By Jim Motavalli
My biking skills were atrophying—until the Pandemic. I read once that Americans have the highest bicycle ownership in the world, but one of the lowest rates of actually riding them. Everybody has a bike—that’s what garages are for—but most of them are sitting around with flat tires.
Some years ago, I was given a Pedego electric bike through the kindness of the manufacturer. The president of the company answered the phone when I called! Pedego wanted me to write about it, which I subsequently did, but after the novelty wore off it got shoved into a corner.
And now, with the gym no longer a safe haven, it’s out again. I’m riding it every day and loving it. It’s a City Commuter model, much like this one. I’m on my second 15-amp battery pack. I don’t go on long trips with it—traffic intimidates me—but I have evolved a fairly complex route that winds its way through my Stratfield neighborhood, including both level and uphill/downhill sections.
What I like about my Pedego, and electric bikes in general, is that the level of assist is up to you. E-bikes, and the Pedego in particular, are big, sturdy machines, and especially with the battery in place they’re much heavier than a standard 10-speed. So what happened is that I started out using the battery for more than half the ride, but I’ve since gotten acclimated and now only use it about 20 percent of the time. The more you ride, the less you rely on electric power as a crutch.
Here’s The Verge on the value of e-biking as exercise. It’s not “cheating”:
“Researchers from Brigham Young University recruited 33 subjects, mostly men between the ages of 18 and 65, to ride both regular mountain bikes and electric, pedal-assist mountain bikes on a rolling six-mile, single-track course through the Utah countryside. Afterward, they compared their heart rates and found that riding an e-bike is no effortless fling. In fact, it requires almost as much physical exertion as riding a traditional mountain bike. Riding both types of bikes ‘placed the vast majority of participants in the vigorous-intensity heart rate zone,’ the study authors concluded.
“Riding both types of bikes ‘placed the vast majority of participants in the vigorous-intensity heart rate zone,’ the study authors concluded. The average heart rate of a test subject riding an e-bike was 93.6 percent of those riding conventional bikes. Moreover, electric bikes appear to be an “excellent form of aerobic or cardiovascular exercise, even for experienced mountain bikers who regularly engage in this fitness activity.”
The bike has fat tires like the Schwinn I had as a kid, and unlike those high-strung 10-speeds it’s incredibly stable and idiot-proof. I always wear a helmet, though. I mostly ride in fourth and fifth gear, occasionally third. The battery pack is easily detachable and can be charged inside, but I usually leave it in place.
There’s a Pedego dealer in Norwalk now, selling bikes and fixing them. (Warning: The site takes a while to load.)
Bicycling.com identifies cycles from Trek, Tern, Cannondale and Brompton as among the best on the market now. According to the site, “In the U.S., there are three classes defined by the type of assist and how fast the motor will propel you. Most electric bikes sold are class 1 or 3. Class 1 bikes have a motor (max 750w) that assists while you’re pedaling, up to 20 mph. Class 3, also known as “speed pedelec,” can also have up to only a 750w motor (aka 1 horsepower), but it can assist you up to 28 mph. Both are allowed in most states and cities without the need for a license. Class 2 models have a throttle that can propel a bike up to and maintain 20 mph without having to continuously pedal.”
Electric bikes are coming down in price. There’s still plenty of them in the $3,000 and up range, but my friend Brad Berman writes in the New York Times that they’re getting cheaper and better. Once almost all e-bikes were sold in China, but Brad quotes market research firm Guidehouse Insights, which says that one million will be sold annually in 2023, up from 650,000 now. And bikes from companies like Rad Power are in the $1,000 to $1,500 range.
So get off your duff and start pedaling. It’s one of the safest things you can do right now, and it’s great exercise. I’ll see you out there on my Pedego.