Biking with Steph: Vroooom!

Hi Madison Bikes Community, I'm Steph! I am a new member of the Madison Bikes Board, an avid cyclist and coffee drinker. I will be contributing to the Madison Bikes blog on a weekly basis to provide a voice of bike-related encouragement, insight, and amusement. While I am not a bike expert by any means, I am obsessed with all things bike-related and look forward to sharing my thoughts on a new topic with you each week!

Like many cyclists (or should I say "people on bicycles"), I have mixed opinions on e-bikes. I'm not going to delve into these opinions here. Instead, I'd like to talk about e-bikes from the perspective of a non-cyclist- my mother. Last summer, my mother drove from Racine to Madison to visit me and take in the city. Naturally, I recommended that we do something bike-related while she was visiting. We visited the Trek store on Madison's west side as they were hosting a women's bike event and were allowing everyone to test ride their electric bikes (e-bikes). 

May I just say, it was an absolute delight for everyone. My mother is very active and outdoorsy but does she not care to hop on a bike for fun. After test riding an e-bike for the first time, the possibility of biking for fun became more enticing. Being that e-bikes are something of an investment, she decided to not purchase the bike but would mull it over. Last week, I texted her that the Bike Expo Sale Wisconsin would be held in Milwaukee over the weekend and that she could test ride the e-bikes again! It wasn't hard to convince her to meet me there.

What is an electric bike? Electric bikes amplify your own pedal power. Most e-bikes are pedal-assist bikes, which means there’s a motor that helps the pedals turn when you’re riding, but no throttle like a motorcycle or dirt bike. When you’re pedaling, the e-bike gives you a boost. When you stop pedaling, the bike stops assisting. At the Expo, I saw a lot of people trying out e-bikes for the first time and the staff did a great job educating the riders on how to adjust the pedal-assistance.

After a quick tutorial from the staff, she was tearing up the course! The expo had an indoor riding course including a small bridge and cute, painted backdrops. You can see that my mother was having an absolute blast.

After the test ride, we spoke with Trek's assistant product manager, David Studner about the pros and cons of various bike models. I had no idea that e-bikes were available as road and mountain bikes too, not just hybrids. There were a few models that I couldn't help but gawk at because they were really, really, really, ridiculously good looking. I was not surprised to learn that there is a backlog of e-bike orders because these bikes are flying out of the stores.

In summary:

Some pros of e-bikes from the perspective of somebody like my mother:
  • You don't need to be a tech-wiz to use the bike.
  • You won't necessarily break a sweat and mess up your hair after going for a ride.
  • The batteries are now integrated into the frame, so it looks "sleek".
  • It is great fun to ride. 
  • The bike lights are already attached and are turned on when you ride.
  • E-bikes provide an opportunity to stay current and to grow as a person.
Some cons of e-bikes from the perspective of somebody like my mother:
  • Removing the integrated battery from the bike frame is a multi-step process and can be a bit cumbersome.
  • The bikes are pricey.
  • The pedals "look cheap".
  • Riding an e-bike take some mental adaptation.
  • The concern of public stigmatization that riding an e-bike means that she isn't in good shape.
  • Safety concerns if she hits a pothole and gets thrown off the speedy bike.
After much deliberation, she decided to not buy the bike at the expo. However, after doing a bit more research and maybe one more sweet test ride, I bet she'll make the leap and buy the bike. Perhaps, then, we can ride together and make some new memories. 

Happy riding and tailwinds (or well-charged e-bike)!

P.S.: Have extra time on your hands? Check out this video. It is not at all related to e-bikes but does make me very happy. I dare you to keep a straight face.

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