What can you tell me about electric bicycles? A friend of mine, who is almost 70, recently got one and absolutely loves it. He told me he rides more now than he ever did his regular bicycle.
Electric bikes have become very popular among U.S. baby boomers over the past few years because they are super fun to ride and easier on an aging body.
Electric bikes, also known as e-bikes, are conventional bicycles with a battery-powered "pedal" or "throttle" assist. When you push the pedals or throttle, a small motor engages and gives you a boost. With an electric bike, you can whiz up hills, ride into headwinds and cruise over challenging terrain without over-exerting yourself or taxing your knees.
Many older e-bike owners say that they ride more frequently and go further and longer than they ever would with a traditional bike. Here is what you should know about e-bikes, along with some tips to help you choose one.
What to Know
E-bikes are more complicated and expensive than regular bicycles, so you should do some research before you purchase one. For starters, you need to know that there are three different types of e-bikes to choose from:
Class 1: "Pedal-assist" electric bikes that only provides assistance when the rider is pedaling, and only go up to 20 miles per hour. These are the most common type of electric bikes.
Class 2: "Throttle-assist" e-bikes that let you use the electric motor without pedaling, like a motorcycle or scooter, with speeds up to 20 miles per hour.
Class 3: "Speed pedal-assist" e-bikes, similar to Class 1, except that the motor will assist with speeds of up to 28 miles per hour.
Because the bikes are electrically powered, states and local communities have varying regulations regarding the use of e-bikes. In many states, Class 1 and 2 e-bikes are allowed to be ridden wherever a traditional bike goes, while Class 3 are generally allowed on the street due to their higher top speed. For more information on your state's e-bike laws, visit PeopleForBikes.org/e-bikes.
You should also know that e-bikes come in many different styles, such as commuter, cruiser, mountain, road and folding, to meet different riding needs. E-bikes typically run on rechargeable lithium-ion batteries. Their motors are either a hub-drive motor, mounted on the front or rear wheel, or a mid-drive motor, mounted to the frame at the bottom bracket between the cranks.
The only downsides of e-bikes are weight and cost. Because of the battery and motor, e-bikes are much heavier than traditional bicycles weighing 50 or more pounds, so it can be more challenging if you have to manually lift or maneuver your bike a lot. E-bikes are also expensive, typically ranging between $2,500 and $3,500.
E-bikes are made by many of the same established companies that make traditional bikes like Specialized, Electra, Schwinn, Trek, Giant, Cannondale and Felt, along with a number of upstarts like Juiced Faraday, Pedego, Elby and Hi Bike. To shop for an e-bike, find a good bike shop in your area and ask to test ride a few styles.
If you are interested in a cheaper option, there are also e-bike kits you can purchase like Walmart, Amazon and eBikeKit that can convert your regular bike into an e-bike for a few hundred dollars.
Savvy Living is written by Jim Miller, a regular contributor to the NBC Today Show and author of "The Savvy Living" book. Any links in this article are offered as a service and there is no endorsement of any product. These articles are offered as a helpful and informative service to our friends and may not always reflect this organization's official position on some topics. Jim invites you to send your senior questions to: Savvy Living, P.O. Box 5443, Norman, OK 73070.