Yeah, I never did send that review model Blix back...
Back when I wrote my (second) enthusiastic missive about e-bikes being magic, I mentioned that I was thinking of keeping the review model of the Blix Aveny low step that I had been testing. Indeed, having secured a fair, discounted deal for this well-loved (and previously ridden) model, I'm now the proud owner of a road-ready e-bike.
And I'm already feeling the benefits.
While many reviews (including my own) have focused on the very real benefits of the distance you can travel, or the ability to turn up to meetings composed and unsweaty, I think there are several other benefits to e-bikes that too often get overlooked. Here's just a partial list—I'd love to hear from readers on any others I may have neglected to mention:
Keeping up with traffic
I still hear purists scoff about e-bikes being cheating, but I suspect for most of us they are not really a replacement for a bicycle—they are a (partial) alternative to a car. And thought of purely as a transportation choice (as opposed to a sport or a work out method), electric propulsion offers a huge benefit in city traffic: keeping up with the flow of traffic. In a city like Durham, NC, where bike infrastructure is fragmented to say the least, I regularly have to traverse some hairy intersections and/or ride with cars as I make my way uphill. The electric assist means I can easily give myself a boost to prevent a wobble, or to avoid slowing down so much that the drivers behind me get aggressive. In fact, as a previously somewhat nervous rider, I've been extremely surprised at just how confidently I can now navigate busy, car-heavy traffic.
Getting to places on time
This might sound dumb, but as someone who rode a bike only irregularly, I've always had a hard time figuring out how long it will take me to get somewhere on a bicycle. What if there's a headwind? What if I'm tired? How steep was that hill again? Riding an e-bike not only means I ride faster—although I do—I also ride more consistently. It's actually easier for me to predict a journey time around town than it would be in a car, where traffic and parking concerns add their own unpredictability. And in a city full of stop signs, there's considerably less time spent accelerating and decelerating when you've got a little extra power to call on when you need it.
I like shiny new toys, so when I decided to spring for the Blix, I confess I was partially regretting that I wasn't springing for an electric cargo bike instead. But I've been surprised as to just how easy it is to haul even heavy or irregular loads on the Blix—using the sturdy front basket to bring home trash bags full of coffee grounds for the compost, or strapping stuff onto the back to get unexpected groceries home. Not only is there more room on a well-equipped bicycle than many of us newbies realize, but just as it helps us keep up in traffic, the electric assist also helps navigate a heavy load with more ease and stability than we might otherwise do so. (I've also noticed that many of the modern crop of e-bikes seem better equipped for haulage than their cheaper, non-motorized compatriots.)
Fun, fun, fun
Finally, for the longest time, I think many of us thought of e-bikes as an option for those who couldn't—for whatever reason—ride a normal bike. But the more I ride it, and the more I let friends borrow it, there's another undeniable benefit for a much broader swathe of the population: These things are fun! I'm not saying they are more fun than a regular bicycle (although for some of us, that might be true), but they are certainly more fun than driving a car in town. And if for no other reason than this, I would not be shocked to see Lloyd's prediction come true: E-bikes really could eat cars. Let's just remember not to ride like jerks and annoy the folks who were pedaling long before we got our new toys...