Further to yesterday’s post, I don’t want to make it seem like I’m anti-battery guy or some kind of luddite. I’m a thoroughly modern individual, and some of my favorite things run on batteries. My phone, my laptop, my transistor radio…I dare you to call me a “luddite” while I’m listening to the Brooklyn Dodgers vs. the New York Giants on this baby!
Nevertheless, I’d be lying if I said I didn’t have certain…reservations about our battery-powered future. I realize when you’re not crazy about this stuff you’re supposed to point out how lithium is strip-mined by five year-olds or something in order to frame your concerns as legitimate. However, I’m completely unconcerned with what you think of my concerns, or about how we get any of the shit we need–be it oil or lithium or steel or beef or bananas–and I’m mostly just horrified of a future that looks like this:
Sure, I could try to intellectualize it for you, but I won’t insult your intelligence by doing so. I just don’t want to live in a world full of Dark Helmets on dollys, is that so wrong? Of course I realize I have no say in the matter, and it’s not like I’m going to lie down in front of these things and demand that they stop plying the streets. Transportation evolves just like everything else, and if these things flourish and take over and become the dominant species then that’s just the way it is and I’ll have no choice but to accept it. I’ll even allow that if this happens it could very well turn out to be a good thing for humanity, and probably in a way that nobody expects. (Evolution–even with regard to the technology that we invent ourselves–rarely turns out the way we anticipate.) But that doesn’t mean I have to like it while it’s happening.
Similarly, I also have my misgivings about this:
It’s “36.6lbs of legit ebike,” and it makes me sad:
The reason it makes me sad is…why the hell can’t a kid just ride a normal bicycle? This is a 24-inch bike, which means it’s for elementary school kids–by 5th grade a lot of kids will have already outgrown this thing. Why are we putting kids on motorized bicycles during their formative bicycling years at all? Can’t we let them enjoy their juice boxes for awhile longer before we get them started on the wine? Do they really need e-assisted mountain bikes with dropper posts to “get rowdy?”
As with the guy in the full-face helmet on the goofy space caster, I could try to intellectualize why I don’t like this expensive e-assisted mountain bike, but I don’t think it’s necessary. My reason is simple–old-fashioned, stodgy, obstinate, maybe even retrograde–but simple, and it is this:
They don’t need a $3,800 e-mountain bike with a dropper post because they’re TEN YEARS OLD.
An adult might want or “need” an electric bicycle because they don’t want to get sweaty on the way to work, or they want to undertake some big adventure beyond what they can accomplish on a normal bike, or just because they want one and they don’t need to explain or justify themselves to you. But a ten year-old is ten years old and can ride and crash and drop and jump and skid perfectly fine with a regular goddamn bicycle. There’s really no reason to add a battery to all this. They don’t need to go any faster or further than they can on a regular bicycle–BECAUSE THEY’RE FREAKING 10! A kid with a normal pedal-powered bike already has a machine that can take them to the very limits of their still-tiny world and beyond. Giving a kid a regular bike versus giving them an electric one is like the difference between building them a treehouse and and signing them up for the Hilton Honors program:
Actually, I have no idea how the Hilton Honors program works. Maybe if you’re traveling with a kid you can sign them up and get more points, I dunno. But don’t overthink it. Kids don’t need hotel loyalty programs because they can’t check themselves into hotels is my point.
Of course, we all know the real reason a parent would buy their kid a $3,800 e-mountain bike: they don’t want to have to scale down their own rides for the sake of their kids. Look, believe me, as a total bike weenie I get it–riding with your kids is great, but you also wish you could do a “real” ride. It’s like sitting int he playground and wishing you were at the bar across the street. So putting little Fred or Frederica on something like this offers you the tantalizing possibility of riding with your young child without compromise: the 20-mile trail ride and the family time. No more tears or walking the hills. In this sense the Specialized Levo-whatever is the Dave & Buster’s of bikes: kinda soul-crushing, but there are games for the kids and there’s a bar, so you go there, even though there’s no natural light and it’s turning your children into little casino rats.
Alas, Specialized can’t sell this as a having-your-cake-and-eating-it-too accessory for Mom or Dad, so instead you get crap about how a bike with a motor in it will “unlock their abilities:”
How does that even make sense? This is like saying watching YouTube unlocks their ability to read books. This isn’t to say kids don’t learn stuff from YouTube, but let’s not confuse the two. You unlock your ability to ride a bike on a trail by riding a bike on a trail. What the Levo SL Kids really unlocks is Dad’s ability to meet his weekly mileage goal on Strava.
Of course I realize plenty of people will disagree with me, and that’s fine–it’s my job to be contrarian, what can I say? There are certainly way worse things kids and parents could be doing together than ripping around on expensive electric bikes. I also have no doubt most kids who get on an electric bike for the first time get a real thrill out of it, and if that creates excitement and enthusiasm in them for bicycles both electric and pedal-powered then maybe it’s worth it. Maybe my misgivings about this thing are as silly as someone who thinks kids will stop playing soccer because they can just play FIFA instead. Sure, there are some kids who will happily play video games without ever touching a piece of sporting equipment, but there are also those for whom the video game fuels enthusiasm for the actual sport and vice-versa–kind of like how I used to ride my skateboard to the convenience store to play 720:
I admit I worry that teaching kids electric mountain biking before regular mountain biking might undermine cycling rather than enhance it, and I also admit that this worry is probably rooted in my own preferences and prejudices and dated notions of what childhood should be. However, I do maintain that an electric mountain bike for kids this young is entirely unnecessary, and that a child who does not have access to one is missing absolutely nothing, since they can get every bit as much fun and excitement out of a regular bike.
As for having to wait up for your kids, don’t worry, I promise they’ll be riding away from you before you know it.