The Rise of E-Bikes and Their Impact on the Cycling Industry

54 comments by Igor Shteynbuk

In recent years, the cycling industry has witnessed a significant transformation with the rise of e-bikes. These electrically powered bicycles have revolutionized the way people commute, explore, and experience cycling. As e-bikes continue to gain popularity, their impact on the cycling industry is undeniable - shaping trends, redefining mobility, and opening up new possibilities for riders of all backgrounds. Let's delve into the rise of e-bikes and explore their pros and cons on the cycling landscape.

Growth of E-Bikes

We are, without a doubt, in the midst of an e-bike boom. Every sporting brand adjacent to cycling has an ebike. It's virtually impossible to read about industry news without e-bikes being mentioned or referenced in some capacity whether it is good or bad news. According to Vantage Market Research, the global e-bike market is projected to grow from $53 billion to $112 billion and have a Compound Annual Growth rate of 9.7% from 2022 to 2030. That's huge!

In the past 10 years there have been major strides in advancing e-bike technology with better motors, longer lasting batteries, and more power. The ideal is that people ditch their cars and use their e-bikes to get around to do day-to-day tasks. Thus alleviating congestion, making people more attuned with the outdoors, and ultimately healthier. This all sounds awesome. And don't get me wrong, I am generally in favor of e-bikes. I think their introduction into the mainstream can be seen as a positive in a lot of ways.

How Riders Use E-Bikes 

photo courtesy of

Adrian had an e-bike when she commuted into DC for work. It was an awesome alternative to waiting at the Metro and walking (this was before bikes were allowed on the trains during work hours).

I've seen couples on the trail riding happily together while one partner was on an aero road bike and the other on an e-bike. I've read stories of people doing tours over mountains - many of whom admit they wouldn't have been able to do it on (I'll say it for the sake of this article) analog bikes. And I've seen people who found that their e-bike allowed them to begin cycling after life-changing events.

Going to cities, you see tons of delivery drivers with food containers, large packages, tubes of documents, and anything and everything that can fit on a bike. Fewer cars making back and forth trips in already congested areas makes sense. 

Technologically Speaking

Well, not all e-bikes are created equally. There is an enormous range of quality, safety, and compatibility. The quality and safety issues are the main drivers of legislation and change within the US and our industry. There are numerous reports of fires that cause death, injuries, and millions of dollars of damages with the prime culprit being poorly constructed e-bikes. New York City alone saw more than 200 fires caused by e-bikes, e-scooters, and similar products.

There's obviously a need for something to be done with regards to safety. There are already many regulations going through the US Government to regulate how e-bikes are made, what components are used, and how they are transported. This is an important step in an otherwise pure money-grab from many actors who don't care about safety. This is an important step that will save lives.

A step e-bike manufacturers need to take is to make their bike sustainable for the long term. An (insert sigh here) analog bike could last indefinitely with regular maintenance. Forget friction vs indexing or disc brakes vs rim brakes - that isn't important in the long term. The life-cycle of this type of bike is decades for all intents and purposes. Steel and aluminum frames can be recycled unlike carbon, but I digress.

Adrian's e-bike is a Trek Valencia+ with a Bionx system. It was really nice and served her well - 3x10 Deore components, integrated lighting, nice rear rack, flat bars. That is, until the battery and controller died and Bionx closed their doors with OEM parts no longer available. Keep in mind even if I could find something, it will still be quite old (in tech years) at this point with an unknown service history. And now, it sits in our garage waiting for a conversion to analog because what else can you do?

This story is not unique. I've heard numerous anecdotes of someone's bike breaking and the are no replacement parts to be had. Some bikes are so integrated with the battery, motor, and controller that it is not reasonable to even change it to another system and the brand can't warranty it because it is no longer supported. As e-bikes age, they are quickly turning to electronic waste destined for the scrap yard along with old laptops, tube monitors, and old cell phones. That is something the industry needs to be prepared for. I hope there is regulation that will require companies to support these products for a reasonable period of time.

We Can't Tech Ourselves Out of Bad Infrastructure 

There is some really good news about federal funding for bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure! From the People for Bikes news website (whole article can be read here):

" least $50 billion in funding is available for communities to plan and implement new infrastructure over the next five years through a combination of competitive and formula grants. Although all of that money won’t go to bikes, nearly $13 billion could realistically accelerate the planning and construction of biking and walking projects across the country, dramatically expanding access to safe infrastructure for millions of Americans."

As much as I would love to have huge bicycle highway projects funded and implemented, the reality is that sort of thing is slow and gets held up through bureaucracy and public vs private land lawsuits, etc.. The fact of the matter is that we need to get that low hanging fruit.

We all know those trails that are fantastic, but are disjointed. Building simple and safe connectors between those trails will increase ridership and usability. Guaranteed. 

We're lucky on the East Coast that we have so many old rail lines. Our Baltimore and Annapolis (B&A) Trail was an old rail line that was both for freight and passengers through the late 1800s into the mid 1900s. In the 70s after a trestle was washed away, the process to convert it into a trail began. Eventually, it will be part of the East Coast Greenway. So you could ride from Florida to Maine all off-road! 

As far as traveling in the city, this increased spending budget will help identify where pinch points are and help keep riders safe. And look - as much as I want to believe automobiles and bicycles/pedestrians can live in peace in urban environments, our cities have been developed and re-developed to accommodate cars and not people. The best thing is to build mixed use trails and separated (and protected!) bike lanes. Sharrows and green painted bike lanes don't work as well. If a car can pull into the lane at any moment, it's a failure. 

I heard one representative from a tech company at the Bicycle Leadership Conference talk about how they are developing a city and system that can communicate between cars, bikes, and streets. Basically, your bike would be fitted with this system and would ping your location between street posts and cars. If you are too close to a car, the driver of the vehicle would be alerted that there is a bike nearby. But you need to have a brand new Audi. No joke. We can't tech our way out of bad infrastructure and inattentive drivers.


photo courtesy of Qualcomm

The pure answer is that we need low-tech, sustainable infrastructure, that can be copy and pasted into other places. This is how an infrastructure plan can flourish. 

The Wrap-Up

The rise of e-bikes has brought about a transformative shift in the cycling industry. With their expanded accessibility, enhanced commuting capabilities, generally positive health effects, and influence on urban infrastructure, e-bikes have become a new and growing segment of our industry. There absolutely needs to be tighter regulation on manufacturing and importation. As e-bikes continue to evolve for the better, their impact on our lives will continue to grow, shaping the way we perceive and experience cycling in the years to come.  


  • Michael Abbott

    Having read the blog on ebikes and the accompanying comments, I’d like to add a perspective on the immense value of ebikes to senior citizens or those with disabilities. My wife and I were avid cyclists for many years (road bikes, tandem) but aging and health issues began to limit and even curtail our treasured rides. Enter the ebikes, and we’re out on the road again in our 55+ community and the surrounding Northern CA foothills. We know so many similarly situated seniors who would be deprived of the pleasures of bicycling were it not for ebikes. These are not trail or traffic terrorists but responsible riders whose cycling life, and life in general, is enhanced by the availability of ebikes. Thanks for considering this additional viewpoint.

  • jim hughes

    I’m old – 72 and still cycling, thank you. My opinion? E-bikes are just electric motorcycles with fake-y pedals, taking over the bicycle trails and lanes. Most people I see on them are young, healthy, and barely moving their feet in circles to activate a motor. Newer machines are bigger, heavier, and much faster. There’s no enforcement of speed limits, and I suspect in a few years some manufacturers will drop the pedals to save cost and weight. And no one will stop them.

    They might be fun, convenient, a greener way to commute for some, but people who think they’re “cycling” and getting some sort of health benefits are kidding themselves and will pay the price later in life. End of rant.

  • Rick Thompson

    I ride a fair amount around the north end of the SF Bay area, on my ebikes for commuting and cargo and on analog bikes for fun. I ride roads, gravel and paved MUP mostly. Most ebike riders I encounter are well behaved. On the 15 mph MUP they are generally within the limit, analog carbon and lycra racers going for time are worse. Are people encountering bad behavior mostly on dirt trails?

  • Bearded Bastard

    Limit the electric assist to 10mph and most if not all of the bad rider issues go away.

    Old people will still get the joy of bicycling. Fat people will still get the joy of bicycling. Everyone else will go buy an electric moped, which is what they really wanted in the first place anyway.

    Help us with regulation, California. You are our only hope.

  • john zenter

    25 years ago I first see these electric bicycles in Chengdu the ones with the motor inside the rear hub So being a tinker I wanted to buy just the hub with narrow profile
    and 36 spoke holes thought being to lace up a lightweight 700 rim with 150 psi tires at the time everything was heavy and cheap quality a waste of time for me
    I wanted a rocket ship not a shopping cart so that project went on HOLD the spoke holes were drilled too big for me and hubs only come pre drilled
    Although modern versions proliferate at an astounding rate the only version that appeals to me is the one that TDF Xrays the frame to detect ….still I prefer to pedal not pretend …… Also I resent seeing those motorized vehicles on the bike trail This was designed as a PARK for Walking Horses and Bicycles " Self Propelled " NO MOTORS

    Last Saturday we were riding Tandem on the trail when we encountered a woman on electric bike with two 5 year olds riding smaller version electric bikes on hill and curves

    the kids were not on a short leash and their mom obviously prefers not to pedal my opinion " bad example " an accident waiting to happen
    Not Quite as bad as the gas powered 4 wheelers and dirt bikes that also buzz down the trail at 50 MPH then duck off into the neighborhoods

    In Chengdu city there are dedicated lanes divided by a curb that separate bikes from bus lane then 2 travel lanes in both directions divided by a median curb or wall
    also an elevated electric rail line above makes me wonder where tax money here has been going the last hundred years

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