At the beginning of September he became known our family’s biggest milestone: Mom’s 80th birthday. The event caused a wave of concern in the form of a perfect gift for the working octogenarian. Mothers are worthy; is an avid cyclist who still rides 10 miles a day. However, he no longer has the power to inflate his hybrid bike’s tires to 85 psi, the perfect pressure to ride up a rocky hill at the end of his daily commute without blowing out a tire. So whenever he needs to hit the air, he lifts the bike straight into the garage and leaves the pump nearby, a gentle reminder to one of his five children or several grandchildren to remove the tires.
Because the benefits of cycling are so great—in addition to improving mental health, cycling reduces the risk of heart disease, stroke, high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, and other types of cancer—we want Mom to keep riding. as long as he can. The obvious answer seems to be the electric bike, that miraculous invention that opens up the mountains and increases endurance. Research from a 2018 study at Portland State University found that people 55 and older feel safer when riding a bike. That sense of increased security is greater for seniors than for any other age group.
However, according to a 2020 study sponsored by the American Association of Retired Persons and the League of American Bicyclists, the number of deaths among cyclists and pedestrians has been higher among the elderly than any other group over the past decade. The study found that between 2010 and 2019, “the three largest increases in cyclist deaths were among people 55 to 64 (38 percent); 65 to 74 (59 percent); and 75 and over (44 percent). The study does not discount the number of the death of non-motorcycles and motorcycles, but the numbers were enough to give us pause. By giving her an ebike, could we be giving my mother a weapon of self-destruction?
We decided to ask the experts. I first spoke with Ash Lovell, Electric Bicycle Policy and Campaign Director for PeopleForBikes, a cycling advocacy group in Boulder, Colorado. “It depends on the stability, health, and comfort of the 80-year-old.” says Lovell. If we decide to buy a motorcycle for mom, he added, we should do the following homework.
First, learn about the classes of electric bikes and how they differ. In the US, this means Class 1, 2, or 3. A Class 1 bike only provides carrying support and has no breathing system that allows the rider to run without pedaling. Also, the motor that provides the pedal support on a Class 1 bike goes up to 20 mph. Class 2 bikes provide pedal support and control, meaning you don’t to be Cycling to drive—and they also have a top speed of 20 mph. Class 3 bikes are mobility aids only and are not powered, but can run up to 28 mph under power. The class of ebike you should buy depends on the rider’s environment and their comfort level and power-to-pedaling ratio. Lovell said: “Bribery is very useful to some people who live in mountainous areas, because there is no one to disturb them.”
Second, make sure the bike has high-quality equipment and batteries. Small parts – especially batteries – can be dangerous on and off the road. The best bike manufacturers have policies, warranties, and FAQs displayed on their websites. “If they’re not talking about battery safety and the quality of their equipment,” says Lovell, “then it’s probably a very low-end bike.”
Finally, buy the right bike for older riders. For the elderly, the frame with built-in steps makes it easier to get up and down. Raised handlebars keep the seat elevated and comfortable. Smaller wheels lower the center of gravity and make the ride more stable, while larger tires make it easier to roll over bumps and take off the bike. For riders who need extra stability, the best option is not an electric bike. It is an electric tricycle. “I would be happy to give my 90-year-old grandmother a race, because it will never end,” Lovell says.