We're bashing more myths!
Last time on Electric Bike Mythbusters, we tackled head-on a few of the unfortunate myths that make the lives of e-bike riders slightly more awkward every day. "Isn't that cheating?" bystanders ask; "Aren't you just shifting all of your emissions over to the power stations?"; "Did we really fight two world wars so you could ride around on a scooter while pretending to be a cyclist?"
We like to think that the above myths were well and truly obliterated by the previous article (and we're right), but alas, others remain. Here they are:
MYTH: Electric Bikes are Complicated
REALITY: Pretty much no.
An electric bike is a big, complicated liability that’ll see me constantly back at the bike shop, right?
Wrong. Like most myths, this is at best, extremely reductive. Like in any ‘market’, electric bikes range from the simple (the Bike-With-A-Motor-On-It) to the complex (the bike with an intelligent thigh torque extender on it), and with many shades in-between. Some customers seek the dowdy but reliable workhorse, others the sexy gadget.
All e-bikes are made by mortals (apart from Juicy Bikes, which are crafted on mount olympus) and are sadly not indestructible. Most, however, are fantastically uncomplicated. The majority of designs never stray far from that ‘bicycle with a motor on the rear hub’ principle, so anyone with conventional cycle-repair knowhow can tackle 95% of all associated issues. So you can be safe in the knowledge that the majority of bike shops will need no more than our specialist, plug and play parts, delivered colour coded, available on-line.
Unfortunately, we live in a cruel, amoral universe and even the most cleverly-engineered part will fail under the right circumstances. Whether thanks to daily wear and tear, or your, (perfectly innocently) decide to chance a pothole, there will come a day when some part of your bike needs either replacing or repairing.
Some manufacturers use proprietary parts to better achieve a ‘beautiful’, ‘seamless’ aesthetic for their e-bikes. This can certainly be a nice benefit – a part manufactured with a specific bike in mind will be designed to meet exact requirements. These bikes can look fantastic (depending on taste) and the parts in question are usually well designed and reliable. But sourcing them can be very difficult (sometimes involving long waits), not to mention expensive. Ah, the Sinclair C5…
Electric Bikes are Just for Older Folks
This myth agains speaks to the fragility of the British ego – We muse to ourselves: “What if I am seen by my peers to be getting assistance with my bi-cycling? They would presume me to be incapable, and not of the excellent moral character that I most assuredly am. I would die a death from the shame”.
Of course, we get assistance with everything – it’s the very nature of technology – and in our borderline-Wall-E-mobility-scooter society we’re more work-shy than ever. Personally, I’m filled with a mild rage at the very notion of having to stand up to change a DVD.
Yet to many, putting a motor on a bicycle is a bridge too far. I’m not going to get into the tangled reasoning behind this complaint but I will set about demolishing the myth:
Are cars just for older people? Shouldn’t you be walking everywhere on your spry, youthful legs?
What about microwaves? Why aren’t you lighting a small, indoor campfire to cook as your youth affords?
Again it’s a matter of perception: is a bicycle (electric or otherwise) a means of demonstrating your masculinity and can-do attitude, or is it a convenient means of moving yourself from one place to another? Not every young person wants to make a martyr of themselves every time they pop to shops. They may well want to simply arrive sooner and without requiring one more shower.
Electric Bikes are Just Boys’ Toys
One more perception problem. E-bike culture (as well as bike culture more generally) tends to follow the following idea: e-bikes are gadgets, gadgets are toys, and toys are for boys.
Men like to think of themselves as practical and generally unconcerned with frivolous
like ‘style’ or ‘looking like a grown up’. This is of course bluster – it’s just a different style that men are trying to affect: the style that says I am competent, rich and/or athletic.
So it's no coincidence that the majority of contemporary e-bikes look like stealth-bombers-cum-dirt-bikes – they were designed by men, for men. These bikes can look remarkably slick and contemporary; alternatively, they can look sterile, joyless, or over-designed, and with a fair few superfluous bits of ‘techy’ bodywork to boot. It depends who you ask. But whatever your take on ‘e-bikes-as-gadgets’ (as opposed to say, transport) you can’t pretend these bikes represent the whole market.
Shockingly, women like to ride bikes. When this information reached electric bike manufacturers in late 2014 (that was a joke – this article represents the views of the author, etc.), they set out creating the usual token handful of ghastly pink, flowery, or heritage ‘feminised’ electric bikes. The ‘smurfette’ model to a whole village’s worth of bikes for boy-smurfs. After all, women don’t make up much of the present e-bike market, so they mustn’t be particularly interested, right?
It turns out that when you make understated, attractive bikes that don’t necessarily have aspirations to go on the Gadget Show (not that we’re ruling it out – Channel 5, give us a call), women will ride them. In fact, women make up about 50% of our customers. Reassuringly our calculations prove beyond doubt stylish men make up the remainder.
So responsibility for the above myth can be attributed to a market that is only just starting to listen to 50% of it’s potential market. After all, basic capitalism is a hard and gritty place best left in the hands of the strong and decisive - grey it is then? We think not!