The ebikes are coming! The ebikes are coming!

One time I was whining to friend about using computer technology to compose music. “So bogus!” I declaimed.

“STFU,” he advised, being a composer. “If Mozart had had it, he would have used it. Musicians always use the best thing available. The piano was a revolutionary instrument and Mozart owned it.”

“Maybe,” I said, “but if he’d used a program to compose I can guarantee you one thing.”

“What’s that?”

“His music would have sucked.”

The first time I saw an ebike up close was a few years ago. Greg S-J had a new Specialized ebike that, with a tweak and a twist of Old No. 72, had been programmed to go 30 mph. “Great,” I had said. “Next we’ll have Smedley Sagbottom on the bike path doing 30 as he learns about things like the grippyness of sand in a screaming turn.”

As old and change-resistant and bitter and grumpy people are wont to do, I predicted the following:

  1. People will begin racing them.
  2. They will become ubiquitous.
  3. It will be the end of civilization.

Two out of three isn’t bad.

When I was in Germany last summer dragging my son uphill along the Rhine from Cologne to Koblenz, we passed hundreds of ebikes going the other direction. We never passed a single ebike going in the same direction.

The ebikes were all pedaled by old German people who were getting exercise or running errands or casually whipping by the world’s fittest and most delusional 52-year-old profamateur SoCal bike racer from New Jersey who grew up in Galveston and Houston. And that last part made them sooooo happy. The first hundred times a creaky-kneed Opa showed me a wrinkly pair of heels it made me grind my teeth so much that I lost most of my enamel. But actually I was just following the Five Stages of Grieving for Getting Owned by an Ebike.

  1. Anger.
  2. Rage.
  3. Murderous rage.
  4. Wild, uncontrollable fury.
  5. Defeat.

So then back at home the ebike thing continued to grow, and continues. Some people complain because of e-doping, where pro cyclists put tiny motors in their bike to add a few watts when the going gets tough, cf. Fabian Cheatsalotta in the Tour of Flanders. Others complain because it ruins the purity of the sport, where results depend on training, diet, natural ability, computerized watt meters, a race director with a radio who can instruct you exactly how hard to pedal and for how long, and a doctor who can advise you how to beat the drug tests.

In fact, some people care so much about ebikes that they have left cush jobs in the cycling industry, as if any job is cush, and as if cycling is an industry instead of a mafia for dumb people.

But back at the Mozart Ranch, though, where you pretty much have to admit that people will grab whatever technology gives them a leg up on everyone else (Charles Darwin wrote a book about it once), the world is shrugging. Motors let fat sprunters climb with the goats, and they let skinny goats sprunt with the big boys. Just kidding. If you are a tiny climber you will never beat a sprunter, even if he’s on a Big Wheel and you’re on a Ducati. That’s because sprunters win mainly on balls not watts. However, I’ve heard that Specialized is coming out with a pair of eBallz that will take care of that problem, too, and also make a cool ornament for your trailer hitch.

No, the world doesn’t care that we’ve moved on from human power to e-power in bicycles. The slow will get really fast, the homebound will get out and take the lane, and the nature of racing will shift from drugs-radios-computers to drugs-radios-computers-and-motors. Ah, excuse me. IT ALREADY HAS.

And don’t cry on my shoulder. There is actually a world for people who like obsolete shit that performs badly and only looks good because it’s old–it’s called Penny Farthing Racing and Classic Car Collecting. Help yourself to some nostalgia, and don’t forget to wear a helmet.



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57 thoughts on “The ebikes are coming! The ebikes are coming!”

  1. I’ve had a similar convo with people who look down on those of us who use power tools for woodworking instead of hand tools. Chippendale would have used a bandsaw if he’d ever seen one; it wasn’t art to him, it was how he made his living and he’d have made for more money with a bandsaw. Your article does raise some questions, though.

    If I have an ebike and I commute to work, did I bike to work or e to work?

    If I use an ebike to race with non-ebikers, am I guilty of elarceny when there are prizes? If there are no prizes, is it just an evictory?

    Where’s the link to the waiting list for eBallz?

  2. I’ve found that e-bikes are good for my training, as I have to get through stages 1-4 before admitting to 5, and that necessitates chasing down the e-wankers (especially if they are wearing profamateur kit) or at least trying really hard although possibly futilely to catch them, or stay on their wheel for as long as possible before cursing them as the harbingers of the death of cycling as we know it.

  3. Anything that gets people out of cars is a net win in my book. Here in Toulouse, there are two or three ebikes out of the 60 bike I see everyday on my commute. It’s going to be hot with high humidity this summer. Perhaps they have the right idea.

        1. I was born in Princeton and lived there until I was two. Super fond memories, made a ton of friends, enjoyed the night life there, especially the university atmosphere, ran into a lot of really smart people, hung out on the beach a lot partying with my peers, good times.

  4. Being somewhat European I have the belief that bicycles are in fact a mode of transportation, and not just a plaything for chronicly delusional profamitures and profamiture wanna bees. E-bikes get used for commuting to work, going to the shops, and going on vacationing. For example my father in law and his girlfriend who are both in there 70’s are currently on vacation in Italy with there e-bikes.

    So anything that get’s people out of the car to run that errand, enables people to pedal to work and not be a stinking puddle off sweet and enjoy leisure activities when other wise they couldn’t can’t be a bad thing.

    But perhaps I should start running l’errocica for carbon bikes just in case…

      1. Perhaps you could get a job as a podium boy at Paris-Roubaix next year? Oh wait, you’ll probably end up kissing an Australian.

  5. There is a word for electric motorized bicycles and it is motorcycle. They belong on the road with cars. When that 300 lb. old fart on a 45 lb. motorbike runs down the kid on the strand, everybody will hate e-bikes just like i do.

    1. The California classifications as to the type of assist an e-bike provides and its place on the roads and trails is noble but after you read the descriptions you better have a crib sheet to remember what you are looking at.
      On the motor vehicle roadways, easy, elsewhere? We live in so much danger.

  6. Meh. The only rage for ebikes I have are for competition and trail access. Ebikes should not compete with normal bikes. And I see more mountain bike trail restrictions overall because of yahoos modding out their ebikes to be dirt bikes.

    1. East Coast baby seal

      Couldn’t agree more. Anything that gets the couch set pedaling is great. After a sorting period, we’ll figure out how to manage them on bike paths and on the roads. No motors in competition of any sort (unless it’s a motor competition), and stay the hell off the single track. If you want to e-bike in the dirt, there’s plenty of moto accessible trails. Use them.

      1. The true value to e-bikes is that they piss everyone off. That is hard to do. Dog knows I try.

  7. Sonofabitch ……. I missed the ebike meme and just bought an expensive new Cervelo pedal bike.

    Well ….. I am just going to torture myself for missing the boat by working up a sweat going up some steep hills in the wrong gear (wirelessly selected by radio control) … that will show them ebikers a thing or two!


  8. You rock Seth, couldn’t agree more. Why are bikers getting their lycra in a bundle about e-bikers on dirt/trails, especially when e-bikers aren’t going to go any faster on said trails than the profamateur stravaists?

    1. It’s always problematic when someone with proper punctuation and sound sentence structure compliments me. But thank you!

    2. especially when e-bikers aren’t going to go any faster on said trails than the profamateur stravaists?

      It’s a motorbike, not a mountain bike. GTFO

      You e-bike riders sort out access on your own. Don’t ride on IMBA’s tail. They’ve got enough problems.

      1. I tried to GTFO but Seth’s unique brand of cutting, self-effacing commentary keeps bringing me back. Damn you Seth!

        channel_zero, at its core, your “argument” is a spiteful combo of NIMBY and “I’ve-got-mine-so-screw-you.” Hard for me to take that seriously.

        I’ve done some goggling and googling, and haven’t been able to find an example of those dastardly e-bikers ruining trail access here in the good ol’ USA. Found lots of the-sky-will-fall rhetoric, but not examples. Maybe you can goggle better and provide one. If you can find one, does that mean we should therefore ban e-bikers to their own island? Remember, I’ve got mine so screw you.

        1. eBikes are here to stay, so we’d better figure out how to use them, just like we did with pianos and, well, bicycles. And when the eBallz hit the stores, Katie bar the door.

  9. Sonofabitch …… I just bought an expensive pedal bike (Cervelo) and completely missed the new eBike meme.

    Damn ….. just when I thought I had caught the new wave with a new bike.

    I am going to punish myself for being so dense …….. by riding up steep hills in the wrong gear and sweating a lot …… shifting with my new radio controlled eTap and gliding down the hills (very occasionally) braking with my new hydraulics ……. but realizing all the time that somebody is out there with an eBike.



    +1 mph Faster

    1. If you’d just spend another $25k you could change your tag line to +1.5 mph faster.

      1. I must be going into senility ….. sorry about the double post …. did the first one from my phone and it looked like it did not post …. I like the second one better anyway … evolution works.

        Actually I am foolishly hoping for a real +0.5 mph faster but I will probably have to train for that …. although I did lose 4 lbs. and get a new body part (a pacemaker that must have cost about $25K?? …… including installation) …. so now I am the Bionic Man ….. and I am on the clock …. about 9 years until the battery goes dead …. and probably me with it.

        1. In nine years you will be able to stick your finger into a socket and recharge.

  10. E used to mean something completely different not that long ago, funny how things change.

    E-ballz though, they could really go somewhere. Especially for gentlemen of a certain age who are beginning to understand their limitations. Perhaps some e-ovaries for the ladies as well? Personally, I’ll wait till the hipsters come out with some handcrafted leather ones. Will look more authentic too.

    (PS excellent topic with excellent comments, has made my morning)

    1. The e-Ballz will have leather for hipsters but more importantly, a full carbon version made of 100% anodized and pantographed carbon with remote carbon activated-test-squirters.

  11. I’m thinking about an ebike with a gyroscope and some kind of radio device that allows remote control from my google maps so I can just send it out for a ride on its own. That way I can stay on the couch (if I ever get one) and watch Seinfeld reruns and still “train” at the same time.

    It would need a gopro (gope pro?) camera for obvious reasons…just spitballing, here…

    Yeah, and it could also follow you around when you MIGHT want to ride home…or so it can follow you down the aisles at Trader Joe’s while you fill your Wald baskets with couch snacks and beer. We don’t have Trader Joe’s in Florida, (at least not where I live) but with solar panels I could probably send my trusty ebike to where they DO have Trader Joe’s and just tie a shopping list to the handlebars.

    This could work.


      1. I’m moving to the Nether Regions., wherever that is. But I noticed they slipped April Fool’s Day in there. Meanwhile I gotta say, everytime I think up a cool invention, someone beats me to it. I invented the idea of using your bicycle frame as a rack and googled it only to discover bikepacking. Now this…I’m starting to think Google is smarter than me…do they live in trailers, I wonder? Trailer Parks have long been linked to genius.
        (editorial note: I made up the trailer park/genius thing but I might be on to something…going to google it…)

        (editorial note secondus: twenty years ago if you were in a saloon (remember those?) and told some guy that in twenty years “google” would be a verb you would have got a black eye or worse.)

    1. (editorial note: I spelled aisles without spell check and when did all caps replace italics(also typed without spel chek)

  12. A couple e-bikes passed me going clockwise on PVDrW. So of course I wouldn’t stand for it and I cranked up the watts and chased thru a few rollers and finally passed them both on the down-grade to Malaga Cove.

    I stopped at the top of PVBlvd past the 3-way and exclaimed to a roadie parked there about my feat, when the e-bikes passed us by.


    The roadie guy was like “Uh…….ok”, like hoping this crazyman would go away.

    1. True crazymen never go away. They follow you and ask for odd amounts of money like “Twenty-three cents.”

  13. Currently shopping for an ebike for my mother. Can’t see her chasing profameteurs though, more likely it’ll get her to the local garden nursery and back with a new pot of African Violets or some such thing.

    1. Hopefully some abusive roadie will scream at her and chop her wheel because she’s probably taking up valuable road space that could be used for Strava interval doping.

  14. In my neck of the woods (Minneapolis) we’re blessed with a great network of paved and limestone bike paths. They’re narrow (8′-ish) and multi-use. This means they have walkers, runners, roller blade/skiers, Segway users, bicycles and now e-bikes… and I have issues (just ask my family, but I digress). There is a subset of bicyclists that take crazy risks on the paths – around pedestrians, especially small children. This is bad but fortunately many more are safe and courteous. However, my experience with e-bikes is that a majority think they’re on a road and for some reason their e-bikes came either without brakes or the common sense to use them. Many are much heavier than a bicycle so a pedestrian/e-bike collision will resemble SUV v Yugo – bad for the little guy. So if these e-bikes want to play, great, go play with SUV’s and leave the paths to self-propelled modes of transport.

    1. eBikes and bicycles with gasoline engines are already illegal on LA County bike paths.

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