All about bicycles, electric-assisted bikes, technology and safety in the press

The most common safety risks that we come across in our daily work around bicycle safety, technology and operating instructions are also published by us in articles in the leading German special-interest magazines TOUR (Europe's road bike magazine no. 1), BIKE (Europe's mountain bike magazine no. 1), MYBIKE and EMTB in order to make this information, which is important for the industry, available to a wider public.

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Augsburger Zeitung, 2022/04/06
Reading time 4:00 minutes

Kids with electric drive

The trend to equip everything that drives with an electric motor continues. There are now e-bikes for the whole family. But should the little ones already be riding motorised bikes? What professionals say and alternatives available.

There are now electric bikes for kids as well

The tour quickly becomes torture for families when children lose interest in cycling because the distance was too far, the route too steep or the breaks too short. When the adults get off their e-bikes without a bead of sweat on their foreheads while the kids lag behind on their non-motorised vehicles, the weekend excursion can quickly become a stress test. The impression that e-bikes are mainly popular with elderly people is wrong. More and more young people also prefer to cycle with an electric motor. Will kids' bikes now also be electrified?

From a purely legal point of view, children are allowed to ride e-bikes, no matter how old they are. The German Road Traffic Act does not include a restriction because e-bikes and normal bikes are on equal terms. Unlike e-scooters on which kids have to be 14 years old at least to ride them on public roads, there is no age limit for two-wheelers. At least as far as EPACs are concerned. These are electric bicycles that provide assistance to the cyclist up to a maximum speed of 25 kmh. Nevertheless, such bicycles are also often referred to as e-bikes.

Bicycle expert Dirk Zedler states: “I'm not a big fan of putting small children on an e-bike.” Uphill the electric drive is a great thing, but downhill it can be dangerous because the bicycle weight makes the bicycles more difficult for children to handle. “The market is simply developing in such a way that everything with wheels is being electrified,” says Zedler. He doesn’t want to present himself as an opponent of e-bikes. “On the contrary. But you don't have to cover every distance on an e-bike.” Zedler especially doesn't understand situations where parents are on the road with fancy e-mountain bikes and the child is hardly keeping up with them on a rickety bike. “That is simply out of line.” However, motorising the child is not a solution for the expert either. “Anyone travelling with children should ride a normal bike.” From the expert's point of view, e-bikes are only recommended, if at all, for young people over 14. But is there any demand for such bicycles at all?

The German Bicycle Industry Association (ZIV), which regularly publishes market data on the industry, does not yet have reliable figures on kids’ e-bikes. Tim Salatzki, Head of Technology and Standardisation states: “We estimate that the variety of electrically assisted bicycles for young people will increase, even though at a low level.” As regards electrified kids’ bicycles, there is less evidence that they will become popular with the general public. Bicycle expert Dirk Zedler is of the same opinion. “There will probably not be a major trend in kids’ bicycles,” says Zedler. The bikes are simply too expensive for that. They are already available at discounter stores, but still cost about 1000 Euros. An electric brand bike can cost up to 2500 Euros. According to Zedler, that is neither economical nor sustainable for a kids’ bike. The batteries break down comparatively quickly, so that a bike cannot be passed on to smaller brothers or sisters. The German Cycle Association (ADFC) also has a clear opinion with regard to kids’ e-bikes. “For teenagers, electric bikes are fine. Even though we would of course be glad to see as many people as possible to ride without motor assistance, because it is healthy and makes you fit in the head,” says spokeswoman Stephanie Krone. E-bikes would overtax kids whose motor skills are not yet developed enough to handle the faster acceleration. “On a family trip, parents should adapt to their kids' ability, not vice versa." For one group, however, e-bikes are an advantage: “We see a reasonable use of electric bikes for kids who would otherwise not be able to cycle at all because of an illness or disability,” says Krone.

But what should parents do when they don't want to do without their e-bikes or no longer have a normal bike at all, but don't want to equip their children with e-bikes? The two-wheeler industry has developed tow ropes with which you can simply pull your child behind you. They can be attached to the parents' saddle and to the handlebars of the kids' bike. Bicycle expert Dirk Zedler is, however, critical of such ropes. “In my opinion, that’s a delicate thing. Anyone who has ever towed a car knows how quickly there is a crash when the person behind has not been paying attention for a moment.” That is a risk Zedler also sees with tow ropes. For short uphill sections, such a rope could provide assistance, but there are better systems to avoid spoiling the fun of cycling for children. For example with bicycles that can be attached to the parents' bike, similar to an attachable tandem. Zedler also mentions another trend running opposite to kids’ e-bikes: ultra-light bikes. These are easier to handle and the children can move faster. Without any electric drive at all.

Author: Christina Brummer
Photo: Imago Images

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