Can You Ride An E-Bike In Rough Neighborhoods? Yes.


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One of the biggest concerns people have with e-bikes is theft. Even the cheapest ones are more expensive than the average normal bike, and thieves steal even the cheapest bikes all the time. With an OK e-bike costing over $1,000 and a great one going for $3,000 and up (way up), they’re a huge target. So, it’s not unreasonable at all to think that maybe you’d be a target too if you’re sitting on top of it.

But, I found a video that answers this question pretty well. In it, John Hicks rides his Surron fast e-bike around through some of the roughest parts of Compton. Yes, that Compton that rappers talk about to sound tough and many people simply avoid. So, what happened when he took his expensive bike there? We know he survived because he published this video afterward:

A Quick Summary

Before I get into the lessons we can learn from the video, I wanted to do a quick recap for the people who don’t like to watch videos. Feel free to scroll to the next section if that’s not you.

He starts out pretty afraid of everything. After all, Compton has the same reputation as Mos Eisley Spaceport, and probably worse because it’s real and Star Wars is fiction. A homeless man screaming at people, a car that pulls up, and other things sketch him out pretty fast. But, nothing bad happened, so he gained some confidence and decided he was in for the ride no matter what happened.

After riding around neighborhoods for a few minutes and seeing all sorts of trash, he found a little drainage ditch with a bike path next to it, and decided he wanted to both evade a little fluffy dog and follow it. But, not far into it, he found that there was a pretty big encampment that looked unwelcoming. So, he turned around and blasted onto another street. He saw at the other end that there were a bunch of people working, so he decided to run back through the ditch and run across it a couple of times. Again, nothing bad happened and some confidence was built.

While a bike like a Surron is generally considered most useful for riding off-road, it seemed to be even more useful riding around the area — curbs, ditches, dodging pedestrians, and avoiding animals all around the area tested the bike’s suspension more than many off-road trails would.

About halfway through the video, he seemed to be looking for alleyways to shred down. One was choked with tents and had a sign saying a “major cleaning” was coming. Another one had too much water and mud. A third one had some people standing across it, and it sketched him out. Another interesting thing that he came across a lot was old RVs parked on side streets that people were obviously living in, and he avoided those.

Eventually, he found one that seemed like a good run, and nothing happened because it was actually empty. Another alley, where he had gotten a flat previously, didn’t get him, but left his bike a little dirty. He pointed out that he felt out of place in one spot, so he turned around to head back.  The next alley had a lot of cars in it, along with some chickens that he had to avoid hitting.

Later, someone pulled up to him, and instead of talking to them, he blasted away, saying, “always keep it moving.”

Things We Can Learn About Bike Safety From This

As he points out, he’s not new to riding around in Los Angeles. Even as a kid and young adult, he rode around a lot on bikes in the area, even if the bikes weren’t expensive like the Surron. So, it makes sense to look at what he does and learn from it because he’s experienced with riding in rough areas that would scare rural people like me away, and probably many suburban people from outside Los Angeles.

The big one that stands out to me is that if you’re going to ride an expensive bike around, you should trust your instincts. At one point, he seems to pointlessly turn around, saying that he “feels out of place,” and then he said that he had a “weird gut feeling.” We’ll never know whether there was actual danger in that place, but we do know that many victims of crime do things that they don’t feel comfortable doing right before the bad stuff starts happening. Getting onto an elevator with a creeper, going down the alley with sketchy people, and other things are just best avoided.

Sure, some people might think you’re judging them, but they’re strangers and you’re not flying them the bird or anything. If something feels wrong, keep in mind that our ancestors have been avoiding danger for millions of years, so something good must be in those instincts.

Another thing he says is that he likes to “always keep it moving.” Like a fighter pilot, sometimes energy is life, and speed is energy. If you stop to talk to the wrong people, you get robbed. If you go someplace restrictive where you’ll have to slow down, you might get robbed. Just keeping yourself moving prevents you from becoming a target. And, it’s best to avoid things that make you stop moving if at all possible. There are places where it’s safe to stop, but you kind of have to trust your instincts on that.

Another thing best avoided is letting people “pull up on you.” It may seem impolite to not stop and talk to people, but it’s not a good idea in some places to do that. Simply hitting the throttle or pedals and keeping on the move keeps things from happening.

Finally, I’ll add something else I’ve picked up. You can’t always avoid problems with people who might try to rob you, and they could force you to jump off a bike. It’s important to keep in mind that a bike is a fence. If somebody attacks you, simply putting the bike between you and them and having your helmet unsnapped (so they can’t grab you by the head) takes away two very big ways of harming you.

Featured image: a screenshot from the embedded video.

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