It’s environmentally friendly, good for your physical health, and a bonus for your emotional well-being. Riding a bicycle as a primary means of transportation is increasingly common in some urban areas in the United States, and especially throughout Europe. However, if you observe many cyclists in certain areas, you may notice they are interrupting their ride in order to walk their cycles up certain streets. Unlike recreational bicyclists, they do not choose where to ride based on ease or route, but on their destination. Regardless of the level of proficiency, some streets simply don’t allow cyclists to generate enough pedal torque to remain on their bikes.
Enter the electronic pedal-assisted bicycle. For a health care professional, that choice may seem like a compromise, but it’s actually a sensible and healthy option.
For those unfamiliar with how an electronic pedal-assisted bike operates, it utilizes power from a small lithium ion battery mounted atop a metal rack behind the seat of the bicycle. The system does not provide assistance when the cyclist is not actively pedaling; it simply adds torque to each pedal stroke. It automatically powers off when the speed of the bike exceeds 20 mph.
Some bikes include different levels of torque assist, from mild to substantial. Some cyclists find the mild assist to be helpful in order to help compensate for the weight of the battery and crank system, even along level surfaces. Additional assistance for steep hills not only allows you to continue riding instead of having to get off and walk, but it also decreases your commute time.
Using a pedal-assist bicycle does not negate the physical benefits one would normally get from riding a bike: You can still benefit from a cardiovascular workout as well as muscle tone. Some cyclists report feeling a “rush” from the pedal assist that makes them want to pedal constantly. Lowering the assist for portions of the commute can also be a bonus.
Either way, pedal-assist bicycles may make people more likely to commute via bike, and that makes it a positive. Since one of the down sides to riding your bike to work or school is the longer commute time, the fact that a pedal-assist bike reduces the commute time helps make bicycling a more attractive option for many.
One down side to this method of transportation is the weight; the battery pack makes it heavier than conventional bicycles (about 45 pounds). Most batteries run out of juice and need to be recharged every 15-20 miles, and if that happens mid-commute, you may find it more difficult to manage a pedal-assist bicycle than powering a regular bike on your own.
Another potential negative is the higher price tag on these bikes — and the related risk of theft. Even if you lock it up, leaving this kind of bicycle outdoors comes with a significant risk. Maintenance also comes with a higher price tag than a conventional bike.
All in all, I do not believe it’s hypocritical for a medical professional to endorse a pedal-assist bicycle; it really is a healthy choice.
PhysioDC of Washington, D.C.
Daniel Baumstark and his professional team of physical therapists operate a boutique physical therapy office in downtown Washington, D.C. From athletes to government officials, and from ballerinas to corporate executives, PhysioDC helps people recover, strengthen and return to healthy living. Visit their website at www.PhysioDC.com or call them at 202-223-8500.
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