My E-Bike Test Ride

The sign in the window said “Try out an e-bike today.” So I did. Out of curiosity, I told myself. I’m a competent cyclist fit enough to ride me-powered bikes at 15 -17 mph comfortably. But I’m also 71 years old and know that my physical prowess trajectory is likely down, not up. So I may need a boost in the future. Turns out, we baby boomers are the target market for e-bike sales in the U.S.

The Bike

My test bike was a Trek Verve+, which is a Class 1 e-bike with a 20 mph maximum speed. One has to pedal in order to benefit from power assistance. If you stop pedaling, you coast. A rider has five options: Off (no battery assist), Eco, Tour, Sport and Turbo. My test bike also offers nine gearing options; it has wide 45mm tires and hydraulic disc brakes. It’s considered the entry-level “comfort” commuter hybrid in Trek’s e-bike line. MSRP = $2,400 [E-bikes are not cheap.] It weighs about 45 lbs, about 6-ish of which is the battery itself. [E-bikes are not light.]

The Ride

My venue was a long paved area behind Big Box stores in a mall -- about two city blocks long with no traffic and no parked cars. And flat. So the first thing I did was go through all the assist levels to see how fast I could make it go in Turbo. I’m human. [19.6 mph BTW] Then I put it to the real test. I got it up to a sustainable urban riding speed without battery assistance and gradually increased the battery assist while trying to keep the speed constant. That’s when my body felt the magic. My knees smiled. They could tell they were being asked to do less and less for the same result. Then I did a bit of turning, weaving and braking. With or without a battery boost, the bike handled smoothly. It was a joy to ride. And no sweat, literally.

My Reaction

  1. This is FUN!

  2. Wow, I can understand the appeal of e-bikes and why they’re now the majority of the bike market in Europe. Friends recently returned from Germany and Switzerland report that e-bikes are “everywhere” -- whether personally owned or bike-shared.

  3. An e-bike can extend an aging rider’s ability to get out, about and around.

  4. An e-bike can enable a rider to improve his/her fitness level by modulating the amount of assist used over time and distance.

  5. An e-bike can encourage someone to use a bike for commuting or shopping rather than a car since it can ease the burden of hilly terrain or schlepping stuff.

  6. E-bikes aren’t really about speed. They’re more about effort and efficiency.

  7. I don’t NEED an e-bike, but I may WANT an e-bike.

Favorite Quote About E-Bikes

“It’s like a gateway drug for bicycling.” - Dan Buettner per AARP

The Legal Basics

Federal Law defines “electric bicycles” as those meeting any of three classes of e-bikes using standards with which manufacturers must comply under the Consumer Safety Protection Act. A complying e-bike is not a motor vehicle; it’s a bicycle. Electric-powered bikes with speed capability above these standards are considered mopeds and are motor vehicles.

Illinois is one of ten states that have adopted model legislation to provide a definitional framework within which local authorities may fashion right of way usage applicable to e-bikes. It includes:

  • The Federal definitions for e-bikes; all motors are under 750 watts:

Class 1 = pedal assist up to 20 mph

Class 2 = throttle driven up to 20 mph (pedaling not required)

Class 3 = pedal assist up to 28 mph

  • An e-bike is a vehicle to the same extent as a bicycle.

  • All e-bikes must be permanently labeled with their class, top assisted speed and motor wattage.

  • Class 1 & 2 e-bikes may be ridden on bike or multi-use paths where bicycles are permitted unless the local authority prohibits it.

  • Class 3 e-bikes may not be ridden on bike or multi-use paths unless it’s within or next to a roadway or unless the local authority permits it.

  • Class 3 e-bikes may not be ridden by anyone under 16 years of age; all riders must wear helmets; all bikes must have a speedometer.

Although I don’t have any stats, I’m told that Class 1 e-bikes dominate the market.


Posted by Barbara Miller