This mountain bike with an electric motor was spotted in Waunakee. The owner was not present to interrogate. PHOTO BY JOEL PATENAUDE
This mountain bike with an electric motor was spotted in Waunakee. The owner was not present to interrogate. PHOTO BY JOEL PATENAUDE
Is it a bird? A plane? A mountain bike? Or a motorcycle?

I spotted the unusual machine pictured here and puzzled over it. Clearly it's a full-suspension, electric-assist mountain bike, the likes of which I hadn't seen before. 

I wondered about the legality of riding it on "nonmotorized" singletrack, given the potential for it's weight (116 pounds, the specs say) and torque to do significant damage to dirt trails. And when I learned that this vehicle - the Stealth Bomber Electric Bike - "is capable of reaching speeds of 50 mph," I seriously doubted it could or should be taken on paved bike trails either.

In Tel Aviv, Israel, collisions between pedestrians and electric bicycles or e-bike riders has actually resulted in a spike in injuries requiring hospitalizations, according to a recent news story in the Israeli newspaper Haaretz. For that reason, officials are reportedly looking into regulating the use of electric bikes there.

Earlier today I took the photo that accompanies this blog post and shared it on my personal Facebook page with the question "What in the world is this?" The answers I got included "Cheating" and "Too lazy to ride a bike, too scared to buy an actual motorcycle."

For some time now I've pondered whether the magazine should cover the current boom in electric-assist bikes such as run product reviews. Even in bicycle-infatuated Madison, Wisconsin, where I live, a well-known former salesman of TVs and large appliances can be heard all over the airwaves touting his electric bikes. 

I can see their value and appeal to some commuters looking for an alternative to a car that provides exercise but also help up steep hills that doesn't emit polluting exhaust. But I'm also of the mind that because these machines are not truly "self-propelled" and may pose a danger to nonmotorized trail users, they should be approached with skepticism and concern.

What do you think? Have you tried or would you try one? Should Silent Sports weigh in on electric bikes? If so, how? Leave your comments below.

Joel Patenaude is the editor of Silent Sports magazine.