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Kill the Hill With Electric Assist Bikes

These vehicles really make the grade (easier)

Article highlights:

  • Stay in shape without the strain
  • Add-on adapters or fully integrated bikes available
  • Consider a recumbent trike for special needs

Millions of boomers still enjoy getting on a bike, usually for recreation but sometimes for short commutes. Yet, as we age, the hills grow increasingly daunting. And what was once a fun activity can turn into a sweaty chore. An electric assist bike can help you gain without as much pain.

See Also: Alternative Transportation, Bicycling

Riding a bike

Electronic bikes make cycling less intimidating. — C. Diehl/Plain Picture/Corbis

According to Bert Cebular, owner of NYCe Wheels, between 30 percent and 40 percent of his customers are boomers. Cebular has been selling electric assist bikes for a decade, and he is one of the largest dealers in the country. While his shop is on Manhattan's Upper East Side, many of his bikes get sent to customers in retirement locales such as Florida, Arizona, California and Texas.

A Worldwide Trend

China is estimated to have more than 100 million electric bikes. Europeans are expected to buy more than a million this year. Here in the United States, the market is more modest, but NYCe Wheels has been seeing 20 percent growth a year, largely in sales to boomers and commuters.

Don't let anyone tell you these are just for wimps. With most of them, if you don't pedal, you don't move. Many of the most popular are known as pedelecs. These require you to pedal for the motor to kick in. There are others that are throttle driven and don't require pedaling. In terms of the law, these are generally considered bicycles and not motor vehicles, so they don't have to be licensed, nor does the rider. That's a real plus for anyone who has lost his or her driver's license, but still wants to get around. It also means you can usually take them on those trails that are marked "No Motorized Vehicles" (though there have been cases in which park rangers have tried to ban them).

Cebular says boomers buy the electric assist bikes for a number of reasons.

First and foremost, they are a great way to stay in shape without the strain. Some buy them to keep up with their own kids. Still others use them to keep up with the grandkids, sometimes putting trailers on them to tote the little ones. And he says that since many boomers have taken less stressful part-time jobs, they are using the electric bikes to commute.

Finally, he says RV drivers and boaters are buying folding electric bikes to put on board to get around at their destination.

Next: The nuts and bolts of e-biking. >>

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