The idea that an electric bike is ‘cheating’ and ‘does all the work’ is a misconception held by many. Electric bikes aka e bikes have great value in getting people back into cycling after an illness or getting people into cycling that have never ridden before.
Electric bicycles or battery bikes in general are designed to be ridden in pedal assist mode. This means that the rider is putting in effort and the motor is assisting. Some electric bikes have a feature whereby the rider can vary the amount of assistance given by the bike, whilst others have the ability to be ridden without pedaling at all. The ability to go completely under power may be useful if a rider can only put in effort for a short time and then need a ‘breather’. This allows them to either continue their journey, or when out riding with other companions, to keep up and not delay the ride.
To use an electric bike as an aid to rehabilitation or improving fitness, select one that offers adjustable power levels. Start out with the setting on high or maximum assist. The rider will be putting in a minimum amount of effort and the bike will be doing lots of the work. As fitness improves the power can be reduced allowing the rider to put in more effort. The assistance level can easily be raised again to give extra help on hills or if you want to increase the distance ridden.
If you choose a bike with ‘torque sensor’ technology the bike detects pressure on the pedals, the harder you push on the pedals the more assistance the bike gives you. So for example, if you are riding on the flat and only pressing gently on the pedals the bike gives you a small amount of assistance. If you want to go faster, there is a head wind, or a hill and you increase the pressure on the pedals the bike senses this and puts in more power accordingly.
Electric bikes that offer ‘launch assist’ or a throttle override can be very useful in setting off. The initial push to get going on a bicycle takes more effort than that required to maintain speed once riding. The ability to select ‘instant’ help as you set off is also a definite advantage when starting on an incline or even if you have stopped in the ‘wrong’ gear, which means it takes far more effort to get moving. When setting off in traffic, either in a queue or at traffic lights the danger of going too slow is that this can make the rider slightly unstable, extra assistance here can bring the rider up to a more stable speed very quickly.
At the start of any fitness programme, whether it is for general fitness or for rehabilitation after illness or injury, maximum exertion and endurance levels can be very low. An electric bike gives the rider the confidence to try inclines and distances that they would otherwise consider unattainable because they have the back up of additional power should they require it.
Exercising alone is not very attractive to some people; indeed this can mean that they do not do it at all. A cycle ride with friends and family is a much more attractive option, the advantage of using an electric bike is that the less able person can still keep up with the other members of the group. Very often a key part of rehabilitation after illness is being able to feel like you have returned to normal, riding with friends can help with this.
An electric bicycle can make the difference between thinking that cycling would be a great way to get back in to exercise and actually getting out there and enjoying it.