By Silvana Clark
Remember the freedom you felt as a child, riding your bike as fast as your little legs could pedal? For most of us, our legs aren’t so little anymore, and we don’t do much pedaling. Enter the e-bike (electric bicycle). Americans are learning what Europeans have known for years… e-bikes help the environment while providing much-needed exercise.
As full-timers, we used our e-bikes almost daily. People stop us often to ask questions about these silent bikes with batteries. Their main question is, “Aren’t you ‘cheating’ because you don’t have to pedal?” E-bikes are power-assisted bikes that let you regulate how much of a boost you want. You definitely still need to pedal! (My husband says it is like having an angel gently push you up a hill.)
Our Trek e-bikes have four power levels. If I need a small boost going up an incline, I hit ECCO. If the hill is steeper, I boost the power by hitting TOUR, SPORT or TURBO. I especially love hitting TURBO going up a steep hill and passing a college student. I know they are thinking, “How can that Grandma pass me on this hill?” The batteries give us power for 30-50 miles. Need some speed? I clocked 25 mph going down a long hill. (Not recommended!) On most rides, we pedal at a comfortable 11-14 mph. Afterwards, we simply plug the battery charger into a 110 outlet and get ready for our next ride.
Most RVers wouldn’t think of going on an afternoon 25-mile bike ride. The advantage of having an e-bike is how quickly the miles pass because you pedal with a minimum of effort. My husband recently had his knee replaced and can ride 30-35 miles without straining it. E-bikes improve fitness because you are likely to use them more often and ride further. Even an easy 5-mile ride around the campground gives much-needed exercise. We frequently used the bikes for a trip from the campground to a nearby grocery store. Instead of using fuel to drive the RV, we are environmentally friendly and improve our blood circulation at the same time. Using a backpack and bike rack lets us carry groceries back to the RV.
The cost of an e-bike might make you gasp. Yes, they are costly, although prices are dropping rapidly as their popularity increases. Sales jumped 91% from 2016-2017. Experts claim 130 million e-bikes will be sold between 2020 and 2023. Our bikes have taken us on amazing Rails to Trails paths, to local Farmer’s Markets and even on a bike path through downtown Chicago. We’ve increased our fitness and visited places not conducive to an RV.
E-bikes are a way to awaken your inner child. Plus they make you feel like a celebrity as people in the campground stop you to talk about the newfangled bike you are riding.