While there are a variety of e-bikes being manufactured by major bicycle companies like Giant and Specialized, most of them are equipped with small electric-powered motors that assist bikers when pedaling. Since they hit the market several years ago, many riders have turned to e-bikes for a myriad of uses, such as mountain biking up and down steep hills and hunting isolated spots.
Cody Denne, owner of Ron’s Bike Shop in Mitchell, has embraced the e-biking craze and sells them at his local bike shop. Majority of e-bikes are set to reach speeds of up to 20 to 30 mph and cap off when riders hit those speeds. Each state has its own set of rules and regulations for e-bike motors and speed levels that are acceptable to ride them on bike paths and multi-use paths.
While they haven’t been top sellers since he began offering them roughly a year ago, Denne is predicting e-bikes will soon take off and compete with traditional bikes.
“E-bikes are going to take off,” Denne said. “A lot more different types of riders are finding ways they can really benefit from them.”
Denne believes e-bikes will likely become more popular among the older demographic of cyclists largely because of the bikes ability to help ease leg movements throughout the entire duration of a ride.
“They can help an older demographic of riders keep up with riders who are in their 30s and 40s and are in top bike-riding shape. It won’t be nearly as hard for them to keep up with a group of mixed riders at different levels, which can make the whole group ride go smoother without having to slow down,” Denne said. “That’s the group I’ve sold most of mine to thus far.”
However, older riders aren’t the only group of cyclists who may find major benefits in e-bikes. Outdoor enthusiasts and mountain bikers who trek up steep hills and terrain to camp for a night or two are another group of riders e-bikes are being used by, Denne said.
“A lot of mountain bikers are all about the downhill ride, so it preserves some energy riding up the hill to make for a better downhill ride,” Denne said. “People who are going to camp out or hunt in a steep spot don’t have to work so hard to ride up the hills just to get where they want to go. These are great for that type of stuff. I have a friend who climbed 12,000 feet of elevation, which took him about an hour and a half. Without the e-bike, it would take on average at least 3 to 4 hours to climb a hill that steep.”
Considering the motor on most e-bikes is optional to use at any time, Denne said some riders will pedal the bike in a traditional manner throughout the duration of their ride and turn to the motor assistance when pedaling uphill.
“You’re seeing a lot more people use the pedal assist to ride uphill and not use the motor for the rest of their rides,” Denne said.
Since e-bikes took off recently, some states and municipalities have already moved to adopt e-bike laws and regulations to welcome them. South Dakota is among those states, which allows e-bikes that are classified in three different categories to be driven on bike trails, sidewalks and other roads, as long as the motors are 750 watts or lower.
For class 1 and 2 e-bikes, which can be “equipped with a motor that provides assistance only when the rider is pedaling” or “equipped with a throttle-actuated motor,” both must cease to provide assistance when the e-bike reaches 20 mph in order to ride them on a bike path or multi-use path in the state.
However, class 3 e-bikes, which are equipped with a motor that provides assistance only when the rider is pedaling and ceases to provide assistance when the e-bike reaches 28 mph, are not allowed to be ridden on bike paths and multi-use paths, according to South Dakota state law. Instead, they are allowed to be driven on roads.
At Ron’s Bike Shop, the majority of Denne’s business includes selling, servicing and repairing traditional bicycles. Now that he’s welcomed e-bikes into the store, which range in price from $1,800 to $3,000, he’s learned the ropes of servicing them as well.
A small computerized screen placed along the handlebars is what’s used to control speeds of the motor assisting. Denne said he’s able to reconfigure the settings to keep e-bikes operating without having to tear into the motors.
“These are real slick. I am starting to see more people from all age groups ask about the e-bikes I have in stock, and I think that’s only going to grow,” Denne said.