Landmark Portland bike shop goes 100% electric with River City E-Bikes

River City’s second location on SE Belmont is now e-bikes only. (Photos: Jonathan Maus/BikePortland)

Note: This story is part of a paid advertising partnership between River City Bicycles and BikePortland.

Next year, River City Bicycles will mark its 30th anniversary. It’s an impressive achievement in a challenging industry that has seen many large independent shops shut down. But River City is going strong. And in recent years they’ve made a significant bet on electric bikes.

You might recall in 2011 when River City opened an outlet store on SE Belmont just two blocks from their original location. For the past seven years, the store had steadily evolved its offerings to be mostly e-bikes. As customer interest grew, it became clear the store’s future should be all electric. This year River City decided to make it official and the sign outside now says “River City E-Bikes”. It’s a major, notable change for Portland’s most iconic bike shop.

River City started selling e-bikes at their flagship store in 2017, but the big spike in demand didn’t happen until a few years later. “Over the last four or five years, we’ve seen demand for e-bikes absolutely skyrocket,” said River City E-Bikes Store Manager Hayes Kenny during my visit Tuesday.

The 4,000 square foot store on the corner of Belmont and 6th is one of the largest e-bike only shops in the region and offers everything from cargo-haulers to svelte road bikes. And while there are plenty of bikes to choose from, they’ve carved out enough room for an indoor test track, a dedicated e-bike service area, and a fitting station to make sure you’re comfy before you ride a new bike home.

The store attracts a variety of customers — some of whom are older and have set aside their old “analog” bikes (Kenny’s term for non-electric bikes) and others who want to carry more stuff, or keep up with a faster partner.

Kenny, who grew up in Eugene and has worked in shops since his first “volunteer bike shop rat” job right out of high school, has done just about every cycling discipline. His current favorite is e-mountain biking. Kenny and all the other shop staff ride and test all the bikes on the showroom floor, and the service staff have years of e-bike-specific training under their belts. He says that’s one reason the shop is successful. When it comes to what bikes to sell, “We’ve developed a really good sense for what’s important and what’s not important,” he said.

And with River City’s long track record in the industry, they’ve tapped existing relationships with top brands like Santa Cruz, Specialized, Cervelo, Scott, Cannondale, and BMC to fill out their selection. It’s a sign of the times that all those brands established themselves before e-bikes hit the market, but today they offer top-end battery-equipped bikes befitting of their premium brands.

Santa Cruz’s “Skitch” is one such bike. As Kenny effortlessly rolled it off the rack, I had to look closely to even notice the battery and motor. At just 30 pounds, it’s an example of a growing segment of the e-bike market; lightweight bikes that give you more power without the pounds. With a carbon fiber frame, wide tires, flat bar, and massive gear range, this thing would be a perfect Forest Park gravel road shredder.

“It’s a high performance, do-it-all bike — that just happens to have a motor,” is how Kenny described it.

The Skitch’s battery is light enough so that you have to work hard to reach its top speed of 28 mph. “It’s a bit like a tailwind, rather than a fully mechanical assist experience,” Kenny said. At just 30 pounds, you could even switch the motor off (or ride in “Eco” mode) to increase your range or heart rate and it’s still fun to ride.

At 77 pounds, the Specialized Globe Haul cargo bike won’t win any weight weenie competitions; but it can carry about 14 Skitch’s worth of weight. It’s under $3,000, a bargain when you replace your car with it, and it’s got tons of accessorizing options to optimize it for kids, cargo, or both. My favorite thing about the design is the telescoping seatpost and easily adjustable bars so it can fit riders from about five feet to well over six feet tall.

For folks who want an additional layer of security and comfort, the Haul can be equipped with a throttle so you can cruise along at 20 mph without pedaling. “That’s really useful if you have the bike loaded down with cargo and you need to get going from a stoplight,” Kenny said. “Or if you’re in a hilly neighborhood or need to get across town quickly.”

The gamut of bikes mirrors the clientele at River City E-Bikes. It was a buzz of activity when I was in there, and the customers seemed to have lots of questions. Beyond answering them, Kenny says he and his crew encourage folks to try before you buy.

“If you haven’t tried an e-bike yet, especially a modern pedal-assist bike, it might not be exactly the experience you’re expecting it to be,” he said.

While customers are often surprised after a test ride, Kenny said there’s one part of the experience they can count on. “Almost everyone’s coming back from a test ride with a smile on their face when they first get a sense of that motor assistance and how fun it can be. And for some of our customers, it’s unlocking that experience for them for the first time since they were a kid.”

River City E-Bikes

Note: This story is part of a paid advertising partnership between River City Bicycles and BikePortland.

Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor)

Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor)

Founder of BikePortland (in 2005). Father of three. North Portlander. Basketball lover. Car owner and driver. If you have questions or feedback about this site or my work, feel free to contact me at @jonathan_maus on Twitter, via email at maus.jonathan@gmail.com, or phone/text at 503-706-8804. Also, if you read and appreciate this site, please become a supporter.

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Granpa
Granpa
1 month ago

We bought my wife’s E-bike there. On her test ride I also test rode an E-bike. They are a magic carpet. She now easily drops me like a duffel bag as I grind away on my analog bike. I will refrain from getting an E-bike as long as my legs, lungs and heart can pull hills, but eventually I will succumb to the inevitable and get one, possibly in red (the fastest color)

Will the last bike commuter turn off their lights
Will the last bike commuter turn off their lights
1 month ago

At just 30 pounds 14 kg, you could even switch the motor off (or ride in “Eco” mode) to increase your range or heart rate and it’s still fun to ride.

Nice to see another decent commuter e-bike that does not weigh a ridiculous and hulking 30-40 kgs.
.
I commute on an e-bike occasionally but I almost never turn the motor on. People who purchase ridiculously heavy e-bikes are missing out on one of the true joys of e-biking: a bike where extra power is available but where you aren’t forced to use it.

John V
John V
1 month ago

I just got an E-Bullitt, which is already a cargo bike. However, something about it feels just so easy to ride. I have charged the battery once in 150 miles so far because it’s just so nice to ride un-powered. At class 1, it only assists up to 20mph anyway and I regularly ride on the flats in the upper teens without assistance. It’s geared appropriately to climb pretty steep hills Could be geared lower, the top ~2 gears are pointless because they’re past the assist speed as well as what I can do without flying down a hill.

I asked in store (at Splendid) about the un-powered one and I feel I was steered away because what kind of crazy person would ride a cargo bike without assistance, but they were simply wrong about that. You can do all the hills un-powered, it’s just slower. it can be done.

So, just saying, I agree. I just wish there were more people making front load cargo bikes so they didn’t cost so damned much and didn’t need to be imported.

David Hampsten
David Hampsten
1 month ago

I’m looking forward to the period when Walmart and Target, the source of most of America’s bikes, have a selection of $99 ebikes, including a pink Barbie bike with 16″ wheels, training wheels, and a 28 mph 750W throttle and back-pedal brakes, for the 5-year-old at your neighbor’s house.

X
X
29 days ago
Reply to  David Hampsten

How about the Harbor Freight $60 e-bike that comes without a charger because everybody knows it’s scrap after the first outing?

When will the bar on unfixable bikes get so low that we are able to walk past them?

I think about the mountains of scrapped rental bikes in China and the slightly smaller pile of orange shaft drive bikes somewhere in the US, the ones with a plastic brick on the rear rack. That’s not to say that the nikebikes were cheap–they probably could have kept grinding away for years.

We could have had some living wage jobs just to fish them out of the river, or the blackberries, and get them back on the road. Heck, we could have turned them into pedal power blender drivers and started a whole new entry level cottage industry.

Jeff S
Jeff S
1 month ago

My neighbor, while passing me on his e-bike, noted I was still riding an “acoustic” bike. I thought this descriptor was fairly apt.

Watts
Watts
1 month ago

How about just “bike” and “e-bike” or “motorized bike”?

Lisa Caballero (Assistant Editor)
Editor
Reply to  Watts

Careful Watts.

John V
John V
1 month ago
Reply to  Watts
David Stone
David Stone
1 month ago
Reply to  Watts

Electric motorcycles.

I see a half dozen on our MUPs every time I ride. The public doesn’t understand the distinction, and if they did I doubt few would care.

The bike industry is making a killing greenwashing the reality of electric vehicles, and the users of traditional human-powered transport will suffer the most.

If the “bike advocates” truly cared about other cyclists then they’d be doing something to crack down on the proliferation of motorized vehicles in non-motorized facilities. Unfortunately they’re not really bike advocates; they’ve all become hypnotized by climate change altruism.

The next step, I’d imagine, is to demonize human powered transportation users as not being on-board with the moral crusade. There will be accusations and exclusions made against us and anyone who doesn’t want to strap a 50lb. lithium battery between their knees to travel a couple miles. Anyone who doesn’t own an e-bike will be matched with a government program funded by the taxes of the working poor and sponsored by the bike industry, the mining industry and electric company lobbyists eager to make us terminally reliant on their products.

Riding a human powered device will be deemed unsafe in the new “e-bike lanes” that most people will agree are so convenient! Even mountain bike trail systems will become electric only and the sport will evolve into something akin to motocross.

People laughed when Dean Kamen predicted that cities of the future will be designed around the Segway, but he was essentially right. Being a pedestrian or human-powered-transportation user suddenly has very little support, in activism or political structures. E-bikes might as well be Segways, and the Flavor-Aide has been passed around and consumed with much enthusiasm.

John V
John V
1 month ago
Reply to  David Stone

This is a joke, right? Satire? Hard to tell on the internet.
No, this isn’t what’s going to happen, there is no e-bike dystopia on the horizon where the poor sad manual bike riders will be ostracized. Unless we all just decide to ride e-bikes. Which we wouldn’t, because, you know, we can right now (or can’t because of cost).

cat
cat
28 days ago
Reply to  David Stone

None of that is going to happen.

Dylan
Dylan
1 month ago
Reply to  Watts

Watts bike and wattsless?

Watts
Watts
1 month ago
Reply to  Dylan

I’ve observed that most bikes out here are Wattsless.

Lisa Caballero (Assistant Editor)
Editor
Reply to  Dylan

E-bike and muscle-bike.

PdxPhoenix
PdxPhoenix
28 days ago
Reply to  Watts

My new “e-Bike” & my older “me-Bike” will do just fine.

D'Arcy Owen
D'Arcy Owen
1 month ago
Reply to  Jeff S

I heard the term acoustic bike recently and liked it. I think of analog as still being electrical, but Wikipedia says while it often is, it doesn’t have to be.

Watts
Watts
1 month ago
Reply to  D'Arcy Owen

If you’re interested in mechanical computing, this is a good place to start:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=s-y_lnzWQjk

Warning: thar be calculus!

Andrew S
Andrew S
1 month ago
Reply to  Jeff S

I prefer “naturally aspirated” when I refer to my non-electric cargo bike

SD
SD
1 month ago
Reply to  Jeff S

I prefer ATP-bike and e-bike.

Jeff Rockshoxworthy
Jeff Rockshoxworthy
1 month ago
Reply to  Jeff S

Does your bike make a lot of noise? Anecdotally speaking, it’s the electric models that are noisier.

If you get to invent a new derisive (and factually incorrect) term for standard human powered bicycles, then I get to call electric bikes Wall-E bikes.

You may recall the dystopian vision of humanity depicted in that film and it seems like we’re well on our way. The pollution-spewing overseas factories and domestic lithium mine lobbyists are thrilled.

Ray
Ray
1 month ago

“Derisive???” I view it as playful.

I mean, I know that’s not what acoustic means, but you can draw a direct comparison to musicians at the advent of the electric guitar. The acoustic-stans were up in arms about the new-fangled noisemakers and derided the musicians that began trying the new thing.

At the end of the day, they’re both bikes and bikes are fun, right? Right?

Will the last bike commuter turn off their lights
Will the last bike commuter turn off their lights
28 days ago

overseas factories and domestic lithium mine

It’s fascinating how people complain about the miniscule amount of lithium in an e-bike battery (~2-3% of weight) but completely ignore the far more ecologically-damaging mining and coal-fired energy-use needed to manufacture bike frames and bike components. It’s almost as if they don’t really care about the sustainability and ecological damage associated with mining at all.

Dean
Dean
1 month ago

e-bikers on Williams and the Springwater, all the Cat 6 attitude and 1/4 the effort. lol

Heidi Strossander
Heidi Strossander
1 month ago

Jonathan have you considered changing the name of your blog to E-Bike Portland?

Ray
Ray
1 month ago

Groan

SD
SD
1 month ago

What would happen if we started referring to cars as double bikes or monster bikes?

Thinking of cars in this way reveals their comical excesses. Too many wheels, too heavy, too loud, too expensive, too dangerous. More than the vast majority of people need for many trips.

qqq
qqq
1 month ago

The store attracts a variety of customers — some of whom are older and have set aside their old “analog” bikes (Kenny’s term for non-electric bikes) and others who want to carry more stuff, or keep up with a faster partner.

Looks like lots of people are buying e-bikes to replace their current, non-e-bikes.

I wonder how many people are buying them to use instead of driving?

Ray
Ray
1 month ago
Reply to  qqq

If those people choose to use their e-bike for a trip that before they would have driven, I’d call that a small victory.

wortkisser
wortkisser
28 days ago
Reply to  qqq

I got one as a gift from my significant other last year. I often use it to commute to work when I don’t have other errands that involve hauling around heavy things. I put 800 miles on it in my first year, nearly all of which would have been by car. I aim to put up to 1,200 miles on it in year two. While I own an acoustic bike I haven’t used it in years, mostly due to chronic knee and ankle issues. Owning an e-bike has been a revelation and brought significant joy to me on my daily thirteen mile commute.

Charley
Charley
27 days ago
Reply to  qqq

You can count me as at least one! I moved to Milwaukie and can’t budget the daily time/effort difference to ride my older bike to work on my newly longer commute.

Jimbo Jimmy James
1 month ago

If you’re on a bicycle then you’re a cyclist. If you’re on an E-bike then you’re a motorist.

Ray
Ray
1 month ago

The gatekeeping attitudes from (elitist) acoustic/analog/naturally aspirated bike riders will not really do much as far as outreach to invite people to adopt bike riding as an option for transportation, fitness, or recreation.

Watts
Watts
1 month ago
Reply to  Ray

Jimbo Jimmy James draws a line between human powered and motorized vehicles. You also draw a line, but between motorized bicycles and motorized cars. Why is your line legitimate and JJJ’s line “gatekeeping”?

Ray
Ray
1 month ago
Reply to  Watts

Maybe because mine is an invitation and Jimbo’s is a judgement.

Watts
Watts
1 month ago
Reply to  Ray

It only feels like a judgement because you deem the term “motorist” to be derisive, whereas most people see it as purely descriptive. You are the one judging.

Ray
Ray
1 month ago
Reply to  Watts

I am a “motorist.”

I am also a “bike rider.” I don’t even have an e-bike. I’m just tired of self-proclaimed “bicycle advocates” maligning those that aren’t quite as privileged in fitness or overall health, or lifestyle flexibility, and almost blatantly saying that they don’t deserve the same amount of consideration regarding traffic safety simply because they have a little help. They are just as vulnerable to being killed by someone not paying attention or simply disregarding them altogether.

Watts
Watts
1 month ago
Reply to  Ray

Can we agree that we shouldn’t malign anyone based on their transportation decisions?

Ray
Ray
1 month ago
Reply to  Watts

Yes, of course. Am I?

Watts
Watts
1 month ago
Reply to  Ray

Apparently not!

Ray
Ray
1 month ago
Reply to  Watts

…most people see it as purely descriptive.

Sincere question. If you are in a conversation with someone (who isn’t necessarily in a bike advocate mindset), and you tell them, “The other day, I was riding my Wattsbike™ home and a rude motorist close-passed me on N. Williams and frightened me,” do they interrupt and ask for clarification on what type of vehicle you’re referring to?

Here on BP, It’s common vernacular that “motorist=driver.”

(mods- sorry I missed the edit timeout.)

Watts
Watts
1 month ago
Reply to  Ray

If your complaint is ambiguous language, then why the comment about “gatekeeping”?

Personally, I see very little difference between a bike and a low-powered e-bike, but a big difference between a low-powered e-bike and a large, loud, fast, fat-wheeled throttle activated e-bike that present themselves as low-powered motorcycles that I find almost as intimidating as an actual motorcycle when one passes me closely on an MUP at 30 MPH. I do not feel at all intimidated when a low-powered e-bike passes me at what amounts to a brisk cycling speed.

The categories, as I said, are blurring.

PS Kind of taking a shine to Wattsbike.

Ray
Ray
1 month ago
Reply to  Watts

If your complaint is ambiguous language, then why the comment about “gatekeeping”?

Please, tell me where the ambiguity is in the following statement:

If you’re on a bicycle then you’re a cyclist. If you’re on an E-bike then you’re a motorist.

I’ll wait.

Personally, I see very little difference between a bike and a low-powered e-bike, but a big difference between a low-powered e-bike and a large, loud, fast, fat-wheeled throttle activated e-bike that present themselves as low-powered motorcycles that I find almost as intimidating as an actual motorcycle when one passes me closely on an MUP at 30 MPH. I do not feel at all intimidated when a low-powered e-bike passes me at what amounts to a brisk cycling speed.

I am 100% in agreement here!! I don’t think throttle-controllable bicycles that can travel >20 mph with no more than thumb or wrist effort should be allowed on MUP’s…just like mopeds aren’t. And again, I concede the point that it’s hard for 99% (or more) to distinguish them. But all e-bikes are not a monolith and they all deserve the same amount of consideration when talking about traffic safety…which is generally what we discuss here on BP.

We are all fighting for table scraps here and this is one of the reasons I cautiously supported the rental e-scooters having access to bike lanes and MUP’s…as long as speed doesn’t go over 20ish mph. More people wanting to use safely-designed infrastructure safely is a good thing, right?

PS You’re welcome to take Wattsbike. TBH I hadn’t had the time to actually file the trademark.

Watts
Watts
1 month ago
Reply to  Ray

I guess we just reacted differently to JJJ’s comment. To you it was judgmental and gatekeepy (though you don’t see “motorist” as a negative term), and to me it seemed humorous in an overliteral sort of way.

Ray
Ray
1 month ago
Reply to  Watts

Statements that many people agree with, even when made in jest, are dangerous.

The term “motorist” as I already stated, here on BP ususally refers to drivers.

Jimbo Jimmy James
Jimbo Jimmy James
1 month ago
Reply to  Watts

Thanks Watts, my statement was to make folks chuckle, and not to offend anyone for how they move about. I think we should all try everything once and make our own decisions.

Jimbo Jimmy James
Jimbo Jimmy James
1 month ago
Reply to  Ray

There is no judgement in my statement.

Jimbo Jimmy James
Jimbo Jimmy James
1 month ago
Reply to  Ray

Hey Ray, my intention isn’t to offend anyone. I have no problem with people on E bikes, people on regular bicycles, or even people in cars. I also do not consider myself an advocate for any of these forms of transportation. It’s absolutely no one’s job to convince others to change their form of transportation. I think that that would be elitist. I would rather let people come to their own conclusions about how they move about. I simply see a motor on any vehicle and the person operating said vehicle as being a motorist. I feel that people should be aloud to choose whatever they would like in order to get around. It’s okay to be a motorist if you want to be. You shouldn’t take such offense to being one.

Ray
Ray
1 month ago

It’s okay to be a motorist if you want to be. You shouldn’t take such offense to being one.

I know it’s okay and I am never personally offended at being called one. I wasn’t even directly called one here until I myself divulged that I am a motorist. In fact, I’ve said on BP before that I LOVE cars and driving! I’m not ashamed of this. I am a big Formula 1 racing fan, and watch tons of YouTube content every week from car enthusiasts. I don’t shame people (anymore, admittedly) for their own transportation choices. I can only make my own choices, as you said. I did live car-free for almost 15 years. And no, I’m not asking for a pat on the back.

What offended me was your statement lumping all e-bikers into the same group as drivers. This implies that they don’t deserve the same level of protection. If you meant it as a joke, fine. Just be aware that there are people here who would not read that as a joke and pile on to continue punching down. Bike riders and e-bike riders are allies in the transportation debate. I’m sorry that many people feel the need to minimize their concerns and desires compared to “regular” bike riders. They’re just as likely to get killed as someone who is riding a bike without a motor.

I’m not sure if you’re aware, but there is a real backlash to people on the roads that don’t use motors. You might actually be one of them. That backlash leads to a sense of entitlement and statements like, “Get off the roads! You don’t pay for them!” and, “Why can’t you take the bike path (that won’t get you to where you need to go) that’s just a block or two that way?” as well as dangerously close passing, following, and racing you to the stop sign/traffic signal.

We can do better. We should do better. Enjoy your weekend.

Watts
Watts
1 month ago
Reply to  Ray

I have literally never once heard someone tell me to get off the road because I didn’t pay. Do people actually say that? It seems absurd to yell at someone about tax policy, especially when everyone seems to think we pay for streets with property taxes. I find drivers are ruder to me when I’m in a car than when I’m on my bike.

Kyle Banerjee
Kyle Banerjee
29 days ago
Reply to  Watts

Like anyone who cycles much, I’ve been subject to abuse for perceived offenses — which is sometimes merely being on a bike.

However, I see drivers treat each other poorly far more often than they do so to me.

As is the case of things drivers yell at each other, the overwhelming majority of things they yell at me are pretty stupid (normal people don’t yell unsolicited advice at strangers) — but nothing about tax policy yet.

X
X
29 days ago
Reply to  Watts

There may be a pretty small overlap between people who think about human behavior in terms of tax policy and those who yell out a car window.

Jimbo Jimmy James
Jimbo Jimmy James
1 month ago
Reply to  Ray

I like people that have no shame in what they enjoy. Formula one is pretty cool but I’m more of an Indy car guy myself but only because I’ve been to the 500 and my wife has relatives that own a couple of Indy cars. I totally get what you’re saying about backlash. I really like e bikes and I’m sure I’ll get one eventually but BIKETOWN is the only time I use them for now. Hope your weekend goes well.

Paul
Paul
1 month ago

“People who have less-able bodies that are not able effectively to power a non-electric bicycle don’t deserve to be able to ride a bicycle.” That is my interpretation of what you are saying.

Ray
Ray
1 month ago
Reply to  Paul

When I was working in a MTB-focused bike shop, that was one of the first local shops to embrace e-bikes, I often had to contend with this mindset. “Check your privilege,” was a response I used more than once.

Only the healthy, fit, and strong should ride a bike, apparently.

Jimbo Jimmy James
Jimbo Jimmy James
1 month ago
Reply to  Paul

Hi Paul, I think E-bikes are a great way for the disabled to enjoy getting around. Everyone deserves to make their our choices. Just because it has a motor doesn’t mean it’s bad. However the hurry up car culture that motors sometimes cause can be dangerous and elitist.

Paul
Paul
29 days ago

Thank you, Jimbo. I will just point out there all different levels of ability, and the number of people who are “disabled” enough to require an ebike for effective transportation may be a majority of all people.

Todd/Boulanger
Todd/Boulanger
1 month ago

So does this mean that River city will stop serving an espresso shot for a ride boost and instead top up my battery instead?! 😉

Bike Life
Bike Life
1 month ago

I believe it’s time to stop “othering” people on bikes who don’t dress like you on a bike, who don’t ride your “I prefer this so I’m right.” style of powered or non powered bike, or people who don’t ride the exact same speed on a bike as you do. More cyclists is better. More people who know what it’s like to navigate our increasingly angry world outside of a car is better.

Speed and disregard of others on any form of coveyance is a problem. The form of transportaion you choose can escalate the potential for injury or death for sure, but if they are on a bike, but they aren’t in a car.

Ray
Ray
1 month ago
Reply to  Bike Life

More people who know what it’s like to navigate our increasingly angry world outside of a car is better.

Louder for those in the back!

Watts
Watts
1 month ago
Reply to  Bike Life

if they are on a bike, but they aren’t in a car

What specific aspect(s) makes a motorized bicycle more desirable than a motorized car? You mentioned potential for injury — is it mostly a function of vehicle weight?

Ray
Ray
1 month ago
Reply to  Watts

If you honestly can’t see the difference in impact on climate, congestion, danger, and (seemingly) lack of empathy between users of e-bikes and users of cars/trucks, there really isn’t any reason to consider your comment in good faith.

Watts
Watts
1 month ago
Reply to  Ray

Are climate impact, congestion, and danger the primary factors that you see as important?

I think it’s important to focus on attributes rather than categories, because categories are becoming increasingly blurry and arbitrary, and in some cases, such as e-bike vs moped/scooter (Vespa), have largely disappeared, while the difference in CO2 emissions between a petrol-powered car and an EV is greater than the difference between an EV and a human-powered bicycle (even ignoring the whole “but how much does he eat” malarkey).

Ray
Ray
1 month ago
Reply to  Watts

Are climate impact, congestion, and danger the primary factors that you see as important?

Yeah, I think that covers it.

e-bike vs moped/scooter (Vespa)

FWIW, I’m on record here (check the e-bike bill article comments) saying that Cl. 2 e-bikes should be regulated the same as mopeds/scooters below 50cc. Though I also realize this would be difficult to do with the difference between Cl. 1/Cl. 3 and Cl. 2 (and hacked others) being visibly imperceptible to the vast majority of the public.

while the difference in CO2 emissions between a petrol-powered car and an EV is greater than the difference between an EV and a human-powered bicycle (even ignoring the whole “but how much does he eat” malarkey).

Now do EV vs. E-bike.

Watts
Watts
1 month ago
Reply to  Ray

I agree with you on the regulation bit, at least as far as I’ve thought it through. Maybe we should refer to those heavier 2-wheelers as something different than an e-bike; perhaps e-moped to distinguish.

Now do EV vs. E-bike.

I’m not sure I understand what you mean. An e-bike emits more than a bike, but less than an EV at our current power mix (I don’t know the numbers but obviously there is a bigger gap between EV and e-bike than between e-bike and bike). These differences will decrease as the grid tilts more towards renewables, eventually reaching essentially zero when all our electricity is sourced from carbon-free sources.

At that point, I expect your emissions-based objections will be satisfied.

Ray
Ray
1 month ago
Reply to  Watts

When I say “climate,” I do include roadway damage, as well as pavement in general. But yes, mostly satisfied.

This leaves congestion (which itself is related to climate), danger, and empathy for those less-equipped (and equally-equipped, perhaps even better-equipped).

Watts
Watts
1 month ago
Reply to  Ray

I believe danger and possibly congestion can be addressed through automation (it seems entirely plausible that automated taxis will evolve to be smaller than cars currently are.)

I don’t know how to fix empathy. Some of us have it, some don’t, and the only fix may be getting rid of social media and spending more time with people who see the world differently than we do.

X
X
29 days ago
Reply to  Watts

Here’s a number that has to be in the e-whatever debate: 2 percent. As in, an e-bike is a very small proportion of a car at all points of the cycle. For another person who is morally opposed to extracting materials from the ground I understand that and could admire them for making their own shoes. I’ll join them for a walk any time.

If we scrapped five percent of the cars now existing that would provide enough materials to build every living person a new bike.

In global terms, I’m rich. I have several bikes and am still second guessing my decision to convert one to an e-bike. Possibly I could have better used the resources to make the bike lighter and more efficient since my ability to wheel it in or out, and park it, may be limiting before my ability to pedal it around would have been.

Watts
Watts
28 days ago
Reply to  X

I share your dislike of extractive industries, and would love to reduce the number of cars and increase the number of bike riders.

One thing we absolutely must do is reduce our use of carbon-emitting energy. I’ll support any feasible plan for doing so. The only way I see to move forward is to electrify our transportation system, and that means adopting EVs. If someone could map out a workable plan for convincing most people to use bikes and public transportation in a similar timeframe, I’d support that too. Of course, no one can.

I’ve given up wasting my time with ideas that are based on wishing. EVs are here. You can see automation working in several American cities and many Chinese ones, and it’s pretty simple to extrapolate from that.

If EVs are deployed as fleets of taxis, we may need many fewer vehicles than we have today, allowing us to build all those bikes.

9watts
9watts
27 days ago
Reply to  X

If we scrapped five percent of the cars now existing that would provide enough materials to build every living person a new bike.”

But this is not even close to how things work in the real world.

Recycling

  • requires energy and materials for each cycle
  • always involves a downgrading of the material, such that it can rarely be reused for the same task

We already scrap cars all day long the world over and the results have little to no effect on any sort of climate goal we may share.
All of this transportation consumption, whether ebike or car is additive, and what’s more, is worsening our overshoot situation. We passed the point decades ago when switching transportation fuel choice could in any plausible way correspond with an improvement, much less anything we might recognize as sustainable.

Watts
Watts
27 days ago
Reply to  9watts

always involves a downgrading of the material

Not true with metals and glass, and the energy to recycle metal is a fraction of what it costs to smelt from ore, and reduces the amount of harmful mining we need. Recycling paper reduces the need for more plantation forests for paper production.

Recycling metals, paper, and glass (in that order) makes economic and environmental sense.

We passed the point decades ago when switching transportation fuel choice could in any plausible way correspond with an improvement

This statement is so wrong it’s just bizarre. EVs make a huge difference in both local pollution and global emissions.

9watts
9watts
27 days ago
Reply to  Watts

“Not true with metals and glass”

Take aluminum cans, the quintessential poster child of recycling. The can top is a different alloy than the body. If you take your cans to the drop site and expect them to be recycled, they will be melted down but the resulting alloy cannot be used to make either the body or the lid. It can be used to make an engine block or other lower grade thing, but this is the downcycling I am talking about.
Wishing it were closer to what we have always been told, cleaner, assumed it to be does not make it so.

“EVs make a huge difference in both local pollution and global emissions.”

You are confusing relative and absolute quantities.
The relative savings are certainly measurable, but they have no bearing on the fact that our (absolute, total) emissions continue to increase. This signal is what the climate notices. Screwing around with relative accounting is at this point just silly. Slowing down the rate of increase in emissions, in consumption (which of course we aren’t but you tend to argue here as if we were) is irrelevant to our predicament, too little too late

Watts
Watts
27 days ago
Reply to  9watts

Take aluminum cans

Let’s. Every source I could find on a quick google search suggests cans can indeed be made from recycled cans. This explains how:

One issue is that the top of the can is made from a blend of aluminum and magnesium to increase its strength. When the can is melted for recycling, the mixture is unsuitable for either the top or the bottom/side. Instead of mixing recycled metal with more aluminum (to soften it) or magnesium (to harden it), a new approach uses annealing to produce an alloy that works for both.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aluminum_can

As usual, smart people, properly incentivized, have figured out ways to do interesting stuff.

Total emissions continue to increase

This is true, and we agree on the consequence. Increasing efficiency, however, has greatly reduced those increases, making a bad problem less bad, which, we would agree, is not the same as fixing it. But increasing efficiency makes everything else easier, and is thus highly relevant to our predicament.

9watts
9watts
27 days ago
Reply to  Watts

I concede. It seems that since I took a Materials Science class a few decades ago that folks have figured this out. The US rate seems to be about 68% recycled content in the average soft drink can. Far from a closed loop everyone wishes this all were but OK. I also see that the share of aluminum in the US that is recycled has been going down, and the share that is landfilled has been rising. (1990->2018)
https://www.epa.gov/facts-and-figures-about-materials-waste-and-recycling/aluminum-material-specific-data

Watts
Watts
27 days ago
Reply to  9watts

Far from a closed loop…

Convincing people to recycle is a completely different question from whether it’s a good idea.

9watts
9watts
27 days ago
Reply to  Watts

But increasing efficiency makes everything else easier, and is thus highly relevant to our predicament.”

Oh boy.
It is quite the opposite. Our focus on efficiency has blinded us to they myriad hidden and some not so hidden consequences of focusing on the wrong (relative) metric.

Efficiency is a ratio; housing density is a ratio; recycling content is a ratio. None of these metrics tracks the actual problem which is the absolute scale of our demands on the planet. Instead they focus on secondary or tertiary dimensions that may mask what is going on with the primary concern. Even if our recycling rates were to go up (they are actually going down) this is perfectly compatible with increased material consumption, solid waste generation, or whatever metric you prefer. Housing density may increase, but total population, residential construction rises faster, etc. Energy efficiency may increase (however you might choose to measure that), but energy consumption, CO2 emissions continue to rise.

Watts
Watts
27 days ago
Reply to  9watts

Efficiency is a ratio

I understand your argument and agree that what matters is the bottom line total, not, in itself, the multiplier.

But the multiplier dramatically impacts the bottom line total, so it’s (if indirectly) very important. I do not accept that we have to choose between efficiency and other solutions. I think we need to do both.

Personally, I am glad that so many people are working on increasing efficiency across a wide range of endeavors, and I find being discouraged about that to be a bit difficult to comprehend.

It’s almost as if you want doomsday to arrive more quickly so we can get on with the business of resetting society, rather than postponing the final day of reckoning as long as possible to buy time to explore a wider range of solutions.

9watts
9watts
27 days ago
Reply to  Watts

But the multiplier dramatically impacts the bottom line total…”

how is that? I don’t see any evidence that efficiency is getting us closer to any goal we might agree on. I think it is instead very effectively mystifying the hard choices before us, pandering to our preferences for easy/false choices, postponing the day of reckoning, which when we finally recognize it at hand will be far more painful because there by the. will be billions more people and our options will be even fewer.

It’s almost as if you want doomsday to arrive more quickly so we can get on with the business of resetting society, rather than postponing the final day of reckoning as long as possible to buy time to explore a wider range of solutions.”

You would only write such things as someone who believes we will somehow escape the reckoning by our ingenuity. As someone with far less faith in the material efficacy of our ingenuity than you I don’t hear your slight as a slight but as an unwitting acknowledgment of how poor our choices already are.

Watts
Watts
27 days ago
Reply to  9watts

I don’t see any evidence that efficiency is getting us closer to any goal we might agree on.

Increased efficiency has led us to emit far less CO2 than we otherwise would. I don’t know if we agree that’s a goal, but that’s what’s happening. I regard that as a very good thing.

You would only write such things as someone who believes we will somehow escape the reckoning by our ingenuity.

I don’t see any way to escape reckoning without using our ingenuity.

9watts
9watts
27 days ago
Reply to  Watts

Increased efficiency has led us to emit far less CO2 than we otherwise would.”
…and you know this how?
I mean that is the party line, but there are many ways to interpret the on-the-ground effects of our having pursued efficiency all these decades but your conclusion is certainly not the only one or even the most plausible.
For starters many of the other (not-focused-on-efficiency) courses we might have taken instead would also plausibly have had effects different from where we find ourselves today.

“I don’t see any way to escape reckoning without using our ingenuity.”

obvi.
We’ll see how well that is working soon enough.

9watts
9watts
27 days ago
Reply to  Watts

This statement is so wrong it’s just bizarre.”

Not at all. Fuels all have costs, there is no free lunch. Especially in the capitalist economics you tout here where all solutions are purchased.

The way around this dilemma is to recognize what we sort of always knew but these days tend to forget: Biking (the regular, old, bean-powered variety) exacts no toll on the climate, and with several hundred million bikes already out there (in the US) we don’t need to melt anything down to make new ones, just ride the ones we already have.

9watts
9watts
27 days ago
Reply to  Watts

eventually reaching essentially zero when all our electricity is sourced from carbon-free sources.”

What?

Too much Kool-Aid, man.
There is nothing free or zero about a renewable grid. All that stuff costs (money, resources, CO2, etc.). You sound like the nuclear apologists in the sixties who proclaimed one day the atomic juice would be ‘too cheap to meter.’

Watts
Watts
27 days ago
Reply to  9watts

There is nothing free or zero about a renewable grid. 

If you’re saying that building and maintaining an electric grid takes resources, I 100% agree. I didn’t mean to imply anything different. I was referring to the emissions of marginal power generation needed to drive an extra mile.

Even if we stayed with coal, we’d need to build and maintain an electric grid, so it’s a cost either way. But if we’re all-renewable, the emissions associated with smelting new steel will be much lower (in the US it’s mostly done with electricity already), but probably not zero unless we figure out how to manage controlling the carbon content without emissions.

Regardless, this is the direction the world is going, unless someone identifies a direction that is both better and politically acceptable. Do you have any ideas that satisfy those criteria?

X
X
29 days ago
Reply to  Ray

I strongly disagree with you that e-bikes are broadly the same as mopeds. The outstanding characteristics of 2-stroke motor scooters/mopeds, for me, are noise and a huge volume of unburned hydrocarbons. They’re toxic in a way that is way out of proportion to their speed and mass.

Watts
Watts
28 days ago
Reply to  X

How do more powerful e-bikes differ from an electric moped?

Kyle Banerjee
Kyle Banerjee
29 days ago

I’m surprised there’s no discussion of how proliferation of ebikes might affect infrastructure and the riding experience — I think it will.

I see only minimal potential for ebikes reducing driving. Ebikes make pedaling easier, but everything else about cycling (i.e. heat, cold, darkness, wet, traffic, etc.) is the same. Bikes require considerably more regular maintenance than cars, and ebikes more maintenance than bikes. In contrast, vehicles provide a personalized environment people actually like, and few people think much about cars aside from adding gas. While ebikes make cycling viable to more people, the vast majority of the population makes their choices based on what they like best, not just on what’s possible for them.

FWIW, I prefer other riders to be motorized when I’m in a bike lane despite being “analog” myself — I find it leads to faster and more consistent riding styles. Unfortunately, I’m also seeing them ride way too fast near peds as too many of their “acoustic” brethren do which is really dangerous as well as being annoying.

X
X
29 days ago
Reply to  Kyle Banerjee

I like your take on that. I think conversion from car use will be only incremental. It does seem to me that bike riders who drop out in the winter will be more likely to carry on into the dark with an e-bike, if only because e-bikes are more consistently factory equipped with serviceable fenders, lights, and sturdy tires. Disk brakes are almost a given on mid-market bikes but e-bikes may tend to have better ones.

I think that we’ll see a new class of e-bike with at least a partial fairing that makes winter riding a little less sporty. I haven’t used one but I’ve heard that the kid covers used on some bakfiets style bikes reduce exposure quite a bit. Personally, I’d be more likely to ride with a cape on my heavy-ish converted utility e-bike than on my touring bike. The motor is oversized and it doesn’t care so much about the wind.