It’s long been the purists and the traditionalists, versus the e-bikers. It’s not that e-bikes go too fast. In fact, most road bikers will zoom past us 50+ e-bikers every day of the week. No, the 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. There’s more and more evidence that e-bikes can be an important tool in fitness and even life extension. Perhaps for the first time, an academic study done at the University of Colorado proves some quantifiable health benefits of e-bikes.
The debate is not really the benefits of traditional bikes versus e-bikes. 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 on an e-bike. The real question is whether someone over age 50 or 60 is going to get on that road bike at all. So it’s not really a matter of degree, it’s a threshold effect. You’re either on the bike, or your not. And for many of us the only bikes we’ll get on are e-bikes.
Certified diabetes educator Stephen Freed of Chicago had his first introduction to e-bikes last summer, a LifeBike from the German firm Corratec,
“I had gotten an e-mail last summer (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. 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 sixties, says he would routinely ride with bike clubs, but found it harder and harder to hold his own with the thirty and forty-year-olds, “I couldn’t keep up with them, I felt depressed.” Now, he has no trouble keeping up on the LifeBike. And he notes there are discernible health benefits as well,
“I wear a heart rate monitor and the reason I ride is to relieve stress and tension. I used to go jogging but then my joints started bothering me. So that’s why I took up bike riding, fell in love with it, and tried to promote it and get other patients involved with bike riding because 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. So it works a lot better for me and working with patients they know I exercise because I’m very upbeat about it.”
Freed admits that jogging is free while getting on an e-bike involves an investment of money. But he says it’s well worth it,
“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. I mean 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-ike I can keep up with my grandkids, I can keep up with my kids. It’s just so much more enjoyable. I’m able to ride faster and further, keep my heart rate up and keep up with people in their twenties and thirties and it’s brought a whole new way to bicycle.
I said to myself that maybe as a diabetes educator I can kind of promote e-bikes and especially this bike (the LifeBike) because it’s built for people who haven’t ridden a bike for a while. So when I had the opportunity I said, if I can do this and help out LifeBike and help other people really enjoy life again, being able through physical activity to lower your blood sugars, improve your cardiovascular life, that’s what I want to do.”
Freed is a registered pharmacist who sold off his small chain of drug stores to become a full-time diabetes educator. After years of seeing customers who suffered from the scourge of diabetes, Freed felt he could help more people in his new role. Today he publishes a newsletter for diabetic professionals including educators, doctors, and pharmacists called Diabetes in Control. He believes that by taking control over diet, exercise, and lifestyle, diabetics can add another ten years to their lives.
This short cartoon, though the text is German, still makes the point