Rivendell’s Grant Peterson Opines on Electric Bikes and the Media

The bay area bicycle company, Rivendell Bicycle Works made a first appearance at this past week’s Interbike industry show in Reno, NV. Grant Peterson, founder and stalwart of the independent frame-building movement exhibited his unconventional gravel step-through, dubbed the “Gus Boots-Willsen” noting to BRAIN:

Our bikes are a little quirky, and it takes riding them, being educated, and talking about them with enthusiasm and freedom to sell something different.

His upbeat nature seems to have left upon returning to the shop, with a scribe lamenting the size of the show, “this year it was about 25 percent as big as it has been in any of the past 35 years”, and his perceived adoption of electric bikes by the majority of exhibitors. 

Grant Peterson: the disturbingly slimmed down reno international bike show:

The deal here is that they have a motor so they’re not bicycles, they’re motor-cycles, or at least mopeds. Calling them bicycles gives them most or all of the privileges of a bicycle (depending on the state you live in), and the only restriction is that they can’t ride with cars–because they have a maximum speed of 28mph unless you know how to work around that. A friend of mine got his up to 35mph, unassisted.

You can still pedal, but you don’t have to. There’s no direct connection between effort and movement, because the motor takes over. Motors take over these fantastic cooperative movements. They don’t “enhance” them or “supplement” them any more than somebody dipping a spoon into your bowl of ice cream is “helping” you eat it.

Speaking on the bicycle media, Peterson finds a lack of support for his position, though his conclusions for why, offer what might be an error in his overall analysis:

The bicycle media is in a pickle over this, because it can’t defend the actual bicycle without ticking off its current bike-making advertisers and guarantees that they won’t get advertising from the super-rich eBike makers, whose first choice and most natural audience would be bike riders who read bike magazines.

The natural audience for electric bikes is people that don’t currently ride bikes, not “bike riders who read bike magazines.”  This error in perspective not only informs much of Peterson’s opinion, but helps explain the individual brand successes that have understood the market for electric bikes is outside what Peterson sees as the “most natural audience”. 

A tendency towards exclusion has been the default of the cycling industry for too long. The consequences have become apparent, noted in Peterson’s claim: “the U.S. bike industry is at a low and scary point, and is desperately hoping for a salvo.” Inclusion is the salvo. 


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