accessibility · cycling · fitness

Sam is sorry she was a bit of a fitness snob about e-bikes

One good thing that’s happened to me as a result of my knee problems is that I’ve got a much richer appreciation of the fact that people come to fitness from many different places. I can see now why people thought past me was just a little bit insufferable. I’ve apologized a few times, first for saying if you don’t love it, don’t do it (see An apology: A thing Sam thinks she needs to stop saying…) and second for saying it’s never too late, because sometimes it is (see The second thing Sam is going to stop saying…)

As someone who has always walked a lot and always ridden a bike and lifted weights since grad school, I come to new fitness activities in not awful shape to begin with. But that’s not true for everyone. Not everyone starts from the same place. In the past I don’t think I appreciated where people were with their fitness for different activities. For example, I dragged Tracy on some very long bike rides for which she wasn’t prepared. There was a 40 km ride that turned out to be 60 km. Later there was a promised century ride that turned out to be 110 km. Likewise, I’ve taken friends and family on hikes that have outstripped their abilities. Mea culpa.

We all start in different places. I’ve been riding a lot (where “a lot”= 3000-5000 km a year) for about fifteen years now. That’s why I feel like I’ve got 100 km in the bank. Check out my recent post about the 1 day version of the bike rally. I can ride that far at almost any time. But not everyone can do that. Beginners can’t do that. People new to cycling can’t do that and people new to fitness altogether certainly can’t.

Beginners can be beginners at a particular activity, like Tracy and road cycling. Or they can be beginners to physical activity in any form. These days, with cars and sofas and desks as the backdrop for our lives, we can start out pretty unfit. Someone found our blog recently by searching the following phrase: “I’m so unfit that even gardening is too much for me.” I discovered this when researching a blog post on why people hate exercise. Some people are so unfit, researchers say, that even cooking dinner and walking around the house can elevate their heart rate. See Hate exercise? You might just be much more unfit than you think.

So when Tracy writes about starting out small, for some people small might be really tiny.

That hit home when I was talking with someone recently about getting started cycling. She wanted to ride her bike to work but had to work up to the 5 km trip. She was riding around her neighbourhood, adding a block each night. She wanted to ride but couldn’t yet ride distances that would be useful. I couldn’t imagine not being able to ride 5 km but I rode a bike as a child and I’ve been a lifelong bike commuter.

Then it hit me! She needs an e-bike. See this piece on the health benefits of riding an e-bike.

In the past I haven’t been a fan of e-bikes. That’s mostly because I associated with them the faux scooters with vestigial pedals designed just to get around the rules that would require a license and insurance. I blogged about that kind here.

Image result for ebikes

But genuine e-assist bikes? They have their charms. A friend in Germany rides one because his route to work has hills and he doesn’t want to arrive sweaty. He’s a pretty fit guy who races in triathlons but he likes the e-bike for commuting. Another friend’s dad in Australia rides one because, as a life long cyclist, he wanted to keep riding but he could no longer make it up the hills. If I were to go back to New Zealand, I’d be tempted!

Then Elan blogged about her experiences renting an eBike and how much she liked it. I’ve got a good friend who bought one because it meant she could do all her commuting and errand running by bike rather than by bike + bus combo.

Finally, another friend bought an e-assist for her cargo bike. She’s riding with stuff and two kids and needs a bit of help on hills. Who could possibly blame her? Not me.

Image result for ebikes

So I’ve started to think about e-bikes differently. There are lots of good reasons to ride one including as a way to start out as a cyclist if you’re pretty unfit to begin. You can gradually use less and less of the e-assist and make practical use of the bike right from the start.

What do you think?

I can’t see them being used on bike clubs’ group rides and I wonder if they’ll make cycling holidays more accessible but I can see them making perfect sense as practical commuting and errand running bikes for beginners.

They’re also great for the environment.

See The Case for E-Bikes.

6 thoughts on “Sam is sorry she was a bit of a fitness snob about e-bikes

  1. I think ebikes are for everyone! I live in FL so it’s nice to be able to ride to work but not be disgusting by the time I get there. I’m in my mid-20’s and run and do crossfit 5-6 days a week. The bike feels like active recovery time. I can’t ride over the summer (storms everyday) and I miss it so much right now! I’m team ebike for all.

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    1. Thanks for the comments, Kim; it hadn’t occurred to me that an e-bike would serve that purpose as well. It’s making me think that I should try one out. If I were to commute to work (an hour-plus drive), I would cycle 45 minutes to downtown, take a 45-minute train, and then walk 12 minutes. Definitely I’d be soggy by then. A e-bike could maybe change that. Hmmm– food for thought!

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  2. Actually, the 110 was supposed to be 80K, not a century. That aside, As a fan of starting small, I also think the beginner doesn’t always have a good handle in what is small. Had I had a better sense of it, I wouldn’t have agreed to 80 even. I’d have agreed to one way. And then had Renald pick me up!

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  3. I’ve gone from feeling opposed to e-bike as frauds to starting to think that when they join the fleet of Citibikes or other shared bikes in New York City (which is happening very soon), then I might partake when it’s the end of the night. I ride the shared bikes most everywhere during the day and on my out at night. But I tend to get lazy at the very end of the evening and not want to ride home. I’m realizing that the e-bike option could solve for that lassitude AND is better for environment than the taxi I usually end up taking.

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  4. We had a guy in our club who was involved in a near-fatal accident while out cycling. After a long recovery he managed to get back on the social club ride with the help of an eBike. He never could have ridden and kept with without it.

    And I need one of those e-Cargo Bikes in my life!!!!

    Liked by 1 person

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