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

Joe Chavis, December 30, 2018 at 7:41 am

I have been seduced to speak. Usually, I only read the forum issues. This one however is intriguing….provoking thought if you wish… Maybe it’s only because the weather here in NC is crap today and I am not gonna ride?

However, this discussion reminds me of the first time I saw a rider with those now popular STI I like to call them shifters. I started riding before those gadgets were even an option. I rode with down tube friction shifters. Had never even seen a Triple chain ring set up. My first reaction to the new shifters was ” that’s a dang gimmick…It’ll never catch on, nobody’s gonna ride that crap. It makes you shift too much” ” What a bunch of weak weenies. LOL well I was wrong, I even own a coupe bikes equipped with that crap myself, now.

If I keep breathing and am able to attend, RAGBRAI 2019 will be my 23rd consecutive ride. Usually, I ride a fixed gear. Have ridden fixie on RAGBRAI for more ‘n half of my 23 visits. I ride fixie (not fixed,yet, that’s still original equipment) here in the mountains of NC, have ridden fixe up and down and all around several states and countless organized rides. To include the Hills Mountains and inclines here in the southeast USA.

Like e’vy body else, I guess, on the 2017 ride, as I was standin’, strugglin’, sweatin’ snarlin’ and just short of swearin’ up one of the many inclines the last day riding a 49X14 set up ((92 inch gear) some wider ‘n usual obviously not in tip top shape woman, giggled past me SEATED up the incline.

At first I was puzzled, another rider yelled to me, after seeing my puzzlement,” awww don’t pay her no attention, she’s riding one of them motor assisted bikes”. I had not many complimentary thoughts about that encounter the remainder of the climb. BUT, as fate would have it…as is the case on most bike rides, the incline gave way to a screaming downhill, where I simply ‘unclip’ and fly…….to an inevitable flat surface…Riding ability takes over on the flats… at which time, I continued to ride my normal pace, and smiled, spoke to the rather wide bodied young lady and rode past her and away….

When finished, I surmised that “at least she’s out here trying, riding, doing, participating, a bunch of the ing’s that otherwise she would not be able to? Let ’em ride em…

Jes’ sayin’ Be Fun Have Safe, hope to see ALL in July.


Nico ZZZ, December 30, 2018 at 7:48 am

I remember back in 2000-2001, our quiet little Midwest town was a magical slice of heaven: church ice cream socials, Saturday night dances (chaperoned of course!), barbershop quartet festivals, etc…Heaven. But then the Darkness came. We were not ready, we were too late to recognize the Evil. Yes, dear RAGBRAI friends, we were overrun by those evil motorized contraptions – the Segway! Within months – MONTHS! – we had drunken, craft-beer drinkin’, slovenly, out-of-shape nekked Portlandians invading our streets and terrorizing our innocent little children and even our Gran Mamas on those motorized devil machines! Learn from history. Heed the warnings of the past!
And get off of my lawn!!!


Bob Amlie, December 30, 2018 at 1:54 pm

Well, as far as someone getting out there and “trying”. I consider someone who is having to resort to walking their bike up a hill, to be an individual who is out there “trying”. Having to walk a hill on RAGBRAI would be a humbling experience, though I’ve never had to do it. Being humbled may give them the incentive to try harder to achieve better conditioning, next year. But, if a rider knows they can rely on an Equality Bike to push them up the hills right alongside, (or ahead of) the self-powered riders, it reduces the necessity for being in better physical shape. After all–they spent $4k on an Equality Bike and rode, mission accomplished! No one dares to comment negatively because it would be considered politically incorrect “hate speech”, and of course–we bikers are all so nice and considerate. LOL. When it comes to an endurance-based pastime like bicycling, the Equality Bike really is the enemy of self-improvement, all there is to it. It is a dis-incentive to try harder.

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


Brian Wallenburg, January 4, 2019 at 11:21 am

I haven’t had a chance to read this entire thread, simply because it’s too long. Here’s my two cents. If eBikes allow for more people to enjoy cycling and exercise for any reason, please do! It’s none of my business why someone chooses to ride an eBike. My spouse will likely be on one as some point. She suffers from RA. She’s doesn’t want to ever go that route, but told me if she had to, she wouldn’t hesitate. I’d support her 100%. We’ve rode 1000’s upon 1000’s mile together and I would be devastated if she had to hang it up. We have no idea what’s going on in other peoples lives and nor should we care.


Larry Klaaren, January 4, 2019 at 2:47 pm

I posted earlier on this thread, a few eons ago, and have not read all the posts in between. I had an adverse medical report and my participation this year is on hold. It is not my style to ride an e-bike on RAGBRAI. Others can do what they want IMO, that would not take anything away from me or what I have done.
It does seems reasonable to me, given the current laws, that if they allow e-bikes it should be only e-bikes that do not need a vehicle license and do not have a throttle (pedal assist only), that would be class I e-bikes. I know that there were some e-bikes on Tour de France two years ago that had tiny components and were almost undetectable. Almost is the key word there. I see the concerns people have, but I have never been good at solving problems that aren’t problems yet. Just my thoughts.


flyinbrian, January 4, 2019 at 8:43 pm

It’s a bicycle event, not a moped event. I’ve already had one very sour encounter with an ebiker on Ragbrai. I grew up here, I ride every year. If it becomes a moped event, I’m out!


Jason Stoller, January 5, 2019 at 1:07 pm

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.

This comment seems more like a jealousy or envy comment to me. It’s states as long as another person has a limitation it’s ok but the minute the gain an advantage I don’t have it’s not ok.



Jason Stoller, January 5, 2019 at 1:46 pm

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 … 😉

. When reading through the guidelines for Ragbrai, where does it get into the specifics that describe the type of bike/Trike/skateboard/unicycle/big wheel/Velomobile? Where does it describe the specific speed one allowed to travel at durring the event. Certainly pace lines exist an nothing has been done to stop or break them up when they start. An even bigger problem are the riders causing a Safety hazard because they refuse to move over to the right even when someone yells out on your left several times. Those riders are spread on both sides of the road and appear to be more interested in chatting with their friends than the Safety of the other people around them. So I see several issues. Those issues honestly do not stem from e-bikes or e-assisted Bikes which by the way are two different setups. They also differ from an electric scooter, golf cart, mow ped, gas diven bicycle, or Vespa. I think it’s very important to know the differences, and understand the limitations of each, to have a healthy relevant discussion.



Jason Stoller, January 5, 2019 at 1:49 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.

Define Bicycle! I think you might have some difficulty



Jason Stoller, January 5, 2019 at 2:03 pm

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.

. so according to how you feel, a person who might train just as hard as you have, and a has had a heart surgery, a stroke, back surgery, neck fusion, might be diabetic, have an artificial limb, or another factor like cancer that might prevent them from completing Ragbrai without an e-assist bicycle or special bicycle should not be allowed to ride and participate? Wow? How amazing!


Jason Stoller, January 5, 2019 at 2:35 pm


Again. skip twisting the meaning of what is said just to be argumentative. Human powered obviously refers to the propulsion of a bike, not shifting. And also the response about cars was referring to someone else saying that RAGBRAI is anything anyone wants it to be. The key word being “anything”. RAGBRAI is and always has been a bicycle tour. Ebikes are just electric mopeds. I have held my responses to you up to this point but I have to say you really appear to be clueless. I can tell already that you have no idea how old Recumbent Bicycles really are. I can also tell that while you are willing to accept that Bicycles have evolved over the years, you only take and hold to the definitions you want and refuse to accept the ones that have evolved with new technologies. I am very surprised you are not riding on solid tires at this point. God forbid you accepted the inner tube inside a bicycle tire concept. No, I am not attempting to change the subject either. I am just directly pointing out how closed minded you are being to support your own argument and suit your own purpose. Sure hope you did not accept electric windows in your car or an automatic transmission.


From the dictionary: “bicycle: a vehicle with two wheels tandem, handlebars for steering, a saddle seat, and pedals by which it is propelled”

We’ve expanded that on RAGBRAI to allow tricycles & recumbents but powered with the pedals, not a motor. And RAGBRAI is a bicycle tour. Not a moped tour which e-bikes are. Whether gas or electric assisted, mopeds are a motor assist for a pedaled vehicle.


Bob Amlie, January 14, 2019 at 4:45 pm

[quote quote=1296676]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 mil

. “So, according to how you feel, a person who might train just as hard as you have, and a has had a heart surgery, a stroke, back surgery, neck fusion, might be diabetic, have an artificial limb, or another factor like cancer that might prevent them from completing Ragbrai without an e-assist bicycle or special bicycle should not be allowed to ride and participate? Wow? How amazing![/quote]*********What is “amazing” is that you insist that, in the interest of your extreme notions about inclusivity(or whatever) that somehow, everyone, regardless of their fitness level, is entitled to ride on RAGBRAI, and should be enabled to do so, by any means necessary! That, is “amazing”, to me. I have a hunch that you, with your doctrinaire idealism, must be a recent graduate of our local state University. Recently, they proclaimed that they were working to develop degree programs for people with “learning & developmental disabilities”(i.e. retarded, can’t read or write), in order to afford them “inclusivity”. It is absurd, but pathetic, at the same time. So, maybe RAGBRAI should develop programs to allow elderly nursing home patients with Alzheimers, to participate, as riders. Is that “inclusive” enough for you?

This reply was modified 1 year, 6 months ago by Bob Amlie.


Jboz, January 14, 2019 at 6:10 pm

Wow, this topic has gotten a lot of action. I guess I might as well weigh in too. I don’t personally use power assist, but I did consider it for awhile. If I ever get to the point where I can’t blast up a hill without jeopardizing their health, I won’t hesitate to get some e-assist. Should I give up a sport that means so much to me, and an annual event that I thoroughly love…just because a few purists who don’t know me from Adam might not approve of my bike choice? Ummm, nope. There are so many ways for people to enjoy this ride. In addition to eBikes, there are hard core fast/fit racers, mom & pop on their cruisers, families with tag-a-longs, recumbents, fixies, baggers, unicycles, quads, Eliptigos and I’m sure I’ve missed a few. I have even seen a Schwinn Stingray or two. Man, it’s a bike gumbo out there! I’ve thoroughly relished the conversations I’ve had with everyone along the road, regardless of what they chose to ride. If they were all kitted out, high-intensity riders averaging 28 MPH, it wouldn’t be my kind of ride anyway. And honestly, the contrast from one rider to the next makes it that much more interesting. Chalk me up on the “Countless ways to enjoy RAGBRAI” side of the ledger. Live and let live…life is WAY too short.

Oh, and just for fun search the terms Pedigo and William Shatner on YouTube for his take on the matter.


Bob Amlie, January 14, 2019 at 6:43 pm

Well, JBOZ, if you believe in the platitude “Live and let Live”, then why the heck did you “weigh in” on this discussion? Maybe it’s because you wanted to let everyone know that you were morally superior to those “purists”, because you’re on board with the doctrine of “inclusiveness” and “equality”; that everyone is “entitled” to be “equal”, no matter what their circumstances are. Reality Check—people are NOT EQUAL, in spite of how good it makes you feel to say what your profs told you over and over. Want to ride an Equality bike? Fine. Just not on RAGBRAI. If you are too sick/old/out-of-shape to go, accept it. That’s life. It looks dumb, not cool, like wearing Emperors’ Clothing, to ride an EBIKE. Fake/Faux/Wannabee. Now, do you get it? There are all kinds of Touristy trips you can take, in order to mingle with locals that will treat you well in exchange for you $$$. So, do them, instead, if you are no longer physically able to self-power across Iowa. Because, THAT was the founding principle of it, and what makes it novel.

This reply was modified 1 year, 6 months ago by Bob Amlie.

This reply was modified 1 year, 6 months ago by Bob Amlie.


Jboz, January 14, 2019 at 7:49 pm

Wow Bob, you seem a little angry. Relax dude. There are plenty of very serious rides out there…I’ve got several under my belt, and this ain’t one of them. It’s a big old fun, chill, crazy community bike ride…and despite what you stridently assert, all really are welcome. Stomp your feet all you want, but TJ and the DMR decide what’s cool and what’s not cool on RAGBRAI, not you, not me, not the Pope. Good luck to you.


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