Ben Orcutt, owner of the Anderson bicycle shop Buckskin Bikes, rides a Raleigh Class 3 e-bike on Thursday. The Indiana Legislature passed e-bike legislation this year to clarify their use on Indiana trails and roadways. Staff photo by 
Don Knight | The Herald Bulletin
Ben Orcutt, owner of the Anderson bicycle shop Buckskin Bikes, rides a Raleigh Class 3 e-bike on Thursday. The Indiana Legislature passed e-bike legislation this year to clarify their use on Indiana trails and roadways. Staff photo by Don Knight | The Herald Bulletin
ANDERSON — Electric bicycles are enjoying a surge in popularity, and a recent change in a law has erased some ambiguity about their use.

E-bike sales were up $54 million from 2017 to 2018, a 78% increase, according to Bicycle Retailer.

The Indiana Legislature passed House Bill 1236 this year, and the bill was signed by Gov. Eric Holcomb and became law on July 1. The bill defined e-bikes as having operable pedals and an electric motor not greater than 750 watts. It also created three classes of e-bikes and allows them to be treated as bicycles, so there is no need for a license, registration or insurance.

There are a few exceptions for Class 3 electric bicycles that can be propelled by their motor up to 28 mph. They can’t be operated by someone under the age of 15, they can carry a passenger if so designed, and riders and passengers under 18 are required to wear a helmet.

The law allows Class 1 and 2 bicycles to be used on trails where non-motorized bicycles are allowed unless prohibited by a local ordinance, but only allows Class 3 bicycles on trails within or adjacent to a roadway or highway unless authorized locally.

One local retailer is seeing increased interest in buying and servicing the bikes.

Buckskin Bikes sells Class 1 and 3 bikes and services e-bikes. Class 2 bikes have a throttle allowing them to power the bike without pedaling, but only up to a speed of 20 mph.

“The bike industry is such that it’s pretty easy to buy one on the internet,” said Buckskin Bikes owner Ben Orcutt. “We sell high-quality equipment but we service all the different types. We’ve seen a lot of people buying them (online) and bringing them in to us for service.”

E-bikes aren’t just for recreation since they let you get where you are going without breaking a sweat. That makes them an option for short commutes or a quick trip to the store.

“I think what’s really interesting about the e-bike is it really blurs the line between recreation and transportation because suddenly you can go to the grocery store and pick up a gallon of milk and you’re not going to sweat,” Orcutt said.

But is using an e-bike cheating on your workout? Not really, according to a study by the University of Zurich and published by Transportation Research Interdisciplinary Perspectives.

The study found e-bikers were getting the same level of physical activity due to covering much greater distances, and choosing their bike over motorized modes of transportation for some trips.

“The way most people ride is ‘Hey, I’ve got an hour to go ride.’ You’re still riding for an hour, you’re going twice as far, which is kind of fun, but the point is you’re still peddling, you’re still getting your heart rate up,” Orcutt said.

E-bikes are also bringing more people into the sport. Orcutt’s shop is currently motorizing a bike for a local hunter that will get him to his deer stand quietly, and it will be powerful enough to get him and a deer on a trailer back out of the woods.

“I think it’s really opening the door to the sport to a lot of new people,” Orcutt said. “I think it will definitely change urban transportation.”

The bikes are also giving older riders confidence to keep riding as they age.

When shopping for a bike it’s good to research the options. Motors can be placed in the hub of the rear wheel or mounted in the center of the bike near the bottom bracket.

If you already own a bike, there are kits that allow you to add a motor.

The brand of the bike itself isn’t as important as the brand of components used on the bike, according to Orcutt.

Look for components from established companies like Shimano, Bafang or Bosch that can be serviced when they break.

You may pay more up front, but being able to repair your bike when it breaks means it will last longer.
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