E-bikes opening up biking world to seniors

The batteries on e-bikes are typically located on the back.

E-trikes are becoming popular with older riders, many of whom worry about their balance. The e-trikes have full pedal assist and also feature large baskets to help riders carry groceries or shopping bags. (istock.com)

Most likely you’ve already seen them.

Folks are riding bicycles at unusually fast speeds up hills, yet don’t appear tired. Sure, some of them might be well-conditioned cyclists, but chances are you witnessed riders enjoying electric bikes, or e-bikes.

They are a fast growing new addition to the local bicycle community and are opening up the electrifying (pardon the pun) and exciting world of cycling to many people who may struggle riding a traditional bicycle.

There are no throttles on e-bikes. Instead the bike helps you along as you pedal. It feels like you are riding with a strong wind blowing you along from behind.

“The e-bikes are pedal assisted, so as you pedal, the motor has a torque sensor that fills in on the bottom end, giving you additional torque to power you up the hill or carry you at a faster rate of speed to make your commute easier,” said Jeff Cary, the new owner of Camas Bike and Sport.

In late July, Cary purchased the 10-year-old downtown Camas business from Ed Fischer. Cary has worked in the shop for 18 months and also works as an architect and interior designer.

The sales floor at Camas Bike and Sport now has plenty of new e-bikes and e-trikes mixed in with traditional mountain and road bikes.

Cary said the e-bikes are perfect for commuters who want to ride fast and provide freedom and fun to many seniors.

“If you’re not a cyclist, you might wonder, ‘How am I going to get on a bike and ride 25 miles to get back and forth to work?’ or, ‘If I go to the grocery store, how am I going to carry the groceries back home on my bike?'” Cary said.

With an e-bike, all of that is possible.

A fun way to commute

When Camas resident Anna Norris and her husband opened a painting and pottery studio in December, they soon discovered finding available parking at their new business near the new Camas roundabout was a challenge.

Norris had read about e-bikes and thought they might be perfect to help her commute to work from her Camas home.

“I absolutely love my e-bike,” she said. “Oh my gosh, how do you not smile when you get on them? I just smile like, ‘Yeah, this is the best,'” she said.

Norris admits she wasn’t in the best shape when she bought the e-bike from Camas Bike and Sport a few months ago, but soon discovered the e-bike instantly provided a fun and healthy way to get around town.

Besides commuting to work four days per week on her e-bike, Norris also uses her e-bike to ride into Lacamas Regional Park, carrying her easel and paint brushes to beautiful locations where she can be creative with nature.

She also uses the basket on her e-bike to get groceries from the store, but says the best thing about her new e-bike is how it allows her to take on all the challenging hills surrounding Camas and Washougal.

“Going up hills is the best thing,” Norris said.

Going down those hills is also something that makes her giddy.

“I think the fastest I got it was 32 miles per hour when I was pedaling flat out going downhill with assist,” she said. “Oh man, I love it. It takes you back to being a kid.”

Cost and safety

E-bikes cost more than most traditional bicycles because of the batteries and technology integrated into each bike. E-bikes in local bike shops start at about $1,800 and go up from there. However, there are less expensive models available for purchase online, but local bike shop owners such as Cary have some hesitation about recommending the cheaper on-line e-bikes.

“There is additional weight that comes with the battery and electric motors on the bike, so having a bike built to accommodate that additional weight and speed that the bikes achieve is important for safety,” Cary said.

Several seniors have recently purchased e-bikes from Camas Bike and Sport, and the e-bikes are becoming so popular with seniors that Cary is spreading the word to other seniors living at The Quarry Senior Living facility in Vancouver.

“The Quarry has a social event at the end of the month after being voted top retirement community in Clark County, so we are going out there to put on a demonstration about the capabilities of the e-bikes and e-trikes,” Cary said.

E-bikes are available to rent for half-days and full days at Camas Bike and Sport. The cost of the rental is credited to a purchase. For more information, visit camasbikes.com.

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