First Fat Bikes, Now E-Bikes. The Cycling World Is Spinning Up Innovation.

If you’ve never seen one, this is an e-bike. There are many, many other designs for different purposes. Credit: Ancheer

An interesting phenomena has started to surface in the cycling industry.  From July of 2016 to July of 2017, there was a 95% jump in sales of E-Bikes in what industry regulars say is currently a $65 million segment of the cycling business.  Sales have been booming and currently all of the major manufacturers have jumped on board with offerings of pedal assist bicycles in both road and off road models. 

Along with increased sales especially among the senior set, there has been increased controversy with opponents concerned about the safety of the bikes as well as the safety of other users on our nation’s trail systems.  Purists have been vocal about how e-bikes should not be allowed on multi-use trails because they are in the category of motorized vehicles which are currently banned.  However, the one thing most people do not understand or admit when criticizing the e-bikes is that one still has to pedal them.  Each pedal stroke starts the electric motor which can be used in econo mode (slower and energy savings on hills), and turbo (governed to no more than 20 mph). There are no throttles on the majority of e-bikes.    But make no mistake about it, e-bikes are here to stay, and there is even a category for e-bike racing in the 2019 World Mountain Bike Championships coming up this fall.  A rainbow jersey will be awarded.  Who would have ever thought?

Bringing it closer to home, I have two friends who are now in their 70s.  Really fit guys who have ridden mountain bikes for a long time.  One guy is slowing down a little bit. So, when the e-bikes came out, he was one of the first to jump on board because it allowed him to keep up with our younger friends and continue to be part of the group rides.  In fact, I kid him when following him up hills.  I tell him he is the “A” Team now being the fastest up the hills.  He smiles and consequently is still part of the rides that he always loved. 

The other guy is a very fit 70 year old who told me, “ Pat, I really got the e-bike for my mountain bike trips out West where I am faced with many miles of uphill fire roads.”  He can cover a lot more ground and can  see a lot more on these scenic Western rides with the pedal assist on long hills.  He also says he can ride more days in a row because the pedal assist reduces the daily fatigue on his legs as he ages.  He rides more days and enjoys the trips even more.

For non-cyclists, an e-bike can be an accessible way to enjoy the trails. Credit: Pat McCloskey

Finally, the picture you see above is my friend Farah.  Her husband is a riding friend of mine, and he is trying to get her to ride a little more. He bought her this Specialized e-bike for use on the many rails to trails around our region.  He says she loves it and it allows her to ride many more miles than she would on a regular bike.  In fact, she is anxious to ride more because the fatigue factor has been eliminated with the e-bike and she has a lot more fun riding than with a regular bicycle.  This is common place now with 94 percent of non-cyclists who purchased an e-bike, reporting that they are riding more daily or weekly because of their new purchase.

As the population ages, e-bikes make sense for those of us who want to still enjoy the trails and roads.  There is a learning curve on how to use the econo mode and the turbo mode and braking is a bit different with pedal assist.  But it is something that is learned with continual use.  Respect on the trails is still required and even the International Mountain Bike Association (IMBA) is re-writing a lot of trail etiquette to address the protocol for riding multi-use trails with e-bikes. 

With the current popularity of cycling as a means of transportation, the e-bike makes sense for road riding as well as commuting.  Even UBER is investigating utilizing e-bikes as a viable means of transportation in their urban transportation platforms.  Backroads Cycling and other adventure cycling organizations are now offering e-bikes to their clients on European cycling journeys with rave reviews.

So, the bottom line is this: Try one.  See if it is something that will encourage you as a senior rider to perhaps ride to the store instead of driving.  Maybe try the trails that you have never ridden before or enjoy your current trail system with a little assist as you age.  We all try to stay fit as seniors but with e-bikes, we can get a little help.  I know one is in my future.


  1. If owning and using an ebike will get us outdoors more often, we will greatly benefit with all the positive healthy outcomes associated with being out in nature. Assistance up the hills sounds like a beautiful thing. I want one!

  2. Chic lasser says:

    Pat, my wife and I were first adapters to ebikes 4 seasons ago, and I can tell you we cycle much more because of it. In our 70’s now we actually ride vs sitting around watching tv. I can only say before anyone criticizes ebikes they should try one.

  3. eBikes are an enabler.
    Don’t take my word for it, listen to these eBikers following their eBike experience in Tuscany, Italy.

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