The use of electric bikes is becoming popular with the older generation who still enjoy cycling. With an e-bike, they get the best of both worlds – to carry on with a sport they love on a motored bike that helps them when the going gets tough, and keeping fit and healthy.
According to a recent study, being able to enjoy a bike ride on an electric bike builds confidence, improves self-esteem and boosts older people’s mobility. But with such a wide choice of electric bikes available, what is the best electric bike for seniors and which one is most suited to an urban or rural lifestyle?
What is an electric bike?
Let’s first clarify; what is an electric bike, or e-bike? An electric bike is the same as a standard bike but has an electric motor fitted, usually in the rear hub or in the middle, known as mid-drive, and drives power through the bike’s chain. An e-bike can also be fitted with a battery, which is rechargeable.
An electric bike’s motor is usually 500 Watt of power that can increase to 750 Watt when needed, and is limited to a top speed of 20mph in the US (it is 15mph in the UK, Australia and the EU). Although an electric bike needs a bit more maintenance than a standard bike, in every other aspect it is the same, i.e. the handlebars, wheels, gears, pedals, brakes and frame are very similar.
What is different is the experience you get when riding an electric bike. Sensors in the motor will detect when the rider is pedalling harder, such as going up a hill or over rougher terrain, and automatically activate the motor to ‘assist’ the rider. When the road or terrain smooths out into a flat surface or downhill, the motor deactivates and the bike returns to the regular experience you’d feel if riding without a motor.
How you cycle doesn’t actually change and the transition in and out of the motor being activated and deactivated doesn’t affect the riding experience. The difference you will feel is how hard your legs are working, and how much of the work you’re legs are doing to power the bike.
What to consider when buying an electric bike for seniors?
There are a wide variety of electric bikes in the market that are designed for different uses and it’s easy to be overwhelmed with the choice. So, what do you need to consider?
- First, decide what you need the bike forand the features you are looking for, such as comfort, weight, long distance or short distance, hill climbing or city use. For most seniors, an electric bike to help them get around their neighbourhood, to the shops and back, and perhaps a slightly longer bike ride in the summer months is their need. So, they will need an e-bike that is comfortable – a low step-through frame is more suitable – stable around corners and lightweight for manoeuvrability. In most urban areas, seniors will mainly be riding on roads and there aren’t too many steep hills so opting for a battery-powered electric bike that is rechargeable may be a better choice.
- Quality and value– while you might be buying to a specific budget, that doesn’t mean giving up on quality. Expect high standards from the manufacturer in terms of build quality as well as customer support and brand reputation.
- Power and rangeare important considerations; how fast will the bike go when the motor is activated and if a battery operated motor, how far can you cycle before it needs recharging?
- Check the warranty– purchasing an electric bike is a big investment so expect a warranty for parts, the motor and/or battery is for at least two years.
- Transportationis another consideration. For example, you may decide that a folding bike, like the DYU D3+ electric folding city bike, is more suitable, particularly if you are on the outskirts of an urban area and need to transport your e-bike by bus or train. Alternatively, you may want to drive to a more rural area for a bike ride, in which case your electric bike needs to be lightweight and suitable to transport on a fairly priced truck bed bike rack.
One of the best e-bikes for seniors in recent years is the electric fat bike which provides a low impact, senior-friendly bike ride, with a small but powerful motor that is able to take the strain of seniors’ legs when negotiating hills or other difficult terrains.
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