Just a low step-through frame, a front or rear motor and a pannier rack battery – and the e-bike was ready. The other side of the coin was disastrous riding behaviour. Many of these early e-bikes were basically unrideable with luggage, characterised by poor directional stability when changing direction, oscillation on faster descents, and even handlebar wobble when the rider did not have a firm grip on the handlebars with both hands. Falls resulting in serious injuries led to court cases, compensation payments, articles in the special-interest press and, as a result, to a rethink on the part of the manufacturers and finally to significantly more stable e-bikes.
A decade later, it seems that manufacturers are putting the users at risk again. Today’s frame designs with integrated batteries, combined with rapidly changing user behaviour, are causing problems. In a sense, the story is starting again from the beginning. As if the industry had not learnt from its mistakes, the design is being changed just like that in an almost negligent manner and, what is more, the fact that luggage is carried much more frequently is being ignored.
In addition, sporty road racers or mountain bikers used to be alone in the mountains. Today, thanks to powerful drive units in combination with large batteries and charging possibilities at nearly every mountain inn, e-bikers climb far uphill. Only a few days ago, the author saw a group of older people with low step-through e-bikes at Bielerhöhe, the highest point of the Silvretta-Hochalpenstrasse (Silvretta High Alpine Road, one of the most popular panoramic roads in the Austrian Alps), all of them with full pannier bags.