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?

407 Replies

Sandaltan ., October 28, 2019 at 4:16 pm

Yes Papa T, the package is important.



Joseph Schlau, October 28, 2019 at 7:59 pm

This thread is almost a year old now. Since it was started, another Ragbrai came and passed. In spite of all the dire scenarios of doom and gloom not to mention all of the special regulations proposed, no one was able to cite a single incident involving an e-bike actually occurring.

The top 5 safety concerns of the 2019 rider survey posted on September 9th listed the following:


The most serious rider safety challenges identified in the survey are:

Slower riders riding too far to the left
Riders riding three/four abreast without leaving room to pass
Vehicle traffic on the route
Erratic or unpredictable riding
Communication and signaling intent

E-bikes, nor the body mass index (BMI) and advanced age of their riders never made the list.

Ragbrai has a more pressing issue at hand with TJ’s ride. I don’t look for them to expend any effort to regulate e-bikers. They need every bike they can get for 2020.

This reply was modified 1 year, 4 months ago by Joseph Schlau. Reason: Grammar


Jeffrey McPartland, October 30, 2019 at 6:32 am

I bought my Trek CrossRip after medical issues on the 2018 Ragbrai and I was able to ride 2019 with no problems and enjoyed it far better too. I carried the recharger and replenished at swimming pools each day while I took a refreshing swim. The big pluses were the lack of stress and plenty of time to look around both during and after completing the daily ride. E-bike technology is rapidly advancing and we’ll soon see more E than conventional bikes. Imagine what would happen if our transportation infrastructure could support more e-bicycles.


Joseph Schlau, November 1, 2019 at 10:12 am


Thank you for your post. This gives me a better idea what to expect from my Crossrip.

This is really what I was looking for on this thread. Real user experience.

On the TREK site there was a product review from another Crossrip owner who started using the bike for the 2019 ride so he could continue riding with his sons. He used the panniers for an extra battery and to carry equipment for his group. This review started me looking at the Crossrip.

I am still looking at the carry an extra battery/or charger options.


dukester, November 1, 2019 at 10:40 am

I rode a Trek Dual Sport + in 2019 and had no trouble finding a place to recharge in Meeting Towns where I could spend an hour relaxing. I used libraries, a cable TV store, fire station and a recharging station built by one town in its city park. I did not carry an extra battery and didn’t need it. I suggested to TJ when he was with RAGBRAI that a local not-for-profit in the Meeting Town could put up a sign offering recharging for a goodwill donation. Make some money and only be out a little electricity and the cost of a sign.


Jeffrey McPartland, December 4, 2019 at 3:46 pm

TJ responded to my inquiry before this year’s Ragbrai that re-charging stations are located at or near each pass-thru town water station. I looked for these in several towns but if these existed there were no signs and when I verbal inquiries had the same puzzled responses but I always found a source to re-charge my battery, usually at pools where I swam too. Happy to leave a donation too in return for a sip of juice. Trek’s fast recharger weighs about a pound and provides a full charge in about two hours for 5-10 cents electricity.


bikemeow, February 21, 2021 at 12:35 am

I just feel the need to reply to this. I am a native New Yorker who has come out to do Ragbrai 32 years in a row, I have ridden every day (but to be honest not every mile). It is the one thing I look forward to most every year. But what I like most is the camarderie on the road.
However, I have been developing a bad case of orthoarthritis in my legs. I just can’t ride like I have all my life. Last year (2020), even though it was for the wrong reasons, I didn’t have to make a decision. But since then, my legs continued to decline. So this year I made a decision. Assuming there is a ride, I will be using a pedal-assist bike. At first I didn’t like the idea of ebikes. I thought of them as motorized vehicles. But then I discovered the pedal assist bike ONLY works when you are pedaling. And most people use it to get to the speed, hill-climbing, wind resisiting, etc of a few years earlier. So we are not using it to cheat or go do better than before, most of us use it to maintain our personal staus quo or many case, it is our only option if we wish to continue cycling,


Jeffrey McPartland, February 21, 2021 at 6:28 am

Thanks for sharing your story. You accomplished twice the years on Ragbrai as me but I agree it is the joy of participating and the many Iowans who welcome us each year that draws me back. I’m from Pennsylvania and started in 2004. After “DQing” in 2018 at exactly the halfway point I bought an e-bike that enabled me to ride every mile in 2019. And in 2019 my wife and I spent more than a week driving around Iowa seeing all the highlights from my previous visits. So much to see and do in Iowa it will take many more years to explore it all.


allanyeager, February 21, 2021 at 10:17 am

It seems as though everyone on this forum or most everyone is not an E-Bike rider. Let me tell you that I started RAGBRAI as a 62 year old recumbent rider. IT was the only way I thought I could make it the distance as I can’t stand an upright for more than 20 miles.Hills are a major problem as I do not even have leg weight over the crank. I added a three speed internal hub. I could comfortably go up the steepest hills, but everyone who had given up and walked were walking past me. SO I began walking it too for time sake. about4 years ago I decided to convert it to electric boost. problem solved. Enjoyment way up. It is electric BOOST. You have to pedal to make it work. It is not a mo-ped. One sets a minimum speed at which it kicks in to help maintain speed. I still use gears. If I don’t over use the 48 V battery It will last all day. I avoid zipping past people on steep hills as it is ill advised regarding the attitude of some others as demonstrated in the comments above, AND it kills the battery. So I gear down up hill. BTW I am now 76 and hope to keep riding as long as I can. When those objectors get to be my age let’s see what their ‘tude is then.


vinidelgado, February 21, 2021 at 7:35 pm

saludos to one and all,
the end comes sooner or later, so find another ride that is less demanding or do as some members in our charter do, have your charter pick you up somewhere on the road. that is what some of the older riders do in our charter.
now, the physics of safety: conservation of mass, energy and momentum. the heavier the rider and assist bike are, the higher the mass, energy and momentum and if you are involved in an incident, it becomes an accident. i am 71 years old and do not need that opportunity. next is the question of liability, i have been knock down by idiots that do not follow the rules and after “hey, i am sorry, man”, they are gone…. i am on the side of the road.
in conclusion: stay home and enjoy the memories while you had them, is the fact of life. need to accept the reality of life, all good times come to an end and we don’t know till years later.
buena suerte….
chicharron delgado


Jboz, February 21, 2021 at 9:24 pm

the heavier the rider and assist bike are, the higher the mass, energy and momentum and if you are involved in an incident, it becomes an accident.

First of all, modern e-bikes are only about 10 to 15 lbs heavier than their non-assisted counterparts. I don’t need one either, but I bought one so when I do long rides with my 21 year old son I can keep up with him…a lot more fun than him constantly pulling over and waiting for his old dad. I won’t be riding that bike on RAGBRAI, but I can tell you that the bike tips the scale at 26.5 lbs. It’s lighter than my un-assisted Soma Saga with a Rohloff hub and touring tires which will be my RAGBRAI ride.

And the entire argument the extra mass of an e-bike should be avoided on RAGBRAI is just plain silly. Following that logic, what about 2 riders on a tandem which represent significantly higher mass than a single rider riding an e-bike? Should tandems not be allowed on RAGBRAI? Same with recumbent trikes, and steel frame touring bikes with loaded panniers…all generally more mass than a rider on a pedal-assist bike. How about generally large people, say over 200 lbs? A 220 lb man on a light carbon bike is more mass than a 160 lb rider on an e-bike. Should RAGBRAI impose a rider weight limit to keep the mass down? Sheesh!


Joseph Schlau, February 22, 2021 at 3:23 pm

and if you are involved in an incident, it becomes an accident. i am 71 years old and do not need that opportunity. next is the question of liability, i have been knock down by idiots that do not follow the rules and after “hey, i am sorry, man”, they are gone…. i am on the side of the road.

Wow, I thought I was seeing things when this thread popped back up. COVID-19 kind of paused the conversation, but I am seeing the same things brought up.

So how many incidents that became accidents have you been involved in?

How did they happen?

And finally, did any of these incidents / accidents involve an e-bike?

This reply was modified 1 week, 4 days ago by Joseph Schlau.


Jeffrey McPartland, February 22, 2021 at 3:53 pm

I’ve been involved in two serious crashes in my life where multiple riders including me were hit by motor vehicle drivers … once while in a marked bicycle lane … and we bicyclists were doing everything right. None involving e-bikes because these did not exist in 1983 and 1988 when these crashes occurred. I’m also happy to report that in 16 consecutive RAGBRAIs (2004 to 2019) I never had a scratch on me or my bicycle nor did anyone with me and no flat tires either. Lucky because sometimes riders fell near one of us and one year a loose dog caused dozens of riders to fall. My e-bike makes me a safer rider because I am never stressed by heat or wind or distance. It simply allows me to ride a few mphs faster to make up for age (74 this year) and injuries from those earlier crashes.


T. Gap Woo, February 22, 2021 at 4:35 pm

Please allow me to put my zwei pfennig in.

First pfennig: I take no position on the merits or demerits of e-bikes. It’s YOUR Ragbrai — ride it as you see fit.

Second pfennig: If an e-bike gets you off your butt, out of the house and socializing, instead of sitting around the house and listening to your arteries harden, then what’s the problem? That’s one of the unadvertised benefits of Ragbrai and it’s included at no extra charge.

I’m falling off my soapbox now and heading back to the junk bin joke desk.

🤪 (rim shot)

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


KenH, February 25, 2021 at 9:49 am

No one objects to people with disabilities or just old age using eBikes on RAGBRAI. Nobody. What those of us who can see beyond tomorrow are worried about is that fit 20-,30-, 40-, and 50-something riders who already cause issues by riding in high speed packs will start using eBikes so they can ride even faster. And then many more of those who aspire to be as fast as they are will see what they are doing and they will start using eBikes too and make RAGBRAI more like rush hour on an urban expressway than the everyman tour of Iowa that Karras and Kaul founded back in 1973.

If you are using an eBike at RAGBRAI and you are riding responsibly then neither I nor anyone else cares that you are riding an eBike.

We worry about those who are already riding irresponsibly on 100% human powered bikes and how much more danger they will represent when they adopt eBikes.


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