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Noise complaints by eBicyclists

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    Noise complaints by eBicyclists

    All the complaints I read about fully functional machines apparently creating noise energy,
    Tune out? Or focus?

    There are so much typing embellished virtual whining and seemingly almost fixated to hear:
    clacking, clicking, hissing, plinking , zzzing,
    The bike runs, Go man go.
    Last edited by Mike_V; 05-25-2020, 04:27 AM. Reason: ed

    There are different schools of thought out there--but I feel some rather obvious points seem to have been missed by the majority of those doing the complaining:

    1) Pedal-powered bikes are not silent--and they never have been. So expecting an e-bike to be quieter than a pedal-powered one, is obviously completely unreasonable. The closest thing out there to a "silent bike" is a "fixie"--no freewheels clicking--but then as we all know, the anti-social behavior of "fixie" riders means that they're not getting a quiet ride either--because there's a constant hum of disgruntled protesting and murmorings of complaint from all the other road users, cyclists, and pedestrians anywhere in the fixie-rider's vicinity.

    2) Anyone who understands "Loud Pipes Save Lives"--and why that's a truism--also has no leg to stand on when it comes to whining about e-bike noises. The same safety-factors and reasoning apply: Since almost all the other pedal-powered cyclists sharing the bike-paths with e-bikers have no rear-view mirrors, a small amount of motor-noise helps alert others that we're about to overtake them--and that's safer, and just plain kinder than sneaking up. We don't have to sound like Harleys--but when it comes to cyclists sharing the roadways with others, the same exact thing applies: Silence and Safety are not the best of pals.

    3) Every single e-bike ever built, is still quieter, than any internal-combustion powered moped or scooter ever built. Graduate to e-bikes, and your powered-transportation is guaranteed to be quieter--than whatever internal-combustion-powered transportation you were previously utilyzing.

    4) At any speed above about 18mph, the amount of wind-noise in the rider's ears--measurable in decibels--will be greater than even the loudest of e-bike motors available. So, unless the people complaining are already strictly keeping all their riding at or below 15mph--to avoid all that horrible wind-noise in their ears from bothering them--then I'm just not going to be able to take their complaints of motor-noise seriously at all.

    I'm certain many other completely valid points and counterpoints could be made, but the ones above are the main ones forming my opinion.

    Take care, everybody

    Last edited by tklop; 05-24-2020, 04:48 AM.


      Originally posted by tklop View Post
      2) Anyone who understands "Loud Pipes Save Lives"--and why that's a truism--also has no leg to stand on when it comes to whining about e-bike noises. The same safety-factors and reasoning apply: Since almost all the other pedal-powered cyclists sharing the bike-paths with e-bikers have no rear-view mirrors, a small amount of motor-noise helps alert others that we're about to overtake them--and that's safer, and just plain kinder than sneaking up. We don't have to sound like Harleys--but when it comes to cyclists sharing the roadways with others, the same exact thing applies: Silence and Safety are not the best of pals.
      That's what horns and bells are for whether one is riding an ebike OR a manual bike.
      Also, every bike I've ever owned I've installed at least one slightly convex rear-view mirror that lets me see everything behind me.


      • tklop
        tklop commented
        Editing a comment
        The point I was making about my own motor-noise levels, was mostly in reference to my own experience with my bakfiets' operation.

        My bakfiets is wider than the average bicycle. That means in any given situation, I tend to need more room to pass. Plus, I'm also limited (somewhat) in maneuverability. I can't exactly slalom with the bakfiets--it's not a motorcycle, it's a trike.

        What I've found--and was referring to, is that hearing the whine of the Cyclone mid-drive resonating on my rear-frame, I notice the riders ahead will almost invariably take a quick peek over their shoulders, to see what's catching up with them...

        And that--is ultimately the "Safety Win" from "noisiness" --in my own situation. That glance tells them, "I'm about to be overtaken by something huge. I think I'll try and give them a little extra room." --and I find that (obviously) tremendously helpful.

        And--because my project is wide--it means if I'm to "Sneak Up Upon" somebody with the bakfiets, and they're not expecting me there, it's going to feel "crowded" for them--in the moment of their surprise. That's not very nice to do to others.

        So--hope that clarifies my point-of-view. The Cyclone motor isn't loud--but it's audible. And that noise is (in my own case) quite helpful.

        But I think it is also important to say this:

        A bell or horn is not actually meant for standard use when overtaking, and should not be rung every time.

        A bell is a communication-device, and when operating in traffic, it's primarily meant for alerting others to imminent danger. Equivalent to a motor-vehicle's horn, a bell is not meant for routine use in normal traffic-flow.

        That would be equivalent to blasting your horn in a car, truck, or on a motorcycle every time you needed to overtake another road user. Overuse is a poor idea, not helpful, not safe.

        Now, sure--of course a bell is less intense than a horn--and can be used in more subtle situations too. That's true.

        I actually have one of each on the bakfiets--for that reason.

        A bell can indeed be used for more than just imminent danger.

        If you're out on the open road or bike-path; not in traffic--a bell gives you a way of offering that "advanced warning" as well--basically saying, "May I please squeeze past?" But unless your pathway is partially or totally obstructed, there's no reason to ring.

        If on the open bike-path, and you're approaching a couple riders ahead who're riding side-by-side, it may be courteous to give them a nice early advance-warning "Tring" on the bell--so they have the time to peek over a shoulder, and comfortably move into single-file before you arrive to overtake them. Absolutely right--perfect bell-usage. Sure. That works really well.

        But if the rider or riders ahead of you are already single-file, and there's adequate room--there's no need to ring at all. Most overtaking situations don't need a ring.

        Plus--for those in-between times, it's important to remember you're outdoors--with everybody else. Your voice works too--and a simple 'Coming up on your left side!" can be very helpful...

        The only vehicles I know of which almost constantly ring bells and/or blast their horns are on rails. It's needed in their case, because trolleys, trams and trains cannot maneuver to avoid accidents. That operational limitation requires them to constantly alert others to their presence--for safety's sake. This obviously does not apply to cyclists.

        If the traffic-situation is crowded, dense, or congested, our bells are "for emergency use only". We shouldn't be tringing away on our bells, and blasting our horns--trying to barge our way through. In spite of the manner in which many fools operate their e-bikes, having assist obviously doesn't entitle us to "Overtaking Privileges" or anything. Everyone knows it is best when In traffic--to go with the flow of that traffic. In congestion, we should just tuck in line with everybody else, and wait for the congestion to clear. I typically just turn the assist-level either down to min. or even off, and just relax--pedal-along.

        Maybe it's just me, but I find that's super easy to do on an e-bike, for one simple reason: I know as soon as the traffic clears--"Whizz! Zoom!" I'm going to pop right out the front of that crowd like a cannonball--and be long-gone in a flash!

        That fact in and of itself makes me willing to patiently wait my turn, graciously going-with-the-flow of whatever temporary congestion or traffic there is.

        Well, at least that's how I tend to think about it...

        Of course no matter what we try to do to alert others, no matter how noisy or quiet our machines are--it cannot be helped that we startle some people. Especially if they're among the multitude of fools with earbuds installed; eyeballs and frequently both hands--all busy with portable devices. For that ever-growing set? Let's face it: Bell? Horn? Squealing brakes? Screeching tires? Smashing steel? Thunderclap? Voice of God? Nothing's likely to distract them from their distractions!

        In any and all cases, attentive or not, old or young, fast or slow--I just make sure I'm predicting erratic behaviors, inattention, and poor judgment from all other road users--and then taking all that into account, I try to just make sure I've still got enough room to safely overtake them--and ultimately that overarching defensive-driving strategy hasn't anything at all to do with noise levels.

        Defensive riding applies equally to my stealthy-quiet pedal-powered Brompton folding-bike, to my fairly-quiet Batavus Weekend TSDZ2 converted city-bike, and to my bakfiets with its "early warning whine".

        So in that sense, the motor-noise thing isn't a super-major safety-factor at all. That "early-warning" effect I get when operating my bakfiets does help, but it is only a small safety-boost. That's exactly why I used the analogy of "loud pipes" for motorcycles. Loud pipes don't "guarantee" a darn thing either--but being "noticed" by a greater percentage of other road-users still does provide riders with a measurable safety-boost--and that's why it is worth it to many motorcycle riders--and that's the same reasoning why I said it's worth it to me...

        I hope that all makes sense.

        I maintain my position--that whining about motor-noise is ridiculous. It's like complaining that water is wet.

        All the best!


        p.s. Also--as a reminder for further context: I live in The Netherlands. Here, the bicycle is considered the ultimate form of transportation--literally--ask any Dutch person--they'll readily confirm this fundamental belief. The Netherlands is a nation about the size of New Jersey--with about 25 million people in it. On average, each person owns more than two bikes... Yes--more than twice as many bicycles as there are people--in The Netherlands.

        In other words, I recognize the uniqueness of the environment in which I operate--and in doing so, I acknowledge that your personal experience may be quite different than mine.
        Last edited by tklop; 07-21-2020, 04:12 AM.

      Originally posted by tklop View Post
      ...Anyone who understands "Loud Pipes Save Lives"--and why that's a truism--also has no leg to stand on when it comes to whining about e-bike noises....
      Something that comes around every so often is national legislation to require ALL electric vehicles to MAKE "noise" while alert pedestrians there is a moving vehicle nearby.

      Arguments vary on the decibel level and type of noise the e-vehicles should be required to make, but I've read that some proponents of this idea increasingly want laws that will force e-vehicles to make a noise that "mimics a gasoline engine car" with "standard" vehicle tire noise whenever they are moving.

      Personally...I don't see how that's going to work when everyone I see has earphones in their ears as they walk around staring down at their phone oblivious to the dangers of the world.


      • tklop
        tklop commented
        Editing a comment
        I hope they don't legislate noise into e-bikes. Pedal-bikes aren't completely silent--but they're certainly every bit as quiet as e-bikes are (depending upon the e-bike, and the pedal-bike--the leg-powered one might actually be a great deal quieter).

        And pedestrians today already have to be smart enough to watch out for the regular bikes--right?

        Is it safe to say we all agree that making leg-powered bikes "noisy" is a ridiculous idea? Yes--we can. I mean, really... So legislating e-bikes to be noisy is clearly dumb.

        On the other hand, making "fake noise" in a car does make solid sense for a lot of reasons. It's just that all those solid reasons simply don't apply to e-bikes.
        Last edited by tklop; 09-16-2020, 11:58 AM.

      I have a tinkle bell I can politely ring, to let people know I'm coming. It's purposely non confrontational and totally benign. If that doesn't work the marine compressed air horn does (just kidding, I save that for bears.) I also drive a plug in Prius, and have noticed it has surprised a few people in parking lots etc. when I'm in e mode and virtually silent. Loud rap music and the windows rolled down helps there.


        Originally posted by jGecko View Post
        ...I don't see how that's going to work when everyone I see has earphones in their ears as they walk around staring down at their phone oblivious to the dangers of the world...
        That's exactly right. My machine's ambient sounds are useless as early-warning when the ears are wired-in, (wireless or not).

        Not even the 250 watts worth of stereo I've got installed manages to get their notice--with headphones on.

        Situations like that--sometimes the tone of a bike-bell pierces the headphone-induced fog--and that's an appropriate use of a bell. When someone's not giving you room--and is clearly in an oblivious state...

        But if that doesn't work--then it's the same as in a car--as I'd said... Wait for a broad stretch.... Give them extra room.... Be prepared for their startled reaction when you do finally overtake them...

        I've not got the "Compressed Air Bear Horn" that CPG has--but on my bakfiets, if my bell doesn't work--I can always give a little toot on the standard high-tone 12V car-horn I've installed. Sounds like a Fiat or VW--or at the very least a motor-scooter... That (like the Bear Horn) certainly DOES make it thru the headphones... But also--(like the Bear Horn would) --it sometimes startles and terrifies a little more than I intend.

        But I still maintain "tringing" as you overtake every single person--is too much tringing.

        That's annoying--and won't get people to "clear a path"

        Of course--keep in mind--I'm not doing my riding in America--but in The Netherlands... Context is everything.

        Sometimes, tringing as you're catching up with a group of schoolkids, they'll assume it's one of their friends--and it'll just start off a shitstorm of tringing... Worthless... You're not getting around them without a helicopter. Nothing to be done but to enjoy the memories of youth--and relax.

        Sad truth is--if you don't want to crash into other people, sometimes you have to do some of their thinking for them!

        All the best,

        Last edited by tklop; 09-16-2020, 11:09 AM.


          My nose hair trimmer is louder than my e bike.


            Semi topical...

            Having a stereo system in the bakfiets, I decided to play around with a Google phone app for engine sound effects.

            It's not very sensitive, and doesn't work very well. Being GPS based, it reacts too slowly, and since it's made for cars, the speed-range of e-bike usage obviously isn't appropriate for getting the "high-performance" noises to come out.

            Still, hearing 74 Dodge Challenger sounds coming from my bakfiets while riding was fun. Though silly, there's potential in the concept.

            If the thing were accelerometer-based, and more sensitivity-tunable, such a thing could work just fine for e-bikes. And for passenger-bikes (pedicabs, other EV's), if such an app worked well, it'd be a riot (especially with the nice chunky revving sound-effects available).

            Definitely--I maintain two tight-fisted thumbs down for mandatory bike-noise. Boo, hiss--terrible idea. It'd be completely pointless unless the noise-requirement was gonna have to apply to everybody on pedal-power too. For that reason alone, mandatory e-bike noise it's obviously a stupid idea.

            But if I want to make my own artificial-noises--sure. Horns, bells, buzzers, screaming-banshee/demon noises--whatever floats your boat. That's always been fine. Folks been doing that since the first kids figured out to put their rejected baseball-cards in their spokes.
            Last edited by tklop; 10-03-2020, 09:27 AM.


              I have two bikes now. A Luna Babe with silent gear, and a Specialized Turbo Levo. They are both about the same in noise level, although of a different sound character. The BABE makes more noise from the Fat-tires than the motor above about 8-9 mph. When I approach hikers from behind they hear the tires a good 100 feet away or more. The Levo I can pass people without them noticing until I am going around. Behind other bikes they don't know I'm there 20 feet behind. I will follow someone for 15 seconds or more, and they are quite startled when I tell them I'm behind them. So I don't see any valid reason for dinobike riders to complain about E-bike noise. As for making bikes noisy on purpose...Bad Idea! Where I ride there are lots of blind corners. People use jingle bells here so they can be heard. (and supposedly to alert bears) I don't use them myself, but I can hear them coming. I would prefer they not be hidden by a programmed noise on my E-Bike.


                After a few rides, my X-1 with the silent gear is very very quiet. No complaints at all.