A right of passage.

If you need to pass people on a trail, it’s best to say something friendly as you approach them. Ralph ven den Berg and Max Chapuis know all about passing people on the trail. They climbed 47,975 vertical feet in 16 hours on their way to setting a new ebike world record in Switzerland this year. Photo by Martin Bissig



By Saris Mercanti

Recently, I’ve been enjoying my ebike quite a bit. The reasons aren’t clear to me. Maybe it’s sheer laziness, the novelty of the experience, or the chance to get more laps in with minimal effort. That last one rings especially true living on the West Coast, where we’ve been caught amidst two climate extremes, with a slim window of perfect hero dirt.

Despite my ebiking enthusiasm, I’m struggling with how to pass actual cyclists—those who grit their teeth and battle gravity with each arduous pedal stroke.

I believe in the golden rule: do unto others as you would have done unto yourself. I appreciate an ebiker who waits until a passing lane presents and makes a clean Eli Tomac-style pass for the lead. However, there’s an even more golden, golden rule that I’ve come to appreciate: do unto others as they would have done unto themselves.

Recently, as I waited patiently for a chance to pass some gravel cyclists, they became annoyed that I hadn’t called out, “On your left!” and gave it some metaphorical gas. During the same ride, another rider was upset when she let me pass and realized I was on an ebike.

Apparently, I should have announced what kind of bike I was riding, so she could determine whether to pull over or not. Presumably, she wouldn’t have pulled over for an ebiker, but I didn’t stick around for the full lecture. Sorry, Karen.

And then I get back on my bicycle, and as I slowly grind uphill, alone in my own thoughts, getting passed by a conga line of ebikers, I realize that getting passed by an ebiker, no matter how polite, is annoying.
The lack of universal ebike etiquette probably doesn’t help. There are a lot of folks who think their motorized speed entitles them to pass you on the “French line,” causing unnecessary erosion. Others get annoyed when you don’t immediately pull over. And then there are the normals, the folks like you and me.

The world is filled with contradictions and complexities, and I don’t have any good answers. Even with the best of intentions, there are bound to be misunderstandings and frustrations. The golden rule of treating others as you’d like to be treated is a good place to start, but some people are entitled individuals. So, now, I just try to take a deep breath and remind myself that we all love bicycles and the outdoors.

So, fellow riders, how do you like being treated when passing or being passed by ebikers?

Let us know here!

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