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5 Reasons You Should Try an E-Bike

Plug into the fun of a motor between your legs

An eBike going fast in an urban landscape
Courtesy: Zooz Bikes

When I first heard about e-bikes, I was dubious. They seemed not quite as lame as Segways but just as overpriced and superfluous. Why not just pedal and earn your endorphins? 

But then somebody loaned me an electric mountain bike, and it changed everything. Honestly, I don’t think I’ll ever ride a nonelectric bike again. What changed my mind? Five simple things.

1. Pro-Like Speeds

Professional bike racers are genetically gifted and decades younger than us. E-bikes give you the chance to experience what it’s like to win the genetic lottery for fitness.

For me, that meant being the first person across the line at the Steamboat Springs gravel race in Colorado. I put my head down and thought about Mathieu van der Poel, the 26-year-old who’s one of the hottest young riders today. 

I finished the race with an average of 21.6 miles per hour, the same average speed as the pros.

2. Sweat by Choice (Not by Necessity)

Most e-bikes don’t have throttles. They provide additional oomph, adding power on top of what you’re creating. The rider determines the amount of assistance, and most systems include four different levels of pedal assist. So, e-bikes still provide a pretty decent workout.

And that’s not just my opinion. A study published last spring by researchers from Miami University in Oxford, Ohio, found that commuters using e-bikes not only got to their jobs faster than on standard bicycles, but they also elevated their breathing and heart rates enough that it qualified as meaningful exercise.

3. Perfect for Errands

Just about everything you do by car, you can do by bike. According to a 2017 report from the U.S. Department of Transportation, nearly 60 percent of car trips are less than 6 miles. That’s practically a walk around the block on an e-bike.

Need to run to Trader Joe’s? An e-bike will get you there in a hurry without having to deal with parking at the notoriously small TJ’s parking lots. And if you’re riding home, carrying $100-plus of groceries, the motor means you can take hilly side streets instead of fighting with traffic. 

4. Even Non-Cyclists Will Fall in Love

“My wife has ridden her bike with me no more than 10 times in 40 years of marriage,” Greg LeMond, the three-time Tour de France winner and one of America’s greatest cyclists, said in an interview this year with e-bike site Cycle Volta. “Then we got an e-bike, and she's ridden more than she ever has.” 

E-bikes are just f---ing fun. I lent one to my coworker, who regularly rides on gravel as well as the road, and he was smiling from ear to ear for the whole ride. 

When I let my buddy’s wife take a spin on one of the weirdest e-bikes on the planet — three wheels and marketed toward hunters — she let out a cackle that was pure joy.

5. Less Sucky Commutes

In Los Angeles, buses seem to average the same speed as a bike. Pedal from downtown to Hollywood and you’ll be playing leapfrog with buses for miles. It sucks. But the added speed of e-bikes ends this.

Getting to work will suddenly feel less like a hassle and more like the coolest video game you’ve ever played.

Of course, as with most of life, there are caveats. Buying an e-bike can be both expensive and complicated. Your money goes the farthest if you go direct: ordering from the company and assembling and tuning it yourself. Most e-bikes take less than an hour to build, with entry-level models typically costing between $1,500 and $2,000 when shopping online.