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

KenH, February 24, 2019 at 5:20 pm

Jason S you are entirely focused on what is available on the market today and you appear to be very familiar with the current offerings. But those of us you seek to discredit don’t care about that at all. Some of us, but not all, may have argued for banning ebikes entirely but it would seem that those of us who needed to come around to a different view have done so as long as ebikes do not change the essential character of the ride. That battle has been won, there is no need to keep fighting it.

Those of us who seek to maintain the current character of the ride are focused on the future. As I pointed out in my most recent response to David C, Iowa ebike law easily allows for 34 mph for a young, fit cyclist in pedal assist mode and probably allows in excess of 40 mph in pacelines. It will not be long before bikes are available that will run at up to Iowa’s permitted maximums which in the case of pedal assist mode are not hard and fast but as many mph as an extra 750 W and road conditions will allow you to go. In many cases the difference between a 20 mph limit for pedal assist and unlimited speed in pedal assist as Iowa allows is a single line of code or a single entry in a table of operating parameters. Bike manufacturers could provide an Iowa specific version of their firmware for no cost. People who purchase ebikes so that they can keep up with the current 12 mph pack could soon be dealing with a 20+ mph pack and 40+ mph pace lines. It is not science fiction, Iowa law currently allows this and current technology can easily provide it.

#1300143

Jason Stoller, February 24, 2019 at 6:05 pm

Jason S you are entirely focused on what is available on the market today and you appear to be very familiar with the current offerings. But those of us you seek to discredit don’t care about that at all. Some of us, but not all, may have argued for banning ebikes entirely but it would seem that those of us who needed to come around to a different view have done so as long as ebikes do not change the essential character of the ride. That battle has been won, there is no need to keep fighting it.

Those of us who seek to maintain the current character of the ride are focused on the future. As I pointed out in my most recent response to David C, Iowa ebike law easily allows for 34 mph for a young, fit cyclist in pedal assist mode and probably allows in excess of 40 mph in pacelines. It will not be long before bikes are available that will run at up to Iowa’s permitted maximums which in the case of pedal assist mode are not hard and fast but as many mph as an extra 750 W and road conditions will allow you to go. In many cases the difference between a 20 mph limit for pedal assist and unlimited speed in pedal assist as Iowa allows is a single line of code or a single entry in a table of operating parameters. Bike manufacturers could provide an Iowa specific version of their firmware for no cost. People who purchase ebikes so that they can keep up with the current 12 mph pack could soon be dealing with a 20+ mph pack and 40+ mph pace lines. It is not science fiction, Iowa law currently allows this and current technology can easily provide it.

Ken as usual you missed what I was focused on and that was fairness for all Riders participate in Ragbrai. Or did you miss the part about my suggestion for Radar Guns, Breathalyzers, and other type of rules violation detecting equipment and more. LOL

Ken please share with the forum, which e-assist systems only need a one line code adjustment to change and control their speeds OK. Then maybe all of the people interested in E-assist could flock to that brand and make sure they are in compliance for Ragbrai.

Last but least. As far My focus goes Ken, you totally missed it. I do not know how much clearer I could make it. This year I cannot participate in Ragbrai because 1 week after last years Ragbrai I was diagnosed with Leukemia. So even though I have already asked I have been told I cannot participate this year.

Jason

This reply was modified 1 year, 9 months ago by Jason Stoller.

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KenH, February 24, 2019 at 8:43 pm

Jason, I did not miss all the other things you brought up but they are either unimportant or are separate issues. You appear to bring them up in order to ridicule or discredit people who disagree with you. Likewise you use your superior familiarity with the current ebike offering to try to do the same. You are focused on the wrong thing and missing the point. Neither velomobiles nor ebikes have been an issue to date. Ebikes are developing at a very quick rate, the thing most likely to result in further advances in velomobiles is ebike technology. Iowa law, which RAGBRAI follows, allows for fairly impressive ebike performance in pedal assist mode. That presents a risk to the on road experience as we know it and that will not be a positive change for people who want to use ebike technology to keep up with the crowd.

As for which bikes need only a single line of code changed or a single table entry changed to permit pedal assist above 20 mph in all probability the answer is all of them. All of them have a code module that decides how much power to apply to the motor, moment by moment. One line of code in the module compares the current speed of the bicycle to a limit and decides if the limit is exceeded or not. The limit will either be hard coded into the line of code that makes the decision, or it is stored in a table of values the code uses for a variety of product tuning purposes. The following sections of code that have to decide what to do if the limit is exceeded could be quite complex but the decision to take action or not is quite simple. The programmer knows that the value will need to be adjusted for different countries and jurisdictions as well as for different models so it is very unlikely that the limit is difficult to change. One might guess that the limit is stored as an 8 bit value in km/h and in that case setting it to 256 km/h is more than enough to allow a 750 W motor to be exercised to its limits.

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mootsman, February 25, 2019 at 9:48 am

Is there some official document RAGBRAI sent out to group contacts for what is allowed? I don’t have that so if someone does post it on this thread. I’d like to see it.

At least I think we cleared up what some meant by cheating. That I think refers to e-bikes that can operate 100% without someone pedaling them so someone could motor the entire length of RAGBRAI without effort. Cheating is not referring to anyone who tries to compete on RAGBRAI which is not a competition of course. For those who posted concern about what the patch means, since you can purchase the patch off the website without riding, it is only a souvenir. No one cheats to get it. It only has the personal meaning you attach to it.

And most of us are not saying we object to all forms of an e-bike. Ones that only assist pedaling seem to be fine. And as long as the motor cuts out over 20 mph we’re not worried about safety. Class-4 e-bikes can go much faster. I’ve seen some advertised at 50 mph. I think we all can see those as safety issues. And people who self power faster then 20 I have no issue with as they have lots of experience at that to train at that level regularly. I ran across a group I use to race with years ago and joined the group which was plenty safe in their conduct at 25+ mph. But purchasing speed (like class-3/4 e-bikes) lets riders without the experience ride faster then they usually have experience with. I’m a bit concerned about that.

And statutes that let e-bikes follow bicycle laws under certain restrictions does not mean they are bicycles. Per the dictionary, bicycles are 100% human powered. RAGBRAI has become a bicycle/e-bike tour.

In any case RAGBRAI has ruled on what is acceptable which also means nothing exceeding that requirement is acceptable.

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mrwonderful, February 26, 2019 at 8:36 am

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.

.

I would like to try the same!

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LawnchairMan, February 27, 2019 at 2:10 am

I haven’t posted on this topic for a while. I think it has been beaten to death.

Yet, as I was talking with my ebike rider friend, we thought it would be funny: I will put power assist on my trainer so I can get ready for Ragbrai.

#1300223

Brady Bisgard, March 5, 2019 at 11:36 am

If they sell it at a local bike shop – you can ride it on RAGBRAI. Thats all I will say.

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KenH, March 6, 2019 at 11:29 am

I posted a link to this before but it probably got lost in the noise. RAGBRAI club and team guidelines.
You should note that this document was supposed to have been reviewed with club/team contacts at a meeting held during the route announcement weekend. I do not know if it has been officially adopted or what revisions have been made to it if it was since I was not at the meeting. I suppose that team/club contacts will get an official copy by mail at some point if it has been adopted.

Of course what Iowa law actually says about ebikes is that they are “A device having two or three wheels with fully operable pedals and an electric motor of less than seven hundred fifty watts (one horsepower), whose maximum speed on a paved level surface, when powered solely by such a motor while ridden, is less than twenty miles per hour.” The RAGBRAI ebike policy seems to be based on an understanding of Iowa law that is incorrect since the wording found in the team/club guidlines does not include the phrase “when powered solely by such a motor while ridden” and that significantly underestimates how fast an ebike can be pedaled under Iowa law.

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Don Larrabee, March 6, 2019 at 12:31 pm

We should start horse ride across Iowa…. not.

Times are changing, I’m sure there were some upset at the horseless buggy when it first came out .

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T. Gap Woo, March 6, 2019 at 4:36 pm

We should start horse ride across Iowa…. not.

Ha ha! During Ragbrai 42 in 2014, the route took us through Amish country south of Oelwein. I was probably the only rider crazy enough to call out “Buggy up” and point out/warn of the “Road Apples ahead!”

See you along the I-O-Way in July.

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KenH, March 7, 2019 at 7:58 am

The bike route I use frequently for training turns from asphalt to limestone for the last few miles at the north end and that portion of the trail is open to horses and small buggies. So buggy up and road apples ahead are somewhat common experiences for me! The worst year was the one where the horses got out just as the trail was very soft from the frost melting. Horse hooves created a deeply textured trail surface that was no fun to ride on. Generally however horses and their riders share the trail well with other users. The worst users are, of course, super fast cyclists on road bikes. But they tend to shun the limestone portion of the trail for some reason….

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statrixbob, March 7, 2019 at 9:28 am

As long as folks using ebikes ride safely I’m fine with it. Here in Hawaii we do have a few problems with folks riding ebikes in bike lanes unsafely, not calling out that they are passing, passing to close and stuf…but that has nothing to do with ebikes, that has to do with courtesy and safety and regular bike riders are as guilty of it as anyone.

#1300529

jay williams, March 7, 2019 at 11:53 am

Ah, the land of free speech. Isn’t America wonderful?
What so many people here are talking about in an indirect way is the huge difference between piloting a bicycle at 12 mph versus 22 mph. Bicycle riders consistently going at 22 mph usually have already developed higher level handling skills for safety at such speed.
A 12 mph cyclist with a speed enhanced machine zooming past us is something we all fear and resent. Many people in this forum acknowledge enhanced bicycles as being okay for the handicapped, as Ragbrai is a fun and inclusive event. (A floppy orange flag required for ebikes?)
Cycling across Iowa under your own power (with drunken stupidity) is an achievement we all respect. But zipping through the state on an enhanced machine somehow lessens the sense of achievement for the rest of us. I hope TJ understands how this will drive people away from Ragbrai.

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Don Larrabee, March 7, 2019 at 1:19 pm

I ride a top quality E bike, unless you’ve tryed a top quality E bike you really have no say regarding E bikes, there are so many a-holes on standard bikes with no regard for the safety of others as opposed to those on E- bikes.

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Anonymous, March 8, 2019 at 6:02 am

The B in Ragbrai is for bicycle. No matter what or how the lobbyists and law makers term the words in their confusing phrase. Webster, I believe would agree. I have no issues with E-bikes other than on Ragbrai. Why in the world would you need to pay your way with registration? Why in the middle of Iowa would you need support if your E-bike is one that will assure you make whheeee your way to the next overnight? There are enough bandits on the road as is. When people do not register it makes for longer lines and less enjoyment for everyone else. Several years ago on a bandit thread I stated that if there was a young person that wanted to try Ragbrai for a day and could not afford registration it would be okay to not buy that day pass. I have bought day passes for two young riders in the past. Both have grown up and have families with garages full of bicycles. These days I don’t buy day passes for a newbie. I will hire or help them earn money for a day pass to try Ragbrai. More E-bikes, more people, more lines. I’ll bet you will never see a rider without the use of legs on a E-bike. The riders that are using their arms are on modified units that look more like a tricycle. I admire these people. They EARN it!

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