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Ethan’s Excerpts: E-bikes not as bad as they seem

Having worked in a bike shop for the better part of two years, I saw firsthand one of the most divisive topics in the cycling world: e-bikes. Being at a shop that rented and sold e-bikes, or electric bikes, I learned about the spectrum of opinions on them, being good, bad or some mix of both.

Before getting in too deep, I should note there are three classifications of e-bikes: one, two and three. Class ones only engage the battery when the rider is pedaling, topping out at 20 miles per hour of assist. Class twos also top out at 20 miles per hour of assist, but have a throttle that can engage the battery when not pedaling. Class three bikes can top out at 28 miles per hour of assist, and may have a throttle or pedal assist, depending on the state.

I will primarily be discussing class ones, as they are the most widely available type of e-bikes, are less restricted than the other classifications and I have the most experience with them.

The legality and restrictions vary depending on location, but in general class one and some class two bikes are allowed on mixed-use paths (such as the Hockhocking Adena Bikeway), while not allowed on certain off-road trails. Class threes, due to their speed and impact on the environment, are banned on most bikeways.

Originally, and up until somewhat recently, I was more on the side of being against e-bikes altogether. I saw them as dangerous to other trail users and unreliable.

One of my biggest complaints used to be that the people who used them were lazy. It’s a common criticism heard about e-bikes, especially those in the cycling community who have a more elitist view.

However, a common theme I found while renting out e-bikes contradicted this. Most of the renters were either older and had mobility issues, or people looking to get fit via cycling but wanted to ease into the activity. For both types of people, the common theme was that they just wanted to bike and be outside without physical limitations.

These groups typically buy e-bikes, but another demographic who wanted to buy e-bikes was commuters. Having to not put in as much work on your daily commute while also decreasing commuting times was appealing to those who used cycling as their main form of transportation.

Even in bike dependent countries such as the Netherlands, e-bikes are becoming increasingly common due to their higher load capacity and better efficiency.

Even after these positives, some may be turned off by the idea of an e-bike due to their batteries bursting into flames. I was still working at the bike shop when this was at its most prevalent in the news, causing many to have doubts when thinking about buying or renting e-bikes.

The response given at the shop – that I still give today – to anyone with these doubts is to not skimp on price and buy from a reputable brand. Most of the fires were caused by cheap lithium ion batteries from non-reputable brands, and were also due to the user error of leaving the battery plugged in for too long.

While it may be enticing to buy a cheap $200 e-bike off of Amazon, issues are far more likely to arise by cutting costs. In most cases, you will not receive the bike built, which means you have to take it to a local bike shop to build it, adding to the cost. Also, if issues do arise with the battery or electronics on a cheap bike, most shops will refuse to fix it because it is not a brand they sell.

Some reputable brands of e-bikes include Electra, Momentum and Aventon. Most shops will sell at least one of these brands and will be able to better guide you in buying and servicing an e-bike.

The big takeaways after a few years in the cycling world regarding e-bikes I’ve taken away are to not skimp on price and to get an e-bike for the right reason. While the price of a quality e-bike can be high, it has gone down in recent years and is a worthwhile investment. 

My philosophy is that if an e-bike can get someone outside who wouldn’t otherwise be, and they do so responsibly, no real harm is done.

Ethan Herx is a freshman studying media arts production at Ohio University. Please note that the views and opinions of the columnists do not reflect those of The Post. Want to share your thoughts? Let Ethan know by emailing or tweeting them at or @ethanherx.

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