Ebikes are Cheating?

Ebikes are Cheating?

Get over yourself…or, you *may* be onto something

Hauling wood back the campsite on our bike camping trip #ebikesarecheating

Hauling wood back the campsite on our bike camping trip #ebikesarecheating

In the same vein that our former President owned Obamacare when republicans coined the term in negative connotation, we’re thumbing our noses at the biking purists who espouse that riding an ebike is cheating. In honor of May Bike Month, we are kickstarting the campaign, #ebikesarecheating, encouraging photo sharing of hauling kids, friends, stuff or themselves by electric bike as car replacement, you know, “cheating”. Why? Because no challenge, incentives or coercing friends will have quicker and stronger behavior change like the ebike for families, the target that we really need to seduce onto bikes.

Climbing 1700 feet from Oakland to Tilden Park and then hauling picnic provisions down a gravel path to a picnic with friends. #ebikesarecheating

Climbing 1700 feet from Oakland to Tilden Park and then hauling picnic provisions down a gravel path to a picnic with friends. #ebikesarecheating

You can’t expect big results without making fundamental changes.

We’re a bike business, and it’s Bike Month. Bikes are pretty much our Everything. And so, to properly honor Bike Month, we’re going to get real with you. We think there’s a dynamic within the Bike-O-Verse that deserves more discussion than it’s been getting, and so we’re going to blog about it. Our motivation is almost entirely subjective (personal observation), but it’s consistent enough that we’re going to roll with it anyway, hoping you hear us out. And then, we’re going to get up tomorrow and bike to work and school again, because that’s how we do.

Transporting child and her bike, luggage and a keg of beer to the bus for a weekend in Portland #ebikesarecheating

Transporting child and her bike, luggage and a keg of beer to the bus for a weekend in Portland #ebikesarecheating

Here’s what we think happens a lot:

  1. Awesome bike-curious young adult says “nuts to this, traffic sucks,” starts biking instead of driving. Goodness ensues.

  2. Awesome new bikey lifestyle leads young adult to meet like-minded, attractive other young adults. Love ensues.

  3. Bikey young adults procreate / adopt / etc. Diaper changing ensues.

  4. Bikey new parents decide that they can no longer bike everywhere, because now they have a kid, so they buy a car. Dusty bikes ensue.

Using an Xtracycle to sightsee hilly Atlanta, haul luggage and our daughter and get photography for Bikabout’s travel guide #ebikesarecheating

Using an Xtracycle to sightsee hilly Atlanta, haul luggage and our daughter and get photography for Bikabout’s travel guide #ebikesarecheating

We would never belittle the challenges of dealing with getting a small kid around by bike, much less multiple kids. We dealt with those issues with a colicky newborn in Boston, and we deal with them now with a borderline-Tween in an incredibly hilly small town in Oregon. But we have absolutely noticed that, in general, having a kid tends to derail too many otherwise happy bikey people, and we think a unique solution is available to new parents in this era that really wasn’t such an easy possibility before: Electric bikes.

Hauling our daughter and camping equipment for a weekend of bike camping 40 miles a day #ebikesarecheating

Hauling our daughter and camping equipment for a weekend of bike camping 40 miles a day #ebikesarecheating

There have been unpowered cargo bikes around for a decade or so, in most larger North American cities. What’s different in 2019 is the demonstrable maturation of the electric bike segment of the industry. Batteries are much better and cheaper than they were 5 years ago. Motors and controllers are as well. Manufacturers of these parts have scaled up, lowering costs. Major bike makers are on their 3rd or 4th versions of standard city e-bikes. Lessons have been learned, quality is going up, costs are going down. And e-bike sales are skyrocketing.

Bicycle Product Suppliers Association

Bicycle Product Suppliers Association

Bicycle Product Suppliers Association reported in January of 2019 that while overall wholesale bicycle sales declined in 2018, ebike sales experienced a 78% increase!

And in March 2019, Forbes reported in When Will E-Bike Sales Overtake Sales Of Bicycles? For The Netherlands, That's Now, “40% of all bicycle sales in The Netherlands last year were e-bikes. However, when you strip out of the total the 11% of all bicycle sales that account for childrens’ bikes then the majority of adult bikes sold were e-bikes.”

Pulling my daughter 30 miles while 8.5 months pregnant #ebikesarecheating

Pulling my daughter 30 miles while 8.5 months pregnant #ebikesarecheating

Courtesy of European Cyclists Federation

Courtesy of European Cyclists Federation

Policy wonks, we need ebike subsidies.

Thanks to Germany and Europe (how many times do we say this), we have data proving that EV subsides, no matter how grand, are no match for the economics and value proposition of the ebike. “[Germany] spent €1.4 billion ($1.5 billion) through 2014 on R&D and added an additional nearly €1 billion ($1.07 billion) subsidy scheme in 2016. Yet, there are just 25,500 pure EVs on the road in Germany. Meanwhile, e-bike sales exploded in the country during the same period with virtually no subsidies,” Navigant Research.

Legislators, are you listening? For a low income family, the idea of selling your car to buy an electric bike is scary and financially impossible. We need subsidies that would bring the cost of an ebike down to $500-$1000 for a low income family. If they buy the ebike, start feeling the bliss through well being, fresh air and more money in their bank account, and they consider going car-light or totally car-free, then our American communities and taxpayers all benefit from reduced congestion, healthcare bills and a more reliable workforce that’s not dependent on gas prices.

7 month pregnant and riding a 70 year old woman so she can enjoy a bike tour with her family #ebikesarecheating

7 month pregnant and riding a 70 year old woman so she can enjoy a bike tour with her family #ebikesarecheating

ebike user research

If you need policy recommendations, we recommend reaching out to John MacArthur, Research Associate at Portland State University’s Transportation Research and Education Center, author of the study, The Ebike Potential: How Ebikes Can Improve Sustainable Transportation. Megan saw his presentation, Mobility Transformations Via Ebiking, at the Washington Bike Summit, and thought the 2 slides below were particularly important:

John MacArthur’s Ebike user presentation at the Washington Bike Summit

John MacArthur’s Ebike user presentation at the Washington Bike Summit

#1 - Ebikes are fulfilling a major mobility need and enabling mode shift from single occupancy vehicles: National Electric Bike Owner Survey.

John MacArthur’s Ebike user presentation at the Washington Bike Summit

John MacArthur’s Ebike user presentation at the Washington Bike Summit

#2 - Nothing new to us, but he was most surprised that when asked “why ebike?” 40 respondents  selected other and wrote in “fun”


ebike guide

Families and Stuff

So what would a new parent in 2019 do to avoid taking on a $300-a-month lease payment for a new Honda minivan? The short answer is “spend $2k to $6k on an e-cargo bike, according to your needs and means, instead of paying for a lease, insurance, and gas every month.” The specific answer depends on how many kids you have, the weather where you live, and how hilly it is.

Our favorites from least to most expensive:

  1. Rad Power Bikes $1,499 - Long Tail Cargo Bike

    When we moved to Hood River in 2016, we were the 2nd family to own an electric cargo bike. If we were to estimate the number now, it’s 30+. Every day, we see an unusual suspect we don’t know riding an ebike, a very good indicator in town with a population of 8K. And most of them own the Rad Wagon because it has a palatable price point.

2. Yuba $3599 - Long Tail Cargo or Box Bikes

The Yuba has to come in a close second as the most purchased 1st ebike. The Spicy Curry is a great model with full cargo functionality, but we hear of people interested in the mid-tail little sister, Boda Boda. The advantage of the latter, is the wheel span, which will fit on a regular bike rack including those on buses.

3. Xtracycle $4697 - Long Tail Cargo Bike

This is our favorite long tail and in our top 3 cargo bikes. It just makes life so easy and is a dream to ride through an urban terrain that is sometimes full of random obstacles. One great hack with Xtracycles is that one of us will get on the back rack, facing backwards and it’s a fun trip (while also letting Kyle get some good photography). Our daughter sits backwards and loves talking to daddy, who is riding next to her.

4. Bullitt by Larry vs Harry $5000+ - Box Bike

Bullitt has the strongest bike community, second to Brompton. It rides like a normal bike and hauls a ton of stuff, which you can see by checking out their instagram feed. Men love this bike.

5. Urban Arrow $5995 - Box Bike

If it wasn’t evident by the photos, this is our bike. We wouldn’t necessarily purchase it again because the motor will not stand up to Hood River’s hills, and there is a nasty (and sometimes scary) front wheel wobble on long downhills. BUT, this bike is very convenient and we highly recommend springing for the cover. I no longer wear rain pants with the cover because it keeps everything below the waist pretty dry. And strangers never fail to ask, “wow, did you build that!?” Um no, did you make your car?

We also love box bikes in general, because they put your child in front of you and they can turn around and talk to you about their day, pointing out cool stuff and generally having a more meaningful parent-child experience.

6. Riese & Müller $7399+ - Box Bike

We had the pleasure of test driving this dream last summer. At first we were like, “shocks, really?” Oh yes, shocks, really. Riding that bike was like floating on an air mattress with all the bumps absorbed. And it EASILY made it up the gnarliest grade hills. A big price tag, but it’s German engineered and worth every penny.

I’ve got business

These bikes are good for professionals who have to commute, keeping you sweat free and refreshed when you walk into the office. Most are for solo riders, but a few adapt to haul a kiddo.

1. Blix $1299+

I call Blix “the Public of ebikes”. It’s a nice price point for a nice looking city bike. The system controls and throttle are easy to use, too.

2. Rad City Stepthrough $1499

Hack: you can pair the Burley Piccolo or Kazoo trailer bike ($299+) with some city ebikes like this one, making them versatile for drop off / pick up with a partner who has a normal non-ebike. We have no riding experience on this bike, but love its compatibility with Burley.

3. Faraday $1750+

One of the most stunning city bikes, period. We love the simple, but different design and the way they integrated the lights.

Rad City Step Through paired with a Burley Piccolo trailer bike.

Rad City Step Through paired with a Burley Piccolo trailer bike.

4. Gazelle $2500+

I am naturally biased with Gazelle and the upright Dutch posture, so when they started making ebikes, I drooled. This may be our next bike purchase.

5. Brompton Electric Folding Bike $3649

Hack: the Millian Pere chair or IT Chair are front jump seats for kids, 2-6, that fit on the Brompton. Hold the phone, Brompton is making an ebike!? Yes, and the biking world just got a whole lot geekier. This bike will be the choice for any tech worker that wants to impress their co-workers. We absolutely love our regular Bromptons and can’t fathom how they could be better, but an electric version is very enticing.

middle ground

One of the best new types of bikes is the advent of the Mid-tail. It’s got a normal wheel base, versus the long tail, but you can still throw 2 kids on back, as well as the runner bags to hold groceries and errands.

  1. Blix Packa $1999 Mid-tail Cargo Bike

    We’re happy to see Blix expand into the cargo bike market, especially as a mid-tail. I think this will be nice competition for Rad.

2. Tern $3999+ Mid-tail Cargo Bike

This bike and all the bells and whistles is what I recommend for newbie parents who need to trade in their solo bikes. It functions as a normal bike, but has great child and stuff carrying capacity.

2. Benno $3999+ Mid-tail Cargo Bike

Oregon Ebikes in Hood River occasionally rents these out and my bike tour guests love it. It can come with a child pad for the back rack, too!

What did we miss?

Let us know if we got anything wrong by commenting below or sending an email to megan@bikabout.com.

You can never go wrong with bikes that hold other bikes. #ebikesarecheating

You can never go wrong with bikes that hold other bikes. #ebikesarecheating