After about six months of riding my bike to work 34 km every day(that’s 21 miles for you non-metric folks), my husband said to me, “Now, you’re a legit cyclist.” While I would say many of my friends would have called me that years ago, most of my friends don’t work in the bike industry, where the definition of a cyclist is much more rigid.
I have spent much of my adult life around people who had an inflexible view of who a cyclist was, from bike messengers without brakes (really?) to road cyclists who spend more on their bike than their car (really.) and mountain bikers who don’t get too riled up about anything except for maybe rude hikers.
It feels weird to suddenly belong to this group, mostly because I have been a point-A-to-B bike rider most of my life. Sure, I cycled across part of Finland once and rode to the French border to see the Tour de France come through a few years ago, but I have always been an amateur, a dabbler. But I do love riding – always have – so I’m wearing my badge with pride.
And since it came from riding an e-bike, I figured it might be time to set the record straight: E-bikes are awesome. For years I was a hater. For really no good reasons other than:
- People who ride them must be lazy
- It isn’t really exercise
- Why would you ride a bike and skip the exercise?
- I think we’re back to the lazy argument again
But when my like-minded hubby started working for a bike company, he rode an e-bike and immediately changed his mind. And when I got a job that takes me an hour to get there by train, Sante suggested an e-bike. And I figured, why not? I tried it and loved it.
I haven’t bought a train ticket since the end of April. It has been an amazing time not having to deal with too much traffic, not being beholden to a train schedule, riding through the Black Forest and having built-in exercise every day.
Perhaps you’re reading this and thinking now that I am not a legitimate cyclist because I commute via e-bike. I might have agreed with you a year ago, but not now. I have embraced e-bikes in all their forms, and I think more people should as well. Road bikes, mountain bikes, urban bikes. Why not put a motor on some of them? Here are five reasons to change your perspective:
1. More people on bikes = More awareness
There are loads of people out there on bikes, and at least when I was living in the US, getting hit by a car was pretty much a right of passage. My accident was Christmas Eve 2009. It happens and it sucks. But the more people you have on bikes, the more people will see others on bikes and know others who ride. That means more knowledge, fewer road rage incidents, friendlier car/bike interactions. It means fewer angry hikers, more acceptance of shared trails and generally less stress. We could all do with less of that shit. After all, isn’t riding supposed to relieve tension?
2. People who wouldn’t normally commute/ride/get rad are doing it, and this will lead to demand for more infrastructure
There are far too many places where it is unsafe, un-fun or just un-possible to ride, and the more people that start to understand that, the more likely resources will be funneled toward it. Maybe a CEO who would’ve never ridden a century on a road bike will get into it through an e-bike. Suddenly he understands cycling from the inside and voila, showers and bike park areas are soon after a priority in the budget. Or a mayor starts commuting by e-bike and realizes there are no bike lanes on his route. And people riding don’t even have to be in a position of power; it’s a question of volume. If one person asks it’s a nuisance. If 500 people ask, it gets your attention. I smell a revolution…
3. Fewer jerks out there
While there will always be assholes (I’m pretty sure that’s one of the laws of physics), the more people on e-bikes (and bikes in general) means more understanding. Those same people who didn’t ride before are less likely to be assholes when they drive now and more vocal when their friends are. This goes along with the first point of more awareness: the more people who ride mean fewer people who don’t. Let’s not get all hipster about this — bikes gaining popularity is a good thing, and e-bikes make that possible.
4. It’s exercise
No really, riding an e-bike is a workout. It just isn’t as much of a workout as a regular bike. And that’s OK. We aren’t all trying to be world champions. Some of us (read commuters) are actively trying NOT to sweat. But trust me. Or rather, trust my Garmin, which said I burn an average of 500 extra calories when I ride, with an average heart rate of 110. Not quite cardio, but that’s kind of the point. There are no showers where I work. Other people have to sit with me in an office. But it’s still enough to keep me feeling active through the week and fit enough to do a big hike on the weekend.
5. It’s FUN!
Remember when you first started riding your bike? Before KOMs? Before you considered your bike lock a weapon? Yeah, it was a pretty effing good time. I still remember riding down the alley, my dad’s footsteps fading behind me on my banana-seat, banana yellow Schwinn. It was like flying. And riding an e-bike feels a lot like that. When Sante rode his first e-bike, you couldn’t wipe the grin off his face. And I get it now. It brings out pure joy. And how can you hate on that?
This weekend my hubby took me out on some trails up in the woods. I had tried to ride before, but it is pretty difficult if you aren’t strong enough to push through technical sections over rocks and through ruts. It gets discouraging. But this time I tried out a mountain e-bike, and it was actually fun. And I got to ride along side Sante, who is miles ahead of me both in skill and strength. We both were able to have a good time, and if it weren’t for the e-bike it would’ve never happened.
I guess the point is you don’t have to love e-bikes like I do. You don’t even have to ride one if you don’t want to, although I obviously recommend it. Just try not to hate on them, because in the long run, they are doing more for riding and the greater good than you think.