I was on the verge of taking my first e-bike ride. I strapped my helmet on and I walked my e-bike for one block.
I had scheduled a test ride at G&O Family Cyclery in Seattle. One of their helpful bike pros suggested that I should start my ride a block west of the shop, on a quieter street. I think she could tell I was a little nervous.
“You’ll feel like you’re riding with a superpower,” she said, with encouragement. That sounded fun.
I started pedaling, on a sleek Gazelle Ultimate C380. The first few pedal strokes felt familiar. Then, whoosh!, the electric assist kicked in. I surged forward. Sure enough, it did kinda feel like a superpower.
In a New York Times column titled, How an E-Bike Changed My Life, Jennifer Finney Boylan wrote:
“Cycling, like everything else, has gotten harder as I’ve grown older. … Since I got the e-bike, though, I’ve been riding 15 and 20 miles a day, four or five days a week. It’s been life altering, not just making me fitter, but also raising my spirits, getting me out of the house and back into the mountains.”
That column appeared in August 2019, prior to the pandemic. Since then, e-bike ridership surged during COVID. E-bikes were the number-one selling electric vehicle in America last year, outselling electric cars, according to Bloomberg. If you’ve been thinking about getting an e-bike, here are three things to consider:
1) An e-bike can help us stay active as we age.
The “e” in e-bike stands for electric assist. It provides power when pedaling, to help riders climb hills, keep pace with other riders, accelerate around obstacles, and ultimately reach their destination.
My personal-training client, Terry, who’s 69, varies the intensity of his e-bike rides with some unassisted intervals. “Get an e-bike with gears so you can shut off the power and sweat until you get tired of sweating,” Terry says. “Then you can turn the power back on and make it easier on yourself for a while.”
2) Try before you buy.
An e-bike is a significant purchase. The models that I tested ranged in price from $1,999 to $4,199. You’ll get the most for your money by visiting different shops, speaking with their experts, and testing different bikes.
“Test drives are a must,” Terry says. “Ask about the bike’s maintenance needs, and the seller’s service department.”
3) Some safety considerations.
“Just a word of caution,” Terry says. “E-bikes generally weigh more and go faster than non-e-bikes.”
The e-bikes that I rode ranged in weight from 48 to 64 pounds. By comparison, my standard bike weighs about 33 pounds. When it comes to speed, e-bikes typically provide assistance up to 20 or 28 miles per hour, so invest in a good helmet and remember to wear it.
Terry and his wife, Mary, both ride e-bikes. Mary got hers first. Terry saw how much fun she was having and now, he’s hooked.
“I can ride with younger, fitter riders,” Terry says. “I can go farther and higher. I can turn off the power and use my seven standard gears to get a workout. …Best of all, it has a horn.”