Should I Buy a 28 Mph E-Bike?

Video Transcription:

Hi, it's Jim Dodson, The Florida Bike Guy. So, should I buy a 28 mile per hour e-bike? You know, Florida law permits us to have three classes or describes e-bikes or bicycles really in three classes. In a class three e-bike is the 28 mile per hour capable pedal-assist bike, but there's some question in the minds of a lot of people about whether I should even buy that technology. Sometimes it's going to come with a bike that you really like. Other times you have to, you know, kind of go after and get it for a particular bike that you want and in some e-bikes that come with class one and class two capability can be modified legally to become class three and sometimes the manufacturer will tell you how to do that.

The larger question I think for many people is so why do I need a bike that goes 28 miles per hour? Some of the reasons I've seen related to commuters, if you're using your bike for commuting. Second, certain e-bikes we can't lose sight of the fact that they can be used, not only utilitarian purposes, but for fun. A lot of times, quite frankly, it's fun for a lot of people to have access to that extra speed. One of the big advantages, I think, that many people who live in hilly climates appreciate about e-bikes is, I guess, the ability to maintain your speed as you go up the hill or you're going 15 or 18 or 22, to be able to do that up a hill at the same effort that you're on the flat. It's pretty amazing. That's one of the great advantages of having e-bikes. For most of us living here, close to where I live, you know, that would be going over a bridge maybe, which is probably a three minute, 10 minute deal.

But some controversy about e-bikes when the statute was first amended, and they left in the statute, the legislature left in the statute that e-bikes can be operated legally where bicycles can be operated. That meant they could be operated on a sidewalk. Now, municipalities have been given the authority to restrict e-bikes or restrict any bicycles, frankly, from being on sidewalks, particularly in certain areas within municipalities. That's a topic for perhaps another program about whether e-bikes should be permitted on sidewalks, but they clearly should not be permitted on sidewalks at 28 miles per hour.

One of the things, I guess I've run into most frequently by people who opt to have the 28 mile-per-hour bike is well, you know, my automobile says it'll go 130 mph, but I never drive it past say 70 mph. It doesn't mean that because I have the capability, I'm necessarily going to use it. There's a definite difference as we all know between someone who rides at 12 or 14 or 18 or 20 mph, and someone who rides at 26 or 28 mph. It requires a totally different skill set, and my concern has been for someone who is a slower rider or a middle-of-the-pack rider going 15 or 18 miles per hour. Suddenly, they have the capability of going 28 mph which raises some concerns about are you equipped by your experience level to safely operate that bike in the environment in which you're operating in?

Typically, you know, if I train with the idea that I want to ride 28 miles per hour, I mean, it would take me a while to do that, but I go through riding 15 and then 20 mph, and then 22 and 25 mph before I'm capable of riding those higher speeds. You learn not only your reaction, but the bike that you're riding and its reaction to the road and circumstances and slowing and all of the things that we encounter on the road. So, the disadvantage that I would say from a safety standpoint is an e-bike can eliminate all of that learning curve, and a person without the skill set to go 28 mph can suddenly ride 28 mph, but are they capable of doing it safely from an experience level.

Remember, a bike going faster than the usual 18 or 20 mph that we commonly experience. That changes a lot of dynamics on the road. If you are going along at 25 or 26 miles an hour, and a car passes you with the intention that they're going to make a right turn the block ahead, they're not expecting a bicycle to be closing on them at 26, 27 miles per hour. It can lead to encounters that we shouldn't have, and the other thing is that, you know, from the opposite direction to they're waiting to turn left across your path into a driveway or a side street, and they're not,  just never seen a bicycle going 28 miles an hour probably on a flat road, in an intersection, in a place where, you know, they don't normally experience it. So they're not looking number one. They're not expecting the person to be coming that quickly, and it can create those encounters.

I think from the rider's perspective as well,  a rider going 26, 27, 25 mph, whatever the speeds, you know, maybe a time and a half faster than you normally ride, you will approach intersections faster, you are going to have people coming out of side streets and you're going to be there faster. Everything quickens up, and you have to be prepared and experienced to handle that. So, there's a caveat about having that available speed and using it.

Bikes that have the capability of going that fast typically have beefier braking capacity. Sometimes they get heavier because they add features in order to go quicker. That can effect the stopping power of the bike, the stopping time, the stopping distance. All those things have to be sort of factored in, and it's something that as you use the speed, you have to get accustomed to the speed. We all hear the stories about, or the concern, I guess, by bike clubs that you have somebody who suddenly joins a bike club ride. They've been a 14, 15 mile per hour rider, and suddenly, they can ride, with the A group. You know, but are they an A group rider, and does the A group want them there, you know, quite frankly? These are issues that, you know, clubs have to come to grips with.

So I think, I think it's an amazing technology that we have bikes that have this capability. I think personally, when I select my bike, I think it's probably going to be a class three bike. I think I'd like to have the option of having the speed that goes with the bike. That doesn't mean that it has to be used all the time, but I think from a general, you know, bikes are fun, and the idea of being able to go fast, even for brief periods, is fun if done properly under the right circumstances. So, these are some of the criteria that we have to weigh as to make a decision about buying these bikes.

I think it's fantastic that we have the choice, that we have the opportunity that they're available out there. The manufacturers are making them, and there's a demand for them, and that the statute is really quite frankly embraced the concept of class one, class two and class three, giving us this added dimension to our cycling experience.

Remember, when you select an e-bike, make sure it's no more than a class three. If you get a bike is capable of going 35, 40 and 45 miles per hour, it is no longer considered a bicycle, and that can have insurance implications if you're in a crash about whether your uninsured motorist will cover it or not. So, there's a lot of issues you want to, my recommendation is you stay within the class one, class two, class three categories unless you're equipped and prepared to get additional, potential insurance on your bike.

So, you know, in our practice, we have a special commitment to cyclists, and whether you've been injured in Florida, anywhere in Florida, on a bike or in a car, if you need me, I'll be there for you. We're only a phone call away. So I'm Jim Dodson, The Florida Bike Guy. Be safe out there, and I look forward to hearing from you about your e-bike experience. Take care! Bye.

Jim Dodson
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A Florida injury lawyer, family man and avid cyclist who clients have trusted for over 25 years.