Author Topic: Mechanical Doping or Misplaced Sympathy?  (Read 2376 times)

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Offline oldguybiker

Mechanical Doping or Misplaced Sympathy?
« on: December 10, 2018, 07:12:12 pm »
European press coined the term "mechanical doping" to describe racers hiding miniature motors in their bike frames to provide a boost in applied power wattage. Clearly that's cheating and nobody supports it. I know this won't be popular, but I have to wonder if putting a motor on a recreational bike isn't somewhat equivalent to an opiate or an "easy out" to generate speed where it may not be such a good idea. In a recent forum topic "e-bikes are motor vehicles" the majority of replies favored allowing older or disabled riders to use motors on their bicycles and still use bike-only paths and/or to enable them to maintain the same pace or speed they used to enjoy. I oppose this idea for several reasons, but here are two major ones. SAFETY - as we age, other capabilities needed to ride safely also tend to diminish: balance, vision, depth perception, reaction time, and hearing. Do you really want to have anyone, especially a loved one, riding their bike faster that they can ride it safely? HEALTH - a major  benefit of riding is that it requires us to exercise our hearts, legs, and lungs. Even a limited dependency on a motor for propulsion diminishes those health benefits, and a dependency on motors, like some drugs, can be addictive.  There is a simple alternative, not just for the disabled, but for everyone as they age: slow down and gear down. Use three wheels if necessary. I don't want to deprive anyone from riding. On the contrary, I encourage people to ride, but please ride within your limits.     

Offline John Nettles

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Re: Mechanical Doping or Misplaced Sympathy?
« Reply #1 on: December 11, 2018, 04:19:04 pm »
I have a differing opinion but I understand where you are coming from.  You yourself say you want people to ride within their limits.  The problem is not everyone's limits are the same.

The sympathy:  I have a "mature" friend who has ridden for decades.  Due to a medical issue, he must now ride a recumbent trike.  However, all trikes are generally slower than 2-wheeled bikes.  He participates in the club rides typically 2-3 times per week.  However, when riding the trike he could not keep up except for the "beginner" rides.  His solution was to get an add-on e-assist motor for the trike.  Now, he can keep up with the other riders (he still has to work) and he is out riding whereas he was seriously considering giving up riding as it was just no fun being dropped and/or having everyone always wait on him, especially in the hills.  So yes, the e-assist motors are an aide, but then I would venture to say that for a lot of e-riders, they probably would not ride if not for the motor.  Having them ride, even at 50% "leg power" is better than not riding as it get more people riding which can not but help bicycling as a whole more than if only a handful of riders were out there.
The Apathy:  So what if someone likes to ride an e-bike.  Assuming they respect the speed limits and are not a danger to you (an older person on a non-motorized bike can be just as much a danger), what difference does it make.  Not trying to sound snarky, but it is similar to a guy driving a Ferrari around town. 

While I think recreational trails, i.e. the bike path along the local river that all the parents and kiddos ride, SHOULD have a speed limit, i.e. 15mph or less.  For instance, I do not like it when the racing club riders come hauling through, weaving in and out of other riders who are slower, because I think they are going too fast for the conditions and are endangering others.  However, on roads, let them haul ass. If a guy on a supped up e-bike that CAN go 35mph wants to ride along at 15mph on the local path, that is fine.  Otherwise, I would say be prepared to give him a ticket.
Also, using your Safety suggestions:  I doubt an older person will zip along at 30mph on an e-bike as mature people tend to be less foolhardy than 20-somethings.  As far as Health, I agree that a motor diminishes the exercise but still firmly believe the vast majority of OLDER riders with e-bikes currently would not ride if not for the motor and as I said before, exercising at 50% is better than 100% of not exercising.

Unfortunately, there is not a one-size-fits-all answer.  Just like in the car world, there are different speed limits for different types of roads. And only certain types of vehicles are allowed on certain types of roads.  I see no reason, other than cost, why something similar could not apply to bikes.  At least more people are riding now though.
In summary, I am of the camp that believes if it gets more people riding "bikes" then that is better overall.
Tailwinds, John

Offline fastrog

Re: Mechanical Doping or Misplaced Sympathy?
« Reply #2 on: December 13, 2018, 01:44:13 am »
I tend to agree with John. Being purists limits people on bikes. The ideal would be a national, or international, standard, that e-bikes cannot exceed 20 mph under electric power. If only people would not cheat. My local rails to trails ride, the Legacy Trail in Sarasota, Florida, has a 15 MPH limit, but the club riders fly by at almost twice that, and often cut it too close in passing. But at least they warn. Some -e-bike riders seem to have no bike manners and just speed by way too close with no warnings. I tend to err on the side of e-bikes for personal reasons, too. I have congestive heart failure, and while under control, I am told my blood flow will never be what it was. So my miles and speed will never be what they were. My dream is to ride the Transam. Started last year and made it 800 miles before falling and breaking some bones. I'm going back in April or May to pick up where I left off, with the goal of making it to the Pacific Ocean under my own steam. No e-bike, and I will resist it. But it is possible that if it is just too much for my old, bad heart I will go back in a later year on an e-bike. It is a little like accepting I will never run as fast or jump as high as I once did. So if I someday take a 50-percent boost from an e-bike, I think I can manage not to be ashamed.

Offline David W Pratt

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Re: Mechanical Doping or Misplaced Sympathy?
« Reply #3 on: January 02, 2019, 09:02:01 pm »
I see the problem/opportunity a little differently.  I think assisted bikes are inevitable.  Good management of them, on the part of conventional cyclists could lead to more, and louder voices requesting (demanding) cycle trails, lanes, accommodation on public transit, etc.  Imagine a car free TransAmerica Trail, bike parking facilities as normal at RR Stations, shoulders as a standard for highway construction, etc.