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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

Cory Rood, November 30, 2018 at 2:44 pm

I’m still waiting to hear how what someone else rides has a negative effect on anyone else’s ride? If you don’t like E-bikes, then don’t ride an E-bike.


KenH, November 30, 2018 at 3:22 pm

As long as what the other person rides is similar in capability to what I ride it does not matter. As long as what the other person rides is being operated in a safe and sane matter, whether it is similar in capability to what I ride or not, it does not matter.

If 20 or 30 percent of RAGBRAI participants are on e-bikes and are weaving in and out of traffic as fast as they will go because that is what they like to do then the character of the ride and its safety will be totally changed. THAT would impact many of us negatively.

I am sorry but speed does matter to both the safety and the quality of the experience on this ride. If you are riding much faster than traffic then you must ride much, much more carefully and much, much more respectfully than the bulk of riders do. If you feel that everything will be fine as long as everyone else “maintains their line” and concentrates exclusively on watching out for you and staying out of your way then you are NOT riding safely. You are NOT riding respectfully.

Pacelines are already a risk factor for everyone because too many of them do not take their responsibility to ride safely and watch out for and yield to slower riders seriously. But at least most of them are very fine riders who can often prevent disaster from occuring when their speed endangers themselves and others. There is no guarantee that e-bike owners will develop equivalent skills before they start zooming through RAGBRAI traffic.

e-bikes most definitely have the potential to be a problem at RAGBRAI and based on human behavior as I see it every day commuting to work I’d say that the odds are definitely in favor of problems to develop as soon as e-bike ridership becomes significant.


Bob Amlie, November 30, 2018 at 3:40 pm

It DOES matter what other people ride. RAGBRAI is about crossing the state under your own power. Not with a motorbike, ebike, whatever term you choose to conceal that fact. You kids are the ones who are attempting to redefine it. Here’s another thing: Wordplay & personal attacks don’t change my mind. Maybe the Equality Bikers ought to establish their own cross-state ride. Separate, but Equal on EBikes. With their disabilities and limitations & tendency to fatigue, they surely have more in common with other EBikers than they do with people who will do RAGBRAI on a real bicycle. I’m sure that that one company will gladly accommodate them, and have their tents all set up, dinner ready, and tuck them in at night.


Larry Klaaren, November 30, 2018 at 4:41 pm

RABRAI allows many people who do RAGBRAI use equipment that does not fit the definition of a bicycle. Skateboards can go pretty slow and impede bicyclists riding a typical speed for biking, but they are out there. I saw a person on roller skates. Unicycles do not have two wheels as the legal definition states. There was a four sided contraption that was ten feet wide, had eight sets of pedals and a maximum speed of twelve miles per hour that seemed to spin in circles as it went that was on the road at least from Newton to Sigourney. Lots of people ride three wheeled bikes, and some (not most, perhaps they are day riders) of them ride in the middle of the lane at 3-4 miles an hour. The definition of bicycle as defined by the federal and state government says a bicycle has two wheels, a saddle type seat, and pedals that can propel the bike. I think that RAGBRAI would be hard put to continue to allow other types of equipment and ban ebikes when the legal definition specifically and intentionally includes them as falling under the definition of bicycle, whether that came about by special interests or payoffs or whatever. That would be an Americans with Disabilities Act lawsuit waiting to be litigated.


Larry Klaaren, November 30, 2018 at 4:59 pm

BTW, “separate but equal” is a phrase that will not only guarantee you lose a lawsuit, but will incur punitive damages, and has legal repercussions. A Supreme Court decision about public schools in 1946 set the standard that separate but equal is inherently unequal. That phrase is from the majority opinion was written by Earl Warren. That decision in a school separation case has been tested in disability cases and been to the Supreme Court. It will not carry if you try to establish a separate but equal experience or benefit for two classes of people.


Bob Amlie, November 30, 2018 at 5:40 pm

So, Larry: Are you an attorney? Are you so physically weak that you can’t go on RAGBRAI without the help of an electric motorscooter, aka “EBike” ? Let me ask you this: Why would you even go on RAGBRAI, if it is beyond your physical capabilities? Seems like that would still present a risk, if you crashed your EBike. I hope you don’t sue me, for expressing my opinion. My advice is: retreat to your safe space. Sit n’ watch RAGBRAI coverage on YouTube. If you can’t run with the big dogs, stay on the porch.


Larry Klaaren, November 30, 2018 at 8:22 pm

Nope just a businessman who has had to meet ADA standards. I never said I disagree with you about ebikes on the ride. I just stated reality. People who run businesses have to consider legal liability in every decision we make. RAGBRAI is a business and so is the DM RRegister. I also have a disabled niece. I see both sides. On the one hand it’s a physical challenge. On the other why deny people some fun just because they have a physical challenge you don’t? I always make my mistakes on the side of grace and kindness.


dukester, November 30, 2018 at 8:55 pm

I’ve ridden RAGBRAI for the last four years under my own power and 95 percent of people pass me, which is fine, and my speed going up hills is almost as slow as the walkers. This year, at 70 years of age, I intend to ride a Trek e-bike that has a 100-mile range on eco-mode. I just need a little help and don’t want to give up the rolling carnival of RAGBRAI or the friends I’ve made. Porkbelly told me e-bikes are not a problem in their camp so I’m going to join an ever-increasing number of pedal-assisted riders. I teach motorcycle safety, by the way, and any comparison of motorbikes to e-bikes is silly. E-bikes in this conversation don’t have throttles and won’t allow riders to coast for long without pedaling. It’s an assist, not a replacement for pedaling. Ride your own ride.


Bob Braigar, November 30, 2018 at 9:35 pm

Notice how Ragbrai hasn’t chimed in on this thread, they do not control who, or what is on the public roads in iowa on the last full week of July, nor any other time, neither does anyone in this thread.


wrj, December 1, 2018 at 6:56 am

Thank you dalebob!


John Condon, December 1, 2018 at 10:05 am

I second what dukester wrote. E bikes are here and I accept that. I own a used throttle-only model and it is fun out on the gravel roads. I will continue to ride a pedal recumbent because I need the exercise, and usually I enjoy it. If a person is riding an ebike and towing a throbbing music-trailer they should certainly be banned and immediately imprisoned. Not because of the ebike, though.


dalebob, December 1, 2018 at 1:29 pm

For me, the issue is very much one of compatibility. Using some of the previously mentioned examples: Segway on the bike trail? Not really my thing but pretty compatible. Fat bike on the ski trail? No, not compatible. One runner on Ragbrai? Not that bad. 20,000 runners on Ragbrai? Um, no. People riding ‘too fast’ on a group ride? What is too fast? Best ride for the conditions.
Along with compatibility goes flexibility. Near here there is a lovely paved recreation trail that loops the town, about 11 miles. Goes right through town, out into the countryside and along the trout stream. Beautiful and scenic. Many many folks bike, walk, run, stroll and ski part or all of the trail every day of the year. It is for recreation use but no motor vehicles allowed. Not compatible after all. But one afternoon a year a group of volunteers get permission to take dozens of residents from the local retirement communities out on the trail on UTV side by side vehicles. I think last time they did this they had 30 or more go out. It is a beautiful thing, a chance for those who would otherwise never get to experience the trail to see and enjoy it. Has it become a ‘slippery slope?’ Have people demanded to drive their motorcycles and golf carts on the trail because of it? No. Not at all. Compatibility. Flexibility. A wonderful combination.


Bob Amlie, December 1, 2018 at 2:10 pm

Well, Dalebob makes a good point, one that is in alignment with a previous comment that I made. What could happen, if “Equality Bikes” become extremely popular, is to organize another, alternative cross-Iowa “bicycle ride” specifically for Equality Bikes, and Equality Bikes only. To make it even less of a challenge for riders, the Patrol could close the eastbound lanes of I-80, so the riders could use it, instead of those hilly backroads that don’t take the direct route. So, you’d have a route that was about 275 miles m/l, without all the hassles of going up hill. Goodbye Twister Hill, Effigy zmounds, Potter Hill, etc. The organizers could lease farm fields adjacent to the interstate for each overnight stop, set up the tents, showers, & prepare meals, provide amenities, to the discomfort-averse Equality Bikers, after a 40-mile ride each day. Participants would get a Patch at the end of the ride, for their accomplishment. Now, how about that? You can’t say it doesn’t have income potential for vendor$ and nearby communities.


Sandaltan ., December 1, 2018 at 3:30 pm

Thank you Dalebob for sprinkling a little hot sauce on the usually bland Holiday Season RAGBRAI Forum. I will keep an eye out for you next July so that I may say thanks in person. I believe I saw you last year in the company of a couple of diaper clad ladies in one of the pass through towns, will you be traveling with those ladies again or was that meeting coincidental?



dalebob, December 1, 2018 at 5:03 pm

Yes, we are team Decorah Wheelers. Two babies, Bling and Uncle Sam. I will look for you on the ride!


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