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Here’s how electric bicycles are being used to teach new e-motorcycle riders

Believe it or not, an unassuming little electric bicycle may just be a gateway drug into the fun, exciting and environmentally friendly world of electric motorcycles.

Electric motorcycles have huge potential to solve traffic congestion issues and reduce pollution levels in cities.

In fact, they can be such a boon to cities that I’ve advocated for creating an entirely new license just for electric motorcycles and fast electric mopeds/e-bikes. 

Despite the long list of benefits of electric motorcycles, many people are simply intimidated by the idea of learning to ride a motorcycle. Which is certainly understandable.

But now we’re seeing how e-bikes are starting to be used to help teach new riders who are interested in the potential of electric motorcycles, but want to try it out with training wheels, so to speak.

Last month we reported on an initiative to get new riders onto an electric motorcycle without even needing a motorcycle license. It involved a fleet of Zero FXS electric motorcycles and an indoor riding course set up at International Motorcycle Show (IMS) events.

As it turns out, the event actually used electric bicycles to ease riders into the motorcycle experience before putting them on true motorcycles. Riders started out on Yamaha’s power assist bicycles, riding around a track while gradually increasing the motor power to get a feel for controlling a two-wheeled vehicle with its own electrical power source. Once riders were comfortable in the highest power mode, they switched over to Zero FXS electric motorcycles (the smallest bike in Zero’s lineup) with the speed and powered limited to a very low level, ensuring the bikes didn’t get away from any new riders.

Now I’ve spent a good amount of saddle time on both Yamaha’s electric bicycles and the Zero FXS electric motorcycle. And comparing the two is a bit like comparing apples and oranges.  But if you’re trying to explain what an apple is to someone who has never seen a piece of fruit before, showing them an orange isn’t really that far off anymore.

And to a certain extent, electric bicycles are already little electric motorcycles. As much as we electric bicycle riders go to great lengths to differentiate our bikes from electric motorcycles, largely to ensure that electric bicycles retain trail access and bicycle-legal status for bike lanes and other bicycle-related advantages, we can’t deny the similarities. Electric bicycles and electric motorcycles are both two-wheelers with batteries and electric motors. They have similar steering mechanics and riding characteristics. The main difference is essentially the electric motorcycle’s higher power level and lack of pedals. But for many people already riding high-power electric bicycles with throttles, the line is even blurrier.

yamaha wabash e-bike

Yamaha’s electric bicycles are serving as e-motorcycle trainers

For all intents and purposes, an electric bicycle is a great trainer for moving up to an electric motorcycle. That’s how it happened for me. I’ve spent over 10 years riding motorized bicycles, and at a certain point over the last decade I decided I wanted to try faster and more powerful two-wheelers that could take me on larger roads. I eventually I progressed up through seated electric scooters and finally to full electric motorcycles.

Now my garage has housed more than its fair share of electric bicycles, scooters and motorcycles side-by-side over the last few years. Each has its own application in which it excels more than others (including the scooters pleasing my wife the most), but the overlap means that I can often throw my leg over whichever two-wheeler strikes my fancy each morning.

Do I want a fast and exhilarating commute? I’ll take my electric motorcycle.

Do I want to get a little exercise? I’ll take my e-bike.

Do I need to go pick up a week’s worth of groceries? I’ll take my seated electric scooter.

Harley Davidson LiveWire review test ride

I wasn’t always riding electric Harleys – I started on simple electric bicycles

And with the massive increase in sales of electric bicycles over the last few years, there’s a growing market of e-riders that could be ripe for experiencing the joy, convenience and utility of electric motorcycles.

While most electric bicycle riders are probably perfectly content to keep their feet on the pedals, it could be that a portion of them are on their way to planting their feet on pegs. And with more electric bicycles, scooters, and motorcycles on the road, we’ll all enjoy fewer traffic jams and less pollution. And who can be mad at that?

Lead image credit: Justin Hughes

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Avatar for Micah Toll Micah Toll

Micah Toll is a personal electric vehicle enthusiast, battery nerd and author of the Amazon #1 bestselling books DIY Lithium Batteries, DIY Solar Power and the Ultimate DIY Ebike Guide.

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