COVID Got You Thinking About a Car? Try an E-bike Instead
Cheaper, fun to ride, better exercise than you’d think
The coronavirus pandemic has turned one of the great conveniences of urban life — being car-free and using transit — into a bundle of worry. Few of us want to be cheek-by-jowl with a bus or subway car full of strangers, masks or no masks.
So, many city people are buying cars, some for the first time. If you must, go ahead, but first read my colleague Carla Fried on avoiding the needless costs of car ownership.
And better yet, consider an e-bike. Sales were already rising before the pandemic and since have soared. Suppliers are racing to catch up to demand. Here’s why:
Price: Even the most expensive e-bike models are generally less than $8,000. A full charge of the battery will cost you pennies. Early indications are that maintenance costs are minimal. And e-bike insurance is generally in the region of $100 a year and will help protect you in the event of theft or accident. Replacing the battery — a must every three or so years — is around $800 each time, depending on the bike.
Convenience: In many respects, e-bikes are perfect for commuting or short trips. Depending on the class of the bike, they assist pedaling up to a top speed of 28 miles per hour, allowing you to zip around the city. What’s more, they don’t require complicated parking options and are ready whenever you are, unlike public transport.
Health: A study last year found that e-bike riders’ average heart rate was 94% of the average heart rate during conventional mountain bike use. When asked, the vast majority of participants felt that they had scarcely exerted themselves — even though fitness trackers clearly showed they’d experienced moderate or vigorous levels of exercise.
Why? E-bikes seem to be fun; people often don’t notice they’re exercising. A 2016 study designed to see the effect of e-bike commuting on fitness and blood sugar levels found that most participants reported spending more time in the saddle than they were required to for the study, generally because they were enjoying themselves.
More recently, participants in a Hamburg, Germany, study were given standard and electric bicycles, and asked to monitor their usage. Riders of standard bicycles averaged three rides a week; e-bike riders managed five trips of a comparable length each week.
Safety: Before buying any bike, you should check your area’s bikeability rating. Bicycling.com’s list, which takes into account safety, culture, energy and friendliness, is a good place to start.
The website can also connect you with cycling groups in your area, for local knowledge and rules of the road. Bike people generally are quite helpful..
Make sure you have your e-bike professionally fitted to you. Ask the assistant to talk you through the best and safest way to ride it before you take to the streets. Always wear a helmet, follow traffic rules, and make sure you can be easily seen on the road, particularly in low light.
Models: You can spend as little as $2,500, while most expensive options generally come in at or below $7,000. But there are good reasons to start out with a cheaper model. E-bikes are relatively new technology; they’re likely to get cheaper, more efficient and generally better over time. And if you want to upgrade later on, or even get a second e-bike for different kinds of riding, there’s nothing to stop you. The Strategist does a good job of laying out the different options for each type of rider.