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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 ., December 6, 2018 at 10:37 pm

The “bike repair shops” sell and service ebikes. As MR has famously said “RAGBRAI don’t care”.



mootsman, December 7, 2018 at 8:23 am

RAGBRAI cares even less about what drives revenue for bike shops and manufacturers. But RAGBRAI is a non-motorized event for participants. If someone wants motorized transport between towns, become a driver for a team.


Surlyman!, December 7, 2018 at 1:53 pm

Lets see if we can get the name changed from RAG”BR”AI to RAG”M”AI since its moving away from a “bike ride” to just a “migration” across the great state. we have people on bicycles, unicycles, tricycles, skateboards, those three wheeled elliptical things, jogging, running, walking, those soap box derby three wheeled bullet looking thingies (some of those are electric also), roller blades, roller skates, E-bikes and anything else I forgot to mention. The reality is, its YOUR RAGBRAI. Do it your way. Some would not be able to make it without the e-bike. Doesn’t mean they shouldn’t be there with the rest of us. However, I do find it disappointing that I seen a teenager riding an e-bike last year and bitching at his dad (I think) about how hard it is. We are a society of “easy way out” people and if it’s easier, we will eventually do it that way. But for me, putting in the work makes it much more rewarding and also adds to the joy of the adventure. Ride On!


mootsman, December 7, 2018 at 2:26 pm

Those 3 wheel vehicles with aero shells you mentioned are all human powered. As are the other vehicles you mentioned although few do the whole week. Those we get, human powered. It is still though the “Bicycle” ride across Iowa even though they allow all human powered options. Motors though with the amount of drinking, not a great idea. If it were “what ever you want”, cars in theory would be welcome. There has to be a line somewhere.


Surlyman!, December 7, 2018 at 3:50 pm

I think Mootsman, you are misinformed on the aero shells. in ’17 I had a good conversation with one of the drivers of an aero shell in Postville. It was battery powered. FYI cars are allowed on the route. its an open road for all public use. I see them every year.


mootsman, December 7, 2018 at 5:57 pm

I was camped next to 2 guys on RAGBRAI with aero shelled trikes (on 2017 RAGBRAI also) and those were pedal powered. I assume they can be constructed either way. If you see them on RAGBRAI, you can’t tell until the shell comes off. But I’ve only seen the 2 without the shell on.

I see cars on route all the time. But they are not participating on RAGBRAI. They are just going to or coming from home.

Its not about what’s road legal, its about what RAGBRAI allows on a bicycle tour.


Bob Amlie, December 8, 2018 at 1:25 pm

I guess that since “RAGBRAI Don’t Care”(as Orwell or someone once wrote), that I’ll be riding a horse-drawn, hay-burning, four-wheeled recumbent bike next year, clip-clop, clip-clopping along. It will also have a very powerful amplified Boom Box, with enormous boom-boom-boom!!! subwoofers, that blasts out Rap Music that can be heard a mile away. Of course, I’ll use solar panels to recharge the batteries for the sound system. After all, it’s “Legal”, and Only an intolerant “hater” can object to my scheme. After all, RAGBRAI is ALL about standing in line for Pie & Pork Chops & Beer and camaraderie and $1 water.. It’s NOT about, getting hot, tired and sweaty from too much pedaling. Ha. Gotcha.


mcdermott1, December 8, 2018 at 2:47 pm

After reading and thinking about everyone’s view on this topic, I agree with Cory Rood’s opinion…”as long as it requires peddling, who cares?” “You do you and let other people do themselves”. I do a lot of riding and I view this as a fun social ride, it’s not the Tour De France . For those that are looking for a more challenging , competitive ride there are plenty of other rides to choose from through out the summer. Remember, if it bothers you that some choose to ride an electric assist bike, or play music, or only ride a couples days, or drink a beer then simply find a different ride where these activities are not allowed. KMC


wrj, December 8, 2018 at 6:46 pm

So, some people rode e-bikes on ragbrai 2018? how about 2017? 2016? For how many years have e-bikes been on ragbrai? That gives us some history. Lets hear the stories about how e-bikes ruined your ragbrai. Remember the sail bikes? They are non-human powered bikes. For me, e-bikes are just another aspect of the rolling circus that is ragbrai. I still enjoy it. When it changes into something I no longer like, I’ll stay home.


mcdermott1, December 8, 2018 at 8:42 pm

Well said WRJ !


KenH, December 10, 2018 at 1:43 pm

How have electric bikes ruined anyone’s RAGBRAI? That’s easy, they haven’t yet. How has the automobile traffic on the RAGBRAI route ruined RAGBRAI? It hasn’t yet, although there have been days. For a short stretch on one day in 2016 we were routed on a busy US highway mixed in with heavy automobile traffic. Was it Sunday and US34, I don’t recall but that was intense. It did not ruin RAGBRAI but if the whole week were like that very few people on bicycles would participate. The final day this year (2018 for the sake of those who may read this much later) we were routed on a busy four lane with “our” lane blocked to automobile traffic. That did not ruin my RAGBRAI either but it could not end soon enough for my tastes. That was NOT fun, I would NOT want to do that for a week.

So, those of you who argue for inclusivity at all costs are really arguing for this kind of a RAGBRAI because eBikes have the potential to do this to the ride. No, they are not doing it now but before long they will start to do this. When that occurs the Register will have to make some decisions about the issue and will have to try to enforce them. You argue that people with disabilities are excluded from the ride presently. But if you have to ride an eBike at some point in the future to have a safe and enjoyable RAGBRAI you will be excluding those who cannot afford them. You will also be excluding those who cannot enjoy the intensity of the experience that will result even if they can afford an eBike.

Every choice that is made about any event will include some and exclude others except as observers. RAGBRAI is a physical challenge and it is historically a human powered event. Motorized vehicles represent a major change to the character of RAGBRAI. Modern eBikes may be a relatively recent development but motorized bicycles in general existed long, long before RAGBRAI started and they have been excluded from the start. eBikes have managed to quietly sneak into the ride because they are, well, quiet! Anyone who can push a skateboard or run across Iowa with us certainly could ride a bicycle with us. We include them because even though they choose another human powered means of locomotion they are doing the route under their own power.

Every year I ride this route I see folks doing it on recumbent hand cycles. They are meeting the challenge! If we allow people to do the route on eBikes we are telling those folks their exertion is foolish, their pain is pointless, their struggle is in vain. They should just stop being chumps and get a battery powered vehicle. Every year I see, without seeing because they look no different from other riders, those who have recently gotten up off their couches and have decided to take up Theodore Roosevelt’s active life. Should we tell them they are being silly? Should we tell them to just let Ready Kilowatt do the work for you. Just continue to let your health ebb away and your mind atrophy from lack of challenges joined and conquered? Does that strike you as an acceptable price to pay for including others? Do you feel that every human activity has to be dumbed down to the level that everyone is able and willing to exert? Or is it still ok in your worldview to excel? Is it still ok to ask everyone to do the best that they are capable of, disability or not?

I see no need to do anything about eBikes at the present. In the near future when it will become necessary to do something about them I vote that we exclude or severely limit them. I would much rather ride with those who are challenging themselves to excel than with those who have enforced a hollow and pointless equality. When, also in the near future, I find myself unable to do this ride under my own power I will hold it a much higher honor to watch those who can or to participate in some other event than it would be to compromise the whole ethos of the ride so that I can pretend that I can still propel myself across Iowa unaided by any stored energy devices.


Bob Amlie, December 10, 2018 at 1:50 pm

Who said EBIKES have to “ruin” your RAGBRAI, before you can justify objecting to them? Hey–if you got new neighbors on each side of you, and one painted his home fluorescent orange, and the other neighbor redecorated his with Zebra stripes, would that “ruin” YOUR home? RAGBRAI is an event dedicated to self-powering across Iowa. Want to get out and drive a two-wheeled powered cycle? Then go to Sturgis, or some other motorcycle rally.


mootsman, December 10, 2018 at 3:35 pm

BL & Ken,

Good points. The thread is not about ebikes ruining RAGBRAI or for those that claim RAGBRAI is whatever you want it to be. That’s just an excuse to try and start arguments. Its a bicycle tour, human powered. And sure a few other human powered modalities enter but all are human powered. Ebikes are coming up because so many manufacturers have started making them recently and their use is ready to explode (maybe). If the Register wants to expand into the world of the motor they should officially announce it. An official policy one way or the other is needed from RAGBRAI


Bob Amlie, December 10, 2018 at 4:13 pm

The organizers would be wsse to develop a policy excluding motorized vehicles—EBikes or whatever–in the immediate future. The reason being, it would be easier to contain the issue, than after there are enough of them that they become entrenched as a faction.If there is only supposed to be a finite number of wristbands issued, then every registered EBike-rider would potentially be displacing a self-powered rider–someone who devoted the effort to get in condition.. The topic of according Electric bikes the status of “bicycle” has been debated elsewhere many times, with manufacturer$ of EBike$ advocating them, too. The EBikers are shrewdly wanting access to bicycle/pedestrian-specific infrastructure, for commuting and recreation. They can commute to work, then haul their EBike up in the elevator, and store it in their office. Thus, not having to rent parking space. It’s basically about he money & convenience. But, some of the people stating reasons in favor of allowing EBikes on RAGBRAAI seem to have difficulty in making finer distinctions.


dukester, December 10, 2018 at 4:29 pm

Organizers would be wise to maintain the status quo. E-bikes have been, are and will be allowed on RAGBRAI. I’ve only heard fear, not facts, about e-bikes in this thread and no one has come up with a reason to limit e-bikes from RAGBRAI, except that they somehow detract from the purity of non-assisted efforts to pedal across the state. Some have been anxious about the speed of e-bikes but pace lines seems much more dangerous. Besides, for e-bike batteries to last the day, riders will be using little assistance, which translates to slower speeds. As someone stated, this isn’t Tour de France. It’s a rolling carnival across the state where the goal is to have fun. How does my fun detract from your ride? Get over it.

And equating e-bikes to Harleys riding in Sturgis is ridiculous.


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