MAKING THE SWITCH
By Nick Claire
“Leave your excuses at home,” I said to myself as I reached the top of a long climb alongside a handful of other riders out on the weekly e-bike group ride. It was a thought that popped into my head after hearing the group-ride chatter about why e-bike riders are frequently accused of being “cheaters” when it comes to physical conditioning.
With a wide variety of ages and skillsets, this was a very diverse group of riders, which always leaves me with big ears. I hear lots of discussions and debates usually having to do with a newfound love of e-bikes. And for some reason, the talk often comes with my two-wheeled compatriots explaining the reasons and justifications they rely on to defend their e-bike use. The fact is, I don’t believe we need an excuse.
THE REASON FOR BEING
Don’t get me wrong, I fully enjoy the social aspect of conversing about e-bikes and why we like riding them. But, in many cases, what I hear comes from a place of defense rather than enjoyment. Why do we feel the need to justify riding an e-bike?
Anyone who has ridden an e-bike for any period of time has probably come into contact with someone (who I refer to as the “workout doubters”) who has given them a hard time about riding with pedal assist. You’re probably well aware that getting a workout isn’t a problem on an e-bike.
“The funny thing is, I’ve begun to witness many non-assist naysayers becoming full-fledged pedal-assist gurus.”
This presumed rule or law—touted by some—that every cyclist must get a rigorous workout at all, in fact, does not exist. Nonetheless, harassment and negativity inevitably find their way to the trails. This can often leave us e-bikers a little peeved and even resentful. Now we’ve gone from cyclists who just enjoy riding at our own ability to being bitter and ready for a philosophical battle. Battle, of course, meaning an unavoidable encounter with a “workout doubter.” These are the encounters that leave e-bike riders having to justify why they ride what they ride; hence the excuses I should leave it at home.
The funny thing is, I’ve begun to witness many non-assist naysayers becoming full-fledged pedal-assist gurus. How do I know this is true? Because, sadly, I have to admit that I was once one of them. Although I was never one to talk trash to others on the trail, I certainly didn’t see the point of needing a motor—until I tried one. Now I’m right in on the group-ride conversations about why e-bikes are so cool and “how much fun are we having?”
“As e-bikers, we should all try to get along and promote as much two-wheeled camaraderie as possible.”
Oddly enough, in the past few years the conversation has kind of switched gears. It’s not as necessary to justify what we ride anymore. The vibe on the trail has mellowed out, and we hear less and less of the negative comments from “regular bike riders.”
GOING FROM DEFENSE TO OFFENSE
This is where the all-important “switch” to the story comes in. Although at times the temptation has been there, I’ve always reminded myself to not be as rude to anyone on the trail as some have been to me just because I was riding an e-bike. Why do these other riders even care what bike I’m riding or how many calories I’m burning? Nonetheless, I strongly believe as the e-bike community continues to grow, the times are changing. Over the last few months I’ve witnessed a new sense of pride within the pedal-assisted group as they’ve gained more confidence, and even in some cases, more attitude.
Ironically, the attitude has switched from feeling like we’re doing something wrong to gloating that the non-assist riders aren’t having as much fun! Now I’m not saying that embracing an “eye for an eye” attitude is right, although some people probably do deserve a little backlash. But, I was always taught that two wrongs don’t make a right. After all, if it weren’t for regular bikes and the competition that came from them, we probably wouldn’t have the caliber of e-bikes we have now.
THE GROWTH PATTERN
The bike industry and competition have allowed us to enjoy frames, components and suspension designs that hold up to the extra abuse that e-bikes endure. We have to remember that a portion of regular bike riders are serious and performance-minded athletes who don’t want to be ridiculed for their painful effort (although it may not seem like they’re having as much fun!). As e-bikers, we should all try to get along and promote as much two-wheeled camaraderie as possible.
“This presumed rule or law—touted by some—that every cyclist must get a rigorous workout at all, in fact, does not exist.”
I think any of us assisted riders know by now that e-bikes are not going away. The growth in e-bikes are projected to be one of the fastest-growing markets in the next few years. During the COVID pandemic alone, we’ve seen an 87-percent spike in the e-bike market. So, I can only hope that the growing community of all riders can encourage each other. Encouragement will bring more people in to a fun atmosphere and continue the evolution of the industry.
ELECTRIC BIKE ACTION MAGAZINE
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