Electric Bikes Don’t Give any Exercise (ha ha)

On Wednesday evening I dusted off my poor road bike, a Lemond Buenos Aires, to take her out for a ride. I hadn’t been on her for 6 months or so. The tires were flat, and the chain needed a serious lube. I got her going, and went out in the popular Dairyland area North of Chapel Hill and Carrboro, NC, for a pleasant ride in the rolling hills (some would say these hills are more than rolling).
Starting out, I thought that I was going to suck wind on this ride, since it was my first ride in so many months on the road bike (which does not have electric assist!). In fact, aside from my electric assist Big Dummy, the only other bike I’ve been on in the past six months is my 29er mountain bike – exactly 3 times. My life is way too busy right now for regular recreational rides on the road bike or the mountain bike. The only bike I have time to ride is the one I get to and from work on and do errands on – which has an electric motor that some folks tell me they consider “cheating”.

I have a cycle computer, and being somewhat of a geek, I like to keep track of my stats when I’m on my bikes. But, for my road bike ride, I didn’t want to look at my average speed during the ride, because I figured it would be so slow. Instead I just kept the distance displayed. I noticed many times that my instantaneous speed was hovering around 20 mph, and a few times that it dropped down to 14-15 mph on a big hill, but I thought I was doing ok. Well, except for the time that a pack of hard-core racer types – all guys – whizzed past me going 23-25 mph. I held them off on a hill, but once we got to the flat stretch, they were gone.

Anyway, after my 21.4 mile loop with 1,043 ft of climbing (plus 7 miles to/from home), I stopped and checked the average speed: 18.91 mph – very close to 19 mph. This is not Olympic level riding – but neither is it slouch riding. Even back when I was training on the road bike regularly, I rarely would average much over 19 mph when riding by myself (and often 22-23 mph or so in a group for this hilly area).
There goes another nail in the coffin of the myth that “electric bikes don’t give you exercise” or “electric bikes are cheating”. I couldn’t have pulled off that kind of speed if I hadn’t been riding almost every single day on my electric cargo bike. Some days on my electric bike I don’t pedal very hard, if I’m feeling tired. Other days I pedal a lot to get the exercise. But I do pedal, every day – because I feel goofy riding the bike without pedaling.
It reminds me of a customer whom we’re going to profile soon on video. She bought an electric eZee hub motor kit from us last year. She put it on her commuting bike, and logged over 2,000 miles on it in the past year. In the process, she lost 90 pounds! She recently brought her bike in to have us take the motor off, and to put that on a cargo bike with an Xtracycle for her. She is in such good shape now, she no longer needs the electric assist for her regular commute on the regular bike. I don’t think her 90 lbs lost and all those car trips saved are “cheating” – exactly the opposite.

3 thoughts

  1. It's stories like this that make me REALLY hope your shop survives and continues to do the good work over there.

    I regret not having spent any money with you yet. I do have a Big Dummy frame that I need to carry over for you to build up and electrify for my wife, just haven't made the trip yet.

  2. Hi Jeff,
    Thanks for the positive comment! I wasn't there earlier on Saturday, but I heard that someone came in to inquire about have a Big Dummy built up (someone who already had the frame)…. maybe it was you?

    It is challenging to get the word out about what we do, because what we do is "different". It can be really daunting to challenge the status quo, but when one is successful, it can also have big payoffs.

    Thanks for the support!

  3. Hi Morgan – I am glad to see you guys (gals) are doing well., and are getting a newsletter out. I bought an eZee hub, with Elise’s assistance, awhile back. She was great! Here is what I did.

    I converted my old Jamis Diablo mountain bike to an Xtracycle, complete with wideloader and longloader. I added an eZee hub front wheel motor, and high amperage Ping lithium ion battery from China. It has been one of my projects that has truly been a success! It all works great together.

    I am a 60 year old, semi-retired luthier, living in Chattanooga, TN. I could still pedal over all of the hills here, but the big hills were intimidating enough that often, given a choice, I left the bike behind and took the car instead. Now, I have no hesitation in jumping on my bike to go get groceries, run other errands, or go downtown even (think 4 miles of steep hills) to pick up a cigar (okay, a really bad habit I have gotten into). I don’t even have a car available anymore (my wife, Susan, uses the car for work), although I occasionally use her Aprilia Scarabeo scooter for trips where the traffic is too much and too high speed.

    At first I only used the motor for an assist over the hills. Now, I find that I often leave it open full out, but pedal as hard as I can in the highest gear on the flats and small hills, and then gear down for the biggest hills. I still get a great workout, and the speed of the bike, roughly 20 m.p.h. on the flats, makes for very quick trips. The other great thing about having the electric assist is getting through intersections quickly and getting started, and keeping up, in traffic.

    A couple of weeks ago I had to ship a guitar via UPS. First, I tried strapping it on Susan’s scooter, but was uncomfortable with how it was secured, so I switched it to the Xtracycle long loader. Of course, it worked out great. I can haul so much stuff with that bike.

    The only problem I have experienced with the bike is with other riders on non-assisted bikes keeping up with me. I like to go fast and keep it moving. It makes me the equivalent of Lance Armstrong on the hills. One day, not long after building the bike, I was headed downtown and climbing a steep, long hill. Up ahead on the hill was a young cyclist in full spandex racing regalia, on his lightweight, high tech, bike. He noticed me in his helmet mirror. What he saw was an gray-bearded, old guy, of about 200 lbs., on a clunky Xtracycle, wearing a dyed orange Tilley hat, gaining on him. He went into the drops, and began pedalling hard. I flew by him so fast I don’t think he even had a chance to notice that I had an electric hub assist. And it is so quiet, I know that he couldn’t hear it.

    My next project when I get a little ahead, is a 72 volt motor on a Surley Pugsley (beefy frame with 4 inch tires). I am looking for a top speed of around 50 m.p.h. or so on that one. If I have to, I will upgrade the frame and other components to make it safe for traffic at those speeds. And, or course, I will wear a motorcycle helmet instead of my Tilley hat.

    Best wishes, and give Elise my regards!

    Mike Roebuck
    Chattanooga, TN

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