The other day a cyclist I work with noticed the BionX PL-350 electric wheel on my bike, and told me I was “cheating.” That’s an unfortunate way to look at it – true, the BionX helps me a bit, but at least I’m riding a bike. In fact, it’s thanks to my BionX that I am cycling at all. The reality is that due to health reasons, many people would not be able to cycle without electric bikes.
Take my wife Maggie, for example. A lifelong athlete, she was stopped in her tracks by a sudden back problem. While she waited for surgery it became impossible for her to exercise, and eventually she could not even put on her own shoes. Finally she had surgery and her mobility was restored. Her doctors recommended cycling instead of running, because it’s lower impact. But she was nervous because it had been many years since she rode a bike. I offered her the use of my electric bike. Now she says:
“The only thing that made me feel confident enough to get back on a bike was being able to ease into it with the electric bike. I loved it – it made me feel safe from injuring myself as I rehabilitated!”
After months of cycling on my electric bike, Maggie was fit and strong enough to transition to a regular bike. (But she still prefers an electric bike for commuting, because we live 20 km from her office.)
Many people with knee pain are able to continue cycling only because of electric bikes. Particularly useful for knee pain are BionX electric bikes, as they offer a choice of four levels of assistance. This enables cyclists to use higher levels of assistance when their knees start to hurt, and decrease assistance when they don’t need it as much. Two cyclists I know were able to go back to regular cycling after a few years of strengthening their knees with an electric bike.
People with very serious health conditions can also use electric bikes as part of their recovery. One blog reader, Tom Childs, had two almost fatal heart attacks, which were treated with a couple of titanium spring loaded tubes in his coronary artery. Most people would never exercise again. But Tom went out and bought a BionX PL-250 for his Norco Rideau. Later, he upgraded to a Dahon Matrix folding bike with a BionX PL-350.
The point is, electric bikes help everyone to cycle, so there are more bicycles and fewer cars. And the more cyclists there are, the safer it is to cycle: motorists are more likely to notice and respect cyclists when their numbers are greater. That explains why far fewer cyclists are killed in Europe than in North America, even though the number of cyclists in Europe is much greater.
So if you’re a cycling purist, the next time you see cyclists on electric bikes, instead of accusing them of “cheating,” rather feel grateful that they are helping to keep you safer.
Electric bikes make cycling accessible for a much wider range of people, and that’s a wonderful thing!
By guest blogger Average Joe Cyclist