Evil E-bikes?

OK, let's set the scene ...

The other day I was finishing up a ride over by the high school here in Hallowell. I was going up a series of hills I've always referred to as the "Three Little Sisters." Honestly, I don't know why or how I came up with that moniker. Anyway, I was feeling kind of chipper, having pedaled nearly 40 miles, with a 14.4 miles per hour average.

Going up one of the inclines — and not paying too much attention to the world around me — all of a sudden some dude blows by me on my left like I was standing still. And what made matters worse was the fact that this speed demon was on a fat bike with oversized tires. I'm thinking to myself, "What the hay?" And like the Energizer Bunny, he just kept going and going.

My Trek Domane e-bike!

Looking ahead, I noticed he stopped at a home located on the second of the three hills. He then proceeded to cross the road to retrieve his mail. As I got closer, it gave me a chance to take a gander at his missile of a bike. Instantly, I spotted an enlarged down tube, which gave away his big secret to being fast. It was an e-bike.

When I finally got level with him, still standing at his mailbox, I glanced over as I was huffing and puffing up the hill and said, "You know that's cheating?" Taking my comment as a light jab, which was my intention, he started laughing, before exclaiming, "I'm old." I swear, the guy looked to be in his 40s. I'm 67 years old; I should be the cyclist with one of those things, not him.

Truth be told, I have a like-hate outlook when it comes to battery-powered bicycles. But leaning heavily toward hate, I think. Let me explain, and this is just my opinion.

For me, the "like" portion basically comes down to four bits. First, if using an e-bike gets more people out cycling, I'm all for it. Second, more e-bikes or any kind of bike could mean fewer vehicles. Third, the newer versions look pretty nice; some models even give the appearance of a regular bicycle. And fourth, for some people with a medical/health condition, an e-bike might be their only option if they want to go for a pedal.

My "dislike" of these bicycle impostors mostly stems from a kind of question statement: What is all this leading to and where will it end? Rapid advances in batteries, component technology, bike frames, etc., are making e-bikes lighter, quieter, and, more to the point, way faster. To me, they are just becoming motorized scooters, plain and simple.

Another problem has to do with regulations. Namely, where can these bikes be ridden and by whom? Communities and states — even cycling events and land trusts — are rushing to develop different classifications as to what will be permitted. One town's rules might be dissimilar to the next town's. Does that mean I have to turn around if, when I reach a town's boundary, the laws aren't the same? And how are all these entities going to keep up as e-bikes become more powerful? Which they will, I'm guessing.

My conclusion? I hope I never get to the point where I'm riding an e-bike. That sense of easiness isn't why I cycle. I actually enjoy grinding up hills; feeling my leg muscles strain with every pedal stroke. There's a real satisfaction in reaching the summit. Plus, more times than not, there's usually a speedy descent waiting on the other side. I just prefer "Powered by Patrick."

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