On Electric Bikes

On Electric Bikes

(Click to read entire post) There is no denying that there is huge industry pressure for bike shops to jump on the E-Bike bandwagon, lest we miss out of the "opportunity of a lifetime". 
The issues we face with e-bikes are as follows

  • Are they legal in NYC?
  • Are we encouraging people to get lazier?
  • Are we curmudgeons that think e-bikes are blasphemous?
  • Do we want to work on/sell these bikes?

Are They Legal in NYC?

I think so...

"...the issue is their treatment as motorcycles under New York State law, and motor scooters in New York City...
This means that in New York State, electric bicycles are generally considered unregistered motor vehicles and subject to the same laws and penalties as automobiles. In New York City, electric bicycles that do not have the ability to be operated solely by its motor (pedal-assist bicycles) are legal, but those that do have that ability (motor-assist bicycles) are subject to fines and impoundment"


"These classifications are especially problematic in light of the fact that electric bicycles are not permitted to have a Vehicle Identification Number (VIN), meaning that they cannot be registered with the DMV and are thus inherently illegal for use on public roads throughout the state". (http://nybc.net/electric-bicycles-in-new-york/)

Are We Encouraging People to Get Lazier?

One major selling point that gets put forth in the media is America's ageing population.  In addition, our growing weight as a population cannot be ignored.  This is a tough one, and I wouldn't want to sit here and claim that older and heavier people should just toughen up and ride a road bike. There are some amazing stories of people with weight issues changing their lives by riding "regular" bikes (check out the story of Ernest Gagnon). Age, however, is inevitable.  When I'm 70, will I be able to use a bike as I currently know it.  Would a bike with an electric assist keep me that much more active than sitting inside and playing checkers?

Are We Curmudgeons?

We might be...but I think bike shops in the 1920's and 30's had the same discussions about derailleurs. People like to identify with classic ideas. I think it makes them feel more "authentic" and "old school", and less likely to be dismissed as a hipster.  However, its these same hipsters that DONT use rotary dial phones and amber computer monitors for a reason.  Time marches forward. 

I don't think my personal definition of a bike should cause me to dislike variants of the machine that get more people riding.  This is about butts on bikes, right?

Do We Want To Work On/Sell E-Bikes?

I wasn't sure I wanted to work on bikes that had popcorn makers in the back, but here we are.


We have decided to test the waters working with Xtracycle and Bionx. Xtracycle is a leader in the cargo bike industry, and we figured that no one could use a little boost more than a mom climbing up Park Slope with kids.

So we have one Bionx-equipped Xtracycle Edgerunner in the shop, and its getting a good amount of attention.  There has never been a "plan"  for 718...it just continues to take us places.