Exercise and electric bikes

We got a funny call this morning. A woman had read the article about us in the University Gazette. She happens to work in public health. Somehow, she queued in on my statement that “electric bikes are more efficient than the human pedaler,” and she was prepared to scold us, since her research indicates there are huge energy costs that go into treating the epidemic of obesity in this country.

For whatever reason, she thought that electric bikes mean that a person doesn’t ever have to pedal – that it is essentially just a scooter with pedals. Now, I will preface this by saying there are some electric bikes on the market that are essentially like that – I saw many on a recent trip to China. They were essentially scooters that had pedals grafted on so they could be called a bike (for legal reasons).
But that’s not what we are about. Our vision for electric bikes is that it is first and foremost still a bicycle. It should feel and handle like a bike. It should be easy to pedal like a bike. It should encourage the rider to get exercise, by pedaling.
It reminds me of customers who make the statement “if I had an electric bike, I wouldn’t get any exercise.” My response to that is that I get 1 hour of exercise every day on my electric bike, because I pedal the whole time. I could get away without pedaling, but I feel silly riding along without pedaling. And I like to get the nice dose of moderate, aerobic exercise every day. On the other hand, I live far enough away, that I simply wouldn’t bike every day without electric. Last time I tried the non-electric approach, the most I could bring myself to bike was 2-3 times per week. I’m in way better shape now, by riding an electric bike every day.
So, back to the phone call. Fortunately we were able to explain to the woman that our goals were the same as hers: we want people to be more healthy, and we totally agree that there is an epidemic caused by lack of exercise in the US. We just happen to think that electric bicycles can help some people overcome the lack of exercise, by encouraging them to ride more often. We have customers who have lost substantial weight after starting to ride an electric bike.
I hope we can clear up the confusion that somehow having electric assist prevents getting exercise. It does not, it encourages exercise, because it makes it more likely you will ride your bike for that trip to the store or to work, rather than getting in the car (which is no exercise at all).

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