Tag Archive for: e-bikes

Nobody expects a bicyclist to go uphill at 20mph

Motorists don’t always have the best judgment about how much clear distance they need to pass a bicyclist. If anything, they expect to be able to pass in a very short distance, especially on a hill. Nobody expects a bicyclist to ride uphill at 20mph. Yet ebike riders can do that easily!

In this video let’s look at how much extra distance is required to make a safe pass, and how an ebike rider takes charge to balance courtesy and safety.

Control & Release is one of our signature strategies for finding the balance between controlling travel lanes for protection and facilitating passes when it is safe and appropriate.

We release because we control.

Many bicyclists ride as close to the edge as possible on narrow roads.

If you’re reading this, you probably already know the problems with that. Sometimes it’s safe and makes sense to move momentarily to the edge in order to facilitate a pass.

But riding there by default subjects a bicyclist to edge hazards. The faster you ride, the faster the edge hazards come toward you.

Riding on the edge also subjects you to high-speed passing that can be too close, as well as motorists passing into oncoming traffic and then swerving back into you. You’re leaving your safety in the hands of strangers. When you keep usable pavement to your right, you have someplace to go if someone gets too close.

The gift of lane control.

Even better, when you ride farther left, you have a way to positively communicate your cooperation with overtaking motorists. Sonoma County Bicycle Coalition’s David Levinger described this beautifully:

“I believe in gift-giving as a way of relationship-building. If I don’t ride farther to the left, then I don’t have anything to give.”

“I believe in gift-giving as a way of relationship-building. If I don’t ride further to the left, then I don’t have anything to give.

“But if I ride further to the left, and I wave, and I move to the right, then I’m giving a gift to this person.

“If I were riding on the right stripe, I would just be an a__hole.”

Hills hide hazards.

We control because we recognize the likelihood of unseen hazards ahead. The video below shows a hill so steep you can’t see oncoming vehicles until you reach the crest. The last 200 feet are more than a 12% grade. Even with pedal assist, I was working to maintain 15mph in the steepest part. My car struggles on this hill!

On a previous ride up this hill, I did not take an assertive enough stance and a motorist passed me within 100 feet of the crest. A car came over the top as the passer was beside me.

Luckily, I had a driveway to duck into. I won’t leave it up to a motorist to make the right decision again.

It’s not just the top of a hill that hides oncoming vehicles. A dip or flat spot can also obscure potential hazards from the line of sight.

This can be especially deceiving if the road above the dip is empty. That scenario appears in the video at the top of this post.

photo of a hill with a deceiving flat spot that hides oncoming vehicles.

You’re not only protecting yourself.

The most common hazard for an overtaking driver is an oncoming vehicle. A bad pass puts both motorists at risk of a head-on collision. There could also be an oncoming bicyclist.

One time I crested a hill and saw a woman pushing a stroller in the oncoming lane. I was holding back a truck from passing at the time.

More time and distance are required to pass a faster bicyclist.

The graph below is simplified to show how much longer an overtaking vehicle would need to be in the oncoming lane based on a Class 1 or 2 ebike speed, vs. a typical speed for a bicyclist climbing an 8-10 percent grade.

graph showing increased passing distance needed to pass an ebike rider
The law requires an overtaking vehicle to be back in the lane with an additional 200 ft of clear distance.

Motorists expect bicyclists to be slow.

A slow bicyclist can be passed with minimal time in the oncoming lane. Even so, a legal pass should allow for additional sight distance. No bicyclist should be passed near the crest of a hill.

illustration: sight distance from the crest of the hill to pass a bicyclist at normal climbing speed
Sight distance needed to pass a regular bicyclist climbing a hill.

An ebike rider at maximum assist or full throttle will be much farther down the hill when it becomes unsafe to initiate a pass.

illustration: sight distance from the crest of the hill to pass a bicyclist at ebike climbing speed
Sight distance needed to pass a bicyclist at Class 1 & 2 ebike speed.

An approaching motorist is unlikely to assess the speed of a bicyclist ahead. It will simply register as a bike—a thing to be passed.

This is why ebike riders need to be proactive with more control and communication.

The culture of speed could use some remediation.

It’s also why we need to be training motor vehicle drivers to fully assess the situation before passing a bicyclist. The notion that bicyclists are always slow was never true, but it is even less so now. And you know, the whole car-centric culture of speed could use some remediation, too.

There are a few essential tools for
Control & Release

Communication is our most powerful tool.

Bicyclists communicate with lane position and hand signals. Lane position does most of the work for sensible motorists.

Passive Control. This is the default position, between the right tire track and the center of the lane. It communicates to a motorist that he cannot pass at will within the same lane and will need to use part of the oncoming lane to pass.

Passive Discouragement. Moving closer to the lane line discourages a motorist from initiating a pass.

Active Discouragement. Maintaining that left-side position and adding a hand signal does two things: It confirms you do not want the motorist to pass, and it acknowledges that you knows he is back there. This is both instructive and humanizing.

Passive Release. Moving to the right (not the edge) sends an intuitive message that you are releasing the lane. You can also stop pedaling, which is both communication, and a way to slow and decrease the distance needed to pass.

Active Encouragement. This isn’t always necessary or appropriate, but if it is clear ahead and that clear distance is time-sensitive, a little come-around signal communicates intent to cooperate and can reduce hesitation.

Reward. Share some love! A friendly wave will thank the motorist who safely passed you. It feels good to be thanked, even if they’re being thanked for something they are required to do (pass safely).

Learn more about communication in the Mastery Course.

When control fails. If an emphatic hand signal and assertive lane position fail to stop an impetuous motorist, your best move is to reduce speed rapidly and move to the right. If a car comes out of the blind spot, you need to be out of the way.

A mirror is useful.

Over the decades, I have ridden many miles with and without a mirror.

I find a mirror to be essential equipment on 2-lane roads. It lets me know when a vehicle is approaching at a distance. I can look ahead and determine what the sight lines call for. I could move to the right and slow so the motorist can pass well ahead of a blind hill or curve. Or I might hold my position and signal the motorist to stay back until there is enough sight distance, or a place for me to move aside (like a clear shoulder).

I used a mirror but did not rely on it as much when I rode in an urban environment. Now that 90 percent of my travel is on narrow rural roads, I would not want to be without it.

This is a dance you lead.

It’s an epiphany to realize that we bicyclists have control of our environment. Our control comes from communicating and being predictable.

There are certainly easier places to ride than on rural two-lane roads. But if these roads are where you ride, then Control & Release is the dance you get to lead.

About the camera rig.

The camera is a Garmin VIRB 360 (out of production), a single camera that shoots in all directions. There is a downside to that: the resolution of cropped views is marginal.

To include the bicyclist in the front frame, the camera is mounted on a painter’s pole with a screw-on camera mount. I used musician’s drum clamps and foam pipe insulation to mount the pole to the bike frame.

The ride is a Pedego Boomerang Class 2 ebike with torque-sensing hub drive.

bike downhill grade sign

High Speed Bicycling

high speed bicycling - who goes fast illustration
Athleticism is not the only factor in bicyclist speed.

The faster you go, the faster you can get into trouble.

The biggest challenge for bicycling education is that people don’t think they need it. Most untrained bicyclists unknowingly expose themselves to crash risk. While slow-speed bicycling is remarkably forgiving, high-speed bicycling is much less so. Here’s why…

Time to Cognition

time to cognition image

The generally understood time it takes to react to a hazard (known as perception and recognition time) is 2.5 seconds. When considering crash avoidance, we translate that time into distance traveled. This doesn’t include the additional distance needed to bring a vehicle to a stop. We’ll come back to that.

Two and a half seconds doesn’t seem like much, but what does it mean in terms of distance?

Speed in Miles/HourSpeed in Feet/SecondDistance Traveled in 2.5 Seconds
10 mph14.7 fps37 feet
20 mph29.3 fps73 feet
25 mph36.7 fps92 feet

Class 1 & 2 ebikes have an assisted top speed of 20 mph. Class 3 ebikes have an assisted top speed of 28 mph. Athletes frequently achieve these speeds as well. An average rider on any bicycle can go faster downhill or with a strong tailwind.

Stopping distance

Once the hazard is recognized, the emergency maneuver begins. Depending on the circumstance, a swerve or snap turn might be the chosen avoidance maneuver.

Or you might brake. If a full stop is required, the distance needed varies dramatically with vehicle weight, equipment type and condition, surface conditions, incline or decline of the road, and rider skill. The diagram below assumes a level, paved surface and appropriate, properly-maintained brakes.

stopping distance by bicyclist speed graph
(Click the image to enlarge.) A bicyclist trained in emergency braking can stop in a much shorter distance than an unskilled bicyclist who fears the front brake. Taking a bike-handling class will shorten your braking distance.

You have to see it to react to it!

A longer stopping distance means a faster bicyclist needs a longer line of sight (known as stopping sight distance) to a potential conflict. How far can you see around a curve or over the crest of a hill? Can you see cars preparing to enter the road at a driveway or intersection? Are there obstructions such as poles, trees, fences, or parked cars? Can you see cars waiting to turn left ahead of you? This is the kind of situational awareness that keeps you safe.

See and be seen

Changing your position on the road can allow you to see potential hazards from a greater distance. It also makes you more visible to other road users.

line of sight illustration
Adjusting your position in the lane can increase your stopping sight distance while allowing you to maintain speed.

Motorists misjudge speed

While it’s always good to maximize your visibility, being seen isn’t a fail-safe. Motorists often see bicyclists and pull in front of them anyway because they underestimate their speed. This is even more likely with an upright ebike and rider in street clothes. This makes it extra important that you have a clear line of sight to motor vehicles. Knowing where to look will give you a jump on that reaction time! Learn more about how to counter motorist errors in the CyclingSavvy Basics Course.

When they come from behind

Bicycling at higher speed reduces the speed differential with overtaking motorists. This reduces closing speed, but also creates a longer overtaking distance when they pass. Oh, they must pass the bicyclist.

stay back hand signal illustration

Passing motorists frequently misjudge speed and the distance needed to clear a slower bicyclist. The faster you go, the more likely they will misjudge the distance they will need to pass. It’s common for drivers to attempt to pass into a blind curve, or within a 100 feet of a stop sign. Some will do this even when you are traveling the speed limit! Don’t be afraid to put your arm out to discourage an unsafe pass. Learn control & release and powerful communication techniques in the CyclingSavvy Mastery Course.

Increased overtaking distance has implications for right hook crashes, as well. The faster you are traveling, the farther from the intersection a motorist will initiate a pass, thinking there is time. And then forget about you while you’re in his blindspot. Check out this windshield view video of a motorist passing a bicyclist on a class 1 ebike.

Don’t count on turn signals, mirrors or on the side-view cameras on some newer cars. Watch a car that is passing you to look for signs that it is slowing before a possible turn.

Implications for parallel bike facilities and high-speed bicycling

It’s fair to say that sidewalks, many side paths and bike lanes have stopping sight distances well below ebike speeds. If you can’t move left, the only way to improve your stopping sight distance is to reduce your speed.

It only takes one person to prevent a crash

It doesn’t matter who is at fault, you would rather not crash. Because of the increased stopping distance and likelihood of motorists misjudging your speed, there is an increased burden on a fast bicyclist to learn defensive practices and anticipate other people’s errors.

Our next ebike post will look at the benefits and risks of assisted acceleration.

Do you own a Pedego bicycle? Visit your Pedego Dealer for a free membership code. Pedego owners get the CyclingSavvy Basics Course and access to live member sessions, made possible by a sponsorship from Pedego Electric Bicycles.

flat tire

Flat Tires and Ebikes

a bicycle with a flat tire

Flat tires will happen…

Avoiding flat tires is just one more reason to avoid riding in the gutter at the edge of the road, where debris accumulates. CyclingSavvy lane-positioning strategy prevents flat tires while it improves your interactions with other road users. Is that thought new to you? Check out our online materials and course offerings!

Still, if you ride a bike, the question is not “if” but “when” a flat tire will interrupt your ride.

Repairing a flat tire on a standard bike with clincher tires and tubes is straightforward, and a just little more complicated if you are running tubeless tires.  Flats can usually be repaired with a hand pump, tire levers, and a spare tube. Detailed instructions are here.

E-bike Complications

But – if your ride is an e-bike, repairing a flat tire can get more complicated, so let’s discuss this.

Ebike mid drive
Mid-motor drive

Mid drive

A mid-drive e-bike has the motor centrally located near the cranks and pedals.   Aside from the weight of the bike and motor, repairing a flat on a mid-drive e-bike is not too difficult, because the wheels are like those on most bikes.  

Hub drive

E-bike rear-hub drive -- makes flat-tire repair difficult
Rear-hub motor drive

Not so with a hub-drive model.  A hub-drive e-bike has a very large front or rear hub that houses the drive motor (left illustration).18- to 22 mm hex nuts secure the axle. Wheels with hub-drive motors are quite heavy, so much that many bike shops which service e-bikes have powered bike stands to lift a bike off the ground.  Some e-bikes tip the scales at more than 70 pounds!  Unless you have a way to lift the bike and the large, rather heavy wrench for the large nuts that hold the wheel in place, you can’t remove the wheel to replace the inner tube.

A bike shop will always replace the inner tube, so it can guarantee its work. You might plan to walk or call Uber to get home. But wait! It is possible to lay many bikes down and patch the inner tube without removing the wheel. Instructions on exposing and reinstalling the inner tube are here. This is more cumbersome than working on a wheel you have removed from the bike, but it can fix the flat tire and get you rolling again. This trick is not practical on e-bikes with 20″ fat tires.

An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, as the saying goes.

Prevention is the key

While no countermeasure is 100% effective, there are several ways to prevent flats through equipment choices and maintenance. 

Inspect Before Every Ride

I tell participants in my CyclingSavvy classes to remember the ABCs: Air, Brakes, Chain/cranks/cassette.  All tires have the tire pressure range marked on the sidewall. Do not ride if the tire pressures are below the minimum setting. Check air pressure before every ride, at least with a thumb-and-finger squeeze.

It is normal for air to seep out slowly through rubber. Top up pressure weekly with a pump that has a pressure gauge. If the tire pressure is low, the tube can bottom out on the rim, causing a pinch flat — also called a snakebite flat, because it leaves a pair of holes in the inner tube. Low pressure also can rotate the tire and tube under acceleration and rip the valve from the tube. 

Check tires for any bulges, tears, or signs of excess wear such as threads showing through the tread area.  Replace worn or damaged tires.  Many tires have wear indicators.  Replace tires when the wear indicators are no longer present.

Sealants in Inner Tubes

Tire sealants are thick liquids reinforced with solid materials that clog up a hole. Some sealants can be injected into an inner tube through the valve, or are pre‑installed in new tubes, and claim to repair holes to 3.0mm (about 1/8”).  Use only a sealant intended for use in inner tubes. We have seen positive results with sealants for very small punctures from thin glass shards and thorns. If the object that caused the puncture is still embedded in the tire, you must remove it.  If not, it will enlarge the hole in the tube with every turn of the wheel.

Tire Liners

A tire liner can prevent a flat tire
Inexpensive tire liner

Some tires have a layer of Kevlar fabric under the tread. Several companies market liners that fit between the tire and the tube. Some liners are Kevlar-reinforced, some are heavy plastic strips, while a new style of liner is made from a multi-cell foam 15mm (about 5/8”) thick in the center section.

I have seen very good results with the multi-cell foam liners.  The manufacturer claims that they prevent about 90% of flat tires.  But no tire liner will prevent a puncture from a 2” nail.  

Armour-layers insert
Multi-cell foam insert

These liners are pricey.  Installing of a multi-cell foam liner in a 20x 4.0 fatbike tire on the drive wheel can cost nearly $150.  Yet, that is about the price for repairing one flat tire on the drive wheel (parts and labor) at most shops.  So, if the liner prevented one flat tire, it has paid for itself.

“Thornproof ” inner tubes are another option, with thicker rubber under the tire tread.

Any of these options increases rolling resistance — but that is not a major issue with an e-bike.

Tubeless, flat tire resistant

Some tires and wheels can go tubeless.  Tubeless technology for mountain bikes has been around for just over 20 years.  As a mountain bike racer, I have used tubeless tires since their introduction.  In 20 years, I have only had two flats with tubeless tires, caused by a catastrophic tear in the sidewall when I ran over a partly buried section of metal fence post.

Tubeless tires are made flat-resistant with sealant.  I use a “Race” sealant that will repair holes to 7mm (about ¼”). Many sealants will seal holes to 4mm.  Most sealants dry out, so you need to top them off at least every 4-6 months; even more regularly in hotter climates.

Tires should be classified as UST (Universal Standard Tubeless) or TR (Tubeless Ready).  Rims need to be either tubeless-compliant with no spoke holes and a smooth inner rim surface, or converted to tubeless using an approved rim-sealing tape.

If a tubeless tire does get a flat, and adding sealant doesn’t work, then a tube must be installed.

In recent years, tires for general use on paved and gravel surfaces have trended wider. Research has shown them to roll as easily as narrow tires, under real-world conditions. Wider tires give a more comfortable ride, with lower air pressure, and can run tubeless. Tubeless doesn’t make sense at least yet for narrow, hard-inflated road tires: an overinflated tubeless tire is more likely to blow off the rim. — dangerous, and the sealant makes a real mess..Here’s some good general information on choices.

There are tubeless 26 x 4.0” fatbike tires and some 26” fatbike rims.  There are tubeless 20 x 4.0″ tires, but I am unaware of any wide 20” rims that can be converted to tubeless. Check with your bike shop.

One more thing…

You may want to do a roadside flat-tire repair if you have a small e-bike with 12.5″ tires and a hub drive motor. Before you do, check to see whether the drive-motor power cord can be disconnected. There is usually a connector somewhere near the drive motor. We have seen several inexpensive small and folding e-bikes that have drive motors wired directly into the battery box or control module. This complicates on-road repairs greatly and may even prevent a tire repair altogether when you need to replace the tube during a ride.

Be Prepared

ABEA welcomes e-bike riders in CyclingSavvy courses, but we don’t have the equipment to remove and replace a hub-drive e-bike wheel on the road. Please come to class with your equipment, and tires in good condition.  This applies not only to e-bikes, but for all riders. Remember the ABCs!

E-bikes on trail

Ebike Etiquette, Misconceptions, and Mixed-Group Riding

This article is Part Five in the series on e-bikes. Previous articles were Savvy E-Biking To A Car-Free FutureEveryone’s A Racer Now, E-Bikes: Education, Training & The Law, and E-Bike Benefits and Challenges – It’s a Different Machine! – CyclingSavvy. I encourage you to read those articles before continuing with this one. This article will focus on misconceptions, e-bike etiquette, and mixed-group riding (conventional bikes and e-bikes).


As e-bikes have gained popularity, misconceptions have diminished. They still need to be discussed.

  • Riding an e-bike is ‘CHEATING!’” FALSE: It’s SMART, especially for people limited by fitness, age or disability. E-bikes also make sense for law enforcement, Fire, EMS and other public safety personnel seeking advantages and better customer service.
  • “There’s NO fitness and health benefit to riding an e-bike.” Again, FALSE. More and more research is dispelling this misconception. See the resource page from PeopleForBikes: Electric Bikes Statistics | People for Bikes.

Aside from the research, e-bikes allow riders to go farther, faster, longer, and with less effort while having fun. People will want to stay out longer and/or ride more often. That equates to better fitness and calorie burning. Here is a report on an easy e-bike ride I did on the road a while back, demonstrating the fitness and calorie-burning point.

Strava report on a ride of Clint Sandusky's

Key E-Bike Etiquette Issues

Unfortunately, most e-bike users have not sought out or received the training they need to ride more safely, legally and cooperatively. E-bike etiquette is becoming a hot topic! The cycling community, public, and local authorities – including law enforcement – are receiving complaints of unsafe, illegal, irresponsible, and uncooperative use of e-bikes. Our youth also fall short. Linked here is an example: Manhattan Beach Police to Increase Enforcement on Electric Bike Riders – NBC Los Angeles.

Share the trail sign with e-bike

Keep these strategies in mind while riding your e-bike, on- or off-road. Several are CyclingSavvy strategies:

savvy cycling around horses
  • Ride safely and legally. Be aware of the local, state, and federal laws (user, access, and equipment requirements) for e-bikes where you plan to ride. PeopleForBikes has excellent resources for State by State Electric Bike Laws and much more.
  • Ride respectably and cooperatively, especially on sidewalks, shared-use paths, and multi-use trails. “Pedestrian” behavior (walking speed) on these facilities is a MUST, especially when other users are present!
  • Pass only when safe and appropriate. Call out “on your left” or ring your bell in advance. Slow down while passing. Offer a friendly and uplifting comment like, “what a great day for a ride!”
  • Don’t “FLAUNT” your e-bike power, especially with other bicyclists. For example, do not power up a climb leaving your human-powered ride partners in the dust, and say later “what took you so long?!” Not cool!
  • Do you post your e-bike rides on Strava or a similar app? Strava has an “E-bike Ride” option, under the type of ride. It now also asks you whether your ride was on an e-bike.
  • While riding off-road on your electric mountain bicycle (eMTB), practice good and courteous trail sharing, as messaged by the signs below.
  • “E-Bike Etiquette Tip of the Day:” If you come upon a horseback rider or other animal while riding an e-bike, turn that motor OFF! The whining noise of the electric motor may startle or spook a horse or other animal!

Mixed Group Riding
(conventional bikes & e-bikes)

Should e-bikes be allowed in bicycle clubs and/or on group rides? Some clubs have already addressed this issue, for example Petaluma Wheelmen Cycling Club – Electric Bike Policy, Santa Rosa Cycling Club – SRCC Electric Bicycle Policy, and Charles River Wheelers Welcomes E-Bikes!. The League of American Bicyclists will insure only users of Class 1 and Class 3 e-bikes (both are pedal-assist only), during League courses and League-affiliated club rides.

Each bicycle club, and group ride leaders, must answer these questions:

  1. Should e-bikes be mixed (integrated) into group rides, especially on the road?
  2. If so, how and where within the group?
  3. What are concern(s) for a mixed group ride? One example: A less-skilled cyclist, riding a heavier e-bike, bumps another cyclist riding a lighter pedal-only bike. Guess who is going down?
  4. Could an e-bike be an asset or help to the entire group? Hint: Maybe by pacing a rider who had suffered a flat tire back to the group.
  5. Will ride leaders need additional savvy cycling and/or group riding training for their position(s) within the group? Linked here is the perfect and free resource Club Rider Essentials | CyclingSavvy.
  6. Should there be an e-bike-specific sub-group ride option instead?

One Last Thought

It’s not what you ride, but how you ride!”

Karen Karabell, CyclingSavvy, and I hope you have enjoyed and benefited from this series on e-bikes! Who knows, maybe some additional articles on e-bikes may pop up in the future.


Clint is a CyclingSavvy Instructor Candidate. He is a retired law enforcement officer after a 24-year career including time with the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s and Riverside Community College District Police Departments. While at RCCDPD, he was a bike officer for 23 years.

He is a 26-year active and certified California Bike Patrol Instructor and currently instructs Bike Patrol Courses for the Riverside County Sheriff’s Department. He has been an IPMBA (International Police Mountain Bike Association) member since 1994 and is a former instructor.

Clint owns two e-bikes and runs errands, commutes, races, teaches, and patrols (at his church) on them. At the 2018 and 2019 IPMBA conferences, he presented/co-presented e-bike workshops to instructors and general attendees. He has also presented e-bike seminars and presentations for local bicycle clubs, Chicago Area Bicycle Dealers’ Association Expos, and the Florida Bicycle Association. He has authored e-bike-related articles for CyclingSavvy, Bicycle Retailer and Industry News, IPMBA, and officer.com.

Ebike Benefits and Challenges – It’s a Different Machine!

This article is Part Four of a series on e-bikes. Previous articles are Savvy E-Biking To A Car-Free Future, Everyone’s A Racer Now, and E-Bikes: Education, Training & The Law. I encourage you to read those three articles before continuing with this one.

This article will focus on the benefits (advantages) and challenges (disadvantages) of e-bike use. The fifth article will focus on misconceptions, etiquette, and mixed-group riding (conventional bikes and e-bikes).

The E-Bike Surge

E- bike (electric bike) sales and use continue to grow here in the U.S., Europe, and beyond. It’s noted here: US e-bike imports double this year to over half a million, but it’s not enough (electrek.co).


E-bikes are seen more and more often (courtesy Clint Sandusky & Haley Earnest)

This good news exposes the need for traffic education and training for everyone—old to young, skilled to unskilled, and experienced to novice—driving these faster, heavier, and at times less nimble e-bikes.

E-Bike Benefits

The bicycle industry and community are good at promoting the benefits and advantages of e-bikes:

  • Dependable option for people limited by fitness, age, or disability
  • Great Equalizer, allowing the entire family, friends, or ride partners to ride together
  • Eco-friendly and reduce traffic congestion
  • Promote health and fitness
  • Provide for socially-distanced commuting
  • Require no driver’s license, vehicle registration, or insurance (may vary state to state)
  • Make parking EASY; no fees involved

E-bikes also REMOVE the “Too Barriers.” These are common excuses not to ride a bicycle. They include:

  • Too far
  • Too long
  • Too hard
  • Too hilly
  • Too sweaty or fatigued
  • Too hot or windy

Additionally, some e-bikes can carry bulky cargo and children, as pictured here.

Cargo e-bike carrying child (courtesy Bike Friday)

Cargo e-bike carrying a child (courtesy Bike Friday)

Bike-Handling Challenges

To be fair, we must also discuss the challenges to using an e-bike. E-bikes are faster, heavier, and at times less nimble than their “conventional” counterparts. Some skills can be more awkward and/or challenging, for example:

Mounts and Dismounts:

These are an issue for unskilled, inexperienced, and/or older persons—including with balance issues.

I encourage everyone to read The Top Three Essential Bike-Handling Skills | CyclingSavvy article. It includes the “Starting and Stopping” lesson from the free Essentials Short Course. Also read the Learn to Ride the Easy Way as an Adult Beginner | CyclingSavvy article. Both these articles are excellent starting points for anyone wanting to use an e-bike.

For beginners or less skilled riders, it is extremely important to keep the power to the motor (drive unit) OFF when mounting or dismounting an e-bike. This is different from stopping and starting during a ride, normally done in a lower support/assist/power mode.

Turning off the motor eliminates “lurching,” which can occur with either a throttle-assisted or pedal-assist-only e-bike. Unexpected lurching could cause you to lose your balance, fall off, and injure yourself.

It is also important to “lock your bike down” when mounting or dismounting! Apply the left brake lever (front brake) before you mount or dismount, to prevent the bike from rolling out from under you. It is usually best to mount or dismount a bicycle from the left (non-drivetrain) side.

A “low-step” framed e-bike is easier to mount and dismount, and may be an excellent choice for less skilled and/or older riders.

Trek lowstep E-Bike

Trek Verge+ 2 Lowstep e-bike with BOSCH mid-drive motor (courtesy Clint Sandusky)

More Bike-Handling Issues

  • "Lurching is an abrupt, unsteady, uncontrolled movement or series of movements; stagger (Oxford Dictionary).Starting and stopping: Once again, “lurching” and/or “motor overrun” can occur, so be careful not to apply too much pressure to the pedals. “Motor overrun” occurs after pedaling hard and then stopping pedaling, as the motor may turn a few more revolutions. This will momentarily keep power to the e-bike’s drivetrain.

Normal distance behind a car on a conventional bike

Normal distance behind a car on a conventional bike

As mentioned in the Part Two article, CSI Brian Cox, a fellow e-bike enthusiast and bike shop owner in Southern California, had excellent advice. “Leave a car length between you and the motorist in front of you,” Brian wrote. “You now have the speed to beat motorists off the line and you are responsible to not hit the motorist in front of you. “With a people-powered bicycle, you did not have the acceleration capability you now have with a motorized bicycle.”

Normal distance behind a car on an e-bike

Normal distance behind a car on an e-bike

  • Slow-speed maneuvering: once again, “lurching” can occur.
  • “Lofting” the front tire up/over various obstacles
  • Carrying an e-bike up a (long) flight of stairs: better to go find an ADA ramp or elevator, then dismount your e-bike first.
  • Manipulating the different support/assist/power modes:  whether with a pedal-assist or throttle-assist e-bike, this can be distracting at first.
  • Technology CAN fail: always have a “plan B” to get back home.

Interaction with other Road Users on an E-Bike

The higher speed and different operation of e-bikes pose additional challenges.

Motorists may NOT recognize that you are riding a faster e-bike. This is more likely if you are in a more upright riding position and/or in street clothes. Therefore, you MUST even more so understand the traffic environment. Be aware of sight lines, door zones, hazards and conflicts associated with higher-speed riding, and blind spots. Anticipate common motorist-caused mistakes — especially, underestimating an e-cyclist’s speed.

People look to pedaling as a signal. On a throttle-assisted e-bike, people may assume you are slowing or stopping if only the motor is applying power to the e-bike. You can always offset this by pedaling instead.

Lane control and driver behavior will help reduce and/or eliminate conflicts and/or collisions!

defensive driving

When you choose a high-vantage position, you can see potential conflicts and other drivers can see you. This position helps you avoid the side-swipe, right-hook, drive-out, left-cross – and prevents you from getting doored. For more, check out our FREE Essentials Course.

To Sum Up

Technology can be wonderful in bringing more people to bicycling. Using an e-bike is certainly FUN and COOL! However, if you are going to use an e-bike — for your safety and safety of others — you NEED to take important steps to learn how to interact with all users on-road and off to drive safely, legally, savvy, responsibly, cooperatively, and with confidence. Taking a CyclingSavvy course, online and/or in-person, will help with all of this!

Trek Bicycle Corporation has some good initial advice on “How to ride an electric bike safely” in text and video: “Start slow, brake sooner, brake lightly and evenly, ride with extra caution, and follow the rules on the road.”

Also see my article in Bicycle Retailer and Industry News, which is useful for everyone.

Next in this series: Flat tires and ebikes.

Clint Sandusky is a CyclingSavvy Instructor Candidate. He is a retired law enforcement officer after a 24-year career including both the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s and Riverside Community College District Police Departments. While at RCCDPD, he was a bike officer for 23 years.

He is a 26-year active and certified California Bike Patrol Instructor and currently instructs Bike Patrol Courses for the Riverside County Sheriff’s Department. He has been an IPMBA (International Police Mountain Bike Association) member since 1994 and is a former IPMBA instructor. Clint owns two e-bikes and runs errands, commutes, races, teaches, and patrols (at his church) on them. At the 2018 and 2019 IPMBA conferences, he presented/co-presented e-bike workshops to instructors and general attendees.

He has also presented e-bike seminars and presentations for local bicycle clubs, CABDA (Chicago Area Bicycle Dealers’ Association) Expos, and the Florida Bicycle Association. He has authored several e-bike-related articles for BRAIN (Bicycle Retailer and Industry News), CyclingSavvy, and IPMBA.

ebike law

Ebikes: Education, Training & The Law

Electric pedal-assisted bikes are becoming more prevalent at bicycle industry trade shows and bike shops. They’re being ridden for recreation and transportation, at MTB races, and even now by some public safety agencies across the US and beyond. My purpose in writing this post