take a pass on the next one. Going to miss it and all you folks that are there.


PlaidShirt92, December 12, 2018 at 1:48 pm

Been following this thread, and it has definitely taken a turn. Bob – did you seriously just ask TJ to hook you up with their office specialist?


mootsman, December 12, 2018 at 2:22 pm


Thanks for your comments. I assumed you were following. The only thing I can say though is that ebikes come in many forms. Some have the “Copenhagen” wheel where the motor is in the wheel. There is also a version called the “Magic Pan” made in Asia. Those do not have to be pedaled. I was passed by 1 that was sort of a cross between a 2 wheel recumbent and a Schwinn Stingray in looks but the rider e-powered up a hill without pedaling a stroke at 20 mph. And another local had one with 2 recumbents banded together with a “Magic Pan” 500 watt motor in all 4 wheels. He was a real danger on the bike trail. He also had a long lasting battery rigged to it. This type of motor is in a large diameter hub and does not power the crankset. Plus some will no doubt “adjust” (tamper with) the speed limitation out of them.

So this presents RAGBRAI with an enforcement issue. How do you make sure all the ebikes conform to the Iowa definition? And RAGBRAI I’m sure is well aware a lot of drinking goes on so should be aware that ebikes will be flying along with intoxicated operators. Has the Register’s legal department been consulted on the civil liability (not legality) given that RAGBRAI knows that some riders drink and injuries are a likely outcome at ebike speeds. Including the riders they run into. People who have been drinking can rarely come close to those speeds. Motors and alcohol usually don’t mix well.

Seems like an easy fix to the liability though. Just officially say they are not allowed and those that choose to use them anyway would be 100% liable at that point.


dukester, December 12, 2018 at 2:43 pm

Thanks TJ. Will see you in 2019 for my sixth consecutive RAGBRAI, this time grinning ear-to-ear on my e-bike.


stuckinmizzou, December 12, 2018 at 2:54 pm

Thanks for providing us with more insight, TJ! Enjoy the ride! 17 straight for me in 220 DAYS! (and 45 until the Route Announcement Party!)


Mary, December 12, 2018 at 6:24 pm

Thanks TJ, well said. And Mariah IS the best!!


T. Gap Woo, December 12, 2018 at 8:15 pm


Thanks for a well-reasoned post and your explanation of the rationale behind your change of opinion. It makes perfect sense!

As I have posted previously, kudos are due to those whose choose to stay active, instead of sitting back and listening to their arteries harden. E-bike or not, all riders are to be commended.

For those who choose an e-bike for whatever reason (and it’s nobody’s business but yours), I say “welcome to the festivities.” We may all need an assist someday, but if the good Lord is willin’ and the creeks don’t rise, that day will be far off in the future.

To those who claim some type of unjustified moral superiority over e-bikers, without knowing their reason for using an e-bike, heed these words I learned from Daddy Woo: “I complained because I had no shoes, until I met a man who had no feet.”

See you along the I-O-Way next year.


mcdermott1, December 12, 2018 at 9:52 pm

TJ , thank you for providing clarity on the E-bike issue .I agree 100% with your mature , well thought out opinion on the use of E-Bikes on Ragbrai. All your work is greatly appreciated, you do a great job . I’m looking forward to another great experience riding cross Iowa next July ! Thanks again for all you do on behalf of all us riders.


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