An eBike Rant

“NOT everything good has to be an iPod or iPad,” is the QOTD from Charles Morgan who makes retro-inspired 3 wheelers. The bike industry could learn much from this man, like about bespoke bikes that aren’t the same bike with a paint job, even an artsy paint job. I say this after Eurobike and going into Interbike where the media is supposed to be wow’d by some new e-bike that’s the same bike Lee Iacocca sold in the 90s.

When the industry produces e-bikes that aren’t Iaccoca bikes, they’ll finally succeed and we’re just starting to see that now. The industry needs to innovate beyond a comfort bike with a small motor. We’ve covered e-bikes here and have seen concepts that are actually built around a notion of powered riding and not just a flat-bar bike with a motor bolted onto it. The WSJ just reviewed the type of e-bike we don’t want to see anymore and didn’t like it anymore than we would.

Commuters will find it cumbersome and off-road riders will decide the clumsy weight is not compensated for by the occasional uphill boost.

New bikes from M55 and Blacktrail push traditional e-bike, boring, heavy boundaries into fashion, performance, and towards the high end. Imagine an Aero Road Bike with a motor or well-designed, modern-looking e-bike in a bike share for a downtown hotel. That’s what we need to see to really move the needle on this segment in the States, where bikes are still seen as expensive toys.


M55 Terminus drivetrain

When you persuade people that e-bikes are an item of aspiration and sexiness, they’ll sell and that day can’t come soon enough.

Blacktrail Non Plush Ultra

To rethink what an e-bike is or can become, manufactures should focus on mobility concepts like neighborhood vehicles that younger consumers can share for that 10 mile range around their homes. They should connect a bike to a cyclist’s Smartphones and integrate it with how they travel. The auto industry is in the same place and the Frankfurt Auto Show is expected to focus on innovations and creating consumer demand with electric cars. They’re working on better batteries, extended range, safety, and so should the bike industry. Collectively, we need to push innovations and develop a killer app of a bike that happens to have a motor on it too.

eurobike-workcycles-2011 18

Pinion crankcase with electric assist

That bike will get cyclists uphills and around town without breaking a sweat and they look cool doing it.


Ebikes are a dead end.

All youth bikes quickly depreciate to $0. It may get some use from the next sibling or cousin down the line, but all too soon, you’ll be begging to give it away. Like a pair of Baby Air Jordans, they are quickly outgrown and out of fashion.

Meanwhile, adults balk at spending $500 for a bike and giving it the basic care and maintenance to make it last a lifetime. Adding gadgets to the mix just accelerates the decay through obsolescence, while nudging the price point ever closer to that of an 80MPG scooter.

What’s really necessary is simplicity. Too often, bikes sit idle because of a flat/deflated tire. Too rarely, a task is easily accomplished with a pleasant walk or bike ride. If it’s low on reliability and utility, then yes, it is a toy. The bicycle industry seems lacking in the will to solve the former, and the means to solve the latter. It’s up to cities to build the tighter, safer neighborhoods they need to make people leave the car at home, if not take it off the street altogether.

In this post I’m saying hey bike industry before you send out another round of press releases about your super awesome e-bike, make sure it isn’t another flat-bar bike that no one buys in the States. E-bikes do sell in Europe for sweat-less bike commutes; so does Ti over there still too. Won’t happen here unless they’re marketed as a killer new X. The merits of e-bikes is a topic for another post and I wrote about that here:

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