Stab Magazine | Are Electric Bikes the New Leash?
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Are Electric Bikes the New Leash?

You can now plug in your goon cord.

style // Nov 10, 2018
Words by Stab
Reading Time: 3 minutes

Being blown off the Trestles trail by a herd of burros on electric bikes with Wave Storms sheathed in their board ranks is enough to make a grown man throw rocks.

Just today, when I should have been writing this, I sat in the lineup at Uppers watching an overweight, middle-aged man riding way too short of a board blow wave after wave because he couldn’t get to his feet quick enough. Then he’d suck wind paddling back out, looking like he was on the brink of a heart attack.

It was barely chest-high.

Pushing my skateboard up the trail after my session, the guy flew by on his electric bike. He definitely could have benefitted from pedaling. Definitely. We all could. You know, physical fitness and all.

That’s the thing about these electric bikes, one used to have to earn their session down at the Trestle. You had to walk, skate or bike in. It culled the herd, especially all the entitled newbies that breeze through town. But now it seems like everyone’s added some wattage to their rides.

The top-of-the-line electric bikes in town sell for a whisker under $2,000. Fully charged, they have a range of 25 miles and can do an upwards of 25 mph. Shit, they can carry a payload of nearly 300 pounds. And everyone from former world tour surfers to the kookiest kooks seems to have one.

I get it.

You can get to and from the beach quicker, making surfing harder-to-access spots like Trestles more efficient. And because you don’t have to exert yourself pedaling, it’s easier. Quicker and easier, that’s the American way these days, but shit, what happened to slowing yourself down a little and soaking in your session?

To date, whatever regulations there are on the books at Trestles have not gone enforced. A source close to the subject has indicated that California State Park rangers and lifeguards have been told to let the electric bikes be for now due to the murky nature of current enforcement policies. They indicated it would more than likely take somebody getting hit by a bike and a subsequent lawsuit to change the situation. Nothing like getting plowed over at 25 mph by a middle-aged dude to really change the system.

California Vehicle Code 312.5 defines an electric bike as “a bicycle equipped with fully operable pedals and an electric motor of less than 750 watts. They break them down into three classes:

(1) A “class 1 electric bicycle,” or “low-speed pedal-assisted electric bicycle,” is a bicycle equipped with a motor that provides assistance only when the rider is pedaling, and that ceases to provide assistance when the bicycle reaches the speed of 20 miles per hour.

(2) A “class 2 electric bicycle,” or “low-speed throttle-assisted electric bicycle,” is a bicycle equipped with a motor that may be used exclusively to propel the bicycle, and that is not capable of providing assistance when the bicycle reaches the speed of 20 miles per hour.

(3) A “class 3 electric bicycle,” or “speed pedal-assisted electric bicycle,” is a bicycle equipped with a motor that provides assistance only when the rider is pedaling, and that ceases to provide assistance when the bicycle reaches the speed of 28 miles per hour, and equipped with a speedometer.

Maybe if I had a spare $2,000 to drop on one maybe I’d be more into the electric bike thing, but I don’t think so. That’s like a quiver of new custom shapes from Cole Simlar or Timmy Patterson. Some of my best friends swear by the bikes. It’s a bummer. It’s like they voted for Trump or started kneeboarding or something.

The other day I saw a bumper sticker that read: “The leash killed surfing.” My wife couldn’t figure it out, so I had to explain how the leash allowed people to surf that, in some cases, couldn’t even swim and definitely didn’t belong in the lineup. Folks used to have to earn their place in the water. They used to have to be able to control their board to keep it from the rocks. They used to have to be much more in tune with their surfing before the leash was invented.

The electric bike is similar. Those Trestles sessions used to be well-earned. They took time and were special because of it. Now every man, woman, and child with fresh charge can be down the trail in less than five minutes.

And don’t think for a minute that this isn’t going to happen everywhere. It surely won’t be long before the tranquil Ke Nui bike path on the North Shore turns into an expressway.

Spots outside of Santa Cruz like Four Mile are ripe for electric bike traffic. So long NorCal soul session, hello Silicone Valley dorks.

Now, I’m not saying you have to hate electric bikes, I’m just saying that I do.

(Editor’s Note: Jake Howard is a 40-year-old San Clementine. This editor, being a 28-year-old, lazy millennial, disagrees with this argument as zipping down to Lowers and back up the hill at Mach speed sounds delightful.)

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