Whether it’s commuting downtown, climbing hills to wineries, or traveling for hours on long trails, there’s help for that – battery power can help keep your bike’s wheels moving when your legs or the lungs want to give.
In recent years, cyclists with creaking knees – or just wanting to keep up with the fastest cyclists – are finding that pedal assist offers thrilling thrills and affordable transportation. Electric bikes are becoming more and more popular, especially among people over 50. With an e-bike, battery-powered motors can give cyclists a little, or a lot, of help while pedaling. Or they can choose to ride without power.
Charles Knapp said he often gets tired when he walks just 30 meters. At 69, he battled prostate cancer. Almost three years ago – and 30 years after he last cycled – he bought an electric bicycle from a Pedego dealer in Oakland.
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The Manchester resident likes to walk the Mississippi Greenway to the old Chain of Rocks Bridge. “My son-in-law gives me pain,” says Knapp. “He says it’s not really like riding a bicycle. I tell him ‘you don’t know if you haven’t tried it’ ”. Keeping Knapp company while driving is an additional technology: a Bluetooth helmet streams music or baseball games.
Although e-bike sales have been growing for years, the Light Electric Vehicle Association estimates that the United States imported nearly 790,000 electric two-wheelers in 2021, a huge increase from 463,000 in 2020. sales, the tally “is a useful proxy for the state of the e-bike market in the United States,” reported Bloomberg News, which also noted that e-bike sales seemed to outstrip electric cars last year.
With prices for e-bikes ranging from $ 1,000 to $ 5,000 and beyond, two-wheelers are much cheaper than a Tesla, of course. And the bike batteries can be recharged with a normal household socket.
Local bicycle shops signal an interest that seems to coincide with the national trend.
“Especially with e-bikes, people come to explore them as a kind of car substitute, car reduction option,” he said.
He said the use of e-bikes has been growing steadily for some time, but that momentum has particularly accelerated over the past couple of years, amid a “COVID boom” in cycling, and has recently entered a another gear.
“This summer is kind of a year where e-bikes are totally mainstream,” he said. “Today, e-bikes are just as much a part of our bike shop as mountain bikes. It is no longer a small separate category “.
At the Kickstarter Katy Trail, store manager John Matthews said the store rents and sells regular e-bikes and bicycles. Last year, the shop only had two e-bikes for rent because that was all they could get. It now has 15 to 20 e-bikes at its Augusta location. Often, all are reserved for a weekend at $ 38 for two hours.
Matthews said bikers in their twenties also rent them. Sometimes a couple includes a person who is a stronger cyclist, so the partner will rent an e-bike. Then the other person will want one, he said.
“It allows them to cover more ground in less time,” Matthews said. They may want to rack up extra miles on the Katy Trail or not spend too much time swelling the hills for a winery.
Pedal-assisted bicycles for sale in stores usually travel up to around 20 mph, although some do reach 28 mph. They do not require a license, registration or insurance in Missouri or Illinois.
“E-bikes are a game changer,” said Karen Karabell, who is a CyclingSavvy instructor. “They can really replace car travel.” Karabell said she doubts she will ever buy another car.
But he said knowing bicycle safety is essential. Recommend the American Bicycling Education Association program at cyclingsavvy.org. Through a partnership with Great Rivers Greenway, subway cyclists can use the gatewaybikeplan coupon code for free lifetime access to a series of educational videos called Ride Awesome.
“While Ride Awesome is for all cyclists, it is perhaps even more important for e-bike riders,” said Karabell. “Speed gets people in trouble.”
Local bike dealers also recommend doing research before buying an e-bike. Kakouris warned that cheap bikes that are only available online could be short-term purchases because engines could break down and local repair shops might have no parts for them or be willing to provide service.
He pointed out that some bikes sold with accelerators or extras online are difficult for motorcyclists to manage. Accelerators give the bike more power without pedaling. Some states do not allow all types of e-bikes on all routes or have speed limits.
E-bikes, which often weigh around 60 pounds, are classified into three classes, come in multiple models, and have different quality motors and batteries. Cargo bikes can also have two motors, which can increase the weight of a bike. Some of the lithium-ion batteries can be unlocked and brought inside a home for recharging. But since lithium batteries can catch fire, Bicycling.com warns against using aftermarket or bargain batteries and recommends disconnecting the batteries after charging.
Furthermore, motorcyclists should understand to what extent a battery will help a cyclist. A salesperson might say a battery will last, say, 50 miles per charge, but riders need to understand that the number can vary depending on the horsepower the rider is using.
Bicycling may be a never-forgotten skill, but that doesn’t mean it can’t get harder.
Bill Sauerwein says e-bikes keep people “mobile and active”.
He and his wife, Carla, opened a Pedego store in Oakland in 2019. The shop, which only sells e-bikes, is located right on Grant’s Trail. “Our business has grown exponentially,” he said.
It started with a bang, he said, when people wanted to get out during the pandemic. Recently, gas prices have brought in buyers, she says.
He uses his bike so much that now he and his wife only share one car. Sauerwein does not advise children to use e-bikes and said his main demographic is customers over the age of 50. (Some manufacturers specify that their e-bikes are intended for ages 18 and over).
One of his clients was Henderson Smith III, a retired Air Force Lieutenant Colonel who worked at Scott Air Force Base and now lives downtown.
He first rode an e-bike in Australia while working as a consultant during the pandemic. A neighbor convicted of DUI had an e-bike and let Smith try it out. After foot and knee surgery, Smith, 64, is a convert. He said he still does cardio training but he can pedal much longer.
“I was used to driving a little, but sometimes I found it painful,” he said. Now, people at Trailnet events or on bike paths are “huffing and I’m coming on a cruise.”
Bryce Gray of the Post-Dispatch contributed to this report.