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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

Sandaltan ., October 25, 2019 at 10:15 am

Yes. Play taps.



Ken Reed, October 25, 2019 at 10:18 am

Are we sure “Paige Palombo” isn’t T.J.’s burner account? lol


Paige Palombo, October 25, 2019 at 11:49 am

Not sure what that means, but don’t associate my name with that cry baby jerk that put his bruised fragile ego ahead of thousands that just want to ride our bike in a cool event.


Paige Palombo, October 25, 2019 at 11:54 am

Sorry – I don’t go on this site very often and didn’t realize the age of the posts. I haven’t ridden RAGBRAI in 2 years. I was just giving my opinion – which is what forums are about. Didn’t intend to wake a dead horse. You are free to ignore – but by posting again yourself, didn’t you just add more fuel to the fire? Just sayin…


Joseph Schlau, October 25, 2019 at 8:11 pm

I started riding Ragbrai in 2003. In 2001 I took up biking as a replacement for running. In spite of a continuous exercise program over the years time and age have progressed and it has become a greater challenge to stay active. Even with 1200 miles of training the 2019 ride left me questioning how many more rides I could handle. There have been a couple of years where health issues caused me to pass on a year. The team I ride with has seen many members eventually leave because it was too much. A few members who also have cars along for support vehicles split the day with others and ride half days to or from the meeting towns. Since our team uses private housing, cars are no issue Teams with busses use essentially the same plan.

One year I had to start late and joined the team with my car. I shared my car with others and really enjoyed doing half days. More time could be spent in towns and an earlier arrival was a refreshing change.

This year after Ragbrai I finally test rode my first E-bike. This was inspired by one team member who brought her new e-bike. After a test ride I immediately saw the advantages an e-bike can provide. I eventually bought a Trek Crossrip and ride it almost every day. I will be riding this bike in 2020 on Ragbrai.

The question being asked, should it be allowed keeps coming up? Ragbrai is run on public roads which are still open to motor vehicles. Ragbrai officials have no legal authority to stop anyone from using a public road or highway at the same time bikes are there. The fact that cars take an alternate route is by choice, not regulation.

There are many types of e-bike motor systems. The Trek/Bosch system requires a pedal effort to obtain any assistance. The level of assistance is proportional to the torque applied. It does not pedal itself like a Harley. The controller has 4 levels of assistance. The higher the level, the faster the battery will be depleted. The controller can also be turned off making the e-bike just a regular bike. Often I ride with a combination of no assist and minimum power. In terms of cardiac effort it is similar to the standard bike if you provide sufficient pedaling effort. It is by no means, a free ride.

As to speed, there are some parts of my ride I can attain 26 mph on a standard road bike. The e bike, can go 30. As with any bike on a shared use path due caution must be exercised passing pedestrians or other bikes. Just because I can go 30 does not mean I have to.

The e-bike for Ragbrai now makes it practical for me to ride all day long. The assistance will primarily be used on the big hills and balance out my speed. It will allow me to stay longer in towns and get in earlier. The Karras Loop and Gravel loop will be now be viable options.

The e-bike’s greatest advantage for me will be in the afternoon during those times where heat, hills, and exhaustion work together and cause you to lose focus and become unsafe. I don’t drink alcohol, so that was never a factor.

The e-bike is now in my Ragbrai plan to get me through the next decade.


Sandaltan ., October 25, 2019 at 9:22 pm

Joseph Schlau: Extremely well said. I agree with you completely. E-bicycles will continue to expand the number of people who enjoy riding a bicycle whether an organized ride like RAGBRAI or just around the block with friends to the local coffee shop.



gas gas, October 26, 2019 at 9:01 am

How would a no e-bike ban be enforced ?


Larry Klaaren, October 26, 2019 at 10:53 am

I am not in favor of a ban, but E-bikes are free to legally ride the roads, so they could bandit. The only thing that I think could be done would be to enforce something like you have to have a wristband or bike band to use the RAGBRAI vendors, including food, bike, and apparel shops. This would make banditing a little more inconvenient. They could still eat and buy at local shops of course.


Dan Kurovski, October 26, 2019 at 7:05 pm

Just asking, when not in assist mode, is the weight difference a factor when riding? One would think the extra amount of pounds would slow you down some, I tried to ask a rider about this but couldn’t catch up!


Joseph Schlau, October 26, 2019 at 7:31 pm

Well, any bike can enter the ride without having registered. I never wear the wrist band. I keep it my wallet. Besides, can you name a vendor who ever refused to sell you the overpriced food and drink. If they do, they lose.

When you are on the route, the only advantage of being registered is the SAG services.


Joseph Schlau, October 26, 2019 at 8:18 pm

The combined weight of the motor and battery adds about 20 pounds to the bike. My Trek Crossrip+ has a total weight of 44 pounds. The Crossrip is designed as a commuter bike so it comes standard with fenders, kick stand and rear rack which is usually not on the typical road bike. The tires are 38 cm wide as opposed to the 23 cm on the road bike.

Compared to my titanium road bike, I will typically see a 1-2 mph drop in speed on the flats and about 2 mph on hills when the assist is off. Both bikes have drop style handle bars and when placed side by side are very close in geometry.

The motor on my bike is center mounted where the drive shell would be. This gives a low center of gravity. The battery is located low on the down tube. Other bike designs have rear hub drive motors and battery incorporated into the rear rack which effects the balance. There are advantages and disadvantages to each approach.


Joseph Schlau, October 26, 2019 at 8:54 pm

Thanks Sandaltan.

A significant number of reviews from users of e-bikes comes from older cyclists or those with medical conditions. People who were avid cyclists then had to stop riding. The e-bike brought them back.

The e-bike levels the playing field providing enough assistance to climb hills, face strong head winds and avoid putting your heart rate in the red zone.

My wife is a good example. Health and conditioning essentially put an end to her riding. We rented a pair of e-bikes while on vacation and rode through a state park where a few years prior, she could only make some hills by walking. The e-bike suddenly turned this same route into a pleasant ride. Her old bike was lucky to see 10 rides a year and sat idle for the last 2 years. Her new e-bike is being ridden 5-6 times a week, 5-10 miles per ride.

It put her back into a regular exercise routine and back into biking. How can anybody argue with that.


vinidelgado, October 27, 2019 at 2:02 am

the issue is not the “motorized bicycle” that is heavier and capable of higher velocity when compared to non motorized unit, the issue is safety…….. let me explain the rules of physics and the conservation of momentum in particular, momentum = mass x velocity.
i also have noticed that ebicycle riders are heavier than none ebike riders adding to the mass total and momentum

in the many times that i have participate, i have had accidental collision, and other than a few scratches and scrapes, all is well.
in a collision with a motor bicycle/rider, the lighter bicycle/rider will be injured more as momentum has been transferred from the heavier to the lighter one, “conservation of momentum.”

as we age, it is time to realize that our time is up, and be thankful that we were able to live and participate… there are other rides for old riders and i am 70 years old. i am looking…


Joseph Schlau, October 27, 2019 at 5:38 am


You may want to check out the events offered by Del Webb.

As for me, Ragbrai needs every rider it can muster for 2020 and I will be conserving my momentum for this event.


Papa T, October 28, 2019 at 3:07 pm

vinidelgado, I used to believe what you said in your post (above). Lets say the bike is 10 lbs and the motorized bike is 25, That is a lot! but say a 200 lb man is on the bike.Now the difference is only 11% (225/210).
Gotta consider the whole package!


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