Electric assist is the newest, hottest trend in bike travel, giving the average rider the power of a supercyclist. If you’re using an e-wheel, a battery-powered motor is installed on the rear wheel of a bike. On an e-bike, the motor is a part of the frame, on the bottom bracket between the pedals cranks, and you can switch the electric assist on or off at will. In both cases, the extra boost only runs if you pedal. So while electric assist isn’t a free ride, you can use as much (or as little assistance) as you want.
To learn more, we asked DuVine Regional Manager, guide, and bike guru Alex Timon what makes this new technology so special. For heroic feats of cycling, look no further than the 5 Secret Cyclist Superpowers of e-wheels.
Be a Chameleon: Blend Right In
If you’re self-conscious about riding with assistance, “you can hardly tell the difference between a hybrid bike with an e-wheel and one without an e-wheel,” says Alex. The battery is disguised in the water bottle cage and the motor is discreetly built into the rear wheel. And if you’re worried about adding weight to your bike, know that e-wheels are light—about 3 kg (6 lbs)—and are customizable to fit different bikes. When it comes to e-bikes, technology is advancingly rapidly—which means a surprisingly light bike that performs in much the same way as a regular, non-assisted hybrid bike (even without the motor engaged). All this translates into greater flexibility for you and a more “authentic” riding experience.
Supercyclist testimony: “Last spring there was a group of very strong cyclists with one rider who wasn’t quite up to the level of his friends. He opted for electric assist, and suddenly he was one of them, blending into the pack even on the uphills. He rode the whole week with a smile on his face, and he did most of it without assistance. Because the system is lightweight, he rode 80% without the motor. He switched it on when he needed a boost, then switched it off.”
Magnetic Attraction: Bring Cyclists Together
Electric assist enables you to keep pace with (or beat!) your riding companions, even if you don’t cycle at the same level. “Very often you’ll find couples who like to bike together, but one of them is much more accomplished than the other,” Alex explains. “E-bikes levels the playing field. It’s a fantastic tool to make sure everyone feels equal and it empowers riders who might otherwise exhaust themselves trying to keep up.”
Supercyclist testimony: “On a trip in Bordeaux, there was a wonderful woman on tour who was the darling of the group. She chose electric assist because she was a little bit older and didn’t have an exercise background. It allowed her to participate—she kept up with the rest of the group despite her limitations. She didn’t feel bad about holding up other people. It was very liberating; it allowed her to be included.”
Bionic Legs: Be a Badass Grandpa
“For those who love the active adventure of cycling, e-bikes or e-wheels are an incredible way to keep the momentum going for another 10 to 15 years,” Alex raves. Ease up on your aches and pains, stay in shape, ditch the boat cruise, and opt for an electric-assisted cycling vacation with your grandchildren instead.
Supercyclist testimony: “We had a three-generation family in the Costa Brava. The grandfather wasn’t in great shape; the father rarely rode a bike. Both of them wisely opted for electric assist. When the family returned home from the trip, the grandfather e-mailed DuVine immediately to say that he and his son both planned to buy an e-wheel. ‘It’s amazing,’ he wrote, ‘and it will keep me cycling for another decade.’ He said it was the most memorable bonding experience of his life.”
Genie in a (Water) Bottle: Make Dreams a Reality
Flats are nice; mountains are epic. But many of us don’t have the lung capacity to cycle the Tour de France through the Pyrenees. E-bikes turn these cycling wishes into real possibilities. “It’s the difference between passively putting parts of the world on your bucket list and getting out to see them in an active, rewarding way,” Alex explains. “Electric assist expands your horizons and immerses you in your destination with the comfort of having a safety net beneath you.”
Supercyclist testimony: “Last fall we had a couple who had long dreamed of cycling in Tuscany. They weren’t strong cyclists but they were very enthusiastic about the trip. When they learned about e-bikes, they were elated. They came on tour and had a blast zooming up and down the hills, exploring side streets, and stopping to take in breathtaking views while the rest of the group caught up. E-bikes revolutionized their attitude towards cycling.”
Dust Off the Superhero Cape: Gateway to an Active Lifestyle
It can be intimidating to hop back in the saddle after taking time off, and even more intimidating to start cycling as a newbie. E-bikes or e-wheels help ease this transition; they crack the door open to an active lifestyle. They making outdoor cycling more accessible and assuage anxieties about your fitness abilities. “Get back into cycling!” exclaims Alex, “Get back into exercise without the fear of being overwhelmed.”
If you still need convincing, try an e-bike for yourself. “Go to a local bike shop and see how it feels,” Alex advises. “Electric assist is an epiphany for a lot of people. Most people’s hesitations are simply because they don’t know how it works. Me personally—I’m a total convert. It’s the way of the future.”