E-bikes are a convenient, fun way to get some extra exercise or speed up a commute. However, it’s important to remember that they aren’t just toys. Recently, the famous America’s Got Talent host Simon Cowell broke his back in several places after testing a new e-bike in front of his family in Malibu.
While it appears that Cowell is recovering well, going home just a week after the accident, it’s still a reminder of the risks inherent in riding an e-bike. Cowell himself tweeted, “If you buy an electric trail bike, read the manual before you ride it for the first time.” Understanding how to ride an e-bike safely can help prevent many accidents and minimize your injuries from accidents that aren’t your fault. Here are some tips for riding e-bikes safely.
Monitor Your Speed
The most important difference between an e-bike and a conventional bike comes down to speed. The motor on an e-bike allows riders to reach higher speeds with less effort than traditional bikes. For many riders, it’s all too easy to exceed a pace that’s reasonable or safe.
Keep an eye on your speed while you’re biking to understand exactly how fast you’re going. Most e-bikes come with built-in speedometers to help you stay under safe limits. Furthermore, it can help you stay under the speed limit. In California, e-bikes can be ridden at speeds up to 20 mph on trails. On some roads, they can be ridden at speeds as high as 28 mph if the bike has a pedal-assist system. These speed limits are in place because they help minimize accidents and injuries – following them is in your own best interest.
New e-bike riders should also ease into the experience. This may be where Simon Cowell went wrong in his accident. It’s tempting to turn on the highest power-assist mode when you first get on an e-bike, but that’s a bad idea. Instead, start with the lowest setting and work your way up. This can help you develop a better sense of how the e-bike feels and handles. It can also keep you from underestimating the bike and crashing.
Another side effect of the power that e-bikes offer is that braking becomes harder. As your speed increases, you need to react to things more quickly to avoid accidents. In particular, it’s important to start braking sooner for things like stop signs and pedestrians to avoid collisions.
People who are used to riding unpowered bicycles should take particular care. Since riding an e-bike takes less effort than traditional bikes, it’s easy to misjudge when to start braking. Many e-bikes still rely on entirely manual braking, so stopping the bike may take more power or time than the rider anticipates. It’s always better to start braking too early on an e-bike than to try to brake too late and wind up in an accident.
Take Care While Getting On and Off
E-bikes are deceptively heavy. While they appear similar to a standard bike, they can be twenty pounds heavier than a similar unpowered bike – or more. Most adults can easily hold up an aluminum-frame unpowered bike. However, if an e-bike starts to tip, it’s possible to injure yourself while getting on and off. If you’re concerned about mounting the bike, consider getting a step-through frame for safety.
Take Visibility Seriously
Cyclists and bikers are some of the most vulnerable people in traffic. Since e-bikes are often expected to remain on the road in urban areas, it’s important to take precautions to protect yourself from other motorists. Since e-bikes are a relatively new innovation, most drivers aren’t yet prepared for cyclists to be going almost as fast as the car they’re driving.
That’s why it’s vital to take visibility seriously when riding e-bikes. All bikes should have reflectors on the wheels, the pedals, and the front and back. Many e-bike riders also add headlights to their bikes, as well as LED lights if they plan on riding in dim conditions.
Riders themselves can also be more visible. Wearing bright colors or reflective vests gives drivers a lot more to see and avoid. Furthermore, most helmets include visibility strips, and you should always wear a helmet if you’re riding any type of bicycle.
Riding an e-bike requires that you pay attention. You’re sharing the road with huge vehicles that can go faster than you. While most car-and-bicycle accidents aren’t the cyclist’s fault, staying alert can help riders avoid inattentive drivers.
Never wear headphones or earbuds while riding a bike. Your ears are your best early warning system. Listening to something else prevents you from hearing approaching traffic and reduces your situational awareness. That can be the difference between getting out of the way of erratic drivers and getting in an accident.
Follow General Bike Safety Rules
Finally, and most importantly, e-bike riders should remember that they are still riding a bike. That means that following standard safety guidelines is essential. These guidelines include:
- Always wear a helmet
- Obey traffic laws
- Signal turns in advance
- Be as predictable as possible while riding
- Bike with the flow of traffic, never against
- Keep both feet on the pedals at all times
- Keep your hands firmly on the handlebars
- Avoid riding at night or during the rain
- Don’t try to carry extra passengers on the bike
Following these rules helps reduce the risk of vulnerable cyclists getting injured in any kind of bike accident. Whether a bike has a motor or not, it’s still a bike. Cyclists always lose in accidents with larger vehicles, so it’s essential to protect yourself.
E-bikes are becoming more common every day. They’re undoubtedly efficient, environmentally friendly, and often fun. However, they aren’t risk-free. If you’re considering getting an e-bike, it’s crucial to understand how the bike works before you take it for a spin. Following these safety guidelines will help you bike safely and avoid injuring yourself as Cowell did. More importantly, they can also help you avoid being injured by other people, too.