The BikeRide Guide to Choosing the Best Bikes for Seniors
Is There One Bike for All Seniors?
When we talk about a “seniors’ bike”, we’re talking about any bike that you choose to ride in your later years.
Are you just getting back on to a bike after years out of the saddle? Perhaps you’ve never been a rider and you’re entering the cycling world for the first time. Or maybe you’ve been riding for decades. Given the wide range of experience, there is no one perfect bike for a senior rider. But some of the best bikes for seniors are designed with the comfort of older riders in mind.
|Cycling provides ongoing physical, mental and social health benefits|
Extensive medical research has proven that regular cycling contributes to a healthy lifestyle and a longer life. Being a low-impact sport, cycling places minimal stress on joints and limbs, in comparison to activities such as jogging and parkour.
We’ll help you out with the technical stuff, but a large part of your decision should be based on your personal needs and preferences. Are you looking for a more traditional bike that employs relaxed geometry? Or is an e-bike more your speed? Perhaps a three-wheeler, with some room to haul cargo and shopping. Or maybe you prefer the ergonomic allure of the recumbent?
Types of Bikes
The type of bike you choose is dependent upon your own personal needs, experience and capabilities. We’ll give a run-down of the benefits and drawbacks of each bike type, as they pertain to senior riders. For in-depth descriptions of these bike types, please refer to our individual guides.
Many comfort bikes are designed to meet the ergonomic interests of the senior rider. They offer an upright posture, combined with flat bars and a lightweight aluminum frame. Saddles are wide and cushioned. Most models employ wide, low-pressure tires. They may or may not be equipped with a front suspension fork. These features help to smooth out the impact of uneven surfaces.
Many frames use a step-through design, for easy mounting and dismounting. Step-over designs use low, slanted top tubes. Comfort bikes offer a low center of balance and relaxed steering.
Gearing is usually generous, without providing for the highest flat-out speeds. Hill climbs shouldn’t be a struggle. Most frames are aluminum, which helps to keep these bikes light and affordable.
|This typical hybrid is also a discrete e-bike|
Hybrid bikes are intended for on and off-road use, without being as adventurous as mountain bikes. They may or may not use front suspension. Hybrids are more sporty than comfort bikes but less so than road bikes. They use flat handlebars.
Comfortable, semi-upright geometry is combined with tires that are narrower than those found on comfort bikes, but wider than those fit to a road bike.
Not all hybrid bikes employ geometry that’s as upright or as relaxed as that found on comfort bikes. But there are numerous laid-back options on the market.
|Hybrids are great for rough urban streets|
Gear ratios are comfortable, but provide for higher speeds than are possible on a comfort bike. Saddles are usually wider and more sufficiently padded than road and mountain bike versions.
Most frames are aluminum, but higher-end models often come specced with a carbon fiber fork. At the top-end, there are are a few models using carbon-fiber frames. Hybrid bikes are usually lighter than comfort bikes. Affordable models are cheap, but the best hybrid bikes can cost thousands of dollars.
Electric hybrid e-bikes are available.
|Carbon-fiber, flat-bar road e-bike|
Riders opt for electric assistance for a variety of reasons. A little boost can help any rider to commute and exercise for longer. E-bikes let you haul more cargo. If you ride in a mixed-age cycling group, an electric rig lets you keep up with the pack.
Electric bikes are excellent for new riders and for those who are re-entering the cycling world, following a hiatus. They are also perfect for rehabilitation, where riders have an existing injury or persistent pain. The best e-bikes offer varying levels of electric assistance, so you can adjust your own desired level of pedal input.
Due to the extra motorized assistance, there’s little need to worry about the inclusion of weighty elements such as front suspension, wide tires and suspension seat posts.
Electric bikes are now available in almost all of the regular bike styles.
City / Town Bikes
|A well-appointed town bike|
‘Town bikes’ and ‘city bikes’ are usually solid, upright and casual. Classic, sweeping, step-through frames are popular. They have a low standover height and suit wearing dresses, skirts and casual clothing.
Seating positions are quite upright. They often have wide, swept-back bars that leave the arms akimbo.
|Out on the town|
Frames can be steel or aluminum. Wheels are mostly 700c, but can also be 650b (27.5″) or 26″. Tires are wider than road bikes, from about 32c to 38c. Town bikes usually have cargo mount-points and may come fit with a basket or rack. Both external and internal drivetrains are common.
A town bike welcomes a short ride. They’re great for brief commutes, errands, corner-store trips and riverside ambles. Most town bikes are a cheerfully cheap, simple and low-cost option.
Dutch Bikes (Omafiets / Opafiets)
Omafiets and opafiets (‘granny bikes’ and ‘grandpa bikes’) are a traditional style of simple, upright, urban bike.
|The Dutch bike’s reliable design has seen few changes over its long life|
They’ve enjoyed over a century of use and popularity in countries such as Holland and Denmark. Outside of Europe, they are known as ‘Dutch bikes’.
They mostly use a 700c x 38B tire size (28 x 1 ½ or 40-635) and are incredibly resilient. They are built of heavy steel, use drum brakes and are often fit with hefty racks. New models are available.
|With a steel frame and carbon fork, this commuter is city-bred|
There’s a lot of crossover between commuter and hybrid bikes. But many commuters are lighter, faster, road-specific vehicles that use narrower tires. They should come fit with eyelets and bosses for racks and bottles.
Their gear range is wide, allowing them to be ridden efficiently on daily commutes. Commuter gearing should see you up steep hills, while allowing for fast speeds on flat stretches.
|This comfortable electric commuter comes with a rack and fenders|
Geometry can vary from comfortable to racy, with higher-end examples being no less than a flat-bar road bike. Some even use drop bars. The price range on commuters is very wide, covering all budgets.
Over-all, commuters are intended to be practical daily riders. There’s no guarantee that they’ll provide the level of comfort found on other, more easy-going rigs.
|Electric road bikes take the edge off|
Road bikes are better suited to experienced riders. As road riders age, many are opting to move onto electric bikes. This allows them to make that Sunday ride just as long as it’s always been. On group rides, keeping up with the young ‘uns is not a concern.
Road bikes use an aggressive geometry that can prove demanding on aging bodies. Backs and shoulders can be punished by the bent over stance of the road rider. Low drop bars can stress wrists.
Gearing is racy, while tires and saddles are both narrow and firm. Road bikes are not forgiving on jouncy terrain.
Quality road bikes ask high prices. Quality electric road bikes, even more so.
|A capable hardtail trail bike will cover most off-road requirements|
Mountain bikes are heavier than most other bikes. If you are riding casually, off-road, it’s advisable to stick to a ‘recreational’ or trail mountain bike. These rigs use geometry that is suited to climbs as well as descents. Enduro and downhill bikes are heavy, slack and more at home on gnarly descents.
Mountain bikes can seem deceptively comfortable to the casual urban rider. Sure, they have big, fat tires that you can run at low pressures. And most of them use suspension, at least for the bike’s fork. These factors can make for an incredibly plush ride over rougher surfaces. But they aren’t designed for casual, on-road riding.
|Quality electric options don’t come cheap|
On-road riding is slowed by the traction produced by knobby tires. While grippy tires are standard on new mountain bikes, you could replace them with plump, slick tires. This would give you a plush, slow, suspension-equipped cruiser. This kind of rig will be weighty, but can take rough roads in its stride.
Mountain bike geometry can be quite ‘slack’, meaning that top tubes usually slope downward from the handlebars. This makes some mountain bikes easy to mount and dismount. Seats can be lowered considerably, offering an upright seating position. Be wary of long reach on progressive designs, as this geometry requires outstretched arms.
Mountain bikes are available in all price ranges, at all quality levels and weights. Electric mountain bikes are increasing in popularity and availability. For older mountain bikers and those who value sturdy construction and fat rubber, this could be the answer. Quality options are not cheap.
|This carbon fiber fatty weighs in at 27.2lbs|
Fat-tire bikes (or ’fatbikes’) are a sub-type of mountain bike that is built to accommodate the fattest of tires. Frames are specially built for this purpose. They are bulky and husky. No doubt, they are the heaviest bike available. But high-end models are available in full carbon-fiber, which drops significant pounds from the total weight.
Gearing is super-low, so you can get these tractors rolling. There’s no question that these are very comfortable bikes that can ride almost anywhere (other than up a steep hill). The lighter a fat bike is, the more it costs. Electric models are out there.
|Lower standover, fatter tires and an adjustable dropper seat-post|
Gravel bikes are a relatively recent evolution in the cycling world. They’re an off-road bike that’s lighter and racier than a mountain bike. In spirit, they’re closer to a road bike. You might be thinking that this sounds like a difficult bike to ride. But take pause.
Yes, gravel bikes use drop bars and can use quite aggressive geometry that’s similar to that of road bikes. But most gravel bikes are a little slacker than road bikes. Their tires are wider and their gearing is lower, to help with riding rough terrain.
|A traditional steel frame with wide, comfortable tires|
Maybe you’ve been a road rider for some time. In which case, progressing to a gravel bike could be a logical step. Many gravel bikes are still fast on-roads, but the extra tire clearance allows for wider, more comfortable tires run at lower pressures. Their lower gearing is forgiving. A gravel bike will handle all qualities of road surface, in addition to hardpack dirt roads and gentler singletrack.
For many senior riders, a gravel bike will not be their cup of tea. For the retiring road cyclist, they are a viable option. Gravel bikes are rarely low-cost. Electric models are not common but can be found, for the right price.
|Single-speed riding can be a slog|
If you live in a flat coastal or desert environment, a single-speed bike might work for you.
Nevertheless, single-speeds are unsuitable for many senior riders. One gear is hard to get going and won’t easily tackle hills (even for many of the youngest riders). There is definite potential for causing knee strain in aging cyclists.
One of the main benefits of a single-speed is that they are very low maintenance.
We recommend that you opt for gears.
At first glance, beach cruisers seem like an easy-going option for the senior rider. The laid-back geometry and plush saddles seem to be built for comfort. But let’s take a closer look.
Many beach cruisers are made of heavy, hi-tensile steel. Traditionally, they are single-speed bikes. These factors make for a bicycle built to cruise, slowly, on flat ground. On short rides over level terrain, they could be just the ticket. But there’s more to consider.
|This cruiser is comfortable but heavy, with high-rise handlebars|
Low seating positions and step-through frames make beach cruisers easy to get on and off of. But if saddles are too low and handlebars too high, these bikes can become tiresome and uncomfortable. Exaggerated geometry can quickly cause fatigue. It’s possible for handlebars to be too wide or too high.
So now that we’ve covered the less-suitable sector of the market, we can look at the types of cruiser that make sense. There are numerous geared models out there, with anywhere from 3 to 21 speeds.
|A versatile 5-speed cruiser|
With less-exaggerated geometry, cruisers make for a very agreeable ride. Wide, padded saddles are comfortable and suit the cruiser’s posterior-centric ride position. But be wary, because excessively squishy saddles are unfriendly to sit bones on longer rides.
Cruisers place the rider in an upright, seated position with excellent visibility. Some models allow you to place both feet flat on the ground, while seated. For an easier-going ride, seek out a lightweight aluminum model.
Cruisers are a low-cost option for shorter rides at a relaxed pace.
There are a lot of good reasons why a touring bike might make your shortlist. With a fair amount of variation in touring bike styles, you might just find something to suit you. They can be made from almost any frame material, but many are built from strong and pliant, mid-weight steel tubing. This tubing is comfortable and forgiving on rougher roads.
|A steel framed drop-bar tourer|
Touring bikes can use drop or flat bars. For upright comfort, the latter is recommended. In this configuration, a touring bike is far more comfortable than a road bike. They’re not built for speed, but for consistent comfort at a steady pace. Look for a model with a sloped top tube, to allow for a less-hunched posture and ease of mounting and dismounting.
Touring bikes use a fork with more rake than that found on a road bike, which makes for relaxed steering. Frames are built around the accommodation of wide tires, which act as suspension, without the excess weight of a suspension fork.
One of the greatest attributes of touring bikes for senior riders, is the universal presence of a wide gear range. Triple chainrings (and wide-range double chainrings) allow the rider to remain seated on all but the most vertical of climbs.
Another boon of the touring bike, is their natural ability to strap on cargo, bottles and accessories. You can carry all your provisions easily, without the need for aftermarket accessories.
They can be expensive, but the best touring bikes are incredibly durable and hard-wearing. They’re suited to asphalt and dirt roads, making them a viable replacement for a hybrid bike.
Folding bikes can be incredibly useful. With a lever turned here, handlebars folded there, these bikes can be easily collapsed for convenient transport on buses, trains, boats and in cars. This makes them a great choice for commuting and vacations.
Lightweight, easy-to-fold models can be expensive. Cheap examples can be heavy, bulky and awkward to carry. They use small frames and wheels (usually no bigger than 20” inches), making some models less comfortable and efficient over long distances.
Look for options that feature long seatposts and extendable handlebars, to allow for a comfortable posture that doesn’t force you to become hunched or feel crowded.
|A tandem makes a great second bike|
The tandem bike is definitely one of the most highly rated bikes, when it comes to pure fun. They’re great for vacations and for bonding with partners, close friends or family. The tandem has the ability to test the limits of your powers of coordination and cooperation!
In the learning phase, there is an extra demand on your level of attention. Tandems are expensive, heavy and take up ample storage space. You may need a longer vehicle and a specialized rack to carry your tandem on vacations. Additionally, it can be a challenge to find a model that comfortably fits both you and your partner.
As long as you remember these factors, a tandem can be an excellent second bike. Seek out lightweight, aluminum models.
|An electric tricycle can be a stable, cargo hauling machine|
For some riders, an adult tricycle is the way to go. Most models have a large basket and the ability to carry a generous amount of cargo; be it a large load of groceries, a small dog or your fishing gear. They’re very stable, especially on the straights.
Tricycles are heavier and slower than most bikes, making them a choice for the unrushed rider. The traditional tricycle steers in a way that’s significantly different to the way that a bicycle handles. This takes a little getting used to, while making high-speed turns a thing of the past.
Electric models give a motorized boost, helping to overcome the tricycle’s weight penalty. A higher-performance type of tricycle can be found in the form of the recumbent trike.
Recumbent Bikes and Trikes
Recumbents are ergonomic and comfortable. Two and three-wheel models are available.
|A sophisticated, full-suspension 2-wheeler|
They’ve been praised by medical professionals, for their various health benefits. The majority of the body’s weight is distributed across the back and buttocks, rather than being focused on the saddle and hands. This seating position avoids potential prostate aggravation, as pressure is not being placed on the perineal area. It has also been purported to improve circulation.
Neck, shoulder and arm pain is significantly reduced, in comparison to the traditional riding posture on a conventional bicycle. The lower back is relaxed, rather than being arched. Riders look straight ahead, without having to crane their neck backward. On most recumbents, steering takes place beneath the seat. Conversely, conventional bicycles require the rider to rest a lot of weight upon their wrists.
|Recumbents maintain a low profile, literally|
Some enthusiasts claim that recumbents are the safer option, in the instance of a crash. Being closer to the ground, there is the possibility that the risk of injury is reduced during a fall. They are less likely to flip over, should you be the unfortunate recipient of a vehicle impact or equipment failure.
|Electric models are available|
Recumbents do have their downsides. Firstly, they aren’t mainstream. This makes it a little harder for you to find, test-ride and source the right model for your needs. Their complication and specialization also adds to their price. The best recumbents are expensive. Electric models, even more so.
After your purchase, there is an initial re-orientation involved with learning to ride this new type of vehicle. Climbs can be a struggle, as the bulk of rider weight is positioned over the rear wheel. Perhaps the greatest concern with riding a recumbent, is the lack of visibility among traffic. Despite using a brightly colored flag, recumbent riders are often beneath the eye-line of drivers.
Step-Over and Step-Through
Most bike types are offered in both of these frame shapes. The top-tube on a step-over frame sits higher above the ground than on a step-through frame. Step-through frames have a downward-sloping top-tube and a much lower standover height.
Step-through comfort bikes have some of the lowest standover heights of all bike types. Even step-over framed comfort bikes have a significantly lower standover height than most other bike types.
Traditionally, step-over frames were favored by male riders, while step-through frames were marketed to women. But in reality, many older, shorter or less flexible men choose step-through frames, while some taller women prefer step-over models. Many new bike models are available in both step-through and step-over options.
If you find it difficult to mount a standard step-through bike, you’re in luck.
‘Low-entry’ bikes make it even easier to get on and off your bike, even with reduced flexibility. These step-through bikes offer an ultra-low standover, making it especially easy to get a leg over your frame.
Some low-entry bikes also allow the rider to place both feet on the ground while remaining seated, for enhanced stability when coming to a stop.
A lightweight bike is easier to ride uphills and to propel on flats. It’s less of a struggle to take it up stairs or to place on a car-mounted carrier.
When looking at lightweight frame materials, there are three main options.
|Alloy frame with a compliant steel fork|
Aluminum is the most affordable choice for a lightweight frame. An aluminum frame weighs approximately 30% less than a steel frame of similar strength, and it’s a lot more resistant to corrosion.
It’s more costly than cheap and heavy steel alternatives, such as ‘hi-tensile’ steel. However, it’s usually cheaper than bikes using boutique, lightweight steel tubing.
As aluminum has a tendency to be unforgiving over uneven surfaces, it’s often coupled with a suspension fork or a fork made of a different, more compliant material.
As a buyer, you can save money with an aluminum frame and spend the savings on superior componentry. This presents an advantage to shelling out for carbon fiber.
Aluminum exhibits excellent stiffness. While aiding efficiency, this stiffness has given it a reputation for harshness in the face of vibration. However, high-end frames now reduce jounce using various means, including smoothing of weld areas to reduce excess material. In the rare instance that an Aluminum frame does fail, it may crack suddenly, having given little prior warning of failure.
- Can deliver a harsh ride.
- It’s brittle and may crack. Not affordable or practical to repair.
- Not as strong as other materials.
|Carbon fiber: shapeable, light and strong|
Carbon fiber is lightweight, resilient and compliant. It’s true that it’s strong and absorbs road vibration. On the other hand, it can be restrictively expensive, which is why it’s more common on performance bikes. A carbon fiber bike is more likely to be stolen and will also be very costly or impossible to repair if cracked.
While failure of well-made carbon fiber frames is rare, when it happens it can be sudden and critical. Repairing carbon fiber frames is expensive and often, impossible. It’s recommended that you buy from a reputable source, as poor workmanship can result in the potential for critical failures. The necessity for quality workmanship is reflected in the high price of carbon fiber frames.
Another benefit of this material is its ability to maintain torsional stiffness. This results in more pedal power being transferred directly into forward motion, adding to the efficiency of your ride.
- The lightest material available.
- Very stiff
- Excellent ability to damp vibration.
- Torsional stiffness
- High strength
Titanium is a boutique material. It’s as strong as steel, but at 55% of the weight. It exhibits outstanding vibration absorbance and a level of stiffness between that of steel and aluminum. Its ability to resist corrosion is almost total, making titanium a very real choice for a frame that lasts a lifetime.
Nevertheless, it’s difficult to extract, refine and for manufacturers to work. As a result, it demands a high price. Due to its density, it’s heavier than both aluminum and carbon fiber. However, the steel-framed version of a bike is heavier than its titanium equivalent by about 1 to 1.5 pounds.
- Can last a lifetime.
- Virtually corrosion free.
- Excellent damping properties.
- Delivers a smooth ride.
- Lighter than steel.
|For many, steel stays real|
Steel is renowned for its pliant comfort over uneven terrain, but its density and subsequent weight is greater than that of other frame materials.
Higher-end steel alloys can be drawn into thinner tubing, to make a lighter bike. These models can be expensive. Though they will be heavier than aluminum options, they are likely to be a lot more comfortable.
Steel frames can be repaired.
Most comfort and hybrid bikes are fit with either disc brakes or V-brake rim brakes. Roadsters and cruisers may be equipped with drum brakes.
Disc brakes slow the bike by squeezing pads onto a disc, which is attached to the wheel hub. Discs cost more than rim brakes, but are now more affordable than they have ever been.
They are more powerful than rim brakes, especially in wet weather. This makes them more suited to those seeking comfort, as they require less effort and hand strength from the user, while delivering greater stopping power.
|The most common disc rotor sizes|
They allow for the use of wide tires and don’t wear down your rims.
Disc brakes are more complicated than rim brakes, when it comes to maintenance, adjustment and repair.
There are two types of disc brake; hydraulic and mechanical. Hydraulic brakes provide greater stopping power and use brake fluid to transmit force. They are more costly than mechanical discs and trickier to maintain.
If you live in a dry climate, you might consider cutting costs and using rim brakes. But if your priorities are power, performance and all-weather reliability, discs could be your preferred option.
Linear-pull brakes (also known as ‘V-brakes’) are a type of cantilever rim brake that uses a single cable and two arms. They fit well around wider tires and are easily adjusted and maintained at home. That said, they can still be tricky to center. As far as cantilever brakes go, they’re powerful.
Compared to discs, they lose some power in wet weather. Winter braking also wears down rims as grit and filth gets attracted to your brake pads. However, they are cheaper than discs and easier to adjust without professional help.
Caliper brakes attach to the frame or fork by a single bolt. They use curved arms, which must be long enough and wide enough to fit around your tires. For this reason, they are better suited to accommodating narrow to mid-width tires.
Drum brakes are used by traditional roadsters, ‘omafiets’ and cruisers. They’re sometimes referred to as ‘roller brakes’ or ‘hub brakes’. They use an internal hub, but are cable-actuated in the same way that rim and disc brakes are.
Drum brakes work by using a conventional brake lever and cable linked to a cam that presses brake shoes outward against the inside of a cylindrical drum, creating friction.
Drum brakes may be combined with an internally geared hub and / or a dynamo that’s connected to your bike’s lighting. They are tough, sealed from the elements and require little maintenance. They’re also heavy and less powerful than disc options.
|This cruiser has one brake in the rear. It’s a coaster|
Coaster brakes might be used as a rear brake on cruiser bikes. They’re also known as ‘pedal brakes’. You might remember them from childhood, when simple bikes required you to push your pedals backwards to stop. There are no pads or discs and braking takes place largely within the wheel hub. Most coaster brakes provide somewhat inferior stopping power, compared to rim and disc brakes. Coaster brake hubs can be internally geared; usually with 3, 7 or 8 speeds.
On its own, a coaster brake might not be practical or safe in hillier terrain or at higher speeds. Mashing a coaster can ‘cook’ the grease inside a coaster hub. The first mountain bikers had to repack this grease after every descent. Some new models use a rear coaster brake with a front rim or drum brake.
On the upside, they only require infrequent maintenance. A coaster brake does not need cables or levers, giving your bike a neat, clean appearance.
Factors to Consider
A bike with rim brakes will be cheaper than one with disc brakes. However, disc brakes require less exertion and provide more stopping power.
|This rugged folding bike has 30 speeds|
It’s a good idea to seek out a bike with a wide gear range. This ensures that you can always find a suitable gear, in any terrain, with the minimal amount of strain. It also allows you to remain seated for more of your ride. A wide gear range can be the result of having many available gears or of having less gears spread over a wider range. This means that there is still a high high gear and a low low gear, but the jumps between gears are larger.
On some new bike types, triple chainrings are seen as excessive and redundant. Many new bikes use a single chainring with a relatively wide range of gears. This reduces weight and complexity.
For comfort and touring bikes, triple and double chainrings remain popular. They ensure that almost any elevation can be tackled without exertion.
For these bike types, streamlining and weight-reduction are not priorities. It’s better to have a bike that will provide a gear that will appease the knees.
External Gearing using Derailleurs
|This external 1×13 drivetrain offers a wide gear range|
Many affordable bikes use external gearing. External gearing is exposed to rain and dirt, both of which rapidly deteriorate components. If you want to ride your new bike in the city in all seasons, an internally-geared option resists the elements and requires less maintenance.
- This is the most affordable standard.
- External gearing can be adjusted by (some) home mechanics.
- External gearing is exposed to the elements.
- tuning and repair is needed than on an internally geared drivetrain.
|This 14-speed hub offers a 526% range|
Internal hubs are low-maintenance, while protecting your gears from the elements and maintaining a clean look. There are no derailleurs to bend or damage. They are widely available in 3, 7 and 8-speed options.
There are also ‘stepless’ internal hubs that provide progressive gearing with a similar range to other brands’ 8-speed options. Rohloff manufacture a high quality, 14-speed internal hub that covers a 526% gear range.
- Internally geared hubs are sealed from dirt and moisture.
- External complexity is reduced by eliminating derailleurs.
- Internal hubs present neatly.
- They only use one shifter and one cable.
- Internal gearing systems require infrequent maintenance.
Sturmey Archer and Shimano Nexus are names to look out for. Both are manufacturers of renown.
|The rear hub of a belt drive bike. Detachable chainstays are visible|
Belt drives are a modern replacement for the traditional chain. Using a single-piece carbon belt, they are near-silent, greaseless and long-lasting.
Because they are low-maintenance and won’t soil clothing, they present an attractive option for the casual cyclist. They only work with internal hub gearing and may cost a little extra upfront, compared to chain-driven options.
Flat bars provide a comfortable, upright riding position. Conversely, drop bars will place you in a bent-over position with your weight mostly resting on your wrists.
Wide handlebars provide ample leverage and reduce exertion when steering. Excessive width may cause shoulder discomfort.
|High-rise bars can be a little too much|
Comfort bikes usually employ nominal-rise handlebars in conjunction with a tall stem or high-rise handlebars with a shorter stem. Either option leaves riders with a high hand position.
Cruiser bars have a decent amount of rise, varying from a couple of inches to the dramatic ‘ape-hanger’ bars found on some custom lowriders. 1.5” to 3.5” inches of rise keeps you upright while riding. It doesn’t really help on climbs, as it results in your weight being set further back and lower. But it does make for a comfortable position with excellent visibility.
Backsweep can present an ergonomic advantage, setting a rider’s wrists at a relaxed horizontal or vertical position (such as on ‘North Road’ style bars).
Backsweep also gives you room for a basket or front rack cargo. On leisurely models, backsweep is usually between 25° and 30°.
Most comfort bikes employ ‘flat’ bars, similar to those used on mountain bikes. They are usually straight, with a moderate amount of rise and maybe some backsweep. They aren’t racy, but you can use them to stand up when climbing hills.
You won’t find drop bars on comfort bikes or hybrids. Commuters and touring bikes may or may not use them.
Comfort Bikes are made and sold with both aluminum and steel handlebars. Aluminum is lighter than steel, but will transmit more vibration from the road surface. Steel is heavier but more compliant.
The Contact Points
Many Comfort Bikes use what are known as ‘comfort grips’. Comfort grips are round and use a shock-absorbent rubber or foam compound. They should be of a decent width and provide adequate grip and cushioning.
These grips are comfortable and healthy for the natural shape of human hands. They are usually made with a material that provides adequate shock absorbance.
A good guideline for grips is to seek something that’s comfortable but not too squishy.
It makes sense that most new comfort bikes and cruisers are fitted with wide, cushioned saddles. These bikes employ geometry that places the rider in a position where a lot of their weight is resting on their behind. Plush saddles may also be a feature of some new hybrid bikes.
Senior riders may seek out a saddle with gel padding and / or suspension. Some high-end fabric coverings provide a breathable medium to reduce discomfort through sweating.
|A moderately padded, perineum-friendly saddle|
Some cushioned saddles are well thought-out in their construction and shape. However, many plush, squishy saddles are only comfortable on shorter rides. Excessively cushioned saddles can be misleading. This ‘squishiness’ is uncomfortable on longer rides and will be felt in hips, thighs and bottoms on longer rides. This can cause numbness due to restricted blood supply.
It’s best to err on the side of moderation when considering saddle width. A number of female riders find that a moderately wide imprint is more suited to their body shape. Other riders will choose a standard saddle, as found on a commuter or hybrid bike. Research has shown that the sit bone distance of an adult woman is between 9cm and 17cm, while 6cm to 16cm is the average for men.
The best way to choose the right saddle is to try a few out, in person.
|This sprung saddle is fit to a suspension seat-post|
Sprung saddles are a common component on new comfort bikes, classic town bikes, roadsters and cruisers. They are an early but effective form of suspension.
These saddles usually feature two large, short springs under the seat. Some versions have a third spring beneath the saddle nose. Modern versions may use elastomers as a lighter-weight alternative to springs.
Sprung saddles are comfortable and provide relief on bumpy and uneven surfaces. But they can be quite heavy.
Research has shown that conventional cycling posture places stress on the perineal area. This is focused on the nose and central area of a bike saddle. This stress can aggravate prostate inflammation. Different designs are available to help avoid this. They may feature a hollow central channel or use two separate cushions. Some saddles have a shortened or drooping nose.
|This saddle avoids all perineal contact||Channeled women’s saddle|
Compared to male riders, experts have found that comfort requirements vary widely between female riders, according to their body shape. Again, progressive saddle designs feature central channels and horseshoe designs to reduce impact and provide breathability.
|A 27.5″ aluminum wheel|
Aluminum rims are the standard on most new bikes. They’re strong, light, stiff and highly rust resistant. They’re inexpensive too. If dented, aluminum rims can often be repaired.
Your new bike should use sealed wheel bearings. They roll smoothly and are protected from the elements.
Bigger wheels achieve faster top speeds and are better at rolling over bumps and uneven surfaces. Smaller wheels may exhibit tighter handling and acceleration.
27.5” Inch / 650b
These wheels can proscribe a tighter turn-circle than 700c wheels. Look for frames that accommodate wide tires. With large tires, the total diameter of your wheels is increased. ‘27.5 inch’ is the mountain bike nomenclature. ‘650b’ is usually used for touring and road bikes. Both are valid.
700c / 28” Inch / 29” Inch
This is the standard size for road bikes as well as many hybrids and commuters. Wide, 700c rims are known as ‘29 Inch’ in the mountain bike world, where they are the larger standard.
|This bike is still sold with 26″ wheels||700c wheels with plush tires|
This used to be the standard on hybrid, mountain and touring bikes. A number of comfort bikes still use 26” wheels, but they are becoming less common.
There are comfort models that use 26” wheels on smaller frame sizes and 27.5” wheels with larger frames, to maintain proportionality. The 26” wheels allow low-entry models to achieve a lower and more stable center of gravity.
|Both of these 24″ bikes can also be bought in 26″ versions|
Comfort Bikes for shorter riders and juveniles may use 24 inch wheels. They allow for a more proportionate build with smaller frame sizes.
20”, 18”, 16” Inch
Folding bikes and recumbents may use wheels as small as 16” inch. 20” inch wheels are also common.
|16″- wheeled folder||20″ Wheels|
Comfortable, leisurely bikes are designed for tires that:
- Feature a wide imprint and contact patch to increase grip and stability.
- Use a semi-slick or light tread, for use on sealed roads and pavements.
- Hold a generous volume of air.
- Are designed to be run at relatively low air pressures.
- Have superior rollover on bumps and debris.
These tires are designed to:
- Be comfortable.
- But not fast.
- Bestow moderate traction.
- Provide a low rolling resistance.
|These semi-slick tire treads are typical of comfort and city bikes|
Tires designed for leisurely riding should bear a light tread. They aren’t knobby, like mountain bike tires. But they do have enough tread to easily maintain traction when cornering on paved surfaces in wet weather.
In urban environments, you don’t want your tires creating excess drag, but if you encounter a little sand when cornering, you may want some assurance. For this reason, these tires have more tread than those on road bikes, but significantly less than on mountain and gravel bikes.
Tire Sizes and Widths
For details on the widths and sizes of tires for all bike types, please refer to our individual guides for hybrid, cruiser, electric, commuter, mountain, gravel and road bikes.
These are the average ranges for desirable tire widths on leisurely comfort bikes, aimed at riding on roads and bike paths.
Suspension is common on comfort bikes and still used on some hybrids. A front suspension fork can iron out bumps and chatter. This level of comfort comes at the expense of speed, efficiency and weight.
Suspension seatposts are also a common occurrence on comfort bikes, as a means of alleviating road vibration that’s transmitted through the bike’s rear end. Some hybrid bikes are also fit with them.
|New comfort bikes are more likely to use a rigid fork and plush tires.|
The suspension fork on a comfort or hybrid bike should be lighter and less ‘beefy’ than those found on mountain bikes. Most comfort and hybrid bikes offer between 40 and 75mm of travel (the distance that the fork has to move up and down), while mountain bike suspension starts at around 100mm. You may seek a ‘lockout’ option, which allows you to lock out the fork’s suspension, preserving efficiency on flat ground.
A decent suspension fork can add significant cost to a bike, while suspension on cheaper bikes may be heavy and ineffective. These days, there are a lot of great big-volume tires that roll fast and act as ample suspension on rough city roads.
For many urban riders, suspension isn’t necessary. It adds weight, complication and maintenance needs to a bike. For other riders, it provides necessary relief from uneven roads and surfaces.
Many comfort bikes (and some hybrid bikes) are equipped with a suspension seatpost, as a means of alleviating road vibration that’s transmitted through the bike’s rear end.
Suspension seatposts usually offer between 10mm and 50mm of travel and use one of three types of suspension; coil spring, elastomer or air. On new comfort bikes, a simple vertical suspension post will usually use a coil spring. Sometimes this coil spring operates in conjunction with an elastomer bumper.
Coil spring suspension posts have a tendency to decrease efficiency by robbing the rider of some pedal-power. advanced elastomer models and options with more travel (up to 76mm), can be sourced as an aftermarket upgrade. Some of these have been proven, by testers, to be more efficient under pedaling pressures.
|Mid-fork mounts fit more front racks|
Some bikes will have eyelets to attach the kind of front rack that you would attach to a touring bike, but a fair number do not. Look for at least one eyelet on the outside of either fork arm, about halfway up. Bikes with a suspension fork will not have mounts to attach a front rack.
Many bikes have mounts for a rear rack. Check for the appropriate eyelets or mount-points on the seat stays and near the dropouts of your potential new ride. Some bikes come with a fitted rack.
|These bikes come fitted with rear racks.|
Most bikes have mounts for a bottle cage. If you plan on going on longer rides, keep an eye out for a model that allows two cages to be fitted.
|This e-bike comes equipped with lights, fenders and a rack|
Some bikes arrive fit with fenders. At the least, you’ll want your bike to bear eyelets that allow you to fit some aftermarket options. These are located beside the rear wheel and front fork dropouts.
Some bikes come equipped with front and rear lights, from new. This is something to consider when you’re considering the value-for-money of your new purchase.
|Too much? 10k buys you beechwood rims and a ruby in each brake lever|
A leisurely ride doesn’t have to be expensive. A good comfort bike should cost significantly less than a high-end hybrid and much less than a high-end road or mountain bike. If you ride in one of these disciplines, a quality machine will ask a higher price.
The price also rises for any bike that offers extended durability, increased safety and enhanced comfort. You’ll also pay more for smooth operation in terms of gears, braking and handling.
When considering the price of your new bike, always factor in the inclusion of fenders, lights and racks. Some bikes come with all three. The convenience and peace-of-mind of having a bike that’s “ready-to-go” must be worth a few extra dollars. Obviously, all electric bikes sit in a higher price range.
Direct Sales vs. Local Bike Shop
The benefit of a direct sale is that you aren’t paying for the middleman.
If you are buying a bike from an online retailer, they don’t have to pay for the rent of premises.
They also don’t need to pay an experienced, professional mechanic to assemble and tune your bike. For these reasons, you pay less.
Good online bike retailers will pre-assemble as much as 80% to 95% of your bike before shipping and will provide the tools required for the remaining adjustments.
Your local bike shop will assemble, tune and fit your bike before you ride away. They will usually offer you a warranty deal and a minor servicing for free, within the first few weeks of purchase.
Whatever route you choose, there are benefits and drawbacks.
There’s no need to stop cycling in your later years. In fact, the medical evidence suggests that it’s in your interest to keep on pedaling. With advances in lightweight materials and ergonomics, there’s more and more reason to stay on the bike.
Electric bikes are becoming lighter and more powerful, while continue to fall.
No matter what type of cycling you pursue in your golden years, it pays to be informed about your options. Choose wisely and roll on!
Owen Jesse Owen has spent decades building and riding bikes; as a messenger, photographer and for an environmental non profit. He’s volunteered teaching others to fix their bikes and loves a genre busting bike build.
Are E-Bikes Good for Seniors? – E-trike Can Be A Better Alternative
With the onset of electric-assisted bicycles (electric bikes) to help those looking for increased mobility, a new form of transport has emerged.
It can be argued that e-bikes are more accessible to seniors than traditional bicycles in terms of ease of use and cost. However, for those seniors who are physically unable to support themselves on two wheels, an adult electric trike is an even better solution.
An electric trike (e-trike) is an upright tricycle with motorized assistance that allows users more stability and control when riding. This makes it especially convenient for those with balance issues or other physical disabilities.
Furthermore, due to their increased size and weight capacity, they can accommodate multiple cargo bags and meet your daily needs. Thus allowing them to fully enjoy the outdoors and go further distances without having to strain themselves too much.
Benefits of E-bikes for Seniors
For seniors specifically, they offer a number of benefits that can help them remain independent and active while allowing them to go further distances faster.
Addmotor M-65x Cruiser ebike: Dual suspension fat tires for double comfort
Increased Mobility and Convenience
One of the main benefits of electric bike for seniors is that they provide increased mobility with less effort than traditional bicycles. This makes them especially useful for those who may be physically unable to support themselves on two wheels or simply need to take short rides around town with ease.
Additionally, they are lighter than regular pedal bikes, making them easier to navigate and store when not in use.
E-bikes also present additional safety features due to their motorized assistance, which is especially beneficial for older riders who may not have the same balance or reaction time as younger riders.
Furthermore, most models include various lighting systems such as headlamps, tail lights, and bike horns, which allow them to be more visible at night or when riding around traffic.
E-bikes also offer great cost efficiency as most models come with a battery that can be recharged instead of having to purchase fuel like petrol or diesel vehicles – thus providing significant savings over time.
over, these electric bikes don’t require extensive maintenance compared to traditional bikes because most modern models are designed with high-quality materials that don’t require lubrication or tune-ups regularly.
Why E-trikes Can Be A Better Option for Seniors?
There is another option that offers similar convenience and joy without some of the drawbacks of electric bikes – Electric trikes. In this section, we will look at why e-trikes can be a better option for seniors instead of an e-bike.
Addmotor Grandtan M-340 E-trike:with footrests backrests, providing you maximum comfort
One major advantage that an electric tricycle has over an e-bike is its stability. By having three wheels instead of two, the rider is able to remain more upright on their vehicle than if they were riding an e-bike.
This stability can be invaluable for seniors who may struggle with maintaining balance when riding a regular bike or an electric one with only two wheels.
Additionally, because the 3 wheel electric bike ’s design places heavier weight towards the center and lower parts – namely a larger battery – it provides excellent stability even when cornering or negotiating steep hills and other obstacles on the ride.
Easier Riding Uphill
While modern electric motors have made climbing hills easier on all types of bikes, this task can still be challenging – especially for seniors whose legs might not have as much strength as they used to have.
With an e-trike, however, it’s easier to climb hills since the trike’s three wheels provide extra support while also distributing weight more evenly across them as power from the motor assists with propulsion up the hill.
This means it takes less effort from the rider in order to tackle tougher climbs than it would take in an ordinary bike or an electric one with only two wheels.
As well as aiding with stability and providing help when climbing hills, having three wheels also allows you to enjoy greater comfort while out riding your electric trike compared to if you were using a traditional bike or even an electric one with two wheels.
For instance, most models feature oversized tires, which offer increased shock absorption qualities and contribute towards reducing road vibrations so your journey remains smoother regardless of how bumpy the terrain may be. And some are also equipped with a backrest and footrests, providing you with the most comfortable riding experience.
Another comfort-enhancing feature that some trikes offer is suspension systems which further help reduce road vibrations, making those long rides all the more pleasant and enjoyable – especially for senior citizens who might feel discomfort if jolted by bumps in the road while cycling.
Safer Braking System
There exist certain seniors who might not possess the assurance when utilizing conventional brake systems installed on bicycles or electric bikes.
Fortunately, it can be said with confidence that the majority of present-day electric tricycles are outfitted with enhanced braking mechanisms, such as regenerative braking.
By utilizing the power of the battery to reduce speed or halt safely with the activation of a lever or button located in proximity to the handlebars, as opposed to relying solely on physical braking methods as commonly found on traditional bicycles, they can ensure a safer ride.
This makes braking much smoother and easier meaning less effort is expended in stopping so those tricky downhill sections can be navigated safely.
As you can see, there are several advantages that make electric trikes superior choices for seniors over e-bikes.
Electric tricycles or e-trike can be an excellent alternative to traditional bicycles or e-bikes for seniors.
With their enhanced stability, comfort, and safety features, such as regenerative braking and a wider base for support, e-trikes can provide a more accessible and enjoyable riding experience for seniors.
The convenience of the upright seating position and ease of use make the electric tricycle a more practical option for those who may have mobility or balance issues.
Furthermore, the pedal-assist feature of the adult electric trike allows seniors to continue enjoying the benefits of exercise while not over-exerting themselves. Overall, E-trikes can be a great way for seniors to stay active, enjoy the outdoors, and maintain their independence.
Use our comparison chart and learn more about which e-bike fits your lifestyle.
Schwinn Knows E-Bikes
Most models include pedal assist and throttle up to 20 mph
Hybrid: for pavement or light trails
Mountain: for rugged trails
Hybrid: for pavement or light trails
Mountain: for rugged trails
Hybrid: for pavement or light trails
Mountain: for rugged trails
Integrated lights, storage seat, fenders, and rear rack
Integrated lights, fenders
Battery range and top speed can vary depending on rider height and weight, and riding conditions like hills or wind.
“I give the bike [Schwinn Coston DX] high marks… it’s a great go-to steed for commuting, errand running, recreational riding, hauling a kid in a child seat and other general purposes.”
Roam Farther with Superior Quality
Take on greater adventures with our e-bikes, which stay true to the superior quality that’s made Schwinn famous for over 125 years.
How far can I go?
When fully charged, Schwinn e-bike batteries last up to 45 miles. This estimate may vary depending on model, rider height/weight, and riding conditions.
Need more oomph? Our Coston and Marshall lines have an optional extended-life battery available that lets you go up to 80 miles per charge.
How fast is that boost?
Accelerate up to 20 mph with the pedal assist motor. Choose your level of assistance or ride without it completely. Select models feature a throttle, which makes it easy to get going from a stop.
Charge Up and Ride
Easily recharge in as little as 4 hours with a standard household outlet and the included charging cable. E-bike batteries can be removed for charging or storage.
Light Up the Way
Many Schwinn e-bikes come with built-in lights. Headlights, taillights, and integrated frame lights help you see and be seen in low-light conditions.
Anatomy of an E-Bike
Electric bikes are very similar to analog bikes – with a few key extras of course! Scroll through the carousel to learn about the unique features of our e-bikes.
Our e-bikes feature hub drive motors. That means the motor is located on the rear hub and works by spinning the back wheel. This creates the feeling of being pushed – it’s that extra boost of energy e-bikes are famous for.
The controller is what you use to turn the motor on/off, select your level of assistance or throttle, and monitor battery level. It even controls the integrated lights on some models. It’s everything you need right at your fingertips.
Our e-bikes use lithium-ion batteries for their electrical stability, storage capacity, longevity, and lighter weight. The battery is easy to recharge with a standard household outlet and the included charging cable.
Most Schwinn e-bikes include wide tires, which provide extra grip and stability. They also provide a smooth ride for added comfort – a great feature when you can ride farther than ever before.
Select Schwinn e-bikes include a headlight and taillight to help you see and be seen during low-light rides. The Coston and Marshall e-bikes also have lights along the battery for additional visibility and a sleek, modern look.
Dig Into Details
We’ve calculated just the right balance of motor-wattage to battery capacity to give you the power you need and the distance you want. A higher wattage motor might sound impressive, but it can drain the battery faster, leaving you with less range.
A rear hub motor is located on the back wheel. It works by spinning the back wheel, creating the feeling of being pushed.
A mid-drive motor powers the bike’s drivetrain instead of the wheel hub. This style creates a natural sensation that one would typically feel while riding a bike.
Most Schwinn e-bikes feature a hub drive motor because it requires little to no maintenance. In the event a replacement is needed, the motor is easy to replace as part of the wheel. This makes it easy for riders that are new to e-bikes.
There are three classes of e-bikes. All Schwinn e-bikes are Class 2, which are the most widely accepted. They include both pedal assist and throttle functions, with a top speed of 20 MPH. Class 2 e-bikes are approved for use on bike trails in most cities and states.
All the Details
Learn more about our e-bikes and see them in action.
Whether you’re commuting, exploring new trails, tooling around town, or all of the above, a sport hybrid e-bike can handle it all. Schwinn e-bikes deliver the same great riding experience with the addition of pedal assist motors and rechargeable batteries that let you roam farther than ever before.
Best For: Pavement or Light Trails
Visit your friend across town, explore a new bike path, and check out the other coffee shop – it’s all within reach with a stylish cruiser e-bike. These e-bikes deliver the same comfortable upright riding experience with the addition of a pedal assist motor and rechargeable battery that let you roam farther than ever before.
Riding Position: Relaxed Upright
Take your adventure further than ever before with an electric mountain bike. These e-bikes deliver the same trail-ready riding experience with the addition of a pedal assist motor and rechargeable battery that let you roam farther and take on steep hills with ease.
Tire Type: Knobby Mountain
Why Schwinn E-bikes are the Right Choice
Our e-bikes offer a superior ride with great features, but that’s not all. When you buy an e-bike from Schwinn, you also get the following benefits:
The best bike for you depends on how you will be using it. You’ll need to consider the type of terrain and style of riding you prefer, as well as how far you want to ride before recharging the battery. For example the Healy Ridge and Ridgewood e-bikes are great for trails and other off-road rides, whereas the Mendocino is perfect for casual cruising around the neighborhood. If you’re looking for a great all-around e-bike that can do a little bit of everything, check out our Coston and Marshall e-bikes. But it doesn’t stop there. Most of our e-bikes are available with both stand-over and step-thru frames, so you can pick the right frame style for you. Many e-bikes also include extra features like integrated lights, storage, fenders, rear racks, and more. You can even add your own extras with our selection of e-bike accessories, including water-resistant pannier bags and heavy-duty e-bike locks. So, no matter how you like to ride, there’s an e-bike for you. For more information, check out our blog post on e-bike styles.
Electric bikes, at their core, are just like any other non-electric or analog bicycle. While electric bikes and analog bikes have pretty much all the same parts, e-bikes also have an electrical component that gives you an added boost, whenever you need it. The pedal assist function activates the motor only while you’re pedaling, amplifying the effort you put into it. The throttle function activates the motor without the need to pedal at all. In both cases, the motors on Schwinn e-bikes will only accelerate up to 20 mph to maintain a controlled ride. Learn more about the motor on our blog post, Expert Explanation: E-Bike Wattage, Range, and Weight.
For seniors, we recommend an e-bike with a step-thru frame and upright riding position. This frame style makes it easier to get on and off the bike, and an upright riding position is easier on the lower back. The frame is also designed to be lighter for easier handling, and includes wider tires for extra stability. Examples of this style include both the Coston DX and Mendocino Step-Thru models.
The permitted top speed for an e-bike depends on its classification. There are 3 classes of e-bikes:- Class 1 only includes pedal assist (not throttle) and has a maximum speed of 20 mph Class 2 includes pedal assist and throttle, with a maximum speed of 20 mph.- Class 3 only includes pedal assist (not throttle) and has a maximum speed of 28 mph.Schwinn e-bikes are Class 2, which is the most widely accepted for cities and trails, so you’ll be able to ride just about anywhere. However, it’s always a good idea to check your local regulations before riding.
An e-bikes battery range can vary quite a bit depending on riding conditions like hills, the height/weight of the rider, and the level of assist being used. Many Schwinn e-bikes have a battery range of 35 to 45 miles per charge. Extended range batteries have a range of up to 80 miles per charge. For more information, check out our blog post, Expert Explanation: E-Bike Wattage, Range, and Weight.
for e-bikes currently on the market can vary widely. Here at Schwinn, we worked hard to develop a high-quality ride that won’t break the bank. Plus, we believe in our bikes and back them up with one of the best warranty programs around. We also support finance options with Affirm.
Schwinn e-bikes are available for purchase right here on the Schwinn website! Shop now. Schwinn e-bikes are also available through Dick’s Sporting Goods, where select models are available for an in-store test ride.
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Is Riding Electric Bicycle Risky for a Senior Rider?
As we get older, it is inevitable that our bodily functions begin to decline (source), making once feasible physical activities much harder and riskier to do. The barriers associated with aging can also make it difficult to navigate what types of activities are accessible, and which are not.
So the question inevitably comes up: is riding an e-Bike risky for elderly riders?
While there certainly are a number of risks associated with e-Cycling, this article will primarily pinpoint those risks and address how they can be mitigated, avoided, and even managed.
Senior e-bike rider risk factors
With a huge increase of elderly riders turning to cycling in the last few decades, there’s no doubt why the electric assistance feature of e-Bikes is a huge draw for older riders. This is because riding an e-Bike is considerably less strenuous than a traditional bicycle since the level of electric assistance can be adjusted so that less human power is needed during a ride.
Especially for elderly people dealing with physical conditions like arthritis, muscle loss, joint replacements, brittle bones, and other barriers often associated with aging, e-Biking is an ideal option for physical activity.
However, older riders should be sure to assess the risks associated with e-biking before starting up an e-bike regime.
Some common risks (source) that are unfortunately linked to older age, which can have a negative impact on e-cycling rides, are these.
First, poor vision can increase the chance of falls at nighttime, can make it difficult to observe traffic and important signs, and can make it hard to adapt to changing traffic conditions.
Second, reduced muscle strength in the elderly can lead to poor balance on one’s e-Bike, increased chance of falling, and instability when it comes to operating and steering the vehicle.
Lastly, declining cognition can also lead to poor road judgment, can increase the chances of becoming lost on route, and may lead to the inability to understand traffic signals.
- Every tenth cyclist killed in a traffic accident rides a pedelec (pedal-assist e-Bike)
- Eight out of every ten traffic fatalities are over the age of 65
Allianz also warns riders to be wary of “flying e-Bikes”, noting that standard bicycle racks are not suitable for transporting e-Bikes (since the motor, frame, and battery of an e-Bike adds quite a bit more weight onto the vehicle).
U.S. studies taken by Smart Growth America have shown that older people also have a higher likelihood of being injured or killed in traffic, likely linked to the above risk factors (source).
However, this should not deter you from riding your e-Bike: once the risks are properly considered and necessary precautions are taken (which will be explored further below), it is important to remember that e-Biking is a great tool for improving one’s physical and mental health, and can be used safely.
How to mitigate e-biking risks for senior riders?
So what are some ways that elderly riders can address these risks and issues?
When it comes to vision and cognitive functions, it’s a good idea to consult your healthcare practitioner to undergo any necessary tests to determine whether it is safe for you to maneuver an e-Bike. There are also many activities a person can do to help improve cognition, as well, such as meditation, brain-training games, and proper sleep. (Here is a list from Healthline (source) which outlines some brain strengthening exercises one can do!)
Next, it is important to find an electric bicycle that works best for your physical needs. If you are worried about stability and balance, for example, you can reduce the risk of falling on your ride by considering a few different options.
One good option is the step-through frame e-Bike. This type of e-Bike allows you to quite literally step through the frame since it does not have a top bar. This is particularly effective for riders with limited mobility or other mobility problems (ie. hip, knee, and balance issues), as this means you can get seated on your e-Bike effortlessly, ultimately reducing the risk of falling when getting on and off the e-Bike.
Read also: How to select the best e-trike (with examples)? And, How much does a good e-trike cost?
Another consideration is to invest in an e-Tricycle, which has three wheels instead of the two that an e-Bicycle has. E-Trikes tend to have more relaxed seated positions as well, as they are more upright, which may be more comfortable for riders who deal with back problems.
E-Trikes have been proven to be a great option for elderly riders who are worried about their balance while riding. Considering options like the step-through frame and e-Trike can significantly reduce the risk of falling, instability, and other related injuries. E-Trikes are also great for making hills easier to ride on, providing more overall support than e-Bikes and thus decreasing the risk of injury or overexertion.
To address the issue of weakened strength and muscles, one should remember that introducing an activity like e-Cycling into an older person’s life, who are often sedentary due to many exercises being otherwise too strenuous, can inevitably help to strengthen the body and improve overall fitness. However, older riders should start off with light e-Bike rides, and only build up intensity and mileage slowly.
One should rely as much as possible on the pedal-assist feature, adjusting as necessary, as the reliance on electric power will make the riding process much easier than many other forms of exercise. However, because of this feature, this makes the speed of e-Bikes faster as well, so riders should be wary of this when riding. Consider going on a test ride in a low-traffic area first, to test out your ability to start and stop safely and efficiently.
If you are dealing with any vision-related issues, ensure that you ride only throughout the day when there is sufficient light, so as to lower the risk of reduced visibility at night. Riders should also make sure they are wearing bright or reflective clothing in order to be clearly visible to other vehicles on the road.
Older riders should also be wary of extreme weather conditions like rain, ice, or snow, and should avoid riding in these conditions altogether to decrease the risk of injury (since these weather conditions can cause poor visibility and an increased chance of slipping and falling).
E-Bike riders should also ensure that their e-Bikes are properly serviced before riding, in order to ensure that the brakes, positioning, and other important functions are safely in effect. The best way to do this is to visit your local e-Bike shop and consult a professional.
The benefits of riding an e-bike for seniors
It is not difficult to find various personal stories and studies showcasing elderly riders whose lives have been changed for the better through e-Biking. As mentioned earlier, many older people are otherwise quite limited in terms of the physical activities they are able to do.
However, staying sedentary can be detrimental to one’s health, and can contribute to further health problems and complications. So ultimately, doing nothing at all in terms of physical activity is a lose-lose situation, since staying active is one of the best things one can do to prevent further health deterioration (and can even help to manage current conditions).
Therefore, e-Bikes are a great solution and option for those looking to find a safe and light exercise that will still benefit their fitness. Not only that, but providing a method of transportation to the elderly brings forth a sense of freedom and mobility that is often taken away from many (especially when the option to drive or walk long distances is no longer an option).
And consider this: even for those of you who are still able to drive a car, that’s still a sedentary activity, so e-Biking can introduce some much-needed activity into your life regardless! Many riders even remark that they can go grocery shopping (with an adequate basket, of course) with their e-Bikes, bringing simple pleasures back into their lives.
Because of factors like these, a large number of elderly riders have noted that e-biking has helped them lead to happier lives, a better quality of life, and improved mental health, as well as improved longevity in many cases.
Ultimately, e-Bikes are a low-impact exercise option and are widely recommended for anyone dealing with any type of physical barrier, whether age-related or not.
The many accounts of riders dealing with hip replacements, arthritis, heart disease, and various other barriers in conjunction with old age who have found a new way of life in e-biking are extremely encouraging, and help to further showcase how reliable an option e-Biking is for senior riders.
So long as one carefully observes all of the risks and addresses them accordingly, e-Bikes are an effective and overall safe option for physical activity!
Read also: Ever considered offering e-bike as a gift? Or gifting one to yourself? Check out our suggestions – in this e-bike gift guide.
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A good bike would be good for everyone, a universal design.
Lloyd Alter is Design Editor for Treehugger and teaches Sustainable Design at Ryerson University in Toronto.
Haley Mast is a freelance writer, fact-checker, and small organic farmer in the Columbia River Gorge. She enjoys gardening, reporting on environmental topics, and spending her time outside snowboarding or foraging. Topics of expertise and interest include agriculture, conservation, ecology, and climate science.
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Over at Electric Bike Report, the real experts choose the Best Electric Bikes for Seniors 2021. They have actually tried every e-bike on their list and have been doing this for years, when I have seriously e-biked for only two years and have not tried nearly so many different models. But I do have a wish list of attributes that I think would be nice to have on a bike for anyone.
Electric Bike Report’s criteria included stability and comfort, quality and components, value, power, and range, and finally: Was it built specifically with seniors in mind?
First of all, I would suggest we shouldn’t use the word seniors; many are put off by the term. Studies have shown most people think they look and act younger than they are and don’t accept they should be thinking like seniors. Just calling something a bike for seniors is going to put people off.
Author Susan Jacoby told The Atlantic: “Senior is one of the most common euphemisms for old people, and happens to be the one I hate the most. Jacoby told me that to her, senior implies that people who receive the label are different and somehow lesser, than those who don’t. Many of the so-called senior age will reject the bike simply because of its label.
Furthermore, the things that make a bike better for seniors make it better for almost everyone— whatever their age—and certainly for novices new to riding bikes, which a lot of new e-bikers are; many are coming from cars, not bikes. We don’t want to see a 45-year-old end up doing a Simon Cowell by getting the wrong bike.
So for want of a better term, let’s just call it a good bike.
The good bike would be a comfortable, upright dutch-style bike.
We are talking about a relaxed sitting position that is easy on the back, with handlebars close enough that you do not have to bend forward at all. We are not in a race.
The good bike will be a step-through with no top tube.
This is better for everyone of every sex; we noted a few years ago that a Dutch safety organization wanted to make every bike a step-through, and not just women’s bikes.
Women’s bikes are safer because cyclists assume a better posture while riding women’s bikes and they have a lesser chance of getting a serious head injury when they are involved in traffic accidents.
But they are also better for people as they age.
As people get older getting on and off the bike isn’t as easy. It’s the moment when most accidents occur, especially on e-bikes, and the consequences of a fall can be very serious for older people.
The good bike will be as light as possible.
My Gazelle e-bike is built like a tank but it weighs 60 pounds and sometimes I have to schlep it up a stair or two when I am finding a place to lock it up. The Gocyle, a folding electric bike, comes in at 38.6 pounds, thanks to its magnesium wheels and hydro-formed aluminum body.
The Good Bike will have internal gear hubs instead of derailleurs.
Every e-bike needs a good range of gears, but most come with derailleurs, which are exposed to weather and damage, which have the chain banging from gear to gear and often popping off (a regular occurrence when my daughter rides the Gazelle and shifts through too many gears at once). Then there is the feature I love: You can shift gears when stopped. This is so much better in city riding, where I have stopped at a red light (yes, cyclists stop at red lights) and had trouble getting going.
Internal gear hubs are more expensive and slightly less efficient, but that matters less on an e-bike. They also eliminate the possibility of a rear hub drive, which is pretty much standard on less expensive e-bikes.
The Good Bike will have a mid-drive motor.
They have a low center of gravity. They are smooth; you don’t even feel them kicking in. However they put a lot of strain on the chain and if it breaks, you are pushing it home. They are generally a bit more expensive to buy and maintain but are solid and steady.
The Good Bike motor will be rated in newton-meters, not watts.
In Europe, everyone gets by with a 250-watt motor, that’s the limit in the law. They are good for bursts up to 600 watts, and I have never wanted power on my Gazelle or the Surly Big Easy that I tried a few years ago. In North America, most regulations allow 750-watt motors, and people just believe that bigger is better. Newton-meters are measured torque, the twisting power that electric motors are famous for. It tells you how quickly you get from zero to whatever. Buying by wattage is a distraction, and almost nobody needs 750 watts.
The range is also a questionable number that varies according to how you ride, how heavy you are, and the type of terrain. It can be literally all over the map. Bigger batteries are better, but they are heavier, so it is all a trade-off.
The Good Bike will have a good rear view mirror, bright lights and the loudest bell you can buy.
A lot of people do not have the balance or the neck flexibility to shoulder-check when they have to get around some jerk blocking the bike lanes. I am on my fourth bell; the original fell apart in a month, and I keep looking for louder replacements to warn those pedestrians that are walking in the bike lane.
The Good Bike will be good for everyone.
Safety, security, stability, ease of use, and maintenance—these do not have ages or abilities. It’s what’s known as universal design, where it can be accessed, understood and used to the greatest extent possible by all people regardless of their age, size, ability or disability. Now that would be a good bike.