As someone who rides an electric bike it is amazing that I am sometimes exposed to a strange mixture of hostility and snobbery that cycling purists, who’ve never ever ridden an electric bike, will generously offer me. Some of the daftest opinions offered are that it is only for the old or the disabled or that it is “cheating”.
Well if I was riding an e-bike in the Tour then maybe it would be cheating, as if cheating in the Tour was totally unknown, but if I am riding 40 or 50 km around the district on a weekend, or riding down to the supermarket with my panniers empty, and coming back with them full, then what rule am I cheating against?
I am not old. I am not disabled. I could probably get myself a non-electric bike and ride that quite happily. I could get my old mountain bike out of the shed and spray it a bit til the chain moved, but I like riding my comfortable e-bike. The ride is smooth, solid and oh so comfortable. I generally pedal at a healthy cadence that makes me sweat. I go through my gears to help me keep my cadence in a nice range. When I get tired it is nice to keep moving and have a bit of a rest. I get help up the hills or into the wind, and sometimes on the flat. But overall I get a good workout on my e-bike. I average 25km/hr and I can go for 2 hours before I’ve had enough. Mostly I ride because it feels great to get out into the fresh air and get some exercise. I couldn’t really give a damn what some ignorami in a lycra leotard thinks.
The comments this week on the Conversation on an article about Australia adopting the European standards for electric bikes will show you what I mean. Of more interest is the comments from people who think that the European standards are not the right fit for Australian conditions. In particular I think the European rules have two dumb points that just don’t make sense. Firstly cutting out assistance at 25km/hr is limiting. It is quite an arbitrary limit. My bike has fat tyres and I hover around that speed anyway, but my next bike will probably be belt driven with thinner tyres and an internal geared hub. On a non e-bike version of that I could probably ride 35km/hr. The second dud rule is that you have to be pedalling to get electrical assistance. Why? Again its completely arbitrary. As I said I don’t mind having a rest and keep moving and if someone wants to commute on an e-bike and never pedal then I really don’t have a problem with that. It’s not like they are breaking any “rules”.
So to me the European rules seem to take on-board the opinions of the cycling snobs out there. Australia adopting the laws is a backwards step (although going from 200W to 250W is an improvement for Australia). New Zealand will probably follow Australia’s lead and blindly adopt the European law. Looking on the bright side one advantage would be that there’ll be a greater range of European quality bikes on the market, such as the new Grace electric bikes.
For what’s it’s worth I think that it’s the cycling “purist”s who don’t cycle with bricks in their panniers who are cheating. Bicycling is only meant to be done by stoic, self-flagellating ascetics after all.