Before starting there is an need to make a distinction. There are really two kinds of e-bike on the market: there is a bicycle with an electric engine, and then there is an electric scooter with pedals.
Type 1 is a bicycle equipped with an electric assist – or an electric stoker as a nod to the back-end charlie on a tandem bicycle. This is really the machine that has been causing me profound difficulties of late. Before continuing however I want to make clear my position of type 2: electric scooters.
The proper term for the eBike of type 2 is Scooter. These are Vespa like machines with little actual need for the pedals they sport. The pedals are vestigial features which in many jurisdictions allow them to be used as unlicensed machines. They are also – in my jurisdiction – allowed to use bicycle lanes.
Neither the licensing nor lane use actually bothers me except that I’ve been witness to more than a few instances of blatant abuse. Scooter drivers weaving between bike lane and car lanes or lane splitting. The drivers often ignore their increased weight and width when careening past bicycles. One such moron – and they are morons – did this in front of me yesterday. I was led to the conclusion that this fellow must have lost his driving license not because he wasn’t in a car, but because of his inability to steer straight and when I caught him a few blocks later it was because he was riding his machine onto the sidewalk before dismounting to go into a bar. Literally a DUI car surrogate. No these machines are a menace outright because they are serving as entitlement extensions for those who – in spite of legal sanction – remain intransigent vis-a-vis their own bad behaviour.
Having said all that let’s go back to type 1:
The idea is that a standard bicycle (if you’ll forgive the conceit of the use of the word “standard”) is inadequate for certain tasks for the average rider: long distance, hilly terrain, heavy loads, what have you.
Alright, I can see that, but here’s the thing that makes me grumble, I have yet to see an electric assist which would reward the user for carrying its extra weight in exchange for its occasional merit.
What do I mean? Well, batteries are heavy. Engines are heavy. Even if you place the unit low in the frame to minimize its impact on center of gravity, it is, at its least offensive, still an extra bit of weight to carry. Why not simply offer lower gearing?
Cargo cycling is a different kettle of fish. Depending on the terrain in which you ride, there may be a large gain to be had from a little stoker. 10-20lbs is going to make nearly no difference when compared to the weight of a bike that’s carrying between 2 and 400 lbs of cargo. This I understand. What I don’t understand is something like this:
How is this a good idea for a mountain bike? I’m seeing mechanical failings, environmental failings and basic fitness failings that would make this machine excessive. If you have any insights into this phenomenon please share in the comments.