With a lithium battery and an electric motor, conventional bicycles become e-bikes, putting people with lots of excuses back in the saddle. Crank the pedals, the motor comes to life. The harder you pedal, the bigger the power boost. It’s easy. It’s fun! Europeans love e-bikes. Americans are finally gearing up.
All-terrain and road e-bike motors are limited to 750 watts (1 horsepower) so e-bikers can gain the power of a horse–you become a centaur with gears! No hill is too steep. No workplace is too far (20-50-mile range). No shower at work is no excuse because you won’t break a sweat unless you want to. E-bikes silently push you, almost pollution-free, with no more effort than an exercise bike on low.
Run errands. Haul groceries or schoolbooks. Add a bike rack, backpack, panniers, or trailer. The e-bike does the heavy lifting. You just ride. Get outside. Experience organic air conditioning. Joy ride on two wheels instead of four. Let fresh springtime air perfume your hair. Parking is free!
E-bikes cost more (about $2,500 on up, depending on options) because you get more. The bike is beefier to support the motor and horsepower. Battery and charger is included ($650 value). Fenders, LED lights, and digital displays are often included. Bluetooth is optional. Get healthier. Buy less gasoline. Minimize car miles and expensive repairs. That’s all worth something.
Michigan law defines e-bikes in three classes:
Class 1 – Provides assistance only when the rider is pedaling and ceases to function at 20 mph. No minimum age, no helmet required.
Class 2 – Assists up to 20 mph whether the rider is pedaling or not (has a separate throttle), and ceases to function when brakes are applied. No minimum age, no helmet required.
Class 3 – Provides assistance only when the rider is pedaling and ceases to function at 28 mph. Minimum age is 14, helmet required.
Class 1 e-bikes are the most versatile, and can be ridden on a multi-use trail or roadway that runs from point to point with an asphalt, crushed limestone, or similar surface, or a rail trail (a retired railroad route) unless prohibited by local agencies. Check local ordinances for Class 1 e-Bike availability on local trails.
Class 2 or Class 3 e-bikes can be trail ridden as above only if authorized. Presume that it’s illegal to ride Class 2 or Class 3 e-bikes on trails unless expressly allowed by local authorities. Michigan e-bike law specifically prohibits all e-bikes on nonmotorized mountain bike and hiking trails (trails with a natural surface made by clearing and grading the native soil with no added surfacing materials) unless local authorities allow them.
Michigan e-bike law does not apply to congressionally-authorized public trail systems such as the North Country National Scenic Trail. No e-bikes on Mackinac Island.
When e-biking, the rider has the rights and duties of a vehicle driver, and the same requirements as a bicycle rider. When riding an e-bike on the road, treat it like a bicycle and follow all traffic laws.
Michigan law specifically excludes e-bikes from the definition of “motor vehicles.” Auto insurance for an e-bike isn’t required and it’s often covered in the same way as a bicycle. But, since e-bikes cost more, consult your insurance agent to ensure coverage under your homeowner’s or renter’s insurance policy. If someone steals your e-bike, you want insurance! If not insured, consider purchasing a policy rider.
Yeah, you can google “e-bikes” but visit your local bike shops instead for details and local model options. Take an e-bike for an e-ride. Bike shops are excited about e-bikes. You will be too. Vive la révolution!
Steve Waller’s family lives in a wind- and solar-powered home. He has been involved with conservation and energy issues since the 1970s and frequently teaches about energy. Steve can be reached at Steve@UPWallers.net.
Excerpted with permission from the Spring 2020 issue of Health & Happiness U.P. Magazine. Copyright 2020, Empowering Lightworks, LLC.