Editor’s note: This post is brought to you by Aventon
If you’re a seasoned road cyclist, the idea of an ebike may seem like you’ve given up on actually cycling. After all, would you suggest to a marathon runner that they wear roller skates? Would you suggest to a mountain climber the next time they’re struggling to mount a cliff, they try a jetpack?
After all, an electric bike? With a motor? Roadbikereview.com founder Francis Cebedo readily admits that when ebike manufacturer Aventon sent him an ebike, the Pace 500, to try out, he was skeptical. The editor of RoadBikeReview has ridden just about every ebike in existence – and had so far been generally underwhelmed. “I was reluctant,” Cebedo says. “Ebikes aren’t in my wheelhouse.”
But he agreed to try Aventon’s Pace 500, and he was surprised to find – he likes it. What’s more, he has been riding it, on average, twice a week. “A lot more than I expected,” Cebedo says. He still rides conventional road bikes, of course – almost every day – the founder RoadBikeReview isn’t going to give that up. Cebedo says that ebiking has been an excellent way to complement his road bike riding. His wife, Cherubin, is also an ebike fan. Cebedo also was particularly taken with the Pace 500’s price, which retails for $1,399.99. “I was really impressed. It rides as if it’s a $3,000 bike,” Cebedo says.
Still, attractive price or not, this is an electric bike, something that has a motor and you charge into an electrical outlet, for heaven’s sake. Is it ridiculous for Aventon, an ebike manufacturer, to try and win over the hearts of accomplished road bikers? Maybe. And maybe not, Cebedo concedes, noting that RoadBikeReview’s readers used to be “99 percent anti-ebike” but now it’s probably more, like, 40 percent against, and 60 percent in favor of ebikes. “They’re still controversial, but look how far they’ve come,” Cebedo says.
A growing acceptance among road cyclists
So why has the resistance toward ebikes gone down? A helpful analogy might be to think of the electric guitar. On July 25, 1965, when Bob Dylan played an electric guitar at the Newport Folk Festival in Newport, Rhode Island, some fans reportedly went ballistic. Folk singer Pete Seeger is said to have been backstage, looking for an axe, to cut the cord to the electric guitar.
But just as most music fans came around to the idea that the world was big enough for both the electric and acoustic guitar, many road bike enthusiasts are recognizing that the roads are wide enough to allow for bikes and ebikes. Some ebike converts are finding that the electric bicycle even has some advantages over conventional bicycles. “I think there are several reasons ebikes have become more popular in recent years,” says Wilt Kishimoto, the global e-commerce manager at Troy Lee Designs, an action sports apparel and custom paint company headquartered in Corona, California. “Ebikes have opened up the ability for more people to get out on two wheels.”
He cites, as an example, people who have had injuries – or who are simply getting older. They can pedal and ride the ebike normally but use its motor when things get difficult. Kishimoto, who rides mountain bikes and doesn’t currently own an ebike, says that he has thought about getting one for himself, so he can cycle to work “without becoming a hot, sweaty mess.” He also plans on getting an ebike for his wife, a teacher at a school, five miles away. But while a variety of people are finding numerous uses for an ebike, in some ways, the pandemic has made them even more indispensable.
A socially distant ride
Sam Nasr, 39, has been mountain biking actively for a couple years now. “I got sick of the whole gym atmosphere and wanted to get back into mountain bike riding,” he says. “I had done it as a teenager, but then you hit college, and your life gets serious, and you put those toys away.” So, a few years ago, the web developer, husband, and father of two sons decided to start riding a mountain bike again. But he didn’t completely give up the gym – until COVID-19 hit. It was his wife who directed him to an Aventon ebike, a Sinch. Nasr was skeptical but also intrigued. While he loved his mountain bike, he couldn’t take it on paved roads for long periods of time. “A mountain bike isn’t made for commuting,” Nasr says. And yet, Nasr wasn’t sure if he was up for purchasing a conventional road bicycle, to take on long trips for, say, 50 or more miles. But Nasr found that with riding the Sinch, he could both get a rigorous workout and enjoy the ride when he needed to. He also figured it was smarter to cycle outside and avoid catching the coronavirus at the gym. Cherubin Cebedo has also appreciated her ebike as a way to stay healthy during the pandemic. “Now with Covid, you try to stay away from other cyclists. And I think one of the most funny things about riding an ebike has been that if I ramp up the motor and shoot past a road cyclist, and I know the rider’s think, ‘How’s she going past me so quickly?’”
Related reading: Top 10 Tips for riding and social distancing with Coronavirus
A socially non-distant ride
And yet while the ebike has made it easier to be socially distant, it’s also made it easier for cyclists to be more social. Cherubin appreciates that the ebike has allowed her to ride with, or at least be in the vicinity of, her far more cycling experienced husband. Being able to include other less experienced riders on trips, who haven’t logged in a lifetime on a bike is important, Cebedo says. It strengthens relationships with family members and friends – and can even have a positive impact on bicycle road safety. “If people are participating in biking, they tend to respect it a little bit more,” he says.
He realizes that some elite riders may roll their eyes at the thought of ever owning an ebike, but Cebedo encourages: “I’d give it a try before you make up your mind, before you judge it. Even if it’s not for you, it doesn’t mean it isn’t for your neighbor, your son or your dad. It can be something for somebody in your circle, an option to get them outside so they can experience what you experience.”
Kishimoto is a fan of ebikes for similar reasons. He says that on rides he’ll run into older cyclists with ebikes. “I’ll chat with them about why they’re riding an ebike,” Kishimoto says. “They’ll tell me, ‘Yeah, I’ve got three other non-ebikes that I ride, but this allows me to do things I can’t otherwise do.’ I’ve heard this over and over.” Kishimoto says he has a colleague who has a life-threatening health condition, and his ebike has allowed him to stay active, where a conventional bike would make it more difficult for him to be out and about. “The ebike, for me, has been a great equalizer,” Kishimoto says. “When I’ve ridden them before, I’ve been able to ride with cyclists who are way faster – or younger. So that’s been nice.” But there are other times, Kishimoto adds, when it’s beyond nice and simply important for somebody who is less fit to be able to keep up. Many high schools have bike clubs, at least in the area of California where Kishimoto lives, and he points out that the coaches, many of whom are two or three times the age of their students, ride ebikes, so they can stick close to their students.
“When you’re in charge of all these kids, you want to make sure that you can be near them,” he says.
The fitness element
Ever since getting his ebike, Sam Nasr says, “I lost 35 pounds.” On an ebike. Which, of course, sounds crazy, if you aren’t familiar with them. But Nasr points out that the motor on an ebike adds weight to the frame, so when you pedal, you’re likely getting a better work out than on a conventional road bike. But mostly, Nasr thinks he has lost weight because he takes longer cycling trips. He is no longer afraid to cycle 50 miles somewhere. He knows that if he is too tired to pedal all the way back, the ebike will help him get back in one piece.
Cebedo agrees that the ebike encourages people to ride farther than they otherwise would. “These are very comfortable bikes,” he says of his Pace 500. “You don’t have to dress in Lycra. You can be in normal street clothes, and you just get on the bike and you go out.” And Cebedo advises putting on a helmet, even if you think you’re just going around the block. “You might plan on riding for five minutes, and suddenly you’re gone for an hour,” he says. Still, Cebedo recognizes that not every elite cyclist will be convinced of the ebike’s appeal – and that’s okay. As Cebedo points out, if you’re an elite rider, conquering a hundred miles a day, six times a week, you don’t need an ebike. “The ebike,” he says, “is for rest of us.”
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