cycling · fitness

Helpful responses to snarky comments about e-bikes

I’ve been thinking and talking about getting an e-bike for a while now. A few factors have held me back:

  • cost: e-bikes with nicer components have been running $5K USD or more
  • weight: most e-bike weigh 40+ lbs/18+ kg, making them hard to move up and down stairs (in my case)
  • felt stigma: I felt like buying an e-bike was an announcement that I was giving up on fitness, that I would be losing out on the joy (and pain) of riding on or off-road with friends.

I’m happy to report something good about 2021: e-bike prices are dropping, with more options and price points for different types of e-biking. Also, it’s possible to get a lighter e-bike. You’ll pay for it, but you no longer have to pay $8K or more to get a lighter-weight e-bike.

And the felt stigma? Well, with all that we’ve gone through in 2020 and 2021, I’m done with that. I want to be out there, turning the cranks, riding by myself or with friends, and if an e-bike will get me there, I’m ready to pull out the credit card. Plus, I’m turning 60 next year, and an e-bike sounds like an awesome present to give myself. Apparently they can even be gift-wrapped.

Lovingly gift-wrapped bike, with reindeer paper. You can learn how to do it yourself on this site.
Lovingly gift-wrapped bike, with reindeer paper. You can learn how to do it yourself on this site.

Okay, I’ve done the internal work to prepare myself for buying an e-bike. And, I’m saving up. But there’s still some potential external stigmatizing of e-bikes out there. Well, forewarned is forearmed. I’ve come up with a short list of common snarky comments about e-bikes, along with snappy responses. Read now, and thank me later.

Snarky comment: Well, I guess you’re giving up on fitness riding. But hey, I guess that’s okay… for you.

Response: What a sad, non-data-driven life you must lead. Let me science-splain you about e-bikes.

In this study on experienced (yes, they were all male; sigh…) mountain bikers, researchers compared average heart rate on both conventional mountain bikes and e-mountain bikes. On the e-bikes, the average heart rate was 94% of the heart rate on the conventional bikes. This suggests they got about the same workout on both bikes.

Snarky comment: Okay, but that’s a bunch of off-road experienced cyclists. How are YOU going to get a a decent workout just toodling around town?

Response one: Let me address your snideness in two parts. First, a variety of studies have shown that e-bikes increase frequency of cycling by reducing barriers like weather, terrain, distance and difficulty of ride. This has been shown to translate into more miles/kilometers cycled. In short, if an e-bike gets you out there, it’s a good thing.

Response two: It is true that studies have shown that cyclists burn fewer calories on e-bikes than they do on conventional bikes. However, the difference is low. In this study, summarized in this Washington Post story, we see a 100-150 fewer calories burned per hour on average. But, the level of exertion was still in the moderate-intensity range. Furthermore, in the above-mentioned mountain biking study, researchers noted that the main difference in exertion was in top-end power output. But that’s a just one factor in cycling fitness.

Besides, I’ve got a bunch of conventional bikes. When I feel like doing sprints, I’ll do some damn sprints.

Snarky comment: I respect your acknowledgement of your limitations. I’m sure riding in the slow lane will be, uh, pleasant.

Response: Whatevs. I’m off to ride e-bikes now with GREG LEMOND. Later, loser…

Greg Lemond, cycling titan and three-time Tour de France winner, is on a mission to create a revolutionary new carbon-fiber e-bike. Yes, you read that right: e-bike. (full disclosure: I have a 2005 Lemond Alpe d’Huez road bike that I love like a close relative).

And he’s done it. Not for cheap, but we cyclists know that our love and devotion to the sport and pastime requires a big chunk of our disposable income. Take a look at this beauty, which comes in black, white, or pink (not in the pink-and-shrink way, but the winning jersey of the Giro D’Italia way):

Herewith the Lemond Prolog, in Giro D'Italia pink. It can be yours for $4500 (base price).
Herewith the Lemond Prolog, in Giro D’Italia pink. It can be yours for $4500 (base price).

Snarky comment: But isn’t it kind of cheating? You know what they say: no pain, no gain.

Response: Who do you think you are, Martin Luther? What kind of penitential, self-flagellating approach to bike riding are you advocating here? My e-cycling BFF Greg Lemond, has already covered this:

“Until you get fit, riding fast hurts a little bit,” LeMond says. “It’s just really hard to get to the point where it feels good. Being able to go that fast—it’s a whole different sensation. It’s magical. I can’t even ride that fast anymore, but an ebike can take the pain away. An ebike can get you there.”

Last (post-snarky) comment: Uh, can I try it?

Last response: Try being a little nicer, and we’ll see.

Readers, are you e-biking already? How do you like it? How do you shut down the naysayers? I’d love to hear from you.

3 thoughts on “Helpful responses to snarky comments about e-bikes

  1. I’ve been thinking seriously about an e-bike. All the reasons you cite about using a bike more, biking further, being able to use for errands in a way that I just don’t use my regular bike definitely apply. My big hesitation is that I’m hearing impaired and the level of hostility to bikers by people in cars worries me. There are places I don’t ride my regular bike because my hearing impairment means I have less warning/reaction time to cars. That said, my town is building more and more protected bike lines so I’m definitely contemplating!

  2. Yes, I am e-biking, and regular old road-biking. As far as I am concerned, let ’em make all the snarky comments they want.

    If you think about it, an e-bike is a perfect way to substitute bike for car more often. I originally got mine to be able to do grocery shopping by bike. Especially during Covid, I try to minimize my trips to the store, and we live a sort of steep 600′ higher than the store. So hauling 40 pounds of groceries home is not an option (at least for me – 70 years old, 5’1″). Doing it with a trailer on the e-bike? Fun!!!

    Another reality for me: I am making my way home after riding a bike from San Diego to St. Augustine. I had car support, so I added the e-bike to the rack. I used it more than I expected to. If there was a really long day – close to 100 miles, and daylight getting shorter, the e-bike took the pressure off. And don’t even try to tell me I didn’t get a workout! A pass over 8000′? And I really wanted to have time to appreciate the views? E-bike. Why not? A day when thunderstorms threatened in the afternoon & I wanted to get done early? Guess what! The alternative would have been another day in the starting town, or hopping in the car. Nope

    The e-bike fills a big part of the enormous gap between car and bicycle. Although I still prefer my road bike, I love the e-bike. A lot.

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