Friday, February 28, 2014

Friday News And Views

Check it out! A Motorcycle!
Just Because It Has Pedals....

I know, I know....I go over this again and again here on this blog, but it truly bears repeating: Electric-assist, "e-bikes", electric bikes, or by whatever name you call them, these are really primitive motorcycles.

Motor + Bicycle = Motor-cycle. 

Why is this so hard for people to grasp? I don't know. The whole marketing schtick behind these vehicles with electric motors is that somehow, some way, they are bicycles. I completely reject this idea as being wrong. Bicycles are a human powered machine. (Note: No mention of any "assistance" or motors.)  In fact, I would go as far to say that the electric motor equipped, two wheeled vehicles being foisted upon the public are really just poor excuses for motorcycles and a throwback to turn of the century motorcycles circa 1900. 

Hey Look! A Gas Assisted Bicycle!
 That's right. A bad motorcycle. Check out what the earliest Harley Davidson motorcycle was all about back in 1903. It was mostly based upon bicycle technology, but everyone understood it wasn't a bicycle. Why? Because bicycles are and always have been completely human powered vehicles.

So why on earth would anyone want a motorcycle with a top speed of 20mph that is heavy and cumbersome when we've advanced from that point for over 100 years? Here's why it is a "thing" at all in 2014......

The subversive/rebellious angle is certainly one reason. I've said it before here: Folks that are into this like the fact you don't have to license these, get a license to operate them, and that you can go where other motorized vehicles cannot go. They masquerade as "bicycles" when really, they are anything but a bicycle. I would say they are the antithesis of bicycles on many levels, but that's another post for another day.

The other angle is the "green transportation" thing. Look, even bicycles are not "green". Look at anything they are made from and how those components are made, and you'll have to agree, bicycles are not "green". What is "green" is how they are powered. Add an electric, (or heck, a gas motor), to it, and you've sullied even that part of the "green" equation. So, yeah......

The original Women's MTB skills clinic
Women's Skills Clinics:

Maybe if you give a rip about  history in the bicycle realm, you know that Jacquie Phelan used to do a women's mountain bike Organization? Seminars? Well, she did this "thing" that was supposed to help women out in a male dominated sport to become skilled in off road bicycling. And she did just that for many, it seems. She was the first, to my knowledge, and possibly ahead of her time. Well.....she was ahead of her time. Truly a pioneer there.

I point this out because I got a press release just yesterday about another mountain biking woman doing a set of seminars on skills for women off roaders. Her name is Leigh Donovan, and she pretty much kicked butt going fast on anything pointed downhill. Jacquie kicked butt too, by the way, but she did it more on the XC courses. Anywho.....

Leigh Donovan's venture is called "I Choose Bikes" and she aims to encourage and teach women cyclists in an off road setting. Here's a bit from her site:

 "With more and more bike parks opening around the world, the timing is perfect to start this business. Leigh (along with other extraordinary coaches) will teach women riders how to do it safely and give them the tools they will need to be more confident when riding the trails."

If you are in SoCal, her first big three day deal will be at Mammoth Mountain July 23-26, 2014. So there ya go. Leigh is following in the trail cut by Jacquie, and hopefully this is a successful deal going forward. 

The Never-ending Winter Continues
A Bad Word Or Two About The Weather:

You know, they say that "if you don't like the weather in Iowa, wait five minutes". I feel this needs to be amended to "if you don't like the weather in Iowa, wait five months!"

Okay, it hasn't been frigid for five months, really, but it has been frigid for a longer time than I can remember in recent years.  Maybe since I was a kid. It's been getting to the point now where folks are seriously being affected in a negative way around here.

I knew it was jacked up when I was reading about the Iditarod Trail Invitational and they were complaining of rain and temperatures in the 40's above zero! That's in interior Alaska folks. That's not right! It's been too warm in Alaska all Winter too.

Well, it is what it is, and I've got to get out and start doing stuff regardless. So do a lot of folks getting ready for events like Trans Iowa, the Almanzo events, and others coming up this Spring. Maybe I'll have to start running.....

Well, that's a warp for this week. I hope you all can get out and do something this weekend. Keep the rubber side down!


bostonbybike said...

"So why on earth would anyone want a motorcycle with a top speed of 20mph that is heavy and cumbersome?"

You're technically right - e-bikes are simple motorcycles. But that's only part of the story.

I seriously consider getting one of those e-bikes myself. Here is why.

I live on the top of a steep hill. All businesses and my work are located downhill. While I ride my bike to work nearly everyday, I don't mind walking it uphill, if necessary.

But on weekends, when I want to take my kid, put him on a bike and ride to a grocery store 2 miles away, I "can't". Because I know that I would have to push the bike uphill, loaded with grocery bags and with my kid sitting in the back. So I don't do it, often doing an "American thing" instead, which means driving to the store 2 miles away.

E-bike just makes a lot of sense in my situation. Would I buy a "real" motorcycle instead? No, because 20mph is more than enough and I don't need something heavier, louder, faster and more complex.

Guitar Ted said...

@bostonbybike: But why wouldn't you buy a scooter, with real lights, turn signals and carrying capacity far beyond that of a e-bike and have three times the range (at minimum) for about the same price. (Check out motor scooter prices, they are on average the same as e-bikes and in many cases less)

Like I said- it is because you don't have to accept the fact that motor scooters need a license, insurance, and an operators license. Plus you can ride wherever you want, (within reason) So, you accept a poor excuse for a motor cycle instead.

Maybe I'm wrong, but if I am not, I find this compromise a rather curious one.

bostonbybike said...

A scooter is louder and can't match with e-assisted cargo bike's load capacity. I can't put two (soon) little kids on a scooter and take them to the forest for a ride. Just like you said - I can ride my e-cargo bike anywhere taking my family with me.

Obviously real scooters have their huge benefits but in this case - I don't need them.

Guitar Ted said...

@Bostonbybike: To each their own, certainly, but I think you are missing the point and short changing the options for motorized transpo. Really- when it comes right down to brass tacks, you already have a car, right?

In other words- and I realize this may sound harsh- but bicycling isn't for everybody and choices one makes in life can limit one's abilities to use a bicycle. So- you either make the changes- if human powered transportation is important to you enough to do that, or you are looking at other options.

My point is that e-bikes are not a "Good" option for motorized transportation. They are primitive, underpowered, and limited in range. There are "Better" choices, and I think you already have one that fits your needs, culture, and infrastructure.

But again- to each their own.

Roasta said...

Hi Gted.
It's an interesting topic and I feel for where you are coming from but I feel all of the arguments here need to be taken into their own context and circumstance.

The key difference here for me is that generally an e-bike makes little sound unlike the moto category you seem to place them in and this is a key point that aligns them more to bicycles rather than motorcycles. Along with the relatively low speed capability.
I also see and believe that in most cases those who choose e-bikes aren't the same types who choose a bicycle with a DIY motor slapped on because it saves them money on rego etc or because they lost their license.
'bostonbybike' is a good case in point. He can continue to get the whole cycling experience and take his family with him and without the sound and petrochemical issues; and yes not have rego and extra vehicle costs.
I am surprised that you brought up the 'you have a car' point of view.
Fat bikes have opened up many people's world of cycling allowing them to ride 'out of season' on bad-for-cycling roads. So maybe e-bikes can allow others to get out and cycle a little more too.

Having said all of that I am not sure of your background with/towards bostonbybike and if that influences your comments.

Don't get me wrong I see your point of view but maybe e-bikes shouldn't just be compared as motorized transport more hybrid as they still have pedals. I know of people who wanted to commute to work but are too old and or unfit/strong/old injuries (yes some of these can change in time) to conquer that one big hill or that extra distance etc. An e-bike/kit still lets them get out and cycle - via human power for most of the ride.

Guitar Ted said...

@Roasta: First of all, thanks for the comment.

As to the noise issue, there are several electric motorcycles on the market these days, and as I have experienced, gas powered motor scooters are VERY quiet. (Had one scare the pants off me on a BIKE PATH no less.)

As to the "e-bikes get folks cycling that otherwise wouldn't" argument: While this sounds great, in practice it isn't what happens.(Most of the time) Think about it- Most e-bikes weigh in the neighborhood of 40lbs (give or take a few) and when are (for the lack of a more palatable term) "weaker" folks going to pedal that? Wouldn't it be far easier for them to pedal a bike half that weight- assuming that they would pedal at all?

Then if they cannot even pedal a 15-20lb bike, I would go back to my earlier point and tell you, "that's what a motorized vehicle is for", and if that's the case- get a motorized vehicle that makes sense. In my opinion that means something with enough power, range, and carrying capacity that it is practical. Yes- that usually means a car, or at lest a motorized scooter with gas or electric power that can be used as a secondary vehicle to a car- as in bostonbybike's case.

The simple fact of the matter is not everyone can ride a bike, not everyone's situation can be served by cycling, and in many cases, it is impractical to nigh unto impossible to cycle due to our culture, urban layout, and other outlying factors. In most of those cases, a automotive solution makes more sense, or public transport may suffice.

Oh......and walking. Don't forget that either. ;>)

Roasta said...

I guess maybe the fact that we are using the word 'most' a lot hi lights that there are many circumstances surrounding the issue and one needs to keep an open mind. I do like your last paragraph. I also think motorized fuel transport may well become cost prohibitive though. Is an ebike the answer = no, its a much bigger planning issue than that but that's another topic.

Whilst I agree with you generally i think its worth noting that motorcycles generally have evolved to be around 400lbs and no longer have pedals. E-bikes (again not all of them) still seem to be in their own category more so and can and be mostly pedaled - as you stated they don't have a large range. I have had to push a 400lb motorcycle and as you would know it doesn't work too well - so they are not hybrid.

As another example (and I agree this may not be mainstream ebike use) I know of a fit guy who toured long and hard through Kenya. His mountain bike had a an ebike kit added which was heavier but gave him some help when required in unknown territory and long hard/sick days and access to places a motorbike would be impractical. The added weight of the battery was offset as he needed one anyway at times for charging devices. I have ridden this bike and was surprised at the compactness and benefits it provided his situation.

I should add that I don't sell nor plan to own an ebike, I am just trying to think outside the square on this.

One thing that does pigeon hole the ebike is that a general new age bicycle mechanic with no prior experience is not so good at fault finding with a multi-meter ;-) Although they might need to with all the electric gears etc becoming mainstream....are they long to be still bicycles? ;-)

Anyway if it's got two wheels i usually like it in some way ;-)

Roasta said...

Ok I must make an update. I just laid eyes on and tried to pickup the new Specilized Ebike. Yep this new age style is not something I want to pedal up a hill if that battery isn't driving the motor.

For flat roads my comments may still apply but I think the well designed ebike-kits fitted to a quality bike make the most sense and are much more hybrid in nature & removable.