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Legally, e-bike riders must wear a helmet – of some sort. (Peter Cheney/The Globe and Mail)
Legally, e-bike riders must wear a helmet – of some sort. (Peter Cheney/The Globe and Mail)

Road Rush

E-bikes: The ultimate freedom machine Add to ...

I had a weird dream a few nights ago – I was standing on a podium at the front of a parking lot packed with people who looked like they had just come from mental institutions or the Burning Man festival. And each of these people was astride an e-bike (those electric-powered scooters that look like half-baked Vespas).

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I realized that I was the chief instructor at a training camp for e-bike riders. (Since e-bike riders don’t actually take any training, this was even stranger than it sounds, but such is the logic of dreams.)

In my dream, I addressed the throng:

Riders: Welcome to the first-ever E-Bike Training Camp. First off, congratulations on your wise purchase – you have chosen the ultimate freedom machine! Let others spend months of time and thousands of dollars earning a drivers licence – you were smart enough to sidestep the entire system to ride untested and free! Only suckers pay for insurance and licence plates. You are the kings and queens of the road – and the sidewalk, too! Let’s get to it with some tips on how to make the most of your new e-machines:

Those yellow metal things with three holes in them that hang above intersections are traffic lights. They change colours once in a while, and tell the car drivers what they’re supposed to do. It’s hard to remember what each colour means, and I know that some of you are colour blind, but don’t worry – the lights don’t apply to e-bikers. Do your own thing.

Helmets are a drag, but legally, you have to wear one. But it’s not as bad as it sounds. You don’t need one of those expensive helmets that might actually protect your head if you crash. No – you’re free to go with a nice little Styrofoam bike helmet (about $10 if you go with a factory-second children’s model). And if you want to save even more cash, you can try strapping a plastic salad bowl to your head. (It’s not like you’ve got a lot to lose, after all.)

Legally, your bike cannot go faster than 32 km/h. Don’t worry – we have some cheater batteries and hopped-up motors out back that will get you up to 60. And yes, it’s true that the oversize batteries occasionally explode into flames, but they come with a free pair of flameproof pants (waist sizes up to XXXXXL).

As you may have heard, licensed car and motorcycle drivers have to get their eyes tested. Judging by the white canes I see out there today, this might present a problem for some of you, but don’t worry – the rules don’t apply to e-bikers! (But we do suggest going a little slower if your vision is really bad.)

Lanes are for the poor fools with driver’s licences. You can go wherever you want. If you feel like riding up the middle of the road, or squeezing between cars and the curb, go ahead. Remember: you rule the road. And the sidewalk.

Don’t worry about those one-way signs. They’re for the people with licences. Go whichever way you want.

You may get frustrated with car drivers blowing their horns at you when you cut them off or go through a red light. I suggest getting a set of noise-cancelling headphones and playing music to tune them out. Why stress?

If you mow down a pedestrian on the sidewalk, keep on going. Remember – you don’t have a licence plate, so no one’s going to track you down and hassle you with downer details like accident reports, medical bills or funeral insurance. (And remember, you don’t have insurance.)

Your machines have bicycle pedals hanging off the side. You might be tempted to take them off, since they hang low, and can cause a crash when you go around corners. Leave them on – without the pedals, your machine doesn’t qualify as an e-bike any more, so you’ll need to get a licence, bolt on a plate and buy insurance to satisfy The Man. Who needs that?

You may have noticed that your machine doesn’t have seatbelts or airbags, and that the headlight is about as bright as a church votive candle. So let me address your safety concerns by pointing out that there are hospitals all over the place. And why spend your life living in fear? You were born to be wild, a true nature’s child.

Your machine only has two wheels, so it’s a little tippy. You might want to consider training wheels. And if someone tells you they look goofy, so what? You’re an e-biker. Your style is your own. And your balance probably isn’t that great after that shock therapy you got a while back.

Well guys, we’ve taken up 15 minutes of your time. That’s enough! You are now fully qualified e-bike riders. (Well, you were actually qualified before you arrived, but whatever.) Pick up your certificate by the door. Wait – we didn’t make any certificates. Don’t worry – you won’t need them anyway. Get your motor running. Head out on the highway. Or the sidewalk.

For more from Peter Cheney, go to facebook.com/cheneydrive (No login required!)

Twitter: Peter Cheney@cheneydrive

E-mail: pcheney@globeandmail.com

Globe and Mail Road Rush archive: http://www.theglobeandmail.com/globe-drive/car-life/cheney/

Please send your automotive maintenance and repair questions to globedrive@globeandmail.com

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