E-bikes have forever changed the way we ride. Not only has it broadened the demographic that’s able to hop on two wheels and hit the trails (riding pedal-assist bikes has proven to be hugely beneficial for older riders) but it also unlocks ride possibilities that we would have never dreamed of on analog bikes. Without a motor and a battery, riding 25 miles straight into a national park and expecting to make it back to your campsite before the sun set would have been laughable.
But as each bike company races to design an e-bike that will go faster, further, and climb higher, more people are finding themselves in sticky, even dangerous situations, prompting e-bike-curious riders to ask…
Are Ebikes safe?
The short answer: yes. Ebikes—like electric scooters—are safe when properly taken care of, and when a rider follows traffic laws, general safety guidelines, takes their time mounting and dismounting (no, really, simply toppling over has been a leading cause of serious injury), and most importantly wears a helmet. But, just like when you hop in a car, when you jump on an ebike, you assume a level of risk.
Safety and injury prevention looks different for everyone and varies significantly whether you’re using your e-bike to commute across town in bike paths and on pavement or climbing several thousand feet in the woods to descend over roots and through rock gardens. But, there are a number of different general guidelines and best practices to keep in mind every time you hop on.
- Fully Stop at All Stop Signs
This goes for intersections too. Although Washington State is making headlines for relaxing some of the traffic laws that govern bikes (like they are legally allowed to roll through stop signs), it’s always best practice to ride in the city in a way that’s extremely predictable to a car. If there are bike lanes, it’s always advisable to stay in them, make sure you’re always using your hand signals when you’re turning, and stay a safe distance behind cars if you find yourself following one down a neighborhood street.
We also recommend sticking strictly to speed limits. While some electric bikes can reach speeds of up to 30 miles per hour, in school zones, or residential neighborhoods, following speed limits can keep you safe and in good graces with the neighbors.
- Make Yourself Extremely Visible
Because electric bikes are so much faster than their analog counterparts, sometimes it’s hard for traffic, pedestrians, and other riders to predict how fast you will approach. So doing all you can to make yourself visible will be extremely beneficial to keeping you safe. If you’re planning on riding at night, we highly recommend a reflective vest and flashing lights on your bike frame at a minimum.
Before you pull out of the garage and pedal away, take some time to think about your riding situation and hazards you might encounter and properly equip yourself with relevant safety gear.
- Always Wear a Helmet
This is a no-brainer (pun intended) but one of the easiest ways to prevent an injury. Did you know you’re 70% less likely to sustain a serious head injury when you’re wearing a helmet? The numbers don’t lie! Plus, in many states you can be issued a citation and even get charged a fine if you are rolling around town without head protection. The simple facts: it’s just not worth it!
- Bring an Extra Battery
While running out of battery might not be unsafe per se if you’re riding your electric bike around the city, if you find yourself out in the woods far away from camp and you’re running out of battery, that can be a different story—especially if you left the camping gear at the campsite.
All-in with the QuietKat Pathfinder and the QuietKat Pathfinder Battery Charger, you’re looking at perhaps an extra 10 pounds or so in your pack. That’s well worth it to save you the hassle of trying to pedal a heavy, dead, electric mountain bike the long way home.
Having the battery charger on hand is extremely handy in town. If we’re headed out for more than a quick errand, you won’t catch us rolling around without one! There are many different places to plug in your electric bike charger on the go. From coffee shops to public libraries to campgrounds and parks and even at your local bike shop, with a creative imagination, you’ll never find yourself without a charge.
- Take Time to Learn Your Bike Before You Hit Features
If you’re a rider that likes to get airborne, even if it’s just dropping off tall curbs and bunny hopping over puddles in the pavement, we recommend taking some leisurely laps around the parking lot—even spending a week or two—getting slowly acquainted with the feel, balance, and power of your new e-bike before you attempt to ride it the same way you ride your analog bike.
In the end, it’s true: you assume a bit higher risk when you hop on an electric mountain bike than if you were to always stick with your old faithful. But when people ask, “what are the disadvantages of electric bikes?” Our earnest answer is, “none.”