The other day while slumming it on another ebiker’s blog (which I should never, ever do) I stumbled across this article titled “Why you don’t want a superfast Electric Bicycle“. I’m going to spare you the pain of reading the article and sum it up with “you don’t want a superfast electric bike because you should be a good boy\girl and do what you’re supposed to do so you don’t spoil it for the rest of us” (notice the not-so-subtle shaming part?). Honestly, I’d rather eat Brussels sprouts than have to read that article again, but it really got me thinking, why is it that fast electric bikes kick so much ass? This article is 10 reasons not to waste your time with “street legal” ebikes and instead build, buy, beg, borrow or steal a ‘real electric bike’.*
* ‘Real Electric Bike’ is defined as any ebike over 750 watts with no 20mph cutoff and preferably with a decent mid-drive
1) Time is money
When I was young and dumb I would work for chicken scratch. Now that I’m in my mid 40’s I find myself not wanting to do much of anything if I’m not getting paid decent money for it. My experience is that if you give someone ‘free’ advice they tend to ignore you. Charge them $100/hr then people really start to actually listen.
Pro-tip : Set your hourly rate by looking in a mirror and telling yourself what your hourly rate is, increasing it $10 at a time until you can’t keep do it without laughing. The last rate you can say with a straight face is exactly what you should be charging.
Got a 30-minute commute by car? A pedal bicycle (average speed 9.6mph) is probably going to make that commute longer. With a fast electric bike, you can seriously shorten your work commutes. Don’t waste your life in the slow lane.
“All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us.” -Gandalf
2) Live fast, die young
I can’t believe I’m not dead yet, I’ve been reckless in the extreme since I hit puberty. That part of the brain that tells you when to run away? Yeah, I don’t have that part. Somehow, I have survived. If you manage to make it to your 70’s, you can choose to be like my good friend Eric who is still shredding it on high power ebikes in the deep Pow! Be like Eric when you grow up, don’t be like all the old people in Florida pedaling around their retirement resorts on 250W ebikes. *yawn*
To be clear, it gets old pretty fast posting nice things on social media about people who end up dying on their high power ebikes, so save us the trouble and just don’t get killed on your Fast Electric Bike. Die the right way, in bed, at 90, with an empty bottle of viagra and surrounded by a mob of angry, unpaid hookers.
3) Motorcycles are way more dangerous
When I’m driving through states where people don’t have to wear helmets and I watch motorcycles ripping down the interstate at 70+ mph without helmets I think to myself “They think my crappy home built 40mph ebike is dangerous?” Let’s be clear here, the legal distinction between motorcycles / cars / ebikes and bikes has almost nothing to do with safety and everything to do with paying money into the system. With motorcycles, they don’t do crash testing, because if you crash on a motorcycle you’re pretty much F*cked (with a capital F). Ever wonder why motorcycle insurance is so insanely cheap (usually less than $80 /yr)? It’s because insurance companies LOVE motorcycles because when there is an accident it’s almost ALWAYS the other guy’s fault. The only reason motorcycles are allowed on highways is because you are paying into ‘the system’. Just think about the registration, insurance, inspection and fuel costs. All of them are going into somebody’s pocket (spoiler alert : it’s ‘the man’).
4) Fast Electric bikes are cheaper than any other motorized transportation
Now, let’s think about ebikes, all you have is the initial investment in the ebike, and a few pennies to charge it and that’s it (and they are a very green option for transportation). No wonder ‘the man’ wants to regulate ebikes and keep you on something that is neutered to <750 watts and 20mph. It’s not about safety, it’s all about getting all your money. You can convert almost any bicycle to a super-powerful mid-drive with the $350 Cyclone 3000W mid-drive kit. Throw on a 72v battery and a 3-speed IGH and that kit is EPIC. There are also plenty of big, cheap hub motors like the MXUS, but in all honesty, I’m not a big fan of hub motors.
If you opt for a Chinese low-power ebike with a fancy American company logo on it, it’s unlikely that it will even be all that cheap (although there are exceptions).
5) How I just got crashpads and learned to stop worrying about ‘the bomb’
25 years ago I invested in a Joe Rocket leather jacket. It had kevlar crash pads on the shoulders and elbows and then I mounted a spine plate on the back. I took care of it with Leather Honey and the jacket is still cherry 25 years later. If you buy a good jacket and take care of it, it will last you forever. When I go over 40mph on an ebike, or 50+mph on a kickscooter this is the jacket I wear. Even one hospital visit is going to be way cheaper than the $325 I dropped on this jacket. Oh yeah, and the dicks chig it because it makes my skinny ‘girly man’ chest and arms look like I actually have some muscle. Great for averting potential fights with dudes you probably shouldn’t be fighting (I’ve messed up a whole lot of people’s fists with my face).
Your pretty haircut isn’t going to look so pretty when your head is embedded in someone’s windshield so wear a helmet. When you’re about to get into an accident, look at where you want to go NOT the thing you don’t want to hit. Wherever you look, that’s where your body will take you.
6) You won’t get doored if you’re not in the strike zone
When riding a high-speed ebike, you ride in the center of the lane and keep up with urban traffic. This means that your chances of getting doored by some clueless guy who is not paying attention in class pretty much drops to zero. As a side tip, if you want to keep from dooring cyclists when you open your door, reach across with your right hand and open the door which will tend to make you look behind you for whatever reason. I always open the door an inch and wait as a warning to cars and bikes that I am about to fling that baby open.
7) Riding in the middle of the road is safer
When you ride on the right side of the road and the cars have to go around you it’s dangerous for you, it’s dangerous for the car. When you are in the middle of the lane and keeping up with traffic then it’s just better for everyone. The cars are happy and people aren’t honking and leaning out their windows and cursing at you. You’re not cursing back, and the world is a better place for it. Only a masochist or someone who really wants to get cursed at would ride an ebike at 20mph in the middle of the road when people are driving 30-35mph or more.
I gotta say when I threw a Ludicrous 60amp BBSHD on my Soul Stomper I got pretty annoyed with how slow the cars are. With 2500W you’re going to accelerate to 30mph faster than most production cars can because you only weigh however fat you are + about 60lbs for the ebike and not several thousand pounds. Make physics work for you for a change. You deserve the acceleration of an expensive sports car in a crappy cheapo high power mid-drive.
8) Left turns into oncoming traffic is safer
Because you can go a hell of a lot faster, if you chose to make left-hand turns into oncoming traffic, a high power ebike is going to be much safer since you can make the turn faster and get out of the way of oncoming traffic much faster. The best thing to do if you want to be really safe is to do a ‘pedestrian turn’ where you turn right instead of left and get into line to cross the street (image below). Left-hand turns are what cause a lot of bad bicycle accidents and it’s easily avoidable by turning right then going straight with the light.
9) Just because you HAVE the power doesn’t mean you have to USE it
However, if you ever NEED the power to get out of a bad situation it will be there. If you are on a street-legal hub powered 20mph 750W ebike there is a good chance that it won’t have the kick to get you out of a bad situation if one comes up. In 2016 a woman was saved by her BBSHD (a 1000W technically not-legal ebike kit in the US). Now you might say ‘speed kills’ and you’d be right, but sometimes if you can’t get away … you die.
I just don’t even really understand the point of a 20mph ebike. Without a motor, my pedal-powered road bike can easily get up to 25mph on the flats and it cost me $400 new. If you’re so afraid of going that fast, then why even get an ebike at all? Just get a skinny lightweight road bike.
With an ICE engine if you want more power the engine gets frighteningly heavy very quickly. This just doesn’t happen with electric motors, as the motor only gets marginally heavier for dramatic increases in power. The price difference between the more powerful motors and the ‘legal’ stuff is also pretty marginal when compared with the total price of the ebike. Often times for batteries there is no weight increase at all. If you’re using high power cells like the 25R or 30Q or if you have a very large pack like a 7P or greater all you need is a beefier BMS that can handle greater power demands because your cells will be able to take the load.
10) If you do get into an accident you don’t have to worry about your ebike crushing you
Case in point when I was about 15 I was racing across a supermarket parking lot when I got T-boned. I saw the car coming at me, but there was no time to stop, and my bike didn’t have the power to accelerate away from it. In slow motion, I looked down at the bumper about to crush my leg and lept from the bike. I skidded about 100 feet across the parking lot on my backpack and looked back as the bike went sailing through the air and landed with the rear wheel all wrapped up like a pretzel. If that had been a several hundred-pound motorcycle it could have come after me and crushed me or my leg, as it was I escaped unharmed (although the woman that hit me was pretty freaked out). I picked up my bike, threw it on my shoulder and told her it was my fault and walked away. Just another bad day in the life of the feckless and insane.
Another added bonus is that an ebike probably won’t do too much damage to whatever car hits you, which is always a good thing.
Who the hell wants to live in a world where all anyone is allowed to drive is crap-ass Yugos? Yet this is the situation that the ebike world finds itself in. Most US ebike
manufacturers box pushers just keep churning out crappy, low powered, Chinese-built hub motored bikes and the clueless public just keep lapping them up. No one gives a rat’s ass about your street legal ebike, build something awesome. It’s fun, it’s crazy and you’ll really love riding around on your own creation. Why settle for less when you can literally have it all? If you want to putz around town at 20mph or less, that’s cool, but I don’t want to ride anything that doesn’t take my breath away whenever I peg the throttle.
Once you experience the thrill of a high power mid-drive, you won’t want to either.