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

Nico ZZZ, January 15, 2019 at 1:27 pm

Mr. Bob,
Thanks for the suggestion to congratulate myself, but I have no need to do that, so many fans congratulate me every day for all that I say and do.
And I would never call Jelly or Jason a “Troll,” since they clearly are not. They just disagree with you.

Ride On!


Sandaltan ., January 15, 2019 at 2:38 pm

A tip of my hat to the man with the cammo panniers for his latest post.



dalebob, January 15, 2019 at 8:08 pm

This has been really interesting. I sure do hope I get to meet all of you somewhere along the ride this summer. I will be easy to spot (look for the red white and blue top hat) so if you see me please say hi. Our team gets up and on the road early depending on heat and mileage. We often can be found dancing and grooving to the music in the pass thru towns and in the host communities.


Jason Stoller, January 15, 2019 at 9:04 pm

Dale after I get done having my bone marrow transplant in a few weeks, if My Physician’s allow me to participate in Ragbrai this year you can find me easily. I will be the one Flying both the American and Navy Flags as I have every year. I will be riding an Hp Velotecnik Fs 26 Recumbent Trike with a Blue Canopy over it. I will probably be pulling a Burley Trailer behind it with a Speaker on the back playing Highway to Hell or Freebird. Oh yeah, before I forget I will probably have e-assist mounted by choice to help me with my 4 back surgeries and two fusions along with my two heart surgeries just in case I need the extra help.

It’s a real shame that some people are so concerned with others they just can’t seem to enjoy life. It makes you wonder if they put the same energy into helping others as they do complaining how much happier their life would be.

I simply love Ragbrai.



mootsman, January 16, 2019 at 9:05 am

I think trolls are just trolling each other now. Huge waste of time.

Everyone, take your online arguing elsewhere please. Directing emails at each other? Maybe get a new winter hobby instead. The actual opinions on the subject from many people have covered the subject of this thread already. Let this thread die please. (and now, queue the troll responses)


Jason Stoller, January 16, 2019 at 12:10 pm

[quote quote=1298143]I think trolls are just trolling each other now. Huge waste of time.

Everyone, take your online arguing elsewhere please. Directing emails at each other? Maybe get a new winter hobby instead. The actual opinions on the subject from many people have covered the subject of this thread already. Let this thread die please. (and now, queue the troll responses)[/quote]

Mootsman after reading through some of your posts it appears you have set yourself up in the thread as some sort of expert on ebikes which appears to contain some misinformation. If the point of the discussion was to present accurate information than that in itself could be considered argumentative and a troll response. Of course there are E-bikes just like gas driven bikes that have been taken to the extreme but that is not the norm in the market place. There are also European Standards that have to be met overseas. Things are constantly evolving in the e-assist forums and there are many many websites that discuss this. So cherry picking a few articles on e-assist does not tell the whole story and I think you are quite aware of that. I mentioned earlier in another post there are many different battery chemistries. Some have advantages over others but there are other forums that go into that in depth. The same applies to E-assist and different designs. Unless you understand and comprehend there are different designs of E-assists then lumping them all together for discussion purposes does not do anyone any good. Understanding was actually limits an e-assist motor takes more than just being able to Tout a Wattage Number. There might just be more to it than you think. Understanding batteries also might affect the outcomes. Sheldon Brown spent a lot of time explaining Chain Rings, Cassettes, gear ratios, and more. If there is more to a Bicycle than you might think to achieve the outcome you want, what makes you think there isn’t more to e-assist than you might understand.

For example, there are different styles and types of E-assist motors. These motors may use a clutch system or be direct drive. These motors might be placed in the rear wheel and all electronics self contained, mid-drive, rear hub drive, rear direct drive, front direct drive, front hub drive. Some motors could be mounted on the front boom of bike. There is the Shimano Steps Motor. The Bosch Mid Drive. Panasonic. They might include a torque sensor or a torque sensor might be purchased separately. Maybe they use a cadence sensor. Some of them could be run by throttle only. Some might only provide assist when pedaled. Some might have adjustable pedal assist.

As you can see there is a whole lot more information than the very limited amount of information you have chosen to point to in your previous posts. Its easy to point to the fastest car that is available in the marketplace but that is not what the average buyer that goes to a car dealer is purchasing. The same applies to bike shops. My local Trek dealer is not selling an E-bike that does 50 mph. In fact I do not of any Trek or Giant dealer in my area that is selling an E-assisted bike that can accomplish this speed. So I do not know how responsible it was to post that. Now what an individual builds themselves is certainly beyond any dealers control.



Nico ZZZ, January 16, 2019 at 4:40 pm

Thank you for once again discussing this subject without anger or bitterness. I hope to see you on the road at RAGBRAI and buy you a drink or a slice of pie. Some folks here want to argue every anti- (fill in the blank) and (stay off my lawn) argument in their bitter little souls that haunts them, when you continue to keep this discussion about e-bikes. They want to do the “slippery slope” argument on e-bikes for heck’s sake. Next, they will be blaming e-bike supporters for the guv’ment shutdown. I am not worried/concerned/screaming that e-bikes will ruin RAGBRAI. Hey folks, Segways were supposed to “change the world” and “revolutionize” life as we know it. Have they overrun your wonderful world as you know it? I see e-bikes following the same path. They have a very small niche.

And who needs RAGBRAI to prove that they are some sort of Manly Man as some on this forum appear to need in their life? Yeah, ebikes will ruin your braggin’ rights…you’ll now have to explain you did it ALL SEVEN DAYS SELF POWERED, not like those ebike Wussies! (No one really cares there Mate…you rode a bike, big deal.) “I rode RAGBRAI!” (States Angry Man who now expects all to be amazed at what a cool bada** he is). If you need RAGBRAI to prove you have a pair…wow…hahaha…. I think most people ride RAGBRAI to enjoy themselves. If you need all peoples of the world to know how AMAZING you are for riding RAGBRAI, you need to up your game, or lower your thoughts of grandeur. Good lord.

E-bikers are not going to “invade” Iowa to prove anything, or to have some drunken week of debauchery, or to “terrorize” the Iowa countryside. Geez, please let it go ranting anti-ebike folks. Of course I expect two of my favorite anti-ebike guys to rant once again, the very two who claim that everyone else are trolls.
But I want to thank those who gave valid points for ebikes on RAGBRAI, including TJ and Jason, but also to thank the anti-ebike ranters as well, for you have given me and my biking coworkers daily doses of grand humor nearly every morning for weeks on end.

Ride On!


Evin Thompson, January 16, 2019 at 7:42 pm

This is a repost from a different thread that I posted on 31 Dec 2018, I believe it still applies to the recent posts…

My Ode to the New Year for RAGBRAI Nation
I wish all in RAGBRAI Nation a Happy New Year. May your year be healthy and prosperous and may I hope to see you all between the rows of corn and beans in late July 2019 in my native state.
Three interesting threads have dominated the recent Forum conversation; electric assist bikes, helmet or no helmet and travel logistics. This is my attempt to comment on all three, since they are somewhat related. I am fully aware this thread will completely die in 26 days or less as we move towards the route announcement and then that subject will dominate the Forum.
First I believe that a resident of Iowa should immediately request the Attorney General of Iowa do a full investigation into the results of the RAGBRAI survey that is conducted by the Register. Obvious to me that the RAGBRAI team must be involved in a massive cover up about electric bikes. I looked at the last few surveys and electric bikes are not even mentioned as a safety issue. The RAGBRAI Team must be hiding something.
Having just spent several days in Iowa and reading the Register, the Iowa AG has many more important things on his plate (Tipton’s and Iowa Finance)
Electric bikes are not an issue. When they become an issue , RAGBRAI Nation will speak through their survey results and let the RAGBRAI staff know that they have an issue. Until that time let’s really concentrate on the real safety issues. Multiple people riding abreast, riding far to the left when not necessary and unclear riding intentions, these constantly ring out as major issues year after year in the survey. While I do not think two abreast is a big deal, I do think two of the very wide three wheel bikes riding side by side is a problem, especially on an up a hill when they are maybe going two miles an hour and some of us are trying to maneuver around. If you do not need to be that far to the left, think about it, swallow your pride and move right. Not signaling intentions, just be courteous, please. I will do my best also.
The survey has had positive results over the years. I have been riding RAGBRAI for the last 16 years and have noticed the number of pace lines decrease significantly. Yes, they still exist, they are not like my first few rides. I especially commend the Air Force Team as they used to be the worst but, now I never see an Air Force pace line. If you want to make a change in RAGBRAI, participate in the survey and of course this forum.
RAGBRAI is your own personal accomplishment, be proud of it and wear your patch on your sleeve with honor. I do not believe it is any less honorable for me to wear my patch than if someone who rides an electric bike wears theirs. It is only a patch. I look at many of our disabled riders on RAGBRAI riding hand cranks or riders with only one leg peddling with a prosthetic on the other and wonder if I could do the same. RAGBRAI is your ride to tell your story on how you accomplished it, not how others may have done their ride and how yours was harder. I will never forget a couple of years ago standing at watermelon stand on a hot day in southern Iowa feeling a little tired and sorry and looking down and seeing a double amputee, one above the knee and the other below knee, standing in the same line . This made me think about what I was really accomplishing. I was humbled.
But as we talk about electric bikes we should wonder if they are covered by a helmet law or not. Iowa does not have a helmet law for motorcycles so why should they have one for electric bikes or even bicycles.
I know a little bit about Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI). I served for 34 years in the Navy having retired 7 years ago and did time in Iraq, Afghanistan and other exotic destinations defending the Republic. I know about when a noggin goes a jogg’in. TBI is serious business.
If you are in an accident and your head hits the pavement, good chances you will have some form of TBI. So you may say no big deal it is my noggin. Not exactly, our society through our health care system will have to take care of your noggin no matter how slight it is. A helmet is a good insurance policy to make sure we all do not have to bear your independent and free will decision not to wear a helmet. RAGBRAI is a very safe ride and you may be the most experienced rider out there, but a more inexperienced rider or may be someone who had too much to drink or too little to drink or eat (read “bonk”), may crash into you.
Having dealt with the trauma of brain injury, if you wear a helmet or not consider two things for your loved ones and people you do not even know. Have a living will that lets them know what you would want if you are injured. Do not make your next of kin live with the guilt of making THE decision, you can make it yourself now. And when you make that decision, be an organ donor. If you are on RAGBRAI, chances are your organs are probably pretty good. Your organ donation may give a life, a breath, or sight to someone who wants to hold and see their loved ones again.
A few years ago my resident state was thinking about getting rid of motorcycle helmet laws. I wrote my state delegates and said I was all in favor of such a proposal as long as when you got a motorcycle license or renewed it, you had to show your living will and become and organ donor. My delgates live and let live attitude changed and they did not support the change to state law. Seems massive costs to the health care system are more important than hair blowing freely in the wind.
And with the ability to be with loved ones again comes the ability to maybe participate in RAGBRAI. I believe MitchRider described RAGBRAI, a cross between a county pot luck dinner and Mardi Gras.
That is a good analogy, RAGBRAI is truly a cross and lies somewhere in between as I have been to both.
At a county pot luck dinner, it is a one day event that everyone gives something. The same could be said for RAGBRAI. Communities open up their streets and homes to provide an incredible experience to fellow humans for little gain except to know their community helped to promote the good spirit of Iowa and maybe put a few dollars in their coffers in the process. I was visiting with a young farmer in southern Iowa during the Christmas holidays and she hoped that RAGBRAI would come through their small community every year so that her church could raise the funds they need to stay open in their small town of less than 400 residents in the surrounding 20 miles. We went through her town in 2016 and they were able to put a new roof on the church. She went to clean up from the RAGBRAI mass the next day and picked up two pieces of trash. The point is that this is how a local views RABRAI as they come through, a great neighbor that is part of their community for a short period.
On the other spectrum is Mardi Gras. While some of the outside view may see the similarities, the inside view is different, but yet the same. The Krew’s that build, ride, and throw the beads from the floats raise thousands of dollars for local charities every year. It is part of the price of admission to be part of the experience. RAGBRAI is a bit the same in that with your registration fee, you support many charities across Iowa. At the same time when you stop and use a local food vendor, you are supporting a high school, a FAA or 4-H club, a church, a local fire department or EMS service, the cattle or pork producers and/or the local library. If you go to a restaurant or bar you are supporting the local community. While I fully realize commercial vendors are along the route to provide some additional options, I hope they support the local community by paying any required registration fees, as it helps the COMMUNITY. Mardi Gras is about having fun but it is also about caring about the community.
I do have to say, is I have walked the streets of New Orleans during Mardi Gras at 7:00 am, sober. Unlike RAGBRAI Nation, nobody ever picks up for themselves in the Big Easy. Thank you to all the volunteers that get out and clean the streets and sidewalks prior to the next day and the next parade in the Big Easy. Thank you to all the fellow citizens of RAGBRAI Nation that always pick up after themselves during the ride.
Another difference between RAGBRAI and Mardi Gras is that their usually a ball at the end of each parade requiring formal attire. I would hope that RAGBRAI never comes to that. If it does I am sure that some vendor will come along to rent tuxedos and gowns.
As I finish my long dialogue is that RAGBRAI cares and it doesn’t care. RAGBRAI is an experience and it cares that you have a fun, safe and fulling experience. It doesn’t care how you may enjoy that experience. May it be riding at the break of dawn (remember RAGBRAI doesn’t want you to start before 6:00 am) to quickly get to the overnight town on the power of only your own two legs, that is ok. If it it’s a leisurely wake up, getting on the road, stopping at every small town for however long you want to stop, using an electric assist to get over a hill because you just need that extra help, taking a nap under a shade tree, waking up and then and rolling into the overnight town at 6PM (another RAGBRAI guidance point to keep everybody safe), RAGBRAI doesn’t care. RAGBRAI does care that you have a safe, REGISTERED, and enjoyable experience in your own way. That is what makes RAGBRAI great and I encourage all to enjoy in their own way.
So my essay is complete, not another post from me on these subjects. My next post will be after the route prediction contest has closed and I let everyone know the route before the route announcement party. The clues were very obvious this year.
Happy New Year RAGRAI Nation! God Bless America!

So after my previous post it died after two responders, I encourage all to post their comments, because that is what makes America Great,

God Bless RAGRRAI Nation and God Bless America!



Amanda, January 16, 2019 at 8:58 pm

Well said Evin. It was close to a novel but very well said!?


Bob Amlie, January 17, 2019 at 2:51 am

Okay, you kids are never going to give up on this one, even though you’ve run out of common sense justification for Equality bikes on RAGBRAI a long time ago. Plus, there’s more of you, than me. It’s like The Alamo, and I’m the last man standing. So, what the RAGBRAI management MUST do to be in alignment with your ideal of Equality & Inclusion is to raise the registration fee to around $1000, so that they can afford to hire more ambulances & hearses, and yes—even morticians, to deal with the people who have such severe health problems that they “need” an Equality bike to complete their Bucket List by riding across Iowa before they collapse and die. Since anyone, no matter how frail, can now participate in RAGBRAI, because there is no need to self-power across the state, rider registrations will soar to in excess of 20,000. A situation that will require that the event will stay overnight in cities large enough to accommodate everyone—with multiple campgrounds, hospitals, mortuaries, and that kind of thing, to accommodate terminally ill Equality Bike Riders. No more small towns. See? More Troopers will have to be hired to direct traffic, and of course–several alternate routes will be necessary, to accommodate the HUGE volume of riders. How do you like that? Won’t that be fun? Doesn’t that sound like Progress, to you?


Bob Amlie, January 17, 2019 at 3:00 am

Evin Thompson, could you repeat that, please? LOL.


jelly0317, January 17, 2019 at 7:13 am

Bob, I’m sure George Bailey would agree that you’re “a warped, frustrated old man”.


RDaryl Daryl, January 17, 2019 at 8:20 am

The Alamo has scooters. Just wait till they arrive in Iowa.
I appreciate the humor of some writers here, as I would be in a straitjacket if I really believed the same thoughts. Same same for telling intelligent people how they should live their lives and do their jobs. Good thing about RAGBRAI is we have the freedom to change our pace avoid anything “offensive”.


Bob Amlie, January 17, 2019 at 8:14 pm

Jell-O; if I had any doubt that you were a Troll, just trying to annoy people, your last comment erased it from my warped, frustrated mind. That said, I may be an old man, but I sure don’t need no stinkin’ Equality Bike. Just a 30 year-old Trek road bike. If I did “need” an EBike, I’d just stay home, and ride around the block on my Equality Bike, instead of spending hundreds on a RAGBRAI trip. It would really be pointless to go.


David C., January 19, 2019 at 8:13 am

I don’t think this has been a waste of time. I might even have been persuaded a little by some, but not all, of the arguments against e-assist, namely that it presents a slippery slope argument as Bob L mentioned. I note that I just listened to the podcast on the RAGBRAI website and I believe Iowa Bicycle Coalition is watching a study bill or actual proposed bill to reclassify e-scooters as bicycles. I am not sure I would agree with this even though I support e-assist bicycles within the current definition of the law. I guess your motoring may vary, but I am not so quick to dismiss the back and forth here as useless.


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