Sunday, September 18, 2016

The rise of e-bikes does not equal the death of human-powered bikes

There is no doubt that the rise of e-bikes is changing the bicycle business, but sometimes the excitement of the new and fear of missing out make for some mistaken bits of hyperbole. For example, this came across my Twitter stream this morning:

I replied:
On reflection, it's a fine headline. It generates clicks and it accurately quotes Mr. Butler-Adams. But I think he's wrong.

Some technologies really do replace and "kill off" others. Wikipedia really did put a lot of encyclopedia salesmen out of work. Digital cameras did kill Kodak's film business. And video killed the radio star.

Wait a minute, let's look at that last one for a bit.

When TV came along, it didn't kill radio. Radio drama pretty much died, but radio still exists. You may still listen to radio for news, music or traffic reports. For much of your information needs, you don't need or want a video component.

Now e-bikes solve some problems some folks have. They can add range and hill-climbing ability. But they add weight, price and complexity. For some folks, in some situations, e-bikes are the solution. But not all folks, in all situations. For many people, a bike that is solely human-powered is a better answer.

The Swiss Army Knife didn't make chef's knives obsolete. We live in world that has sporks, forks, spoons and chopsticks. And the non-e-bike isn't going away. E-bikes are here and they're getting better but they won't kill the bicycle.

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