E-bikes and Group Riding with TCBC
The number of riders using E-bikes is growing and no doubt this number will continue to increase in the future. E-bikes have become a great equalizer, allowing more riders to enjoy cycling without limitations due to age, fitness levels or disabilities. Friends and families can ride together for better health and fitness. Riders are able to go farther, climb bigger hills and not be bothered by headwinds. The electric bike is meant to augment human power and not replace it. The Twin Cities Bicycling Club recognizes and welcomes E-bike riders on Club rides.
While all the benefits of riding an E-bike might sound like utopia, it’s important to recognize that there are several ride etiquette, safety, insurance and legal issues related to riding an E-bike. Riders need to know that there are distinct types of E-bikes which are currently governed differently by insurance companies and local trail ordinances.
The TCBC Board recently formed a committee to take a look at the use of E-bikes in our Club and other bicycle clubs around the country. The following information and policy are the result of that committee’s extensive research and recommendations.
E-bike Categories (Classes)
There are currently three classes of E-bikes that are governed by industry standards. There are, of course, numerous makes and models within these classes.
Class I – pedal-assisted up to 20 mph
Class II – can be throttle-controlled without pedaling necessary up to 20 mph (many E-bike conversions).
Class III – pedal-assisted up to 28 mph
Based on these E-bike classes, various trail systems may allow or disallow a certain Class or Classes on their trails. Bicycle insurance carriers may also exclude certain classes from accident and liability coverage.
TCBC 2022 American Specialty LAB Insurance E-bike Policy
In accordance with TCBC’s League of American Bicyclists (LAB) insurance policy, only Class I (pedal-assist to 20 MPH) and Class III (pedal-assist to 28 MPH) E-bikes are covered for general liability and participant accident coverage on officially scheduled TCBC rides. Class II (throttle-controlled) E-bikes are not covered by our insurance policy.
Ride Safety and Etiquette
E-bikes provide riders with many advantages. But, as mentioned above, it is important to recognize that there are several safety and etiquette issues to be aware of. E-bikes are faster, heavier, and at times less maneuverable than bikes without electric assist. Some riding skills can be awkward or challenging, especially to new E-bike riders, who should practice some handling and riding skills prior to joining a group ride.
Following are some examples and suggestions:
- Mounting/Dismounting: Turn off the motor (drive unit) when mounting or dismounting your E-bike. Turning off the motor will eliminate the bike surging forward which might occur with either a throttle-assisted or pedal-assisted E-bike. It is also wise to engage the front brake to prevent the bike from rolling or surging forward.
- Starting/Stopping: When riding in a group, be aware that your heavier E-bike may need more stopping distance. Also starting out with too much assist could push you into the riders in the group ahead of you.
- Slow Speed Maneuvering: E-bike riders need to use extra caution because power surging or unsteady motion can occur at slower speeds or while turning.
- Manipulating the Assist Modes: Pushing buttons or levers used to change assist modes could cause momentary distractions and take your eyes off the road or the bikes in front of you.
- Pacing with Other Riders: The E-bike assist provides advantages especially with accelerating, climbing or riding into a headwind. When riding in a group, it’s always safer and you would be more welcome if you can maintain the pace and style of the other riders in the group. If you’re a newer rider or unsure of the group dynamics, it’s always better to ride at the back of the group.
- Climbing: E-bikes usually climb hills faster than other bikes. Be aware that the bikes ahead of you without electric assist may tend to slow down going up the hill.
- Ride Categories: An E-bike rider should generally ride the same category or ride type as they would have prior to getting an E-bike. It is potentially unsafe for you to ride your E-bike on a ride type that is above your experience and skill level and doing so may make the other riders in the group uncomfortable.
- Be Self-Sufficient: Make sure you have enough battery reserves to complete the ride distance. Remember that wind, terrain or a higher pace will reduce the distance that an E-bike can travel. Make sure you can change your own flat or fix an issue with the E-bike. Other riders will likely be unfamiliar with the unique features or design of your E-bike and may not be able to help.
Special E-bike laws
Minnesota statutes allow E-bikes to be ridden on public roadways similar to conventional bikes. Rules for various trail systems are a little more complicated. Limitations are under the control of the trail administrator so they could prohibit any E-bikes or certain classes of E-bikes from riding on their trails. Unless a sign is posted at the trailhead, it’s difficult for a rider to know what bikes are allowed. It is the responsibility of the rider to be aware of these potential trail restrictions. TCBC Ride Leaders are not responsible for checking the local regulations on a trail when their ride route uses them.
Rules for riding an E-bike on mountain bike trails varies significantly. Federal, state, county and local trail regulations should be checked by E-bike users before riding mountain bike trails.
Minnesota State Law also requires that a rider must be at least 15 years old to ride an E-bike.
TCBC E-bike Policy
The TCBC Board has approved the following policy relating to E-bikes and riding them on group rides.
The Twin Cities Bicycling Club supports and allows the use of electric-assist bicycles on all rides as long as they are in accordance with the following guidelines.
- Class I and Class III pedal-assist E-bikes are eligible to participate in all TCBC rides. Class II E-bikes that have a throttle and do not need to be pedaled to move are allowed, but are not currently covered under the TCBC insurance policy for riders on any TCBC rides.
- E-bike riders will observe and follow all Club rules and policies governing ride safety and etiquette.
- Riding on surfaces other than on a public roadway is subject to the rules and the jurisdiction of the local governing body, and it is the individual rider’s responsibility to know and obey local trail policies and the Minnesota biking laws.
- The role of ride leaders remains unchanged. Leaders are responsible for ensuring that all riders are made aware of the ride rules and their responsibility for obeying them and established traffic laws. Ride leaders are not responsible for determining if a rider is riding an E-bike or what class of E-bike they may be riding. Ride leaders continue to have the authority to speak with any rider on a group ride, whether on an E-bike or not, if, in the ride leader’s judgment, they feel the rider is compromising the safety of themselves or others on the ride.
- The Club policy regarding E-bikes could evolve in the future as TCBC becomes more experienced with E-bikes and their inclusion in group rides.
E-bikes will likely grow in usage among TCBC riders. An awareness of their capabilities and limitations should help when mixing different types of bikes together on group rides. In order for E-bikes to be a successful component of our Club’s growth, all riders need to ride in an environment of respect for each other’s safety and enjoyment of the ride.
TCBC E-bike Committee:
Carol Fitzgerald, Pete Hawkins, Jeff Johnson, Lyle Koehler