Jul 03 2024

Ride for your life

As we age, staying active becomes increasingly important for our health, mobility, and social connections. Cycling seems to be a particularly popular pastime among seniors these days. And for good reason. It’s a low-impact exercise that can significantly improve cardiovascular health, flexibility, and muscle strength without putting excessive strain on joints.

Regular cycling helps maintain a healthy weight, improves endurance, and strengthens the immune system, plus the abundance of cycling clubs and groups mean it can be a great way to meet new people and stay socially engaged.

The electric revolution
But it’s advent of electric bikes (e-bikes) that has helped propel cycling to the forefront of activities championed by seniors. E-bikes, which come with battery-powered "pedal assist," reduce the effort required to cycle, making it accessible even for those with limited fitness levels or physical constraints.

The adjustable assistance levels of e-bikes allow individuals to tailor their workouts to their specific fitness goals, whether that's building stamina or simply enjoying a leisurely ride. They level the playing field, too, allowing riders of different abilities to cycle together comfortably.


Powerful advantages
E-bikes generally cost a fair bit more than many conventional cycles, given the additional technical components, but have considerable advantages:

Enhanced speed and reduced effort: E-bikes allow riders to achieve higher speeds with less effort. This is particularly beneficial when tackling hills or headwinds, making the ride less strenuous and more enjoyable.

Increased range: The motor assistance on e-bikes means you can cover longer distances without the fatigue and jelly legs of standard biking. This makes them a brilliant option for longer days out and about.

Eco-friendly alternative: While e-bikes do rely on electricity, they are still a greener alternative to cars. They produce no emissions during operation and can be charged using renewable energy sources.

Accessibility: E-bikes open up cycling to a broader audience, including those who may be put off by physical limitations or fitness levels.


Mind the headwinds
Of course, cycling has its risks, particularly on busy roads. And these tend to be heightened with e-bikes. The usual rules apply, for instance always wear a helmet and high-visibility clothing, invest in quality lights and reflectors, and carry a mobile phone for emergencies.

Meanwhile, if you’re considering joining the growing throng of e-bike enthusiasts, it’d pay to also be mindful of the following:

Higher speeds, higher risks: The potential speediness of e-bikes can lead to a higher risk of accidents. Be particularly cautious when sharing the road with faster-moving traffic or pedestrians who may not anticipate the speed of an approaching e-bike.

Weight and handling: E-bikes are generally heavier than standard bikes due to the added components like the motor and battery. This can affect handling and increase the stopping distance, requiring riders to adapt their riding style for safety.

Battery safety: Though rare, there are risks associated with the lithium batteries used in e-bikes, such as potential malfunctions, overheating, or fires. Proper care and maintenance of the battery are crucial.

Legal and regulatory compliance: E-bike riders must be aware of and comply with local regulations, such as restrictions on where e-bikes can be ridden and the required safety equipment.

Learning curve: If you’ve never ridden an e-bike, there’s definitely a learning curve associated with operating the bike safely. Understanding how to control the bike's power and becoming comfortable with its features is essential for safe riding.


Try before you buy
Before you invest in a new set of e-wheels, it’s definitely worth consulting an expert who will help identify key considerations like battery life, motor type, and frame, seat and tyre comfort. These days most cycle shops will have an array of e-bikes and the nous to match.

You might also want to check out online resources, such as:

  • Electric Bikes NZ - while no longer updated (because of the plethora of new makes and models arriving on our shores by the day), there is still plenty of helpful advice and insights on this site; and

  • Consumer NZ - Consumer has a dedicated page covering all things e-bike. Well worth a look.


Written by: Vanessa Glennie

Vanessa is Head of Communications at Lifetime Retirement Income. She’s an experienced investment writer, having spent more than a decade writing about financial markets in the global fund management industry.