"It's effortless," was this Nebraska Natural Resources District manager's comment after riding this pedal-assisted electric bicycle. He'd happily ride one of them to work if he didn't live 18 miles away, was his comment, and that's the point: get more people starting to think that way.
It's no secret I am a fan of electric-assist bicycles. It's my opinion they are one of the most important tools or vehicles, take your pick, we have for solving a whole host of problems associated with modern culture: from traffic congestion, to air pollution, to geriatric issues.
Yet, I keep hearing the same old refrain: "I wouldn't ride one of those. I prefer to use my own muscles, even if it hurts. No pain, no gain."
That's fine if you're a 16 year-old trying out for your high school track team or 19-year old Marine Corps recruit his first week in boot camp.
If you're a regular bicycle rider, then we can assume you're in pretty good shape. I am totally cool with that, but guess how many there are of you compared to the rest of us.
Less than one percent: 0.9% actually. That's the total number of trips taken by bicycle in America compared to other forms of transportation. Everyone else is either walking (good), taking transit (okay), or - and this is the vast, vast majority in America - drive or ride in a car (not so good).
The purpose of an electric-assist bicycle - and this is my personal view, mind you - is not to get all you fit and health cyclists to trade up to electric-assist. No, the purpose is to get all the rest of us to start cycling more. Call it being lazy, call it cheating, call it what you will, but which would you prefer for your fellow Americans: they keep motoring around in 3,000 pounds of steel, rubber, glass and plastics or every now and then, they park that infernal machine and climb on a bicycle, even if it does have an electric motor.
Let me explain something about the e-bike, especially the European variety like the Haibike Xduro Trekking shown to the NRD managers. In Europe, for it to be considered a 'bicycle', the pedals have to be moving in order to gain any assistance; no pedal, no help. When the system does provide assistance, you only get as much as the electronic sensors in the system think you need. The electronics monitor the cadence of the pedals, the attitude of the bike, and the effort you are expending. Hit a hill, struggle a bit against a headwind and the drive system senses this and gives you a boost. You're still pedaling, your joints are still working and your heart is pumping away. You are, in fact, getting a moderate workout of the kind exercise physiologists and medical practitioners prefer to see, especially if you're over 50.
Here's a really helpful guide to exercise for those of us in the Baby Boom generation and older. Among the observations they make is this one:
Reaping the rewards of exercise doesn’t require strenuous workouts or trips to the gym. It’s about adding more movement and activity to your life, even in small ways.
My only complaint about this particular guide is that it doesn't mention riding a bicycle. Why? Maybe in part because they think it's too strenuous for the over 50+ crowd, and for lot of us, it probably is. That's where the electric-assist bicycle comes in. Suddenly you've got the legs of your youth back under you and in the case of the Haibike and other pedal-assisted bikes, you can select your level of assistance allowing you to cycle more on your own steam the fitter you get.
Of course, e-bikes also can appeal to younger riders who prefer not to arrive at work all sweaty or would like a bit of help riding home after working all day. This is probably one of the main reasons e-bikes are becoming so popular in countries like the Netherlands and Germany where the percentage of trips by bike pale those in the United States.
The last thing e-bike makers want to do is get dedicated cyclists to hang up their roadies. You keep pedaling away and more power to you. What we e-bike advocates want is to provide a way for a lot more of us to follow your example. The more of us out there in mass, the more political power we have to reclaiming our rights to a larger share of the road budget and to cause the kinds of changes that make it safer for everyone to ride.
So, instead of 'no pain, no gain,' here's a new mantra I'd like you to consider: 'more votes, more voice."
Posted By: Bill Moore [11-May-2014]
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