12/14/2021 | By Kari Smith

For those who appreciate the benefits of riding a bike but are physically challenged by injury or age, an e-bike may offer the chance to get back on the saddle again. Our introduction to electric bikes can help steer you in the right direction.

Cycling can be a great form of exercise as well as an enjoyable way to get around town. It’s a fun workout, saves on gas expenses, helps conserve our planet, is quicker than walking, offers a wonderful way to spend time outside, and is a great way to see an area – your home turf or a tourist definition. However, for many seniors, biking may seem like merely a memory, a joy of the past. We may not be as nimble or strong as we used to be. Hills may be harder to scale. Riding a bicycle to work or to meet up with friends would take too long and could result in us arriving sweaty and sticky. We may have a partner who still likes to ride, but we simply can’t keep up.

For those who feel like cycling days are over, we offer an option: the electric bike.

The beginner’s introduction to electric bikes

Unlike a scooter or motorcycle, which depend solely on an engine for power, electric bicycles (e-bikes) assist in the power department – that is, they don’t do all the work. This allows you to ride farther and to get there faster. Don’t be fooled by those who may suggest that e-bikes are not intended for fitness! That choice is up to you and the class of e-bike you choose: either get a great workout by pedaling faster, or choose to show up for a coffee date as sweet as a rose.

E-bikes come in three categories:

  • Class 1: The motor kicks in when you pedal (i.e., pedal assist). The motor doesn’t operate faster than 20 mph. These bikes are more affordable, and the tires are often large enough to enable riding on easy trails as well as streets and bike paths.
  • Class 2: These bikes also hav a pedal-assist mode that accelerates up to 20 mph as well as a purely throttle-powered mode (i.e., you don’t have to pedal at all).
  • Class 3: These are pedal assist (like class 1), but the motors can power up to 28 mph. Thus, they’re faster and more powerful (and they cost more)

Although purchasing a quality e-bike may be a $1,500 to $3,000 investment, you get what you pay for. Price is affected by the quality of the batteries, including how long they last on a charge; the frame; and the motor, including its power and top speed.


No special skills are needed! If you know how to ride a bike, you know how to ride an e-bike. At the end of the day, it is a bike.

Distance on a charge

Although range varies from 20 miles to 100 miles, many e-bikes travel up to 40 miles or more before needing to be charged. There are several factors that affect how long the battery lasts, including the weight of the bike and total cargo weight; the riding surface and terrain; the power that the motor uses; temperature; and the battery size.

Most e-bike batteries (which may be external or built into the frame) take an average of four hours to charge. For this reason, some cyclists bring along their chargers or an extra charged battery for longer trips.


E-bikes reach speeds of 20 or 28 mph, depending upon the bike.


Just as for conventional bikes, a myriad of accessories are available for e-bikes. If you are planning to use your bike for cargo, choose a compatible rack, saddlebags, or an accessory bag mount. But remember that extra weight may result in shortened battery life.

Protect your investment with a lock! Some bikes have built-in locks for both the bike itself, and for your bike’s battery pack.

If you are riding your bike at night, be sure to wear reflective clothing and attach a light to your bike.

You can add a cargo cart, a bike trailer for hauling kiddos, or a canoe / kayak trailer to your bike. Light the way with headlights and reflective safety stickers, and add a water bottle holder to help you stay hydrated.

LCD displays can show your speed, battery life, pedal-assist mode, etc. Some displays can integrate your bike with your smartphone.

These attachments to your e-bike will help keep you safe and enable you to use your investment for fun, errands, and exercise.

Go for a spin

A good introduction to electric bikes would be remiss without this guidance: be sure to try before you buy! The rising popularity of e-bikes means a rising number of retailers and repair shops popping up throughout the nation. At the same time, the e-bike will feel a little different, so avoid a hasty judgment, and try various brands and models.

In Central Virginia, for example, Kul Wheels sells a variety of electric bike brands such as Electric Bike Company, Gazelle, Magnum, and Blix. The company also offers rentals and guided tours.

Kul Wheels owner Marna Bales says that their biggest customer base is baby boomers, although they have riders as young as 16 and up to the 80s. Most are looking for Class 2 bikes, which have a throttle and really help to get the bike going.

Bales points out that there are age rules for the road when it comes to e-bikes: in the state of Virginia, a cyclist must be 14 years old to ride a Class 1 or 2 bike and 16 to ride a Class 3 bike.

In addition to selling e-bikes, Kul Wheels also houses a service department for both conventional and electric bikes for jobs such as adjusting brakes or gears, cleaning and lubing bike chains, and even bike assembly.

Other retailers include Gray Goat Bicycle in Indiana, Orbit City Bikes in Ohio, and eBike Central in North Carolina.

Kari Smith

Kari Smith is a frequent contributor to Seniors Guide, helping to keep those in the senior industry informed and up-to-date. She's a Virginia native whose love of writing began as a songwriter recording her own music. In addition to teaching music and performing in the Richmond area, Kari also enjoys riding horses and farming.

Kari Smith