E-bikes are everywhere. What was once a polarizing topic in the traditional, sometimes snobby world of cycling—It’s cheating! You don’t get a proper workout!—is now a trend that’s here to stay. Not only are e-bikes the fastest growing segment within the bike industry—a recent study estimated that electric assist bicycle sales exploded by 240% during the pandemic—but it seems that some of the most headstrong cyclists have yielded to the benefits and pleasures of battery-aided rides.
And for good reason. E-bikes allow you to travel further, ride faster, and tame terrain, all without overcooking your legs. Especially now, as these once clunky bikes have gotten sleeker and lighter, with more powerful motors and longer lasting batteries. Shared electric scooter company Bird, which has already revolutionized urban commuting, introduced their first e-bike last summer, and even Tour de France pros have been known to opt for e-bike spins in a bid to conserve energy during rest days.
Still, e-bikes aren’t for everyone. Some cyclists will never waver from 100% human-powered rides, and we salute those stalwart sufferers. As for the rest of us, well, here at DuVine we believe any form of cycling is a worthwhile and life-affirming pursuit, and if an e-bike is the tool that allows more people to travel the world more comfortably on two wheels there is absolutely zero shame in that.
So what exactly are the benefits of an e-bike and how do you know if one is right for you? Read on for our honest assessment.
When people think e-bikes, a big bulky contraption comes to mind. The original e-bikes rode like tanks, and they weighed nearly as much as one too. Sure, the battery-powered rear hub provided some useful assistance, but that could be negated by the sheer weight of these lumbering rides. Cycling has long been a sport defined by the clean, two-wheeled elegance of a road bike, and the first (and even second and third) generation e-bikes possessed none of this grace.
Fortunately, that’s no longer the case. As evidence, we needn’t look any further than the latest ride to join DuVine’s fleet: the Specialized Turbo Vado SL 4.0 EQ, a lightweight hybrid that is both sturdy and nimble—not to mention fast. Thanks to a fully-integrated battery tucked in the down tube and a custom 240-watt motor (which equates to 180% assistance), riders can tick along the flats at 28 miles per hour, while climbs—even the longest of slogs—suddenly feel far easier. There’s even a battery range extender which assures up to 120-miles of assisted riding.
Ok, but what does it actually ride like? This January, the first of our Turbo Vados arrived at DuVine’s Boston office, and our Founder and CEO Andy Levine took it out for spin. His surprise was instantaneous, from how effortlessly he lifted the light aluminum “game changer” of a bike right out of the box, to how fast and nimble it felt on the road, to the impressive battery life—even on a 20-degree day.
“I rode as hard as I could for 20 minutes to see what kind of damage I could do to the battery,” says Andy, who likens the Turbo Vados’ virtually silent motor to that of a Tesla. “I rode the flats and the hills for 11 miles, and not even one bar of the battery life went down.”
Not only does an e-bike allow you to travel further and faster, all while sparing your legs much of the fatigue associated with the sport, but it also enables you to ride better routes with more challenging terrain and often superior views. Of course, the lumpy terrain of Tuscany or Mallorca might come to mind—those spectacular and sinuous ribbons of tarmac snaking up and down hills through stunning landscapes—but this can be equally true for the milder terrain of Puglia, Burgundy, and New York’s Hudson Valley. Wherever we travel, we always want to bring our guests to the best and most undiscovered pockets of the world. An e-bike allows empowers all of our riders to handle hillier, tougher rides so they can visit whatever destination they desire.
“E-bikes allow you to go to more places,” explains DuVine’s Italian General Manager Tom Coppock—a man who spends much of his days poring over maps and exploring new roads in order to give our guests the finest bicycle and travel experiences possible. “In the past we had to focus a lot of route design effort on keeping rides flatter and shorter so a greater segment of the population could enjoy them. Or, we spent a lot of time and energy as guides, spotting the van at the base of big climbs to give guests a ride to the top. But oftentimes the best scenery and trip design comes from taking the hillier routes or the longer way around. And everyone would prefer to complete the rides without using the van. With e-bikes we get more people riding the best roads and can focus more energy on preparing that amazing picnic at the top of the climb because we know everyone will make it.”
Mix and Match
Of course not everyone wants or needs an e-bike. That’s a personal choice. But what if you want to take a trip with your spouse or friend and they’re not much of a cyclist? Maybe you want to ride a Level 3 tour, but the mileage and vertical of each day would be prohibitive to bringing your significant other. Before e-bikes, you’d be out of luck—resigned to riding an easier tour, or shelving the idea bike travel altogether. But an e-bike equalizes things. Suddenly, a seven percent climb now feels like a three percent climb, and the two of you can ride side by side—you on your standard, pedal-powered road bike, your companion on their e-bike.
That’s not to say that e-bikes do all the work for you, especially when the road tilts upward. It’s critical to remember that riding a bike remains riding a bike, and just because you’re getting an assist doesn’t mean you won’t break a sweat.
“You’re riding a bike, not a Vespa,” Andy is quick to remind people. “Any person riding for three hours is still going to feel tired at the end of the day.”
The Ideal E-Biker
So what type of rider benefits most from an e-bike? There is no general rule of thumb or exact science here. What it comes down to is fitness, experience, and personal preference. Perhaps you’re taking your first bike tour and don’t have many miles under your belt. Maybe you’re not as fit as you once were or are nursing a knee injury. Or you’re a diehard rider but age doesn’t allow you to crush miles at the same clip you once did—and yet you’d still like to ride alongside your children or even grandchildren.
Then again, fun might be the deciding factor—who doesn’t want to cruise (almost) effortlessly through beautiful Bordeaux and Sonoma, or chug up a climb feeling a little less winded? Whatever the reason, the e-bike provides an alternative to traditional bicycles, thus opening up the beauty of the sport and the surrounding landscape to any type of rider.
That’s how Andy Levine sees it: “At DuVine, we want more people to travel the world by bike, not suffer by bike. And we’re always about providing the best equipment to enable them to do so.”