E-motion is High at Bike Friday
The 3 Es of our Electric Enhancement systems for Cyclists
E-xpectations, E-tiquette, E-mancipation
why now? the law, realistic power & speed, + flying with an E-nhanced BikeFriday
Why now and not before? The short answer is confusion. Confusion caused by multiple definitions of what an electric bike is. Many widely varying opinions of what they should be, laws all over the world about electric bikes that do not seem to have anything in common with each other and sometimes with bicycles. Equipment has become a lot better and (tops for me) quieter. And last working through my own unfounded it seems large biased against electric assist. – Here is an example. – Depending on where you are in the world the local laws allow 200 watts, 250 watts, 500 watts, 750 watts, and 1000 watts motors. All being defined to fit under the classification of regular bicycles because they have pedals!
Electric bikes and the law(s!)
Are they talking about the same thing!?
I think bike laws have had a huge share of confusion. In a big part from an obvious appearance that they were not written by folks who understand bicycles or cyclists. The local laws that allow 200 watts, 250 watts, 500 watts, 750 watts, and 1000 watts motors to all being defined to fit under the classification of regular bicycles, because they have pedals. The average person pedaling puts out about 60 to 100 watts. This will get you from 9 to 14 miles an hour on a flat road depending on your bike and your position. Add another 100 watts to that will put you at 20 mph. Something that fit riders can do. Or you can do with a 100 watts system added to your own 100 watts. Some jurisdictions have speed limits of 15mph(25 kph), some have 19mph, some have 20mph, some have 22mph and even 25, 28 and 30mph! A long read on Wikipedia on electric bike laws will convince you they do not share rational with regular cyclists. Some laws limit your speed if you have a motor to less than you could ride on your own without! Some tie the law to helmet laws, or to age required, 14, 15, 16 years old and older to ride them. Some areas just make them illegal. All the laws are trying to distinguish electric bikes so they don’t need to be licensed like a motorcycle or moped. The most rational laws are the European Union one and how the Scandinavian countries treat them. But even those don’t specify if the power limit is motor wattage draw or output power. (Most systems only average about 70% efficient, so a 200 watts system could be actually 200 watts output or only 140 watts.
A realist interpretation of the law for power and speed for a Cyclist
Perspective makes it all fall into place – and in your favor!
At Bike Friday we believe that looking at it from the perspective of a cyclist will keep you from conflicting with the law almost everywhere. A basic interpretation for the reason for a law is to make sure we play well together without endangering each other and to limit the damage to ourselves. Or even simpler, that common sense is not very common. So to put it into perspective a few rules of thumb can make the size of things much clearer. –
It takes about 60 watts to walk at a steady manageable pace. (3mph/5kph) A jog at 6mph/10kph is about 75 to 100 watts. It is easier to cycle than to walk and the same outputs give you about 3 times the speed. ( with air drag starting to dominate going over about 10mph). A relatively healthy and fit person can ride at 100watts for quite a few hours (longer than they can jog because no jarring) and with that go about 13 mph. (producing an 8 hour century, if you are fit enough in the nether regions.) Average city cycling speed in Copenhagen is about 10 mph/16kph. So that is base perspective. Strong fit younger riders are flitting around town at 15 to 17 mph and putting in some effort. A decent amateur cyclist can produce 200 watts for many hours and with that ride at 20 mph. 20 mph and overtakes special handling skills. Racers develop this but not good for the average person without the experience, willingness, and skill to crash relatively damage free. (As long as cars are not involved. Oh! They are!) (Best in the world can do 400 watts for 1 hour! With a special position on their bike & go 30 mph). Our bike club here in Eugene has determined that speeds over 15 mph on the bike paths is dangerous to everyone. Physics also says the same thing. With these insights, your goals and expectations as a cyclist become clear if your goal is to ride with others and keep up with folks a bit stronger than you. The sweet spot, and confirmed by my own 50 years of cycling, is 15 to 17 mph. This says the European laws make the most sense, 25 kph /16 mph. If you can do that without electric enhancement you don’t really need it. And if you can only ride at 75watts or 50 watts you only need about another 60 watts to ride at 25 kph /16 mph. That means 200 to 250 watt motor (at an average of 70% efficiency) will bring you to at least 200 watts total and ability on the flats to ride 20 mph. It is clear that unless you have powered cycling in mind (not pedaling at all and at relatively dangerous speeds without a shell around you for protection) you do not need a horsepower (750 watts) or 1000 watts plus to be an E-enhanced cyclist of above-average ability! Nothing wrong with having a hobby but cycling for most of us fits under 20mph on the level. (tailwinds are free game! Watch the downhills.)
Flying with an Electric Enhanced Bike Friday is now possible!
Simple, light and legal batteries can fly with you
Bike Friday was an early pioneer in making it easier to travel and fly with a bicycle. We did that by making the bike fit the airlines’ regulations. One of the bugaboos of Electric bikes or Lithium batteries-anything is that it is still a fast developing field and some of the first steps in really high power batteries were more dangerous than expected and scared folks. Especially the FAA. None of us wants fires on planes and because of the numerous battery chemistries and manufactures the rules are very stringent. The solution to this at BikeFriday was to innovate by looking at their requirements and finding someone who could help us meet them handily. ( If you read the piece above this you can probably guess that Bike Fridays electric enhanced are lighter & more efficient bicycles do not need huge batteries and still get a significant range.) We did find a great company and product to make the whole system work and fly legally. The solution is very sophisticated & durable modular batteries that meet the FAA’s criteria & when joined up to make a light & effective battery for your traveling Friday. Typical batteries add about 4 lbs to your carry on luggage. (3 modules for 300 watts hours capacity)
Sharing the cycling space, noise, you can keep up but you shouldn’t make others suffer or be unsafe.
How are Cyclist different and what experience & space belongs to them
I doubt that if you are a cyclist reading this that I need to tell you that we are not motor vehicles but a type of pedestrian. (the best type!) Our drive is human scale interaction with minimum gear and maximum fun. Where ever we ride we are looking for it being quiet enough for us to converse while we ride and no noxious fumes or dangerous fast-moving metal. We want it to be quiet and we want to feel like we are supplying all the motivating force. Good manners mean we respect that for others so that we all get the great reputation that arriving by bike gets almost everywhere.
Keeping up is great to do – Dropping others you came to tide with is a no-no
I have ridden with thousands of people over 10s of thousands of miles. From that, I pull an empirical perception of cyclist both new and old timers. One of the core ones is this. People want to keep up but other, perceived faster stronger riders (not always true), intimidate them even to the point of them apologizing and asking others to not wait up for them. So when you arrive with a big motor they may not be comfortable and may think or say you are cheating. I will cover the false idea of cheating below but it is very bad manners to go on a group ride with the intended or unintended results of dropping others who the pace is too fast for. With a light, quiet, simple Bike Friday E-enhancement equipped bike, good manners and good logic says you use it to keep up but not challenge others with it. I have found my riding E-enhanced with the groups is well tolerated. I seldom tho when using it see the front of the group and only then if I am sure I will not pull too hard so as to drop someone. I also feel if I am comfortable I am the right guy to slow down and ride with anyone who drops off the pace. Turns out they are often better company than the fast guys!
The Essence of cycling is elegant, non-obtrusive, human scale, at one w/ nature & companions.
Seems like that says it all there. If your electric enhancement improves or helps ensure that for you then it is cycling. If it doesn’t then it is probably fitting another description.
the truth will set you free, a tailwind when you need it, put it all together. E-motion
An Egalitarian perspective. The perspective from eyeglasses.
It took me a long time to confront my bias but eventually, I realized that electric assist can be seen as like an eyeglasses prescription, what is needed to bring my sight/riding as close to 20/20 as I can.
Being a strong rider does not mean we need to ignore empathy and yet I do see that often in young riders in their exuberance. What I am espousing here is the good that can come from sipping a few electrons so that you can continue to fully participate. If you can ride at 150 watts all day then you may not need help. (I also sometimes use mine to ride with the 200 watts crowd) The point is that the sweet spot of about 14-17 mph 23-27kph should be easily and properly available no matter your current engine. You can tell them Alan Scholz told you it was OK!
Simple, Freeing, & Easily available
When you put it all together, a properly designed, simple, light, quiet/silent E-enhancement is little different than padded cycling shorts, a great saddle, or a mentor on a tandem taking you on the first group ride that you kept up on. It can be all the difference towards understanding why cyclist keeps on keeping on with the smile on their face, the bugs in their teeth, and the weary good feeling in their legs. (ok eating is a good reason too) When you consider all the large costs in the world for minor returns the Bicycle comes up as one of the great deals of all time. A few electrons may be needed but don’t be shy, they may be all you need to stay in and there is plenty for this.
That’s what emancipation is. It is a right.
E-motion is the operative word and can have a fine double meaning.
At Bike Friday I am pleased to be able to help level the playing field. I did not for the longest time realize was tilted in my favor. Pulling a trailer with kids, a loaded cargo bike is a couple of great reasons to add a few watts to the average human to make transportation rational and elegant, but maybe this is the reason that folks who really love cycling don’t understand why others don’t find it exhilarating. Maybe you need to ride in the sweet spot feeling like it is all you!
Alan Scholz – CEO & CO-FOUNDER & Bike Designer