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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

Bob Braigar, November 21, 2018 at 10:29 am

Captain: “Well, good morning, everybody, and welcome to day 255,642 aboard the Axiom.”


T. Gap Woo, November 21, 2018 at 8:49 pm

Here’s my three cents worth (inflation, doncha know):

E-bikes are a coming thing and are here to stay, whether we like it or not. As long as riders abide by the same laws and follow the Ride Right protocol, they should be allowed on Ragbrai.

Who are we to question the motives of an e-bike rider? Unless they volunteer the reason, medical or otherwise, it’s none of my #%^^# business why they choose to ride an e-bike and I am not nosy or rude enough to ask!

I applaud ALL riders, because they made the commitment to get off their couches and be active. Too many people are content to sit around and listen to their arteries harden. Not me. Not you. Not anyone who makes the effort to ride Ragbrai.

I draw the line at gas-powered engines, however. I come to Iowa to smell the fresh air (yes, even the “dairy air”) and enjoy the relative peace and quiet of the ride through the countryside, not to endure the smell of exhaust and the roar of engines.

Always remember: it’s YOUR Ragbrai. Ride it the way you want. As Michrider says, “BTW Ragbrai don’t care!”

See you along the I-O-Way next year. Happy Thanksgiving to all.


Bob Amlie, November 21, 2018 at 9:11 pm

Okay. I’m convinced by the “if it feels good, do it” rhetoric I’ve seen here. . So, next summer, I will be riding my 2003 Honda 750 Nighthawk on RAGBRAI. It uses very little fossil fuel, compared to the RVs accompanying many riders. Plus, top speed is around 120 mph. I’ll be at the end town showering, while you are still standing in line for a burnt pork chop, somewhere along the route. Performance-enhancement worked for Lance; I’ll just make performance-enhancement(my Hondoo) work for me. Donald Kaul would be proud of me, for making a point. See Ya there.


Bob Amlie, November 22, 2018 at 1:45 am


jelly0317, November 22, 2018 at 2:15 am

I’m always amazed at how quickly a rational argument turns to absurdity on this forum.


T. Gap Woo, November 22, 2018 at 7:56 am

[quote quote=1296690] So, next summer, I will be riding my 2003 Honda 750 Nighthawk on RAGBRAI. It uses very little fossil fuel, compared to the RVs accompanying many riders. Plus, top speed is around 120 mph. I’ll be at the end town showering, while you are still standing in line for a burnt pork chop, somewhere along the route.[/quote


If you insist on riding a gas-powered bike, I respectfully suggest that you head to Sturgis SD. I hear they have a small gathering of like-minded individuals that happpens only a few weeks after Ragbrai ends.

I’ll see everyone else along the I-O-Way next year.


RDaryl Daryl, November 22, 2018 at 9:40 am

Although there is no single right way to do RAGBRAI, there is a wrong way.
I can get up early and ride 60 miles before 10AM at home. Anyone who would waste a perfectly good RAGBRAI by riding straight through each day just doesn’t get the concept of RAGBRAI.

Back to one of the original questions . . . . . .”Is this the beginning of the end?” NO WAY !


mootsman, November 22, 2018 at 9:51 am

How far out from a pedal bike should this go though? One person said no gas powered engines. But what about the electric motorcycles then? Many can do over 100 MPH. And the whole point of RAGBRAI is to pedal your way across Iowa so I here that side. In Minnesota there is a rule though for the paved bike trails that could address this. Ebikes are allowed but limited to a single 1000 watt electric motor. None of which are capable of going > 20 MPH. Might be a good limit.

Of course 1 person had to exceed that rule on the trails I had to call him out over. He attached 2 recumbents together with a 500 watt motor in each of the 4 wheels. And he carefully word-smithed the description of it to the trails coordinator to get approval. Once I sent a picture of the rig to the coordinator she told him it was a no go. The point being if you say yes to Ebikes, you’re going down the path of trying to enforce limits on them. A huge headache for all of us then, especially for those running RAGBRAI. And for those of us from the bike racing ranks we have experience going 20+ MPH in a pack even on the flats and those on Ebikes may not. Sort of a danger then to themselves and others.


“Bicycle Bill”, November 22, 2018 at 10:34 pm


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

I believe those last six words make my point.


LawnchairMan, November 22, 2018 at 11:02 pm

Definitions of “bicycle” I have found include the phrase “propelled by pedals”. I think e-bike power assist connects to the chain, so they would only be classified as bicycles when only using human power. As has been said, e-bikes are great to get people riding who wouldn’t or couldn’t without it. We have two e-bikes in our club. One rider has medical issues, the other does not. If that works for them, fine. But they can’t claim they are strong riders like the rest of us. One of the big things for my first Ragbrai was bragging rights: cycling nearly 500 miles in seven days on my own power! E-bikes can’t claim that. I think one of the things that unites Ragbrai riders is that we all have to conquer the same hills. It’s a common bond that doesn’t extend to e-bikers. So, e-bikes are great for those who really need them, but my opinion is that they should use them at home and ride Ragbrai when they are fit enough for an hpv. Then it will mean something.

Hey Bob L.

I get your sarcasm. If power assist bikes are allowed, how soon before fully motorized bikes will qualify?
P.S. save me some hot water!


jelly0317, November 22, 2018 at 11:57 pm

Since RAGBRAI takes place solely within the state of Iowa, I’ll follow the Code of Iowa definition of “bicycle”. Sorry, Merriam-Webster.


Bob Amlie, November 23, 2018 at 2:29 am

I got to thinking that I’ll just leave my Hondoo at home. Instead, I’ll ride my self-powered bicycle(yes, I know that is an antiquated concept with you kids) a few miles out of town, and then stop at the first major stop. Then, I’ll hang out until the Sag Wagon comes by, and get aboard. That way–I’ll be able to say “I went on RAGBRAI”, without having to do very much work to accomplish it. I’ll justify it by saying: I get tired from going up all those hills! A pretty neat excuse. At the same time, I’ll be passing all those Equality Bikers, while they are charging up their “bicycles”, and waiting in line for a burnt pork chop & a $3 cup of beer.


Larry Klaaren, November 23, 2018 at 9:03 am

I’m fine with it. It is what it is for the time being. If some problem develops, I am sure RAGBRAI will deal with the problem.


mootsman, November 23, 2018 at 9:04 am

I know one person that has already been using an Ebike on RAGBRAI for a number of years. She has no disability but she is a slow rider. Although I didn’t originally have a personal preference on this the object of RAGBRAI is to bike (as in pedal) across Iowa. Any motor really defeats the reason we’re all out there.

I think there should be an official policy and statement from those putting on RAGBRAI on the Ebike subject soon. And we can each consider if after that announcement it is still the type of event we want to be part of.


Mary, November 23, 2018 at 4:09 pm

According to my daughter who owns and rides an ebike, you still have to pedal to make your ebike move. If you coast, the assist does not kick in and move your bike. The assist only works until you reach 16 mph, then the assist turns off and you are peddling on your own strength. For e-riders, it still takes a lot of leg-work to get up the big Iowa hills, and they generally won’t be using the assist on the the flat roads. For long rides like Ragbrai, one might also have to carry a second battery, or stop to recharge (at say a library or grocery store) and have a long lunch in the town.


Viewing 15 replies - 16 through 30 (of 396 total)

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