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.
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):
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.