E-Assist is NOT cheating

E-bikes are the hot commodity these days, and some purists say that it’s cheating if you use E-assist. Nay-Nay, I say! First, a short lesson on the three E-bike classifications:

Class 1 vehicles only engage the e-assist when the biker is peddling. If peddling stops, so does the e-assist. Many people think that e-assist turns a bicycle into a scooter – not so. Class 1 E-assist helps the rider go farther and assists with inclines. Once the bike is going more than 20+ mph, the E-assist automatically turns off. 

Class 2 vehicles also have a throttle, which allows the rider to stop peddling and only use the e-assist as a motor-driven vehicle. In this case, you CAN use the bike as a scooter. But the downside is that using only the throttle will drain the battery quite quickly. It also will disengage at 20+ mph.

Class 3 vehicles may or may not have a throttle, but they have more power and will go up to 28 mph before disengaging. Because of the faster speed capability, many Class 3 bikes are only allowed on moto-cross trails or roads and are banned from bike/multi-use trails. 

This is my third summer with BB (Berkelbikepro – recumbent combination hand cycle/ foot pedals), but she got upgraded with a Class 2 E-assist this spring. In hindsight, I should have had it installed when I bought her. I spent two years wiping myself out. Every hill was difficult, and crossing roads was scary because starting from a stopping position to move quickly was physically difficult for me.  The farthest I ever rode her was 20 miles, on a totally flat bike path in Florida. 

We are again in Estes Park, CO this summer, which has a 4-mile multipath around Lake Estes, with the Fish Creek Trail branching off from it. We circled the lake twice, explored part of Fish Creek, then returned to the lake for one more loop. One part is very steep; last year Better Half had to get off his bike and push me up this hill. This year I just engaged the throttle and up I went! My bike is a bit different, so when the throttle is engaged, the pedals still rotate, but not the hand cycle. When I engage the E-assist only, I must hand cycle, or it will disengage. I found out a month ago that I had torn two tendons in my right shoulder, so the E-assist came at the best time. Although I have to turn the hand cycle, I don’t have to put any muscle into it – as long as it rotates, the E-assist engages. We had a wonderful 16-mile ride on a hilly path at 7,500 feet. I was tired at the end, but I wasn’t wiped out. And using the throttle to move from a dead stop is an absolute gamechanger; in a recumbent, you can’t push off the ground with your foot to start momentum. We biked for two hours, I had the E-assist engaged the entire time (didn’t use it on the flats and declines), and only used ¼ of the battery. Before E-assist, I paid careful attention to the topography map and made riding decisions based on inclines. No More! Although I won’t be able to do it this time around, one of my goals is to ride the bike path at Vail. 

If you are able to ride a bicycle or tricycle, there are many E-bikes on the market. Better Half has a Lectric brand foldable, and he loves it. Do your research and find the right bike for you. If you ride a trike, Lectric also has one of those as well. Ride a recumbent? E-assist can be added. Before you buy, rent one. There is a learning curve, to be sure. Or if there is a rehab facility with an adaptive sports center, you can “try before you buy.” I did this as Spaulding in Boston, and that’s how I realized a hand cycle would not fit my needs.

The point of riding, for most of us, is to get outside, enjoy nature, and exercise in a fun environment.  Biking is a great way to keep our muscles from atrophy. The fresh air, Vitamin D, seeing nature, and having the wind in your (helmeted) hair are bonuses. For someone like me, who walks with crutches and is very slow, biking, as I’ve said before, fulfils my “need for speed.” E-assist has opened access to trails that were off-limits due to my physical issues – no more. I can’t wait to get out on the more challenging trails with Better Half. Try it, you will love it!  Pedaling an E-bike is NOT cheating!

And remember: You never know how much strength you have unless you are called upon to use it.