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Could an E-Bike Extend Your Life?

Electric bicycles make it easier for older adults to keep riding


(This article appeared previously on Tech50plus.com.)

To e-bike or not to e-bike? That is the question too many people ask when they hear about electric bicycles (ones that can either run on electric power or be pedaled). A better question is: to e-bike or not to bike at all? That’s the choice facing a lot of older adults.

Purists argue that using an e-bike is cheating. Of course, unless you’ve got one with a hidden motor and you’re doing a competitive race like the Tour de France, just how it’s cheating eludes me.

Of course, there’s no question that if you use a road bike for an hour and cover 20 miles you’re going to burn more calories than someone covering that same distance in the same time on an e-bike. But who cares? The benefits of riding an e-bike are better than not riding at all, as a recent New York Times article called “The Surprising Health Benefits of an Electric Bike” pointed out. 

An E-bike Convert

Certified diabetes educator Stephen Freed of Chicago had his first introduction to e-bikes last summer. It was a LifeBike from the German company Corratec.

I’m able to ride faster and further, keep my heart rate up and keep up with people in their 20s and 30s.

— Stephen Freed, e-bike enthusiast

“I had gotten an e-mail (from Lifebike) saying, ‘We’re going to be in Chicago and we’d like you to test drive an electric bike, an e-bike.’ I had never heard of an e-bike before but I said, ‘Why not? I’m a bike enthusiast. I’m curious,’” he says. “I went out there and met them on the bike path that runs around Lake Michigan, and within three minutes I fell in love with it.”

Freed, who is in his 60s, says he used to routinely ride with bike clubs, but found it harder and harder to hold his own with the 30- and 40-year-olds. “I couldn’t keep up with them, I felt depressed,” he says.

Now, Freed has no trouble keeping up. “I’m able to ride faster and further, keep my heart rate up and keep up with people in their 20s and 30s. And it’s brought a whole new way to bicycle,” he notes.

Worth the Price

“The reason I ride is to relieve stress and tension,” says Freed, who publishes a newsletter for diabetic professionals called Diabetes in Control. “I used to go jogging but then my joints started bothering me. So that’s why I took up bike riding. I fell in love with it.”

Freed wears a heart monitor while he rides and says he is getting a better workout biking — even on an e-bike — than he did while jogging.

“I’m able to keep my heart rate up but for a longer period of time riding a bike rather than jogging. I go jogging for an hour; I can go bike riding for three or four hours,” Freed says.

E-bikes aren’t inexpensive (they start at around $550 but can go into the thousands). Freed says an e-bike is a worthwhile investment, however, if it gets you out and moving and connecting.

“You’ve got to do something that you really have a passion for, that you love, that will get you outside, that lets you be with your family,” he says. “I rode with my daughter last year and she trains for triathlons. I rode on a regular bike and it was really difficult to keep up with her — I came to a hill; I didn’t think I would make it to the top. But now with my e-bike, I can keep up with my grandkids, I can keep up with my kids. It’s just so much more enjoyable.”

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By Gary Kaye
Gary M. Kaye is the Founder and Chief Content Officer of Tech50+, a website focusing on the nexus of technology and the 50+ market. He is an award winning journalist who has been covering hi tech for 35 years at news outlets such as NBC News, ABC News, CNN, Fox Business Network and others.

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