I was somewhat perplexed the other day as I prepared to register the usual details in my cycling logbook. Yes, I did go for a bike ride, but it didn't seem like a real one. There wasn't the normal aftermath following a 25-mile pedal: achy muscles, sweaty skin, craving a little nourishment, etc. In fact, I felt a bit of a phony for even wearing bib shorts and a jersey.
So what was my issue? Simply put, I finally went for a ride on an e-bike and, quite frankly, I found out there is a noticeable difference between it and a regular two-wheeled machine. By no means, should anything I say discourage anyone from having a battery-powered "assist" bicycle — but I'm just not ready for one, yet.
Having delved into the subject of e-bikes in past blog postings — both pooh-pooh them and singing their praises, especially for cyclists with medical conditions — I felt the need to try one out. To see why most bicycle manufacturers are pushing their benefits. To see what all the fuss is about.
We happen to have an e-bike at our shop — Mathieu's Cycle — in Farmingdale. It's a Specialized Como 3.0. Without getting into too much detail, there are three power settings, and the more force you apply to the pedals, the more power the motor puts out. The bike is simple to operate. It's nice looking, it's quiet, and with 2.3-inch tires, it's smooth-rolling. So I took it for a spin.
The first thing you notice is the effortless acceleration. It doesn't pull you off the saddle, but you'd be wise to keep your grip on the handlebars. Then there are the hills, which are pretty plentiful on most of my chosen routes here in Maine. Let's just say, some of them do a good job of destroying me, but with an e-bike, I was tearing them apart.
That was the fun stuff, but there were some drawbacks — at least for me. On two or three occasions during the ride, I turned the power off just to evaluate the bike's performance. While this certainly would enhance one's workout, this particular bike is just too darn heavy ... at 46 pounds. So most people are going to keep the power on, I'm guessing. Also, I would have to change the saddle, as the one that came with the bike was too wide.
As I stated earlier, the ride to me seemed a little unreal — a kind of pretend cruise. I just didn't have to work very hard to cover my distance that day. A couple of number comparisons bear me out. If I crank really hard on any of my regular bikes, I usually burn up to 1,000 calories for every 20 miles; on the e-bike, for 25 miles, I only hit 344. Also, on a normal ride, my average heart rate is around 115 bpm, while on the Specialized Como it was 83. Granted, this Specialized Como isn't the type one would use for a proper workout, but it would be excellent for commuting to work or going to the store.
On a broader topic, a big conundrum for e-bikes at the moment are all of the rules and regulations to govern them. One state's laws concerning their use might be completely different than other states; even neighboring towns could have opposite viewpoints. For example, an e-bike could actually be classified as a scooter in some communities. This issue is a long way from being settled.
Anyway, I'm glad I had the opportunity to ride an e-bike. They definitely have a rightful place in our cycling world, especially if it helps keep people on bikes. I might have — or need — one in the future, but for now I'm sticking with pure pedal power ... without the "e" enhancer. Stay safe, no matter how you propel a bike!
'Thought for the day'
"If I can bicycle, I bicycle." — Sir David Attenborough
From "Words To Ride By ... Thoughts on Bicycling" by Michael Carabetta (Chronicle Books, 2017)