Rachel L. Davis is an avid bicyclist. But as a working mother of two with a third on the way, she doesn't have time for long bike rides.
“In my world, getting my exercise has to be part of my daily life,” says Davis, 36, who owns a marketing strategy company based in Washington.
She found a solution in JUMP Bikes, which rents out dockless ebikes.
Electric bikes or ebikes, widely popular in Europe and China, are steadily making their ascent in the U.S. bike market. Erik Saltvold, founder and owner of ERIK's Bike Shop, a Midwest-based chain for bike sales and repairs, says the ebike is the fastest-growing specialty bike in the industry. Last October, market research company NPD Group reported that electric bike sales had grown 95 percent in the 12 months ending in July 2017, with sales totaling nearly $65 million.
Those buyers aren't likely to get a major workout. Researchers from the University of Tennessee found in a study of walkers, ebike riders and traditional bike riders that those who completed a 4.43-kilometer hilly route on an ebike used 22 percent less energy than traditional bikers and 64 percent less than walkers, most likely because the ebikers got to the finish line faster than the others. But perks included higher levels of enjoyment and no need for a shower when they were done.
“Sometimes people who pedal a lot kind of scoff and say, 'Oh, I don't need an electric motor.' Quite frankly, that's right,” says Dave Abadie, owner of E-Bike KC, an ebike conversion company. “If you ride a lot for exercise and even for competition, an electric bike is something you wouldn't be interested in getting.”
The National Institute for Transportation and Communities believes ebikes remove barriers, such as physical limitations and challenging topography, to cycling. The results of a recent survey “indicate that, by reducing the physical demands on the rider, e-bikes are encouraging more people to replace car trips with bike trips,” it says. The survey found that 37 percent of frequent cyclists and 27 percent of non- or seldom-cyclists who bought an ebike now primarily use their ebike to commute to work, an encouraging sign for transportation officials who want to increase bicycle commuting.