“Is high speed on two wheels only accepted and laudable if you’re physically gifted enough to achieve it?”
Welcome to the Comment of the Week, where we highlight good comments in order to inspire more of them. You can help us choose our next one by replying with “comment of the week” to any comment you think deserves recognition.
Dawn of the ‘throttle kids,’ by BikePortland contributor Megan Ramey garnered 110 comments, not bad for a first post! The article was about the increasing number of teenagers she is seeing using Class 2 e-bikes with throttles to get around Hood River.
The comment thread, as sometimes happens, took on a life of its own. Many of the comments revisited the issue of what to call a “bike” to distinguish it from an “e-bike.” Apparently, this is somewhat of a hot-button issue.
Simmering not far below the surface of the opinions, and maybe giving them some of their spit, lies the deeper divide of how, and why, riders ride. Some cyclists train hard and go fast. For others, a bike is utilitarian, part of a daily commute, and an e-bike helps the owner with both hills and age.
Into this long-running tension stepped Karstan, a self-described former “vehicular cyclist” who shared a change-of-heart story.
Here’s his comment:
I’ve recently noticed a trend in the comment sections for BP’s ebike articles: the same folks arguing that ebikes are “too fast” are also often the ones that boast about how fast they can go on their “not-at-all-acoustic-or-analog-just-a-regular-bike-please-and-thank-you” bikes under their own power. Is high speed on two wheels only accepted and laudable if you’re physically gifted enough to achieve it? I don’t see many folks lambasting the lycra-clad, maybe-taking-HGH, TDF-wannabe that passed too close during their morning bike ride. Why is it a problem when someone goes the same speed with a little electric assist? Do they have to earn it through a fortunate combination of beneficial genes, spending power, and enough free time to train for it?
I’m a former “vehicular cyclist” who rode higher-end road bikes with narrow tires, aggressively, hard and preferably over 20 mph thank you very much. Ebikes were very much “cheating” in my mind. One day about 10+ years ago I was talking to someone who was excited about getting an ebike. She was a mother with 3 kids who wasn’t athletically inclined or even physically active. Biking was previously out of the question for her in her suburban NJ town. But with an ebike, she enthused, she could achieve a speed closer that made her feel more confident and in a way that made getting on a bike approachable, She could even arrive without being a sweaty mess! I lambasted[ly] mocked her. That was NOT “a real bike” and was “cheating.” The idea of being passed by her while I was sweating up a hill on my bike made me furious. I left the conversation feeling angry and self-righteous. Couldn’t she just get out of her SUV and ride a bike? It would be so much better for her and the environment! And, it suddenly dawned on me… my ego. Why else would I be so against her getting out of her car and onto an albeit electrified bicycle? She wasn’t going to get out of the SUV now. Biking as I knew it wasn’t an option for her. And I’d just done my best to make her feel awful for considering an alternative. It took me a few hours to process these thoughts, but I contacted her the next day and apologized profusely. I begged her to get that ebike and said I looked forward to going on a ride with her.
Isn’t it better to have these folks zipping around on their ebikes than driving a Nissan Titanic or whatever? If an electric motor is all it takes to get someone out of that ICE-powered Ford Fiefdom and onto two wheels, isn’t that a good thing? Should there be some more regulation regarding motor wattage and top speed? Certainly! But the nitpicking over language, etc. is the worst kind of gatekeeping, IMHO.
TL;DR: I’d rather be crowded on the MUP, being passed by 20 teens on over-powered “mopeds” (or choose your epithet of choice) than have one of them flatten me in their Dodge Deathstar when they blow through the stop sign at the other end of my ride.
You can read Karstan’s comment, and all 109 other comments in this thread, under the original post.
Thanks for all your great comments last week!
Lisa Caballero has lived in SW Portland for 20 years. She is on the Transportation Committee of her neighborhood association, the Southwest Hills Residential League (SWHRL) and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.