eBikes For Older Riders
Having a comfortable e-bike that is easy to control and that you feel safe on can make all the difference to how much you use it. This is doubly so as you begin to age – when it’s especially advisable for people to keep cycling to stave off the effects of age on muscles, motor coordination, and the immune system.
With this in mid EBR looks at some of the best e-bikes for older riders.
Get the Basics Right
Comfort and controllability are of extra importance to older riders and a fairly upright riding position is usually the best way to attain this. If the e-bike has a traditional diamond frame (though see below for the advantages of step-thru frames), a short top tube means the seat and handlebars will be quite near each other, making it easy to sit upright. Sportier designs and e-road bikes in particular will have longer top tubes and are inherently hard if not impossible to ride in an upright posture. As with everything, it’s a case of pros and cons though.
With an upright riding position you will sacrifice aerodynamic efficiency and some leg power as it will be harder to utilize the larger gluteus muscles. But you will gain more comfort for riding longer, a better position for taking in what is around you both in terms of scenery and competing traffic and less likelihood of discomfort in the wrists and neck. The above image demonstrates this perfectly; if you want to read more on the subject check out Lloyd Alter’s article on the subject which also links through to the full Mark Sanders 2010 article from which the above image is taken.
Examples of e-bikes with nice, upright riding positions include the Ampler range, Gazelle Dutch style e-bikes whilst Pedego and Sixthreezero do great looking ranges of cruiser style bikes with large comfy seats and very high, swept-back handlebars.
Easy On, Easy Of, or Lay Back and Relax
It’s not just a feeling of control whilst riding that’s helpful for older riders but the ease of getting on and off. For those a little less flexible than they once where, step-thru frames are a great option. These come in all manner of designs these days. Here are a few examples to show the variety of step-thru framed e-bikes to choose from.
This is more a so-called ‘trapeze’ frame (or it can be called mixte) – in effect a very low top tube – so if you don’t need an ultra-low step-thru frame but want a lightweight, sleek design that is still pretty easy to get on and off but is also fully equipped with rack, lights, and kickstand it’s definitely worth a look.
Benno Ejoy – the Cargo Carrier
The Benno Ejoy has plenty of capacity to carry whatever you want, front and rear and a high-quality mid-drive Bosch motor.
A powerful but smooth Bosch mid-drive combines with very comfortable looking frame geometry, lots of carrying capacity and lighting, mudguards, and chainguard.
Riese & Muller Nevo GX – Easy Off Road Riding
This is a super high quality design capable of going off-road but with plenty of carrying capacity and an easy riding position. Check out out video review below and the full ride report here:
Islabikes Elcons – Light and Low-Geared
Islabikes gained a great reputation for producing bikes for young riders. Their first e-bikes are specifically designed to be easy to use by older riders and they have an on-road and and off road option, the eJanis and the eJimi respectively. Islabikes says the design combines ‘our step-through Icons platform with cutting edge technology and a modern aesthetic to create a truly lightweight, stylish and ergonomic ebike weighing just 14Kg.’
Their main features are:
Super-lightweight ebike at 14Kg for safe lifting and the ability to ride with no power.
• Low-stepover – easy to get on and off.
• Discrete integration of the Mahle ebikemotion X35 rear hub system tuned by Islabikes to deliver smooth, controllable and non-intimidating pedal assistance.
• Low gearing allows you to ride the bikes without any power assist when you choose.
• Light action Gripshift gears, short-reach brake levers, and ergo grips for comfortable operation.
• Easy-Tire-Change – making puncture repair much easier.
Tern has three families of e-bikes, GSD, HSD and Vektron. The former two are compact e-bikes with great carrying capacity whilst the Vektron is an e-folder (not the lightest but handily can be rolled when folded). All Tern’s e-bikes use the high-quality Bosch mid-drive and have a good range of adjustment in seatpost height and also feature the ingenious Andros stem for fore and aft adjustment.
This model from Pedego has an ultra-low step-thru of just 9 inches. Lots more detail in the following video:
This unusual design from Dutch company Van Raam puts the rider further back behind the pedals meaning, whilst you keep a comfortable distance from the pedals for pedaling you are nearer the ground so when in a stationary position you can very easily put your feet on the ground. If you find the hardest part of cycling getting on and off the bike and close control on setting off the Van Raam could be worth a test ride.
If you want to check out fully laid back recumbent riding check out our article on electric recumbents here.
Get the Right Motor
If you want an easy to control, relaxing e-bike to ride there’s a few points to bear in mind when looking at the motor on a potential new e-bike:
- You don’t necessarily need the most powerful motor. In the US the legal limit in most states for all three classes of motor is 750W (watts). However you might find 500W motors and even European spec ones (250W) and it’s well worth trying out lower power options to see if you prefer them. If you regularly ride big hills 750W will no doubt come in handy but over gentler terrain 250W or 500W will extend you battery life and you might find you prefer the smoother, more controlled ride.
- Also think about how much assisted speed you can comfortably handle – Euro spec is 15.5mph max whilst US spec is generally 20mph or 28mph for class 3 e-bikes.
- A thumb throttle may well come in handy if you get pedal fatigue even from gentle pedalling – these are only present on class 2 e-bikes.
Adjusting Your Own E-bike For Comfort and Control
You can often make small adjustments to your e-bike to get a more comfortable riding position. E-bikes with traditional quill stems in threaded forks are quite rare but do exist and it’s often an easy matter to loosen the main bolt on them and pull the stem up for a more upright position (but NOT so you are able to see the minimum insertion mark – pulling it up too much can be very unsafe) – or push it down if you feel you are too upright..
You are much more likely to have a threadless headset and these can’t be raised in the same way as a threaded headset. There are options with these to change riding position but they involve the complication of replacing handlebars or stem. This may or may not work depending on the design of your e-bike as a few designs actually have cables running through the bars or even the stem. Ask your local e-bike shop about possible options if you want a more upright ride on a bike with a threadless headset. Handlebars that are more ‘swept-back’ or with a greater rise may help as may a longer stem with a greater rise. You can even get adjustable stems to set the stem position where you find it most comfortable. Do note changing the stem and bar setup (and especially moving the bars back and up towards the rider as you can do with an adjustable stem) can affect the bike’s handling characteristics.
To get more of an idea of the types of bar that might be available as swap outs take a look at this excellent article from Cass Gilbert at Bikepacking website. It references the useful What Bars website that shows different bar profiles overlaid on each other.
For added comfort the ‘contact’ points of saddle, grips and pedals can usually be changed very easily if you feel the need for more comfort in these areas. For lots more tips on how to make your make e-bike comfier check out this Propel video:
Stay tuned for more e-bike news and reviews and thanks for reading!
Excellent article, Richard. Now if someone in the US could make an ebike rack for older riders:
Ian King says
I have a Hase Trigo Nexus E Bike which is a 3 wheeler with a chair like seat and it is magnificent to ride. I am in my mid 60s and would recomend them to anyone.
At last!!! Saris makes one!!!
Glen Aldridge says
I think you missed one of the most important considerations for older riders. Falling off a bike or having it slip out from under you on a turn can mean older riders are subhect to breaking bones. The dreaded broken hip is a common cause of death in otherwise healthy retirees. For comfort, safety, fun & to put in more daily miles than you ever would on an upright bike you should like so many other retirees give recumbent trikes a look. I’m surprised these didn’t make your list as suitable for older riders.
Todd Tracy says
I second the Electric Trike option. I have over 5000 miles on my Electric Catrike 559 set up by Utah Trikes. I can’t believe the increase in comfort over a conventional bike. Never a sore butt, neck or hands again and the recumbent position allows much better sight seeing while riding. I now tow an adult disability trailer behind and with just a bit of electric assist i don’t even feel the trailer back there!
Richard Peace says
They did Glen! There is a link through to a full article on them and you can also find the article here:
Maybe we should have highlighted the possibility a bit more though so thanks for doing so
Richard EBR writer
Glen Aldridge says
I know I am getting old & maybe don’t see so well but your link does not take me to the article regarding trikes.
Steven Offord says
I’m afraid that, much as I love recumbent, particularly the reverse or ‘tadpole ‘ trike designs; being so low in motor traffic is quite terrifying and your visual range necessary for safe maneuvering in traffic is limited by being so low down too. If separate cycle lanes of adequate width can be provided then I’d be greatly in favor of recumbent trikes.
Glen Aldridge says
This is a very common misconception about recumbent trikes, Of course you don’t ride anywhere where the density or speed of traffic puts your life at risk but experience has shown that drivers typically will leave far more passing room for riders on trikes than they will for upright riders. It is believed the impression is that either drivers think they can squeeze by the 2 wheel bike rider or that when seeing a trike on the road that the rider is either disabled or crazy. Either way the experience for most is that drivers tend to stay further away, If visibility was an issue drivers would not see the road markings, speed bumps, dogs, kids, pot holes etc.
Tony Rice says
I want to tour. How about ebikes for touring
Ridge Greene says
I just bought a Gazelle ultimate 10+ and will be setting it up to ride the Cumberland Gap trail as a trial run, it seems clear that this bike will take you almost anywhere, the build quality is off the charts. A second battery for range will be needed if your not going to be able to charge reliably or plan on relying on using the sport or turbo modes more tan the eco or tour setting. I plan on peddling without assist except on hills or if behind schedule to save my knees and keep up with my wife……
I am 74 going on 16 & been riding 28 years, my goal since April this year is end of the month Sept is 2000.miles
OK enough of bragging. I’m 5! Female been riding ebs since 201.4 so if it don’t have step thru or made for shorter people the bikes worthless if you can’t get on/off to ride