If you’re not familiar with e-bikes, you may view them as glorified mopeds, with no exertion necessary. But that’s not entirely accurate. “People who ride e-bikes actually get as much and even more exercise than they would on a conventional bike, because they will choose to ride more often, for longer duration, and for greater distances,” says Todd Ketch, owner of Pedego Alexandria, the only e-bike outfit in Northern Virginia. He says the technology eliminates a lot of the barriers keeping some from riding at all, like fitness level, concerns about hills and distance, and fatigue. Most e-bikes offer the ability to control the level of assistance you get to meet your own specific needs and goals.
E-bikes are powered by electric motors with rechargeable batteries to tackle those steep hills and long trails. They’ve surged in popularity recently as an alternative to traditional cycling and an eco-friendly commuting option. But they’ve also opened up a new activity to those with physical limitations like cardio concerns or issues with muscles or joints. Some models are even able to do all of the work if needed, meaning the rider only needs to be able to sit and maintain balance.
These two-wheeled versions of hybrid vehicles fall into two main categories: pedal-assisted models that give auxiliary power to the pedaling motion, and those that sport a throttle for an added boost. Options like smaller wheel-and-frame combinations, ultra-low step-through frames, and even three-wheel tires allow most anyone to ride, says Ketch. It’s smart, though, to consult your doctor and a knowledgeable bicycle dealer to see if an e-bike is right for you.
When shopping for an e-bike, consider the same things you would with a traditional one, like size, style, fit, and comfort. But also keep in mind features like battery power and capacity. Some can offer rides up to a range of 75 miles or more. “Don’t assume you’ll ‘never ride that far,’” says Ketch. “Once you realize you can, you’ll want to push yourself all the way.” Hub motors, located in the rear wheel, turn the wheel, and are generally on bikes with both pedal-assist and throttle capability. Mid-drive motors, in the middle, help turn the pedals and are usually on e-bikes without throttles. Try both, Ketch suggests, keeping in mind that many people who initially view a throttle as a nice-to-have decide it’s a need-to-have.
No matter the model, an e-bike could open up a world of fun and exercise. As Ketch puts it, “People don’t have to miss out on the joy of an afternoon bike ride or stay behind when there is an opportunity to ride and spend time with friends and family.”
Pedego Alexandria offers the chance to test-ride any of their 20 electric bike styles and sizes. Prices start at $1,695; the most popular models cost around $3,000. 210 N. Lee St., Ste. 102, Alexandria
This story originally ran in our July issue. For more stories like this, subscribe to our monthly magazine.