e-Bikes and MS

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It’s Bike Week. Here’s how I got back in the saddle again… with an e-bike

I’ve never worn lycra nor “chewed the handlebars,” but when I stopped cycling six years ago because of MS, I missed it.

So how did I manage to go on a cycling break last month?

Earlier this year, a good friend called and said she was planning to get a bunch of people together to go cycling for a few days in the Loire in France in May. Would we like to come along? The pace would be gentle, the food good and the wine even better.

I hemmed and hawed. My husband would love to join in the cycling, I told her, but I might have to sit it out. I didn’t want to slow everyone down due to my left leg weakness, dodgy balance and random fatigue.

Alison was having none of that. “Don’t worry. We’ll rent you an electric bike.”

So she did. And despite some trepidation (and a mild collision with a bike rack), I rode it and loved it. For the first time in years, I was on a level-playing field with everyone else.

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 Double Olympic gold medallist Victoria Pendleton (not me) on her e-bike

I could pedal the bike when I wanted the fitness benefit – but when I faced a slope or my leg started acting up, I could switch it over to electric. Using it was also a big confidence-builder. Knowing I had back up made me go further and push myself harder. It was also wonderful to be in the real countryside – and in places, I normally couldn’t get to.

For the uninitiated an electric bike – or an e-bike – is a modified bicycle with a battery and a motor. It looks and functions just like a traditional bicycle, but if the user wants they can turn on a small electric motor which powers the vehicle independently. Top speed is 25 km/15 miles an hour.

No longer seen as “cheat-mobiles”, e-bikes have surged in popularity. In 2015 only a few thousand were sold in the UK; last year that figure jumped to 80,000 and this year that number is expected to be topped.  The biggest buyers, says Halfords, are those over 55 years in age.

The bike motor can be charged, much like an electric car, using electricity. It has zero emissions – and is very environmental friendly. They come in different types: commuter, mountain, folding and leisure bike.

Also for those who find two wheels challenging because of balance issues – there are a number of options. I found this site useful: http://cyclingotherwise.co.uk

I have not (yet) bought an e-bike – so I am loathe to offer advice. All I know is that if you get a chance to rent or use one – have a go. It really does make life better.

By Rachel Horne

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Rachel Horne

8 comments

  • I just bought an eBike. Best purchase I’ve made in a long time. Sold the second car. The bike has paid for itself already via savings on car insurance and registration alone.

    • Great to hear. I haven’t taken the plunge yet re buying. But sorely tempted. Do you mind if I ask if you use it in the city/town – or it is more of a country thing?
      Best,
      Rachel

  • Unfortunately accelerators are no longer allowed on e bikes in the EU. Necessary for weak legs up hills!!

  • I bought an e-bike though my work scheme when I could no longer use my manaul bike to go to work. It was goog while it lasted, but then I had to stop as it was not workign for me and it became unsafe.

    Fistly, for an e-bike to engage the drive mechanism you need to be turning the peddals – there is no accelerator with an override on the ones you can buy from the shops and this kind of modificatino turns an e-bike into a motor bike with tax, insurance and MOT implications. So, a few seconds after stopping pedalling the electric power gently slows and before it turns off. When your legs are giving way and you have a hill, you stop. I got stuck on hills a couple of times with my legs having insufficient power to spin the pedals at all, hence, no e-motin either.

    Secondly, its all very good pedalling and moving, but sometimes with MS my legs don’t do what i wans tthem to. This includes getting of the bike and putting weigth ona leg when you come to a stop. its easy to get off – its usually called falling off. Best avoided, especially on roads. E-bikes are ver heavy – bear this in mind when you buy one. Lay it down in the shop and see if you can pick it up to use it – if you can’t, what are you goign to do when you fall off?

    My problem is that I thought I could still do it and in hindsight I shold have stopped earlier. I don’t want to discourage pwMS from using e-bikes, but just to do it safely and to know your limitations. I now cycle regularly, using my deskCycle. There are lots of cheap imitations (I am an authority on this – broke 3 before getting an actual deskCycle for about £150) but my recommendation is to buy a good in the first place – the cheap ones are flimsy, break, fall over, and make ‘orrible noises.

    • Wow, they are expensive! We pay the same in Australian dollars (pacific peso) as you do in British pounds. Maybe shop around as I’m sure you can find a cheaper trike than listed above. Having tried one, I can say they are very heavy which reduces the peddle assistance. They are also very wide, so not sure how they’d go on narrow bike paths.

  • I always think of my MS losses like a bicycle wheel. All the spokes are losses. Sometimes I get a puncture, (ms blips), sometimes I’m faster than other, but for sure the losses go round in overlapping circles. Sometimes I feel thrown off, but I always get back on. I try not to look back but cherish my memories in my minds eye, as most of them are related to an outdoor lifestyle, hiking, cycling and walking

    I was a recreational cyclist. As my children grew up we would put 5 bikes in and on the car and cycles for miles. For the first few years post MS I continued. Balance was an issue. Finally, I fell off, with my 3 year old in her seat on back! It was either in the river or the nettles, I could feel myself going and was able to choose nettles! She was ok, cocooned by her sea, i was stung from ankle to thigh ( I could wear short shorts 15 years ago 😁). Boy was it painful, and I realised this was an accident that had been waiting, I had felt off balanced for a while. As there weren’t ebikes to try, I bought a folding electric trick. It cost a fortune as forever cutting out so after a few years we parted company. I swam more instead, as the MS got stronger and my left side weaker.
    About 5 years ago I bought a Lepus reclining trike, electric. Absolutely brilliant, very expensive and cumbersome to put in the car and go into our small town. I had this for 2 years until it became too difficult, leaving me with awful leg fatigue. Last year I bought a Mountain Trike, propelled by the arms. So I can only go out accompanied as my left arm runs out of steam, but it’s better than nothing, it’s fun, it makes me smile, it’s admired by young people and super comfortable. I bought it second hand as I did the trike before. I’m now waiting to get an up grade for the ekit so I can be independent in it. My silver lining in the cloud was a critical illness payout. I put it mostly into our home, mortgage, but said if I ever needed equipment I would not feel guilty about buying it. Don’t know if we could have afforded it all otherwise. The Cost of keeping fit, with MS.

By Rachel Horne

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