Purists, Cults, and Wheelies

Wham-O Wheelie Bar
Image: Skate and Annoy

Electric bike? That’s cheating!

Multiple gears? That’s cheating too!

Hair on you legs? Get real.

Street clothes? I don’t know you.

As much as I get annoyed by the purists cults within cycling, this morning I was reminded of what that purist impulse feels like:


That’s right. Back in the day, I could not abide an assisted wheelie. But now the Wham-O Wheelie Bar is looking good to me. I could use a little help.

Our J.O.Y.B.A.G.â„¢ project has predictably raised some purist eyebrows. We are evaluating a few e-bikes, although we are not necessarily convinced that the ultimate J.O.Y.B.A.G.â„¢ bike have an electric motor.

But just as my wheelie skills have atrophied over time, there may come a day when I need a bit of a push to get me going on a bike. In fact, that day actually visited me recently when my leg was in a brace. Yet I was able to continue bike commuting thanks to the A2B Metro electric bike.

Whatever gets people commuting by bike, and keeps them doing it, is likely to be fine by me.

Speaking of Wham-O, in the 1960’s they produced a product with a name more awkward to say than J.O.Y.B.A.G.â„¢

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7 thoughts on “Purists, Cults, and Wheelies”

  1. grrlyrida says:

    I don’t necessarily feel it’s a purist thing regarding the e-bike article. As the article was written it appeared in the beginning to be about the joy of just getting on your bike and riding. But instead I felt like you were shilling for the e-bike industry, because all the bikes pictured were ebikes and then that’s what the article was really about: the joy of electric scootering.

    The article was not clear that it was going to be about e-bikes until after a few paragraphs. It seemed kinda bait and switch to me.

    If people want to ride an electric scooter that’s their business, but I think you do a disservice to the reader not stating clearly up front that this is an e-bike article. That’s why I think you received a lot of negative comments about e-biking regarding this article.

    1. Ted Johnson says:

      We are indeed focusing a lot of J.O.Y.B.A.G.â„¢ attention on this small fleet of e-bikes, and that could misdirect someone into thinking that J.O.Y.B.A.G.â„¢ is only about e-bikes. We will have a post about that in the near future, but trust me when I say that this project is an exercise in open-mindedness about bikes, and what helps and hinders their mass appeal.

      However, I want to call BS on your blatant false equivalency. E-Bikes are not the same as electric scooters. Equating e-bikes with electric scooters does not, as you may have hoped, diminish their legitimacy as bikes. The man who calls an apple an orange does not diminish the legitimacy of the apple; he diminishes his own credibility as fruit taxonomist.

  2. This project has brought up an interesting element that I have been aware of for some time, and that element is how the biggest barrier for me becoming a more serious cyclist has been this feeling that the folks who are already serious cyclist in my eyes give me a feeling that I am not welcome.

    I would not ride an e-bike either, but different strokes for different folks as they say. When I first started out riding seriously as a daily commuter I was not in great shape and I didn’t then and still don’t have a quality bike. There were days when I would gladly have accepted electric assist to help me get up what I thought were hills on the FUTS along hwy 66.

    Now I rarely get up out of the seat and I enjoy the hard work to push up these slight inclines and against this spring wind in Flagstaff, but starting out was different. I see e-bikes as being a great way for some people to transition into biking more in general, and who knows, they could get more comfortable with cycling and gain some strength and endurance and end up switching to a “real” bike, in the eyes of many. I did a quick search for “e-bike leasing programs” and I didn’t find much. I think there should be more bike leasing/sharing/borrowing in general that is available to people, but especially the e-bikes due to the cost.


    Ted, I am sure now it was you who passed me as we were leaving the YMCA earlier this week, if you passed a guy on a green beach cruiser who looked like he was a relative of Grizzly Adams that was me.

  3. BluesCat says:

    Ahhhh. (sigh) The Schwinn Stingray.

    That was THE bike to have when I was a kid, and unfortunately my folks couldn’t afford to buy me one.

    That fact is one of the (minor) reasons I ride a Sun EZ-Sport. If you squint at it just right, it looks remarkably like a 21st Century, adult version of the Stingray.

    And, Keith, I can relate to the “serious cyclist snobbery” whenever I ride THIS bike. But I tend to think of it this way: My comfort while riding is a SERIOUS concern for me; if I had to butter my butt, and wear a Lycra version of Depends, in order to be comfortable on a bike, there is NO way I could treat that bike SERIOUSLY!

    I didn’t get the impression that Ted and company were selling e-bikes with the J.O.Y.B.A.G.â„¢ project. I felt they were using e-bikes as an example of a product which would help get people out of their cars and into cycling. Whatever works, to get us to that “tipping point” — where enough people are on bicycles that we are given the same serious consideration as motorized transportation — is fine by me!

  4. Carla says:

    Pedelecs use motion or torque sensors to add power as you pedal harder, as if you had an extra pair of strong legs helping you cycle. It makes the feeling of cycling really quite natural.

    Alternatively, you can have a throttle-assist electric bike which is similar to a moped with a twist grip on the handlebars, or even just a button which you hold down, making you feel eight-year old astronaut again.

    This is better if you’re not happy about pedalling constantly, although you do have to pedal to get going, albeit gently. This is so it’s still legally classified as a bicycle, and means you don’t have to hold a licence or pay road tax here in the UK. Throttle-assist electric bikes aren’t legal in all countries however.

    There are three places for the motor to be; near the pedals as part of the transmission system, in the front wheel hub or in the rear wheel hub. It’s worth trying them all out.

  5. denny says:

    Read the equation; what did you think it was about…

  6. FionaRees says:

    E-bike is good for some lads, but for a purist i don’t think that it really is anywhere a perfection mould. You also cannot do innovative things and be stunt-o-manics on an e-bike. Loves the wheelie round on my professional bike tours with my bunch of lads, sparing an e-bike for an evening stroll.

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