They certainly aren’t the bicycles your parents had hanging from the ceiling of your childhood home garage. Electric bikes are changing the way people get around town by eliminating some of the common hurdles associated with commuting by bike while adding health, efficiency, convenience, and fun to the journey. If you’re looking for ways to keep the fitness levels steady and the joints limber, e-bikes are worth checking out as an alternative to conventional transportation.
What’s an Electric Bike?
“Electric-assist bicycles (e-bikes) can be defined as bicycles that “are similar in geometry to human-powered bicycles but have a small electric motor that provides pedal assistance and allows riders to accelerate, climb hills, and overcome wind resistance more easily than manually powered bikes.” (1) In some cases, that assistance can help riders achieve speeds of 25 to 30 mph, which can drastically reduce travel times. E-bikes house a battery within the frame that generally offers a range between 20 to 35 miles, and for a majority of commuters, that’s more than enough juice for a couple of there-and-back trips before a recharge.
Keep the Car at Home
An oft-cited concern of many would-be bikers is the fear of arriving at work or wherever they’re headed sweaty and disheveled. Of course, bringing a change of clothes and other preparations could be made to mitigate this, but not all workplaces offer changing rooms or showers, and restaurants or clubs where you might be meeting friends or going on a date most certainly do not. Another concern arises around feeling tired or fatigued once a destination is reached. Electric bikes require less effort to ride, thus keeping excessive perspiration or exertion at bay.
Navigating dense urban traffic is an easily understood and legitimate barrier for many. However, the efficiency and range of e-bikes encourage the exploration of lightly used routes on side streets or cycling infrastructure like paved paths. Who knows? Riders may discover hidden gems along the way like a new-to-them cafe or theatre, and if they stop to check them out, they’ll find that parking is a breeze!
Pedal Your Way to a Spring in Your Step
As sales of e-bikes surge, more studies are revealing the health benefits that former non-cyclists are enjoying. In the International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity, one review of the use of e-bikes showed that “E-cycling can contribute to meeting physical activity recommendations and increasing physical fitness. As such, e-bikes offer a potential alternative to conventional cycling.” (2)
The same study went on to list more specific improvements in health and reduced risks for illnesses. “Engagement in active travel, specifically commuting, has been shown to be predictive of a lower body mass index (BMI) and reduced risk of a diabetes diagnosis. A recent prospective study reported that active commuting, involving cycling, was associated with a lower risk of all-cause mortality and cancer incidence and mortality. In addition, commuting by bicycle or on foot was associated with a lower risk of cardiovascular disease incidence and mortality. The greatest gains in health outcomes from active commuting are reported in the least active individuals.”
The authors of the study also concluded, “Electrically assisted bicycles (e-bikes) have been highlighted as an alternative method of active travel that could overcome some of the commonly reported barriers to cycle commuting. “
From the Floor of the Bike Shop
Wheel and Sprocket is a Southern Wisconsin brand and retailer, renowned for their advocacy and efforts to help all comers enjoy cycling, and they’ve embraced the e-bike movement.
Marketing Manager Kathy Devries shared that in the e-bike segment, the company saw a 225% growth in sales from 2017 to 2018, and this year’s growth continued at 50%. “Within one season, we had customers asking what e-bikes were, to coming in and asking if we had them.” She continues, “Our buyers are reporting that they’re riding more miles for longer periods, and as they spend more time on the streets of their communities, they’re also becoming stronger advocates for improved infrastructure.”
The majority of their e-bike customers are Boomers looking for healthier alternatives to driving, and they also have disposable incomes to give these bikes a try. There have been numerous stories too about customers who were unable to bike in the past but are now able to ride. “We’ve had a customer with Parkinson’s and another with MS that can now get out and enjoy riding with their loved ones. It’s been great to see.”
Looking for a Ride?
With increased popularity comes more options offered, and there’s seemingly no end in sight from major to more specialty brands. Companies like TREK present a variety of models for any cycling discipline, and cargo bikes like SURLY’S Big Easy can take the place of a second family car.
Are e-bikes a viable source of transportation for you? They’re finding their way into shops across the country. Call around to your local retailer and take one for a spin. You might find it’ll give your trips to-and-fro a nice little boost!
Information for this article was generously provided by People for Bikes. You can find out more about this organization here.
- Health benefits of electrically assisted cycling: a systematic review. Int J Behav Nutr
- Physical activity of electric bicycle users compared to conventional bicycle users and non-cyclists: Insights based on health and transport data from an online survey in seven European cities – com