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Is a Children’s E-Bike the Same as a Motorcycle?

The co-founder and CEO of Super73, LeGrand Crewse, recently showcased the company’s latest product, the K1D. This motorized bike is designed for riders aged 4 and up, featuring a throttle instead of pedals like a training bicycle. Super73 refers to the K1D as an “electric balance bike,” although Crewse jokingly mentioned it could also be called a motorcycle, as it can reach speeds of up to 15 miles per hour. Super73 aims to sell over 25,000 units of the K1D and other models this year. Many of these sales are expected to be to teenagers. Unlike the K1D, most Super73 e-bikes have pedals in addition to a throttle-powered electric motor. Crewse emphasized that what the company is selling is a lifestyle, offering “cool” products that are not subject to heavy regulation.

State and federal laws treat e-bikes similarly to traditional bicycles, as long as they adhere to speed limits. However, there are concerns among law enforcement officials and safety experts that many e-bikes are not suitable for cycling on sidewalks and are not designed to handle the complexity and speed of roads. Some retailers refuse to stock Super73 e-bikes and similar models, arguing that they encourage young and inexperienced riders to believe they are safe in high-speed traffic. There have been incidents where teenagers riding e-bikes have been involved in fatal accidents. Although some e-bikes can travel at speeds that classify them as motor vehicles, federal regulation has yet to catch up.

Christopher Cherry, a civil engineer at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, who studies e-bike safety, explains that there is pressure from the market to sell novelty and exciting products that are faster and more thrilling. LeGrand Crewse, who entered the e-bike industry more than a decade ago, aimed to create stylish and appealing e-bikes that target a younger crowd. The Super73 models resemble dirt bikes or minimotorcycles with pedals, catering to the desire of individuals who want to look cool while riding. Initially, many retailers were skeptical about carrying the company’s first mass-produced Super73 e-bike, believing it wasn’t a bicycle at all. However, the industry trade group PeopleForBikes has raised concerns about Super73 and manufacturers who sell products that can be reprogrammed to function as motor vehicles rather than e-bikes.

Most of Super73’s e-bike models offer a re-programmable option, including the Z-Miami, which is popular among younger riders. However, parental controls are currently unavailable due to a limitation in the software. LeGrand Crewse mentioned that future software releases will address this issue. He also suggested the possibility of providing e-bike training for young riders, similar to motorcycle training programs. While he believes in the importance of training, he is cautious about enforcing it too much, as it could negatively impact an industry that promotes more sustainable transportation. As a father of five, Crewse advises parents to invest in high-quality helmets and safety gear for their children when purchasing an e-bike. He emphasizes the need to understand the risks associated with riding a vehicle that can reach speeds of up to 20 miles per hour.

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